All believers realize that there are many prophetic timetables concerning latter days events in the Bible. They include the “42 months” allotted to the beast system to rule over the nations, the “1260 days” given to the ministry of the Two Witnesses, a mysterious “five month” period mentioned in Revelation 9:5 involving an end-time war, the “time, times and half a time” mentioned in Daniel 12:7 and more mysterious prophesied time periods of “1290 days” and “1335 days” in Daniel 12:11-12. Many people have spent countless hours analyzing these biblical time periods to try and determine the specific time when the return of Jesus Christ will occur and the end of our current age on earth will occur.
However, there is one problem with all those efforts to try and “figure out” these prophetic timetables. Jesus Christ himself prophesied that these timetables would be altered at the very end of this age. In Matthew 24:21-22, Jesus prophesied that the “Great Tribulation” at the end of this age would become so severe that “except those days be shortened, there would no flesh be saved.” Jesus’ statement implicitly acknowledges that there will be timetables applicable to latter-day events, but he has told us in advance that events will apparently run “out of control” so quickly in the crisis at the end of this age that God will have to “shorten [the] days” allotted to some prophesied time periods. He did not specify how many “days” would need to be cut out of prophesied latter-day timetables. Did he have a minimalist number of days in mind? Say, 7 days or 20 days or 40 days? Or did he have a maximalist number of days in mind? Perhaps 100 days or many hundreds of days? Jesus didn’t say one way or the other. What he did specifically prophesy was that the prophetic timetables would have to be altered and cut short in order to save mankind from extinction.
So whatever your church’s concept of prophetic timetables may be or whatever your personal expectations are, you need to allow for the fact that Jesus prophesied those timetables will have to be altered and cut short at the end of this age. This creates a problem for those who think that they can predict the end-time prophetic timetables down to a specific time.
After prophesying that the latter day timetables would be shortened in Matthew 24:21-22, Jesus repeatedly stressed this point in later warnings and parables found in this prophecy in Matthew 24-25. In Matthew 24:44, Jesus specifically predicted that he would return when his followers did not expect his arrival. In Matthew 24:45-51, he warned that believers would come to think that Jesus had “delayed his coming” and would start to quarrel among themselves, not realizing that Jesus would arrive earlier than they expected. His parable in Matthew 25:1-13 is especially strong on this point. Jesus likens his second coming to the arrival of a “bridegroom” and his followers as the “virgins” who are expecting him. He prophesies that they would all be “asleep” concerning the fact that his arrival was imminent and that all of them would be surprised that Jesus was returning sooner than any of them expected. These warnings and parables are all consistent with Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24:21-22 that prophetic timetables would have to be cut short at the very end of this age. This subject is covered more extensively in my article, Jesus Christ’s Five Warnings to Letter-Day Believers, available at the articles link at my homepage.
It is completely natural that we believers should be eager for Jesus’ arrival and that we would anticipate his second coming. But Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24:21-22 has been overlooked in too many efforts to determine any specific time for his second coming. Personally, I think it is great news that his return will come “sooner” than we expect.