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Is Jesus’ Return Imminent?

Is Jesus' return imminent

Every God-fearing person I know is appalled by the horrific slaughter going on in Israel and Palestine. It is shocking to see the aftermath of hateful human butchery and to hear the approval and support for barbarism.

In times like this, the question many Christians ask; “Is this the start of the end? Surely Jesus must come back soon for he alone can end this madness?”

What did Jesus Say?

As always, the best place to start in trying to answer questions like this is to read what Jesus himself said. In a previous article, I explained the structure of the primary biblical passage concerning this subject, Matthew Chapter 24. In short, Jesus answered two questions in one:

  1. When will the temple be destroyed?
  2. What will be the signs of the second coming and the End of the Age?

The Lord’s answer to the second question is in verses 4 to 14, 23 to 33, and 36 to 51. Assembled together they read as follows:

‘Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect — if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

“Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’  “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 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. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

When Will Jesus Return?

Here are the phrases from the above passage that answer the ‘when’ of the Lord’s Second Coming:

  1. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
  2. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
  3. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come … the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him

It is quite clear that we can never know just when Jesus will come again so anyone who predicts this great event is immediately disqualified. Regarding the troubling times we live in, Paul wrote something that indicates that we should not be expecting Jesus’ return any time soon. He wrote; ‘Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3)

In other words, Jesus will return during a period of declared peace and safety. We are currently living in a time of widespread danger and conflict.

So perhaps it is better to consider what Jesus said about the signs that will indicate that his coming is imminent.

The Signs of His Coming

I will present them in the order they appear in Matthew 24 as this gives a sense of escalation as history moves towards its dramatic climax.

  1. Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
  2. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
  3. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
  4. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
  5. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.
  6. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other.
  7. …many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
  8. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.
  9. …this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
  10. Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.
  11. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.
  12. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other… when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.

Signs 1 through 9 have been happening regularly over the last 2,000 years in cycles that become closer together and more intense with every iteration.

The change from things that happen repeatedly, to terminal events is signalled with the words, ‘and then the end will come’. The three signs that Jesus then listed have not yet occurred. We do not even have any real conception of what these will entail and just how they will occur. Massive solar system disruptions, the sign of the Son of Man, and Jesus’ actual return in power and glory. What we do know is that these great signs will immediately precede the End of the Age because Jesus said, “when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door”. Therefore, until we see these signs we cannot say that the end is imminent.

What then should we do?

We can see that the repeating cycles of history that Jesus spoke of are coming upon us often and with increasing intensity. We can read the signs of the times and it disturbs us greatly. But, what should we do at this time? Well, what we must not do is to become conveyors of false and fear-inducing rumours and speculations. Some folks have the misguided belief that by passing on alarmist and usually inaccurate and misleading information is somehow doing something positive. It is not! Instead, we should be doing just what the Lord Jesus said we should do: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.”

To be ready is to be in right relationship with God and each other. To be a faithful Jesus-follower is to serve those in our circle of influence with the real food they need – love, hope, faith, encouragement, and the Gospel of Eternal Life in Christ Jesus.

Picture of Christopher Peppler

Christopher Peppler

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.