"And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:9-11)
The news we have been hearing of economic problems, wars, disease epidemics, earthquakes and looming ecological disasters has led many Christians to believe that Christ's coming must be just around the corner. They remember the words of Jesus that "You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars… for nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes…" (Matthew 24:6-7) Many popular books have been written and many stirring sermons given, quoting these words and pointing to the correspondence of current events with these predictions. But to use these words to show that Christ's coming is imminent is very much in error.
If you go back and read the passage from which these words have been taken, you will notice that I left out part of Jesus' message. The popular prophecy books and sermons also tend to leave them out. The first clause in the quote above is followed by "See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end." So Jesus says clearly that these things are not signs of the impending end of the world. After the second clause, the whole quote is, "But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs." So these things are merely the beginning, not the events just before the end of the world. But even this assumes that what Jesus is talking about is the end of the world.
If you take the whole of the Mount Olivet Discourse as found in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, you will note a curious thing. I will quote from Matthew 24:34 - "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." That clearly means that all the events He has been talking about up to this point would take place within the generation that was then living. A biblical generation is forty years, as we see from how long God made the children of Israel wander in the wilderness before they were allowed to enter the Promised Land. God said, "Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers." (Deuteronomy 1:35) "So the Lord's anger burned against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the entire generation of those who had done evil in the sight of the Lord was destroyed." (Numbers 23:13) This generation was all those twenty years and older (Numbers 14:29).
The "end" that Jesus is speaking of, therefore, is not the end of the world but the end of Jerusalem, the Temple and the whole Old Testament system as ordained by God. This "coming" (Matthew 24:30) of Christ is not the great and final one that will happen at the end of time but a coming of judgment upon the nation of Israel that had rejected Him as the Messiah and failed to heed His message of peace (Luke 19:41-44). The fulfillment of this prophecy in 70 AD, indeed, serves as a warning that the day will just as certainly come when the whole world will face judgment. From Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection in 30 AD to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD is exactly forty years! So Jesus did give an outside time limit for the fulfillment of this prophecy.
But did He give such a time limit for the final Day of Judgment? The answer is no, He did not. Immediately after saying that the generation then living would see all the things He had previously spoken of come to pass, He says, "But of that day and hour (the end of the world)no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah." Many prophecy preachers then immediately point to this and say that as society was plagued by violence in Noah's day so our day has seen an increase in violence and so the end of the world will be soon. But that completely overlooks what Jesus says would be the same: "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." (Matthew 24:36-39) The destruction of Jerusalem would be preceded by "wars and rumors of wars", etc., and a special sign: "the abomination of desolation" (verse 15) but the end of the world and the final coming of Christ will have no sign to precede it. It will be during a time of peace and tranquility, not upheaval and alarm. But will it be soon?
It has always been soon! No one will miss out on the second visible coming of Christ. "Every eye will see Him…" (Revelation 1:7) When we die, whether we are saved or not, we will immediately proceed to a place of waiting. Time passes much more quickly in the spiritual realm than on earth and it will not seem long before we will be present to witness the glorious second appearing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Those in hell and the unsaved on earth are not looking forward to His coming, but the saints in heaven and on earth are eager for His return, for then will death be finally defeated and Satan cast out and the heavens and earth restored to what God intended from the beginning. He is coming soon! Prepare now!