The Return of Christ is Imminent
What does that mean? Was the return of Christ imminent for the apostles right after the ascension? Such a statement just doesn’t sound right. If asked, many people will say they believe the return of Christ is imminent, which they’ll explain as meaning that He can return at any moment. But is this an accurate usage of the word based on its definition?
Imminent can mean ‘about to happen’, but the return of Christ wasn’t about to happen right after His ascension, so this definition cannot be rigidly applied.
Imminent can also mean impending, close (at hand), near, (fast) approaching, coming, forthcoming, on the way, in the offing, in the pipeline, on the horizon, in the air, just around the corner, expected, anticipated, brewing, looming, threatening, menacing, or overhanging.
In consideration of these synonyms, it appears that a better choice of definitions might be ‘fast approaching’, impending, on the way, or expected.
None of these definitions are constrained by the idea that an event can happen at ‘any moment’, but do suggest an event that is approaching on God’s timeline which will happen at a specific time of His choosing.
But no man knows the day or the hour!
While I agree with this statement in a general sense, I don’t think most people understand what it really means.
The popular retort to the topic of the timing of Jesus’ return refers to Matthew 24:36,
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”?
and Mark 13:32,
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
But what day or hour was Jesus talking about? Was He talking about the day when heaven and earth would pass away which is described in the verse immediately preceding Matthew 24:36? Or was He talking about the Rapture or even the Second Coming? It’s interesting to note that in the original texts there was no separation of paragraphs as there is between Matthew 24:35 and Matthew 24:36 in Bibles today. Can the context be changed by separating two sentences with a paragraph break where there shouldn’t be one? It would appear so. While I’m not suggesting that anyone should be dogmatic about this alternate interpretation that results by removing the paragraph break, I do think it is worthy of consideration.
But wait, there’s more…you’ve probably noticed that Mark 13:32 excludes the son from knowing ‘the day or the hour’. More than a few people struggle with this since Jesus is God in the flesh and God is all-knowing, so how could Jesus not know the day or the hour? One explanation is that Jesus was fully man and fully God and in his human nature wasn’t able to ‘know’. Another explanation that this verse is allegorical and symbolic of the traditional Jewish wedding betrothal and wedding. The son labors at constructing a room addition to his father’s house for his bride. It is the father who decides when the room is complete and satisfactory before he tells the son to go and fetch his bride.
Hence we read in John 14:2,
“In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
So in an allegorical sense, Jesus/Yeshua is the Groom, the Church is His Bride, and only the Father decides when it is time for the Son to bring His Bride home.
The Scientific critique of attempting to put the timing of Jesus’ return on the Calendar
Let’s assume for a moment that it is true that at the moment of Creation God set his own celestial clock into being. He ordained the balance of the Universe and the timing of the planetary orbits around the Sun. He established a method of measuring time by years and seasons based on the number of days required for the Earth to orbit the Sun with a day being the time required for the Earth to complete a revolution on its own axis.
It has already been established in Leviticus 23 that God ordained seven special ‘Feasts’, known as ‘moedim’ in Hebrew. The word ‘moedim’ is more accurately translated as ‘appointed times’ since not all of these appointed times involved an actual ‘feast’. It’s not a matter of debate, we factually know from what is written in the Bible that the first four appointed times or appointments in God’s calendar were kept by Jesus/Yeshua to the very day. He was not late.
- Jesus/Yeshua died on Passover, which is the first moed or appointed time. ( Lev. 23:4 )
- Jesus/Yeshua’s sinless body was entombed on the Feast of Unleavened Bread which is the second moed. ( Lev. 23:6 )
- Jesus/Yeshua rose from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits, which is the third moed. ( Lev. 23:9 )
- The Holy Spirit came down from above on Pentecost or The Feast of Weeks, which is the fourth moed. ( Lev. 23:15 )The last three of the seven moed have not yet been correlated with any specific past events which involve Jesus/Yeshua which suggests that these appointments are still pending. If the pattern persists of Jesus/Yeshua not being late in keeping his first four appointments then it is reasonable to expect that he will not be late in keeping the last three appointments.
- The Feast of Trumpets ( Lev. 23:23 )
- The Day of Atonement ( Lev. 23:36 )
- The Feast of Tabernacles ( Lev. 23:33 )
But what are the last three moed about? How can they be related to upcoming events involving Jesus? Why is there such a big gap in time between when the Holy Spirit came down and today? Questions like these are best answered by looking to Biblical Prophecy.
(more will be said on these three topics later)
The Feast of Trumpets is associated with the Rapture. ( 1 Thessalonians 4:16 )
The Day of Atonement is associated with repentance, redemption, and reconciliation. ( John 19:37 )
The Feast of Tabernacles is associated with God’s people dwelling with Him forever. (Psalm 27:4, John 14:2, )
The large gap in time between Pentecost and today is a dispensation. A dispensation is simply a smaller period of time which results from dividing a larger period of time. The names most commonly applied to this particular dispensation that we are currently in are The Age of Grace or the Church Age.
From a scientific point of view, there are 24 different time zones in the world. At any given moment the sun is setting in one part of the world while it is rising in another. For a small window of time each day, it is actually possible to have three different calendar days in effect based on the time zones and the International Date Line. Yes, it can simultaneously be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on planet Earth. So this is one scientific explanation for why it can not be possible to know the ‘day’ or the ‘hour’ of Christ’s return.
Regarding the Day of the Lord
In 2 Peter 3 we read that the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance…
what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…
be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace…
I have to wonder if Paul’s description of the Lord not being slow in 2 Peter 3 might also be referring to His punctuality and established history of being right on time for His appointments? It would be easy to understand how one might think the Lord was slow when considering that the length of time for this dispensation or Age of Grace is nearly 2,000 years already, but as Paul also points out in 2 Peter 3:8,
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
So 2,000 years is only two days to the Lord. Think about this. 4,000 years can be accounted for by adding the years from Adam to Jesus. 2,000 years can be accounted for by adding the years from Jesus to this day, making a total of 6,000 years which have come and gone. What comes after the sixth day? The seventh day of course. What did God proclaim the seventh day to be but the Day of Rest, or the Sabbath. How long is Jesus’ reign on Earth after His Second Coming? The answer, found in Revelation 20, is 1,000 years which would account for the seventh day. So by simply accounting for the summation of years based on Biblical history it’s easy to see that we are on the threshold of the seventh day right now. Jesus/Yeshua come quick.
Below are several other verses which relate to Jesus’ coming:
“Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
“The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know.”
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning – lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
“You must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
-1 Thessalonians 5:2
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”
“The end of all things is at hand.”
-1 Peter 4:7
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and all the works done on it will be exposed.”
-2 Peter 3:10
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”
“And behold, I am coming soon.”
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.”
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
Many have asked, “So what about date setters? Are people wrong to try and figure out when Jesus will return?”
If there is a Bible passage which forbids trying to figure out the timing of the Lord’s return I’d like to see it.
On the contrary, a crown of righteousness is promised to those who yearn for his appearing.
Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
-2 Timothy 4:8
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
So what are the key takeaways from all of the verses above?
- Be ready
- Be watching
- Be looking
- Expect him
- See the Day drawing near
- Be patient