Since Jesus returned to heaven around 2,000 years ago, there have been continued interest and predictions about His return to earth.
We know from the Bible that even before Jesus was crucified, resurrected and then returned to heaven, the original apostles were looking to His Second Coming. In Matthew 24:3, we read: “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’” Jesus then lists what will happen before His return to earth, from verse 4 until the end of the chapter.
And after He had returned to heaven, some thought that His return was to be in their lifetime. Let us look at some examples of this.
In Acts 2:16-17, we see that Peter was speaking on the day of Pentecost in 31 AD, recorded by Luke some 30 years or so later, and Peter said: “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.”
Peter was quoting the prophet Joel and while this happened in part with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, as a forerunner, this prophecy has to be fulfilled at the end of this age. It is fairly obvious that Peter thought that they were in the last days then; otherwise, why would he have quoted this prophecy at that time? Also, Peter thought it was the end-time with his comment in 1 Peter 1:20: “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”
Peter was joined by Paul in thinking that time was short then, as we read in 1 Corinthians 7:29: “…this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none…”
In 1 Corinthians 15:50-52, we read: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.’’ When we use the word “we,” it obviously includes ourselves – and in this case it includes Paul.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, Paul also wrote: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
In Hebrews 1:1-2, we again see Paul referring to the last days: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.”
James, the half-brother of Christ, had this to say in James 5:1-3: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.”
The apostle John felt exactly the same, as we read in 1 John 2:18: “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.”
Why did God allow all these men to think along these lines? Surely, one of the reasons must have been that if it had been made clear to the apostles in the first century that Christ wouldn’t return for at least 2,000 years, discouragement could well have set in. Irrespective of WHEN Christ will return – and the Scriptures are very clear that He will return – we have to be ready because we just don’t know when that most marvellous event will occur. And it will only occur once.
In Mark 13:32, we read: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” We have no reason to believe that that is not still the same situation today.
It was not until the 1950’s that man had developed the capacity to blow himself off the face of the earth with nuclear bombs and other weapons and so the end couldn’t possibly have taken place before then. In Mr Armstrong’s book “Tomorrow – What It Will Be Like”, he states the following on page 2:
“Besides nuclear annihilation, there are at least five other means by which mankind could be destroyed off the face of the globe: chemical warfare, biological warfare, overpopulation and resulting famine, disease epidemics, and environmental pollution.”
The return of Christ has been anticipated down through the last 2,000 years. In the book, “The End of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium” by Damian Thompson, he writes: “What is it about the advent of the year 2000 which propelled millions of people in the direction of apocalyptic belief? Why should Christians who know perfectly well Christ was not born in A.D. 1 attached such importance to the calendar change question even more strangely, why should the prospect of a new millennium quicken the pulse of millions of non-Christians?
“For some time, Christians including Irenaeus around 115-200 AD and Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) continued to look for Christ to set up a literal kingdom of God on earth. In the 3rd century, Origen (185-254 AD) asserted that the kingdom existed not in time or space but in believer’s souls.
“AD 500 was another date that evoked excitement. The terrors of the Year 1000 might be a myth, but there can be no denying the sense of doom which permeates so many documents of the period. Throughout the tenth and early eleventh centuries, preachers and chroniclers regularly assured their audiences that their misfortunes were fulfillments of Biblical prophecies about the Last Days (p 42).”
Mr Thompson gives many more examples right down to the present time. Throughout the centuries, speculation about the Second Coming has caused arguments and debates along with untold disappointment when it didn’t happen.
If we continue to read Mark 13:33-37, we learn what we are to do: “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
We are instructed to watch – not go to sleep and lose interest. We have to maintain our zeal for the Work of God.
Wherever we look around the world, there are problems, many of them insurmountable and only the return of Jesus Christ will solve all of these issues.
In our weekly Update, number 1037, dated 2nd September 2022, under the heading “Is God Punishing the United States of America?,” we quoted what the Jerusalem Post wrote on August 24: “… it is a challenge for me to believe that the series of ‘plagues’ that have befallen the United States of America of late are not part of some heavenly master plan…”
“The triumph of democracy and freedom over fascism and national land grabs energized the American body politic to take responsibility and rebuild the world after the devastating losses in the war.”
It then covers “over 300 mass shootings in the US this year as of early July, the largest number by far of any country in the world; then the weather showing that tens of millions of people are under extreme weather risk every day and as of July 5, 34,478 fires have already burned 4,582,301 acres of land.
“If one accepts the religious concept that whatever happens in the world is part of God’s plan for the world (and not everyone accepts that, to be sure), it is possible to postulate that God had a plan for the United States of America. It is almost as if God is now expressing displeasure with his servant, the US, in the course it has taken.”
It is interesting to read what a secular newspaper has to say. In fact, they don’t mention many other areas where God is not pleased at all, including that of the sexual perversions that permeate the land where the abhorrent behaviour of Sodom and Gomorrah was summarily dealt with through their total destruction. It should be further noted that this applies not only to the USA but to the other English-speaking countries, such as the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the world at large.
Perversion is celebrated as being good and must be accepted, and quoting God’s instruction on such matters is considered hate speech. Large worldly churches blithely go along with the changes in society and try to fit in with them, rather than representing God and His Way of Life. Blasphemy is used everywhere from the youngest to the oldest, and respect for God is negligible. Left-wing media push the anti-God message, and most people just go along with it.
Russia is continuing to bomb the Ukraine, resulting in many casualties. Problems between nations seem to never end with problems between the Israelis and Palestinians, other problems in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. Inflation is rocketing around the world with the USA and UK both approaching double figures. Many other countries are also experiencing high double figures, and Zimbabwe, as of August 2022, had a staggering 600%. Because of this, higher wages are sought with industrial action taken or threatened. The cost of energy continues to be a huge problem with massive hikes in prices.
The continuing rise in abortion rates and the callous call for women’s rights to allow abortion at any time for any reason just add vast numbers to the killings experienced in the many wars in force around the globe.
Cruelty in war, and in society, to young children and defenceless animals proliferates as love for God and neighbour disappear over the horizon. All of the above is just the tip of the iceberg but gives a brief overview of the problems that only God can solve. Yes, there are some decent people who try hard to do the right thing, but they do not truly understand the Way of God and what He expects from us.
The world is currently in crisis from which there seems to be, humanly speaking, no end.
(To Be Continued)
Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)