Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I developed the impression that Jesus Christ would return before I reached the age of thirty — let alone fifty! In sermons and old hymns, the imminent return of Christ was used as a warning to repent and be ready. Here we are well into the next century, and we’re still waiting.
We’re often warned in earthquake-prone California to be ready for the Big One. Depending on your geographical location, you may be advised to prepare for a hurricane, blizzard, tornado, or other natural disaster. Besides these issues, increasing concern that we should all prepare in case of a terrorist attack or mass shooting has resulted in new workplace drills and heightened awareness of surroundings. Homeowners have long taken security measures to ward off a possible robbery. Preparing and waiting for one event or another is a part of this life.
Disbelief typically follows the actual occurrence of tragedy. We hear “I can’t believe it!” or “I never thought that would happen here.”
Will we react in similar fashion when the wait ends and we see our King descending in the sky? Do we believe more in the possibility of a catastrophic quake or mass shooting than in the second coming of Christ? At a time when we are faced with two choices — wait longer or give up — some have chosen the latter.
The apostle Peter encouraged his readers to not be deceived by doubters who questioned the promise of Christ’s return. Peter wrote that in the last days, scoffers will say, “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 3:3, 4).
If any in our day have given up hope, perhaps they were disillusioned when others attempted to pinpoint a time schedule for the Second Coming. As much as we want to see the signs and know that Christ’s coming is imminent, several verses in the New Testament caution that He will come as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15). To turn away because He hasn’t come yet is a form of following Christ conditionally. We say, in essence, “I will follow You, but don’t take too long in coming to set up Your kingdom. And be sure to come in my lifetime!”
Those of us who continue to watch and wait might also wonder why Jesus Christ has taken so long. The truth is, delays are part of life. We wait to see the doctor and then wait longer for the doctor to enter the examining room. We wait for our wedding day to come or a new baby to arrive. We wait until we are finally finished with school. When we look back on them, each long wait seemed forever but did end eventually, as will the wait for the Second Coming.
Through parables, Jesus Christ expressed the importance of watching faithfully (Luke 12:35-48). These two stories contrast watchful, faithful stewards with doubtful, unprepared, and irresponsible ones as they await their master’s return. It is as if Christ hinted at a long wait when He said, “And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants” (v. 38).
The blessed servants were those who continued their master’s work because they esteemed the master, no matter how long he was gone. Both the Old and New Testaments provide insight into God’s perspective on the passing of time, pointing out that “a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past” (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8).
People in the past saw signs of end times and the Second Coming in their current events as well. Certainly there are passages describing prophetic events, and we are tempted to match such scriptures to world developments. Rather than focus on signs (good advice in the case of natural or man-made disasters), God’s Word urges us to be prepared in our daily lives for Christ’s return by abiding in Him. This means to remain, persevere, and continue on as a follower of Christ. Our relationship with the One who is coming, with the One we will rise to meet in the air, is what prepares us “to have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28). It may happen soon, or it may not. We are not even guaranteed another day of life.
I believe the Big One in California could happen, and I want to be ready for it. Even more important, I know the Second Coming will happen. It may or may not be in my lifetime. However, my focus is knowing Jesus Christ and following Him as a wise and faithful steward.