When Will the Lord Return?

ClockThe “end times” are an intriguing topic to many people. They wonder what will happen and speculate about when the end will be. Throughout the years, some have even tried to predict the date of Christ’s return; yet every one of these dates has come and gone. This is not a sign that the end of the world will not happen, just that there are false prophets who erroneously claim to know the “secret things” of God (Deuteronomy 29:29).

The Scriptures do not provide us with a date for the Lord’s return, nor are we given signs to look for that will signal that the end is approaching. However, the New Testament certainly provides a description for when the Lord will return. So in this article, we will use the Bible to answer this question: When will the Lord return?

The Lord Will Return When the Father Has Determined

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36).

Those who make judgment day predictions need to understand this – not even Jesus knows the “day and hour” for His return. This is not a denial of the deity of Christ – omniscience is one of the fundamental traits of God (Psalm 139:1-6) – but is a statement about the roles of the Father and the Son. It is the Father’s role to set the date for the end. It is the Son’s role to return at the end and judge the world (John 5:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Jesus is the spokesman for God today (Hebrews 1:1-2). The Holy Spirit was sent to reveal the teachings of Christ (John 14:26; 16:13). Through the Spirit’s revelation, we can “know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). Therefore, it is impossible for anyone to have special insight about the date of Christ’s return since it has not been revealed in the Scriptures. Though we may be “eagerly” waiting for the Lord to return (Philippians 3:20; cf. Revelation 22:20), He will not return until the day which the Father has determined (Acts 17:31).

The Lord Will Return When Nothing Points to the End

For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left” (Matthew 24:37-41).

Relatively few try to make serious predictions about the date of the Lord’s return. Yet many believe that there will be certain signs to announce that His return is close – “wars and rumors of wars… famines and earthquakes… tribulation… false prophets… lawlessness is increased…” (Matthew 24:6-13). However, these signs that Jesus mentioned were to precede God’s judgment in the destruction of Jerusalem, not God’s judgment in the final destruction of the world.

Jesus said that life will continue as normal prior to His return, just as the judgment in Noah’s day. The only warning was not a “sign,” but preaching, as Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). The same is true today. Paul said, “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:30-31). This “declaring” is done through the preaching of the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:10-11). Aside from this preaching, Jesus said there would be no special signs that would precede His coming at the end.

The Lord Will Return When You Do Not Expect

Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (Matthew 24:42-44).

Jesus said, “You do not know” (Matthew 24:42) and said earlier that we cannot know (Matthew 24:36) the date of the Lord’s return. He used the illustration of a thief – if a homeowner knows what night a thief is coming, he will be ready. Peter and Paul used this same illustration in speaking of the Lord’s return (2 Peter 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:2). The event would come unexpectedly.

Because we cannot know the precise moment of the Lord’s return, we must be ready at all times (Matthew 24:44). After saying that the Lord would return like a thief, Peter wrote, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God… Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3:11-14). We must strive to continue in holiness, godliness, and righteous conduct so that the Lord will find us in that condition whenever He returns.

The Lord Will Return When the Trumpet Sounds

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

The sound of the trumpet was to announce the coming of the King. We have already noted that there would be no signs to signal that the Lord’s return was approaching. However, this trumpet sound is not a warning, but an announcement. Christ is coming with the trumpet.

Paul told the brethren in Corinth that this would be “the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:52). This means that when this trumpet sounds there will be no second chances and no rush to correct things at the end. As we learn from the parable of the wise and foolish virgins waiting for the coming of the bridegroom, if we are not ready when the Lord returns, we will be shut out (Matthew 25:1-12). Therefore, Jesus said, “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13).

The Lord Will Return When Mockers Ridicule the Idea of His Return

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’ For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:3-7).

At various times throughout history, God has punished man for disobedience. This includes the destruction of the wicked in the flood during the days of Noah (Genesis 6:5-7; 7:17-23). Besides being a punishment for the wicked, these accounts of divine judgment also serve as reminders for others to be faithful (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:5-12).

Peter said that mockers will ridicule the idea of Christ’s return. However, the only way these mockers would seem to have any credibility is if there are no recent instances of God’s direct involvement in executing judgment against the wicked. God is not actively judging/punishing men or nations today, despite many claims that are made otherwise. We should remember the word revealed to the prophet Amos: “Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). There are no prophets of God today announcing physical judgment against men or nations (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10). We should not expect there to be, either. But the fact that mockers would have such a strong influence indicates that a significant amount of time would pass between the last prophecy against the nations (Revelation 18:21) and the final end when the Lord will return to judge the world (Revelation 20:12).

The Lord Will Return When God’s Patience Has Run Out

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come…” (2 Peter 3:9-10).

One of the great characteristics of God is His patience. His patience was on display as He waited to destroy the wicked until after Noah finished building the ark (1 Peter 3:20). His “perfect patience” made it possible for Paul – the “foremost of all” sinners – to be saved (1 Timothy 1:15-16). The patience of God is why the world remains – He is giving us time to repent. This is why Peter said we should “regard the patience of the Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15).

However, at some point God’s patience will run out. This will happen when the Lord returns. At that point, those who are unfaithful will be destroyed. Paul warned the Romans of this: “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds” (Romans 2:4-6). The thought of God’s wrath building against us ought to be frightening. His patience allows us time to avoid that wrath, but when the Lord returns that time will be up.

The Lord Will Return When the Physical World is Destroyed

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).

When Jesus returns, everything we know here will be gone. Therefore, He warned us not to become attached to the things of this life: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). Paul said, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Despite the misconceptions of many in the denominational world, Jesus is not returning to establish a kingdom on earth. He promised that His kingdom would be established during the lifetime of some of His earliest disciples (Mark 9:1). It is now in existence (Colossians 1:13), having been established on the day of Pentecost following His ascension (Acts 2:47; Matthew 16:18-19). Instead of returning to establish a kingdom, He is returning to bring the faithful of His kingdom home with Him to heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).

Conclusion

Though we do not know the date, we can know what the Scriptures do say about when the Lord will return. We must be ready for this event at all times (Matthew 24:44; 2 Peter 3:11-14). Therefore, if you are not ready to stand before Him in judgment, now is the time prepare. “Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’” (2 Corinthians 6:2).


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Comments

  1. Larry DeVore says

    excellent article, Andy

  2. Thanks, Larry!

  3. Tim Haile says

    Man! I read this entire article and still didn’t learn when the Lord is returning! (Ha) Good article, Andy. Now we just need John Hagee to read it.