Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being, and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 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.—2 Peter 3:3-9
For about 400 years before the coming of Christ, the God of Israel was silent. The last prophetic word to God’s people had come through the prophet Malachi, who chastised Israel’s priests for causing people to stumble instead of inspiring them to obedience. But Malachi included a word of encouragement: The Messiah was coming.
True instruction was in His mouth and nothing false was found on His lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.—Malachi 2:6
As the birth of Jesus drew near, many had grown weary of waiting. Israel suffered greatly under Roman oppression. Hope seemed distant. No one knew God was weaving together a plan more beautiful than they could comprehend.
“Our Deliverer is coming,” I can imagine someone saying encouragingly.
“Yeah, I have never heard that before,” might have been the sarcastic comeback, delivered with an audible eye roll.
Sound familiar? Isn’t that exactly where we are today?
I can’t count how many times I’ve mentioned the imminent return of Jesus only to have someone respond, “People have been saying that for thousands of years.” Yes, they have. So doesn’t it stand to reason that His return is that much nearer than it was to those who came before us?
The Lord is near.—Philippians 4:5b
How near is His return? We can’t say. I think of Noah, who spent decades building an ark in preparation for God to judge the earth with a flood.
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that He had made human beings on the earth, and His heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”—Genesis 6:5-7
The world had become so evil that God regretted creating man. Yet He waited years—what some Bible commentators say amounted to 50 to 75 years—before bringing judgment. Meanwhile the world became even more wicked.
But God has a habit of showing up at exactly the right time.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.—Galatians 4:4-5
The world may grow even more wicked before we see Christ’s second return. We may not even live to see it. But then again, we may. The people of Jesus’ day, with the notable exceptions of Simeon and Anna, did not expect their Messiah to come in their lifetimes. Yet He did.
Say this with me: The Lord is near. Now believe it. Allow that truth to settle deep within your heart, and let it shape your attitude and your choices.