It's a question the mockers love asking:
"'Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created'" (2 Peter 3:4, New Living Translation).
It's not an accurate statement (everything has not remained exactly the same), but it is a good question. And every generation since that time has expected Christ to return in their lifetime. From Bible times, through 1844, until the present, proclamations of the soon return of Christ went out to the world. Why is that?
Besides a zealousness for the return of Jesus and a restoration of paradise (which I share also in my heart), I think primarily it is out of ignorance of what to expect in the end times. Bible prophecy says that certain things must come to pass before we can even expect the signs of His return. If those things haven't passed, then why expect the return? A majority of end-times prophecies have come to pass. The only significant prophecy remaining (other than escalation of troubles) is that of the enforcement of the mark of the beast (and that day seems to be rapidly approaching... of course).
Yes, Jesus said no man can know the day or the hour of His return (Matt. 24:36), but He also said we can "know that the kingdom of God is near" (Luke 21:25-31) by the signs of the times.
After 9/11, the Christian world got excited and probably expected something significant to happen pretty quickly. Well, it's been four years now and, though things do seem to be getting worse in regard to society, the weather, and relationships, and the world of politics is coming closer and closer to the mark of the beast, we're still not at the point where Christ said we'd be in these last days. Listen to what He did say:
"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken" (Luke 21:25-26).
That sounds like an accurate description of our days, doesn't it? How relevant now is the phrase, "the sea and the waves roaring." Jesus also said:
"But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matt. 24:36).
In the context of the passage, He's saying that there will be two groups in the end time: those who expect and anticipate the return of Jesus (like Noah expected the flood), and those (everybody else) who are caught off-guard (like being robbed by a thief in the night, or drowning in a flood that couldn't possibly happen). But He also alludes to the behaviors of men in those times:
"For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark" (Matt. 24:38).
That sounds like the status quo, as well, but there's one more insight into those days we need to consider.
"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5).
That's a significant description. Men's thoughts will be "only evil continually." I don't think it's like that, yet, do you? I can cite a brother who doesn't believe in God. Despite that, he is still giving. I'm sure you know somebody similar. They don't have religion, but they are still kind to at least somebody at least occassionally.
But don't be fooled. One day, there will be a sharp dividing line between those who believe in Christ and have made Jesus their Lord, and those who haven't (this includes many so-called "Christians"). And this group that hasn't pursued the kingdom will get to the point where their every thought is evil. I can't imagine my brother being that way. What would cause him, or anybody else for that matter, to think only evil continually? Maybe one of these:
- Getting caught up in the pursuit of peace and joy outside of a relationship with God - In life, we either pursue peace and joy, or we attempt to keep the peace and joy we have. When somebody selfish determines that their peace and joy will be increased by having what you have, watch out.
- Tragedy(ies) in life - Some tragedies can cause even Christians to lose their faith in God, or at least be very angry at Him. But the anger of a wicked man is certainly something that disrupts peace and joy.
Maybe something else. Despite my doubts, the Bible says it, and there are many who have gone before. Look at today's kids who kill because of hamburgers or depression. Look at what grown-ups do to each other in the name of bread wafers. These people are evil because they have chosen to disregard the enticements of God and "follow their hearts." And when you shun God, He eventually lets you go your own way. And when you go your own way, pain is the end result.
Of course, violence isn't the only determinant of what is evil or not. Good things can be done in the name of evil. Musicians who sing for tsunami victims are hoping to gain fame (good press) or fortune more than they are hoping to restore some peace and joy to a family struggling with the loss of loved ones (Angelina Jolie said recently, "philanthropy is good business"). So, if we think of it that way, even a good deed can be done for wicked (selfish) purposes. And in this way, it could already be construed that many men's thoughts are "only evil continually." Just not all of them.
I think we should seriously consider the behavior or our unsaved friends and family when making our end-times charts. And watch them. And as we watch them, pray for them, so that eventually they'll be saved and we'll need to switch to watching somebody else. And maybe if we keep doing that, there will be nobody left near us to watch, and we'll be back to anticipating the mark of the beast to gauge when our Jesus is coming back.