Tough Questions

Does the Bible tell us when Jesus will return?

Certainly not specifically. Many people have attempted, by a careful (and sometimes a not so careful) examination of the prophetic passages of Scripture to establish a timetable. Some have even predicted months, days, and years—none of which, up to this point, have been correct.

When Martin Luther was going through the tremendous upheaval and agitation in Europe during the Protestant Reformation, he thought that the great distress coming upon the church in the sixteenth century was a clear sign of the eminent return of Jesus. Luther looked for it in his lifetime, and he was wrong by at least five centuries.

In the middle of the eighteenth century, before the Declaration of Independence was signed but more than one hundred years after the Pilgrims had settled this country, Jonathan Edwards was much inclined to think that the return of Christ was about to happen. Edwards was wrong. I mention these two men because there aren’t too many men whose theological expertise I respect more than I do Luther’s and Edwards’s. To see that both of them were wrong makes me very careful about giving precise predictions about the day and the hour of Christ’s return.

We remember that on the Mount of Olives Jesus told his disciples that even the Son did not know the day and the hour of his return; that is in the Father’s hands. There is a day and an hour that God has ordained, and he just does not reveal it precisely. Yet at the same time Jesus was zealous, as were Paul and the other writers in the New Testament, to instruct the church of certain things they ought to be paying attention to—signs of the times, things that would have to happen before they could expect the return of Jesus.

Of course, there’s a great dispute as to what those things are and if any of them have taken place. Some people believe that all such signs have already taken place. I don’t know that this is true, but I think we have every reason to be optimistic that the day is drawing very close. I think many of the things that Jesus speaks of (and that are mentioned in other Scriptures as well) as harbingers or signs of the times have already taken place or are taking place now. There has been a tremendous renewal of interest in the return of Christ. I’m very hopeful that it will be soon, though I can conceive of its being another two or three thousand years.

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