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In the late 1940s, Samuel Beckett wrote Waiting for Godot, a play about two homeless men on the side of a road awaiting a mysterious figure called Godot, who promises to come and offer them deliverance—but he never shows up. Beckett’s point was to emphasize what he believed was the futility of the great Christian hope: that Jesus Christ will come back to the earth. In short, Beckett’s play derides the promise of Christ’s second coming.

Of course, one shouldn’t be surprised at such mocking. Almost 2,000 years ago, Peter warned that “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation’ ” (2 Peter 3:3, 4). Beckett, in his own way, was a fulfillment of that prophecy.

Let’s be fair, though. In the many centuries that have passed since Jesus gave His promise to return, the world does seem to be continuing as it always has, and Jesus still isn’t back! Why, then, do so many Christians still fervently believe, not only in the certainty of the Second Coming, but in its nearness as well?

Christ’s First Coming

Of all the reasons Christians have for their hope of Christ’s second coming, the greatest one is, ironically, His first coming. Speaking about His approaching death, Jesus said, “ ‘The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ ” (Mark 10:45). The apostle Paul, also referring to Jesus’ death, wrote that He “gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time” (1 Timothy 2:6). Notice that both Jesus and Paul referred to Jesus’ life as a “ransom.” A ransom is a price that is paid to retrieve something that was taken unfairly, stolen, or kidnapped. According to these texts, Jesus gave His life as a ransom for the human race, for those who had, in a sense, been kidnapped by sin, suffering, and death.

Now, why would Jesus pay such a price—that of giving His own life as a ransom for lost souls— yet refuse to return and get what He ransomed at such a great cost to Himself? That would make no sense, which is exactly why the New Testament repeatedly talks about Christ’s return.

“We believe,” wrote Paul, “that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:14–17).

In other words, “Jesus died and rose again” so that He could “come down from heaven” and retrieve those for whom He died. If He doesn’t return and do just that, the Cross procured nothing for us. Thus, Christ’s death is the guarantee of His return (see Mark 14:62). As sure as Christians can be about Jesus’ death on the cross, so sure can they be about His second coming.

Bible Promises

Another reason Christians believe in Christ’s second coming is that the Bible itself, over and over, promises that He will return, and Christians trust the Bible as the Word of God. Jesus Himself was unambiguous on this point. “ ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms,’ ” He said. “ ‘If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am’ ” (John 14:2, 3). On another occasion Jesus said, “ ‘As lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man’ ” (Matthew 24:27).

Paul, too, expressed certainty about Jesus’ second coming. “We wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). And in Revelation, the apostle John gave us a word picture of Christ’s second coming: “I looked,” he said, “and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one ‘like a son of man’ with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand” (Revelation 14:14).

Signs of the Times

A third reason that Christians believe in the nearness of Christ’s return is the signs of the times, the things that Jesus and Bible writers said would indicate the approach of His second coming.

In chapter 2 of the Bible book by his name, the prophet Daniel outlined world history in advance. The Babylonian Empire, he said, would be followed by three more empires, which we now know to be the empire of the Medes and Persians, the Greek Empire, and the Roman Empire. However, according to Daniel, Rome was not to be followed by another empire. Instead, Rome would be broken up into the nations of Europe that we know today. And those nations, Daniel said, will eventually be destroyed by God, who will establish a global kingdom that will never be destroyed. And the New Testament identifies this kingdom as the one Christ will establish at His second coming (see Revelation 11:15).

Now here’s the point: so far, every detail of Daniel’s prediction has been fulfilled exactly as he gave it. Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome have all come and gone. Today, we live in the time of a divided Europe. There is no way that Daniel, writing 2,500 years ago, could have predicted world history in advance that accurately unless God gave him the information! Thus, we can be confident that God’s eternal kingdom—the only remaining part of the vision—will be fulfilled just as Daniel predicted.

The Bible gives a number of other signs that will precede Christ’s return. One indicator that Jesus Himself gave has never taken place at any other time in history. “ ‘This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations,’ ” Jesus said, “ ‘and then the end will come’ ” (Matthew 24:14). Today, the “ ‘gospel of the kingdom’ ” has spread as never before in history. People in every nation of the world are hearing about Jesus.

The preaching of the gospel to the whole world is without a doubt the most specific sign of His soon coming that Jesus ever gave. Today’s communication technologies— satellites, radio, TV, e-mail, and the Web—are making it possible for the good news about Jesus to be preached on a global scale with amazing speed. This is one of the best reasons Christians have for maintaining their faith in Jesus’ promise to return to this world.

The Bible is filled with promises and signs that the Jesus who died 2,000 years ago to give us eternal life will come back again. That’s why Christians, despite all these years, haven’t given up hope in the Second Coming. Now, more than ever, we have good reasons to believe that it will happen, and soon!

Is Jesus Really Coming Back Again?

by Clifford Goldstein
From the January 2009 Signs