When Is Jesus Coming Back?

You have surely heard about the attack on Israel over the weekend by terrorists associated with Hamas. It is horrific and brutal, barbarian even! The slaughter of innocent children and women as a means of gaining power is wrong on so many levels. This is the worst attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust. Please, join me in praying for Israel and the Middle East at this time. Pray for God's justice, as well as his mercy. Pray that God will deliver the innocent and comfort those who have already lost loved ones or whose loved ones have been taken hostage. Please also pray for the Jewish and Arab Christians who live on both sides of this divide, Our brothers and sisters are caught in the middle of this barrage and need our prayers for safety and courage to be a light amid the darkness.

In times like these, many will ask, "Where are we on God's timeline for the second coming of Christ?" As we read through Ezekiel, it can cause us to feel very much like we are living out the prophecy in our time. I believe God is working all things out for his purposes, even though evil may appear like it wins for a time. Ezekiel makes clear that God's justice will come. Sometimes it comes in this life, and sometimes we must wait until the end to see God's justice fully.

Having said this, I want to caution us from making claims about God's timeline that we don't have the right to make. When I was a young person growing up in the '70s and '80s, Hal Lindsey's book The Late Great Planet Earth had a huge following. In fact, according to the New York Times, it was the best-selling non-fiction book of the 1970s. In his work, Lindsey attempts to discern where we are in God's timeline, tying it to his interpretation of Matthew 24 and the re-establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. The problem with Lindsey's conclusion was, based on his calculations, Jesus should have returned before the end of the 80's. This thinking led many people in the Christian community to conclude that the return was surely going to take place at that time. I even had a Christian friend in high school who believed the Lord had told her he would return either before her graduation or shortly after.

However, Lindsey was not the only one to make such confident statements about their interpretation of the Bible and the end times. Edgar C. Whisenant wrote 88 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1988. Some Christians took his calculations so seriously that even the Trinity Broadcast Network interrupted its programming to provide instructions on how to prepare for the Rapture. After his prediction came and went, Whisenant went on to write further books predicting 1989, 1993, and 1994 as dates. Whisenant and Lindsey are not alone in these attempts to predict Jesus' return. Many others have made similar claims throughout the past 2000 years of church history, only to be wrong in the end.

What should we conclude from this? Jesus's words in Matthew 24 are a good reminder:
36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Jesus tells us to be ready any day. Yes, there are indicators in the Bible of things that will come before Jesus' return, but the reality is Christians often become so focused on those details that they miss the forest for the trees. Signs can be misread. They can also keep us from seeing the big picture which is that Jesus is going to return. Of that, we can be sure!

So, as you watch the headlines and hear Christian preachers proclaiming their knowledge of where they believe we are in this last-day timeline, look to Jesus, not to prognosticators. You don't need to know the details. You merely need to be ready!

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