“I don’t want to hear it!” He yelled rudely from his pew at me with a flare of red fire in his eyes. “You guys, you keep saying it will happen. But I am in my 80’s, and you have told me Jesus will come any day now my whole life! I am done with it! I don’t want to hear another word!”
I was a new teacher in my church, and I had no idea how to respond to this man’s emotional outburst on what I thought was a rallying point of doctrine.
“When Hitler invaded Europe they told me this is it! Read Daniel chapter 2 the end is coming, the toes of clay and iron are merging! But Jesus did not come!” He ranted on.
I had been asked to teach the lesson on the second coming of Christ. The lesson I was provided was mostly a lesson designed to hold the line, keep the faith, and affirm the truth of Jesus’ expeditious return. But, this angry elderly man was not going to give me a break.
He continued his rant from his pew, “We dropped the bomb! Surely this is the end, all the pastors told us. He did not come! What do you want to hear about the Korean or Vietnam wars? Every major event was to be the big one that would end it all! Do you know how many sermons I heard about the nations being in wrath before the return of Jesus? Where is He, huh?”
I was like a deer caught in the headlights. Because I, too, heard such sermons at even a hint of war on the horizon.
The words poured forth from this dear, heartbroken elderly man, “Lastly JFK was in the White House! Can you imagine that; A Catholic in the White House in Protestant America? And then the Cuban Mission Crisis broke? You know Pastors had a heyday with Revelation 13 and that one! But still, no Jesus!”
His words haunted me then, and they haunt me even more today. And worst yet many more major world shifting events have happened since his protests. Just where is Jesus? And why has he not come? The prophecies of Daniel and Revelation have never been more clear. Scholars, Pastors, and Church members all seem to agree things can’t keep going on like this. So what is the deal; why has he not come?
Recent events have me more convinced than ever that Jesus is coming and perhaps quicker than any of us think! Age and wisdom have since taught me that I can preach, teach, and write about the return of Jesus without being the Pastor who “cried wolf.” The truth is that the prophecies in Daniel, Revelation and the rest of the Bible are so strong and so clear regarding the Second Coming for Jesus that they do not need me to stir up over -inflated speculative support.
I don’t want to be the downfall and stumbling block of men like that angry, elderly man in the pew who are hurt by broken promises. I am as dedicated as ever to preaching the truth about the soon return of Jesus. But I don’t need to engage in “fake news” style prophecy to drum up loyalty interest. Still, that gentleman’s question, “Where is He?” deserves an answer.
Not everyone is a pure-hearted, disappointed elderly man awaiting the return of Jesus. Peter warns us that there will be real scoffers in the last days who deny that the Lord’s returning is even a valid point of doctrine at all.
“I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of His coming? Forever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:1b-4)
Peter then goes on to list the flood as an example of things evil people said was taking too long and would never come. But, when it did come, it was sure and too late to get ready. He goes on to elucídate how the destruction of the world by fire at the end of the age will by no means be different than was the coming of the flood. He warns his readers that time passes differently for God than for us, and “a thousand years is but a day to God.”
Peter’s reasons are all reasons I have heard and used from the pulpit hundreds of times. And as far as “hold the line” of standard doctrine they get the job done. However, what Peter says next is more rarely preached, and if you ask me, it is the bedrock of the issue.
“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. “ 2 Peter 3:9
What if Jesus did come back today? Would you be ready? What about your loved ones? Could it actually be that God has not allowed Jesus to return, just yet, out of mercy?
I remember when I was in India doing evangelism with a group of pastors. Because of the efforts of many, over a year’s time, before we even got there, we were able, as pastors, to swoop in and preach a multi-week evangelistic effort and baptize just under seven thousand Hindus into Christianity! Can I get an Amen?
I literally took part in a baptism service by a river bank in India that went on from sunup to sundown and never ended nor finished. People from our meetings kept coming all day long to give their lives to Jesus. Never in my life had I seen anything like this. I felt like I was living the rerun of Acts Chapter Three. It was an amazing and life-changing event that I don’t know if I will ever see again in my life. Yet it is a memory I long in my heart to become a reality, again, in my life.
I recall when I was getting ready to leave, that the area Church Administrator, who set up the effort, turned to me and asked me to stay. At first, I thought he was joking but he went on to explain he had other missions fields just as full of souls to reap as the ones I had been to but not enough pastors to reap them. He began to tell me of people and villages who had Christian names, and they could not remember why but it turned out that when the British missionaries came through years ago they promised to come back and the people named their children names from the stories so they’d not forget them. He said there were not just thousands, but millions, not only waiting but fully willing to hear the gospel but it would take generations of hard work to get organized to reach them all.
I could not stay, I had not only a church, but a family waiting for me in America but I recall that church administrator’s words as I departed, “Vince, I understand why you need to go back, I really do, but promise me one thing as you go? Promise me that when you’re back home in your church praying for Jesus to come right now because you’re so convinced the world is too wicked to continue, promise me you won’t forget millions still are waiting for their turn to hear the Gospel.”
Jesus will come. He will not delay forever. The time will come when probation will close, the mouths of scorners will be silenced, and the dreams of disappointed elderly men will finally be realized. And while I long for the day to be face to face with my Savior and to be rescued from the pain and suffering of this age, I must recall His mercy!
I don’t want a single person to be lost because I was impatient for the promise. Yes, I am still of the Spirit of John in Revelation, “even so, Lord Jesus come quickly.” But love, mercy, and hopefully Spiritual maturity have helped me to temper that eagerness with the Spirit of Peter’s expression of the Lord’s will concerning His return, “ (He) is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
Maybe the truth of the Second Coming of Jesus is that it is not all about me and my suffering and getting me out? Maybe the truth of the Second Coming is a whole lot less selfish and just a dash more Grace-filled then I once thought? Maybe the truth is God wants me to share in the desire that all may come to repentance and not perish? Perhaps, we are closer to the Second Coming when I “love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me, that they may be children of your Father in heaven, too?” When was the last time I heard of a terrorist attack and prayed earnestly for the salvation of the terrorist? When was the last time I heard an abortion statistic and prayed for the healing and salvation of the woman who aborted her baby when was that last time I even bothered to pray for my neighbor on the other side of the political aisle? And yet, I have the gall to pray, “Even so come Lord Jesus,” without first praying, “Make me willing that none shall perish?
In the end, many will perish, “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and few find it.” But I know that I don’t want to be in the Kingdom and look for my dear love one and not be able to find them, only to ask Jesus where they are and to hear him say, “They were on their way, but you could not wait, so for your sake I came quickly, as requested.”
“Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus,” but at the same time, come in the holy timeframe that, “is patient… not wishing that any should perish, but that all (who will) should reach repentance.“ In the end, it is God’s calendar, not ours, and we must learn to cooperate with Him in Spirit and deed.