What Does the Bible Say about the Timing of Jesus’ Second Coming?

When I began my investigation of Bible prophecy in earnest many years ago, I kept running into passages of the Bible that just cannot be reconciled with what most Christians are taught. I noticed that Jesus, in many places, told both his disciples and his Jewish opponents that He would return during their lifetimes. We find such phrases as:

  • Must shortly take place for the time is near/I am coming soon (Revelation 1:1-3; 22:6-20).
  • You will not have gone through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes (Matthew 10:23).
  • Some standing here will not taste death until I come (Matthew 16:27-28).
  • Truly I say to you, all these things (including the Second Coming) will come upon this generation (Matthew 24:29-34; Luke 21:20-24, 32, 36 (See the NASB, NIV, or Young’s Literal Translation for this last one, which confirms that the events were about to take place).

We must be honest with the text. How could Jesus have made it any clearer? He expressed the imminence of his return in language everyone could understand, and repeated it in different ways so nobody could mistake the message: soon, near, quickly, MUST shortly take place, about to happen, when YOU see, this generation, while some of YOU are still alive.

But that’s not all! Indeed, there are over 100 passages in the New Testament that proclaim the imminence of the prophesied events. Here are some more of them:

  • Jesus said that the judgment of the world was “now” (John 12:31).
  • The Christians were eagerly waiting for the glory about to be (Greek mello) revealed (Romans 8:18-23).
  • The hour had come, and the prophesied events were nearer/at hand (Romans 13:11-12).
  • The Christians were (eagerly) waiting for the revealing of Jesus in the Day of the Lord Jesus—at the end (1 Corinthians 1:7-8).
  • The time was very short (1 Corinthians 7:29).
  • The form of the world was passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31).
  • The end/fulfillment of the ages had come upon them (1 Corinthians 10:11, cf. Hebrews 9:26).
  • Some believers would be alive at the Second Coming (1 Corinthians 15:51).
  • The brethren were (eagerly) waiting for Christ’s coming (Philippians 3:20).
  • The Lord was at hand (Philippians 4:5).
  • They waited for Jesus from heaven to grant them relief from their oppressors when Christ was revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-19; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10). The language mirrors that of the Olivet Discourse. Paul promised the Thessalonians that God would give them relief at Christ’s Second Coming. If that relief did not come as promised, then Paul was either a false prophet or a liar. Are the Thessalonians still waiting today for relief from their first-century oppressors?
  • Some of Paul’s brothers to whom he wrote would be alive at the Second Coming (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17).
  • Paul told his brothers to be watchful for the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:2-11). Why would they be told to be watchful if the events were 2,000 years later?
  • Paul prayed that the bodies of first-century believers would be preserved until the Second Coming (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
  • The Second Coming would occur during the life of Timothy (1 Timothy 6:14).
  • The brethren were waiting for the glorious appearing of Jesus (Titus 2:13).
  • Jesus would appear a second time to save those in the first century who were eagerly waiting for him (Hebrews 9:28).
  • The Day was approaching/drawing near (Hebrews 10:25).
  • Jesus was coming again in a very, very little while without delay (Hebrews 10:37). “Very” appears twice in the Greek text. And nowhere in the Bible is “a little while” portrayed as being thousands of years.
  • The coming of the Lord was at hand (James 5:7-8).
  • The judge was standing at the door (James 5:9).
  • Christ was ready to judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:5).
  • The end of all things was at hand (1 Peter 4:7).
  • It was time for the judgment to begin (1 Peter 4:17).
  • The glory and Second Coming were about to be (Greek mello) revealed (1 Peter 5:1, 4).
  • With the Lord a thousand years is as a day (2 Peter 3:8). While this passage is often translated as meaning a long time, given the imminency of Peter’s other words in his epistles it seems best to believe that he meant the Day of the Lord would come soon, as we will elucidate in the next chapter. The time was short.
  • They were looking for and hastening the coming of day of God (2 Peter 3:12).
  • The world was passing away (1 John 2:17).
  • It was the last hour (1 John 2:18). If the fulfillment of this verse is still in the future, its fulfillment is about 17 million hours late!

Nothing in the Bible teaches that Jesus is on the verge of coming in our generation thousands of years later. The writers of the New Testament consistently expressed their firm belief that the Second Coming, judgment, Day of the Lord, rapture, arrival of the kingdom, and culmination of the last days were imminent. Where did they get this understanding? They did not conjure it up out of thin air. They certainly received it first-hand from the Lord himself.

Most Christians will admit, after they have studied the above passages, that Jesus himself, as well as the New Testament writers, EXPECTED the Second Coming in their lifetimes. Were they wrong?

The Old Testament expresses strong sentiment about false prophets. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 teaches that false prophets should be put to death. With one voice, all of the writers of the New Testament prophesied the imminence of these coming events. According to Scripture, they were all guilty and worthy of death if these events did not come to pass when and how they prophesied that they would!

We have heard a few Christians say the apostles did not expect a Second Coming in the first century. Obviously, these Christians are grossly mistaken. We have heard other Christians say that, yes, the disciples did indeed expect the Lord to return in their lifetimes, but the disciples were simply wrong. But, if the writers of the New Testament were wrong, then they were not inspired. We have also heard Christians use what can only be described as theological double talk. This quote is typical of such:

The primary thought expressed by the word “imminent” is that something important is likely to happen, and could happen very soon. While the event may not be immediate, or necessarily very soon, it is next on the program and may take place at any time.[i]

According to the online source Dictionary.com, synonyms for imminent include: near, at hand, and impending. Antonyms include: distant, remote. These events were not distant or remote. They were near! The imminence of the Second Coming in the New Testament is adequately summed up by author Brian L. Martin:

We have yet to find a single verse in the whole New Testament that even hints at a far-distant, future Second Coming.[ii]

So, what’s the answer? Jesus and the New Testament writers did emphatically expect the Second Coming in their generation. And they were correct! Jesus came—in judgment—in AD 70, ushering out the Old Covenant Age and exacting wrath on the apostate Jewish nation.

Christians have simply misunderstood what Jesus meant by his Parousia (“Second Coming” or “Effectual Divine Presence”). He was not to come physically, but rather to “come” in the sense of judging the Jewish nation just as God did multiple times in the Old Testament to judge the Jews or their enemies. Compare the language in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:29-31) or John’s Apocalypse (Revelation 6:12-17) to the apocalyptic language in the Old Testament of previous judgments by God: Isaiah 13:10-13 (against Babylon), Isaiah 24:3 (against Israel), Isaiah 34:4 (against Edom), Jeremiah 4:23-31 (against Judah and Jerusalem), Ezekiel 32:7-8 (against Pharaoh and Egypt), Joel 3:15-16 (against the nations), Amos 5:20; 8:9 (against Israel), Micah 1:2-16 (against Israel and Judah), Zephaniah 1:14-15 (against Judah, Jerusalem, and Judah’s enemies).

            As I continued to study this matter, I began to ask: “What am I missing? What are the objections to the thesis that Jesus’ in fact returned in finality in AD 70?” I delved into all the objections that I could find, but found them wanting. They are all heavily reliant upon presupposition to the detriment of Scripture itself. I discuss the objections systematically in my book, allowing the reader to examine the merits of the case for himself. I concluded that we Christians really ought to relax and believe what Jesus taught.

The preterist view is the only view of the Second Coming that honors the Bible. It is the only view of the Second Coming that satisfies the over 100 passages in the New Testament that demand that the culmination of the Last Days events would happen while some of the first-century disciples were still alive. It is the only view of the Second Coming that puts the critics of the Bible, who say that Jesus was a false prophet—to shame.



You are invited to see reviews and details of my book at Amazon.com. Also, to learn more about apologetics, theology, and eschatology, check out my websites listed below.



Here is a helpful video presentation by Riley O’Brien Powell, one of the contributors to my book:




[1] Taken from the foreword by Gary DeMar in The Day and the Hour by Francis X. Gumerlock. These authors cite as the source for the quote: Gerald B. Stanton, “The Doctrine of Imminency: Is It Biblical?” in Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, eds., When the Trumpet Sounds (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1997), page 222.

[2] Brian L. Martin, Behind the Veil of Moses: Piecing Together the Mystery of the Second Coming (Xulon Press, 2009), page 163.

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