It seems just about every time I come across a Christian program on TV there is some mention to how we are getting very close to the end of times. Is it reliable for people to draw the conclusion that the coming of Jesus is going to happen in the near future?
That is an easy question! Jesus gave a very specific answer to the question of whether we should listen to those who are sure when he is going to come back. Concerning his return–his "second coming"–Jesus said "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36) If you read the context he clearly says that when Jesus comes back it will be a complete surprise, even to the believers. Earlier in Matthew 24 we have Jesus saying that we should not listen to those who say they know when he is coming or that he has come. "Do not believe it." (Matthew 24:26).
I have heard many TV preachers and other popular radio evangelists or other preachers saying with great confidence that current events are a clear sign that Jesus is about to come back. "In case of rapture this car will be left empty," says the popular bumper sticker. The problem with this is that every generation has said this since the time of Jesus. So far, they all have been wrong. Peter describes it this way: "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief." (2 Peter 3:10) His point is that no one knows when it will happen so we should always be vigilant. Is that not the message of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25?
So, it is NOT reliable at all when people say that the coming of Jesus is going to be in the near future. You would do well to completely ignore those who make such claims. This fascination with end times is a distraction which draws people away from what is important. What is important is righteousness and obedience and being close to God–being prepared at any moment for him to come or for us to die, as we do not know the day or the hour of our own death.
John Oakes, PhD