Now we turn to the “when”, which is the question the disciples asked way back in verse 3, along with desiring to know some signs to precede his coming and the end of the age.
Jesus says there are signs to watch for, but also that life will go on as normal. Just as the victims of the flood did not know what was coming, neither will most people see the end coming. Life will just go on. People will do their work and one moment many will be swept away, while those who are prepared will be left to carry on with the new creation.
It certainly seems that Matthew expected the second coming to come in a short period of time. It had already been at least forty years when he wrote. I will not engage in the type of apologetics required to twist things around and make the words mean what they don’t mean. I think there are a couple things to learn here.
First, even Jesus himself did not know when he would return. He says only the Father knows.In case there was any doubt at all, Jesus was fully human. Jesus is fully human. When he walked the earth, he did not know everything, just like most of us. As I often say, people who think they know everything are a pain in the neck to those of us who do. I’m not sure what Jesus was expecting in terms of timing, but he was reading signs and not working from knowledge of the timing. If your picture of Jesus doesn’t have room for this, you may need to make some adjustments.
Second, there sure have been a lot of people through the ages who thought they could figure out the day and the hour of his coming. As you know from personal experience, these guesses have failed. His coming in glory and triumph is still being delayed.
Familiarity with OT prophecies tells us that things don’t always happen in quite the way the prophet said, or quite at the time the prophet said, but the results are recognizable and the hand of God is seen. The most I am will to say here is that judgment—and this the day of the Lord—began with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70. More to come.
The rest of the passage is about being ready. As I kid I learned that the waiting time is a fearful time and I must always be worried that I am not prepared. I doubt now that is what Jesus wants.
We know from Matthew that the delay is a time of grace. God has given us a job to do and he is waiting for us to do it. In some ways, the delay is our own fault, but it is a delay of grace for lost people.
Jesus wants us to prepare by looking to the lost people and helping them be saved. We are not to be hiding in fear, though this is still the time of persecution, but we are to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Your kingdom come!