Re: [asa] A theology question (imminent return of Christ)

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Tue Oct 07 2008 - 19:22:01 EDT

Bernie, I don't think the behavior in Acts 4 is simply a result about being
mistaken concerning Christ's return. It is a result of the Holy Spirit
changing lives in the culutral setting of the Church at that time. We still
do (or should do) things like this today. My home church has a benevolence
ministry and it is supported such that there should not be any reason for
anyone in our church to become destitute. Recall also that Paul addresses
this problem in 2 Thess. 6:13 and concludes that an idle person who is not
willing to work is not entitled to support.

As to 2 Peter, you point out a difficult hermeneutical problem. We can
debate what it would mean for the flood to be "historical," but I'd rather
not get into that again. However one resolves the hermeneutical problem of
the historical referent for the reference to the flood in 2 Peter, the point
is that God judges in his own time; delay does not mean God has forgotten.

On Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 7:05 PM, Dehler, Bernie <>wrote:

> Hi Bethany and George- thanks for your quick response.
> Let me share more about the early believer's mindset:
> Acts 4:
> 32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of
> his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With
> great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the
> Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy
> persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses
> sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles'
> feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36Joseph, a
> Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of
> Encouragement), 37sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it
> at the apostles' feet.
> Today many Christians think they did that because of their devotion. We
> don't do it today simply because we aren't as devoted. I disagree. I think
> they did it because of their belief- that Christ was coming very, very, very
> soon. In that vein, it makes perfect sense. If we really thought Christ
> was going to return this year, then we would sell our college funds and
> retirement funds. Of course we can't think that way, because we have 2,000
> years of water under the bridge.
> I'm thinking these disciples were taught by Jesus. Jesus must have been
> clear with them. They would not live drastically like that if the message
> had not been clear. It seems like either Jesus was wrong, or these people
> were doing something that Jesus never told them to do (which doesn't sound
> reasonable). Or maybe they were just living together that way because that
> was the way the Lord lived with them, as a commune?
> Also, George, about the Earth being around a few billions years already… I
> also thought about that, and felt kind of guilty, like I was being judged by
> this Scripture:
> 2Peter3:
> 3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will
> come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say,
> "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything
> goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." 5But they deliberately
> forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was
> formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that
> time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and
> earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and
> destruction of ungodly men.
> Double guilty, because of the passage of time I can't feel like Christ is
> going to return tomorrow, and I also don't accept the story of Noah's ark as
> actual history. Not dismayed, just perplexed…
> …Bernie
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Bethany Sollereder []
> *Sent:* Tuesday, October 07, 2008 3:20 PM
> *To:* Dehler, Bernie
> *Cc:*
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] A theology question (imminent return of Christ)
> Hey Bernie,
> Funny you should mention the idea that we would not have retirement and
> college funds if we really believed... at the Bible college I attended, we
> had a speaker come in and tell us that when he was young he scorned all
> those things because of the immanence of Christ's return. Now, at
> retirement age, he was unable to, and actually advised us not to take his
> path.
> I'm not sure where you mean that Jesus said he would return immediately.
> When he speaks of coming on the "clouds of heaven" etc. I like to follow
> N.T. Wright's approach which says that this is language of vindication -
> vindication which came with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. As for when the
> second coming would be, I don't think he actually said it would be
> immediate. It seems to me that most of his teachings/parables on the nature
> of returning are usually emphasizing the uncertainty of the timing of the
> return. I'm thinking of the parables of the women with the lamps, or the
> servants with the master gone away. Also, the one time Jesus speaks
> directly of the timing, he says he does not even know the day or the hour,
> only the Father knows.
> I don't know that it would be a big deal if he waits another 2000 years.
> Why would it be? My job is to be faithful while I have time.
> Also, this just occurred to me, so I haven't done any studying on it, but
> some of the language may also be referring to the resurrection, which did
> happen immediately, while some would be talking about the "proper" second
> coming. As in all prophetic writings/oracles, the time scale in view is
> always a difficult thing to pick out.
> Bethany
> On Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 3:01 PM, Dehler, Bernie <>
> wrote:
> Here's a question I have.
> In the NT, it is obvious that the disciples thought Jesus would return at
> any time and that the end was near. For example, that's why in Acts it says
> the believers had everything in common- sold what they had and shared
> everything. We would too if we seriously thought Christ would return
> tomorrow, but we don't really believe it. So we keep our own money- our
> retirement and college plans for our kids. We don't believe in the imminent
> return of Christ like the first believers did, as evidenced by our behavior.
> *Here's my question: *Was Jesus wrong when He taught about the immediate
> return? How do we explain his slowness in coming, when they all thought it
> would have happened almost 2,000 years ago? And since it has been so long
> already, what's the big deal if Jesus waits another 2,000 years? I know
> that's inconceivable to most evangelical Christians, just like if you told a
> Christian in 100AD that Christ still did not return by 2000AD.
> No need to post scripture about "scoffers who say Christ isn't going to
> return." That isn't the question. The question is how to you resolve the
> fact that Christ clearly taught, and His disciples clearly believed, in the
> imminent return, which didn't happen yet? There was no imminent return. If
> Christ returns today, it was not imminent.
> It is a genuine problem that I have and am pondering, as a believer.
> …Bernie

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
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Received on Tue Oct 7 19:22:37 2008

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