When will Jesus return?
Joseph Smith and his followers lured many to Mormonism, including my family in 1848, by proclaiming that Jesus would return within their lifetimes. I was also raised and promised that I was part of the generation “that would usher in the second coming of Jesus Christ”. This question and its answer have molded my life, influenced my choice of careers and has set expectations to the point where I now feel as St. Thomas Aquinas stated, “I now await the end of my life."
Becoming Catholic has helped me to deal with the expectation of the return of Jesus in my lifetime. I now understand that ever since the day Jesus ascended into heaven, that all true believers have looked for his return and have hoped as I do that he would return during my lifetime.
My favorite passage from Catholic tradition was written by Saint Ephrem, who was a deacon and died in June of 373. This is what he wrote over 1,600 years ago:
“To prevent his disciples from asking the time of his coming, Christ said: ‘About that hour no one knows, neither the angels nor the Son. It is not for you to know times or moments.’ He kept those things hidden so that we may keep watch, each of us thinking that he will come in our own day. If he had revealed the time of his coming, his coming would have lost its savor; it would no longer be an object of yearning for the nations and the age in which it will be revealed. He promised that he would come but did not say when he would come, and so all generations and ages await him eagerly.
“Though the Lord has established the signs of his coming, the time of their fulfillment has not been plainly revealed. These signs have come and gone with a multiplicity of change; more than that, they are still present. His final coming is like his first. As holy men and prophets waited for him, thinking that he would reveal himself in their own day, so today each of the faithful longs to welcome him in his own day, because Christ has not made plain the day of his coming.
“He has not made it plain for this reason especially, that no one may think that he whose power and dominion rule all numbers and times is ruled by fate and time. He described the signs of his coming; how could what he has himself decided be hidden from him? Therefore, he used these words to increase respect for the signs of his coming, so that from that day forward all generations and ages might think that he would come again in their own day.” (Office of Readings, Thursday, First Week of Advent, p. 176)
I believe Joseph Smith and his disciples took advantage of this hope of every generation and used this hope to form a church, the name of which captures this hope, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. While our hope has been true, the promise of his return in the 19th or the 20th centuries has proven to be false.
I believe and predict that Jesus will return some 4 billion years from now when life on our planet begins to be impossible due our dieing Sun.
The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
I also predict that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is so far in the future that those that still believe in Jesus will from that very great distance of time look back on our time and say how blessed were those living in 20th and 21st centuries to be so close to the time in which the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us. Just a few thousand years from now they will look back upon us as we now look back to the apostles and disciples of Jesus during his earthly ministry.
I also predict that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is so far in the future that the words of Jesus will be fulfilled in which he asked in Luke 18:8, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Will Jesus find faith on the Earth in 1,000 years, in 1,000,000 years, in 1,000,000,000 years?
One thing that perhaps Joseph Smith got right was saying that Jesus came at the meridian of time. However, knowing the middle of time is of no use in predicting the end of time if one doesn’t know the beginning. One must know the beginning to know the end.
To show that Joseph Smith did not know the Alpha or the Omega one only needs to take a look at the Doctrine and Covenants:
What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals?
A. We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.
The Earth is a lot older than 7,000 years old! With no understanding of the beginning there is no way Joseph Smith could have understood the end.
I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
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