“… the coming of the Lord is at hand… the judge is standing at the door.”
“The end of all things is at hand.”
(1 Peter 4:7)
“Yet a very little while and he who is coming will come and will not delay.”
“Children, it is the last hour… many antichrists have come. Therefore we know it is the last hour.”
(1 John 2:18)
“I am coming soon.” “ I am coming soon.” “I am coming soon.”
(Rev. 22:7, 12, 20)
With these words James, Peter, Paul and John predict the second coming of Jesus Christ. In these passages and in many like them, Jesus’ disciples express their eager expectation of his imminent return. Stop! Think! There is a problem here: these words were written 2,000 years ago. Has his return been imminent for 2,000 years?
Our leaders tell us that we are living in the “last days.” Supposedly we know that we are living in the last days before the second coming of Jesus Christ because of what Paul tells us in the passage below:
“In the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
(2 Tim. 3:1-5)
Millions of sermons lament the evils of modern society and cite this passage as proof that we are living in the last days before the second coming of Jesus Christ. But all of the doomsday demagogues miss two keys to understanding the passage. First, Paul was writing to a young pastor named Timothy and second, Paul said; “avoid such people.” How could Timothy avoid evil people who would live 2,000 years later? Obviously Paul believed that he and Timothy were living in the last days with these evil people. He was not addressing people living today.
Two thousand years ago Peter, James, John and Paul knew that they were living in the last days that had been predicted by the prophet Joel (Acts 2:17-20). Joel quotes God saying:
“I will show wonders in the heavens, and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall turn to darkness and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”
Joel was not predicting the incineration of the universe, because even after the sun turns to darkness and the moon turns to blood, there are survivors in Jerusalem.
How do we make sense of all of these verses about the second coming of Jesus Christ? Well, it is not too difficult… First, realize that Peter, James, John and Paul were writing to people who lived 2,000 years ago, they were predicting a military disaster for the Jewish nation and they were also predicting that Jesus would return at that time. They were not writing to us. You should bear this fact in mind: we are reading someone else’s mail. The second thing that you need to realize is that the writers of Scripture often use poetic language… the sun did not actually go dark, the moon did not turn to blood, the stars didn’t actually fall, and the heavens were not rolled up like scroll either. When we call athletes and actors “stars” we are using the same metaphor as the writers of Scripture. The “stars” of ancient Israel were their religious leaders. Those stars fell and the heavens were rolled up like a scroll in AD 70 when the temple was destroyed. The “old heaven and the old earth” passed away at that time. (Metaphors, people, metaphors! The pseudo-prophets of today take metaphors literally and make absurd predictions.)
The disciples expected the second coming of Jesus Christ to happen soon because he had promised to return before all of them had “tasted death” (Matt 16:27,28). He promised to return before their generation had passed away (Matt. 24:34). Our bamboozled leaders deny these passages and a dozen more like them; but Jesus” disciples certainly expected him to return soon. We know this because they thought that John would live to see Jesus’ return (John 21:23).
If the second coming of Jesus Christ didn’t happen before all of his disciples had died, then the Bible is nonsense. And if he did return, then all of our “end times” eschatology is nonsense.=
There is so much more to say… Bamboozled Believers examines the Bible’s teaching concerning the second coming of Jesus Christ and calls for a paradigm shift in our understanding of the Bible. I urge you to read that book and if you would like to dig a little deeper, you can join our Meat Not Milk Bible study. I look forward to seeing your questions and comments on Facebook.