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

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Sat Oct 18 2008 - 13:29:55 EDT

It's not that simple, Jack.
All the passages you cite, except the two in Matthew and Luke, are simply
references to imminence, not to time. Again, "imminent" does not
necessarily mean "immediate."

The Matthew and Luke passages are the most difficult. It seems unlikely,
however, that Matthew Luke would have preserved a plainly wrong teaching and
that the church would have continued to circulate it as canonical after the
twelve had died (i.e., after the immediate "generation" to which it was
addressed). A number of solutions have been proposed. Some involve
understanding "genea" ("generation") in a sense that involves the nation of
Israel or the whole of the Church. Another involves seeing "genea" as the
generation alive at the final "end times." Another involves an
"already-not-yet" sense: the generation alive at the time of Christ would
see the inauguration of the Kingdom in Christ's death and resurrection and
in the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. This latter view is probably the
best view if one wants to avoid the serious Christological and Trinitarian
problem of having Jesus wrongly making explicit predictions about the time
of the second coming. It also seems to harmonize better with the
already-not-yet sense that is clear in the epistolary and apocalyptic
literature in the NT. (Another alternative of course is full preterism, but
I respectfully don't buy into that). A good discussion of the Lukan passage
is found in Darrel Bock's Baker Exegetical Commentary on Luke, Vol. 2, pp.

On Sat, Oct 18, 2008 at 7:55 AM, Jack Syme <> wrote:

> I mean no disrespect, but it is simple.
> Here is a collection of some of Christ's time statements regarding his
> return. It is very clear reading these passages that he expects his return
> to be within the lifetime of the disciples he was speaking too. You have to
> read this within the context of who he was speaking too and when. If you
> were in their shoes how else would you interpret these words? Even when he
> says he doesnt know the day he tells them to stay alert, and do not sleep
> because the time is soon!
> This is very straightforward, Christ predicted his return within 30 years
> (give or take a few) of when he spoke these words, and the disciples
> understood it that way as well. The testimony to this is the other time
> statements throughout the epistles. But here I am concentrating on the
> words of Christ alone. Remember also that Christ was speaking these words
> to men that he knew he was going to be leaving soon. And after he leaves he
> wants them to remain vigilant, to remain alert, and not to get discouraged
> by those who Christ knew were going to scoff about his return not happening
> yet.
> "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father
> with His angels, and then he will reward each according
> to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some
> standing here, who shall not taste death till they see
> the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." (Matthew 16:27-28,
> Luke. 9:26-27).
> "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until
> all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my
> words will never pass away. Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down
> with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will
> close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who
> live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that
> you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be
> able to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:32-37)
> "Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the
> prophycy of this book" "He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am
> coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." (Rev. 22:7,20)
> *"*Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is
> coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what
> part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would
> not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready,
> for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. * *Who then is
> the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his
> household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that
> servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.* *Truly, I say
> to you, he will set him over all his possessions.* *But if that wicked
> servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed,'* *and begins to beat his
> fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards,* *the master of that
> servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he
> does not know" (Matthew 24:42-50)
> *" *Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." (Matthew
> 25:13)
> *" *"But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the
> angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep
> awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man
> going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge,
> each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. * *Therefore
> stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in
> the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the
> morning—* *lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. * *And what I say to
> you I say to all: Stay awake." (Mark13:32-37)
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Schwarzwald <>
> *To:*
> *Sent:* Saturday, October 18, 2008 1:53 AM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] A theology question (imminent return of Christ)
> Heya, Jack.
> Respectfully, I don't think this is being made "more complicated than it
> is". I think there's a danger in oversimplifying as well, especially when -
> frankly - there's little to go on with regards to Christ Himself. We do see
> Christ saying clearly that the hour and day is not known. The only
> mitigation against that uncertainty is a reference to 'this generation' -
> and what a generation meant in such a context is its own issue. Paul talking
> about not everyone sleeping but being changed doesn't read to me (and I
> would guess many others) the way it does to you.
> For myself, I'm not advocating preterism, partial-preterism, or any other
> variant. But I do disagree with the view Bernie was advancing with apparent
> certainty, while I can respect (and am interested in) other religious
> readings and understandings.
> On Sat, Oct 18, 2008 at 12:45 AM, Jack Syme <> wrote:
>> Yes Jesus did not know the day and the hour. But he knew that it was
>> going to be within several months to several years.
>> This is very clear, "this generation" and "some here shall not sleep"
>> are very clear time statements that Christ expected the fulfillment of his
>> work, (his return, the end of the age, the beginning of the age to come)
>> within a lifetime of when he made those statements.
>> Dont make this more complicated than it is.
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "gordon brown"
>> <Gordon.Brown@Colorado.EDU>
>> To: <>
>> Sent: Saturday, October 11, 2008 11:26 PM
>> Subject: RE: [asa] A theology question (imminent return of Christ)
>> On Fri, 10 Oct 2008, Dehler, Bernie wrote:
>>> Thanks Edward. I guess you are just helping me be comfortable knowing
>>>> there is no clear answer as to how Jesus could have been wrong in teaching
>>>> His imminent return. I guess it is just a mystery, like the trinity. Your
>>>> CS Lewis quote said it well- very applicable (in some ways).
>>> If by imminent you mean during the lifetime of the disciples, I don't
>>> know
>>> where you find Jesus saying that his return was imminent. Was it what he
>>> said in the Olivet discourse about all these things happening before their
>>> generation passed away? The disciples' question to which he was responding
>>> had three parts, and it is up to the reader to sort out which question each
>>> part of the discourse is responding to. He also says that only the Father
>>> knows the day and hour of his return.
>>> The Olivet discourse mentions many things that must occur before Jesus
>>> returns and seems to be warning against assuming that his return will happen
>>> before they take place.
>>> In John 21 Jesus indicates that Peter will be old when he dies. John also
>>> insists that Jesus did not say that John would live until Jesus returns.
>>> Acts 1 indicates that prior to Pentecost the disciples had some
>>> misconceptions. I Thessalonians 4 may indicate that Paul thought of himself
>>> as being included in those who would remain until the Second Coming, but by
>>> the time he wrote II Timothy 4 he was convinced otherwise. Also see his
>>> comments on eschatology in II Thessalonians 2.
>>> Gordon Brown (ASA member)
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David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
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Received on Sat Oct 18 13:30:44 2008

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