Dr. Roger W. Maslin
I did not entitle this article “When will Jesus come again?” because I wanted to affirm first to anyone chancing to read this that the Messiah has come, and His name is Jesus. He was born of a virgin. He lived among sinful men without ever committing sin. He has finished His redemptive work on the cross. He was crucified and buried in a borrowed tomb. Death could not keep its prey. He arose from the dead, appeared to more than 500 witnesses, and ascended into heaven. Those that watched Him disappear into the clouds were assured by the angels that he would come again. “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11) When Jesus was preparing his disciples to face his death he told them “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2,3)
Since that time the writers of the Holy Scriptures have held up the promise of His return, and showed us how to live in the meantime, “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:12,13) The “blessed hope” was very real and precious to the early Christians, as it should be to us today. Because of that, many people have tried to answer the question: “When will Jesus come again?”
Some have said that the return of Christ was imminent. By this they do not mean immediate. By this they mean that it may or may not be in the future, but it could occur at any moment. There is no prophetic event that has not already occurred to prevent the event happening at any time. That would be consistent with the coming being a “blessed hope.”
Some have said that they knew the exact time and year, despite the fact that Jesus said: “ But of that day and hour, no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my father only.” (Matt. 24:36) One of the most famous illustrations of this was William Miller who made careful calculations from prophecy and other resources and said that the year would be 1844. The day was determined to be October 22. Many of his followers sold their homes and left their employment to proclaim their message and await the return. Well it did not happen and approximately 100,000 of his followers were greatly disappointed. You would think that this would be a powerful lesson and there would be no repeat of time setting. Alas, that was not the case, for many since that time have done the same thing, and when it doesn’t happen, they do not even seem to be embarrassed.
Some have said that He would return after the temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt as Ezekiel prophesied, and the Anti-Christ is revealed. With their charts and proof texts they can dogmatically portray all the events of prophecy. If that is true, then He cannot return at any time, since those events have not occurred. Then “The Blessed Hope” is diminished. It appears that the early Christians held out the hope that the event could happen even in their own day. Peter recognized that there were scoffers regarding the Lord’s return who were saying: “Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (II Peter 3:4)
Some have said that He has already come in ridiculous substitutes for “in like manner as ye have seen him go.” Progress in humanitarian enterprises is not the second coming. You can point to the hospitals, orphanages, homes for the aged, and schools. They are the outgrowth of Christianity, but not His personal return. Death is not the “second coming.” When the Christian dies he can truthfully say, “the Lord has come for me,” but that is not the second coming. After his coming there will be no more death which we may regard here as our worst enemy. The advent of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 is not the second coming. I am told that there are as many as 150 references after that to the second coming. I admit that I have not counted them, but I am aware of such a significant number that this explanation should easily be discarded. The second coming will be personal, bodily, and visible.
Some have said that he will come before “the Great Tribulation.” Some have said that it would be in the middle of that period. Others have said that it will come after that period. Some have made the second coming a second and third coming with their dispensational theology of a “secret rapture” and a “revelation.” His promise to “come again” did not spell out phases of His return but the fact of it.
I have not tried to give an answer to the question. His coming again is still my blessed hope. I am content to leave that to the heavenly father. I accept the assurance of Peter: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” (II Peter 3:10) For a full evaluation of all the prophetic events I refer you to A Manual on the Millennium. Now it is time to visit William Miller again. I am told that the words on his gravestone were to the effect: “At the appointed time the Lord will come.” That appointed time is His time, not ours. Perhaps, if his zeal for time setting had not been so acute, the Millerite movement would not have given rise to Seventh Day Adventism, Jehovahs Witnesses, and Bahai.
The last great promise in Revelation from our Lord was: “Behold, I come quickly.” He repeats it three times. (Rev. 22:7,12, 20) The proclamation also included the news: “my reward is with me to give every man according as his work shall be.” The closing plea of the apocalypse was: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Is that your desire? I remember reading about a minister in an almost impossible situation as the pastor of a backslidden, fussing congregation. All he could think of was: “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” Shortly thereafter he was called to pastor a different group in a lovely community, where they loved one another; they loved him and his family, and took Jesus rather seriously. He found himself praying: “Come, Lord Jesus, but not just now!” I’m afraid there are many Christian people who are so comfortable and so in love with the world that they can only pray: “Come, Lord Jesus, but not yet!”