One of the great temptations in the life of a Christian is the desire to determine the exact date of Christ’s return. The early apostles wanted to know the exact time, and even though Christ told them that it was not for them to know (Acts 1:6-7); that God’s Kingdom would not appear immediately (Luke 19:11); and that He would return at an unexpected time (Matthew 24:44); it seems that even the apostle Paul thought for a while that he would still be alive at the time of Christ’s return (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Over the centuries, Christians expected to experience firsthand the Second Coming of Christ, and they were confident that this would occur at a certain time. When it did not happen, many became frustrated and disappointed. The Church of God in the 20th and 21st centuries is no exception. Various dates would be proposed, which seemingly were convincing and compelling, as they were supposedly based on biblical “indications,” such as 19-year time cycles or calculations adopted from the book of Daniel. When the dates came and went, and Christ had still not returned, it was argued that God had simply delayed Christ’s Coming, and new dates were proposed, which likewise failed.

These erroneous and futile calculations, which were from the outset destined to failure, led to disillusionment, and many members lost confidence in their leadership and left their church organization. Others stayed, willing to “overlook” the miscalculations of well-meaning, but misguided ministers, but their willingness to follow the ministry had diminished, and, quite often, an underlying spirit of rebellion and self-will developed. In addition, some of those who pointed out past mistakes brought in damnable heresies, and while they found support from many gullible and undiscerning members, they set in motion the beginning of the prophesied end-time departure or “falling away” from the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). The blind were now leading the blind, so that both fell into the ditch (Matthew 15:14).

When focusing on the status of the Church of God today, due to the experiences of the past, some true and loyal members might be inclined to believe that Christ will not come back any time soon (2 Peter 3:1-4; Isaiah 5:19), and some may become complacent or distracted by getting involved with other pursuits (Matthew 24:37-39, 45-51).

The problem with this attitude and its bad consequences is clearly described in Scripture (2 Peter 3:5-10). Whatever the apparently convincing “justification” for such thinking may be, the fact remains that Christ promised that He will return, and He gave us signs to focus on, indicating when His return would be near (Matthew 24:32-34). Sadly, in the past, many in the Church did not correctly evaluate these signs, while looking at events which were not really signs for Christ’s Second Coming. Since the knowledge and the understanding of the truth would increase in the last days, we are today in a unique position to evaluate world events in the light of biblical prophecy (2 Peter 3:18; Daniel 12:9; Jeremiah 23:20).

In this week’s Q&A, we write much about end-time prophecy, and it behooves all of us to take careful note of what we report regularly in our weekly Current Events section. Although we won’t make the mistake of setting dates, we are aware that prophesied end-time events are finding their fulfillment all over the world. The next major event in world affairs is the beginning of the Great Tribulation. Even though we do not know when this will occur, we do observe developments on the world scene which are setting the stage for this unparalleled and unique time in the history of mankind. Christ warned us that those days must be shortened to ensure the very survival of physical life on this planet. He reassures us that He will return before it is too late, to make an end to man’s incompetent rule leading to utter destruction, mayhem, and nuclear war (Matthew 24:21-22).

It is our belief that His return is not THAT far away, and that we are entering the final days of human suffering and misrule (Ezekiel 12:25-28). God is true and faithful, and His words stand forever and will by no means pass away (Matthew 24:35). What He has promised, He will do (Isaiah 46:10), and He did promise that pursuant to His plan and timing, He will send back His Son Jesus Christ to usher in a wonderful new world. It has been said that Christ will not come one second too early, but He will not come one second too late, either. We must get ready for His return, and we are told to begin “today” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Hebrews 2:1; 3:12-13; 4:11).

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