Will You Live to See Christ’s “Coming”?
WE HAVE all heard it said many times that Christ is going to come again to judge the earth, to destroy the wicked and reward the good.
But when something momentous is mentioned, it is human nature to think, ‘It can’t happen to me.’ So, many who claim to believe in Christ’s coming admit that it must take place in someone’s day. Yet they say, ‘It won’t happen in my time.’
These people overlook the fact that Jesus Christ said that there would be ample evidence when that time approached. More than that, it would take faith to recognize the nearness of that time—the time of his coming to hold an accounting with earth’s inhabitants. It would require a sincere heart, with awakeness and watchfulness as to Bible prophecies and world events. Jesus put us on the alert with his question: “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”—Luke 18:8.
Despite the doubts of so many, from what Jesus said about his coming, it can be said with confidence that most persons who read this article, and millions of others, will live to see that earth-shaking event take place. Why so?
DEFINITE TO GOD BUT UNCALCULABLE BY MAN
It is certain that God has a definite time for Christ’s coming to execute judgment on the earth. Man, made in God’s image, has a sense of timing of matters. For this reason God provided a way for man to keep count of years, months and days. (Gen. 1:14-16) In the Bible an accurate chronology from the creation of man onward is provided. An outstanding instance of such chronology is the Biblical count of the “seven times” of Gentile domination of mankind without divine interruption, which ran from 607 B.C.E. to 1914 C.E. This count even had a prophetic nature. It was chronology in advance.*
But nobody should get the idea that, simply by chronology, he can calculate the time of that “coming” of Christ for executing judgment. Christ himself told his apostles: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.”—Matt. 24:36.
Now, we know that Jesus Christ had been in heaven with his Father at the time of earth’s creation. (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:13-17) He knew the exact time of the creation of both Adam and Eve. (Gen. 1:26, 27) He knew precisely when 6,000 years of human history would be completed. He knew exactly when God’s seventh creative day, his great “rest” day began and when it would end. (Gen. 2:1-3) Yet, with all his perfect knowledge of chronology, when he was on earth he did not know the day and hour of his execution of judgment on this world, prior to when his thousand-year reign begins. (Rev. 20:4-6) How, then, could any human today possibly figure it out?
“AS THE DAYS OF NOAH WERE”
However, Jesus did not mention that specific incident for nothing. In the early part of his comments (in Matthew 24:4-35) he prophetically foretold many world conditions that would serve as warning that he would be about to take action, and he counseled awakeness as to this event, saying: “For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.”—Matt. 24:37-39.
Here Jesus, in referring to “the days of Noah,” evidently meant a time period during which Noah built the ark. The ark was something for the people to take note of, but they went on ignoring this divinely provided warning.
According to Jesus’ prophecy, the social conditions among men and women on earth, along with the other things spoken of by Jesus, constitute a warning for all people today. The accuracy of this forecast is made more evident by the reading of the parallel account in Mark chapter 13 and Luke chapter 21, along with the apostle John’s vision described in Revelation chapter 6.*
What do these things show as to the likelihood that people now living will see, yes, and even live through, “that day and hour”? This: Some, though only a few, took note of God’s warning, saw the Flood and were preserved through it. So today, people are hearing the warning and many, though few as compared with earth’s population, will hear and survive. (Rev. 7:9-17) This period from the end of the Gentile Times in 1914 C.E. Jesus designated (in Matthew 24:36-39 quoted above) as his “presence.” During this time he would, invisibly, be making inspection of the earth. He would also direct the work of warning the people and gather together those who are not the ‘scoffer’ type, but who take heed and exercise faith. Then he would ‘come’ with destructive power against God’s enemies. This warning is indeed being sounded verbally now, in the preaching of this good news of the Kingdom earth wide.—Matt. 24:14.
As to Jesus’ being “present” for a time before he ‘comes’ against this system of things, consider the length of the period during which Noah built the ark. He was 500 years old when he began to have sons. (Gen. 5:32) These three sons all grew up and married, by which time Noah was probably around 550 years of age. At that time God gave him instructions to build the ark. (Gen. 6:18) The Flood occurred when Noah was 600 years old. (Gen. 7:6) This would allow fifty years, more or less, as the period before the Flood, in which the people could observe and take warning. But the people were too involved in the everyday affairs of life, showing no faith in Noah’s message from God.
NO ADVANCE DATE TO BE GIVEN
In Noah’s time he was told, one week before the floodwaters fell, to take into the ark the specimens of the various animals that were to be preserved. (Gen. 7:1-16) But this does not prove that there would be advance notice in our time as to the exact day of Christ’s “coming” to destroy this present system of things. Back there Noah obviously had to know when to begin taking the animals into the place of safety. If he took them in too soon, when, perhaps, it seemed according to his calculation that the end was immediate, it would draw unduly on the stock of foodstuffs he had stored in the ark. On the other hand, if the flood came suddenly without warning, Noah could not have gathered the animals into the ark in time. The advance notice God gave him was very short, but necessary, and sufficient to accomplish God’s purpose.
That even the disciples of Jesus Christ, true Christians on earth, will be unaware beforehand of the precise time of Christ’s “coming” in this executional sense is shown by what he said as recorded at Matthew 24:42-44. Note that these words were not directed to the world in general. They were addressed directly to Christ’s disciples: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know one thing, that if the householder had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have kept awake and not allowed his house to be broken into. On this account you too prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”
NOT KNOWING THE DAY CONSTITUTES A TEST
What is God’s purpose in leaving Christians uncertain as to the precise time of the Lord Jesus Christ’s coming to execute the vengeance of Jehovah? It is to require all who claim to be Christ’s disciples to prove whether they are genuine Christians all the time. They cannot become careless and involved with worldly pursuits and practices and then, just before the last minute, put on a form of godliness. Of course, they could not deceive Jesus Christ by such a course. But God wants it plain to all people that there is a clear-cut distinction between those who really serve God and those who do not. (Mal. 3:18) They prove by their fruits what they are at heart.—Matt. 7:17-20.
In view of all these facts, along with Jesus’ prophetic words, millions of people now living will see the “day” of Christ’s coming to mete out justice upon this system of things, religious, political, commercial and social. But to survive that execution of judgment is another matter. Said Jesus: “Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned; two women will be grinding at the hand mill: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned.” (Matt. 24:40, 41) Weeks earlier Jesus had made a similar statement, prompting the disciples’ question, “Where, Lord?” He answered, “Where the body is, there also the eagles will be gathered together.” (Luke 17:37) The ones “taken along” are spiritually sharp-sighted, like eagles, who gather to the one whom they discern to be the Messiah, for the spiritual feast that Jehovah provides within his place of safety. They will gather together with God’s congregations on earth, under his true Messiah. Those “abandoned” will be those who do not keep spiritually awake and who consequently get swallowed up in a selfish way of life, as did the people in Noah’s day. Such are “abandoned” to destruction along with the world system of things in which they are involved.
Yes, to survive the executional work that begins on that “day” requires faith. This can be obtained only by a study of the Bible. We must “keep on the watch” that our actions are based on the Bible’s right principles, knowing that that day for executional work to begin is surely coming, in fact, is near. (Hab. 2:3) In “keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah,” God’s time period for meting out justice, we do not become careless. We let all features of our lives be spiritually influenced so that we can “be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.”—2 Pet. 3:12-14.
See the book Is this Life All There Is?, published by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1974.
For a full discussion of the entire 24th chapter of Matthew, see the book God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached.