A book cover with an hourglass and open bible.

Table of Contents and Introduction

 

Table of Contents

Chapter One: What Is a Coming of the Lord?

Chapter Two: The Timing of the Second Coming

Chapter Three: Jesus’s Second Coming—Global or Local?

Chapter Four: Judgment and Salvation Go Hand in Hand

Chapter Five: The Last Days

Chapter Six: Did the Second Coming Happen When Jesus Said It Would?

Chapter Seven: Old Testament Prophecies about the Second Coming and Resurrection

Chapter Eight: How Could the Church Miss the Second Coming?

Chapter Nine: Various Objections to Covenant Eschatology (“Preterism”)

Chapter Ten: The Olivet Discourse

Chapter Eleven: It Doesn’t Get Much Clearer than Matthew 16:27–28

Chapter Twelve: What about Revelation?

Conclusion

Topical Index

 

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Introduction

During his earthly ministry in approximately AD 30, Jesus warned his disciples to watch out for false prophets declaring prematurely that his second coming/the end was near: “Do not go after them,” Jesus cautioned (Luke 21:8–9). As the parallel gospel account shows, Jesus said this to Peter, James, and John (Mark 13:3).

Yet within about thirty-five years, by about AD 65, these three apostles were proclaiming exactly that! “The end of all things is near,” Peter warned (1 Pet. 4:7, NASB). “The coming of the Lord is near,” James said (James 5:8, NASB). “The time is near,” John wrote (Rev. 1:3; 22:10, NASB). [1]

Actually, these are just a few of the myriad of time statements found all throughout the New Testament essentially saying the same thing: “It is the last hour” (1 John 2:18); “The time is short” (1 Cor. 7:29); “The day [of the Lord] is at hand” (Rom. 13:12). Such time statements are found on just about every page of the New Testament.

In fact, Jesus himself had made similar statements during his earthly ministry. For example, Jesus said: “Assuredly I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death [die] till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:28).

At another time, Jesus said that the generation he was addressing—two thousand years ago—would not pass away until they saw the Son of Man coming on clouds:

"Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other…Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place" (Matt. 24:30–31, 34).

Skeptics of Christianity argue these kinds of statements prove that Jesus and the apostles were not the prophets Christians believe them to be. In Why I Am Not a Christian, the prominent twentieth-century critic of Christianity Bertrand Russell wrote: “[Jesus] certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that.”[2] And Jesus was wrong, Russell concluded.

In a formal public debate between Jewish rabbi David Blumofe and Christian apologist/author Michael Brown, Blumofe cited the two aforementioned statements by Jesus and commented: “But it’s been two thousand years and he hasn’t come, and I’m sure they [the people Jesus was speaking to] are dead by now…The generation certainly passed away after two thousand years.”[3]

Blumofe added, “Jesus in many places is cited as saying, ‘This is going to happen,’ and it didn’t happen, and ‘That is going to happen,’ and it didn’t happen, and therefore comes under the law of a false prophet.” Note: the “law of the false prophet” says that if a prophecy fails to come to pass in the stated time frame, then the person who uttered it is a false prophet worthy of death:

"The prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die...And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?'—when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously..." (Deut. 18:20-22).

But it is not just skeptics of Christianity who have noted the alleged discrepancy between New Testament prophecies (time statements) and the unfolding of history. Rudolf Bultmann, who was one of the most influential Christian theologians of the twentieth century, wrote:

"The problem of Eschatology [the study of the last days/end-times] grew out of the fact that the expected end of the world failed to arrive, that the Son of Man did not appear in the clouds of heaven…History did not come to an end, and, as every schoolboy knows, it will continue to run its course."[4]

More recently, the highly acclaimed Christian writer/lay theologian C. S. Lewis said:

"The apocalyptic beliefs of the first century Christians have been proved false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master [Jesus] had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, 'this generation shall not pass away till all these things are done.' And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else. It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible."[5]

As these quotes show, Christian theologians are well aware of the alleged discrepancy between the New Testament’s time statements (prophecies) and the events of history. While most would not go so far as Lewis did in saying Jesus got it wrong, neither would most go so far as to say the time statements about the second coming/the end have been fulfilled. Instead, most Christians would argue the time statements are not what they seem. For example, some theologians engage in philosophical discussions about the nature of time: What does “soon” really mean? Others construct elaborate fulfillment schemes that apply Jesus’s words to some future generation, rather than the one he was speaking to. Still others say Jesus used timing indicators merely as a way of keeping people on the tiptoes of expectation (in other words, he didn’t really mean them). The one thing these explanations have in common is that they all essentially conclude that the time statements are not what they seem.

While these kinds of explanations may have worked well in centuries past, they are becoming less and less convincing to more and more people as time marches on—at least in Western cultures. According to a recent Pew Research poll, “Over the last 15 years, the share of U.S. adults who identify as Christians (of all varieties, combined) has dropped by 15 percentage points, from 78% to 63%.”[6] In Western Europe, only 22 percent attend regular church services (monthly or more). “The percentage of the population that identifies as Christian has fallen substantially since the 1960s, while the share of the population that does not identify with any religion has risen.”[7]

These statistics are alarming. The apostle Peter said, “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15), and one of the biggest objections to Christianity—the one objection that inevitably comes up in every formal debate about Christianity vs. atheism/other religions—is that the second coming did not happen when Jesus and the apostles said it would. The fact that this objection keeps coming up, coupled with the fact that skepticism is growing at such an alarming rate (in Western cultures), should be a wake-up call that it has not been adequately answered.

To make matters worse, the unintended consequence of the above kinds of explanations has been the continuous stream of false prophecies about the second coming/the end, which has been like throwing jet fuel on the already-burning fires of skepticism. For example, many Christians reading this have likely heard of Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. Published in 1973, this book sold over twenty-eight million copies by 1990. In it, Lindsey compared the end-time prophecies of the New Testament with then-current events in the Middle East (involving Israel) in an attempt to predict the timing of the second coming. And Lindsey concluded the end was near: “This is the generation…all the signs are there…In fact, looking at the state of the world today, I wouldn’t make any long-term earthly plans.”[8]

Hopefully, you were not one of those who followed Lindsey’s advice!

Such “prophets” also came out en masse during the Y2K computer bug/millennium change in 2000…and again during the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001…and again during the coronavirus pandemic in 2021…and again during the start of the Russia-Ukraine War in 2022.

Regarding the Russia-Ukraine war, pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Church said, “I join these men [Jack Hibbs and Amir Tsarfati] in the belief that what is happening now in Ukraine is a sign of the times and proof that we are living in the last days.”[9]

As I write, evangelical leaders are proclaiming that the latest war between Israel and Hamas shows we are living in the end-times. “We are seeing those [end-time-related] things happen before our very eyes,” warns Laurie. Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills says, “This is a time well documented in Scripture, at the very least, wars and rumors and wars.”[10]

This kind of speculation about the second coming/the end is nothing new. As I document in chapter 8, there has been a steady stream of false prophecies during the past two thousand years. What’s more, they have often come from highly respected representatives of Christianity—from all kinds of denominations—Roman Catholic, Protestant, and evangelical alike (not to mention the cults). And the accuracy rate of these extrabiblical prophecies has been, well, less than stellar. It’s holding fast at 0 percent.

Is it any wonder why younger generations are growing so skeptical of Christianity, especially having grown up in the age of instant online access to this kind of information? We need to do better!

With all due respect to the great theologians and pastors throughout the centuries who have tried so hard to explain the New Testament’s time statements (such as those cited above) from a not-yet-fulfilled “futurist” perspective, I agree with the skeptics that it cannot be done—not honestly, anyway. As I will show below, the contexts of the passages and scriptural cross-references prove beyond any reasonable doubt that they were meant exactly how we all initially thought they were meant the first time we read them. In other words, “The coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8)—which was uttered around AD 60—really does mean: the coming of the Lord is at hand. And “at hand” does not mean in two thousand plus years!

While the skeptics are correct in saying the time statements cannot be legitimately explained (away) from a futurist perspective, they are nevertheless wrong in claiming that the events did not happen. As I will show below, the prophecies of the New Testament were fulfilled exactly when Jesus and the apostles said they would be. What’s more, the historical and biblical evidence confirms it. So not only do the time statements not disprove Christianity—as skeptics claim—but the time statements actually affirm the exact opposite, that the claims of Christianity are true!

If you haven’t ever studied the New Testament’s time statements and have always just assumed, based on what many Christians say, that we are living in the last days/end-times, this book may come as a shock. It will test your traditions and challenge things you thought you knew. However, I believe you will find the arguments presented to be not only biblically sound but also intellectually satisfying and faith building. They answer the skeptics and turn one of the biggest objections against Christianity into one of the greatest pieces of evidence for Christianity. And to me, there’s nothing more refreshing—and needed—than solid evidence for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.

Footnotes:

[1] Don Preston, Can God Tell Time, 18.

[2] Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957), 12.

[3] Jews for Jesus, “Who Is Jesus: Dr. Michael Brown vs. Rabbi David Blumofe,” December 16, 2010, YouTube, 26:00, viewed on Dec. 4, 2020.

[4] Max R. King, Spirit of Prophecy, 2nd ed. (Colorado Springs: Bimillennial Press, 2016), 97.

[5] C.S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night: And Other Essays, (San Diego, Harcourt Brace), 97–98.

[6] Christianity is on the decline in Western cultures, but it is actually on the rise worldwide. See “Seven Encouraging Trends of Global Christianity in 2022” by Aaron Earls, Lifeway, Feb. 4, 2022.

[7] Alan Cooperman, “Is Christianity on the Decline? Pew Research Takes a Look at the Numbers,” Dallas Morning News, Sept. 13, 2022.

[8] Francis X. Gumerlock, The Day and the Hour (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2000), 323.

[9] Greg Laurie, “The Monster to the North of Israel: Israel War Update,” Pastor Greg Laurie YouTube channel, Nov. 7, 2023.

[10] Jack Hibbs, “Israel Update with Pastor Jack and Amir Tsarfati,” Real Life Network, Oct. 25, 2023.

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