My adolescent years were ones in which the soon return of Jesus was imprinted in my mind like an indelible image etched on a printer’s lithography plate. I vividly remember hearing my parents, other family members, pastors and teachers, alike, admonishing me to love Jesus and live according to His Word because Christ’s coming was fast approaching, and He was coming to redeem His followers.
Nearly 40 years have passed since these early impressions, and yet, Jesus still has not come. As a minister of the gospel, like those who have preceded me, I have heralded the loud cry to prepare for Christ’s second advent. With passion and urgency, I have cited Jesus’ words in Revelation 22:12, “And, behold, I come quickly and my reward is with me to give every man according as his work shall be.” Moreover, given the frequency and intensity of the cataclysmic occurrences in our world—including wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes—further illustrate the imminence of this grand event.
Despite the biblical promise of His return, coupled with the physical manifestations pointing to His return, we still eagerly and anxiously await His return. So why the delay? Why are we still here? What’s preventing His coming? Is He really coming, and if so, when?
Be confident that delay is not denial. While we don’t know the specific time of His return, we have been assured that His coming is soon. Yet, His coming is being delayed for two primary reasons:
1. Humanity Must Accept or Reject the Gospel—Revelation 7:1-3 states, “And after these things, I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, ‘Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.’”*
God has instructed His angels to “hurt not the earth” until His people have been “sealed. “To receive this sealing, we must accept the gospel of Jesus and follow His commandments, which should be rooted in our love for Him. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Prior to His second coming, each of us will make a decision to accept or reject Christ. Hence, Christ is delaying His coming until we have made this choice. The prophetic signs of Christ’s coming are being fulfilled daily which suggest that the time to make this choice is elapsing by the minute. We must heed the declaration of the first angel of Revelation 14:7 that it is time to, “Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”
2. The Gospel Must Go to the Entire World—Matthew 28:19-20, says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
Just prior to His ascension back to heaven, Jesus commissioned His disciples to proclaim the universal gospel message to every man, woman, boy and girl. As followers of Christ, we have been given this divine mandate to globally take the good news of a returning Savior to every human creature on planet Earth. Until this is done, Jesus cannot return, making the delay of His return dependent on us. Put simply, Jesus is not coming anywhere until His gospel goes everywhere!
Friends, Christ has not denied the certainty of His return. It has just been delayed. To avoid further delay, and to expedite His coming, let’s lovingly accept this wonderful gospel message and enthusiastically share it with others. “Even so come Lord Jesus!”
CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama.
*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version