Jesus said and His disciples believed that the Lord is coming soon.

This article shows that the entire New Testament teaches that the Lord is coming soon.

Jesus said that He will return soon.

Jesus said that He does not know when He will return (Matt 24:36; Mark 13:32), but He nevertheless said that He will return soon; while some of His hearers are still alive:

While sending His disciples out on a mission trip “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:6), He told them to hurry, for they will not have enough time to visit all the cities of Israel before He comes (Matt 10:23).

Teaching His disciples that they must take up their cross and follow Him because it is foolish to gain the world and lose one’s soul (Matt 26:24–26), He concluded, “whoever loses his life for My sake will find itfor the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt 16:25-28; cf. Luke 9:27 & Mark 9:1)

After saying that everybody will see Him coming on the clouds with power and great glory, He told a parable to warn Him disciples to be watchful, and concluded, “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away“ (Matt 24:34-35; cf. Mark 13 & Luke 21).

Note that, in each instance above, He emphasizes the truth of His words. Yet, 2000 years later, He has not returned.  Some people just bluntly conclude that Jesus made a mistake. Others proposed various, sometimes desperate, solutions for this conundrum. These articles evaluate various proposals, and conclude with a view that has major implications for our understanding of the kingdom of God.

The apostles also believed that
the Lord will return soon.

Some commentators propose that Jesus did not really say that He would come soon. They propose that He actually referred to something else, such as to the coming of the Holy Spirit, or to God coming in judgment on Jerusalem in AD 70. However, it is not only Jesus that said that He would come soon; this concept is found everywhere in the New Testament, for instance:

Paul wrote: “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Rom 13:11-12).  “God … will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20). “The time is short, from now on it would be wise for those who have wives to be as if they had them not” (1 Cor 7:29).  “The Lord is coming soon” (Phil 4:5).  Similar to what Jesus said, Paul also wrote that we will not all die before He comes: “We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed” (1 Cor 15:50).  “We who are still alive … till the coming of the Lord” (1 Thess 4:15).

The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote that “all the more as you see the Day approaching. …  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay” (Heb 10:25, 36-37).

James wrote: “The coming of the Lord is at hand … the Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:8, 9)

Peter wrote: “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7). “it is time for judgment to begin” (1 Peter 4:17).

John wrote: “The world is passing away …  it is the last hour.  Even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:17-18).

In Revelation John also wrote: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” was “to make known to his servants the things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev 1:1, 3; 22:6).  Jesus three times said, “I come quickly (or soon).”  (Rev 22:7, 12, 20; cf. 3:11).

These statements that the Lord is coming soon are found all over the New Testament.  Only two authors in the whole New Testament don’t have anything to say about His soon return.  We conclude that the authors of the New Testament believed that the Lord is coming soon because that is what Jesus taught.

Partial Solutions

Some people find a technical solution that addresses one verse but not the others. They might, for instance, argue that the “I come quickly” statements in Revelation can be understood as “I will come suddenly”.  Or they might say that “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 refers to the last generation that will witness the signs of His coming. But the idea that Jesus would come soon is found all over the New Testament.  These partial solutions, therefore, do not solve the problem.  We need to find a solution for all of these statements put together.

Long Time

Jesus told parables in which He said that “the bridegroom tarried” (Matt 25:5) and “after a long time the lord of those servants comes” (Matt 25:19).  “Long time” is the exact opposite of “soon“.  These parables imply that there will be a long time before He returns.  The very statement that “some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matt 16:25-28) also implies a long time, for it means that some would have died by then, which implies a number of decades. However, a “long time” is not inconsistent with Christ’s statements of the nearness of the end.  For any person twenty years is a long time to wait, but it is still within the lifetime of “some who are standing here.


Jesus also said that “the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect” (Luke 12:39), and some therefore propose that ‘soon’ should be understood as ‘unexpected’, but these are two different concepts that are able to co-exist.

Was Jesus mistaken?

Some propose that Jesus thought that His return would be soon, but that He was mistaken; what He predicted did not happen. He said that He does not know when He will return (Matt 24:36; Mark 13:32), but He mistakenly believed that “the end of the age” (Matt 24:3) would be in the near future. Jesus and his apostles were wrong about one of the most important doctrines of the church.

However, this view would be inconsistent with the evidence we have of His supernatural knowledge and abilities, including the miracles He performed, and the wonderful things He taught.

Thousand years as one day

Peter explained the delay as follows:

2 Peter 3:3 … in the last days mockers will come with their mocking … 4 … saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” … 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

That Peter had to explain the delay implies that the Christians were already then asking questions about the delay.  Peter here explains the delay by giving two reasons, namely:

    • Time does not matter for God, for with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day), and
    • His motive is to save all; He is not wishing for any to perish (die).

We should not use Peter’s words to argue that God meant “soon” from His perspective of time, because that would imply that God purposefully deceived His disciples, which we cannot accept.

We should rather interpret Peter’s words as meaning that Jesus was to return while some of His hearers were still alive, but that God delayed His return, “not wishing that any should perish”.  This concept is discussed further below.

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Did Jesus return in His Resurrection?

Was Jesus’ promise, to return soon, fulfilled in His Resurrection, Ascension and Enthronement?


Some argue that Jesus came when He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection.  They justified this as follows:

By the resurrection from the dead” Jesus was “declared the Son of God” (Rom. 1:4).

After His resurrection, He said that “all authority” was given Him (Mat. 28:18-20).

In Matthew 10 Jesus instructed His disciples to go to Israel only (v5-6), but after His resurrection, He gave His disciples a new commission to “make disciples of all the nations” (Mat. 28:18-20).  Thus ended the special mission to Israel.  Judaism came to an end at the crucifixion.  At that moment her rituals, sacrifices, temple, priesthood and her whole status, were nulled.


The Apostles still expected His soon coming after His resurrection (See The Lord is coming soon).

The disciples did not experience major persecution prior to His resurrection, as Jesus said they would, before He returns (Mt. 10:16-23).

The Bible nowhere use such language (e.g., “the Son of man is come”) for His resurrection.

His resurrection was too soon.  Jesus would not have said, “some standing here who will not taste death”, for something which was to happen only about a year later.

When Jesus said that he would come soon, He also said that, when He comes, will be “the day of judgment” (Mt. 10:15, 23; 16:27-28).  His resurrection was not “the day of judgment”.

The preaching to Israel only did not come to an end at the Cross.  Ten days after His ascension God gave His followers the power of the Holy Spirit to preach specifically and exclusively to Israel.  This resulted in the exponential growth for the church, but limited to Israel.  For a number of years after the Holy Spirit was received, the gospel message focused on die leadership of the Jews and on Jerusalem only.  See the article on the Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church.


Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:3), where He “sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19; cf. Acts 2:32; 5:31; Rom. 8:33; Eph. 1:20; Rev. 3:21; etc.).  Some argue that He came, not to the earth, but He came to God’s throne at His ascension.  This is justified as follows: 

When Jesus told His disciples to preach “that the Kingdom of God is at hand” (10:7), they probably understood this to be what was prophesied by Daniel 7, where Jesus comes—not to the earth—but to the Father (v13), to receive “dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion” (v14).  This was fulfilled, they argue, by Christ’s enthronement, when He ascended to heaven.

After Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God” and the Holy Spirit was poured out, Peter explained, “God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).

Revelation 12 describes what happens in heaven when Christ ascended to heaven (see the article War in Heaven).  At that time a loud voice announced: “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come” (Rev. 12:10).


Some of the objections against this proposal are similar to those against the previous proposal.  This includes that the Apostles still expected His soon coming after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that the disciples did not experience major persecution before this time, that the Bible nowhere uses “the Son of man is come”-language for His enthronement, that it was too soon to justify the saying “some standing here who will not taste death”, and that His enthronement was not “the day of judgment”.

Holy Spirit Received

Some argue that Jesus came representatively at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, ten days after His ascension.  This is argued as follows:

By saying, “the Father … will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; … I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16, 18), He promised to come to them in the form of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told His disciples to preach that “the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mt. 10:7).  Since, in that chapter, both the “Kingdom of God” and His coming (Mt. 10:23) were imminent, His coming could be understood as the coming of the “Kingdom of God”.  Similarly, Matthew 16:28 says that He will come “in his kingdom”, which is argued is not His physical return.  In the parallel verses (Luke 9:27 & Mark 9:1) Jesus does not say that He will come at all, but only that “those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God”.  Jesus therefore did not promise that He would come physically, but that “the Kingdom of God”, which is the spiritual kingdom that exists in the hearts of born again believers, would come.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit inaugurated the new dispensation.  Some of those who listened to His voice in Galilee and elsewhere saw the power of the kingdom of God manifested on a scale unmatched during His ministry. Within a few weeks, the number of His followers multiplied tenfold; His kingdom was visibly on the march.


The objections against previous proposal also apply to this proposal.

Some rely of the phrase “kingdom of God”, which is found in some of the verses under discussion (Mt. 16:28; Luke 9:27; Mark 9:1), to justify the view that this is not His physical coming, but a spiritual coming.  However, the “kingdom of God” is not something which will one day come, for it already exists.  Jesus said “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21)Only the saved can see it today, but one day it will become visible to all.  So when Jesus said, “There are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27), it must be interpreted by the context, and the context is that the Son of Man will come in the glory of the Father and with the holy angels (v26).  The same applies to Matthew 16:28 and Mark 9:1.  See the article What is the “Kingdom of God”? for more detail.

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