Question: Recently I’m hearing quite a lot that Jesus will be coming back soon. Is that true?
The return of Jesus Christ is a wonderful event that all Christians should be looking forward to with great joy and enthusiasm but sometimes that enthusiasm may be distorted.
In the early days of the church, around 50 AD, the Christians in Thessalonica were excited by the knowledge that Jesus was coming back. However some false teachers had entered the church and were teaching that Jesus’ return was about to happen at any moment. Consequently some of the Christians there had stopped working as they waited for Jesus to come back – and Paul rebuked them for that.
Paul’s advice still stands today, ‘Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way’ (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
There has always been an overabundance of people who have claimed to have studied the relevant scripture, applied the correct interpretation, made the required mathematical calculations to arrive at their ‘assured’ dates and have carefully monitored world events – yet all of these ‘experts’ have arrived at different – and wrong conclusions!
During the last 2000 years since the ascension of Jesus, literally hundreds of predicted dates have been given concerning his return. Clearly none of these predictions have been accurate! Some of the more spectacular predictions over the past 150 years have been made by –
• William Miller, who predicted that Jesus would return before March 21, 1844. When this did not prove to be correct, a new date was set – October 22, 1844. When that also passed without the much-heralded event occurring, many of Miller’s followers, who had given up all their possessions, not only were disappointed but also felt betrayed.
• Hal Lindsey is a prolific author whose books are eagerly read by many Christians. Lindsey has a fascination about end times and has made many references and given dates concerning the return of Jesus. In 1970 he predicted that Christ’s return would take place before 1988 and his method of working this out narrowed the year down to 1981. But he also offered the year 2000 as another likely date.
• Chuck Smith, while he has rebuked others for setting dates for Christ’s return and has denied that he had ever set such a date, in three of his books he once favoured 1981 for the event.
• Harold Camping, who died in 2013, excited many Christians when he wrote his book, Are You Ready, in which he stated that Christ’s return would take place in September 1994. Undeterred he later predicted – and widely reported – that the event would take place on May 21, 2011.
• John Hagee and Mark Blitz have joined the line of ‘prophetic’ voices to declare with unequivocal confidence that now is the time when we can expect Christ to return. Their argument is based on Bible verses such as Joel 2:31, Acts 2:20 and Revelation 6:12 which refer to the moon turning blood red. Often a full lunar eclipse makes the moon appear to redden and is thus called a ‘blood moon.’ A series of four full lunar eclipses has been astronomically charted to show that a series of four consecutive total lunar eclipses, with six full moons in between, would take place between April 15, 2014 and September 28, 2015.
By selectively using historical references to make their point that Jesus would soon return, Hagee and Blitz have argued that previous sequences of blood moons coincided with tragic events in Jewish history. Blitz (who had made a previous prediction that Christ’s return would take place in 2008) has now stated that the actual date will be September 23, 2015. Hagee’s best-selling book Four Blood Moons has captured the imagination of many Christians.
Sadly many preachers have jumped on to the ‘blood moon’ bandwagon and have preached the Hagee/Blitz theory as if it were biblical truth. In fact it is only a theory and not a fact, and it is a theory based on questionable biblical exegesis and selective historical facts.
Some foundational facts
So what can we say with confidence about the return of Jesus Christ?
• Jesus Christ will return one day!
That was his promise to his disciples before he was crucified – ‘For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done’ (Matthew 16:27).
And it was the first promise he sent to his disciples by angels after he ascended to heaven, ‘This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’ (Acts 1:11).
• Many references
In the 216 chapters in the New Testament, there are well over 300 references to Christ’s return. Furthermore 23 of the 27 New Testament books mention Christ’s return.
• No one knows the exact date of his return!
Jesus himself plainly and unambiguously stated, ‘No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’ (Matthew 24:36).
Dr William Barclay has commented on Matthew 24:36-41: ‘They tell us that the hour of that event is known to God and to God alone. It is, therefore, clear that speculation regarding the time of the Second Coming is nothing less than blasphemy, for the man who so speculates is seeking to wrest from God secrets which belong to God alone. It is not any man’s duty to speculate; it is his duty to prepare himself, and to watch’ (Daily Study Bible).
Jesus spoke of his return, not to stimulate conjecture on the precise date it would take place, but to encourage his followers to live lives in obedience to him with the anticipation of his return at any time. Endless speculation about ‘days and hours’ is a distraction.
Setting dates and writing books about the Lord’s return may make a lot of money for the authors, and it may stir up excitement in some Christians but it brings great discredit to Christianity and misrepresents what the Bible states. It also pours contempt on true prophecy.
Reality, not just a ‘when’ hope
I look forward to that glorious day and I do hope it happens soon. But if it does not, I will not miss out when Jesus will return.
Paul wrote, ‘For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
The ‘blessed hope’ (Titus 2:13) is not centred on when Jesus will return but on the reality of the event -whenever that may be!
Dr Jim McClure is the author of Grace Revisited, Overview of the Old and New Testaments and the Understanding… series. Orders and enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
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