The people of Jesus’ time thought he’d be back real soon—and to be fair, Jesus also expected as much. He said he’d be back within a generation, so it’s not that surprising that when the church of his generation started to die, they began to ask, “Where is he?” Peter responded to this confusion by saying, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
We have now lasted in God’s divine patience for two thousand years, because God has still not given up hope that more will receive him. Indeed, the wider picture of the Bible shows us that God will continue to send out the gospel until hearts are too hard to listen anymore. Once the world has reached such a point, humanity will naturally give itself over to sin and the powers of darkness will establish themselves like never before. At that point global judgment for sin will be appropriate, just as it was in the time of the flood. In fact, the Bible writers often think of the past ultimate moments of God’s judgment (like the flood) to be prototypes or a foreshadowing of the ultimate coming day of judgment, which is known as, “The Day of the Lord.”
Most have asked at some point in their life, “God, why do bad things happen? Aren’t you a God of justice? When will you do away with evil?” God’s reply to this sentiment, is found in the Day of the Lord, where all that is wrong in the entire cosmos will be done away with and all that is right will carry forward and made new so that it can never do wrong again.
Yes, God is a God of justice, but his patience and desire for all to be saved has delayed the return of his Son. As weird as it sounds to most, I think Jesus could very well have come back in a generation, just as he said he would. But just as God taught Jeremiah that he’s allowed to change his prophetic words based on how humanity responds, so God has delayed the end of this age and the coming of the next based on how humanity has responded. However, Revelation tells us that one day God’s patience will run out as the innocent blood of his children has become an ocean impossible to ignore and requires justice.
Scripture assures us that the day will come where Jesus will come back. And at that time, he will come down out of Heaven riding a cloud like God Himself—for He is God Himself. And next to him will be the angels who are still faithful to him and all of the Christians who have died before us. And any Christians on the earth at that time will rise into the sky to meet him on his way down. This is all the Biblical rapture is. We don’t fly away to Heaven never to be seen again. No, Jesus is coming down to earth to live and reign here and he will give us new resurrected bodies that can’t die so we can live and reign here as well. We are his entourage—his earthly greeting party—and so when Jesus descends, the Christians who are alive to see it will ascend briefly to descend immediately.