Good people struggle with knowing when Jesus will come again. Stressful times make us long for the shattering of earthly chains and the flight to unknown realms. Like a child waiting to be picked up by his parents after a first overnight away from home, we are increasingly homesick as we await the Lord’s coming. Some people call his return The Rapture, although that term is not in the Bible. We are certain that Jesus will return, but we just wish we knew when he would show up.
Jesus is with us right now. He promised the disciples that he was with us always (Matthew 28:18, 19). But he also told us of another return, one that would swiftly take us to glory (John 14:1 – 4). He alone is the way to the Father – there is no other path (John 14:6). But because we do not know the time and date of his return, we must work in his kingdom until we see him come.
When is Jesus’ Return?
This is where we stumble. In our breathless anticipation of his victorious return, we assume too much. “These are signs of the times,” friends say, or “it’s time for Jesus’ to return!” Self-styled prophets declare a date certain for the end. People have been saying these things for millennia, and they have all been wrong.
Avignon, France, was a lovely village in 1348. It lies on the Rhone river, about 50 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. During the late Spring, the Black Death, Bubonic Plague, swept through the town.
“When Avignon ran out of ground, Clement consecrated the Rhone; each morning that plague spring, hundreds of rotting corpses would flow down the stream like a mysterious new species of sea creature.” So wrote John Kelly in The Great Mortality. He also reports that 7,000 homes within the city lay vacant because everyone inside was dead. One resident estimates 62,000 people died in the first four months of the year. (Kelly, pg 150). Many believed that the plague was mentioned in the Bible and was a sign of Jesus’ impending return or the Rapture.
But Jesus didn’t come then.
At about the same time (1337 – 1453), the so-called Hundred Years’ War (actually 116 years) claimed close to 3,000,000 dead. In recent history, World War II claimed close to 100,000,000 across six years of combat capped by the final detonation of two atomic bombs in Japan. Indeed such a deadly war with such a horrendous climax must signal the Lord’s return! J. Robert Oppenheimer, who lead the American project to develop atomic bombs, shed a tear when remembering the testing of those bombs. He quoted from the Hindu holy book, Bhagavad-Gita, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.
But Jesus didn’t come then either.
William Miller, a founder of Seventh Day Adventism, announced that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844. Many believed his false teaching, disposed of their possessions, and sat down to await the Lord’s return. When the day passed, such sadness followed that the date has come to be known as The Great Disappointment. Miller and those who followed him became targets of jokes, taunts, and even violence. The people who followed Miller were ordinary, everyday people. They were good folk who worked hard and attended church services. They were true believers of Miller. They were confident.
But Jesus didn’t come.
When we declare the coming of the Lord or declare so-called “signs of the times,” we give the world one more reason to laugh and hold us in derision. That may not matter to your faith, but it could throttle those considering coming to Jesus. Let us stick with what we know and accept what we do not. I know Jesus is coming, I don’t know when, but he will come.