In the book of Matthew, there are some chapters where Jesus discusses his return and the end times. For many Christians throughout the ages, Jesus’ return seemed imminent. For generations there have been countless Christians who have tried to predict when this return would be. (See this link for a short list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Coming) As of this date, most of the predictions have come and gone with little fanfare and especially with no second coming. With this in mind, let’s look at what Jesus had to say about his return. Let’s start with Matthew 24 verses 29 to 36.
29Immediately 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:
30And 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.
31And 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.
32Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
33So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
34Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
35Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
36But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
In this chapter, Jesus takes the time to talk about events which will help foretell his coming. We enter the discussion when Jesus is describing the stars falling from the sky, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light. Hmmm . . . couple of problems here. Basic astronomy suggests that the stars cannot fall from the sky since they are not in our sky but millions of millions of miles away. Even if they could, it would seem to be a bit of overkill to have all of them fall from the sky. One, the sun, would be enough to destroy the world. Moreover, the moon will no longer give her light. Again, basic astronomy tells us that the moon does not have any light. All it does is reflect the sun’s light to us. I am a little surprised that Jesus, who was there at the creation, (John 1:1-3) would not understand even the most basic workings of this creation.
More important to our discussion, are verses 34-36. In these two verses, Christ seems to suggest two important things. First, that he would return within the lifetime of those who he was speaking to (i.e. the disciples.) Second, that nobody knows the exact hour when this would happen. (Newer version of the Bible even says that Christ does not know. See the NIV translation of these verses.) If only God knows, then how does Jesus know that this would happen during the lifetimes of his followers? Does he not contradict himself here?
Some apologists would suggest that his lifetime prediction only pertained to the temple being destroyed (which it was in about 70 A.D.). Jesus does not make that distinction. His words are in verse 34, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” He does not hedge his bets here – only the apologists do.
Furthermore, Jesus makes this same prediction earlier in Matthew. This occurs in Matthew 16:24-28.
24Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
28Verily 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.
Here Jesus is telling his disciples about how to gain the Kingdom of Heaven. In verse 28, Jesus tells them that some of them will still be alive when Jesus returns with the “Glory of his Father with his angels.” Clearly, this did not happen. To the best of our knowledge, Jesus has not come back with the Glory of his Father with the angels. To the best of our knowledge, everyone who was with Christ at the time of his predictions is now dead. (Unless you subscribe to the idea of the Wandering Jew. This is a legend from earlier Christianity to deal with this problem. The wandering Jew was a man who was cursed to wander the Earth until Christ returned – thus fulfilling the prophecy. He’s just about 2000 years old now.) Therefore, we can conclude that Christ’s own predictions about his return were completely wrong.
What have we learned here today, my budding Bible scholars?
1. Christ did not even understand his own creation. Stars falling from the sky?
2. Jesus predicted his own return while at the same time told everyone that really God only knew when it would happen. That is just a little bravado coming from God Jr.
3. Jesus’ own predictions of his return – that is in the lifetime of those he was speaking to – were totally wrong.
4. If Jesus got it wrong, what else has he gotten wrong? What else in the Bible is inaccurate?
5. If Jesus got it wrong, what makes anyone believe that someone like Jack Van Impe or any other person is going to get it right? Every prediction has failed – including Christ’s. Not a good batting average. (Of course, they only have to get one right . . .but I am not holding my breath.)
That is today’s Bible lesson. Let us pray. “Oh Lord, we await your return. In fact, we have been waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting. We continue to wait. The stars don’t seem intent on falling from the sky. The moon continues to reflect the sun’s light. We’re just hanging out around here singing your praises and waiting. We beseech you to come soon as the wandering Jew is really, really tired. In your name we pray, AMEN.”