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Thread: Jesus Did Not Return in the First Generation

  1. #1

    Exclamation Jesus Did Not Return in the First Generation

    Christians are taught and believe that Jesus will return in our lifetime. One reference is given by Saint Paul, in 1st Thessalonians 4:15, when he predicts the prompt return of Jesus at a time when "...we also ...are still alive." There is scriptural evidence that those who wrote about Jesus believed fervently that he would come back during their lifetime, those who heard his teachings, in a span between 40 C.E. thru the expected end date of no later than 80 C.E.

    In Mark 13, Jesus speaks of a "tribulation", nation rising against nation, earthquakes, and the coming of false Christ’s and false prophets, the stars falling from the sky, and the coming of the Son of Man "in the clouds with great power and glory". Then, in verse 30, he tells when this will happen. "Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done." Mark was written around the year 60 C.E., 35 years after the death of Jesus, and well within the lifetime of many of his followers. The writer of Mark firmly believed that the Messiah would return during his lifetime.

    Matthew contains the same outline. It mentions the earthquakes, false prophets, darkening sun, falling stars, and the return of the Son of Man, "coming in the clouds with of heaven with power and great glory." And then in verse 34, he says when to look for his approximate arrival: "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."

    Just a few days before His death, Jesus delivered to His disciples a prophecy concerning the series of calamities that would befall Jerusalem and the world at the time when the Temple would be destroyed and this present world would end. This prophecy, known as the Olivet Discourse because Jesus delivered it to His disciples privately on the Mount of Olives to the east of Jerusalem, as recorded in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21.

    The disciples almost certainly expected the Temple's destruction to happen about the same time as the Second Coming of Christ (cf. Acts 1:6-7; John 21:20-23), but as we look back from our vantage point, it's obvious that only some of Jesus' prophecies have been fulfilled. The Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. by Titus, but the world was not destroyed and Jesus has not yet returned. It would seem that the remaining prophecies of Jesus await fulfillment at some point in the indeterminate future.

    There is a rebuttal to the interpretation that Christ was not expected in the first century. It can be found, among other places, in some evangelistic bibles, as a footnote in Matthew and Mark:

    "The word "Generation", though commonly used in scripture to those living at one time, could not mean here those who are alive at the time of Christ, as none of these things, i.e. the worldwide preaching of the kingdom, the tribulation, the return of the Lord in visible glory, and the gathering of the elect-- occurred then. The expression "this generation" here may mean the future generation which will endure the tribulation and see the signs. Or it may be used in the sense of race or family, meaning the nation of Israel or the Christians will be preserved until these things take place."

    However this is not an acceptable explanation. Jesus makes it clear that he is speaking about the current generation of people. In Matthew 24:4 when the disciples asked Jesus about the end of the world, he "answered and said unto THEM." Jesus does not say "that generation", he says "this generation" The same outline is related in Matthew chapter 16:28. Yet this time, Jesus does not use the word "generation". He again describes how he will come in the glory of his father, with his angels, to judge men according to their works. Then he concludes by saying "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."

    Gleason L. Archer wrote in his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties "Perhaps it should be added that if the Olivet Discourse was originally delivered in Aramaic (as it probably was), then we cannot be certain that the meaning of this prediction hinged entirely on the Greek word used to translate it. Genea and genos are, after all, closely related words from the same root. The Aramaic term that Jesus Himself probably used (the Syriac Peshiitta uses sharbeta here, which can mean either "generation'' or "race'') is susceptible to either interpretation..."

    It would see apparent that in Matthew 24:34 and Mark 13:30, Jesus taught that the end of the world would come during the lifetimes of his apostles. That he thought that he was going to be returning during the first century. He said: "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand." (Mark 1:15) Similar statements are to be found in Mark 9:1; 13:30; Matthew 10:23; 23:29-36; and Luke 12:49-50. Jesus' title of "Messiah" literally translated means "inaugurator of the end".

    Another explanation is called the Preterist ("past'') interpretation, which asserts that the Olivet prophecies were all fulfilled in the first century A.D. This interpretation is more popular among mainline Protestant scholars, and is also championed by a handful of Catholic scholars as well. In Preterism, Christ is held to have "returned'' invisibly in 70 A.D. in order to condemn the Jewish people and destroy the Temple, thereby confirming the inauguration of the Kingdom of God in His Church. There are many problems with the Preterist interpretation, but for our purposes we need only note that it is not the obvious meaning of Jesus' words - He explicitly denied that His return would be secret or invisible (Matthew 24:26-27).

    With both the Fundamentalist and Preterist interpretations, the meaning of Jesus' words, "This generation shall not pass away...,'' is lost to oral delivery. But if He was talking about the people of Israel, and used a term that is capable of two possible definitions, then things seem to fit perfectly. As Jesus was speaking of the destruction of the Temple and the terrible calamities that would befall the Jews from 66 to 73 A.D., it would be understandable for His listeners to wonder if Israel would be erradicated. But Jesus assured His disciples that the end of the Temple and the scattering of the Jews would not spell the end of the Jewish people.

    At the same time He indicated that, contrary to His disciples' expectations, His Second Coming wouldn't necessarily happen at the time that the Temple was destroyed---for the words, "This people shall not pass away until all is fulfilled,'' can be taken as a clue that there could be a time delay between the destruction of the Temple and the end of the world. But the ambiguity in the meaning of sharbeta or genea could have enabled them to wonder if Jesus didn't mean their present generation would live to see His return. The contributing writers of the New Testament certainly thought so. In this interpretation, then, we have a possible solution to this problem.

    I think Christ thought his return was emmient, based on his teachings, however he was clear he did not know the exact time frame: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man… Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Matthew 24:36-44

  2. #2
    Follower of Christ cmnahrwold's Avatar
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    Feb 2008
    I do not think Jesus used the term "generation" in the way they thought, because he goes on to say that no man, including himself will know when this will occur. Why would he say that it is going to happen before this generation of Isrealites passes, and then go on to say that no one knows, including himself the specifics.

    I think the term generation represents the old earth versus the promised new earth.

  3. #3

    Thief in the night

    He also said her would come like a thief in the night, so leads me to think it may just be a "spur of the moment" thing, he is the master of all, and if one instant he is sitting on his throne and the next instant he deems it time, it will happen.

    Matthew 24:42-44 (New American Standard Bible)

    "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

    But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into."

    For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

  4. #4
    Junior Member Michael's Avatar
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    Apr 2009
    What an awesome question! I think you hit the nail on the head when you said,

    “I think Christ thought his return was eminent, based on his teachings, however he was clear he did not know the exact time frame: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man… Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Matthew 24:36-44

    I would add that it is evident that there is and has been tension between the “already” and “not yet” concept of Jesus return. I believe this is one of the major issues the Apostle Paul struggled with during his ministry. Many of his disciples had the impression they were “already” living in the time of the parousia (or the return of Jesus from Heaven to earth). This misinterpretation led to a great deal of headaches for Paul and sinful actions on behalf of his apostles. However, Paul continuously reminded the church that those who have asked for and been given granted grace will be taken by surprise “like a thief in the night”.

    "...we who are alive and remaining at the parousia of the Lord will by no means precede those who are have fallen asleep [died], because the Lord himself, with the vocal command of an the archangel, and with a trumpet of God, will descend from Heaven and the dead in Christ will be arisen first, and then we who are living and remaining shall be raptured together with them into the clouds to a meeting of the Lord in the air...But concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you do not need to be written to, for you yourselves accurately know that the Day of the LORD comes as a thief in the night. Whenever they say, 'Peace and safety,' then sudden [imminent] destruction comes on them..." (1 Thessalonians 4:15- 5:3).

    I believe that it is true that Jesus Christ’s parables point to something already begun, already planted and already hidden. But what has “already” appeared is the words and deeds of Jesus and should be clear to those who truly seek to follow Jesus. Nonetheless, we are human. We make mistakes – the Lord knows that I certainly have done so in my life. There was even a point when John the Baptist doubted. Matthew 11:2 points it out when John said, “Are you he is to come or shall we look for another?” Jesus’ response was the same to John as it is for us today.

    “Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”(Matthew 11:4-6)

    In essence, Jesus’ deeds and words should be answer enough for us just as it was for John. So, I personally sit with the belief that the kingdom (this place here and now) contains both true heirs and heirs of the evil one and this state must persist until the “close of the age”.

    “The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one,” (Matthew 13:38) “When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.” (Matthew 13:48).

    So the crux of the issue, for me, is that obedience is the major factor, and it involves more than simply keeping the Law or even living in darkness. The issue revolves around following Jesus Christ. However, following Jesus does not simply mean that we should only identify with him. Is it not possible for those who preached and worked miracles in Jesus’ name to be turned away at the Last Judgment? I would have to say, certainly. I believe it is possible to fail unless the Law that Jesus revealed is followed, not the law that is based on an interpretation of an interpretation of Scripture that someone fed to us as baby Christians. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35). There is a choice and I think it is up to us to determine whether we will do the work of the kingdom until the appropriate time or sit on our hands and contemplate the “not yet” or “already” concept of the parousia. So the question remains, will we fail because we refuse to recognize the true heir in the vineyard?

    "Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. "The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said. "But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." (Matthew 21:33-41)

  5. #5
    Junior Member
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    Jul 2009

    Couple Other Views

    I've enjoyed reading some of the threads on your forum. This last one was really good. Fascinating question about Jesus' meaning regarding the use of the words "this generation" in regards to his return. I know a popular view over the years has been that he has meant the "fig tree" generation - meaning the generation that sees the rebirth of the nation of Israel.

    Also, I've read by some the belief that had the Jews accepted the Gospel presentation given to them in Acts 2, he would have come within "their generation". I get this from J. Sidlow Baxter's "Explore the Book." I'm trying to recall this from memory but I'll read his assertion again and let you know for sure.

    God Bless!

  6. #6
    Christ's Bride Johanna's Avatar
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    Jul 2009
    Good question!

    Could it be that 'this generation' (Matthew 24:4) refers to all the human beings that have been given the blessing to see God's glory through his prophets and lastly through his own son Jesus Christ?

    I say this, because I guess I see Noah's time of destruction as the first time when God sets up a dramatic plan to destroy his creation because it failed to acknowledge Him - after which He promised never to destroy human beings through a flood again (so we could suppose there must be a time when his creation might be detroyed again, if necessary).

    So I guess that when Jesus Christ spoke about this scenario of destruction and His second coming, He refered to the moment when God will put in motion his plan to redeem humanity for the second time. All human beings have had the chance to acknowledge God but haven't wanted to (Romans 2), after all.

    Having said all that, I would say the promise of Jesus Christ's second coming is more accurate and real than ever, as we have already reached a point in which all humanity have become oblivious to God in ways never imagined. And our Creator must be utterly aware of it, right?

  7. #7
    Junior Member Rene's Avatar
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    Sep 2009
    A few weeks back, I had noted in my journal, the passages regarding when Jesus said "this generation will not pass away..." I prayed, asking the Lord what He meant by that comment and He must have heard me. Because this forum brought up the topic with the answer!

    Honestly, the comment was disturbing to me and really bothered me. So I wrote it down (journaled) and asked Him to show me. So, thank You Abba, for your servant Steven!

  8. #8

    could Jesus have returned?

    Jesus said His kingdom would not come with observation, and that it was a spiritual kingdom, within the believer, and not of this world. It was undoubtedly linked w/ the destruction of the temple in 70AD, and spoken about with adverbs showing a soon return to the recipients of the new testament letters. 40 years after Jesus' ascension was quite a wait, but it fits within the parameters of a 'generation' and allows for adverbs like 'soon' and 'without delay' to mean what they say to its original audience. Perhaps we should ask ourselves if our expectations are too 'physical' and literal. The new jerusalem and new heavens and earth may represent the new covenant, which has been in effect since the old covenant world was wiped out by Roman invasion. Can any Christian really say Jesus isn't here today? Do we not fellowship with Him and experience His presence when we praise and pray? Just something to think about - preterism is worth a good study... otherwise we have to face the fact that the Bible's description of the imminent timing of the parousia is erroneous, and possibly not inspired. I'd rather think the Bible is God's Word, and honor the time statements for what they obviously say and mean. We may need to re-evaluate the nature and purpose of His coming, and His kingdom. Was it to grant escape to believers? Or was it to reconcile the world back to God and end the separation that sin had caused? I don't know for sure if it's true - it's quite a stretch from the mainstream beliefs today, but hey, it was once heretical to believe the earth wasn't flat, but round. Here are some Scriptures that got me thinking; Verses supporting preterism - then decide for yourselves... you're not a heretic for studying the possibility - God wants us to be like the Bereans who daily searched the Scriptures to see if what they were taught is true. God bless all... here is another good link if you are interested in studying the timing of Jesus' return further: They made a video aptly named, "You Gotta Be Kidding, Right?"

  9. #9
    Junior Member Rene's Avatar
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    Sep 2009
    All that really matters is that Bible says He is coming back and I am waiting, watching and ready. Praying in His Kingdom now as we are here--telling people about Him. Doing all He commanded and being changed daily into His likeness. Realizing more each day, its not about me, its about Him.

    May He use us for His glory that we would store His commands in our hearts and share the love of Christ with those He brings our way. Sadly the emergent church does not point to the Bible as being the final authority. And the Bible even warns us of the last days and those who want their ears tickled... Even if the last days are 100's or 1000's of years, to God there is no time.

    Thank You Lord that You are slow to anger and giving time for all repent (not that all will, but God You are good) I pray the eyes open Lord.

    Lord come quickly. Maranatha

  10. #10

    Preterism in the Modern Church

    Personally, I am very open minded, so much so that I sometimes scathe precariously close to the edge of accepted orthodox Christianity. Not so much so as to be heretical, but sometimes I raise my own eyebrows. However, there are some teachings that are clearly a grand departure from orthodox Christianity. In my own study, such a teaching to be avoided is preterism.

    If you do not know this, the word "preterist" is a grammatical term describing what is "past." Thus, if our interpretation of the Book of Revelation is that most, if not all, the book is fulfilled, we would be "preterists." Or, if our interpretation of the first 34 verses of Matthew 24 saw their fulfillment in the A. D. 70 coming of Christ, we would subscribe to the preterist interpretation.

    Preterism, has been reshaped recently, and has emerged that assigns the Second Coming or Parousia of Christ, the general Resurrection, and the Great White Throne Judgment to the past. In other words, there are no future prophetic events or any future hopes. According to this scenario, time will continue on this earth forever. Both sin and the earth are everlasting. At death the soul of the believer passes into the presence of God and the soul of the unbeliever (presumably) to judgment--both to be disembodied spirits forever.

    The advocates of these ideas call themselves "consistent preterists" (or full preterists) over against the "inconsistent preterists," who, it is claimed, fail to face the implications of their position. The so-called "consistent preterist" holds that the Second Coming of Christ occurred in A. D. 70, and that the resurrection occurred when Israel was spiritually quickened. Some "consistent preterists" will even claim to be Calvinistic in their soteriology. Consequently, Christians who adhere to the doctrines of grace may be seduced by this amalgamation-doctrine. Preterism threatens to compromise the historic creeds of the church, especially essential Christian teachings as the resurrection.

    The cardinal (essential) doctrine of the New Testament is the resurrection of Christ and likewise the saints of the future, which preterism annuls. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ be not raised up, our faith is vain, our preaching is vain, and we are of all men most miserable. Paul's thrust is that a dead Christ cannot save and that the church cannot have communion with a Christ who is still in the throes of death.

    Christ was raised from the dead in order to justify us ( Rom. 4:25 ). Most significantly, it was by Christ's resurrection that He "was declared to be the Son of God with power. . ." ( Rom. 1:4 ). The resurrection is not only a center stage of Christianity, but the attestation to the Deity of Christ Himself. If there is no resurrection, there is no Christianity. Scripture even teaches that salvation itself is a resurrection ( Jn. 5:24 ). The purpose of Christ's resurrection was to justify the whole man--body and soul. Even the new birth is actually a metaphor for the resurrection instead of the resurrection a metaphor for the new birth. Our labor is based on the bodily resurrection of Christ too.

    One preterism writer even tells us that the "hope of the resurrection" is an "empty" hope and an empty expectation, and that with regard to the future the Christian turns over the next leaf "and there is nothing." Amazingly, the followers of preterism have chosen to combat dispensational eschatology with an eschatology that dispenses with eschatology. The "dispensable eschatology" of the preterist also dispenses with the resurrection of the believer's body at Christ's Second Coming. Beginning with the premise that there is only one coming of Christ (A.D. 70) they force all other parousia-texts into an A.D. 70 straitjacket. This forces them to deny the resurrection of the flesh and to question the meaning of 1 Corinthians 15. Scripture teaches that what makes the Second Coming of Christ the "blessed hope" is not a bare, physical coming of our Lord.

    Three points are driven by the over arching premise of preterism which is that Christian interpretation & indeed basic Christian understanding has been fundementaly in error for over 2000 years. Some hyperpreterists even claim there has been a 2000 year conspiracy to cover up the the primary points below.
    1. Jesus came back once & for all in the year AD70
    2. The resurrection of the believers happened in the year AD70.
    3. The judgment of the wicked & righteous happened in the year AD70.

    Theologian Tom Ice writes: “Because of the current spread of preterism, pastors and teachers need to be prepared to defend orthodox eschatology from this attack.” Dr. David Reagan gives a clear Analysis of the Preterist view, in his article entitled "The Fallacy of Preterism." Prominent "consistent preterists" include Gary DeMar, R.C. Sproul, Ken Gentry, and Hank Hanegraaff. Books such as the Leonards' The Promise of His Coming, or J. Stuart Russell's The Parousia are proponents of this teaching. There is volumes I could write on this subject along, albeit on the whole, it is modern day heresy.

    Preterism is not a heresy just because we don’t like it, nor is it a heresy because it is “new”, nor is it a heresy because the majority oppose it. Modern preterism or hyperpreterism is a heresy because it is unlike anything ever taught in the history of Christianity and departs from what Christ and the Apostles taught.

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