John was waiting for Jesus when he penned the above words from Patmos in Revelation 22:20. Aside from being exiled to a small island in the Aegean Sea, he was privileged to see a series of revelations about the past and the future. John saw a vision of heaven and saw the enthroned Creator and innumerable worshippers around him. But the images ended. He looked around and was still on the same rocky isle as before. “Come, Lord Jesus” was his cry. The contrast between heaven and Patmos must have been astonishing. John longed for Jesus’ return.
Always Waiting for Jesus’ Return
A devout disciple of Jesus is always homesick. Our minds are heavenward. We peer beyond the stars into the deep blues and blacks and dream of eternity. Our dreams are vivid because of our present reality. The stench of an evil world intensifies day by day. COVID, riots, political instability, saber-rattling, morality decomposition, financial fears, and broad malaise give our dreams urgency.
A desire for our heavenly home is good. Paul felt it (Philippians 1:18 – 26, esp vs. 23), and we should too.
We are Confused About Jesus’ Return
But I am concerned that some have confused a desire for heaven with a human doctrine of dispensationalism. I see it on social media when people assert that the end times must be near because of our troubles.
Dispensationalism is a collection of end-of-time ideas that have been popularized since John Darby in the 1800s. In our time, author Hal Lindsey penned The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970, seeming to forecast the “rapture” in the 1980s. Jerry B. Jenkins (no connection to Jerry Jenkins of Roebuck Parkway) and Tim Lahaye published the Left Behind series of books. These stories present a fictionalized account of the return of Jesus. The rapture, AntiChrist, and an earthly reign of Jesus on a throne in Jerusalem are all part of the novels. Dangerously, these books, and similar social media posts, suggest a way to know when the Lord is coming. That’s an idea specifically refuted by Jesus himself.
We are waiting for Jesus, knowing he’s coming but unsure of when.
In the coming weeks, we will examine these various teachings and demonstrate from the Bible why they are in error. We will establish a biblical approach to these topics. We will point to something firm to stand upon when dreaming of heaven. Let’s start with timing.
His return date is not known
Jesus walked with his disciples in Jerusalem. Herod’s Temple was the centerpiece of Herod the Great’s building program. It was an imposing and magnificent edifice. The disciples were speaking of it when Jesus said, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). The following discussion, commonly known as the Olivet Discourse, includes this remarkable statement concerning Jesus’ second coming:
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only”.Matthew 24:36
Jesus is speaking of his return. Previously, he told them precisely what to watch for and when to flee. He warned that the terrible things in verses 3 – 35 would occur in the lifetime of that present generation (Matthew 24:34). About 40 years later, Rome destroyed Jerusalem.
In verse 36, Jesus answers the second part of the question asked in verse 3: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” There is no answer to that question because Jesus himself did not know! If Jesus doesn’t know, I am confident no one posting on Facebook knows.
Let’s conclude with Jesus’ warning in Matthew 24:42: “stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
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