Biblical Answers to Why Jesus Hasn’t Yet Returned – Part 2

Norbert Lieth

If we read the Bible with redemptive history in mind, we’ll realize why the Lord is waiting patiently to return. It relates to three deferments associated with the Lord’s coming, Israel, and the Church. An exposition.

Some Christians are distressed that Jesus still hasn’t returned.

One friend of our ministry had been awaiting and proclaiming Jesus’ return for his entire life. And yet in old age he lay on his deathbed, embittered that the Lord hadn’t returned in his lifetime.

Our forefathers (and mothers) in the faith lived in firm expectation of the Lord’s return, but they didn’t experience it during their mortal lives. Why is it taking so long? There are very specific reasons for this; namely, humanity’s salvation, and above all the glory of God, who has an incredible plan. With regard to God’s kingdom, the Bible speaks of three deferments in His plan of salvation which clarify why the Lord hasn’t yet returned.

The First Deferment
God had already announced a first deferment in the Old Testament: “…He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come” (Isa 21:11-12).

There was a deep spiritual darkness over the world and Israel at the time of Jesus’ first coming. But with God’s incarnation in Christ, a new day broke out and a new chapter of salvation began. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Isa 9:2; cf. Matt 4:15-16).

But the Jewish people rejected their Messiah, Jesus. Although dawn had broken, night immediately fell over Israel. Morning came, and night too. Jesus (and with Him, the rising sun) departed from the people and ascended into heaven. Night’s death shadows deepened over Israel. The Lord’s presence on earth was but a brief morning of salvation for His people, a moment of light. The kingdom offered through Jesus didn’t break through in its fullness. Instead, the prophet Hosea’s prophecy came true: “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early” (Hos 5:15). Christ is enthroned in heaven until His people Israel turn to Him and say, “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth” (Hos 6:3).

Israel is currently asleep in terms of redemptive history: “(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day” (Rom 11:8). And the Apostle Paul explains to the Church: “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess 5:5-8).

Israel’s dawn will occur at the end of the Apocalypse: when the people seek the Lord diligently in their distress and Jesus returns, saying, “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star” (Rev 22:16).

This is why the watchman in Isaiah 21:12 says, “The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.” Or in other translations, “If you would ask, then ask; and come back yet again” (NIV); “If you want to ask, ask! Come back again” (CSB).

The tone is prophetic, as if the watchman’s words are pointing to a future replay of the event. Jesus will in fact come again, and the people will ask about the Lord again in the end times. That’s why there’s an assumption that this Old Testament prophetic question will be asked again in Israel. This is similar to the Lord’s first coming, when He rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the people cried out, “Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matt 21:9). Jesus later said that the same thing will happen at His return: “For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt 23:39; cf. Ps 27:7-9).

Jesus had already prophetically announced this first deferment on various occasions. He said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). For example:

In the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come” (Matt 6:10).

When Jesus prophesied to the people of Israel: “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matt 21:43).

In the Parable of the Talents: “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods … After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them” (Matt 25:14, 19).

In the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins: “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (Matt 25:5-6).

At that time, nobody was aware of this deeper plan of God.

In the time of Jesus, the disciples weren’t mature enough for deeper biblical revelations: “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). They couldn’t yet bear that there would be a Church of Jews and Gentiles alike, a body where no difference between them existed. They couldn’t bear that this body would become a single organism—one body, with Jesus as the Head. They couldn’t bear that this body would be made complete (2,000 years so far) when the full number had come in, and then be united with the Head (Rom 11:25-26). They couldn’t yet bear the fact that God would call an additional Apostle—namely, Paul—for an extended Gospel.

Paul also reveals deeper truths that aren’t found in the other New Testament writings, as he himself says: “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God” (Col 1:25). One example is the mystery of Christ in His Church, which was only revealed to Paul (v. 27).

Jesus was crucified to resolve the issue of guilt, and will return to resolve the issue of power. After His death on the Cross, He rose from the dead and returned to heaven, just as He had foreshadowed. The King was gone from His people. The dawning of God’s kingdom was thus deferred ... or initially received a different priority.

The Second Deferment
The next deferment is from the Gospels to Acts.

The Apostles had witnessed that the kingdom Jesus announced hadn’t broken through during His ministry here on earth. Now they were hoping it would be established shortly after His ascension. At the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, the emergent Jewish church was still anticipating the Lord’s return. Everything was characterized by His kingdom, and miracles were happening again during this time. The disciples asked, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). To which the Lord replied, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:7).

In Acts 3, Peter proclaimed to the Jewish people, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you” (vv. 19-20).

But the people didn’t repent, and the stoning of Stephen was the last straw. The bridegroom deferred His coming. The times of refreshment in the messianic, millennial kingdom—the kingdom of God on earth—have not yet come.

The Third Deferment
We see the last deferment in looking from Acts to the Epistles for the Church.

The coming of the kingdom was further postponed through God’s providence. It was a matter of great mystery: The Church was to represent a single body of Jews and Gentiles. Paul was saved, called, and sent for this reason.

In Hebrews 11:39-40, we read about the believers under the Old Covenant: “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” The better thing is the future perfect glory of the body, to which the nations are also called—the New Testament Church.

If Jesus had returned sooner, this body would never have formed: A kingdom of Jews would have arisen instead. Gentiles could indeed have taken part in it, but never as equal members of a body in which there is no longer any distinction. We would also never have come to the big issue of the Rapture of the body of Christ. And we wouldn’t have come to Paul and his deep revelations.

“And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:7). So, this statement suggests more than is commonly understood, and indicates that God the Father had a broader plan than the disciples commonly believed. “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32).

Midnight Call - 11/2023

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