When Messiah comes…” That phrase has been part of our Jewish culture—part of our Jewish way of thinking—for thousands of years. Sometimes it is said with sincere hope, and other times it is said tongue-in-cheek, designating a time reference just the other side of “never.”

Those of us who know Yeshua do, indeed, say it with sincerity. However, we await not his coming, but his return. Recently a friend and I were confiding lightheartedly to one another about how nice it would be if the Messiah would return right now! Then we wouldn’t have to endure any more of life’s tsuris (troubles), ranging from small annoyances to large emergencies.

“I’ve got an idea!”my friend suddenly exclaimed. “We know that someone in history is going to be the last person to believe before the Messiah returns, right?”

“So?” I asked.

“So,” he continued with a grin, “all we have to do is figure out who that person is and share the good news with him until he believes.” He let out a triumphant chuckle, as though he had single-handedly just solved the world’s greatest problem. But then he had an afterthought: “Only where does that leave everyone else…?”

The question brought a sober note to our playful speculation. Suddenly it became clear how an improper longing for Messiah’s return—impatience over his seeming tardiness—can obscure for us a clear understanding of God’s perspective on history.

Is the Messiah slow in coming back? Is he slack? No. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).

But if occasionally we are guilty of suffering from an inappropriate come-back-now mentality, at least we are not alone. Apparently the apostles and early disciples also could succumb to that very mind-set. Immediately before the Ascension, the question foremost on their minds was, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

I wonder if they were startled when Yeshua directed their concern not to when the kingdom would be restored, but to what they were to do while they waited. He told them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But#8230;ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8). The kingdom would indeed come, but in the meantime, there were many more people who needed to hear the gospel.

How often do we preoccupy ourselves with the “when” rather than the “what”? As we yearn for the Second Coming, let’s not forget that there are still people who need to hear about the First Coming. We need to do more than project about that future moment on the Mount of Olives. We need to proclaim the message of Mount Calvary.

As we get a glimpse of God’s perspective, we see how petty our impatience can be. We see how inappropriate it is for us to complain that God’s “timetable” may cause us tsuris. The outworking of his redemptive purpose is far more important than our momentary inconvenience.

I became a believer in Yeshua on March 13, 1977. I’m glad that he did not choose to return on March 12.

Is it wrong to long for the Messiah’s return? No, not at all! We take comfort in the promise that there awaits us “a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give…at that day…unto all…that love his appearing” (II Timothy 4:8). But let’s keep the issue in perspective—in God’s perspective. As we yearn for the Lord’s return, let’s also remember his parabolic admonition: “Occupy till I come ” (Luke 19:13).