Before Jesus left this earth, He said He would return. During His Olivet Discourse, the Lord told His disciples that everyone one day would “see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). The night of His arrest, Jesus promised, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). And as He stood trial before the high priest, Jesus said, “You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). We have the promises, but we are still waiting. Jesus has not returned yet.
There is also an assurance from the angels that Jesus would return some day. After Jesus ascended into heaven, as His disciples were still gazing up into the sky, two angels comforted the disciples with these words: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Later, John sees a vision of Jesus Christ telling him, “Look, I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:7). Still, Jesus has not returned. Where is He, and what’s taking Him so long?
As groundwork for the answer, we should remember that God has not revealed the timing of His Son’s return to any man, or to any angel for that matter (Matthew 24:36). Jesus is coming, and we need to be ready (Matthew 24:42, 44), but we leave the timing of His return up to God.
Then, we should keep in mind the following:
God is patient with sinners. Peter exhorts those who were doubting the Lord’s return with these words: “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 in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8–9).
The next event in God’s prophetic plan is the rapture of the church. We see the rapture as an event distinct from the second coming of Christ. Paul reveals a few details about the rapture: “The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17). The rapture is imminent—no prophesied event stands between now and the rapture (see 1 Peter 1:20; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 1:2). In contrast, the second coming will happen only after “all” the events of Matthew 24 have occurred (Matthew 24:33).
Jesus’ statements that He was coming “soon” should be properly understood. The Greek word tachu, which is translated “soon” or “quickly” in Revelation 22:20, can also mean “without unnecessary delay” or “suddenly.” It does not have to mean “immediately.” Jesus’ meaning seems to be that, once end-times events have been set in motion, things will move quickly, without any unnecessary delay. The plagues of Revelation will follow one right after another, and at the end Jesus will come “suddenly.”
We should live in the expectancy that the rapture could occur at any moment. The Lord wants every generation to have the conscious awareness that He may suddenly appear.
For the believer, the return of the Lord is the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). Jesus has promised that He will come back for us, and that promise is enough. We trust in Him and rest in God’s perfect timing.