“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness. From then on and forevermore. …”

— Isaiah 9:6-7 (NASB)

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ this week and prepare for 1998 next week, I can’t help but think about how close we must be to the Second Coming — when the Lord will return for His church and personally rule over the Earth for 1,000 years.

Oh, I know, some of you don’t believe in such things. You think it’s just a bunch of silly superstition. You prefer I stick to writing about news events of the physical world rather than arcane spiritual matters.

But, as a journalist, I can’t ignore hard evidence — no matter where it may lead me. And the more I study the prophetic scriptures of the Holy Bible and look at the condition of our world today, the more convinced I become that we are nearing that time. In fact, I think we are very close.

For just as Jesus’ virgin birth in Bethlehem was foretold by the Hebrew prophets hundreds of years earlier, so, too, was His return to Earth predicted. The only question is when.

The most dramatic evidence for His imminent return our generation has witnessed was the rebirth of the nation of Israel 50 years ago. The Jews, God’s chosen people, were, as prophesied, scattered over the whole earth for nearly two millennia beginning shortly after Jesus’ death on the cross. Yet, the scriptures leave no doubt that the Jewish state would exist once again before He returned.

Interestingly, Orthodox Jews have long taught that the world would last for 6,000 years before the Messiah would come and usher in a 1,000-year period of restful human history. Since God created the world in six days, according to Genesis 1:31, and rested on the seventh day, according to Genesis 2:1, they reasoned the world’s history would climax the same way. They cite Psalms 90:4, which says: “For a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by.”

Likewise, Christians have looked to II Peter 3:8: “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

The early church understood this “six-day theory” of world history. It was widely accepted teaching for the first three centuries of the church. From the time of Adam, we’ve got genealogical records to show that 4,000 years passed until the time of Christ. From Jesus’ time until the present age represents another 2,000 years for a total of 6,000 years or six days.

There’s also a three-day theory: Jesus rose on the third day. Would the beginning of the third millennium — or thousand-year period — not be the likely time for His return to earth? There is even strong scriptural evidence for such a theory provided in Hosea 6:2: “After two days will he revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.” Note that this prophecy is not about the Resurrection of Jesus, it’s either about the resurrection of Israel after 2,000 years of dispersal or the physical return of the Lord.

In 1772, Edward Gibson published “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” in which he cites early documents suggesting the Christian disciples of the first century were taught that Jesus would return after 2000 years. We’ll soon find out if they were right.

For many reasons, I believe Jesus is returning soon — if not in the year 2000, certainly thereabouts. But I’m especially drawn to II Timothy 3:1-5, which describes the state of the world in the “last days.” Tell me if this doesn’t sound like our world: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.”

Christmas represents a time of great hope for Christians. Of course, we’re grateful that Jesus came 2,000 years ago and died for our sins. Now we should be hopeful and expectant of His imminent return.

Merry Christmas. And happy birthday, Jesus.

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