Can we ‘hasten’ the return of Christ?

As I am working on a book about the dangers of Last Generation Theology, I must read up on several issues that are, to a lesser or greater degree, linked to LGT.  One belief that many Adventists –and not just LGT supporters–have in common is that Christ’s coming has been seriously delayed by our lack of enthusiasm in spreading the ‘three angels’ messages.’ If we (previous generations included) had been more zealous, Christ would already have come. Those who give this explanation for the apparent delay of the second coming, will find a few quotes of Ellen White to undergird their view.  One of these statements is found in the book The Desire of Ages: ‘Had the church of Christ done her appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would before this have been warned and the Lord Jesus would have come to our earth in power and great glory.’[1]

The flipside of the coin is that, if our lack of missionary zeal has been a factor in ‘delaying’ Christ’s return, a greater evangelistic push would bring the coming of Christ closer.  That seems a reasonable conclusion, for does 2 Peter 3:12 not tell us that we can actually ‘hasten’ the coming of the Lord? Ellen White is adamant: ‘By giving the gospel to the world it is in our power to hasten our Lord’s return. We are not only to look for but to hasten the coming of the day of God.’[2] And: ‘He has put it in our power, through cooperation with Him, to bring this scene of misery to an end.’[3]

Among the many Adventist authors I consulted in these past few days are Norman Gulley and Sakae Kubo.  Both are respected Adventist scholars. Kubo is now in his early nineties, while Gulley is not quite as advanced in age but is also in his retirement years. It would be fair to say that Kubo is theologically somewhat left of the middle and Gulley somewhat to the right of center.  Both make it very clear that the Greek word speudo that is used in 2 Peter should perhaps not be translated as ‘hastening’ but rather as ‘eagerly longing for.’  Both authors also emphasize that the idea of ‘hastening’ the second coming has some serious theological problems.  These concepts of ‘delaying’ or ‘hastening’ cannot be taken in any absolute sense but express our human perception.

Let me quote briefly from both authors: Gulley: ‘If humans could really ‘hasten’ the Advent by themselves, Christians would face the greatest salvation-by-works emphasis ever–in spite of the gospel.’[4] Kubo puts it even more poignantly: ‘It is well to keep this in mind that we do not blasphemously think that we can somehow by our own merely human efforts bring Christ down.’[5]

Much more could be said on this topic than I can put in this one-page blog. I would like to encourage those who have uncritically imbibed the notions of delaying or hastening the second coming, to study the topic in more depth. This may well give them a more balanced picture.  And let me add this: Kubo’s book God Meets Man, which deals with the Sabbath and the Second Coming, remains in my view unsurpassed. I just wonder: why has it not been re-published?

[1]  Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 633, 624.[2]  The Desire of Ages, p. 633.[3]  Education, p. 264. [4]  Gulley, Christ is Coming, p. 542. [5]  Kubo, God Meets Man, p. 101.