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

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Mon Oct 20 2008 - 13:55:33 EDT

> If these texts were written after 70 AD,. after the temple was in fact
> destroyed as he predicted, wouldnt the authors mention it? A pre 70 AD date seems more internally consistent with the text.

The razing in 135 AD actually provides a better match with the exact
prediction of "not one stone left on another", though the role of
hyperbole in Scripture is often underappreciated (both by those trying
to discredit Scripture and those holding to the inerrancy of their own

The disciples were hoping for an eschatological overthrow of Rome and
immediate arrival of the new age before Jesus' death. It's not
surprising that they would have some trouble thoroughly getting the
idea that the ultimate end could take a while. However, the issue is
not unique to the early church. Throught church history, the
assumption that we live just before the end times is popular. On the
one hand, there is the legitimate "be ready at any time" attitude, but
there is also, often associated with more marginal groups, the claim
to know that the paruousia will come in a particular year, month, day,
etc. (In fact, a headline at the grocery checkout line claimed that
all end time prophecies would be fulfilled this month.) An example is
the history of interpretation of Revelation-reading it as forecasting
all of history up to the time of the writer generally involves the
assumption that the end is next. No one ever seems to say "Revelation
predicts all of history, and we are right now about 2/5 through."

The numerous cautions about not knowing the hour, do not be taken in,
only the beginning, etc. invalidate any claim that Jesus clearly
predicted that He would return within the century. Some statements
could reasonably be taken as predictions of such a return, but others
seem to negate them, and it's reasonable to assume that Jesus (as for
any particular source) was internally consistent unless there is clear
evidence against it.

Interpreting "this generation" as inclusive of a broader group over a
long period of time is hard to justify. However, interpreting Jesus'
eschatological discourses as talking about two separate events-the
destruction of Jerusalem, which serves as a vindication of Jesus'
claims as well as foreshadowing the greater judgement to come, and an
ultimate end. The development of the early church would be evidence
to the eye of faith that the kingdom of God was indeed present and
working in a new way, and that Jesus had achieved the salvation that
He promised and was now enthroned in power. The "coming on a cloud"
can thus be interepreted as into heaven rather than the ultimate
return. The disciples would have seen evidence of the new kingdom
beginning in their lifetimes, but did not see its completion.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Mon Oct 20 13:56:41 2008

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