Excepting some Old Testament references all the reliable information concerning the second coming of Jesus, is contained in the writings of those who recorded His acts and sayings, and which are preserved for us in the pages of the New Testament.
If we accept their statement that Jesus said He would come again, we should also be prepared to believe what they have stated regarding both the manner and the time of His return.
That this return was to be within the life span of some at least of His contemporaries, becomes evident after an open-minded study of the New Testament scriptures.
In Matt. 24 Jesus, in answer to the disciples' enquiry "what shall be the sign of Thy taming . . .?" lists various signs, draws a simple illustration from nature, v. 32, and concludes with these words "Even so YE also when YE see all these things, know YE that he is nigh even at the doors." And to put the time beyond any possible doubt adds, "I tell you in solemn truth hat the present generation will certainly not pass away without all these things having first taken place." (Weymouth).
If the signs were of any value at all it is reasonable to suppose that they would be most readily discernible by those who received them first hand, and if, as has been stated, they were to become apparent within the period of that generation, we should find evidence of their fulfilment in the latter books of the New Testament and/or current history.
The following extracts show the influence of current events in the writings of those times--
"and, this, KNOWING THE SEASON, that now it is high time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand . . . " Rom. 13:11-12.
"But this I say, brethren, the time is SHORTENED . . ." 1 Cor. 7:29-31.
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together . . . and so much the more, AS YE SEE THE DAY DRAWING NIGH" Heb. 10:25.
"Little children, it is the LAST HOUR . . . whereby we know it is the last hour." 1 John 2:18 and also 28.
These and many similar passages, such as 1 Peter 4:7, and James 5:7, surely show that the early disciples looked for the return of their Lord in their time and not at some remote period of the world's history.
In Luke 19:12 Jesus likened Himself to a nobleman who went into a far country to receive a kingdom and return. At the conclusion of an important discourse recorded in Matt. 16 He makes this solemn statement "Verily I say unto you, There be some of them that stand here, which shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom." It is written of the church of Thessalonica that they had turned unto God from idols and were waiting for His Son from heaven. 1 Thess. 1:9. Because some Thessalonians had fallen asleep ("tasted of death") Paul wrote to re-assure the remainder in the words of 1 Thess. 4:13-18. This passage indicates the MANNER of His coming and if the use of the first personal pronoun WE means anything it also shows that Paul expected to be among those caught up. See also 1 Cor. 15:51-52. Webster's dictionary has this definition: "Historical Sense; that meaning of a passage which is deduced from the circumstances of time, place etc., under which it was written." Let us study the New Testament with this rule in mind and avoid the mistake of a general application of Scriptures which, because of the style of the language used can only apply to the people and times in which they were written.
Exponents of Revelation submit pre-millennium or post-millennium theories based on the substance of vv. 4-6 in Chap. 20. Some also state that the message to the seven churches, represent seven periods of church history, the present being the Laodicean, and this without the support of Scripture. They seem not to consider the introductory and closing words of the book which state in the plainest terms that it contained a preview of events "shortly to come to pass"--a reference to times "that were at hand."
The lack of historical support is the chief objection advanced against accepting what I have written. But the silence of history does not disprove scripture and could be used as an argument in favour rather than against, for of the two classes of people vitally concerned in the second advent, one group was to enter into rest and the other suffer eternal destruction, see 2 Thess. 1:7-9. However Josephus records events which were to precede the second coming, a time of trouble, a judgment on that generation without parallel in history when vengeance was taken for all the righteous blood shed since the time of Abel and when all that was written by the prophets was to be fulfilled (Matthew 23:35, Luke 21:20-28).
This marked the consummation of the age, the End so often referred to in the New Testament; when that which was shaken was taken away and replaced by the Kingdom that would break in pieces all other kingdoms and stand for ever, see Heb. 12:18-29, a passage written just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.
To the Bible student who is not trammelled by a theory that he must needs uphold at all cost, I commend what I have written as being worthy of careful study, for it accepts the plain statements of the New Testament writers, and requires no evading of the passages in Matt. 10:23, 16:28, and 24:34 which contain a time-limit set by Jesus for His Second Advent.