Three times in the closing chapter of the prophetic book of Revelation, the Apostle John wrote the words of Jesus Christ, “I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20). Some denominational and para-church ministry statements of faith refer to this future fact in declaring their belief that Jesus is our “soon coming King.”
If we are waiting for the Second Coming of Christ, how long must we wait? If he is our “Soon Coming King,” how soon is “soon”?
As the skeptics and non-believers in this world point out, our Lord seems to have delayed His promised “soon” return for nearly 2,000 years. How are we to understand or explain this? Are we missing something?
We should remember that the Apostle Peter told us the “why” of this delay: God wants to give this sinful world opportunity to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:1ff). As modern-day believers, we are to hold on to His promised return and keep ourselves pure, so that we may not be ashamed at His coming (1 John 2:28-3:3).
Again, we must ask “How soon is ‘soon’?” Is there a prophetic sequence or significant signs which can help us clarify God’s timetable for these end-time events?
Paul told the persecuted Thessalonian believers that they could be comforted and edified in knowing that whether we are dead or living at the time of Christ’s promised return, “God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9-11).
Wrath is the keyword. It describes the prophesied season of God’s judgment on Satan, his demons and the unrepentant nations of the world. See the cosmic disturbances in Revelation 6, which cause kings and slaves alike to call on the mountains and rocks to “fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand (vv. 15-17)?”
The Bible refers to the season of God’s wrath on the ungodly as the Day of the Lord. The literal interpretation of related scriptures reveals that this long-prophesied-judgment season of God is different from the tribulation vengeance and persecution of the Anti-Christ (Revelation 6, Seal Judgments 1-3) and the Great Tribulation of Satan (Seals 4 and 5).
Jesus taught that these Tribulation events conclude before the “gathering of the elect” (Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 6:9-11) and the Wrath of God (Seals 6 and 7). This period is also called the Great Day of His Wrath, The Terrible Day of the Lord or the Bowl Judgements of God and it will rapidly end Satan’s rebellion.
Revelation’s mysteries are summarily linked in our Lord’s Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24. Comparing the scroll and seven seals of Revelation 6 with the revealed events or features of Matthew 24 one finds The Beginning of Birth Pangs, The Great Tribulation, The Gathering of the Elect, and The Wrath of God.
Again, the eschatological teaching of Jesus in Matthew 24:29-31 clearly places the timing of the great harvest of God’s chosen ones AFTER the tribulation and just BEFORE the wrath of God (vv. 48-51). Likewise, comparing the cosmic calamities of these verses and the synoptic scriptures of Mark 13:24-27and Luke 21:25-28 with Revelation 14:14-16, one notes that earth’s harvest or “gathering together” of the saints occur “after the tribulation.” Do you also see the timing and stated correlations with the “catching away” or “rapture” of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18?
Why is this important? It is because the Church must prepare itself to stand strong against the inevitable persecution of believers by the Anti-Christ and Satan (Rev. 12:9-12), in the last days. In fact, Paul and Peter urged believers to consider it a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ and to do so with persistent perseverance.
For well over a century, most evangelical Protestants have been taught a pre-tribulation theory of deliverance for believers before the days of persecution–and even beheadings–by the unholy trinity of Satan, the Anti-Christ, and the False Prophet. Well-meaning advocates insert this doctrinal paradigm into every passage they can and when one won’t logically or literally fit, they carefully skip over it or assign it to a different “dispensation” of God’s dealings with man.
The best way to interpret the Bible is to understand its pages literally, except those passages which obviously communicate figurative significance. As Bible scholar has said, “Where the plain sense of Scripture makes commons sense, we need seek no other sense.”
The noble-minded Bereans were commended for receiving the word eagerly and “examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). After understanding the context and any obvious figurative language, we should allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. As the “time of the end” draws closer, biblical predictions will become clearer and our understanding will increase (Daniel 12:4).
While implications can be found for teaching an “imminent” return of Jesus Christ, where He could come “at any moment,” it is not specifically taught in any Scripture. Rather, a literal, comprehensive study of the Bible clearly points to certain signs, or events, which must occur BEFORE our “coming King” comes.
For instance, in 2 Thessalonians chapter two, Paul told the confused believers that there must first be a significant apostasy (falling away) of insincere believers and then “the man of lawlessness” will be unmasked or revealed (2:1-2) BEFORE we are “gathered together” at “the coming of our Lord.”
But that can’t happen until “he who now restrains” steps aside and releases the “son of destruction” to begin his devilish deeds (vv. 3-8). He will begin by displaying himself as “god” in a rebuilt temple of Jewish worship and sacrifice, which will have to be built first.
So, in this one passage are three significant events which must occur before the “coming of our Lord.”
Dr. Jack Hayford (Founding Pastor of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, CA and Chancellor of The King’s University, Southlake, TX), has taught a sound and sensible approach to life and ministry, as we await our returning King.
- First, he taught that we should “live for the moment,” redeeming the time in the gift of each day. (Philippians 1:21; 3:14; 4:13)
- Secondly, he urged us to “keep interceding,” praying in the Spirit. (Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18; Romans 8:27)
- Thirdly, he stressed that we must faithfully continue to be busy about Kingdom business until He comes! (Matthew 24:46; Luke 19:13; 2 Peter 3:12)
May we increase our readings, teachings, and preaching about our “soon coming King,” until that day when, as Dottie Rambo wrote, “we shall behold Him, face to face, in all of His glory!”