Bible Studies on the return of Jesus
The Timing of Jesus’ Coming
by I Gordon
When is Jesus coming back? When you read or hear a question like that, are you looking for a date? Yeah right. I hope not! Many have tried that game in the past and have come up empty. Probably the most famous (and now stupid) book title that I can think of was the aptly named ’88 reasons why the rapture is in 1988!’ When 1988 came and went without too many rising from their graves, a new book was brought out called ’89 reasons why the rapture is in 1989’. And I’m sure lots more people still bought the second book! Whenever we are dealing with the timing of the Lord Jesus’ return there are two scriptures that should always be kept in mind. Firstly the often quoted verse
Matt 24:36-39 ‘No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
I personally don’t think that anyone will know the exact day of Jesus’ return until it takes place. Jesus bore this fact out in several passages, emphasising the need to be found ready and waiting when the master does return. Now having said all of that, I do believe however that we are called to examine the signs of the times and be able to interpret the season in which we live. The second scripture I wanted to bring out states
Matt 16:1-3 ‘The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
We are called to understand and interpret the signs of the times in which we live. Now the actual signs that associate Jesus return will be left for another study. What I mainly want to examine in this study is whether the Bible gives any indication of the general timing of the return.
I would also add at the beginning of this study, that any interpretation of types from the Old Testament that do not have supporting New Testament doctrine (like this study) is automatically on shaky ground. Now, I don’t usually undermine my own studies like this, but you do need to be aware that types do not hold the same weight as doctrine. I simply pass on these ‘types’ of the plan of God because I have found them interesting, and ask that you yourselves weight the validity of them.
The Plan of God
One thing that amazes me about God is that He works all things out according to His will and the plan that He established before time. Everything is orderly, not simply left to chance. Even when dealing with salvation and the number that shall be saved we read
Rom 11:25,26 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel shall be saved.
God has established a limit for the church called ‘the full number of the gentiles’. Once this number is reached, He will once again turn back to Israel and complete His promises that He made to that nation in the Old Testament. While we do not know what this number is (or why He set it for that matter), God does and works all things out in accordance with His will. (Eph 1:11) So if God has specific numbers set aside for those that will be saved, does He also have the timing of events worked out before hand? Of course He does! And this is what I want to look at now.
The end from the beginning!
We all know that God created all that we see in six days, and on the seventh He rested. I believe that these days also represented the course of mans history with one day equaling one thousand years. Please look at the chart below.
Twice in scripture it tells us that ‘with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.’ So taking each day of creation as a thousand year period we discover the following points…
- The sun and the moon were created on the fourth day to give light to the earth. And so it was after four thousand years of human history that the true light of the world, the true Son, Jesus Christ came into this world to shine His light upon this dark world.
- Man was created on the sixth day, as six is the number of man. (Rev 13:18). And just as God created all things in six days, so is this a picture I believe, that God has given mankind six thousand years to live and rule over the earth before His rule and Kingdom is established on earth. Now there are approximately two thousand years from Adam to Abraham; approximately two thousand years from Abraham to Jesus; and now we are approximately another two thousand years from the time of Christ.
- So what’s left? Well, we have the last day, the seventh day that was to be the day of rest. And there are no prizes for guessing that this corresponds to the Millennial Kingdom that Jesus shall set up on earth at His return. Then there shall be rest and peace not experienced since before the fall. (See Isaiah 11:1-9) And we know that God has ordained this Kingdom to last for one thousand years! (Rev 20:1-7)
Confirming light from Hosea…
Hosea 5:14-6:2 ‘ For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah . I will tear them t pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them. Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.” “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.’
If you read the book of Hosea you will see that it is about God’s awesome love for Israel, despite their continual spiritual adultery. At the end of chapter five we find the scripture previously mentioned. It speaks of someone who is ‘like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah.’ In scripture only two people are likened to a lion. Firstly the Lord Jesus, the lion of the tribe of Judah, and secondly, Satan who goes around like a lion looking for people to devour. The passage carries on and states that this person would ‘go back to my place until they admit their guilt.’ Clearly this is nothing to do with Satan! But it is to do with the Lord Jesus, whom the Jewish nation rejected. Jesus Himself said
Matt 23:37-39 ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ is a title for the Messiah, well known to the Jewish people of Jesus’ day. So He was saying that the nation of Israel would be left desolate UNTIL they acknowledged the fact that Jesus is the Messiah. This is exactly the same as the prophecy we have just read in Hosea! So look now to how the Israelites respond…
“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.’
- After the resurrection, Jesus returned to the Father (went away until they admit their guilt). Thus, on the whole, the Jewish nation was hardened and the church age began.
- After two days however (2000 years), the Jewish nation looks back upon everything they have gone through, and are going through, (it is in their affliction that they will seek Jesus remember) and say ‘Come let us return to the Lord. He has injured us, but He will heal us.’
- Jesus does revive the Jewish nation (at His return) and the scripture is fulfilled that in ‘the third day we may live in His presence’. This is literal! This third day represents the 1000-year kingdom that will be established on earth and He shall reign in their very presence!
Light from a river crossing!
Joshua 3:3-4 ‘And they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. “Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.’
I have heard, and I pass it on for something to consider… that this crossing into the Promised Land typifies the entering into Heaven of both Jesus and His saints. You will notice that the ark of the covenant (picture of Jesus) crossed over but the people where not allowed to follow any closer than ‘about two thousand cubits’. They were not to come closer for they had ‘not come this way before’. This could very well be a picture of the fact that Jesus ascended into Heaven, back to His Father, but His followers, as a body, could not follow any closer than about two thousand years later. Obviously we have to be careful when dealing simply with types, but this would line up with the Hosea passage mentioned above. Notice also that it says that they were to follow ‘about 2000 cubits’ behind. Don’t try to establish exact dates because you will be exactly wrong! The whole point of this study is not to pin-point a date, but to show that there are indicators in the Bible as to the general timing of His coming so that you will be ready and can live with ‘the blessed hope’ – the knowledge that Jesus is coming soon! But only God knows the exact time. You only have to turn on the TV news to see that many of the signs of His coming (most importantly, developments in Israel) are being fulfilled before our eyes.
Light from an old tent!
If you know anything about the tabernacle that God instructed Moses to build, you will know that it had three main areas – the outer court, the holy place, and the holy of holies. Many books have been written on this subject, as it is an awesome type of the salvation of God. But there are many other pictures in the tabernacle and I want to look at one of these now because it may shed further light as to the plan of God in regard to the length of time given to each of the ages.
The outer court – contained the altar and the laver and man couldn’t come any further if they didn’t have a sacrifice upon the brazen altar. This area represents the period of the law. A fence that had the following dimensions enclosed the outer court:
Exodus 27:18 “The length of the court shall be one hundred cubits, the width fifty throughout, and the height five cubits, made of fine woven linen.’
Thus, the entire area of the fence that enclosed the outer court was 100 (length) X 50 (width) X 5 (height). The total area being 1500. We know from history that the total period of the law went for approximately 1500 years.
The Holy Place – contained the golden candlestick (symbolising Christ as the light), the table of showbread (Christ as the bread of life), and the altar of incense (Christ as our intercessor). This room speaks of the church age and its dimensions were 20 cubits (length) X 10 cubits (width) X 10 cubits (height). Thus the total being 20 X 10 X 10 = 2000. This again, like other scriptures mentioned above, seems to indicate that God has set aside around 2000 years for the church age.
The Holy of Holies – contained the Ark of the Covenant, which was the very presence and power of God in their midst. This room speaks of the millennial kingdom in which the very presence and power of God shall be evident, as Jesus Himself shall reign upon this earth. The dimensions of this room where 10 cubits (length) X 10 cubits (width) X 10 cubits (height). Thus it was 10 X 10 X 10 = 1000. So, as discussed above, it is no coincidence that the Kingdom on earth shall exist for 1000 years before the New Heaven and New Earth are established.
Jesus is coming and the plan of God will be established just as He has laid it out in His word. The points that I have written above I have found interesting as possible indicators as to the general timing of Jesus’ return. But it is NOT FACT! Always remember that we are not dealing with doctrine here… we are dealing with Old Testament types and as such there is definite room for error! Having said that, I still do find these types very interesting and have written this study as points to consider and to weigh up.
Jesus is coming soon however, and this last generation has seen so much change in the world as the players in this end time puzzle move quickly into position. Our eyes should be looking up, for Jesus will return shortly. The coming of Jesus Christ for His bride is called in scripture ‘the blessed hope’. It is the hope above all hopes! Do you have this hope? If the ‘types’ presented in this study prove to be true, it would seem that we are drawing close to end of the church age and that the rapture of the church is imminent!