by Shawn Brasseaux
Recently, I was watching the news on television, which I seldom do anymore because there is nothing but death and violence. The world is falling apart; look at all the violence and crime around the world. Ever since Adam’s sin and mankind’s fall, the world has become progressively worse. While that news is depressing and confusing to the lost world, it is exciting for the Bible student because he or she knows that this world is rushing closer to the end times, farther down the spiral that leads right up the appearance of the antichrist, and his promise to bring about world peace! This provides a background for this Bible study.
In Revelation chapter 22, the last chapter of the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ promises three times that He is “coming quickly” (verses 7,12,20). The book of the Revelation and the entire Bible were completed almost 20 centuries ago, but here in 2009, the Lord has yet to return to earth. Is the Lord Jesus ever coming back, or is the Second Coming of Christ just a myth, a lie, a fairytale to keep the Christians from getting discouraged? Did God’s Word make a mistake when it claimed that Jesus Christ would “come quickly?”
As the Apostle Peter wrote in his second letter, 2 Peter 3:3-7, the scoffers are asking the same question they posed ever since Jesus Christ left our planet: “Where is the promise of his coming?” Well, we ask in faith, desiring a biblical answer to the question, “Where is the promise of Christ’s coming?”
The Apostles James, Peter, and John—writing their last epistles in the mid to the latter part of the first century A.D.—all thought that the Lord’s return would be in their lifetimes (James 5:8-9; 1 Peter 4:7; 2 Peter 3:3; 1 John 2:18). James writing to Jews, penned, “for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” and “the judge standeth before the door.” The Apostle Peter wrote to his Jewish brethren about “the end of all things is at hand” and “the last days.” The Apostle John wrote in the first of his little epistles to Israel, “little children, it is the last time” and “whereby we know that it is the last time.”
Now, these believing Jews of Christ’s earthly ministry were looking for the Second Coming of Christ in their lifetimes, as recorded in Zechariah 14:1-4 (cf. Acts 1:9-11). After the seven-year Tribulation, Jesus Christ at His Second Coming would destroy the unbelieving survivors. He would bind the devil in the bottomless pit, He would get rid of Israel’s enemies, He would deliver creation from the curse, and He would dominate the universe by setting up His glorious kingdom on earth and in heaven.
The promise of the earthly kingdom that the Lord made to Israel still holds true today. Indeed, that kingdom promised to Israel over 4,000 years ago will be established one day, and you can bet everything you own that Jesus Christ will assume David’s throne on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Jesus Christ is going to return, and nothing will hold Him back. Praise God that no one—not even Satan himself—will be able to stop Him because God’s Word will never be broken! But, before we go any further, let me interject a few lines about our role in all this.
Today, as members of the Church the Body of Christ living in the Dispensation of the Grace of God, we are looking for that “blessed hope,” the rapture of the Church the Body of Christ, which will happen seven years prior to the Second Coming. If we were looking for the Second Coming, that means we would be in the Tribulation period right now—which is impossible because the Church the Body of Christ cannot go into the Tribulation. Jesus Christ has “delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Just as Israel’s apostles thought they would be alive to witness the Second Coming of Christ, the Apostle Paul thought he would be alive when the rapture occurred. We read in Philippians 4:5: “The Lord is at hand.” Paul also wrote “then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up…” (1 Thessalonians 4:17 KJV). Paul died in the Lord, but even though he is dead in Christ, Paul will be resurrected at the rapture one day, with all the other members of the Church the Body of Christ. But, the only thing is, Paul will not be living in a physical body when the rapture occurs.
With that addressed, we can return to our main discussion. Why did the Lord Jesus say He was “coming quickly,” when it has already been 2,000 years, and He still has not come? Of course, there is a reason and we just have to search the Scriptures to find the answer. Read 2 Peter 3:8 KJV: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Compare that with Psalm 90:4 KJV: “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”
Now, notice that the Bible is not saying one day is exactly 1,000 years with the Lord, or vice versa; we know that because the word “watch” in Psalm chapter 90 is a three-hour period of time in the Old Testament Jewish calendar. These two verses are simply demonstrating God’s “timelessness.” One thousand years is nothing in God’s sight, so God is still fair and truthful in promising to be “coming quickly.” According to God, He only made that promise recently; in human time, it was 20 centuries ago. Wow! Of course, remember that God is not limited by time and space, so He could even view all of the 6,000 years of human history in just a blink of an eye. That ought to humble you in reverence at the mighty God we serve. 😉
So, “Where is the promise of Christ’s coming?” Jesus Christ is deliberately tarrying. Why? He is giving mankind ample time to believe the Gospel of Grace, and escape the impending wrath. Let us go back to 2 Peter 3 KJV where we learn the following:
“9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance….
10 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;…
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”
The Lord is “not slack” (not lazy or unreliable): He will fulfill His promise to return to earth, but He is “longsuffering.” God, in His grace, tolerates wicked, ungrateful mankind. His grace is withholding the impending wrath, yet our world finds it amusing to mock Him by abusing His grace. God does not want anyone to go to hell (“perish”), so “the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.” But, we also notice Peter’s next words: “…even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood,”
Peter is explaining to His Jewish audience that their program is on hold, “according to the wisdom given unto [Paul].” God is delaying the Second Coming of Christ because He has interrupted Israel’s program with our Dispensation of Grace! In order to give more people time to be saved in our present dispensation (and before the rapture occurs), God must push the seven years of wrath (the Tribulation) and the Second Coming of Christ out into the future. Paul discussed the temporary suspension of Israel’s program in Romans chapters 9, 10, and 11 (this is the information to which Peter referred). Once our dispensation ends (at the rapture), then God will return to Israel’s program and pour out His wrath on unbelieving mankind.
Maranatha! “Our Lord cometh!”… and He cometh quickly. If you are saved by grace through faith plus nothing, continue your labor in the Lord, and keep watching for Christ’s glorious appearing at the rapture to take us the Church the Body of Christ home to heave. As Paul wrote in Titus 2:13 KJV, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” After the Lord comes for us at the rapture, then He will come for Israel at His Second Coming. The Lord cometh quickly!