Some people think they have figured out exactly when that will be. You may have seen the billboards along the side of the road. I don't question the sincerity of the people who put those signs up, but I'm convinced they're wrong.
Years ago, a man of God felt the need to comfort some of his friends. People around them were talking about the timing of the end of the world, and he wanted to reassure them that the rumors they were hearing were not true. This man, named Paul, wrote: "Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).
Paul had just written to these believers about Jesus' return, but he didn't want them worrying about when that would be. He didn't want them trying to calculate dates nor decipher times. So he tells them: It will be like a thief in the night.
There will be no billboards along the highway. There will be no Mayan calendars announcing the end of the world. Just as thieves arrive unexpectedly, Jesus will return without warning.
For early Christians, the idea that their Lord was coming back was an exciting one. They wanted to be prepared when He came. In that same letter, Paul said, "So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled" (1 Thessalonians 5:6). If we're awake, we won't be surprised by a thief in the night.
We should be watching. There should be an expectant edge to our lives, as we wait for the day when our hopes are realized. We don't know if that will be today or a thousand years from now. But we know that it will be a wonderful time for those longing to see Jesus. As Paul wrote to his friend Timothy: "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (1 Timothy 4:8).