|The Second Coming of Christ
Joseph Francis Alward
October 1, 1997
Jesus Describes His Second Coming
And Jesus answered...For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be...the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 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 from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.... when ye shall see all these things, know that it (coming of son of god) is near... (Matthew 24:1-34)
Jesus left no doubt about when the apocalypse would occur: it would be soon.
"Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." (Matthew 16:28) ....Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 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.......when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
According to Jesus, he was going to return
from heaven during the lifetime of some of his disciples, and his
disciples would not even have enough time to spread the word throughout
all of Israel before the end of time arrived. We would have heard
about it if Jesus had already returned in full view with angels
trumpeting his arrival, and "all the tribes of the earth" in
mourning, so it must not have happened yet. Since it is extremely
improbable that any of his disciples are still alive and waiting for his
return, and since it also is unlikely that the word of the coming end of
the world still has not been spread to all the cities of Israel,
we think it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus' prediction of his
return has failed. Or, perhaps the words above were just put into the
mouth of Jesus by cynical church fathers who wished to scare poor,
illiterate peasants into believing that they would die soon, but if they
wished to have everlasting life they should give their allegiance--and
some of their property--to Jesus and his priests.
After the church fathers realized that Jesus would not be coming as soon as he promised, they wrote a second letter in which they attempted to smooth the waters of discontent by making up a pathetic story about how the Lord lives in a kind of time warp where earthly years are actually no more than days to him, although sometimes a thousand years is the same as a day. Here are the actual words:
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the days of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise... (2 Peter 3:8-10)
This explanation seems too unlikely to be
acceptable to anyone but the most ardent Christian fundamentalist who
believes every word in the Bible is the truth. What about Jesus'
statement that some of his disciples would not "taste of death till
they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom"? No matter how time
might pass for Jesus, his disciples on earth would still live their
lives by an earthly clock and no amount of fiddling with the heavenly
time scale would delay their deaths.
Anyway, how did this writer gain this
insight about the Lord's special time scale? How come no one else knows
about it? None of the gospel writers ever heard anything about time
slowing down in heaven. One has to wonder, too, why he did not tell us
about it before Jesus' non-arrival became a problem. Why didn't he
mention this all-important fact in his first letter? Furthermore,
it is quite evident from the apparently defensive tone of the letter ("the
Lord is not slack concerning his promise") that folks were
already complaining about having been deceived, so he penned the
explanation above to buy some more time.
One last comment about this letter: What
was the writer trying to imply with his words, "Be not
ignorant" remark? Was he saying that most smart folks already
knew that Jesus really meant he would be a long time (in earth
years) coming, and that anyone who didn't keep their doubts to
themselves would be considered "ignorant"?
Was the writer telling the truth? We'll never know, but we have good reason to believe that he knew that he wasn't believed, because he put the following in his second epistle: "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitness of his majesty." (2 Peter 1:16) In other words, he swears that it's not true what people have been saying about the gospels--that they're fables.
The author or the gospel Luke, too, seemed to take pains to reassure his readers who may have become restless waiting so long for Jesus to return. The following comments are excerpted from the commentary, Who Wrote Luke?
because of Jesus' failure to return at the end of the world in the
lifetime of some of his listeners, as Matthew and Mark claimed Jesus
promised, the Lukan author
apparently glosses over this biblical embarrassment by ignoring what
Mark and Matthew had written. Instead
of writing—as Mark and Matthew did—that Jesus said he would return
in the lifetimes of some of his listeners, the Lukan author, apparently
recognizing that too much time had passed since Jesus' ascension, had
Jesus tell a parable about servants who worry because their master is
delayed in coming, and who then will be severely punished when the
master unexpectedly returns.
But if that servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed in coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant's master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. (Luke 12:45-46)
The message from the
Lukan author, put on the lips of Jesus, is obvious:
Those followers Jesus promised would witness his return are now
long dead, and Jesus has not returned, but you dare not lose faith that
he will return, for when he eventually does, he will make those who have
lost faith suffer greatly.
If it weren't already decades since Jesus was expected to return, the Lukan narrator would not have had Jesus make such a statement. This is good evidence that Luke was written around 130 AD or later, a few decades after the last follower of Jesus would have died, which is probably sometime around 100-110 AD.