The success of the Christian claim or its failure rests to a very large extent on the theory of the second coming.
Postponement for “Non-Occurrence” of the Return of Christ & The challenge to the Deity of Jesus Christ
- 1991: Timothy James, A Rejection of the Non-Occurrence Theory
AN EXAMPLE OF THIS HORRIBLE ERROR :
Agnostics, Muslims, and Jews are quick to taunt Christians due to the supposed failure of Christ’s prophecies regarding the “end of the world” which was clearly anticipated and taught in the earliest days of the faith. Many Christian expositors, hoping to answer this objection, have proposed theories that attempt to explain away the necessity to believe that Christ ever intended to return within a single generation. An example of all the additional assumptions added to the New Testament text is supplied by the most notable offender, Edward Gibbon:
“Christians.. lived in the awful expectation of that moment when the globe itself and all the various races of mankind should tremble at the appearance of their divine Judge.” (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 1, p. 470-726)
Max I. Dimont (1971)
“Like the Christians, who continually had to postpone Judgment Day because Jesus failed to keep his appointment for a second coming, so the Jews, from century to century, had to postpone the arrival date of their messiah by new calculation.” (The Indestructible Jews, p. 174)
Jews for Judaism Website
“Jesus did not come back “quickly,” as promised, to judge mankind. The time has long past that one can claim Jesus will come back “quickly.” Thus, what we have in Revelation 22:20 is a false prophecy.”
“These various statements reveal that the myth of the “second coming” was explained in different ways as the interval following Jesus’ death lengthened.”
“Apparently, the early Christian community was convinced of the imminent return of Jesus, as the Messiah, and the inauguration of the kingdom of God. It never happened.”
“The expectation of Paul and the other New Testament authors was for the speedy arrival of the second coming in their generation. The use of “for yet a little while,” “shortly,” “the time is near,” and “I am coming quickly” point to the utter failure of the predictions that Jesus was coming a second time to do what he did not accomplish the first time.”
“There was to be fulfillment within the lifetimes of certain individuals alive at the time Jesus made the promise and following upon certain cataclysmic events which were to be witnessed by that generation. These events never occurred and the time for their occurrence has long since passed.”
“The second epistle of Peter is a late attempt to explain away the obvious fact that the second coming did not arrive at its appointed time.”
“It should be noted that these “tribulations” were not fulfilled in the events of the years 66-73 C.E., the period of the First Jewish-Roman War. Jesus’ own statement shows that the culmination of the “tribulation period” was to see the parousia, the second coming of Jesus (Mark 13:26; Matthew 24:3, 30), which certainly did not occur during the war nor subsequently.”
Aryeh Kaplan (1973)
“The main task of the Messiah was to bring the world back to G-d, and to abolish all war, suffering and injustice from the world. Clearly, Jesus did not accomplish this. In order to get around this failure on the part of Jesus, Christians invented the doctrine of the “Second Coming.” ..All the prophecies that Jesus did not fulfill the first time are supposed to be taken care of the second time around. However, the Jewish Bible offers absolutely no evidence to support the Christian doctrine of a “Second Coming.” [Orthodox Rabbi from “Jesus and the Bible,” in The Real Messiah (reprinted from Jewish Youth, June 1973 Tammuz 5733, No. 40), 57.)]
Joseph Klausner (1925)
“This two-fold misapprehension of Jesus — the nearness of the kingdom of heaven and his Messiahship – perpetuated his memory and created Christianity. Had not the disciples expected his second coming Christianity could never have come into being: even as a Jewish sect.. The Jews as a whole could not, however, follow after a belief based on so slight a foundation.. Yet again, through the preaching of his messianic claims, after he had failed to manifest himself to the world again, in his power and glory, he became, in spite of himself, a “sacrifice,” a “ransom for many.” [Jesus of Nazareth: His Life, Times, and Teaching (New York: Macmillen, 1925),405]
Samuel Levine (1980)
“The success of the Christian claim or its failure rests to a very large extent on the theory of the second coming.. The Jews never had the concept of a second coming, and since it was the Jews themselves who first taught the notion of a Messiah, via the Jewish prophets, it seems quite reasonable to respect their opinion more than anyone else’s.. the theory of the second coming is not based on Jewish tradition or sources, and is a theory born from desperation.” [You Take Jesus, I’ll Take God: How to Refute Christian Missionaries (Los Angeles: Hamoroh Press, 1980), 15, 23, 49.]
“You will discover that whenever any really strong question [such as why Jesus hasn’t fulfilled all Messianic prophecies].. is asked [of the Christians], the standard answer is that is refers to the second coming. It therefore becomes extremely important to ascertain the validity of this claim. The success of the Christian claim or its failure rests to a very large extent on the theory of the second coming. ..It is clearly an answer born of desperation.” (Samuel Levine. You Take Jesus, I’ll Take God. 1980, p.15)
“..most of the early Christians thought.. that Jesus would return within their own lifetime. ..However, after many went by, and the generation that lived in Jesus’ generation had all died, it became rather apparent that Jesus would not reappear in the near future. The doctrine was therefore changed so that his reappearing was not necessarily going to be in the near future.” (Levine, p. 16)
John P. Meier
“And he said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power [en dunamei]’.” – Mark 9:1 (Matthew 16:28 // Luke 9:27)
“(This saying was) most likely…produced by early Christians who sought to reassure themselves of Christ’s coming in glory as the years passed by with no parousia in sight.” (John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew – Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 2.)
Prophets and Prophecy
“Jesus specifically told his disciples that he would return within their lifetimes. “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Paul also predicted that Jesus would return within their lifetimes.. So, we can see that Paul predicted an event that did not come about… Moses taught us that this is how we know that people like Paul were false prophets.”
“The parousia, the “second coming” of Jesus, provided an explanation for the failure of an individual that some people professed to be the “messiah.” It allowed his followers to continue to believe in his mission and of the mission of others after him. Predictions and descriptions of doomsday abound, as do the revisions of timetables once the predicted date has passed.”
Question: What does “this generation” mean in the verse, “Truly I say to you this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:32, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32)?
Answer: Mark’s Jesus, after listing all the tribulations that the world must endure before he returns a second time (Mark 13:3-29, see also Matthew 24:3-33) exclaims: “Truly I say to you this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Mark 13:30, Matthew 24:34, Luke 21:32). Jesus was directing this remark specifically to his contemporary generation and not to some unknown future generation. Jesus, addressing his disciples “privately” (Mark 13:3, Matthew 24:3) listed what was going to happen before his return. He then added, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you and you shall be hated of all nations for my names sake” (Matthew 24:9). Concerning this, Mark’s version adds, “he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved” (Mark 13:13). Thus, it appears from this last remark that at least some of the disciples would survive and be present to witness the second coming and the end of time.
According to Mark and Matthew, Jesus expected the tribulation period to occur before the last of his generation died out. Thus, a limit is given within which the prophecies are to be fulfilled. It should be noted that these “tribulations” were not fulfilled in the events of the years 66-73 C.E., the period of the First Jewish- Roman War. Jesus’ own statement shows that the culmination of the “tribulation period” was to see the parousia, the second coming of Jesus (Mark 13:26; Matthew 24:3, 30), which certainly did not occur during the war nor subsequently.
All of Jesus’ contemporaries died without seeing the fulfillment of his tribulation prophesy. As a result, Jesus’ words, especially the expression, “this generation” have undergone reinterpretation. Nevertheless, the translation of genea is “generation” or as Thayer explains it, giving Matthew 24:34 and Mark 13:30 as examples, “the whole multitude of men living at the time . . . used especially of the Jewish race living at one and the same period” (Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979, p. 112). G. Abbott-Smith writes that the Greek word genea means “race, stock, family,” but in the New Testament always “generation” (G. Abbott-Smith, Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, 2nd ed., Edinburgh: T.&T. Clarke, 1923, p. 89). Arndt and Gingrich note that the term means “literally, those descended from a common ancestor,” but “basically, the sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time, generation, contemporaries” (W.F. Arndt and F.W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957, p. 153).
There is no need to interpret the verse, “Truly I say to you this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” otherwise than that Jesus was speaking here of his contemporary generation. The expression “this generation” appears fourteen times in the Gospels and always applies to Jesus’ contemporaries. That generation passed away without Jesus returning. Therefore, we are confronted by another unfulfilled promise by Jesus. Jesus did not return during the period he himself specifically designated. Some commentators are of the opinion that “this generation” means the generation alive when this prophecy comes to pass, which they believe has yet to occur. However, the text shows that Jesus was not speaking to an unspecified future generation; he was speaking to his contemporary disciples and directed this prophecy to them personally. ” (Jews for Judaism)
Pinchas Stolper (1973)
“The idea of a second coming is a pure rationalization of Jesus’ failure to function in any way as a Messiah, or to fulfill any of the prophecies of the Torah or the Prophets. The idea is purely a Christian invention, with no foundation in the Bible.” [Orthodox Rabbi writing “Was Jesus the Messiah Let’s Examine the Facts,” in The Real Messiah (reprinted from Jewish Youth, June 1973 Tammuz 5733, No. 40), 46-47.)]
Rachel Zurer (1985)
“to spend almost two millennia trying to justify a pagan mythology, a mistaken messiah belief, and a mistaken eschatology stupefies the rational mind.” (Rachel Zurer, A Jew Examines Christianity. 1985, p.162)
“Will there ever be an end to all our ceaseless talk about the delay of the Parousia? How can the coming of that which does not enter in ever be delayed? The End of which the New Testament speaks is no temporal event… What delays its coming is not the Parousia, but our awakening…” (Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, pp.500-501)
Rudolph Bultmann (1957)
“The problem of Eschatology grew out of the fact that the expected end of the world failed to arrive, that the ‘Son of man’ did not appear in the clouds of heaven, that history went on, and that the eschatological community could not fail to recognize that it had become historical phenomenon and that the Christian faith had taken on the shape of a new religion.” (History and Eschatology: the Presence of Eternity, p. 38)
“The mythical eschatology is untenable for the simple reason that the parousia of Christ never took place as the New Testament expected.. (Kerygma and Myth , p.5)
R.H. Charles (1898-99)
“We conclude, therefore, that according to the teaching of Christ, the parousia was to be within the current generation. We must, accordingly, admit that this expectation of Christ was falsified. But the error is not material.” (Eschatology: A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life, Jowett Lectures, Wipf and Stock, p. 387)
W. R. Greg (1876)
“If, therefore, Jesus did not say these things, the gospels must be strangely inaccurate. If He did, His prophetic faculty cannot have been what Mr. Hutton conceives it to have been. That His disciples all confidently entertained this erroneous expectation, and entertained it on the supposed authority of their Master, there can he no doubt whatever. (See 1 Cor. x. 11, xv. 51 ; Phil. iv. 5 ; I Thess. iv. 15 ; James v. 8 ; I Peter iv. 7; 1 John ii. 18 ; Rev. i. 13, xxii. 7, 10, 12.) Indeed, Mr. Hutton recognises this at least as frankly and fully as we have stated it.”- (Contemporary Review, Nov. 1876.)
Bertrand Russell (1927)
“I am concerned with Christ as He appears in the Gospels, taking the gospel narrative as it stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, He certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance, “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come.” Then He says, “There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom”; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching.. In that respect, clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and He was certainly not superlatively wise.” (Bertrand Russell, Why I am not a Christian, 1927, p.3)
Albert Schweitzer (1961)
“The whole history of ‘Christianity’ down to the present day, that is to say, the real inner history of it, is based upon the delay of the Parousia, the non-occurrence of the Parousia, the abandonment of eschatology, the process and completion of the ‘de-eschatologising’ of religion which has been connected therewith. It should be noted that the non-fulfillment of Matt. 10:23 is the first postponement of the Parousia.” (The Quest of the Historical Jesus, p. 360)
Arthur Conan Doyle (1919)
Then comes prophecy, which is a real and yet a fitful and often delusive form of mediumship — never so delusive as among the early Christians, who seem all to have mistaken the approaching fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, which they could dimly see, as being the end of the world. This mistake is repeated so often and so clearly that it is really not honest to ignore or deny it.” (The Vital Message, p.118)
William Floyd (1932)
“Jesus was decidedly mistaken in his theory of the approaching end of the world.
“Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. [Matt. iv, 17.] “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” [Matt X, 23.] “There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” [Matt. xvi, 28; Mark ix, 1.] “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come … Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” [Matt. xxiv, 74-34; Luke xxi, 32.] “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” [Mark i, 15.] “So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.” [“Mark xiii, 29-30.] “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” [‘John v, 28-29.]
Jesus was confident that the day of judgment was coming in the first century, but it has not come yet, nineteen hundred years later. This erroneous belief in the imminent end of the world had an important bearing upon his entire philosophy; for if the end of the world was so near it was far more important to prepare for life hereafter than to be concerned over mundane affairs. May we not view with doubt any of Jesus’ teachings that depended upon his mistaken conception of the duration of the world?” (The Mistakes of Jesus, #17)
Edward Gibbon (1776)
“In the primitive church, the influence of truth was very powerfully strengthened by an opinion, which, however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity, has not been found agreeable to experience. It was universally believed, that the end of the world, and the kingdom of heaven, were at hand. The near approach of this wonderful event had been predicted by the apostles; the tradition of it was preserved by their earliest disciples, and those who understood in their literal senses the discourse of Christ himself, were obliged to expect the second and glorious coming of the Son of Man in the clouds, before that generation was totally extinguished, which had beheld his humble condition upon earth, and which might still be witness of the calamities of the Jews under Vespasian or Hadrian. The revolution of seventeen centuries has instructed us not to press too closely the mysterious language of prophecy and revelation; but as long as, for wise purposes, this error was permitted to subsist in the Church, it was productive of the most salutary effects on the faith and practice of Christians, who lived in the awful expectation of that moment when the globe itself and all the various races of mankind should tremble at the appearance of their divine Judge.” (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. I, p. 470-71)
“If (Jesus) believed and taught that (i.e. his speedy return), then assuredly he was under an illusion, and he is responsible for that which the mere effluxion of time has demonstrated to be a prodigious error” (Collected Essays, vol. v. p. 303)
“We find it very evident that our Lord is recorded by his Historians, Matthew, Mark (xiii. 30.), and Luke, to have declared, that his second comingwas one of those events which would happen during the lives of some of his Contemporaries. We find ourselves obliged to make this concession, and let Mr. Gibbon make every advantage of it that he can.” (Theological Repository, Vol. VI. p. 162)
C.S. Lewis (1960)
“Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.”
It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side….
The facts, then, are these: that Jesus professed himself (in some sense) ignorant, and within a moment showed that he really was so. To believe in the Incarnation, to believe that he is God, makes it hard to understand how he could be ignorant; but also makes it certain that, if he said he could be ignorant, then ignorant he could really be. For a God who can be ignorant is less baffling than a God who falsely professes ignorance. The answer of theologians is that the God-Man was omniscient as God, and ignorant as Man. This, no doubt, is true, though it cannot be imagined.” (Essay “The World’s Last Night” (1960), found in The Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 385)
Bertrand Russell (1957)
“Historically, it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about Him… For one thing, He certainly though that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at the time. There are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living… In that respect, clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and He was certainly not superlatively wise.” (Why I am not a Christian, 16,17)
“At first, the Christian community expected an imminent return of Christ .. This hope carried on in the second century. When the second coming failed to occur, the church organized itself as a permanent institution under the leadership of its bishops. This, however, did not stop the predictions of “the second coming” .. Muslims too believe in the second coming of Jesus (pbuh). However, Muslims are told that Jesus (pbuh) was not forsaken by God to the Jews to be killed, rather, he was raised by God and it was made to appear to those present that he was crucified (Jesus’ apostle Barnabus tells us that it was Judas the traitor who was taken to be crucified) [See : Qur’an 4:155-157]. Muslims are also told that he will not return to earth until just before the end of time, and not that he will return before the death of his own generation, as stated above.” [Answering Christianity.com “The Ultimate Test of Jesus: Jesus’ second coming and ‘grace.’]
Neal Robinson (1274)
“The first generation of Christians were convinced that Jesus would shortly return in glory. Despite the fact that this did not happen in their lifetime, the belief that he would return for the final judgment lingered on and became enshrined in the creeds. Throughout the history of the Church this belief has been the subject of renewed speculation during times of social and political upheaval… The Qur’an itself does not explicitly refer to Jesus’ return but the classical commentators detected allusions to it in 4:159 and 43:61 and occasionally elsewhere.” [Christ in Islam and Christianity (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 78.]
YUSUFALI: And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment he will be a witness against them;-
PICKTHAL: There is not one of the People of the Scripture but will believe in him before his death, and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them –
SHAKIR: And there is not one of the followers of the Book but most certainly believes in this before his death, and on the day of resurrection he (Isa) shall be a witness against them.
YUSUFALI: And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow ye Me: this is a Straight Way.
PICKTHAL: And lo! verily there is knowledge of the Hour. So doubt ye not concerning it, but follow Me. This is the right path.
SHAKIR: And most surely it is a knowledge of the hour, therefore have no doubt about it and follow me: this is the right path.
“The Lord’s return – has been postponed for the sake of Christians themselves.. it is only temporarily suspended. Therefore, and this is the warning of the Shepherd of Hermas . do good works for your purification, for if you delay too long, . you will not be included.”
(AD 150), Shepherd of Hermas
OTHER CHRISTIAN SOURCES
Thomas Aquinas (1274)
“This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world . . . and then shall the consummation come.” But the Gospel of Christ is already preached throughout the whole world: and yet the consummation has not yet come. Therefore the Gospel of Christ is not the Gospel of the kingdom, but another Gospel, that of the Holy Ghost, is to come yet, like unto another Law.” (Summa Theologica, vol. 2, 1292)
G.C. Berkower (1972)
“Consistent Eschatology sees the expectation of the coming of the Kingdom within the first generation of believers as the heart and soul of the early church. Clearly we cannot simply ignore this view of eschatology.. we are obligated to deal with the accented nearness of the Kingdom found in the New Testament. We read there that the end of all things is at hand; that the believer is to be sane and sober (1 Pet. 4:7); that the Lord is at hand (Phil. 4:5); that the judge is standing at the door (James 5:8,9); that the time is near (Rev. 1:3). These passages have constantly presented problems for New Testament preaching. What does the New Testament mean by the last days, the last hour? What does it mean when it says that “the night is far gone, the day is at hand” (Rom. 13:12)? In what sense has the end of the ages come upon the community of believers (1 Cor. 10:11)? How are Paul’s words to be explained when he says that God will soon (en tachei) crush Satan (Rom 16:20)?” (The Return of Christ p. 82)
“Concerning the gifts of the promise, the letter to the Hebrews is unmistakably clear: “For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry’ (Heb. 10:37). This note of promise is the opposite of delay. But is this in fact not an affirmation of the thesis of consistent eschatology, which sees this brief time period in terms of the first generation as the central motif of the New Testament expectation?” (ibid. pp. 82, 82)
“Yet is it not reasonable to wonder whether consistent eschatology may not have had a point after all? Years, decades, and centuries have passed since the New Testament was written.” (ibid, p. 94)
“So we are face-to-face with the theme of the delay of the parousia, a theme that has been the concern of many twentieth-century scholars.” (p. 65)
“…the actual couse of history did not correspond to these repeated references to the nearness of the parousia.” (ibid. p. 83)
“Delay” does not mean cancellation, but simply implies that what is expected has been postponed until some future date. Still, a delay, particularly a long one, can raise serious doubts about the actual fulfillment… The whole direction of the Christian community has always been toward the future, based, not on some futuristic fantasy, but on the promise of the living God.” (The Return of Christ, p. 66)
Nils Alstrup Dahl (1977)
“Today, nineteen hundred years later, we know that the future did not unfold as Paul had hoped and expected. His journey to Jerusalem with the collection he had gathered did not excite the envy of his compatriots in the way he had hoped. Israel has not accepted Christ, the parousia has not yet occurred.” (Studies in Paul, p. 157)
Ernst Hengstenberg (1829)
‘If the Christians of the first centuries had foreseen that the second coming of Christ would not take place for eighteen hundred years, how much weaker an impression would this doctrine have made upon them than when they were expecting Him every hour, and were told to watch because He would come like a thief in the night, at an hour when they looked not for Him!’ (Hengstenberg, Christology, vol. iv. p. 443.)
House and Ice
“It is probably true that the disciples thought of the three events (the destruction of the temple, the second coming, and the end of the age) as one event. But as was almost always the case, they were wrong.” (House and Ice, Dominion Theology, p. 271)
“Needless to say, January 1, 1982, saw the defection of large numbers from the pretrib posi-tion. . . . Many who were once excited about the prospects of being caught up to heaven at any moment have become confused and disillusioned by the apparent failure of a generally accepted biblical interpretation they once relied upon. (Dave Hunt, What Happened to Heauen? (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1988), p. 68.)
“We are living “between the times” — the time of Christ’s resurrection and the new age of the Spirit, and the time of fulfillment in Christ. Life in the Spirit is a pledge, a “down-payment”, on the final kingdom of shalom. In the meantime, we are to be signs of the kingdom which is, and which is coming.”
W. G. Kummel (1957)
“Jesus does not only proclaim in quite general terms the future coming of the Kingdom of God, but also its imminence. What is more: on the one hand he emphasized this so concretely that he limited it to the lifetime of his hearers’ generation; yet on the other hand he only expected a part of them to live to experience this eschatological event; so he did not wish to limit its proximity too closely. It is perfectly clear that this prediction of Jesus was not realized and it is therefore impossible to assert that Jesus was not mistaken about this.” (Promise and Fulfillment, p. 148, 149)
Leon Morris (1984)
“They are surely wrong who affirm that Paul thought of the parousia as imminent in his early years, but that the idea faded in later life. Much later he still thought of the Lord’s coming as at hand (Phil. 4:5; cf. 1 Cor. 16:22).” (1 and 2 Thessalonians, MI: Eerdmans, 1984, p. 94)
Rom 13:11-12 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
“It is often claimed that the apostle, like other New Testament writers, expected the advent of Christ within a short time and that this expectation was reproduced in his teaching in the form of affirmation to that effect (cf. 1 Cor 7:29-31). Would not the events then prove that the apostle was mistaken not simply in his expectation but also in his teaching?”
“The answer to this question would appear to reside in two considerations. (1) The New Testament does teach that the day of the Lord is at hand (cf. Phil 4:5; James 5:8; 1 Pet 4:7; Rev. 22:10-12,20). This is not to be interpreted, however, in the sense of imminence in our sense of that word, Paul himself who gives expression to this thought of nearness found occasion to warn against the supposition of imminence.”
Francis William Newman (1874)
“2. The prophecies of the New Testament are not many. First, we have that of Jesus in Matt xxiv. concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. It is marvellously exact, down to the capture of the city and miserable enslavement of the population; but at this point it becomes clearly and hopelessly false: namely, it declares, that “_immediately after_ that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, &c. &c., and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect,” &c. This is a manifest description of the Great Day of Judgment: and the prophecy goes on to add: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” When we thus find a prediction to break down suddenly in the middle, we have the well-known mark of its earlier part being written after the event: and it becomes unreasonable to doubt that the detailed annunciations of this 24th chapter of Matthew, were first composed _very soon after_ the war of Titus, and never came from the lips of Jesus at all. Next: we have the prophecies of the Apocalypse. Not one of these can be interpreted certainly of any human affairs, except one in the 17th chapter, which the writer himself has explained to apply to the emperors of Rome: and that is proved false by the event.–Farther, we have Paul’s prophecies concerning the apostacy of the Christian Church. These are very striking, as they indicate his deep insight into the moral tendencies of the community in which he moved. They are high testimonies to the prophetic soul of Paul; and as such, I cannot have any desire to weaken their force. But there is nothing in them that can establish the theory of supernaturalism, in the face of his great mistake as to the speedy return of Christ from heaven.” (Phases of Faith, 3:2)
Porphyry of Tyre (A.D.280)
“Another of his astonishingly silly comments needs to be examined: I mean that wise saying of his, to the effect that, We who are alive and persevere shall not precede those who are asleep when the lord comes- for the lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout… and the trumpet of god shall sound, and those who have died in Christ shall rise first- then we who are alive shall be caught up together with them in a cloud to meet the lord in the air… Indeed– there is something here that reaches up to heaven: the magnitude of this lie. When told to dumb bears, to silly frogs and geese– they bellow or croak or quack with delight to hear of the bodies of men flying through the air like birds or being carried about on the clouds. This belief is quackery of the first rate.” (Porphyry‘s Against the Christians, A.D.280)
‘For ages the world’s hope has been the second advent. The early church expected it in their own day,—”We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord.” The Saviour Himself had said, “This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.” Yet the Son of man has never come. In the first centuries the early Christians believed that the millennial advent was close; they heard the warning of the apostle, brief and sharp, “The time is short.” Now, suppose that instead of this they had seen all the dreary page of church history unrolled; suppose that they had known that after two thousand years the world would have scarcely spelled out three letters of the meaning of Christianity, where would have been those gigantic efforts, that life spent as on the very brink of eternity, which characterize the days of the early church?” (Sermon on the Illusiveness of Life.)
H. J. Schoeps (1961)
“It is undeniable that Paul, with the whole of primitive Christianity, erred about the imminently expected parousia.” (The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of jewish Religious History, p. 46)
Scofield Reference Bible
“When Christ appeared to the Jewish people, the next thing in the order of revelation as it then stood should have been the setting up of the Davidic kingdom” (Scofield Reference Bible)
“In seminary I was exposed daily to critical theories espoused by my professors regarding the Scriptures. What stands out in my memory of those days is the heavy emphasis on biblical texts regarding the return of Christ, which were constantly cited as examples of errors in the New Testament and proof that the text had been edited to accommodate the crisis in the early church caused by the so-called parousia-delay of Jesus.” (The Last Days According to Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Books, 1998) 14-15. )
“While partial preterists acknowledge that in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70 there was a parousia, or coming of Christ, they maintain that it was not the parousia.” (The Last Days (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998, 158.)
“Not only did Jesus, according to the evangelical accounts, predict that he should return to life three days after his death; but also that at a later period, in the midst of the calamities which would issue in the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, he should come in the clouds of heaven, to close the present period of the world, and by a general judgment, open the future age (Matt. xxiv. and xxv. ; Mark. xiii. ; Luke xvii. 22-37, xxi. 5-36).
A nearer presage of this catastrophe would be the fulfilment of the oracle of Daniel (ix 27), the standing of the abomination of desolation in the holy place (according to Luke xxi 20, the encompassing of Jerusalem with armies) When this should take place, it would be high time for the most precipitate flight (according to Luke, because the devastation of Jerusalem would be at hand, an event which he more nearly particularizes in the address of Jesus to the city, xix. 43 1.: thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another). At this juncture, all who should have hindrances to rapid departure would be deserving of compassion, and it would be in the highest degree desirable that the recommended flight should not fall in an unfavourable season; for then would commence unexampled tribulation (according to Luke, v. 24, consisting chiefly in many of the people of Israel perishing by the sword, in others being carried away captive, and in Jerusalem being trodden down of the Gentiles for a predetermined period): a tribulation which only the merciful abridgment of its duration by God, for the sake of the elect, could render supportable (v.15—22). At this time would arise false prophets and Messiahs, seeking to delude by miracles and signs, and promising to show the Messiah in this or that place: whereas a Messiah who was concealed anywhere, and must be sought out, could not be the true one; for his advent would be like the lightning, a sudden and universal revelation, of which the central point would be Jerusalem, the object of punishment on account of its sin (v. 2 3—28). Immediately after this time of tribulation, the darkening of the sun and moon, the falling of the stars, and the shaking of all the powers of heaven would usher in the appearance of the Messiah, who, to the dismay of the dwellers on the earth, would come with great glory in the clouds of heaven, and immediately send forth his angels to gather together his elect from all the corners of the earth (v. 29—3 1). By the fore-named signs the approach of the described catastrophe would be as certainly discernible as the approach of summer by the budding of the fig-tree; the existing generation would, by all that was true, live to witness it, though its more precise period was known to God only (v. 32—36). “
Thus in these discourses Jesus announces that shortly (euqewV, XXIV. 29), after that calamity, which (especially according to the representation in Luke’s gospel) we must identify with the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, and within the term of the cotemporary generation (h genea auth,V. 34), he would visibly make his second advent in the clouds, and terminate the existing dispensation. Now as it will soon be eighteen centuries since the destruction of Jerusalem, and an equally long period since the generation cotemporary with Jesus disappeared from the earth, while his visible return and the end of the world which he associated with it, have not taken place: the announcement of Jesus appears so far to have been erroneous. Already in the first age of Christianity, when the return of Christ was delayed longer than had been anticipated, there arose, according to 2Peter iii. 3 f., scoffers, asking: where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. In modern times, the inference which may apparently be drawn from the above consideration, to the disadvantage of Jesus and the apostles, has been by no one more pointedly expressed than by the Wolfenbüttel Fragmentist. No promise throughout the whole scriptures, he thinks, is on the one hand more definitely expressed, and on the other, has turned out more flagrantly false, than this, which yet forms one of the main pillars of Christianity.
Some of the Fathers of the Church, as Irenæus and Hilary—yet living in the primitive expectation of the return of Christ, and at the same time not so practised in regular exegesis, as to be incapable of overlooking certain difficulties attendant on a desirable interpretation—referred the entire prediction, from its commencement in Matt. xxiv. to its end in Matt. xxv., to the still future return of Christ to judgment.† But as this interpretation admits that Jesus in the commencement of his discourse uses the destruction of Jerusalem as a type of the final catastrophe, it virtually nullifies itself. For what does that admission signify, but that the discourse of Jesus, in the first instance, produces the impression that he spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem, i.e. of something now past, and that only more extended reflection and combination can give it a relation to something still lying in futurity?
To modern rationalism, based as it was on naturalistic principles, the hope of the second advent of Christ was in every form annihilated. Hence, not scrupling at any exegetical violence for the sake of removing from scripture what was discordant with its preconceived system, it threw itself on the opposite side, and hazarded the attempt to refer the discourses in question, in their entire tenor, solely to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the events which immediately preceded and followed it.‡ According to this interpretation, the end spoken of is only the cessation of the Judeo-Gentile economy of the world; what is said of the advent of Christ in the clouds, is only a figurative description of the promulgation and triumph of his doctrine; the assembling of the nations to judgment, and the sending of some into blessedness, and others into condemnation, is an image of the happy consequences which would result from embracing the doctrine and cause of Jesus, and the evil consequences attendant on indifference or hostility to them. But in this explanation there is a want of similarity between the symbols and the ideas represented, which is not only unprecedented in itself; but particularly inconceivable in this case; since Jesus is here addressing minds of Jewish culture, and must therefore be aware that what he said of the Messiah’s advent in the clouds, of the judgment, and the end of the existing period of the world, would be understood in the most literal sense.
It thus appears that the discourse of Jesus will not as a whole, admit of being referred either to the destruction of the Jewish state, or to the events at the end of the world; it would therefore be necessarily referred to something distinct from both, if this twofold impossibility adhered alike to all its parts. But the case is not so; for while, on the one hand, what is said Matt. XXiV. 2, 3, 15 ff. of the devastation of the temple, cannot be referred to the end of the world: on the other hand, what is predicted XXV. 31 ff. of the judgment to be held by the Son of Man, will not suit the destruction of Jerusalem. As, according to this, in the earlier part of the discourse of Jesus, the destruction of Jerusalem is the predominant subject, but in the subsequent part, the end of all things: it is possible to make a division, so as to refer the former to the more proximate event, the latter to the more remote one. This is the middle path which has been taken by the majority of modern exegetists, and here the only question is: where is the partition to be made? As it must present a space of time within which the whole period from the destruction of Jerusalem to the last day may be supposed to fall, and which therefore would include many centuries, it must, one would think, be plainly indicated, so as to be easily and unanimously found. It is no good augury for the plan, that this unanimity does not exist,—that, on the contrary, the required division is made in widely different parts of the discourse of Jesus.” (Life of Jesus Critically Examined)
Robert Thomas (Premillennial Dispensationalist)
“Christ never returned to earth in A.D. 70 personally, so explaining the fall of Jerusalem as his coming violates the principle of literal interpretation. All contextual indications point to a literal and personal coming of Christ in that verse (Rev. 1:7). Gentry calls this a “judgment-coming” of Christ, but the criteria of Revelation also connect a deliverance of the faithful with that coming.” (“A Classical Dispensationalist View of Revelation,” in Four Views on the Book of Revelation, gen. ed. C. Marvin Pate, 225.)
Was All Bible Prophecy Fulfilled By A.D.70? – Dr. Larry Spargimino – “Even the Mark of the Beast is explained as a low – tech brand, used on slaves and animals. No microchip technology here! Christians need to be aware of those teachings that would turn “the blessed hope” into “the blasted hope.”
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
“The immediate effect of the death of Christ is not the remission of sins, or the actual redemption of any.”
“A potential and conditionate reconciliation, not actual and absolute, is obtained by the death of Christ.”
G.E. Ladd (1974)
“The present ambiguity of the new life in Christ demands the return of Christ to complete the work of redemption already begun. The central theme of Pauline eschatology is the consummation of God’s saving purpose. Apart from the return of Christ and the inauguration of the Age to Come, God’s saving work remains unfinished.” (A Theology of the New Testament, p.552)
Richard Longnecker (1971)
“Though the historical achievement of Jesus is a finished work, its application is progressive and its climax will be reached only in the second coming of Christ… the full realization of his sonship and the consummation of God’s redemptive plan awaits the parousia. For this Paul expectantly waits, joining in the Christian prayer: ‘Our Lord, come!” (The Ministry and Message of Paul, p.104)
John McArthur (1988)
“Real salvation is not only justification. It cannot be isolated from regeneration, sanctification and, ultimately, glorification. Salvation is an ongoing process as much as it is a past event. It is the work of God through which we are “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29, cf. Romans 13:11). Genuine assurance comes from seeing the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in one’s life, not from clinging to the memory of some experience.” (The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 23).
Pate and Haines (1998)
“Thus it can be argued that the messianic woes (wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution, apostasy, cosmic disturbances) are perceived by a number of New Testament authors as having begun in Jesus’ generation. This is the ‘already’ aspect of eschatology.. We do not mean to suggest, however, that the messianic woes were fully exhausted by the incidents on the first century. Their full significance and occurrence is still forthcoming and will ultimately lead to His return.” (C. Marvin Pate and Calvin B. Haines, Doomsday Delusions: What’s Wrong with Predictions About the End of the World Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995, p.36.)
Richard L. Mayhue
“These preterist brothers appear to have missed, or at least undervalued, Peter’s reminder that in the days prior to A. D. 70 there also were scoffers similar to Russell and Schweitzer. Instead of foretelling the events of A.D. 70, just a few short years away, Peter writes to wait in faith, all will eventually happen in God’s timing which is not like man’s time (2 Pet. 3:3-4, 8-9). No particular eschatological system is to be validated or elevated because it necessarily attempts to answer one line of objections from the skeptics regarding NT time-reference indicators.” (quoted by Dennis Swanson, Reformation or Retrogression?)
Guy N. Woods (1974)
“What end? The consummation of the age, and the judgment day, so many commentators contend; and to the objection that these matters were not at hand when Peter wrote, two thousand years having elapsed, and the end not yet, it is alleged that Peter, in common with all the apostles, held, and here gives expression to the erroneous view that the return of Christ was, at the time he wrote, imminent and pending and would occur in his lifetime!” (A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, TN: Gospel Advocate, 1974, p. 111)
THE COMPLETION (FULLNESS) OF REDEMPTION
St. Athanasius (296-372)
“When therefore the servants of the Chief Priests and the Scribes saw these things, and heard from Jesus, “Whosoever is athirst, let him come to Me and drink” [John 7:371; they perceived that this was not a mere man like themselves, but that this was He Who gave water to the saints, and that it was He Who was announced by the prophet Isaiah. For He was truly the splendour of the light, and the Word of God. And thus as a river from the fountain He gave drink also of old to Paradise; but now to all men He gives the same gift of the Spirit, and says, “If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink. Whosoever believeth on Me, as saith the Scripture, rivers of living water shall flow out of his belly” [John 7:37-381. This was not for man to say, but for the living God, Who truly vouchsafes life, and gives the Holy Spirit.” (Letters [xliv])
“We will begin, then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation; for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it at first.” (St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation )
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who took upon Him to die for all, stretched forth His hands, not somewhere on the earth beneath, but in the air itself, in order that the Salvation effected by the cross might be shown to all men everywhere: destroying the devil who was working in the air: and that He might consecrate our road up to Heaven, and make it free.” (St. Athanasius, Letters [xxii])
St. Gregory the Wonderworker
“And if any one believes not that death is abolished, that Hades is trodden under foot, that the chains thereof are broken, that the tyrant is bound, let him look on the martyrs deporting themselves in the presence of death, and taking up the jubilant strain of the victory of Christ. O the marvel! Since the hour when Christ despoiled Hades, men have danced in triumph over death. `O death, were is thy sting! O grave, where is thy victory?’ (Sermon the All the Saints.)
Kontakia of Romanos
“Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen! Suddenly the bodies of the dead became animated; they were resurrected, and they trampled on Hades, Crying out, ‘O unjust one, where is thy victory and Death, where is thy sting?’ Suddenly all of the tombs were opened of themselves And all of the dead were released from them and formed a chorus;
And an angel coming down rolled the stone from the tomb of the Savior. ‘O Lord, Master, Thou hast opened the tombs At a command, not needing anyone. How is it then that Thou hast need of someone To roll away the stone from Thy tomb? Thou, The Life and Resurrection.’” (On the Resurrection IV)
St. Leo the Great
Let us, then, dearly-beloved, confess what the blessed teacher of the nations, the Apostle Paul, confessed, saying, `Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ For God’s mercy towards us is the more wonderful that Christ died not for the righteous nor for the holy, but for the unrighteous and wicked; and though the nature of the Godhead could not sustain the sting of death, yet at His birth He took from us that which He might offer for us. For of old He threatened our death with the power of His death, saying, by the mouth of Hosea the prophet, `O death, I will be thy death, and I will be thy destruction, O Hades.’ For by dying He underwent the laws of Hades, but by rising again He broke them, and so destroyed the continuity of death as to make it temporal instead of eternal. `For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.’ (Sermons of St. Leo the Great.)
Theological Solution Leads to Preterism:
NIV Study Bible Notes (1985 Edition)
“The saying [Matthew 10:23] seems to teach that the gospel will continue to be preached to the Jews until Christ’s second coming.” (Matt 10:23)
NIV Study Bible Notes (1995 Edition)
Matthew 10:23: “Jesus’ saying here is probably best understood as referring to his coming in judgment on the Jews when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in A.D. 70.” (Matt 10:23)
Date: 29 Sep 2003
There is an implied condition concerning God’s promises of punishment: that if men repent then He will likewise and not carry forth on His promise to punish, thus leaving His promise unfulfilled. This could be what happened concerning His promise to consummate history in the 1st century. Men repented–at least the Gentile nations did–therefore God executed only part of His promise (the destruction of the Temple)and gave the world the “sign of Jonah” which He promised the Pharisees at the outset of Matthew 24.
Date: 29 Sep 2003
There is an implied condition concerning God’s promises of punishment: that if men repent then He will likewise and not carry forth on His promise to punish, thus leaving His promise unfulfilled. This could be what happened concerning His promise to consummate history in the 1st century. Men repented–at least the Gentile nations did–therefore God executed only part of His promise (the destruction of the Temple) and gave the world the “sign of Jonah” which He promised the Pharisees at the outset of Matthew 24.
Date: 30 Aug 2004
All that Elohim has spoken by His nevi’im has and will come to pass. We are now between the time of Yom HaShavuot and Yom Teruah in history and soon Messiah will come with the trumpet sounding and those who are His will rise up to meet Him! Read the Scriptures and you will find the Truth!
Date: 11 Feb 2006
Some on on here has predicted the end of the world this year actually, on the “Hal Lindsey” page. The last comment above mine on this page is already 2 years old. Interesting stuff, in any case… but it seems like the doomesday predictions are bound to failure! So this page is saying it all already happened. So are they Christians? Or do they think the Bible has errors in it that we can now overlook?
Date: 22 Sep 2006
i can see clearly the coming in the cloud is a coming of being seeted at the right hand side of the father untill he puts all his enemies under his feet. the religious systems of the world are his biggest enemies. Jesus Christ who did not spare the old system of worship and traditions how can he spare anything else. Jesus was right on with every word he said and was true and awake to fulfill every dot and word that was written. praise His Holy name.
Date: 02 Jun 2009
Is it possible that our Messiah is currently ruling, a physical and righteous Kingdom, upon New Earth this very day?
If that possibility *were* true then we would not see it until after we ourselves had passed over into that life.
If that possibility *were* true then the “now-but-not-yet” dilemma is only a matter of space, not time.
If Christ *is* currenly ruling (physically) upon New Earth, then His (spiritual) rulership now in our hearts is of paramount importance. Allowing Him to be Lord right now as we recline upon this Old Earth is the needed preparation for our amazing life to come.
Don’t befriend this Old Earth:
James 4:7-10 reads, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
And the GOOD News is at the moment we have rejected the evil ways of this world we can embrace the next world — even before we get there. But we need God’s help to do so:
Hebrews 11:6 reads, “…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Faith = belief + obedience
Everyone: claim your reward. It’s real. We cannot see it yet, but we hold a special place in faith history *because* we have not seen:
Jesus, speaking to Thomas, said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
Here is Jesus’ own words on the matter being discussed and His promise to send us help from the Holy Spirit to understand that which appears mysterious (John 16:7-13a, 15-16):
“…I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth…
“In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
-Leif Aaron, author of “Strange Bright World”
Date: 02 Sep 2009
The fulfillment of the prophecies of Jesus on the Mount of Olives is perfect and complete. If it was not, Jesus would be a false prophet and could not be our savior. Take His words for the truth that they are and the Bible will support every prediction He made. Where the Bible leaves off, history supports the remainder of the fulfillment.
I largely agree with Timothy James in the last article above. Each prophecy was fulfilled in the exact order that Jesus foretold it. The fulfillment is the best proof that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. The problem is that you have to want the truth to find it. This means you have to study the word of God and don’t be afraid to read the history of the A.D.70 period as well. I spent years doing this and feel I am well grounded in the truth of this matter. May God open the eyes of those who are blind to the truth.