It has been around 2,000 years since Jesus left earth, and many wonder why he has taken so long to return. In his book, Why I Am Not a Christian, atheist Bertrand Russell accused Jesus of breaking his promise to return.¹ So is it possible that Russell is right, and Jesus did break his promise?
The Apostle Peter predicted scoffers like Russell would point to Jesus’ delay as a broken promise. He writes, “First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. This will be their argument: ‘Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created!’”²
Perhaps Russell and other scoffers should have looked closer at Peter’s words, as well as what Jesus said about the timing of his return, and the events that would precede it. Jesus did say that, although no man would know the exact timing of his return, certain clues would tell us that it is drawing near.³
Additionally, the Old Testament prophets and Jesus’ apostles also provide insight about what the world scene will look like just prior to the return of Jesus Christ. Let’s look briefly at a few of these clues to the general timing of Jesus’ return:4
- Major earthquakes
- Worldwide famine
- Worldwide epidemics
- Persecution of believers
- Gospel proclaimed worldwide
Earthquakes, famines, epidemics, and wars have occurred throughout human history, but Jesus said there would be a noticeable increase of such events prior to his return.5 Persecution of believers began with the apostles and is on the increase today. More Christians are being persecuted for their faith now than at any time in history. Jesus tells us that such persecution will continue until his return, as will the worldwide proclamation of the gospel.
According to Jesus, when all of these events capture the world scene, we are to “look up,” for his return will be soon.6 Although Bible scholars don’t agree on all the details regarding Jesus’ return, many believe that the time Jesus spoke of is rapidly approaching. Paul told believers to be ready and “watch for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”7
So why is he delaying so long to fulfill his promise?
Peter explained the reason for Jesus’ delay, “But you should never lose sight of this fact, dear friends, that time is not the same with the Lord as it is with us—to him a day may be a thousand years, and a thousand years only a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”8
Peter was writing to believers who were experiencing trials and persecution. They wanted Jesus to come sooner rather than later. However, Peter tells them that God’s first priority is to spread the gospel of Christ throughout the world, reaching as many people as possible.
The above post was excerpted from the article “Is Jesus Coming Back?”
¹Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Touchstone, 1957), 16.
² 2 Peter 3:4, NLT.
³ Matthew 25:13.
4 Matthew 24:3-14.
5 Matthew 24:3-51.
6 Luke 21:28. Titus 2:13.
7 2 Peter 3:8-9.
8 Matthew 24:14.