For longer than I have been paying attention, people have been saying that the return of Jesus could be any day now, because all the signs have been fulfilled. Time is short. Peter seems to have encountered people who thought it should have happened already even while he was on the earth. He wrote that the Lord is only seeming to be delaying His return because He is being patient, not wanting any to perish (2 Peter 3:3-9).
If you ask any believer you encounter to give you three differences between the Kingdom of Heaven and what has since the influence of James 1, king of England been called the church, I trust that you will get a different answer from each of them, and that the number who would have some correct ideas on the matter would be scary small. I do it a lot, and I’m rarely impressed.
That fact makes me look at what Jesus said about the timing of the end in two statements and deduce that it could be a very long time before His second appearance in the earth. One of the statements is in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. In his opening statements, Luke said that Jesus was on the earth for 40 days after He rose from Hades, speaking to His disciples about His Kingdom. When His people were gathered with Him at the end of these days, they asked Him if He was about to restore the Kingdom to Israel. His response was that it was not for them to know times and seasons set by His Father. Instead, He instructed them to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth after they received power to do so from the Holy Spirit. The word witnesses is translated from a word that is usually translated that way except when it referred to someone who died for being a witness. In those phrases it was usually translated “martyr.” (Acts 1:1-7)
The other statement by Jesus is in Matthew 24, as part of His response to His disciples asking Him, “…what is the sign of your coming, and the end of the age?” Included in His reply was “This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed to all the world, as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:3-14) “Testimony” in that answer comes from the same root as “witness” and “martyr.”
So, it seems that the good news that needs to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth is not the good news about salvation, but the good news (“gospel”) about His Kingdom. In 20 centuries, we have not succeeded at preaching how to avoid paying for your own sin to the ends of the earth. Some of the people of God are just beginning to grasp that the good news about His Kingdom is not the same news as the good news about how you can be born of Yahweh. It is easy for me to believe that we could put His second coming off for another century with no trouble.
We have hardly grasped the reason for His first coming. We are poorly prepared to usher in His second any time soon. If that’s true, though, you should be encouraged about the many opportunities you may have to serve Him before the next inning! Score some points. Take some ground. Be awesome!