Please explain: Why is Jesus taking so long to return?

Please explain: Why is Jesus taking so long to return?

YOU WORKED DILIGENTLY to make the arrangements. It wasn’t easy, but the dignitary you booked is someone famous. Now it is time to begin the celebration banquet. But the guest of honor has not yet arrived. The buzz among the naysayers starts to spread: “Are you sure you gave him directions or the right address? Are you sure you told him the right time and date?”

Waiting for that one person to arrive, especially if that individual is to be the most important person in attendance, can be emotionally exhausting. In a matter of moments, the rumor weed, being spread by those pessimists, has not only sprouted but is bearing fruit. You can just hear it: “This person was probably never invited in the first place,” or, “If they were invited, they probably changed their mind when a better offer came along,” or, “You made the whole thing up just to get us here.” The thought can even enter your mind to join the ranks of that cynical camp who has been doubting you all along.

Jesus is coming back

Already in the first century, Peter prophesied that many individuals, especially in the last days, would travel down this road of questioning Jesus’ return. To be clear, Jesus had told his followers that he was going to come back in power and glory to judge the world (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). Since he didn’t say exactly when this glorious event would happen, his followers were to watch and be ready at all times. Some who had heard this caveat from Christ’s own lips had it reinforced at his ascension when those two men dressed in white heralded, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Jesus is coming back!

The trumpet call of God has not yet sounded so that God can continue to display his
immeasurable patience. He doesn’t want anyone to perish.

The Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and even the Athanasian Creed (you know, the one we don’t use too much because it’s so long) all state that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. For centuries, Christians have believed and confessed the imminent return of their Savior. Why? Because the Bible tells us he will come again. And God always keeps his word!

Still, many scoff at the idea of Jesus coming again on the Last Day. But such thinking should not actually surprise us. A couple of hundred years before the creeds were penned, in fact, only a couple of decades after Jesus’ ascension, Peter warned, “You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation’ ” (2 Peter 3:3,4).

And the skeptics of today demand, “Explain to me. What is taking Jesus so long to return? Did he forget or change his mind? Or are you just trying to scare me with all this judgment day talk?”

His delay gives us time

Once more the Scriptures respond with a rather straightforward answer, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8,9).

Why the delay? He waited for us so that we could be included in the Lord’s kingdom two thousand years later. And now he waits to give people of our generation time. He gives us time to witness. Jesus told his disciples in numerous places that they were to go and preach the good news (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). The Son of God has not yet returned. That means we can and must continue to tell lost and dying souls that Jesus is the Light of Life.

Jesus has not yet returned with all his holy angels because the Lord also wants more people to repent— that is, to have a change of mind so they have a clear understanding that their sin is a stench in the nostrils of God—and to turn to the sweet grace of God in Jesus.

But even more, the trumpet call of God has not yet sounded so that God can continue to display his immeasurable patience. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. Instead, he wants all not only to feel the burden of their sins but also to cling in faith to Christ who bore all the guilt and punishment for their transgressions.

We are subject to time and space. God is not. For us a thousand years seems like an “eternity.” For our eternal God that same amount of time seems only like a day. But make no mistake. Jesus will come again one last time.

We must be ready

The Sundays of the Christian church year typically come to a close before Thanksgiving. Many churches in our circles celebrate that with the four Sundays of End Time including Last Judgment Sunday and Saints Triumphant Sunday. That same theme of Christ’s return carries over into the Advent season. The message rings loudly. Jesus will come again. It is imperative to keep watch and be ready, even if waiting for that return seems to be taking a very long time.

We can’t peer directly into the mind of God to know the reason for the delay of Christ’s return. But Peter does give us some pretty strong hints. It might be that God wants your friend, your relative, or even that skeptic who many times might be a “thorn in your flesh” to come to repentance.

“Why is it taking so long? If Jesus is coming again, when will it be?” Prayerfully we can turn those questions into golden opportunities for us to respond respectfully and gently with an answer for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15). We can bust open our Bibles and point the skeptics to the many passages that speak of Jesus’ first coming. Then direct them to the fulfillment of those prophecies so they realize that those Old Testament believers also had to wait hundreds or even thousands of years to see their fulfillment.

God doesn’t tell us about judgment day to try and scare anyone into believing in him. Instead, his goal is lovingly to announce warning signs so that no one needs to die eternally. He has promised in his Word that judgment day is a day that he has clearly marked on his calendar. And one thing is for certain: He has a proven track record of always keeping the promises he makes.

Author: Kenneth Brokmeier
Volume 107, Number 11
Issue: November 2020

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