Auntie, it’s been 175 years—why hasn’t Jesus returned?
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
My great-grandfather was Ellen White’s gardener. He spent most of his adult life believing that the Second Coming was just over the horizon. So did his daughter, my grandmother. Her daughter, my mom, worried, even in her final dementia, about the soon return of Jesus. Now I have grandchildren who are learning about the same “just over the horizon” Second Coming. What do I say to my grandkids when they want to talk about Jesus coming again?
Signed, Still Waiting
While Aunt Sevvy believes that God guided our church to the wonderful message and worldwide mission it has today, sooner or later we’re going to have to deal with this question. 175 years isn’t “soon,” and we need to change our way of talking about Jesus’ return. We have erred in saying that it’s our fault that Jesus hasn’t returned because we’re not perfect enough: the Bible is very clear that God has already chosen a time for Jesus to return (Matthew 24:36), which only He knows, and it isn’t conditional upon our actions. So we must leave the timing to God and get on with our lives.
When the early believers said Jesus was to come “soon,” they didn’t know how soon—and neither do we. As far as Auntie can tell, preparation for Jesus’ return is the same as preparation for death. Auntie has seen no evidence that memorizing a chart of end-time events will make you more ready than just placing your trust in the Lord.
You can tell your grandchildren that Jesus will eventually give us a wonderful world without any unhappiness or death—but we have no idea when that will start. I wouldn’t hesitate to contradict teachers who use the word “soon” to children. And I would instantly remove children from any setting where teachers or storytellers try to indoctrinate them with scary persecution scenarios. (A friend of mine pulled her little ones out of Sabbath School when she learned that the teachers were making pretend caves in the classroom for the children to play “hide from the Catholics”!)
In one way, Jesus does come soon. Life is short, and the millions who have died waiting for Jesus’ return will awaken, in their experience, just a moment later at the resurrection. For them, Jesus has returned! Meanwhile, as Christians we have enough to do to keep us occupied in doing the work of Jesus. Keep your grandchildren busy helping people and improving the world, and leave the timing to God.
In the blessed hope,
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without real names. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and neither her opinions nor those of her correspondents are necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.