[Note: Our guest author is Michael Branch, a pastor in Glenpool, OK, who has also planted churches in Texas, Wyoming, and Colorado. He consistently proclaims the full counsel of the Word of God.]
When considering our Lord’s return, we often think in terms of the Greek word “chronos” — linear time measured by a clock on our wall. We believe that as the minutes, hours, and days pass, eventually He will return. This is a helpful illustration; however, it does not convey the urgency and element of surprise Scripture speaks of concerning the event that culminates at the end of time itself.
It is understandable that we revert to this sort of thinking, because to us, minutes, hours, and days convey linear chronological order. This is how we live and conduct the events of our lives. However, concerning His return, prophecy is seldom dealing with linear time as we know it. Rather, prophecy deals in terms of the Greek word “kairos” meaning His appointed time or season. In this case, there is no other prophetic event that must take place prior to the return of Christ, making it the next earth-shaking event in God’s plan.
Instead of thinking of hands ticking on a clock, I find it more helpful to see His coming in light of that classic children’s toy — loved by some and hated by others — the “Jack in the Box.” You turn the handle on the side and a whimsical tune plays. As you crank you know exactly what is about to happen: a joyful clown is soon to emerge from inside the box. As you proceed there is no way to know exactly when the clown will appear but you know it is coming. The more the song plays, the greater the odds that the clown will spring more quickly!
When it comes to the return of the King, we live our lives with that same urgency. His Church has been cranking the handle through time, and as we do, a graceful tune has played over and over for centuries. The first-century Church cranked the handle with their eyes on the skies as they considered the words of Mark 13:33 — “See to it, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time (kairos) will come.”
The Apostles turned the handle in anticipation as well. Those men were inspired by the Spirit to write the infallible words to God’s people, admonishing them to live patiently and to conduct themselves in holy living, because Christ’s return was “at hand.” In 1 Peter 4:7 — “The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound thinking and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” In other words, keep cranking the handle, do what He has called you to do, and do so in urgent anticipation.
It is confusing for some who choose to look at biblical words and phrases concerning time through man’s “chronos” lens. Words like near, quickly, shortly, soon, and at-hand could cause one to think that Jesus was wrong and that His coming should have been thousands of years ago. In that context, how quickly one can become a scoffer of divine truth and ask, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Peter 3:4). Many today do not heed the admonition of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, where he writes, “that you not be quickly shaken in your mind or be alarmed whether by a spirit, or a word, or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”
Today, many well-meaning theologians convince believers that the day has come and gone, that the promise of His coming was fulfilled in the past, and that followers of Christ have no future hope of His actual return. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Therefore, the Church must understand that as we live for Christ and desire His promised coming, it brings life and blessing.
Instead of viewing prophecy through man’s “chronos” lens, we should look through God’s “kairos” lens. By His own design, He has chosen to communicate to us in such a way that we can be certain of His coming, but at the same time, unsure of the exact day and hour.
In 2 Peter 3:1-16, Peter covers what our attitude should be concerning the certainty of this impending reality. The knowledge of Christ’s imminent return is a gift spurring the Church on to endure persecution, to expose false teachers, to preach the Gospel, and live holy lives. A proper understanding of imminency encourages every single believer to keep cranking, to live every day in eager anticipation of the glorious return of Jesus — when hope springs eternal and His kingdom reigns forever.