When I was in high school, a book was released called 88 Reasons Why Jesus Is Coming Back in 1988, and it took the Christian world by storm. The author, a NASA scientist who was also a Christian, identified a three-day span when he said Jesus would return.
This book was a big deal at my Christian school. On the afternoon of the third day, September 13, my soccer coach ended practice 30 minutes early and said we were going to sit on the bleachers and wait it out.
Then he looked at me and said, “If Jesus does indeed come, J.D., make sure all the equipment gets back in the bin.” Unkind.
Of course that day came and went, and Jesus didn’t come back. But the next year, the author released a follow-up book called—you guessed it—89 Reasons Why Jesus Is Coming Back in 1989. He explained that he had miscalculated the dates the year before because he used the Gregorian calendar and not the Hebrew one.
Happens to the best of us.
Christian history is littered with false predictions about the end of the world. Though Christians have often botched this up, and we can’t know the day or the hour (or even the three-day span) of Jesus’ return, it is true that Jesus is coming back, and Scripture says it could be at any moment. Jesus will come like a thief in the night—that is, unexpectedly, when we’re not looking for it.
It’s also true, Jesus said, that there will be pointers as it gets closer, such as wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, and plagues. In Matthew 24 he compares these things to labor pangs the world will show before it gives birth to the new world that Jesus will bring at his coming. Like a woman who, in the hours leading up to childbirth, has moments of intense anguish, so the world will experience painful moments—like the coronavirus—showing that the coming of Jesus is near.
In his new book, Coronavirus and Christ, John Piper says that through this virus, Jesus is saying to us, “This world you are living in will not last forever. You need to think about the world that is coming and prepare for it. Wake up!”
We don’t know when he’s coming, but signs like this show us it is likely not far away. The last words of the New Testament are Jesus saying, “Surely I come quickly.” He’s coming back!
When was the last time you went to bed with Jesus’ second coming on your mind or got up in the morning with the thought, “Today might be the day”? We are so busy taking care of our daily needs that we never even think about it, much less make sure we are telling others about it.
When was the last time you went to bed with Jesus’ second coming on your mind, thinking, “It could be tonight” or got up in the morning with the thought, “Today might be the day”? We are so frantically busy taking care of our daily needs that we never even think about it, much less make sure we are telling others about it.
I don’t think the coronavirus marks the end of the world. But this world does have an end, and if we ignore that reality, we are asleep at the wheel. The coronavirus, as disastrous as it is, represents God’s merciful wake-up call for us to get ready.