Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Jesus is NOT coming soon--Part 1

Back in the 70s and early 80s I was very interested in eschatology and the End Times. There was the occasional sermon on the subject, I went to the seminars at our denomination's annual Youth conferences, and sometimes a guest speaker came in to our or a neighboring church and we'd go to hear him.

So I heard a lot from the book of Daniel about Nebuchadnezzar's dream, the horns, the mouthy horn, and from Revelation with its seals, horsemen, etc. Not to mention the Rapture, the Tribulation, Armegeddon, and the Millenium.

It was also very clear from the studies these men were doing that prophecies were coming true, that we were nearing the End Times, and so needed to be watchful for the Anti-Christ ("the Antichrist [is] a male Jew who [is] probably already alive" -- Jerry Falwell, 1999), 666, and so on. As Jesus Himself said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (Matt 24:36,44). It was readily apparent to everyone that Jesus' return was imminent, with the odds of making it out of the 80s unlikely. And 2000? Well, it would absolutely be a done deal by then.

For the last 30 years now I've heard how the End Times is imminent, never more than just a few years away. Now it's out at 2010, 2014, ..., but definitely soon.

But those verses that believers interpret to mean the Rapture could happen any time in the next few days, months, or years, reads equally well that it could happen any century, or any millennium. Maybe the year 2742, maybe 3496, maybe 10423. I mean, it's been 2000 years, why not 2000 more?

Yet there's all the evidence of prophecy being fulfilled--the famines, the wars, the earthquakes ("increasing in frequency and severity" as one speaker during my teens put it), the restoration of the state of Israel, the capability for instant worldwide communication, etc.

I know that the people who study this stuff are very diligent, and very serious, and try very hard to understand these prophecies. It's a difficult task, because they're trying to interpret and correlate arcane, cryptic imagery recorded in terms of a world view thousands of years old with recent and current events taking place in a fantastically complex and inter-dependent world of geology, climatology, economics, politics, and culture. So it's no wonder that so many have gotten it so wrong over so long a span of time.

We always think, though, that we're more advanced now, we know more, we understand better, so now we see what was missed before, and clearly now we're nearing the End Times. I expect that's what Whisenaut and Hal Lindsey and Charles Taylor all thought as well.

I think there's some good reasons in fact to think that Jesus is NOT returning any time soon, which I'll get to in Part 2, but either way I think we'd all be better off simply taking Jesus at His word: "No one knows about that day or hour". It's not going to be figured out by anyone, and a lot of time and effort is being wasted on something that is simply going to happen when it happens. In the meantime money is being wasted on books and movies ("Left Behind"), there's fear-mongering, and justification for trashing the environment because Jesus will be returning soon ("As for those evangelicals who believe the second coming of Jesus Christ lets them off the hook in caring for the earth, Rev. Ball says, “With most of these folks, it takes me about two minutes to punch a huge hole in [the Rapture] argument.... I also say, 'Well, you take care of your body, don't you?'”.

Maybe the alternative demands more of Believers than they're ready to bear--if you accept as a hard reality that Christ isn't returning in your lifetime, and that you're going to have to live out your whole life in this world, as will your children, and your grandchildren, and so on for your descendants for centuries or millenia yet to come, then what are your responsibilities to future generations, and how well are you performing them?


Dan said...

I don't have time for this discussion. I believe Jesus Christ is coming back soon based on Biblical prophecy. I am content with that. I believe you have to live each day like it's your plan like you are going to live forever.

Marc said...

Ok, you "believe Jesus Christ is coming back soon based on Biblical prophecy." And how is that different from the hundreds or thousands of other researchers over the last 1900+ years that believed Jesus Christ was coming back soon, relative to their time, based on Biblical prophecy?

What do you know that those before you who devoted their entire lives to this field of study didn't?

That Jesus is returning is a matter of faith, which I share (note that the post's title is not "Jesus is not coming", but "Jesus is not coming soon"). But the timeframe is a matter for analysis, and there has to be some chain of reasoning that led to a determination of "soon" for that timeframe.

Bryan said...

The quotation of James Watt is almost certainly bogus--it absolutely did not come from the Washington Post story you cited. I paid the money (you can't get the story via Lexisnexis--at least not the last few times I checked) and looked. It's not there.

I call on you to add a correction to the blog entry.

Marc said...

Bryan, I was actually ambivalent about that Watt quote, because I couldn't find primary sourcing for it. There was a lot of secondary sourcing, so I let that tip the balance.

I've replaced that reference with an alternate illustration of the point.

That being settled, what did you think of the point of the post itself? Either this one alone, or in conjunction with Part 2?

Bryan said...

Marc, I confess that my interest in visiting was primarily to take some steps to eradicate the disinformation about Watt. :)

I come from a dispensationalist background, but I'm partial to quite a few aspects of Reformed theology (not counting the hard determinism of hypercalvinism).
I've never (so far as I could tell) encountered anyone who held the view that resources should be thoroughly used up because Jesus will be here any minute. I think it's probably the view of an extremely tiny minority of Christians.

Francis Schaeffer's "Pollution and the Death of Man" was very influential with me even when I would have called myself a dispensationalist, btw.

Thank you for striking the bogus quotation of Watt.

RG said...

Interesting article.
I mean, it's been 2000 years, why not 2000 more?
From the way we're treating each other, I don't think the world will survive for more than 200 years.
I've stopped worrying about the Second Coming and started focusing on living a Godly life and having a good career!

Marc said...


Excellent! All this time, money, and energy is being wasted on trying to predict an imminent Second Coming, when those resources should be expended on making this world a more just and better place.

And to those who are absolutely convinced that Christ will return before you turn 65, have you therefore stopped contributing to your 401/Ks, IRAs, and other retirement funds that you're effectively claiming you'll have no need for?

steven h. eastman jr. said...

read were jesus was about to fly into the sky after his resurection in front of a big crowd. he said that there were people standing right there who would see him return again. in other words he said that there were some standing there that would not see death before his return, that is why it has been passed down from generation to generation that he is coming soon.

Anonymous said...

Hope for many lies in an unseen and unattainable future that will one day come to pass. In Genesis God created the heavens and the earth and that there is in six days. (John 14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.) It has been - give or take two thousand years. The house with all the mansions are there, just what exactly does Jesus have to do to get this place ready so he can come and take his people there with him. Just something to think about.

Anonymous said...

jesus will return i believe in 5 billion years time when the sun goes dark. Claire

Steven H. said...

Why do people bother to quote, just give the book,the chapter and the verse. Jesus is not alive because he was not the son of any god. The reason I know this is because he referred to Noah in one of his sermans, and the story of Noah is completely ridiculous. An all knowing son of god would not have referenced Noah's story as fact.

Anonymous said...

Study II Timothy 2:15

Anonymous said...

Noah was a type of Jesus

Unknown said...

It is all a myth.
No one is coming ever.