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

From: Christine Smith <>
Date: Sat Oct 18 2008 - 15:56:19 EDT

Hi all,

I've been following this thread with great interest, because although I have my own theological inclinations on this question, they are not as firm as I'd like them to be. To help clarify where everyone is coming from and to shed light on a question I've been pondering all morning, I wonder if we could go back to the origin of Olivet discourse--the disciples' questions. Someone else pointed out earlier in this thread that there were several questions Christ was trying to answer here, and I think it's worth looking at them further; otherwise, how can we hope to understand the answers? In Matthew 24:1-3, it is recorded as follows:

"Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, 'You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.' As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?'"

There are three questions recorded in this. I would like to hear everyone's views on each of them:

What is the "this" being referred to in question 1? The temple? Something else?

What would the disciples, and what would Jesus, have understood to mean from the words "your coming"? Would this understanding be impacted/changed due to the passage of time between when they actually asked the question and when the Gospel account was written (such that the latter could have influence how the former was articulated)?

What would the disciples, and what would Jesus, have understood to mean from the words "close of the age"? Would this understanding be impacted/changed due to the passage of time between when they actually asked the question and when the Gospel account was written (such that the latter could have influence how the former was articulated)?

And then, how does each of your answers relate to how you understand Jesus's answers to his disciples questions? And more generally, to the other Scriptural writings on this topic?

Thanks ahead of time for your thoughts :)

"For we walk by faith, not by sight" ~II Corinthians 5:7

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--- On Sat, 10/18/08, Jack Syme <> wrote:

> From: Jack Syme <>
> Subject: Re: [asa] A theology question (imminent return of Christ)
> To: "David Opderbeck" <>
> Cc: "Schwarzwald" <>,
> Date: Saturday, October 18, 2008, 1:53 PM
> Apply Occam's Razor to this.
> Which solution is more appealing.
> The prophetic statements by Christ that clearly anticipate
> a first century fulfillment of his work, (meaning the end of
> the age, judgment on Israel, the resurrection of the dead,
> his return in a theophany,) was correctly fulfilled during
> the Roman war against the Jews from 67 to 70 AD.
> Or, Christ meant something other than what generation
> usually means, (to say nothing of telling his disciples that
> some of them will not die before these events occur) but we
> don't really know what it means it could mean the
> Church, or Israel, but it clearly couldn't have actually
> meant that literal generation because it obviously
> wasn't fulfilled; and we have too many other problems
> with Christ being mistaken about this so that cant possibly
> be correct either.
> ;)
> That is what I mean by simple. The plainest reading of the
> text, (the meaning that those hearing the words would have
> understood) is by far the simplest. Of course that doesnt
> mean it is the correct interpretation, but I for one was
> persuaded that preterism is true, in part because it makes
> sense of a lot of things.
> Now let me give another example that puts a time limit on
> when Christ, and others, expected these events to occur.
> The very last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22 beginning
> in verse 7. Starts with the words of Christ: "Behold,
> I am coming soon! blessed is he who keeps the words of the
> prophecy in this book." Then John: I, John, am the
> one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard
> and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the
> angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me,
> "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with
> your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of
> this book. Worship God!" Then he told me, "Do
> not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because
> the time is near."
> Of course it does not say what "near" means, but
> it cant mean more than a couple of hundred years.
> Why?
> The last chapter of Daniel, he is speaking here of the same
> end times that John is talking about in Revelation (the same
> end times that Christ is referring to), and Daniel says in
> Chapter 12. "There will be a time of distress such as
> has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.
> But at that time your people, everyone whose name is found
> written in the book, will be delivered. Multitudes who
> sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to
> everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
> Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the
> heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like
> stars for ever and ever. But you Daniel, close up and seal
> the words of the scroll until the time of the end. "
> So the angel tells Daniel that the events are far enough in
> the future (600 years?) that he should seal up the prophecy
> until the time of the end, but the angel tells John to keep
> the book open because the time is near! If the time was at
> least 600 years for Daniel and he should close the book, how
> can the time be 2000 years or more from John if he is to
> keep the book open?
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: David Opderbeck
> To: Jack Syme
> Cc: Schwarzwald ;
> Sent: Saturday, October 18, 2008 1:29 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] A theology question (imminent return
> of Christ)
> 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.
> 1688-1692.
> 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 15:56:44 2008

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