Jesus knew that we would want to know when He is coming back. He wants us to eagerly await that day! But does He want us to know exactly when He will return?
Will Jesus return in 2018? Is 2034 more likely based on extensive charts and statistical analysis? (I found these predictions on the first page of a Google search.)
In the past, some have predicted Christ’s return for 1000, 1836, 1844, 1914, 1975, 2011 and many other years.
Lots of people have made predictions about when Jesus Christ’s second coming will be. But what does the Bible say?
Will Jesus return?
First, does the Bible say Jesus Christ will come back to the earth? Yes, it does—in many places.
Even while His disciples were standing on the Mount of Olives watching Jesus ascend to heaven after His resurrection, angels said to them: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
Weeks earlier they had asked Jesus, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). They knew He was born to be a King and would come back to set up the age of the Kingdom of God on the earth, but they didn’t know exactly what to look for.
Jesus’ detailed answer is given in Matthew 24 and 25 and in the parallel Gospel accounts in Mark 13 and Luke 21. Jesus—who often called Himself the Son of Man—confirmed He was coming back: “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). The book of Zechariah also had predicted the location of His return: “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east” (Zechariah 14:4).
Jesus even tells us a vitally important reason He is coming back. If He didn’t come back, we humans would annihilate ourselves (Matthew 24:22).
Jesus said we can’t know the day or the hour
Throughout Matthew 24 Jesus Christ listed events that must occur before His second coming to set up the Kingdom of God on the earth. Many of the precursor events have happened, and the trends He predicted are developing. (For more on this, see the articles “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and “End Times Prophecy.”) But the end is not yet. The abomination of desolation has not been set up, and the Great Tribulation has not started.
Jesus said “after the tribulation” would come heavenly signs and then at the great sound of a trumpet (the last or seventh trumpet) He would return (Matthew 24:29-31; 1 Corinthians 15:52; Revelation 11:15). There is no biblical proof of the theory that Christ will come secretly before the time of tribulation. In fact, the Bible teaches exactly the opposite. (See the article “Will There Be a Secret Rapture?”)
And beyond that, Jesus told the disciples and us, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36). We can’t know the exact time. He does not want us to know. He wants us to long for that day, pray for it, be prepared for it—then wait patiently for it.
The other extreme
When false preachers are continually predicting exact dates for the end of the world, it just adds to the amusement and the skepticism of many people. It’s not hard to see why many people don’t believe in Christ’s return at all.
Peter prophesied that scoffers would come in the last days, saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4).
What should we be doing now?
Not knowing exactly when Jesus will return should not make us lose urgency and motivation. Jesus warned us not to follow the example of the people of Noah’s day. “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:38-39).
Christ even warned that if one of His servants “says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of” (verses 48-50).
Instead, we should be like the faithful and wise servant Jesus commended, “whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season” (verse 45). “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods” (verses 46-47).
So how can we be using the time before Jesus Christ’s coming wisely? Here are some of the things He tells us to do:
- Don’t allow the lawlessness of society to weaken our love for God, His law and other people (verse 12).
- Endure the trials and persecutions to the end (verse 13) through the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
- Help in the effort to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God (verse 14).
- Don’t become lax and lazy and influenced by the world (verses 38-39).
- Be serving and treat others in a loving way, not taking advantage of them (verses 46-48).
- Prepare and have an ample supply of spiritual oil, the Holy Spirit (Matthew 25:1-13).
- Faithfully use what we are given to grow spiritually (verses 14-30).
- Serve and give to even those we might consider to be the least (verses 31-46).
- Watch world events in light of the prophetic signs the Bible gives and watch our own spiritual state (Luke 21:36).
- “Pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
Why has it taken so long?
Why has it taken so long for Christ to return? Why have generations of Christians waited patiently and not yet received the promise? Peter says it is because of God’s love.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
God is working out His vast, eternal plan. He will give every human being a chance to repent and change. He wants those of us who are eagerly waiting for Christ’s second coming to share the good news of the Kingdom of God with others now. He wants those who hear of it to respond.
No, we don’t know the day Jesus is coming back. But He does want us to know He will come. And He will bring His wonderful Kingdom to this earth. He wants us to know about that Kingdom now.
To learn more about God’s Kingdom, be sure to read the articles in this section on the “Kingdom of God.”