We have also seen that Jesus predicted not only a lengthy delay in His return, but that no one would know the day or hour or be able to set time limits at all.
Jesus purposefully teaches that the Kingdom of God comes in two phases. This has caused what has been called the Now and Not Yet phases of the Kingdom. We see Jesus ruling presently throughout the New Testament. Yet we see the New Testament everywhere teaches that Jesus will rule the world at His Second Coming at the end of the age.
This tension throughout the New Testament also gives us the tension of Jesus' prediction of judgment against National Israel and nations in every generation as opposed to the judgment of all mankind at the end of the age. This is more than a sufficient answer to the charge that the Apostle Paul "expected" Christ to return within his lifetime.
We do not know when our Lord will return. The Christian needs to understand Peter's teaching.
3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.We know that Christ will return just as certainly as He was raised from the dead and as the world was judged at the Flood. We also know that just as men deny the resurrection and the Flood, so they will deny His Second Coming.
8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. [2 Peter 3]
This age and life in general have a purpose. The Christian must do as Riddlebarger wrote,
Yet, not knowing the day or the hour when He will come again, we are to live every moment to the fullest, going about our divinely mandated tasks of fulfilling the cultural mandate--marrying, raising families, fulfilling our [secular] callings, and taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.As we wait patiently, we know men will mock and blaspheme the Son of God. Yet the evidence of God's judgment is everywhere. Therefore the Christian should remain firm in the faith until the appointed day.
10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.14So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.