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All Evangelicals agree on the following facts about the last days:
A. There Will Be a Sudden, Personal, Visible, Bodily Return of Christ
Jesus often spoke about his return.
“You also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt.
He said, “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3
Immediately after Jesus had ascended into heaven, two angels said to the disciples, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11
B. We Should Eagerly Long for Christ’s Return
John’s response at the end of Revelation should characterize Christians’ hearts in all ages: “Amen.
Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev.
True Christianity trains us “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12–13
Paul says, “our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil.
C. We Do Not Know When Christ Will Return
Several passages indicate that we do not, and cannot, know the time when Christ will return.
“The Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt.
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matt.
Moreover, Jesus said, “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:32–33
D. All Evangelicals Agree on the Final Results of Christ’s Return
No matter what their differences on the details, all Christians who take the Bible as their final authority agree that the final and ultimate result of Christ’s return will be
The judgment of unbelievers and the final reward of believers
Believers will live with Christ in a new heaven and a new earth for all eternity
God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will reign and will be worshiped in a never-ending kingdom with no more sin or sorrow or suffering.
Areas of disagreement among Evangelicals are the following:
Could Christ Come Back at Any Time?
One of the significant areas of disagreement is over the question of whether Christ could return at any time.
On the one hand, there are many passages encouraging us to be ready because Christ will return at an hour we do not expect.
On the other hand, there are several passages that speak of certain events that will happen before Christ returns.
There have been different ways of resolving the apparent tension between these two sets of passages, with some Christians concluding that Christ could still return at any time, and others concluding that he could not return for at least a generation, since it would take that long to fulfill some of the predicted events that must occur before his return.
1. Verses Predicting a Sudden and Unexpected Coming of Christ.
In order to feel the cumulative force of the passages that predict that Christ could come very soon, it is helpful simply to list them here in order:
Watch therefore for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched 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.
24:42–44 cf.
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 of that day or that hour no one knows not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come.
(Mark 13:32–33)
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 be on the watch.
Watch therefore—for you do not know when the master of the house will come in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.
And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.
(Mark 13:34–37)
You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour.
(Luke 12:40)
Our Lord, come!
(1 Cor.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior the Lord Jesus Christ.
3:20 nasb)
For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
(1 Thess.
Training us to … live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
(Titus 2:12–13)
Encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord … Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand … Behold, the Judge is standing at the doors.
(James 5:7–9)
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 loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and all the works that are upon it will be burned up.
(2 Peter 3:10)
The time is near.
Behold, I am coming soon.
Behold, I am coming soon bringing my recompense, to repay everyone for what he has done.
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev.
What shall we say to these passages?
If there were no passages in the New Testament about signs that would precede Christ’s return, we would probably conclude from the passages just quoted that Jesus could come at any moment.
In this sense, we can say that Christ’s return is imminent.
It would seem to blunt the force of the commands to be ready and to watch if there was a reason to think that Christ would not come soon.
Before we look at passages on signs that precede Christ’s coming, another problem must be considered at this point.
Were Jesus and the New Testament authors wrong in their expectation that he would return soon?
Did they not think p 1097 and even teach that the second coming of Christ would be in just a few years?
In fact, a very prominent view among liberal New Testament scholars has been that Jesus mistakenly taught that he would return soon.
But none of the texts just quoted require this interpretation.
The texts that say to be ready do not say how long we will have to wait, nor do the texts that say that Jesus is coming at a time we do not expect.
As for the texts that say Jesus is coming “soon,” we must realize that biblical prophets often speak in terms of “prophetic foreshortening,” which sees future events but does not see the intervening time before those events occur.
George Ladd says: The prophets were little interested in chronology, and the future was always viewed as imminent … the Old Testament prophets blended the near and the distant perspectives so as to form a single canvas.
Biblical prophecy is not primarily three-dimensional but two; it has height and breadth but is little concerned about depth, i.e., the chronology of future events … the distant is viewed through the transparency of the immediate.
It is true that the early church lived in expectancy of the return of the Lord, and it is the nature of biblical prophecy to make it possible for every generation to live in expectancy of the end.
Peter also reminds us that the Lord has a different perspective on time than we do, so that “soon” with him may not be what we expect: “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness” (2 Peter 3:8–9
2. Signs That Precede Christ’s Return.
The other set of texts to be considered tells of several signs that Scripture says will precede the time of Christ’s return.
In fact, Berkhof says, “According to Scripture several important events must occur before the return of the Lord, and therefore it cannot be called imminent.”
Here it will be helpful to list those passages that most directly refer to signs that must occur before Christ’s return.
The Preaching of the Gospel to All Nations
And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.
(Mark 13:10; cf.
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