By David Wilkerson, October 2004
When I was a boy, the cry of the church was, “Jesus is coming! Like a thief in the night, he will return when you least expect him. He’ll come in the twinkling of an eye, with the sound of the trumpet. Be ready at all times.”
Throughout my teenage years, this cry was heard at every Sunday meeting. Every evangelist who came to preach in my father’s church had a stirring message about the soon return of Christ. Their cries are burned into my memory. And the message formed in me a godly fear and expectancy. I learned to live expecting the Lord to return at any moment.
This cry, “Jesus is coming”, is seldom heard in the church today. I can’t remember the last time I heard a message on the coming of the Lord. As a result, when I look at Christ’s body, I see little expectancy for the Lord’s soon return. Sadly, only a few righteous servants seem to yearn and look for his appearing.
In fact, there is a new mindset on this subject among many Christians. The thinking is, “Jesus isn’t coming. We’ve heard that for years now. Of all the prophecies that need to be fulfilled before his return, only a few have come to pass. Why should we expect his appearing? Everything continues just as it has.”
The Bible warned of this very mindset. Peter said scoffers would come in the last days, mocking the message of Christ’s return: “There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after 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 the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
Incredibly, many dread the sudden return of Christ. The very thought of their life coming to an end, and of having to face a day of judgment, is so frightening that they put it out of their minds. How could this be true of believers, you ask? According to Peter, their lives are dictated by lusts: “walking after their own lusts” (3:3).
Think about what Peter is saying. If you cling to a bosom sin, you want nothing to do with this message of Christ’s return. The idea that Jesus will come and judge you is the most frightening thought any sinner could have. So you have to mock the idea of having to stand before God in your consuming lust and give an account.
Peter’s message to us is clear: “Here is what’s behind all the flippancy about Christ’s coming: a mockery of God’s law. It’s a hatred for the Bible, a despising of the Ten Commandments, a contempt for the evangelical gospel. That’s the cause behind all the lawlessness, the flaunting of sin, the powerlessness of the church. Mockers are preaching a new message: ‘Christ isn’t coming. There is no day of reckoning. All things continue just as they have for years. You don’t have to fear a judgment day.’”
Just as Peter prophesied, those mockers are here today. And they’re not mocking the law of the land. They’re mocking the laws of God. We see it in the push to break down the institution of marriage between a man and a woman. Their focus isn’t the Constitution, but God’s Word. And these mockers are in high places: in Congress, in high courts, in colleges and schools, even in biblical seminaries.
Because of this rampant lawlessness, people have been plagued with a willful blindness. Mockers can be heard saying, “All things continue on in an orderly fashion. The sun will rise on schedule tomorrow, the seasons will come and go. All the warnings we heard in the past still haven’t come to pass. So, let nothing disturb you. Indulge and enjoy yourself. Do whatever makes you happy.”
I have to shake my head at this. How could anyone living today say that things continue as they always have? Think of the absurdity of this statement, in these terrifying times. Terrorists have destroyed the Twin Towers in New York . They’ve blown up a train station in Spain . And they’re beheading people in the Middle East.
It has been said that a mass genocide like the Holocaust could never happen in our day. Yet 700,000 innocent Rwandans have been slaughtered by their own countrymen in a matter of months. AIDS is killing millions in Africa , China , India and other nations. Rogue countries with the hydrogen bomb are poised to hold the rest of the world hostage. And there is a rise of deadly new diseases, such as SARS and Ebola, that consume a person’s flesh within weeks.
“All things continue as they have”? What willful ignorance. It should be clear even to the ungodly that the Lord is shaking everything that can be shaken. And what’s coming in the near future is too dreadful even to think about.
Yet, as all these things happen, there is a mighty, unseen power at work in the earth. It’s a power no man can evade or ignore. I’m talking about the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Christ’s administrator on earth. He was sent to empower the righteous, and to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.
The Holy Spirit knows exactly why Jesus hasn’t come yet. It is because our Lord is longsuffering. He is patient toward sinners, willing that no person should perish. In his mercy, he’s waiting for the vilest sinner to repent. And for that very reason, the Holy Spirit will not let up on his assignment. You can mock him or try to shake him off, but the Spirit comes again and again, convicting of sin and revealing the truth of Christ.
This has happened, at Pentecost. And now, at the closing of the age, the Holy Spirit is making a final, midnight cry: “Jesus is coming.” Islamics and Hindus will hear this cry. Atheists will hear it. Every sinner and saint, every Jew and Gentile on earth, will hear it. This truth will be proclaimed to the nations.
You may ask, “What kind of ‘coming of the Lord’ are you talking about? Are you referring to a secret rapture? Are you speaking of a pre-tribulation return, or mid-trib, or post-trib? Or, do you mean Jesus will come at the very end of time?”
Some Christians believe that Jesus will suddenly evacuate his people from the earth in what’s called a rapture. Others teach that Christ will come midway through a period known as the great tribulation. This period will last for seven years, and will be marked by terror and chaos such as the world has never seen. Others believe Jesus will come at the end of this seven-year tribulation period. Still others teach that Christ will return at the very end of all things.
There are respected biblical scholars in each of these camps. Yet there is one thing every Christian can agree on: Jesus himself says no man knows the hour of his coming, not even the angels. And for the true lover of Christ, the timing of his return is not an issue. Such servants are ready to go at any time, whether through a sudden rapture or in the midst of tribulation. It doesn’t matter to them whether they have to endure terrible trials and suffering. They trust that the same Jesus who carries them through each day now will see them through all things. They live in constant expectancy of his return.
No, there is a greater issue at work here. And that is the wicked thought that Satan has implanted in many who claim to be true believers. The devil is whispering a vicious lie into the ears of multitudes of God’s people: “Christ has delayed his coming.”
In Matthew 24, Jesus tells a parable about being ready: “Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
“But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:44-51).
Note that Jesus is speaking about servants here, meaning believers. One servant is called faithful and the other evil. What makes the latter servant evil in God’s eyes? According to Jesus, it’s something he “shall say in his heart” (24:48). This servant doesn’t voice such a thought, and he doesn’t preach it. But he thinks it. He has sold his heart on the demonic lie, “The Lord delays his coming.” Notice he doesn’t say, “The Lord isn’t coming,” but “he delays his coming.” In other words: “Jesus won’t come suddenly or unexpectedly. He won’t return in my generation.”
This “evil servant” is clearly a type of believer, perhaps even one in ministry. He was commanded to “watch” and “be ready,” “for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44). Yet this man eases his conscience by accepting Satan’s lie.
Jesus shows us the fruit of this kind of thinking. If a servant is convinced that the Lord has delayed his coming, then he sees no need for right living. He isn’t compelled to make peace with his fellow servants. He doesn’t see the need to preserve unity in his home, at work, in church. He could smite his fellow servants, accuse them, hold grudges, destroy their reputations. As Peter says, this servant is driven by his lusts. He wants to live in two worlds, indulging in evil living while believing he’s safe from righteous judgment.
Paul wrote, “We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand”
(2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
Scoffers point out, “See, someone in the early church shook up believers with the message that Christ was about to come. And Paul told them, ‘No, don’t worry about it. Don’t let it trouble or concern you.’”
But that’s not what the original Greek reveals. The root word is “[be not shaken]…that the day of the Lord has come.” What disturbed the Thessalonians was they thought Christ had already come, and that they’d missed it.
Paul reassures them in the next verse, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2:3). Paul was only addressing their fears when he said, “Don’t be worried, because two things have to happen first.”
So, what was Paul’s primary theology about Christ’s return? We find it in two passages: “Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand” (Romans 13:11 -12). “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5). Paul is crying, “Wake up! It’s past midnight already. The Lord’s coming is drawing near, so stir yourself. Don’t be slothful. Jesus is coming for those who expect him.”
Skeptics may ask, “But what about Paul’s own words? He did say two things had to happen before Christ returns. First, the Lord can’t come until a great apostasy takes place. And second, the Antichrist has to rise up and proclaim himself God. We have to see the Antichrist sitting in the temple, demanding that people worship him, before Jesus will come.”
First of all, you have to be willfully blind not to see a raging apostasy gripping the whole world. Unbelief is sweeping through nations, with believers falling away from faith on all sides. The apostasy Paul refers to clearly has arrived.
Note Paul’s words here: “The mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). What is this mystery of iniquity? It is lawlessness. It’s a spirit of chaos, with no respect for God’s law. And it’s the very reason why God destroyed the earth by Flood, because of man’s violence and lawlessness.
If the lawlessness that Paul saw in his day has only increased, it’s no wonder decent people today are alarmed and frightened by what they see happening. Laws and institutions that for ages kept society from falling into chaos are being torn down left and right.
Paul says of this, “He who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2:7). He’s telling us, “There is a restraining power at work, holding back the chaos. But that restrainer is about to be removed.” The Spirit will always be here to fulfill his mission. But his restraining ministry will be “taken,” or lifted, “out of the way.”
I can think of no power that’s able to restrain lawlessness other than the Holy Spirit. Think about what happens to a society when the Holy Spirit lifts his restraining power. Every institution, from government down to families, spins totally out of control. I can’t imagine what New York City would be like without the Restrainer holding back wickedness from erupting. I wouldn’t want to be near this city if the Holy Spirit weren’t at work.
Yet we see a spirit of lawlessness at work all over the world. The Antichrist forces are already gathering and revealing themselves at high levels. Right now, the European Union is putting into place a Constitution that totally denies God. A Pentecostal minister in Sweden sits in jail today for preaching against homosexuality. That’s just one sign of how the stage is being set.
You may say, “Yes, but Paul clearly says Jesus can’t come until the Antichrist is in power.” Yet, consider what Scripture says: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22 ). According to John, the Antichrist is anyone who denies the Father and the Son. Moreover, he says, the increase of such Antichrists is proof that we’re living in the very last days. In addition, there will come a man who will embody the “name of sin.”
In short, nothing is holding back Christ’s return. Think of the worldwide terrorism, the deification of self, the blatant attacks on marriage and godly values. Think of Islamic brutality, militant homosexuality, the vileness of TV and movies, the widespread molestation of children. One Catholic diocese on the west coast recently declared bankruptcy, unable to pay the millions awarded to sixty childhood molestation victims by one priest.
Consider that all this has been under restraint until now. I ask you, what happens when God says to the One who has been restraining it all, “Lift your restraining hand. Let it run its course to the climax”? Paul gives us a picture: “(The Restrainer) will…be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8).
The Holy Spirit knows what is soon to take place, when there will be no more restraint. Every man will give himself over to his lusts. Every militant religion will force its gods on others. Every holy thing will be despised. Every law will be broken freely. And the backslidden church will preach the most corrupt, damnable doctrines of hell.
Everything is in place for this to happen even now. Great apostasy has covered the earth. Self has taken the throne of men’s hearts. And in a very short time, when the Restrainer is gone, there will come what Paul calls a “strong delusion, that they should believe a lie”
(2 Thessalonians 2:11 ).
What is this lie? It’s the blind acceptance that anyone who comes in Jesus’ name speaks for God. False teachers will arise who acknowledge Christ as a good man but not as God: “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). Those who follow these deceivers will be drawn to another Jesus, another gospel. The blindness will be sweeping, catching up multitudes, including those who were once on fire for the Lord.
Why is God going to stop the Restrainer? Because, Paul says, “They…believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12 ). Right now we’re seeing the Holy Spirit’s restraints being lifted a little more each day.
In Revelation, Jesus announces, “Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7). Five verses later Christ says, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” ( 22:12 ).
Here is the cry of all who look expectantly for Jesus’ return: “The Spirit and the bride say, Come” (22:17). This refers to the bride of Christ, made up of a worldwide body of believers under his Lordship. All these servants are born-again, blood-cleansed believers.
You may ask, “I understand this is the believer’s heart-cry. But why would the Spirit also cry to Jesus, ‘Come’?” It is because this is the Holy Ghost’s last prayer, knowing his work on earth is almost completed. Like Paul or Peter, who were told by God their time was short, the Spirit likewise cries, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
So, where do we hear this cry of the Spirit today? It comes through those who are seated with Christ in heavenly places, who live and walk in the Spirit, their bodies the temple of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit cries in and through them, “Hasten, Lord, come.”
Let me ask you: when was the last time you prayed, “Lord Jesus, come quickly, come soon”? Personally, I can’t remember praying this prayer. The fact is, I never knew I could hasten Christ’s coming by allowing the Spirit to pray this prayer through me. Yet Peter gives us proof of this incredible truth: “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” (2 Peter 3:12). In Greek, the phrase “hasting…the coming of (that) day” means “to speed up, to urge on.” Peter says our expectant prayers are hastening, speeding up, urging the Father to send back his Son quickly.
Only one issue is holding up that glorious event. It is a single unresolved matter: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (3:9).
The Lord’s merciful patience dictates the timing of his return. So, does this mean we shouldn’t pray for his coming? Not at all. Christ himself tells us in Mark’s gospel, “In those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days” (Mark 13:19-20). Imagine what might happen if, all over the world, Christ’s bride were to wake up and pray in the Spirit, “Jesus, come.”
Yet, if I believe the world is racing toward unrestrained chaos, and that Christ is coming soon, then my cry must be aimed at my unprepared family and friends. It would be hypocritical for me to pray for Jesus to come, and yet not intercede for my loved ones to be ready for that day. My prayer must be, “Come, Lord. But first, give my lost family and friends ears to hear. Save them, save the lost.”
Paul wrote to his spiritual son, Timothy, “Without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day” (2 Timothy 1:3). Can you say with a pure conscience that you’ve prayed for your unsaved loved ones with such intensity?
For a moment, set aside all doctrines about Christ’s coming. Consider this heart-cry of the man or woman who loves his appearing: “Then we shall see him face to face. We shall behold him” (see 1 Corinthians 13:12). Jesus’ coming shouldn’t disturb you. It ought to thrill you. If you truly love someone, you want to be near that person. Can you imagine what it will be like for Jesus to call your name?
Imagine a couple who’s newly married, and the husband is called away for an extended period, perhaps on business or in the military. He tells his bride, “I’ll be back, but I don’t know when. Here’s the address where you can reach me.”
For the first few years, that bride writes to her husband often, with beautiful love letters. Yet she never says, “Please, come back soon!” Ten years pass, then twenty, and she writes him less and less. Still, she never says, “Come quickly, I beseech you. I need your embrace, I need to see your face. I’m praying for your soon return.”
This is a picture of the church today. How can we tell Christ we love him and miss him, yet never pray that he comes back for us? How can we never express to him that he must return soon and take us with him, so we can be in his constant company? How can we not say, “I can’t handle this anymore without your being here. I don’t want to be away from you”?
In the midst of these times, I hear Jesus saying, “Surely I come quickly” (Revelation 22:20). And I hear the bride of Christ answering, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (22:20).