…for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
To say, “you don’t know when the Son of Man is coming” is slightly different than saying “you don’t know when the Son of Man will come.” The latter emphasizes the futureness of Jesus’ return. Jesus will come in the future, and you don’t know when that’s happening. It could, in fact, very likely, it will come well after your death. Isn’t that how most of us hear that?
The early church was a bit more optimistic and hopeful about His immediate return, but that was only because they didn’t have 2,000 years of experience to realize this could go on for, well, millennia. So we’re perhaps a bit more cynical. Jesus might return in our lifetimes, but very likely, our lives will come and go without His return.
The former way of speaking, the way Jesus in fact does speak in the Gospel, has a different sense. There’s no futureness there. It’s, “He is coming.” It’s present tense! He is coming in each of our lives. It’s as imminent an event as the present tense.
This also fits the way St. Peter speaks about Christ’s return, when he writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” The implication of this verse is that the Lord, though taking a bit longer, will in fact return within the lives of those Peter’s writing to, which happens to be the entire Church.
Jesus is delaying His return, Peter writes, to give everyone a chance to repent. But, surely there were some among his audience who died prior to Christ’s return. Of course, every one of them died prior to Christ’s return. Wouldn’t that nullify Peter’s argument, that Jesus is delaying His return to give them all a chance to repent?
We could put it this way. Jesus has given Peter’s target audience at least 2,000 years and counting to repent! What do we do with the fact that they all died well before Christ’s return? How does Peter’s argument even make sense?
The fact is, Jesus is returning in each of our lifetimes, so each one of us should ever be ready for His return, and alert to His coming, and in a state of repentance. How so? Because each of us will witness the return of Christ within our lifetimes, that’s why. It will be the last thing we see in this world. How can this case be made?
Jesus says that the one who believes in Him will neither see nor taste death. He says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” When the Jews challenged Him on this, they changed “see death” to “taste death.” We will not die. Well, let’s clarify that. Any Christian will not see or taste death. He will die – all of us will see him die. But he himself will not see or taste death. He will see “Christ’s day” just as Abraham did, as Jesus said in this same section, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Abraham didn’t taste or see death either. He saw “Christ’s day,” which is the day of His return.
But surely, you say, this was just Abraham seeing Jesus in His glorified state, in that period between death and resurrection. So Abraham was just a spirit floating up to heaven and encountering Christ. That’s not really Christ’s return.
Yet, Jesus is teaching the resurrection here, not the immortality of the soul. And in fact, when the Sadducees challenged Jesus on the resurrection of the flesh, Jesus pointed to the fact of Abraham’s resurrection at the time of Moses (!!) to make His case. As He said, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
How was Abraham resurrected at the time of Moses? Clearly everyone knew his body was somewhere in the ground in Canaan. Yet Jesus proves the resurrection by citing these words of Moses, “I am the God of [a living/resurrected] Abraham.”
How? Because Abraham didn’t see or taste death, Just as Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day.” That is, Abraham saw the day of Christ’s return, presumably before what we would call “his death.”
This is similar to what happened with Stephan just before he was stoned. He was about to die, but did he see or taste death? No. He saw Christ standing at the right hand of the Father. How can Christ be standing when we confess Him to be – and the Scriptures reveal Him to be – sitting? Well, when will Christ stand again? He will stand again when the “sitting at the right hand of the Father” phase of His creedal existence ends and the “from thence He will come and judge the quick and the dead” phase begins. Stephan saw Jesus coming to judge the quick and the dead. He saw the second coming.
So yes, each of us will see the second coming of Christ. It will be withing the lives of each of us. And for that reason, St. Peter can comfort us that, the reason we’re not dead yet is so that we have time to repent, and also, Jesus can say that we should, all of us!, stay alert because “He is coming” at a time and hour we do not know.
Do any of us know the day and time of our deaths, or at least, what others will see as our deaths?
A man is driving his car. Suddenly a semi trailer veers into his lane from the opposite direction. Lo and behold, just in the nick of time the man hears trumpets, sees heaven opened up, and sees Jesus standing up, calling him up. What a coincidence! But what a joy…especially if he is ready for Christ’s return.
None of us knows the day or hour when Jesus will return, but it will most certainly be in each of our lifetimes.