Question: (note, this is a rather long question, with many scripture references. The answer is below)
I came across this site. It deals with preterism which I don’t buy into. But its scriptural evidence for the early return of Christ is rather overwhelming. What is your explanation in view of the words of Christ and His biblical writers who definitely viewed his return as "imminent?" But it didn’t happen. There is actually more biblical evidence for his early return than I imagined after reading the site.
Jesus predicted a first-century return several times (Matt. 10:23; 16:27-28; 24:33-34; Luke 21:22, 28, 31; Rev. 1:3; 22:10).
The apostles’ interpretation All the New Testament authors, including the apostles, believed they were living in the “last days” — that “evil age” (Gal. 1:4) — and would soon be rescued from the wrath about to come upon their persecutors (the Romans and Jews). They all believed and were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write in scripture that Christ‟s predictions would be fulfilled during their lifetime: 1God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,2in these last days has spoken to us in His Son… (Heb. 1:1-2, NASB unless otherwise noted.) …he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Heb. 9:26b, ESV) For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you (1 Pet. 1:20)
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Cor. 10:11) Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. (Jas. 5:1); It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! (v. 3b) First-century Christians expected the returning Christ to give them relief from persecution and deliverance from the wrath about to come upon the whole world (the Roman civil war and disastrous Jewish revolt):
10„Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.11‘I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. (Rev. 3:10-11) …wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. (1 Thess. 1:10) 3…the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age…(Gal. 1:3b-4) The Greek for “rescue” in Gal. 1:4 is ἐξαιρέω (exaireo), translated “tear it out” in Matt. 5:29 and 18:9; “pluck out” in the KJV. The rescue would take place on the day of Christ‟sret ur n: 6For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you,7and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire,8dealing out retribution to those
who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.9These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,10when
He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day,and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed. (2 Thess. 1:6-10) First-century Christians could “see the day drawing near”: 24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see
the day drawing near. (Heb. 10:24-25) This could hardly refer to an event to take place 2,000 years into the future. The apostlesknew the end was near: Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.(1 John 2:18) 11…it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.12The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Rom. 13:11-12) Do not seek a wife. (1 Cor. 7:27b);29But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none;30and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess;31and those who use the world, as though they
I believe that these scholars have it correct–mostly. A casual read of the New Testament leaves one with a strong impression that these early Christians expected an immanent return of Jesus. This is true because the statements of Jesus caused them to think this way.
Having said this, the question deserves a careful look. Paul said (1 Thess 4:15) "We who are still alive…" Here he paints the second coming as immanent. Here is my question, though. Did Paul ever teach that the second coming was to occur in his own generation? The answer is no. He taught its immanence, but not its timing.
This is what Jesus did. In Luke 21 and Matthew 24 and 25 Jesus taught us to be ready at any hour for the return of Jesus. The parable of the foolish virgins is a case in point. Note, however, that the foolish virgins did not have enough oil in their lamps. They expected the groom to come earlier, note later than he did. Peter said that to God (2 Peter 3:8) that to God a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. Perhaps most tellingly, the Lord Jesus Christ himself said (Matthew 24:36) that no one knows the day or the hour of the return of the Son, not even the Son himself, in his human nature.
So here is my conclusion. Those who see strong evidence for the New Testament writers giving the impression that Jesus might come back very soon–even in their own lifetime–are correct. Paul, Peter and arguably Jesus himself left the disciples with the impression that the second coming of Jesus was immanent. However, what none of them said was that it would definitely come in the lifetime of their hearer. Jesus wants his followers to live at every moment as if that moment might mark his return. He wants us to be on our guard, to be ready at all times for him to come back. Yet, he wants us to keep our lamps full. He wants us to be ready for him to come back at any moment, yet also to prepared for the long haul. No one knows when he will return.
I believe those you are reading may be presenting only one side of this picture, even though what they are pointing out (the teaching of immanence) is legitimate. Paul was NOT mistaken. Neither was Peter. They were following the command of Jesus to command people to be ready at all times for the return of Jesus. This explains the language used by Paul and others. I say that Paul definitely did NOT predict a second coming of Jesus. He taught his followers (and us!) to be ready for him to come back in our generation.
The quoted passages do not disagree with my conclusion. Matthew 10:23 is not talking about the second coming of Jesus. That is really obvious. Matthew 16:27-28 is a prophecy of the events on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Matthew 24:33-34 is a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (although parts of this difficult prophecy are also about the return of Jesus). Etc….
As for the "last days," they were and we are living in the last days. The days from the resurrection of Jesus until the return of Jesus are, by biblical definition the "last days." The Hebrew writer tells his hearers (including us) that we are living in "these last days." In Acts 2:17, Peter tells us that the prophecy of the last days was fulfilled right there at Pentecost. I do not doubt at all that we are living in the "last days." The question is how long these last days will endure. You are right that the NT tells us that we will be soon be rescued from the wrath. The question is when is soon? (2 Pet 3:8) My answer: I do not know, but I fully intend to be ready for the last days to come to an end during my lifetime. However, I also intend to build the church locally and globally so as to prepare to hand it to the next generation, in case the "last days" continue well past my own lifetime. I believe this is what Jesus wants us to do. It is true, as Paul says in 1 Cor 10:11 that the end of the ages is upon us. We are living in the last days. However, this does not prove that Paul taught that Jesus was coming back during his lifetime. He never says this.
The coming quickly of Revelation 3 was Jesus’ coming in judgement on the Roman persecutor. I believe that this judgment has already happened! The Roman persecution came to an end in about AD 316 with the Edict of Milan.
I could say more, as you give a lot of passages, but my response to the others will be of the same sort. I hope this helps.