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Why The Return of Christ Is NOT Imminent

As most of us know, there are two comings of Christ. There was his first coming, which is shared in the Gospels. But there is a second coming of Christ, revealed in Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, I Corinthians, I & II Thessalonians, and Revelation. In fact, the Bible, in its very last chapter, says, “Come Lord Jesus.”

Many people, throughout history, have wished for the coming of Christ. I remember a fad in the 1980s when many Christians believed that the return of Christ was imminent that decade. But it passed. 

How do we know when the coming of Christ is near? Jesus said we would not know the day or hour. But at the same time, he also gave us signs in scripture so that we would know what to expect. So, let’s talk about those signs and why, I think, the second coming of Christ is soon, but NOT imminent

First, how do we define something that is imminent? Many Christians use this word to say that the return of Christ can happen at any time. We want him to come; it is a central hope in scripture. But the reality is that the apostles never used this word to describe Christ’s coming. Consider that when Paul and the other Apostles were alive nearly 2,000 years ago, they talked about the second coming of Christ. But we have been talking about that coming for many centuries.

Christ’s coming is soon but not imminent. And how much more soon is it since 2,000 years have passed since the second coming of Christ was discussed by the apostles? 

The scripture reveals that there are a few things still to happen before Christ comes again. You can find these in Matthew 24:1-31, 42-44. (Hover over the scripture reference to read the passage.)

Signs of His Coming

Jesus describes a few things leading up to his coming: 

(v.5) False Christs

(v.6) Wars and rumors of wars

(v.7) Kingdom against kingdom

(v.8) But these are the beginning of birth pains

These are general signs. These signs have persisted for 2,000 years. But let’s look at each of these and see what they reveal to us about the second coming of Christ to the earth.

What is a false Christ?

Verse 5 reveals the coming of false Christs. 

What is a False Christ?—A person who denies the divinity, humanity, or lordship of Jesus Christ. It also usurps his divinity, exalts our humanity, and usurps his lordship. 


  • Jehovah’s Witnesses (Secret coming of Christ, deny Jesus’ divinity).
  • Islam (Denies Jesus’ divinity, death, and lordship)
  • Mormonism (Denies Jesus uniqueness, exalts man to godhood).
  • The movement of false prophets and apostles throughout Africa and Asia.

(V.6) Wars and rumors of wars and verse 7, kingdom against kingdom—There have been 14,500 wars that have taken place between 3500 BC and the late 20th century, costing 3.5 billion lives, leaving only 300 years of peace. While Jesus warned us of wars, wars have been taking place on earth since recorded history.

Is verse 14, the Proclaiming the Gospel, the sign of his coming? Yes. Look what Jesus says in verse 14: “This Gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

The Gospel is accelerating in the 21st century.

  • 2.8 million churches planted in the last 2 years.
  • From 1960 to 2000, the global growth of the number of Evangelicals grew at three times the world’s population rate, and twice that of Islam.
  • Currently, 15,000 Christians die every day and go to Heaven. But the church is growing at an exponential rate. Globally, 50,000 people a day come to faith in Christ. (That’s 333% greater than those dying.) At this rate, everyone on earth will have heard the Gospel by 2029.

There are 17,446 people groups in the world today. Of that amount, there are 7,387 unreached groups. This lack of fulfillment is a sign that Jesus is not ready to come back yet. Notice the scriptural support for this idea: Matthew 24:14 states, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” 

Many of us are looking for the coming of Christ. And many of us would love for him to come now, even right now. But consider this: Why would we want Jesus to come back when there are still millions of people who have not heard yet about Jesus and have no chance at eternal life?

Is verse 15 the sign? What is the abomination of desolation?

We find a prophecy about this in the Old Testament in Daniel 11:31. 

“Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.”

“Scholars generally agree that the first reference of these prophecies is the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes IV. Antiochus treated Israel with such violence and contempt that they rebelled against him. When he came to suppress the rebellion, his forces entered the temple, stopped the regular sacrifices, set up an idol of or altar for Zeus, and offered swine there as a sacrifice. This is an abomination because it is idolatry, and it brings desolation because it defiles the holy place at the heart of Israel.”

Some prophecies in the Bible have what is known as double fulfillment. The first fulfillment is a type or precursor to a later fulfillment. We see this in scripture when God promises Abraham his offspring will inherit the land, then Paul applies the term, “offspring” and this promise to Jesus. A double fulfillment. We see it in God’s promise to David to give David a son who will rule, then the NT applies that to Jesus. A double fulfillment. 

Many biblical scholars believe this passage in Daniel is one such scripture, that it will reach its final fulfillment in the anti-Christ. But, to be fulfilled in the last days, as some scholars say, this requires a temple. There is no temple in Israel right now. If we are to take this literally, then a new temple would have to be built. 

Christ’s return cannot be imminent because these requirements are not yet fulfilled.

Jesus himself said that his return, foreshadowed by these things, would not be imminent. Look at Luke 21:9. “When you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once” (some translations say, “imminent”). 

The “sign” is mentioned in verse 30 as appearing after the tribulation period.

We don’t know what the sign is. However, remember the sign of his first coming. It was a unique star. But just before his second coming, Jesus refers to a darkened sun and moon and stars falling from the sky. A star doesn’t shine; rather, the heavens are shaken (V.29). His second coming is much more dramatic than the first.

His first coming was in peace (John 12:14-15), the second coming is war (Rev. 19:11).

(V.3) End of the age.

The sign and the end are asked as a single event. So Jesus defines the end of the age in verses 15-22. Verse 21 calls it the “Great Tribulation.” Verse 22: “No life would have been saved.” In other words, if things continue to go badly, humanity would become extinct. 

What does it mean to be alert about Christ’s coming?

Verses 42 and 44 talk about being on the alert for Christ’s coming. Jesus describes those on the alert in verse 45 as “faithful” and “sensible.” “Wise” in some translations. We are looking for his coming, but we also balance that with the need to reach lost people groups with the Gospel.

So, what have we learned so far in our examination of the text?

  • Jesus says he will return at a time of great turmoil on the earth.
  • Jesus will return after the earth has heard the Gospel.
  • Jesus will return while there are many deceivers on the earth.
  • Jesus returns to judge the world.
  • Jesus wants us to watch for his coming.

So what is Jesus trying to communicate to us regarding his return? We find the answer in Matthew 24:42, “Keep watch because you do not know the day on which your Lord will come.”

Without the return of Christ, all humanity is in danger of extinction. Jesus said, “If those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved” (Matthew 24:22).

What does the return of Christ do? What should we do?

  • The bodily return of Christ saves humanity from extinction. 
  • Jesus wants us to know that he will make a visible and physical return to earth and establish a new world order based upon faith in him.
  • Jesus wants us to watch carefully for the signs of his return, but not be tricked by deceivers. 


Take Jesus’ advice in Matthew 24:6. “See that you are not alarmed.” He says this about wars, famines, earthquakes, being hated, falling away, false prophets, false Christs, and being put to death. Yet he prefaces it all with “See that you are not alarmed.” I.E., these are not the end of the world. No matter what, he wants us to trust him. 

Since Jesus has not come yet, and we don’t know when he will come, how should we then live? Scripture tells us to live in a way that expects his coming. 

Jesus came as Savior. Now, he returns as Lord. Does Jesus have lordship of your life?

What does lordship mean? It means that he fills our emotions, our thoughts, and our external expressions. It means that Jesus Christ is the chief affection of our lives. It means that we are consumed with love for and obedience to Jesus.

Tom Terry is head of Global Broadcast Strategy for JESUS Film Project and serves as General Manager of The Better FM, an online radio station for Asia. Tom is also the author of several books, including Bible studies and "Like An Eagle," his biography about living in Mongolia for ten years.
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