Has Jesus Figured Out When He’s Coming Back?

And if the answer is still “no,” then why do we keep trying to do so?

Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90

Living in Israel, it is not uncommon to encounter those who have sold everything and come to this land in anticipation of Jesus’ imminent return.

A heavy overemphasis on the end times has dominated Christian life for nearly a century now. It’s understandable. Twice during that period the entire world has been embroiled in enormously destructive wars, and one of the more “impossible” biblical prophecies has been fulfilled – Israel has been reborn. Since then, Jesus’ own prediction of widespread conflict, pestilence and lawlessness certainly seems to have come to pass.

Given all this, one could see how many might believe that we are in the very last days. And, perhaps we are. But, we were explicitly cautioned by Jesus that no one can know the exact date of this long-awaited affair. We were told to be prepared, but, it seems to me, Jesus warned against the very kind of precise end times predictions that have become so popular among Evangelical Christians.

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. …Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:36, 44)

The trouble is, and Jesus was certainly aware of this, that such predictions ultimately do more harm than good. They inevitably don’t pan out. How could they? Jesus himself told us no man would know the date. For someone to actually come along and accurately predict the coming of the Lord would either make Jesus a liar, or woefully uninformed. I choose to believe he is neither.

The inaccuracy of these predictions has a cumulative effect that damages the overall message of the Bible. It plays right into the hands of those who say God and His Word are nothing but fairytales. It also wreaks havoc within the Church itself. How many Christians were taken in by Edgar C. Whisenant’s 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988, only to have their hopes dashed and their faith shattered?

Whisenant was a smart guy, a former NASA engineer. Many who have made similar end times predictions were also smart people. Others weren’t. The point is that even the wisest among us are susceptible to allowing our enthusiasm to get the better of us.

Consider also that in addition to alerting us that none would ever figure out the date of Jesus’ second coming, it is strongly hinted that his disciples were already living in the end times.

In Matthew 24:34 we read: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” And again in 1 John 2:18: “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.”

This highlights the fact that our own reckoning of time is rarely, if ever, in sync with God’s. To be sure, we are closer to the very end of the end times than ever before. But how close? Surely those who lived in other calamitous times throughout history must have likewise believed Jesus’ return to be imminent. And the Bible would suggest that in God’s eyes, it was. Imminent to God could mean 100, 500 or even a 1,000 years. What if we still have that long to wait? Would we still consider ourselves to be living in the end times?

This is why Jesus was so adamant that no one can (nor should try to) know the date of his return. It is a futile and unhealthy exercise. Be aware of the times and seasons, yes. Keep oneself spiritually prepared, always. But beyond that, we’d do well to heed Jesus’ exhortation to “be not troubled.”

This article first appeared in the February 2018 issue of Israel Today Magazine and is being republished now due to its relevance in light of the ongoing global pandemic and the war in Ukraine. See related: Israeli News Wonders: Is Jesus About to Return?

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