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I grew up in a family of nine siblings. Our dad, a miner, only came home every two weeks. Before leaving, he always left a list of things he wanted us to do before he returned. Although he had assigned us daily duties, often we’d leave everything until the last minute.

When the day finally arrived for Dad’s return, we would divide the tasks among us and in a few hours we would complete all the assigned chores. Dad always thought he had marvelously obedient children. But he was deceived.

One day an accident occurred in the mines, and the company sent all the miners home, so Dad arrived back before we expected him. To his surprise, he found out the sad reality: his children were not as wonderful as he’d thought!

A lot of people wonder why Jesus didn’t tell us the exact day and hour of His return. He Himself said, “ ‘No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’ ” (Matthew 24:36). I believe the reason Jesus didn’t give us an exact time for His return lies in the nature of the human heart. If we knew the exact time, we would ignore His counsels about how we should live. Then a short time before His scheduled appearance, we would hurry up and try to get ready. But it wouldn’t do us any good. That’s why Jesus included the element of surprise.

The Noah message

Speaking of the time of His return, Jesus said it would be similar to Noah’s day: “ ‘For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man’ ” (verses 38, 39). There is nothing wrong with getting married. The fact that people marry isn’t a sign of the Second Coming. The central idea here is that Jesus’ return will be a surprise. When it happens, people will be living just as they always have— business as usual. Only a few people will be paying attention to the signs of the times.

That’s how it was in the days of Noah. People were so occupied with just living that they had no time for God. When Noah began to tell them that the world as they knew it would soon end with a flood, no one believed him. They thought he was crazy, and they made fun of him.

The message of Noah was unpopular. To have accepted it would have been to expose oneself to a lot of ridicule. In the same way, today the message of the Bible is strange to the postmodern mind. Some people say it doesn’t make sense. But then it was not different in the days of the apostle Paul: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Noah preached for 120 years. In the beginning, many people probably believed his message. Some may have even helped in the construction of the ark. Others may have given funds and material to aid in fulfilling Noah’s mission. But the Flood didn’t come as soon as people expected.

Years and still more years went by. No one believed in a coming flood anymore. In the end, the only ones who were ready and went into the ark were Noah, his wife, and their three sons and daughters-in-law. That’s all. Where were all the people who at first believed? They had gotten discouraged. Time had blown out the flame in their hearts.

Then one ordinary day, something unusual appeared in the sky. A small cloud grew rapidly larger and darker by the minute, until it spread across the heavens from one end to the other. Thunder rocked the heavens. Fierce lightning bolts struck the earth.

But it was too late. The Bible says that “ ‘they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man’ ” (Matthew 24:39).

Never again?

The apostle Peter says that before the Second Coming, history will repeat itself. “In the last days scoffers will come. . . . 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). Many will ridicule the idea of Jesus’ return. Insisting that nothing strange like that will ever occur, they believe that things will continue just as they always have. As a result, they will regard those getting ready for the second advent of Christ as if they were beings from another planet.

Here’s how Peter explained the apparent delay: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (verses 8, 9).

How long can a human being live in our day? In Japan, Kaku Yamanaka died at 113. But what is that many years compared with God’s eternity? Therefore, Jesus’ coming is not delayed. Human beings live no more than a millisecond compared with God’s eternity.

God loves people. If it could all depend on His love, everyone would be saved, but salvation requires a personal decision on our part. God created men and women as free moral agents. He encourages us to choose. Although He has given us His Word to make the alternatives clear, the choice is ours alone.

Nevertheless, the fact that God loves humanity and is patient doesn’t mean that He will not return or that the day of opportunity will go on forever. Peter continues, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (verse 10). Peter compares the return of Jesus to the unexpectedness of a robbery. Here it is again—the element of surprise.

What should we do?

Jesus wants His children to always be ready. That’s why He said, “ ‘Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man’ ” (Luke 21:34–36).

A day is approaching when human beings will awake to go about their daily round of activities just as they always have. Employees in factories will be carrying out their assigned duties. The clubs and entertainment centers will be filled. People will be chasing their dreams. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing different. Just as it was in the days of Noah.

Suddenly, in the midst of the sky, a small cloud will appear. It will grow larger by the second. The earth will shake to its very foundations.

While some people are running around terrified, those who believed in the Second Coming and prepared themselves for that day will raise their hands and exclaim, “ ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation’ ” (Isaiah 25:9).

Will you accept?

The world is a ripe fruit, ready to be harvested. Christ is coming back to take you home, coming to tell you that He never lost the hope of seeing you safe with Him for all eternity. There is a place in heaven for you, and it will never be the same without your presence. You are the most precious thing that Jesus has on earth. Just as you are, with your joys and sorrows, with your struggles and conflicts, with your good points and mistakes—you are important to Jesus. So important that He came to die for you on the cross of Calvary, and He is returning to take you home again with Him.

Will you be ready to meet Him? Are you ready for Him to return? The answer is yours alone.

Adapted, used by permission, from Signs of Hope, Review and Herald® Publishing Association, Hagerstown, Maryland.

A promise

History will repeat itself before the Second Coming, and people will ridicule the idea of Jesus’ return. But God has promised that “ ‘never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth’ ” (Genesis 9:11).

So while the Flood was a truly devastating event and we may be witnessing many destructive floods in recent times, God has declared, “ ‘Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth’ ” (Genesis 9:16).

When Will Jesus Return?

by Alejandro Bullón
From the December 2010 Signs