Jesus said He’s coming quickly, but He hasn’t returned yet. Doesn’t this show that the Bible is not really trustworthy?
The words “I am coming quickly” are found on the lips of Jesus four times, all in the book of Revelation (3:11; 22:7, 12, 20). These are the only Bible texts (KJV) where the word quickly is linked to Christ’s ultimate return. A review of Jesus’ earlier predictions of His return suggests that quickly in this setting might speak not just to the possibility of Christ’s prompt coming again after His departure to heaven but also to the sudden and unexpected nature of His return, as He had predicted when speaking to the Twelve.
To assist the reader in recalling how Jesus repeatedly addressed this quality of sudden and unexpected quickness about His return, we quote several of those expressions here, lifted from Matthew 24:36-44; Mark 13:32-37; and Luke 21:34, 35: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. . . . be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. . . . Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. . . . For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.”
On the other hand, there are no passages in the four Gospels where Jesus says clearly that the time between His ascension and His ultimate return will be small or short.
It is true that Jesus’ first disciples and the early church did misunderstand these words and others from their Lord to infer that His return would be within a full generation of when He spoke them. In the Olivet Discourse on prophecy, for example, Jesus had said, “This generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34; see also 10:23b and 16:28).
As the years after His death, resurrection, and ascension turned into decades and the decades to centuries, the church came to realize that these words were not intended to be time or date predictions for Jesus’ return to earth, but could as easily be understood in other ways. Had not the Christ also said that the time of His coming was uncertain to everyone but the Father, that no man could know it, and that believers should live in constant watchfulness and readiness for what would come like a thief comes — in sudden surprise and without warning?
In this way the Christian church grew in grace and knowledge of their Lord and Savior. Led by the same Spirit of God that lived in Jesus and spoke the very words of God through Him, believers came to understand that Jesus had not foretold that His bodily return to rule and reign on earth would come immediately, or within forty years, or within a century, or even within two millennia of when He foretold it. Rather, believers understood that Jesus’ return would come unexpectedly, unannounced, suddenly, and speedily —quickly! — when it came.
The Bible is trustworthy not because every word and verse in it is immediately clear to everyone who reads it, but because it faithfully reports the mighty works and words of God through Moses, the prophets, and most emphatically, through the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostolic witness. Yes, there are difficult texts and concepts here and there in Scripture, but none sufficient to negate the immeasurable benefits of the whole. Yes, Jesus Christ is coming quickly just as He promised — one way or another.
Elder Calvin Burrell
Have a question you’d like answered? Submit it here: