The Lowdown on God's Showdown
Many evangelical Christians tremble with excitement at the thought that they are the "last generation" and "Jesus is due to return soon." Others are less excitable and propose that Jesus' "return" might still be far off. Neither view appears to be correct judging by the plain words of the New Testament - words that armies of theologians have spent centuries trying to divide up and "conquer," or in this case, "explain away." Let's examine some of those words to discover exactly what it is about them that requires mountains of ingenious explanations from Dispensationalists, Preterists, and other varieties of evangelical Christian apologists. Naturally, each has its "explanations," mountains of them, so unfortunately this paper can only provide a peek at the critical verses themselves, the verses that need "explaining" in order to fit them into this or that apologetic scheme and make the Bible "true" in all things. We shall begin with a peek at verses in the final book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, and then proceed backward in time to letters from the Apostles, and save for last the words allegedly spoken by Jesus.
The book of Revelation , the final book in the New Testament, begins:
The author addressed his letter to several churches in Asia Minor, circa 65-95 A.D., and continued:
And in the last chapter of Revelation the author repeated:
Compare the Old Testament book of Daniel, whose author was commanded to "seal up the book until the end of time":
Daniel was composed from the alleged point of view of a Jew living in ancient Persia who had visions of "the end of time," or, "the end of the age," when all men would "rise again" and be judged [12:2,13]. "Seal up the book," he was commanded, until the day of final judgment. But the author of Revelation was told, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book," adding that what is revealed therein "must shortly take place." The intent of the author of Revelation in alluding to the "non-sealing" of his book is obvious. The author of Revelation believed that he was living at the "end of time" which Daniel predicted, and that Jesus "must shortly" "come" and judge the world "quickly." (The fact that the book of Daniel first came to light - or shall we say was "unsealed" - relatively soon before Jesus' own day, is further evidence that people expected the world to be judged then.) Let us move on to the New Testament letters of the Apostles, beginning with a particularly obvious failed prediction in the letter of James:
The author of James sought to address the impatience of some at the delay of Jesus' return. He reassured them that the "the coming of the Lord is at hand," "the Judge is standing right at the door." And consider these passages from the letter to the Hebrews:
Notice the statement, above, that "...He [Jesus] would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." "At the consummation" can also be translated, "at the end of the age." And Jesus, according to the gospel of Matthew, informed his listeners exactly what "the end of the age" referred to:
Did the apostle Paul make equally blatant predictions of Jesus' imminent return? Let us look at what he wrote to the believers at Corinth:
Or consider what Paul wrote to the believers at Thessalonica:
Keep in mind to whom Paul wrote the above letters, and also that Paul claimed that he was repeating a "word" that he had received directly from "the Lord." What marvelous truth was revealed to Paul in this astonishing revelation? Namely, that "we" [the first century Christians who "remained alive" at the time this letter was written, including Paul, its author] "shall be caught up...in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air!" For Paul there was no doubt that Jesus would arrive before he and the believers he addressed would all be dead. "We," including himself, "shall not all sleep" [1 Cor 15:51]. Yet all of those to whom Paul once wrote, including Paul, now "sleep" - the "word of the Lord" notwithstanding. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul remained just as certain that Jesus would return shortly:
That is to say, Jesus would be revealed from heaven "with his mighty angles in flaming fire" soon enough to "relieve" the afflictions of the Thessalonians, and Paul, and other first century Christians! Compare Paul's expectation of supernatural judgment and "relief" with this prediction found in the letter of Jude:
Jude's message, like Paul's, and like the author of Revelation's was that Jesus would soon arrive, punish those who were afflicting the churches throughout the "world," and provide "relief" for steadfast believers. Or take these passages from Paul's letter to the believers at Philippi:
What about Paul's famous letter to the Christians at Rome?
The above verses demonstrate that no one has ever preached more explicitly that Jesus would return (even "must" return - Rev 1:1) in their lifetimes, than those "inspired" New Testament letter writers who addressed the churches throughout the Roman Empire in the first century A.D. Oddly enough, the fundamental meaning of the verses, pointed out above, is denied by "fundamentalist" Christians. They say that the authors of the letters to those first century churches could not have preached the erroneous message that Jesus' return was truly imminent. That would make the New Testament chock-full of "false prophets!" One attempt to divert attention from the false predictions we have examined is to say that despite the plain language they used, the apostles could not have predicted Jesus' return was so near, because even the apostles knew that certain things had to happen before before Jesus returned, and surely the New Testament authors recognized that those things had not yet occurred in their lifetimes, or in the first century. Therefore, they could not have truly believed nor predicted that Jesus' return was imminent." To which I would respond, "Au contraire! Those things, according to the New Testament authors, had already occurred in their lifetimes. The Bible tells us so." What "things" had to occur before Christ could return?
1) The Gospel had to be preached to the "whole world." But Paul, and the author of Revelation, agreed that the gospel had already been preached to "the whole world," i.e., the Roman Empire, from Spain to Jerusalem.  Therefore nothing prevented Jesus from returning "shortly":
2) The Anti-Christ must first be revealed. But Paul and the author of the Johannine letters taught:
How contemporary Christian evangelists and evangelical scholars can interpret the "last hour" as "2000 years hence" is beyond me. Maybe we should all chip in and mail such evangelists new watches. Speaking of feeble attempts to explain Jesus' delay, one often cited is found in 2nd Peter. That such an attempt was made at all in a late-dated letter that someone chose to compose in the name of an apostle, demonstrates to what lengths the church felt it had to resort in order to save face. But before examining the excuse for Jesus' delay in 2nd Peter it is important to point out the unequivocal words predicting the nearness of the end found in the previous letter, 1st Peter:
Then in 2nd Peter 3:8 a feeble attempt is made to explain Jesus' delay by stating:
Such a late attempt to make excuses for Jesus' delay is an obvious failure. It makes a mockery of all the clear predictions made by earlier authors in the New Testament. Indeed, it is like saying that when God "inspired" the biblical authors to say they were living in the "last hour," or in the "last days," or when He inspired the author of Hebrews to write that it was only a "very little while" before the "Son of Man" would "come," God really meant "hours" and "days" and "very little whiles" that were "thousands" of years long. In other words, it implies that God was unable to put words into the minds of his earlier prophets that meant what He fundamentally intended them to mean, and had to cover His tracks at a later date (i.e., in a late-dated letter) by redefining a host of words. The excuse offered by the author of 2nd Peter even contradicted the predictions in 1st Peter that "the glory is soon to be revealed," and the "end of all things is at hand." Moreover, even the author of 2nd Peter did not suspect that the end was very far off, certainly he did not imagine it to be as far as 2000 years in the future, for he also wrote:
And he added:
Note that this applied to "mockers" who were disturbing the faithful at the time 2nd Peter was written, circa 130 A.D.! "For when they [note the use of the present tense] maintain this, it escapes their notice..." [2 Pet 3:5]. Obviously these "mockers" were asking, "Where is the promise of his coming," because the earliest Christians like Paul and James and the authors of the Johannine letters, and the author of Hebrews, and the author of Revelation all predicted the very soon return of Jesus in final judgment of the whole world. By the time 2nd Peter was written, these "fathers" had all "fallen asleep," including, one might add, Peter himself, the alleged author of this very late letter. So somebody in the church took it upon themselves to write (or should I say, felt inspired by God to make up excuses) a pseudonymous letter attributed to Peter and supposedly written before his death, as a last ditch effort to counter such "mockery." But it is this letter and the false predictions found in the New Testament which mock themselves. The author of the letter of Jude (a letter composed even later than the pseudonymous 2nd Peter) reproduced the above passage from 2 Peter to illustrate that the end could not be far off, since "mockers" were plaguing the church in his day with this very same question!
Thus, the authors of both Jude and 2nd Peter agreed that they were addressing mockers then plaguing the church. The "last times" for the authors of 2 Peter and Jude were their own - in the second century A.D.
Now let's skip back in time to hear what John the Baptist had to say about how near the end was. Before Jesus began a ministry of his own, John the Baptist expected the end to arrive very soon.  He preached:
Jesus picked up where John the Baptist left off. Jesus' disciples were instructed by their master to make a lightning-fast preaching tour, taking no money, extra tunics, nor staff, and to preach, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" [Matt 10:7]. Echoing the Baptist's fiery illustrations, Jesus added:
Notice that Jesus, according to the above verses, is speaking of inaugurating the same "tribulation" that he predicted would immediately precede judgment day! Jesus is of course, the "missing link" connecting the Baptist's "last generation" predictions with Paul's. In fact, in the same section of Matthew that speaks of Jesus instructing "the twelve" on their lightning-fast mission to preach "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" there also appears a verse predicting the "Son of Man" was going to "come" soon:
Other verses in Matthew are equally explicit as to the nearness of the "coming" of the "Son of Man":
The Markan version of this saying reads:
The noted translator and editor of apocalyptic literature, professor James H. Charlesworth, elucidated:
Not only did Jesus, according to the gospel accounts, predict that the Son of Man would "come in power" before "some standing" there had "tasted death;" but he also predicted that the "Son of Man would come" to "gather his elect from the four winds" before "this generation," meaning Jesus' own, had "passed away," which coincides perfectly with his former statement. What were the circumstances of this prediction? According to Matthew, chapter 24 [see also Mark 13 and Luke 21] Jesus predicted that the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed. Whereupon his disciples asked him:
Jesus then laid out a number of events and signs, like false Christs arising, wars, earthquakes, famines [Luke added "pestilences" and "terrors and great signs from heaven"]; his followers would be persecuted and brought before kings and governors; the gospel would be preached to the whole world; a "desolating sacrilege" would be set up "in the holy place" [Instead of mentioning that "sacrilege," Luke substituted: "you will see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand"]; followed by a time of great tribulation when people in Judea should flee to the mountains; a time of tribulation so great that if it were not ended "no human being would be saved" [Luke alone adds, "great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people (the Jews)," they will fall by the sword, and be lead away as captives to "all the nations," and "Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."] ; then Jesus warned of "false Christs and false prophets" [plural, as opposed to a singular "anti-Christ"]; and pointed out how unmistakable the coming of the Son of Man would be ["as the lightning shines from the east to the west, lighting up the sky from one side to the other" Mat & Lk].  Jesus added that "immediately" [Mat 24:29] after this time of tribulation the sun and moon would darken; stars would fall from heaven; "they will see the Son of Man coming;" and his angels would "gather the elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven" [Luke adds, "when these things begin to take place (including Jerusalem's fall in 70 A.D.), look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near"]. Jesus then spoke of the fig tree (the budding of its leaves tells you summer is near), "when you see these things happening [Matthew says, 'all these things...'], recognize that He is near" [Luke substitutes, "recognize that the kingdom of God is near"]; Matthew & Mark add, "...at the door." Followed by the prediction:
I'll let David F. Strauss (1808-1874), the German philosopher and historian of religion, sum up the case thus far:
Christian apologists have tried to sub-divide the context of this prediction, making, "this generation will not pass away until all these things take place," refer only to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and not also to "the coming of the Son of Man." They ignore the fact that Jesus' "this generation" prediction is preceded in all three gospels by Jesus' discussion of the "coming of the Son of Man" and intimately linked with it, contextually. Such apologists also ignore that Jesus said, "all these things," and divert attention to Jesus' other saying (which appears a few verses after Jesus' long disproved prediction), that "no man knows the day or the hour." However, they forget that "days and hours" imply nearness in time. "Days and hours" lie within a "generation." As Strauss pointed out over a century ago:
Furthermore, having admitted that he did not know the precise "day or the hour," Jesus continued to address his listeners as though that "day or hour" could not be further than a mere "generation" away:
Definitely not a "day" or "hour" that was "two millenniums" from then! Compare Luke 21:36:
Obviously, Jesus included the "coming of the Son of Man" among "all these things that are about to take place."
As professor James D. Tabor explains:
A.J. Mattill Jr. adds, concerning an important verse in Matthew's end-time chapter:
To Dr. Mattill's argument may be added these observations of Dr. Strauss:
Another attempt to save face by Christian apologists is to reinterpret "this generation" as "that generation," i.e., to say that Jesus was addressing a much later generation, not his own. But, this explanation is also unacceptable. Jesus used the phrase "this generation" many times, unmistakably in reference to his contemporaries. It does not refer to people born two thousand years hence:
The final verse listed above is nearly identical to "Truly, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away until all these things take place," so there is no doubt which "generation" Jesus was addressing. As Christian theologian, Dewey M. Beegle, has reminded Hal Lindsey fans:
Even the evangelical Christian scholar, F. F. Bruce, admitted:
So, if words have any fundamental meaning at all, then the authors of the Gospels told their readers that Jesus predicted the world to end within a "generation" of his preaching. Besides which, people predicting "the end of the world" always complain loudly about the evils of their own generation, exactly as Jesus did in the many instances cited above!
Paul Johnson is a well known defender of orthodox Christianity whose works include A History of the Jews, A History of Christianity, The Intellectuals (which focused on a small number of "left wing intellectuals" well known for their sexual escapades - leaving out any with boring sex lives, and of course leaving out any discussion of the sex lives of prominent "right wing intellectuals" like himself, a self-admitted adulterer  ). Mr. Johnson is also the author of a little booklet in which he touted his faith in the historicity of the Gospels (a booklet popular with evangelical Christians). Yet even Johnson admitted:
C. S. Lewis, the evangelical Christian apologist, agreed that Jesus made a mistake in predicting that his generation would live to see the coming of the Son of Man in final judgment:
Christian theologian, Dewey M. Beegle, reached the same conclusion as Johnson and Lewis:
Of course if we admit Jesus to have been in error on a very important factual and doctrinal claim like the near end of the world, then we must at least potentially think twice about his other teachings. Matthew Tindal (1657?-1733) was a famous deist who published at the age of seventy-three the first volume of a critique of Christianity that took note of many of the same passages we have examined above. We may estimate the impact of Volume One from the 150 replies that sought to counter it, including those from Bishops Butler and Berkeley. Tindal's conclusion concerning this particular matter merits repeating:
If Jesus and his apostles, for whatever motives, were mistaken in a matter of this consequence, how could I be certain that any one of them may not be mistaken in any other matter? If they were not inspired in what they said in their writings concerning the then coming of Christ; how could they be inspired in those arguments they built on a foundation far from being so? 
How indeed? Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), a preacher's son who grew to become America's greatest freethinker, focused on a few of "those arguments they built on a foundation far from being so" when he wrote:
New Testament theologian, Robert M. Price, agrees with Ingersoll that Jesus' plea for "moral perfectionism" directly resulted from his mistaken belief that God's judgment day was imminent:
Most perfectionists are neurotics: was Jesus? Not if he predicated perfectionism as the only way to live due to the nearness of God's judgment day! Then it would seem feasible! 
So, exactly what is the lowdown on God's showdown? Is it that Jesus, the "false prophet," may not have been "neurotic" after all? No. The lowdown on God's showdown is that it never took place as predicted. And how likely is it to occur in our era, when the most "inspired" believers, living and writing in Jesus' era, including Jesus himself, were certain that it was going to occur in theirs? Believers in an inerrant Bible should wonder why the Bible's error's concerning this matter are so plainly visible. But then, as Arthur Koestler once pointed out, "Faith is a wondrous thing; it is not only capable of moving mountains, but also of making you believe that a herring is a race horse." Indeed, how can Christianity compete for world-wide approval against the host of faiths and non-faiths that now litter the earth, when its own holy book informs whomever reads it that the race to demonstrate the superior truth of Christianity ended 2000 years ago by Jesus' own admission?
 The New American Standard Bible will be the translation used throughout this article with the addition of A.J. Mattill Jr.'s translation of the Greek verb, mello [see note #3].
 Dei means "must," not "may." Dr. A.J. Mattill Jr., retired professor of New Testament at Winebrenner Theological Seminary, pointed out in his book, Luke and the Last Things (Dillsboro, NC: Western Carolina Press, 1979), pp. 152f, that dei was favored by apocalyptic writers. It stressed God's commitment to the plans He had revealed to them. Alas, such plans did not materialize "shortly" thereafter, as the author of Revelation predicted they "must."
 A.J. Mattill Jr. in The Art of Reading the Bible (Gordo, AL: The Flatwoods Free Press, 1988), p. 12, stated:
I made an exhaustive study of the Greek verb mello and found what is seldom recognized, and even seldomer proclaimed by preachers and professors, namely, that mello in the New Testament is used again and again to indicate the speedy coming of the end of the world: "Before long" God "will judge the world" (Acts 17:31); "before long there will be a resurrection" (Acts 24:15); "the age which is about to come" (Mat 12:32; Eph 1:21; Heb 6:5) to give a few examples. Needless to say, this imminent expectation failed to materialize.
The "exhaustive study" made by Dr. Mattil can be found in his book (mentioned in note #2), chapter 4, "'Before long' (Acts 17:31): The Imminent Expectation in Acts," pp. 41-54; and in his article, "Naherwartung, Fernerwartung, and the Purpose of Luke-Acts: Weymouth Reconsidered," published in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 3, July 1972, pp. 276-293. In personal correspondence, Dr. Mattill has also pointed out, "It's interesting to note that in the Jehovah's Witness interlinear Greek NT they translate mello in the interlinear as 'about to,' but then in the English text to the right ignore their own translation...that would appear to be their way of escaping the imminent hope as expressed by mello." No doubt other Bible translators employ the same mental gymnastics as the Jehovah's Witnesses."
 Notice the logic behind the author of Hebrews argument. Since continuous sinning, year after year ["since the foundation of the world"], required blood sacrifices "often," then God must have foreseen to it that Jesus' perfect sacrifice occurred at a time when Jesus would not need to suffer again, i.e., at a time when sinners would soon be judged, and thus sinning had ended, and no more sacrifices would be required. That time could only be at the "consummation [of the world]" or "end of the age." Thus he hoped to persuade his readers of God's wonderful plan in having Jesus sacrifice himself "in these last days," and that it was only a "very little while" before "he who is coming will come."
 Saint Augustine recognized and emphasized Paul's point. It was unmistakable. As Augustine put it:
For what else does the Apostle Paul exhort to, when he says, "I would that all were as myself [celibate];" or in that passage, "But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remains that both they who have wives, be as though not having [celibate]: and they who weep, as though not weeping: and they who rejoice, as though not rejoicing: and they who buy, as though not buying: and they who use this world as though they use it not. For the form of this world is passing away." (1 Cor. 7:7-8, 29-31) - Saint Augustine (c. 354-430), On the Good of Marriage, Sections 9-10
 Back then the Roman Empire was recognized as the "whole world," i.e., Lk 2:1, "Caeser took a census of the whole world," and Acts 11:28, "...a great famine all over the world...took place in the reign of Claudius." Naturally, this conception influenced the belief in how "soon" the Son of Man would return, since Jesus predicted: "...this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come." [Mat 24:14]. If the "whole world" according to the New Testament itself, referred to the Roman Empire, the "end" must have been expected very soon indeed! I wonder why God inspired the authors of the New Testament with such an archaic notion of the "whole world?" Even second century Christian fathers made the same identification of the Roman Empire with the "whole world." Irenaeus (125-202 A.D.), one of the earliest Fathers of the Church, wrote in his book, Revolution and Overthrow of False Knowledge (or Against Heresies), circa 180 A.D.:
Augustine was another Church Father who was aware of Paul's belief that the Gospel "had" already been preached to the "whole world." Paul wrote in Romans, "Their line has gone out through all the world, and their words to the ends of the earth." Augustine dwelt with great force on the fact that St. Paul based one of his most powerful arguments upon this declaration regarding the earliest preachers of the gospel (Rom. 10:18), and that, as those preachers did not go to the opposite side of the earth to preach the gospel, no people must exist there; hence those who believe such things, "give the lie direct to King David and to St. Paul, and therefore to the Holy Ghost." Thus the great bishop of Hippo taught the whole world for over a thousand years that, as there was no preaching of the gospel on the opposite side of the earth, there could be no human beings there. [A. D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, Vol. 1] If I may be forgiven for injecting levity there's a quotation by Mark Twain that also strikes me as relevant: "The Biblical prophets wrote book after book and epistle after epistle, yet never once hinted at the existence of a great continent on our side of the water; yet they must have known it was there, I should think." As for the argument that the apostles must have known that people existed beyond the boundaries of the "world" of the Roman Empire, yes, certainly, as "heathens" living outside of civilization (and for whom provision was made in Paul's letter to the Romans, chapters 1-2), so Rome remained the "whole world" to Paul who prayed that "the word" might spread "rapidly," from Jerusalem to Spain, before the day of final judgment.
 Notice how John's certainty that "it is the last hour" was strengthened by his awareness that not just one, by "many" antichrists "have arisen!" That's exactly what Jesus predicted [see Mat 24:4,23-25; Mk 13:5-6,21-23 & Lk 21:8], i.e., "many false Christs shall arise" right before the Son of Man comes!
 John the Baptist may of course, have picked up his message - that the end of the world was imminent - from the sect at Qumran, the book of Enoch, or even the book of Daniel, which had been "unsealed" prior to his day, and whose "unsealing," according to that book's author, presaged the world's final judgment.
 The belief in the nearness of Christ's coming is not in itself a reason to rush about the world preaching. That is only the result of the further belief that before the end, the world must first hear the Gospel. There is evidence that this second belief may have been a point of contention amongst Jesus' earliest followers. For instance, in the Gospels there are four discourses on the end-times preaching question: the three "little apocalypses" in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 24, Mark 13 & Luke 21), and the added "teeny-apocalypse" in Matthew 10, viz., the "sending of the 12." Matthew 10:17-23 depicts the same things happening as in Matt. 24:9-14, with one clear exception. In the first discourse, it is reported that Jesus told his disciples to avoid the Gentile and Samaritan cities, adding, "You shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes." While in the second discourse, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world ... and then the end shall come ... So shall the coming of the Son of Man be." This may reflect two views of the early church, some supporting the view only to go to the cities of Israel, others, to preach to the whole world. As we know, the "whole world" view prevailed. But the question remains whether it was Jesus' original view. It's also noteworthy that regardless of the resurrected Jesus' command (in Matt. & Mark) to "Go make disciples of all nations, or all creation," the apostles, according to Luke, did not rush off, but stayed in Jerusalem for years (Acts), which raises doubts as to them receiving such a command from Jesus. For example, when Jesus "sent the 12" on their preaching mission (the "teeny-apocalypse") they immediately went, no delay. How much more obligingly would they have followed the word of a resurrected Jesus if he had actually spoken them? Another clue in the Gospels regarding a possible controversy about whether or not to evangelize the "world" can be found in the "circumcision debates" between the earliest disciples. The first arise in Acts 11, which is presented as the first time the apostles and brethren became convinced "that the Gentiles also had received the word of God." Afterwards, "Peter came up to Jerusalem, [and] those who were circumcised took issue with him." After Peter related his experiences and visions, they agreed: "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life." Why neither Peter nor the others thought to simply quote the words of the resurrected Jesus (in the Gospel of Matthew) on this matter, and why Peter needed a special vision to confirm it, adds credence to the argument that the earliest Christians had not recorded Jesus as saying that the gospel "will, or must, be preached to all nations," and that they must "go make disciples of all the nations and all creation."
 The verses in Mark [8:39-9:1] are continuous. Chapter and verse divisions were late additions to the Bible. This prophecy was not fulfilled by the "transfiguration," which does follow it in both Matthew and Mark's gospels. Were the apostles so much nearer to "tasting death" when six days later, "some standing there" viewed the transfiguration? Such a "fulfillment" makes the prophecy appear puerile, trivial. Most likely, the prediction and the transfiguration appear in close order because the former informs gospel readers when the Son of Man will come to judge the earth (i.e., while some of the apostles were still alive), and the latter depicts who that soon-coming Son of Man will or should be (i.e., Jesus). Neither was the prophecy fulfilled by Pentecost, or the fall of Jerusalem (in 70 A.D.). At Pentecost, a mere year or two away, more than "some" of Jesus' hearers would still be alive, and Pentecost involved the coming of the Holy Spirit rather than the Son of Man with angels to judge mankind. Neither did the Son of Man "come" invisibly at the fall of Jerusalem to judge that city. Instead, Jesus described the "coming of the Son of Man" in a highly visible fashion: "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels...He will separate the sheep from the goats...one person will be taken, one left...as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be." [Mat 24:27,37-41; 25:31] Likewise, the Gospel of Luke also described the coming of the Son of Man in a fashion visible to the whole earth:
Thus there is no "fulfillment" of the prophesied "coming of the Son of Man" to be found in the transfiguration, Pentecost, or the fall of Jerusalem. Jesus predicted the Son of Man would come in a visible, earth shaking manner to judge mankind before "some" of his own apostles had "tasted death." Jesus, of course, never abandoned the idea that the Son of Man was coming soon. As late as his trial, he is portrayed declaring boldly to his accusers, "You shall see the Son of Man, coming on the right hand of power!"
 James H. Charlesworth, Jesus Within Judaism, Anchor Bible Reference Library (New York: Doubleday, 1988), p. 19.
 Mark 13:4 and Luke 21:7 simply have the disciples asking Jesus about "the sign" when "all these things will be," or, "when they are about to take place." There is no "and" in their questions, connecting what some Christian apologists say may be two separate questions. This is important to remember, since many Christian apologists attempt to split the disciple's question [in Mat 24:3] in half, thereby dividing Jesus' predictions in these end-times chapters into: 1) predictions related to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D., and 2) signs that can be used to predict when the Son of Man will come in power to judge the earth two thousand years later. Needless to say, such a dissection of Jesus' apocalyptic discourses (based only on Matthew's version of the disciples' question) does not take into consideration the beliefs and understanding of the audience to whom the discourse was originally addressed. As David F. Strauss pointed out in The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, chapter 115, "The Discourses of Jesus on His Second Advent. Criticism of the Different Interpretations":
 Luke 21:24. Does "the times of the Gentiles" refer to a lengthy period of time, perhaps thousands of years in the future? Dr. Mattill thinks not:
The word "times" (kairoi) also has richer overtones than mere chronological time (chronos). It can also mean "opportunity," "eschatological opportunity," "the time of crisis," the "last times." Hence the phrase, "the times of the Gentiles" would seem to refer to more than their allotted time to occupy Jerusalem. It would include the "eschatological opportunities" that the Gentiles have to accept the Gospel...Paul wrote: "Now is the acceptable time (kairos); behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2)...Kairos denotes the "season when God visits people with the offer of salvation."...Luke uses kairos in just such a way in his gospel, which stated that Israel did not know the "time" (kairos) of its visitation (Lk 19:44), that is, "the time when God came to save you" (Today's English Version) [So, Luke depicted both the "time (kairos) of Israel" and "times (kairoi) of the Gentiles!"]
[Also note that Luke displays in Acts his knowledge of Paul's mission to the Gentiles, and must have been familiar with Paul's idea that the stubbornness of the people of Israel is not permanent but will last only until the complete number of Gentiles come to God]:
["The times of the Gentiles" refers to the Gentiles' opportunity to hear the gospel, and it would be "fulfilled" once a certain number of Gentiles, known only to God, had been saved. Neither did Paul or Luke seem to assume that this "time" would exceed a "generation."] The Gentile mission was well on the way toward completion with Paul's arrival in Rome: "...the Good News...has been proclaimed in the whole creation under Heaven..." [Col 1:23 (Weymouth)]. Were Paul to preach longer in Rome, where "all meet from every quarter [of the earth]" (Irenaeus), or in Spain [Rom 15:24; 1 Clem 5:7], or elsewhere [Pastoral Epistles], and were others to continue their labors [Acts 11:20; 1 Clem 42:3-4], they would need all the encouragement and support possible from the churches to give all men everywhere opportunity to repent [Acts 17:30]. As his part in this evangelistic effort Luke wrote to insure that the world mission would be completed during the "times of the Gentiles" [Lk 21:24] to prepare the way for the "consolation of Israel" [Lk 2:25] and the "restoration of all things" [Acts 3:21]. [Keep in mind that for Luke and Paul, the Roman Empire constituted "the whole world"]...we conclude with an impressive group of critics that "Luke does not give a date, but his gospel agrees with Matthew and Mark that Jesus said, 'the present generation will live to see it all!' [Lk 21:32]" - A.J. Mattill, Jr., Luke and the Last Things, pp. 134-135,233.
 Evangelical apologists sometimes try to divert attention away from the verses that plainly predict the soon "coming of the Son of Man" by emphasizing the following section in Luke that states, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed":
The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed: nor will they say "Look here it is!" or "There it is!" For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst [or, sometimes translated, "the kingdom of God is within you"]. And he said to the disciples, The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it... [Lk 17:20-22]
Does this divert sufficient attention away from what Jesus said about the "Son of Man coming" before "some standing there" had "tasted death," or within a "generation?" No. That "the kingdom of God is in your midst" does not refute that soon "the Son of Man will be revealed" [Lk 17:30], you just have to read a little further in the same chapter to see that. Neither does the above passage indicate that the disciples would not live to see the Son of Man return. Nothing about their "death" is mentioned or even hinted at. It just says they will "long to see one of the days of the Son of Man," and, "not seeing it," or, not being able to see it, as they had yearned to, others will say to them, "Look here, Look there," trying to entice Christians to run after false prophets. Therefore it is a warning to "keep the faith" and wait for the unmistakable revealing of the true Son of Man. The section in Luke continues:
...And they will say to you "Look here! Look there!" Do not run after them. [Many false prophets will arise and mislead many. Mat 24:11 And if anyone says, "Behold, here is the Christ, or there," do not believe him, for false Christs will arise. Mark 13:21] For just as the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day...as it happened in the days of Noah...the flood came and destroyed them all...as happened in the days of Lot...it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed...one will be taken, and the other will be left. [Lk 17:23-35]
So, the passage in Luke is not a prediction that Jesus made to his disciples, telling them that they will not live to see the coming of the Son of Man, but rather, it is a warning to those who doubt they will, and go running off after "false Christ's!" "For just as the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day..." etc. And yes, the "kingdom of God" can refer to either an immediate reality or a future promise. It depends on whether or not the words "come," "near" or "at hand" are contextually related to the words, "kingdom of God." For instance, speaking of the future promise, there is the Lord's prayer, "Thy kingdom come..." Or, "I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes" [Lk 22:18]. Or, "When you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place" [Lk 21:31-32]. Or, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." Naturally, the same goes for the "Son of Man," which is simply a name or title for Jesus. But combine that name with the word, "coming," and the only thing it can refer to is a future promise - a failed promise, since the Son of Man did not "come" within the time he and his inspired disciples predicted he would.
 David F. Strauss, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, chapter 115, "The Discourses of Jesus on His Second Advent. Criticism of the Different Interpretations."
 James D. Tabor, "The Future," What the Bible Really Says, eds. Morton Smith and R. Joseph Hoffman (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1989), p. 48. And notice how Jesus' end-times discourses described events that could easily apply to his own era:
False prophets and false Christs?
What about Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8, and Bar Kochba, leader of a messianic revolt (132-135 A.D.)? See Richard Horsley and John Hanson's Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs: Popular Movements in the Time of Jesus (New York: Harpur & Row, Pub., Inc., 1985), and, Jacob Neusner, William Scott Green and Ernest S. Frerich, eds., Judaisms and their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era (Cambridge: 1988). And of course, the New Testament's own obvious statements such as Paul's that "the mystery of lawlessness is already at work," and 1 John's, that "many antichrists have arisen," i.e., in their generation.
Rumors of War and Wars?
"War," along with some of the other "signs" described, was a standard apocalyptic stage prop. And, there was a first revolt of Palestinian Jews against their Roman occupiers in A.D. 66-70 that preceded Rome's war against Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
They occur continually all over the world. But most occur, as expected, along the coasts of continents that border the Pacific Ocean - the "ring of fire" - and are due to huge tectonic plates underlying each continent, pressing and buckling against each other. This no doubt has little to do with prophecy. According to geological studies conducted since the first highly sensitive seismographic instruments were installed on the earth's surface around the beginning of this century, the sizes and intervals of quakes world-wide do not display any discernable pattern of increase or decrease. Even the folks at the Institute for Creation Research have agreed with that fact, as evidenced in their Impact pamphlet #198, "Earthquakes in These Last Days."
According to Luke, "...a great famine all over the world...took place in the reign of Claudius" [Acts 11:28], i.e., in Luke's own generation.
Persecution of Christians?
This occurred in Paul's generation too. He persecuted Christians. Stephen was stoned to death. Paul was also brought before magistrates and kings to give an account of his faith.
The World Wide Proclamation of Jesus' Message?
According to Paul and Luke the Roman Empire was the "whole world." Paul also wrote several times that the gospel "had" been preached to the "whole world," i.e., in his day.
So the "birth pangs" that Jesus (or the Gospel authors) claimed must occur first, before the end arrived, were already occurring, or had already occurred, in the days of the first Christians! Neither did any of the New Testament authors have any difficulty envisioning their own generation as the last, or predicting that the Son of Man would (or must) come soon.
 A.J. Mattill Jr., "A Zoo-Full of Monsters," The Journal of Faith and Thought (Montclair, N.J.: First Baptist Church of Montclair), Vol. 4, no. 1 (Spring 1986), p. 16.
 David F. Strauss, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, chapter 115, "The Discourses of Jesus on His Second Advent. Criticism of the Different Interpretations."
 Dewey M. Beegle, Prophecy and Prediction (Ann Arbor, MI: Pryor Pettengill, 1978), pp. 212-213.
 F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983), p. 227. Some Christian apologists point out that the word translated "generation" is derived from a Greek word whose root means "race." So, Jesus may have been saying that "this race" shall not pass away until all these things take place. But there is no point in Jesus addressing either the human race or the Jewish race since in neither case is there any hint in the Bible that either "race" may cease to exist before the end of the world. What point would there be in such a vague prediction? It would be like saying, "At some time in the indefinite future all these things will take place." It should also be noted that when the full word, not merely its root, is focused upon, Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament cites not a single instance where the word means, "race." And in the language that Jesus and his apostles were raised upon, Hebrew and Aramaic, there is not the least possibility of confusion between "generation" and "race." Lastly, as A.J. Mattill Jr. has ascertained:
Of the 38 appearances of the word in the New Testament all have the temporal meaning, primarily that of "contemporaries." Our check of every instance in the New Testament verifies Olshausen's contention that the word is not used once in the New Testament in the sense of "race." [A.J. Mattill Jr., Luke and the Last Things (Dillsboro, NC: Western Carolina Press, 1979), p. 100]
 British historian and conservative moralist Paul Johnson, whose recent essay on marriage to honor his 40th wedding anniversary so annoyed his mistress of 11 years that she ratted him out to British newspapers, admitted in a subsequent interview in London's Observer in May, "I've been having an affair, but I still believe in family values." -- News of the Weird
 Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity (New York: Atheneum, 1979), p. 38.
 C.S. Lewis, "The World's Last Night" in The World's Last Night and Other Essays (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1960).
 Beegle, pp. 131-132.
 Matthew Tindall, Christianity as Old as Creation, A Republication of the Religion of Nature, 1730. (Called "the deist's Bible") Reprinted by Garland Pub., Inc., N.Y.
 Robert Ingersoll, quoted in Ingersoll Attacks the Bible, ed., A.J. Mattill, Jr. (Gordo, AL: The Flatwoods Free Press, 1987), pp. 34-35.
 Robert M. Price, personal correspondence. Dr. Price has a Ph.D. in New Testament theology and another in New Testament history, and is the editor of The Journal of Higher Criticism, and the author of Beyond Born Again and Deconstructing Jesus.
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