As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”LUKE 19: 41-44 (NIV – emphasis added)
Jesus said these words after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, just days before his crucifixion. His statement begs a couple of questions. First, “How did they miss that he was the Messiah?” And second, “If there was an appointed time for his first coming that they failed to recognize, how about when he returns as he promised?”
Let’s start with the first question. Actually, there were many ways they should have recognized the appointed time. You could argue that his miracles alone testified to the fact that he was the Messiah. He was a son of David, was born in Bethlehem Ephratah to a virgin, fled to Egypt, grew up in Nazareth (the Branch people), he ministered in Galilee, was preceded and affirmed by John the Baptist, and he had just ridden through the East Gate into the Temple Mount on a donkey, all in fulfillment of different Bible prophecies. He also appeared at the appointed time…483 years (sixty-nine times seven) after an edict by Artaxerses to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, in accordance with Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy-Sevens in chapter 9. Finally, and most importantly, he told them directly that he was the Messiah and that he was the Son of God sent by his Father (John 10:22-40). So clearly, there were signs that they missed. Prophecies actually, that were fulfilled right under their noses, and they either failed to recognize them or simply refused to believe them. And because of this, they suffered the pronouncement of Jesus in Luke 19, when the temple and all of Jerusalem were destroyed in 70 A.D.
Now on to the second and more currently relevant question. Is there an appointed time for Jesus’ return to the earth, and are there also specific signs that should help us recognize that the time has arrived? Jesus promised to return again (John 14), and he gave many signs of his return (Matthew 24 & Luke 21). He also told us to watch so that we will not be taken by surprise.
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth.”LUKE 21: 34-35 (NIV)
While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.1 THESSALONIANS 5:3-5 (NIV – emphasis added)
So, we find that there were very serious consequences for not recognizing the time of Jesus’ first visitation. We also see that Jesus and the apostle Paul did not teach that Jesus’ return would be a surprise and “like a thief” for everyone, but only those in the darkness with “hearts weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life.” I think we can be pretty sure from these verses that those who are looking for his appearing will not be taken by surprise and that it will also be no less disastrous to fail to recognize the signs of his second appearing than it was at his first appearing…
 Isaiah 11:1, Micah 5:2 & Isaiah 7:14, Hosea 11:1, Isaiah 9:1-2, John 1:29, Ezekiel 44:1-2, Zechariah 9:9
 This is a whole discussion by itself, but there is a lot of information out there on this subject. I’ll dedicate a future post to just Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, but in the meantime, here is a fairly comprehensive discussion on the subject that does not necessarily favor any particular view, and to which on certain points I would take exception, but nevertheless is worth reading.