Why hasn’t Jesus returned yet?

Q.  I’m wondering why Jesus hasn’t returned yet. I realize it’s not our lot in life to know the exact time, but it sure seems like this would be a good time.  Throughout the ages folks have made predictions but of course we are still here.  I don’t want to second-guess God, but I gotta say in my opinion I would love to see Jesus return tomorrow.

The question of why Jesus hasn’t returned yet was being asked even in New Testament times, just one generation after Jesus lived on earth.  In his second letter, Peter speaks of “scoffers” who were asking, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?”  These were people who were arguing that if Jesus hadn’t come back yet, he wasn’t coming at all, and they were using as an excuse to “follow their own evil desires.”

But Peter also speaks to those who, like you, are genuinely longing for Jesus’ return, in distress over the condition of the world, explaining, “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.”  For me, that’s the essential reason why Jesus hasn’t returned yet: God wants as many people as possible to have the opportunity to hear the good news and respond.  When we consider that, because of the exponential growth of the human population, half of the people who’ve ever lived on earth are alive today, we realize that if Christ had returned a generation ago, only half as many people would have had the chance of knowing him as the Lord and Savior.  So this is reason both to wait patiently and to give a good testimony for Christ in the way we live, how we treat others, and what we say.

It’s also a mandate to live charitably and constructively as we await his return, doing all we can about the conditions around us as a way of expressing our faith in the kind of world Jesus will bring about when he does return.  He himself cautioned his followers that he might not return as soon as they expected, but that they were entrusted with a positive duty in the meantime.  He told this parable: “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.”  (Ouch!)

So we should “make the most of every opportunity in these evil days,” as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, even as what we see around us makes us long and pray for Jesus to return.  And all the while we can remember, in the words of the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation”:

Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!

A depiction of Christ as triumphal conqueror by Gustave Dore, c. 1868

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

One thought on “Why hasn’t Jesus returned yet?”

  1. Good question, Jesus may come before tomorrow, he may come tomorrow or after tomorrow. Just remain in touch with him so that whenever he comes, you’ll go with him.
    Amen.

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