Did the Apostle Paul expect the Lord to come back in his lifetime (yes, cf. 1 Thess. 4:15)? I assure you every New Testament person expected the Lord to come back in his lifetime. Why do you think the Gospels were not written for some 30 40 50 60 years after Jesus is dead? They thought He’s coming tomorrow. “Why write this down? He may come tomorrow…surely next week…by the end of the year for sure.” But Jesus did not come. Finally, the Apostles started dying. False teachers started rising. There was the delayed Second Coming, and these early Christians said “we’ve got to write this down”. This generation is passing away, so are the authoritative speakers passing away. Remember John was given the charge of Mary, Jesus’s mother, and he stayed with Mary in Palestine until Mary died and then John apparently moved to what we would call Asia Minor, in the city of Ephesus. And the early traditions say that the elders of that church pleaded with the ageing John, to write down his memories of Jesus before he died, and that’s when the Gospel of John was written in the 90’s. So these people did expect the Lord but then the Lord delays and delays. Nobody understands how all those words in Revelation, ‘soon’, ‘quickly’ mean. Just think of those words. Why has there been a 2000 year delay? I don’t think anybody can answer that. But what i would say is this – the Second Coming is meant to be an encouragement for every generation of Christians to live holy every day to the fullest. It’s an impetus for holy living in the exigencies of today, because we don’t know if we have tomorrow. If you knew for certain the Second Coming was next Saturday at 8 o’clock, how frenzied would this week be for you? Now, it shouldn’t be frenzied at all because i think the sum of the New Testament teaching about the ‘Second Coming’ is, it’s not ‘how?’, it’s not ‘when?’, it’s not who? It’s ‘be ready’, and ‘be active’. and it ‘doesn’t matter’. We ought to be ready, we ought to live in light of the possible immediate return of Christ. Some believers are so obsessed with the “how” and “when” of Jesus’ Second Coming and somehow neglect the Great Commission. Believers can actually hasten Christ’s return by stepping up efforts towards evangelism and discipleship. The time and manner of His return wouldn’t really matter because this is entirely within God’s purview. It will surely come to pass. Live as if this were your last but plan for your future ministry.
In 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, the apostle Paul specifically addresses a specific issue related to the 2nd Coming of Jesus and the day of the Lord. Somebody in the Thessalonian church community had been spreading wrong information in Paul’s name, saying that God’s final act of justice on human evil, the day of the Lord was upon them, and has actually returned. These people had likely been predicting dates about the end of all things, and they were frightening and confusing other Christians, and you can see why. Due to the intense persecution, they were vulnerable to somebody claiming that Jesus had already returned like a thief in the night, they’ve been left behind (cf. 2 Thess. 5:2)! Maybe He abandoned the Thesslonians to their suffering. This kind of talk really ticks Paul off. It’s misrepresenting his teaching. THE RETURN OF JESUS SHOULD NEVER INSPIRE FEAR AND CONFUSION, BUT RATHER HOPE AND CONFIDENCE. Paul reminds them of everything he taught them about Jesus’ return back when he was in Thessalonica. And he gives a short summary here, it’s actually too short. This chapter has lots of puzzles and problems of interpretation, but what’s clear is that he cites the well known theme from the prophets Isaiah and Daniel (cf. Isaiah 13-14; Daniel 7-12) that the kingdoms of this world will continue to produce rulers who rebel against God like Nebuchadnezzar or the King of the North did in the past. These leaders had exalted themselves to divine authority, and for Paul, these ancient kings and prophecies; they give us images, they set out a pattern that he saw fulfilled in his own day in the Roman emperors, Caligula and Nero. And he expected that it would be repeated again, that history would culminate with such a rebellious rule, empowered by evil itself someone who will wreak havoc and violence in God’s world, but not forever.
When Jesus returns, He will confront the rebel and all who perpetrate evil, and He will deliver His people. So Paul’s point here is not to give later readers fuel for apocalyptic prediction and speculation. Rather, he’s comforting the Thessalonians. He’s recalling the teaching of Jesus from Mark 13 who said that the events leading up to His return would be very public and obvious. so they don’t need to be scared, worried, and unsettled that they’ve been left behind, rather they need to stay faithful until Jesus returns to deliver them.