ReligionMay 22, 2024
The recent solar eclipse sparked fringe predictions of Christ’s return, but mainstream evangelical leaders remain focused on the Gospel. Pastor Rick Pettey explains why the timing of Jesus' return should not overshadow the core message of forgiveness.
Rick Pettey column (NOTHING 'PETTEY' HERE)
Rick Pettey
Rick Pettey

The solar eclipse is over. And Jesus still hasn’t returned!

As expected, we had the fringe Christian commentators pointing to this event as a sign that the return of Christ was eminent. Really? Remember Dec. 31, 1999?

And while this extreme reaction to the eclipse was not shared by the majority of leaders within the evangelical community, there remains a strong interest and continual teaching on the return of Jesus Christ. I wonder if this eclipse will start another round of revivals and Bible studies on his second coming. There is a history of intense interest in the when!

It is my opinion that this is not a good thing. Why? Because all this focus on when Jesus will return is not the Gospel! Unlike the Gospel, the return of Christ is both good and bad news! I say this for several reasons. (Please know that I am not referring to the supposed “rapture” or the “millennial reign of Christ,” as I do not believe that either one is biblical. No offense intended.)

The first reason I believe it is not faithful to scripture is that it is none of our business when Jesus will actually return. That is for the Father alone. Therefore, when they had come together, they asked him, saying, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" And he said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in his own authority. [Acts 1:6, 7]

Secondly, Jesus makes it very clear that he will return like a “thief in the night.”

“Watch, therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” [Matt. 24:42-44]

Third, the return means the final sending into hell, in their bodies, all those who had no faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. That certainly is not “Good News.”

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left…Then he will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. [Matt. 25:31-33,41]

“When he has come, he will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in me.” [John 16:8-9]

Fourth, and most importantly, it is contrary to what Jesus himself commanded his disciples to preach following his resurrection. The apostles, and then pastors following them, are not ever told to preach about the time of his return, but rather of the forgiveness of sins! Although it certainly is valid to study what the Bible says about the time of Jesus’ return. It is of minor significance next to preparing for his return by living a baptismal life of faith in him, which is a life of repentance, receiving the forgiveness of sins.

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“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." [Acts 1:8]

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." [Matt. 28:18-20]

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. [Luke 24:44-47]

All of the above was beautifully written in the hymn, “The Day Is Surely Drawing Near.”

“Then woe to those who scorned the Lord and sought but carnal pleasures, who here despised his precious Word and loved their earthly treasures! With shame and trembling they will stand and at the judge’s stern command to Satan be delivered.

“My Savior paid the debt I owe and for my sin was smitten; within the Book of Life I know my name has now been written. I will not doubt, for I am free, and Satan cannot threaten me; there is no condemnation.

“O Jesus Christ, do not delay, but hasten our salvation; we often tremble on our way in fear and tribulation.

"O hear and grant our fervent plea; Come, mighty Judge, and set us free from death and ev’ry evil.”

For all those living a life of baptismal faith in Jesus Christ, trusting is him alone for your salvation I leave you with these words of the Savior:

“Then the King will say to those on his right hand, 'Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”.[Matt. 25:34]

THE REV. RICK PETTEY is pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Gravelton and Trinity Lutheran Church in Fredericktown. He can be reached by calling (573) 783-2405 or emailing to

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