Can We Know When Jesus Christ Will Return?
June 5, 2012
Can We Know When Jesus Will Return?
By Dennis Luker
Serious students of the Bible know full well that the return of Jesus Christ and the establishing of His Kingdom represent the culmination of this human age. We eagerly desire and anticipate this! As Christians we are urged to maintain a sense of spiritual urgency, constantly overcoming and focusing on daily, continuous transformation in becoming more like God our Father and His Son, our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ.
With such an intense focus on the return of Jesus Christ to this earth—this time as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16)—it can be tempting and even easy to begin to speculate when exactly Jesus might initiate this long-awaited event. This is especially true when the Bible itself provides many prophetic markers and trends that will presage the end of this age (not the “end of the world”) and the coming of Christ.
But My Father Only
But even as Jesus emphatically instructed His disciples to “watch”—to prepare themselves as a spiritual Bride to be collectively bonded to Christ for all eternity—He also immediately said “you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). Earlier, after outlining specific trends that would be obvious before His return, Jesus noted concerning the actual date of His return, “Of that day and hour no one knows, no not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (verse 36).
These and other Bible verses make plain that not even Jesus Himself knows the precise day and time when Jesus will return. Asked one final time by His disciples about the divine timetable for prophetic events, Jesus declared: “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:8).
We Don’t Set Dates
Accordingly, as directed by Jesus, the living Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23), the United Church of God does not set prophetic dates or times for future events. This has been a hard lesson for some, as during the past 2,000 years a number have violated this teaching of Jesus. They have unfortunately set both specific dates and times for the return of Christ, reaping a whirlwind of contempt and ridicule when these dates passed with no prophetic results.
Consider this historic example: In 2011, Harold Camping, a religious figure in California, attracted international attention with his unequivocal prediction that Jesus would return on May 21 of that year. Of course, nothing prophetically significant happened on that date, earning Camping and his failed prophecies a considerable amount of public scorn.
This leads us to an interesting question: why did God send prophets with a message about the Kingdom of God if we can’t know the date upfront when it will come? As the Bible clearly shows, prophetic outcomes are the result of either obeying or disobeying the word of God. God reveals that many blessings will come to humanity if it yields itself to God’s way of life. God also reveals that many prophetic curses will come if humanity rejects this way of life, particularly if it is laid out in front of them in advance. That is why God declared first to the ancient Israelites and today to us: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, therefore choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19, emphasis added).
Because prophesied tragedies reflect a willful spirit of disobedience to God, the United Church of God recognizes that it is the duty of the Church to make plain the consequences of this continued willful disobedience. God and Jesus are quite clear: if you keep God’s commandments and produce spiritual fruit that reflects the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit, then you are promised many good things, both in this life and in the life to come. If not, then you come under a curse of your own doing.
One of the major roles of the Church that Jesus founded is to demonstrate—in this present life—a taste of the coming Kingdom. God’s way of life works! This is why Jesus thus commanded His disciples: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Seeing people quietly but effectively live God’s way of life strengthens the prophetic message of the Bible.
Let No Man Take Your Crown
So what if you find yourself in one of these groups that unfortunately likes to set dates? The Bible is plain: God is a God of mercy and love. If such a person humbly recognizes that they may have fallen under a deception, well-intentioned or not, and want to move on, then the path opens for them to receive mercy, be pardoned, and restore their relationship with the living Head of the Church, Jesus Christ and His Father, God Almighty. We are all called to repent—even daily as a continuous act of spiritual transformation—to change, receive mercy and grace, and to advance toward the future Kingdom of God (Acts 2:38; Romans 12:1-2).
Don’t allow a man or an organization to “steal your crown” (Revelation 3:11) by violating the teachings of Jesus. If you’d like more information about what the Bible really says is the exciting and vibrant future for humanity, write for or download our free booklet, God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind.