It has been over 1900 years since Jesus spoke these words to John. As Peter predicted so long ago, many scoff at the idea that quickly and soon could refer to a yet future, literal, physical Second Coming of Jesus to overthrow the rebellious kingdoms of the earth. Even the preterists ridicule the idea that the many promises of a soon return could actually be describing Christs second advent and so they find them fulfilled by invisible and unverifiable spiritual comings in the past. In this, they are in agreement with non-believing skeptics:
Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation. For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2Pe. 2Pe. 3:1-9) [emphasis added]Peters words are a source of great encouragement for those who await the return of ChristWhose promises are better than gold and more sure than the ground we walk upon. The reason for the 1900 years and counting, between this promise and our day, are explained by Peter:
- Perspective - From Gods perspective, one thousand years are as a day. God is timeless. From His perspective, the time between this promise and our own is short: To Him, His absence has not yet been two days long!2
- Grace and Mercy - The lengthy delay from our perspective is a great testimony to the grace and mercy of God. Once the events described in this book begin, things will escalate rapidly and ominously. Each year that Christs return is delayed is another year of unmerited favor poured out upon a rebellious earth wherein those who fear God and thirst after Him have opportunity to attain salvation by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Yet, men are not only indifferent to the love of God, they despise it, misreading it as a sign of Gods weakness instead of His grace.3
- Judgment Building - Those who reject Christ continue to push the world further and further from God. One day, the iniquity of the earth-dwellers will be complete (cf. Gen. Gen. 15:16). When that day occurs, Christ will come as a thief upon an unsuspecting world and The Day of the Lord will begin (Mtt. Mat. 24:43; Luke Luke 12:39; John John 10:10; 2Pe. 2Pe. 3:10; Rev. Rev. 3:3+). The judgment which is awaiting this world ultimately results in the perdition of ungodly men (Rev. Rev. 20:11-15+).
This precious promise closes the book of Revelation and the NT. Those who love the Lord Jesus Christ eagerly await His return:
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Php. Php. 3:20-21)The promise of His return is a powerful motivator for the saints to deny the world and to live lives in preparation of His imminent return:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Tit. Tit. 2:11-14)History is strewn with the foolish who have attempted to establish dates, even general ones, at which Christ will finally come in fulfillment of this promise. Such attempts are dangerous and ill-advised:
Well has Archer Butler said, To seek to penetrate more closely into these awful secrets is vain. A sacred obscurity envelops them. The cloud that shrouded the actual presence of God on the mercy-seat, shrouds still his expected presence on the throne of judgment. It is a purposed obscurity, and most salutary and useful obscurity, a wise and merciful denial of knowledge. In this matter it is his gracious will to be the perpetual subject of watchfulness, expectation, conjecture, fear, desire,but no more. To cherish anticipation, he has permitted gleams of light to cross the darkness; to baffle presumption, he has made them only gleams. He has harmonized with consummate skill, every part of his revelation to produce this general result;now speaking as if a few seasons more were to herald the new heaven and new earth, now as if his days were thousands of years; at one moment whispering into the ear of his disciple, as if ready to be revealed, at another retreating into the depth of infinite ages. It is his purpose thus to live in our faith and hope, remote yet near, pledged to no moment, possible at any; worshipped not with consternation of a near, or indifference of a distant certainty, but with the anxious vigilance that awaits a contingency ever at hand.4Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
The saints are in full agreement with Jesus promised return, for they love His appearing (2Ti. 2Ti. 4:8):
So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. (Heb. Heb. 9:28)The closing words of the Song of Solomon illustrate this desire:
[The King to the Shulamite:] You who dwell in the gardens, the companions listen for your voiceLet me hear it! (Sos. Sos. 8:13)
[The Shulamite in response:] Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices. (Sos. Sos. 8:14)
The Shulamite desires the kings speedy return. . . . Christ is to make haste to return at His second advent and is portrayed figuratively as a fleet gazelle or stag bounding over the mountains of spices, overcoming all impediments (Ps. Ps. 2:1-12) to manifest His fragrance in Kingdom rule . . . which will be a sweet aroma to Israel and the nations of the millennial earth.5Unlike the Adam and Eve who hid in shame, the redeemed long for God to come looking for them:
The first word we hear man address to the Lord in the Bible is the solemn word I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid (Gen. Gen. 3:10). The last word addressed to the Lord by redeemed man is even so, Come, Lord Jesus. And between these two utterances in Genesis and Revelation is the story of redemption.6
1 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 533.
4 J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 523.