From “Mockers and Propheteers” – a blog post last month by Nelson Waters at Gospel in the End Times
Can we know with certainty that Jesus is coming back soon? Or will it always be a mystery? This is an enormously important question.
Will Jesus Come Like a Thief?
So let’s begin to answer this question. Can we know the season of Jesus’s return? Or will Jesus return some nebulous time in the future?
This is an incredibly important question. If Jesus is returning soon we should be taking action now. If we can’t know, we should always be in some state of “yellow” alert (to use a Homeland Security analogy.) I believe all questions of a spiritual nature start and end with the Bible. So what does the Bible say? Will we be surprised by Jesus’s return or will we know when he is coming?
Now as to the times (Gk: CHRONON, meaning “chronologies”) and the epochs (Gk: KAIRON, meaning “appointed times”), brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they (the unrighteous) are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief. (1 Thess. 5: 1-4 NASB, clarification and emphasis mine)
A teacher recently preached about this at a church and started with the question. “Will Jesus’s return take us by surprise? Will he return for us like a thief in the night? If you think so, put up your hand.” Every hand in the room shot into the air. He then had the joy of explaining to the entire church that they were mistaken. The passage above is generally ignored or misunderstood in many churches, but it teaches us a couple of clear ideas:
- We can know the chronology of the end times.
- We can know how the Jewish Feasts of the Lord (the “appointed times”) will be fulfilled in the end times.
- Jesus’s return will not take us by surprise. It will surprise the ungodly, but it should not surprise Christians.
65% of pastors in the USA, according to a recent Barna poll, believe Jesus will return in less than 50 years. So do I. I do not believe in “date setting” (setting a specific date for the return of Christ),
*[Not that Nelson doesn’t believe we CAN deduce a date, he just feels that the potential negative consequences of possibly being wrong outweigh the potential benefits of being right.]*
however, and I won’t. But I do believe we can know the “season” of his return. As more signs begin to unfold, eventually we will know the time of his return to within a few days, just as Paul says in Thessalonians.
Interestingly though, Paul says those in darkness won’t see Jesus’s return coming. They’ll be saying “peace and safety” right before his return. (the Day of the Lord begins on the same day as Jesus’s return so saying the DOL is the equivalent of the rapture: see Luke 17: 29-30). So knowing the timing of his return won’t be something easy for those who don’t know the Bible to see. To them things will look BETTER than they ever have right before Jesus returns. They will say “peace and safety.”
Isn’t Everything Just Like it’s Always Been?
Let’s continue to see what the Bible has to say about knowing the season of Jesus’s return. This is what the Holy Spirit says through the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3: 3-4,
In the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”
Peter is clear that there will be those in these last days saying “things are just like they’ve always been.” Those who say this are called “mockers” by Peter. This is the same testimony Paul is giving us.
Obviously, looking for things to be worse than they’ve always been is NOT a sign. We shouldn’t think that way. We also shouldn’t think to ourselves, “things aren’t really that bad.” That isn’t what we should be saying, thinking, or looking for. I would not want to be called a “mocker” by the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, one must seriously ask, “weren’t those mockers correct back in Peter’s day? That was 2000 years ago; there still hasn’t been a second coming.” They would have been right except for what Peter said next. So what is Peter really saying? He explains why they were wrong and why people who say “things aren’t that different than they always have been” are wrong :
For when they maintain this (that we can’t know the season of Jesus’s return), it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water (the creation in Genesis) (2 Pet. 3: 5)
Peter is saying the creation account in Genesis is the reason we can know the season of Jesus’s return. How can that be you ask? Peter continues to explain:
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day (this explains that the Genesis account is PROPHECY, each day of the creation narrative equals a thousand years of prophecy). (2 Peter 3: 8)
Here is mega proof one. According to Peter, the Genesis creation account is prophetic. It will give us the season of Jesus’s return. That is why he links the creation narrative and the day = 1000 year equation together in this one passage! There are 6000 years (6 days of creation times 1000 years) between Adam and the return of Jesus. Many brilliant men have used the genealogies found in Genesis, other accounts in the OT, and the genealogy of Jesus to determine where we are on this time scale. Tim Warner in “Time of the End” did the best job I think, and he says we are 20 years from the end. He may not be exactly correct but he’s in the ballpark. (If you would like to learn more about the Genesis creation as prophecy read IS THE CREATION NARRATIVE a PROPHECY?)
What are the Risks?
Now I believe that we currently see through a glass darkly. We can’t know everything about prophecy, and perhaps I am mistaken about timing. But, the position that we can never know the season of Jesus’s return is SO DANGEROUS and unbiblical that I feel I must say something. But first, let’s speculate. What negative results would transpire if I’m wrong and this position is right? If this position is correct, the damage to the Church is that believers will actually prepare for Jesus’s return! Spiritually they’ll draw closer to God. They will present the Gospel like we are in the 2 minute warning. They’ll lay aside the “American lifestyle” and take up the cross. Hmm, doesn’t seem so bad.
On the other side, if this position (that we can’t know about Jesus’s return) is wrong, those who teach it will lead believers horribly astray. People who don’t prepare for Jesus’s return run the risk of being emotionally, physically, and spiritually unprepared. They run the risk of falling away as Jesus states in Matthew 24: 10-13, or being locked out of the Kingdom as in Matthew 25: 10-12. Does anyone want that responsibility? So choosing this position must be entered into very, very carefully.
How does one prepare? My new book, Are We Ready For Jesus? is due out August 28th. The entire book is on this topic of how to prepare. (Yes, at that moment I actually may receive back a portion of what I have invested for the Kingdom in this ministry. That was never the point, however.)
More Evidence that Jesus is Coming Soon
Let’s look at Luke 21: 29-32:
Behold the fig tree ( the fig tree is ISRAEL, see Hosea 9:10) and all the trees (Islamic nations around ISRAEL); as soon as they put forth leaves (become nations), you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this generation (that sees Israel become a nation) will not pass away until all things (in the Olivet Discourse) take place.
Israel became a nation in 1948. The “generation” that saw that happen is now 67 years old. (Anne Graham Lotz was born that year.) How many years does that leave us? 40 or less by my calculation.
*[I have no idea why Nelson says that up to 40 more years are possible. The longest biblical references to the length of a generation that I know of are seventy years, as in Psalm 90:10 “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years.” One could argue that from Israel’s declaration of independence, we have about 70 years to approximately 2018. One could argue that from the end of their war for independence (which ended a year later in 1949) we have until about 2019. One could argue that we have 70 years from when the first children were conceived and born in a free and independent Israel. One could even argue that the “putting forth leaves” was not 1948-49 at all, but rather the expansion in June 1967 when Israel recaptured Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights… in which case 22 more years would be possible. I can’t see up to 40 more years. Personally, I think from this verse alone we should expect the Second Coming around 2018-2019, and that clues in other verses narrow the timing down further.]*
To doubt the importance of the return of the nation of Israel in prophecy and as fulfillment of many prophecies is to be a blind guide. (If you would like to know more about the Fig Tree Prophecy read THE FIG TREE)
Let’s also look at an amazing prophecy from Hosea 15:15 – 6:2
I (Jesus) will go away and return to My place (heaven) until they (the Jews) acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me. (the Jews say:)’Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days (2000 years); He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him.’
Peter explained to us in 2 Peter 3:8 that a “day” is 1000 years to the Lord. Thus 2000 years after Jesus returned to heaven he returns to the earth. When is that? Less than 20 years in my estimation.
*[According to this theory, the Second Coming will be APPROXIMATELY 2000 years after the crucifixion in 33 A.D. So approximately 2033. Keep in mind how far back this was said when we consider the timing and the vague range it implies; if someone says “I expect to die in about 50 years,” we know that is a vague approximation, and if it happened within 47-53 years we would say he was right. If someone says “I expect to die in about 50 seconds,” we can take that measurement of time much more specifically. If an astronomer says something will hit the Earth in “about 50 years” it is a vague approximation. If they say impact is in “about 50 seconds” we shouldn’t expect a full minute to go by. I personally believe that the year 2019 is well within range of 2033, given that we could not expect Hosea to say “He will revive us after 1.99 days.” Of course Hosea does not tell us that 70 years after Israel’s creation is the right time, but I don’t think it rules it out.]*
Jesus may return in the next 7 years, 14 years, 21 years, or 28 years, etc. but I think it is HIGHLY DANGEROUS to act as if he is not coming within our lifetimes. It is even more dangerous to not prepare as if we are in the “two minute warning”. He needs to be the focus of all of our love and attention. He always needed to be our focus, but the times now make that imperative.
Come quickly Lord Jesus.”
*[Since the unmistakable revealing of the identity of the Antichrist to the world has not happened yet, and that event occurs at the midpoint of the final seven years, we still have more than 3.5 years before the Second Coming. Of course once the Antichrist takes center stage, a very specific countdown will clearly be underway.
Regardless of the timing I think I have calculated and explained in my books for events in 2016 and 2019 – right now is always a good time to gather your thoughts, and accept God into your life if you haven’t already.]*