This is a continuation of the post, Soon. In summary, the apostles all seemed to believe, based on their letters, that Jesus was returning soon, within their generation, and some of them would live to see it. This notion, as alluded to from the former post, seemed to have been instilled in them by Jesus. So, what actually happened?
There’s three ways to look at this. The first unlikely scenario is that both Jesus and the apostles were wrong. I don’t think this needs much refutation to Christians.
A second view is that they meant something else. However, the soon language is so prevalent throughout the New Testament and Jesus’ second coming seems to be alluded to, if not outright stated, in almost every letter of all the apostles, that this scenario also seems heavily unlikely.
The third view is that both Jesus and the apostles were right and something significant and literally world altering happened in the 1st century after Jesus’ ascension.
If we argue for the first view, then atheist have every right to disregard scripture. If Jesus and the apostles were wrong about one thing, how much else were they wrong about?
If we argue for the second view, then we can make scripture say anything we want by twisting the wording to our own desires. Sadly, this happens a lot in modern Christianity.
If we take the third view, and consider that something apocalyptic happened in the first century, then it better aligns with the rest of scripture.
We can skew the Bible to mean anything, but if we do that, then we in turn invalidate the Word. If we take it for what it says, relevant to the people it was written to (most of it wasn’t about us today), then we can begin to come to a better understanding of what the Bible is for and what relevance and application it actually does have in our lives today. This can be a far greater and more beautiful meaning than we ever hoped to dream by our current views.
A note, I don’t tend to write on Saturdays unless God lays something on my heart that I just can’t shake. This topic goes far deeper and I encourage research by anyone viewing this. Just what was going on in the 1st century that would have made everyone believe that Jesus was returning very soon? What type of end of the world, or age, event took place? The answers to these questions may be astounding when uncovered.
I came across a statement yesterday that made a good point in the line of reasoning I’ve been researching lately. It reminded me of something Col. Quaritch said in Avatar: “The hostiles believe that this mountain territory is protected by their… deity. And when we destroy it, we will blast a crater in their racial memory so deep, that they won’t come within 1,000 klicks of this place ever again.” This seems to be what Rome was going for during the war in 66-70 AD—destroying the center of the Jewish faith to demoralize and scatter them. Saying that the two times the temple was destroyed (first by Babylon in the Old Testament) were major events to Israel is almost an understatement. These would have been events of a magnitude that would have echoed throughout their entire society for centuries.
So what’s my reasoning for pointing this out?
One of the more popular traditional views is that Revelation was written in 95/96 AD and speaks to future events (i.e. The Rapture, the “Left Behind” series). There’s one huge catch to me though. The New Testament, including Revelation, from this viewpoint, doesn’t speak anything of the (past) war of 66-70 AD which would have been far more relevant to the recipients of that time. This leads me to believe that all of the New Testament was written before the war and the prophetic passages were speaking of its’ coming. Why would such a major event not be mentioned in any of the Bible as a past occurrence? For me, seeing the Jerusalem/Temple invasion as being a prophecy that was going to happen soon (Rev 1:1, 22:20; Matt 16:28, 24:34) seems far more accurate as to what is actually written. Why would the Roman invasion of Jerusalem not be mentioned at all in the New Testament other than a future event especially since most everything else relevant to Jewish society was? If any of the New Testament was written after 70 AD, surely it would make some mention of the Roman invasion and the temple’s destruction.
Yes, I know this can sound radical. Yes, I know it’s challenging. Yes, I know this opens up a whole lot of if/then scenarios. I’ve been considering this for a few months now and isn’t a conclusion I came to lightly. However, it is a conclusion I personally accept that seems to align with everything else going on in the Bible. As usual, you can throw this whole idea out as heresy if you wish. I encourage not just taking my word for it but researching for one’s self.