“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” – Acts 3:19-21
The notion of an “end times” and “last days” is the cause of much speculation, even among believers. Remember Harold Camping a couple of years ago, predicting the end of the world several times? It made the network news, and I’m sure a few people were wondering if he could be right. Harold is not alone, there is a cottage industry of people predicting when Jesus will return.
But let me answer the question of whether it is possible to know when Jesus is coming back. The answer is no. Matthew 24:36-44 declares, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only…Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.…Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” These verses provide a clear and explicit answer to the question.
In addition, there is Acts 1:7, which states, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” This was said by Jesus after the disciples asked Him if He was at that time going to restore the kingdom to Israel. This would seem to confirm the message of Matthew 24. It is not for us to know the timing of Jesus coming back.
We do not believe that God has revealed to anyone when Jesus is coming back, and we see nothing in Scripture which indicates that God will ever reveal to anyone when Jesus is coming back. Matthew 24:36-44, while spoken directly to the people in Jesus’ time, also contains a general principle. The timing of Jesus’ return and the end of the age is not for us to know. Scripture nowhere encourages us to try to determine the date. Rather, we are to “…, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (v. 42). We are to “…be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (v. 44).
The key points are (1) the Bible nowhere encourages us to attempt to discover the timing of Jesus’ return and (2) the Bible gives no explicit data by which the timing of Jesus’ return can be determined. Rather than developing wild and speculative calculations to determine when Jesus is coming back, the Bible encourages us to “keep watch” and “be ready” (Matthew 24:42-44). The fact that the day of Jesus’ return is unknown should motivate us to live every day in light of it could be any day. In other words, live today as if Jesus is coming tomorrow.
- Do you think people should predict when Jesus will return?
- Would it make a difference in how you lived if you knew the date of Jesus’ return? If so, how?
- Read Titus 2:12-13; 2 Peter 3:10 -11; and Mark 13:32-33. What do you think it means to be “watching” for Christ’s return? What all is involved in watching?
- Pray and ask God for His help in living as if Jesus would come back today?