The first century church genuinely believed that Jesus would return soon, even in their lifetime. But it’s 2019, and yet another year is drawing to a close. Why is Jesus taking so long to return? Is it a sin to be weary of living and of waiting for Him to make all things new again?
Many in the early church believed that Christ would return in their lifetime, but by the close of the first century, that idea began to extend. The church soon realised that Christ was not coming back as quickly as they had anticipated.
Paul deals with this issue in 1 and 2 Thessalonians. A group of believers in the church had quit their jobs and were simply expecting others to meet all their needs while they contented themselves with “waiting” for the Lord to return. In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul tells these believers not to be idle but to earn the food that they eat.
While the Lord will return suddenly and unexpectedly like a thief in the night, we, as believers, should not be caught off guard. Instead, we should be about living in obedience to God in the here and now. Consider Paul’s exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6:
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
He goes on to share what signs will precede the return of the Lord in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, which reads:
3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
There was a rumour being spread that the return of the Lord had already happened. Paul reminded the church that Jesus will not return until the Antichrist or the “man of lawlessness” is revealed. Christians will recognise him because he will set himself up to be worshipped as a god.
Paul reminded the church that Jesus will not return until the Antichrist or the “man of lawlessness” is revealed
The Bible tells us that God is slow to bring judgment because He is giving people time to repent. God desires that all people come to know Him. 2 Peter 3:8-9 states:
8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 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.
The Lord will return when all have accepted Christ who will accept Him. In other words, Jesus will not return before all the elect have received the Holy Spirit. This will not occur until after the Antichrist is revealed, and therefore we should continue to work and provide for our families in the interim.
While we should not be apathetic about the return of Christ, we should also not expect it tomorrow. Instead of being weary for His return, we should trust that He will return at the right time when all who will accept salvation have done so. This could still be many more years from now. But the return of Christ is a matter of hope. We have hope that He will return to make all things new, to right wrongs, and restore all that was broken at the Fall. In the meantime, as Christians we have a responsibility and a purpose to share the goodness and blessings of God’s perfect kingdom with a world that is full of pain, suffering, and sin. We can take the gospel to the world not only to ‘speed up’ the return of Christ, but to draw others into a relationship with Christ so they can experience part of the eternal hope now.
It is not sinful to think that the return is taking a long time; it is also not sinful to be weary that it will not happen today. But it is sinful to be angry at God for not having returned already or to think that He is taking far too long to return. His delay is for the benefit of His creation. God is eternal and He is not slow; He is just not working on the same timeframe as we tend to be on with such finite lifespans. Instead of being distraught that the Lord has not returned, rejoice that we still have time to share His love with the world in this new year.
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