Much as the story goes, sometime way back about 27 AD, Jesus Christ promised His disciples He would come back a second time, take them to heaven for 1,000 years, then return with them to planet earth, destroy all evildoers, establish new heavens (a new atmosphere) and a new earth.
In that new earth there would not be any pain, no divorce (well no marriage either because guess what, no procreation, kind of a sex downer — how exactly are those who never learnt to live without sex for any period of time expected to cope?), no crying (this feature one has to say is good because it means no rent to pay, no need for food money, glorious bodies create their own overlay of raiment, no boss to please so as not to get fired, no CEOs making 50x the average salary within their firms, nobody boasting in a bar about how they cleaned out on Apple stock, nobody flipping their mansions, only difference perhaps would be sizes of mansions — some people it appears will deserve larger mansions than others).
Well, it’s 2018, we are almost 2,000 years past 27 AD, and Jesus Christ still has yet to show up. One wonders whether all of those ‘Left Behind’ movies are attempts by Christians at convincing of themselves they all already missed the Second Coming. In presence of such an assessment, all remaining Christians are in purgatory attempting to get a second chance with God.
But then do Evangelicals and Protestants believe in Purgatory? I mean, if we have to earn our way back into God’s good graces because we all are Left Behind, how exactly is this different from ‘Old’ Catholic Purgatory? Enter 2018 version of Martin Luther railing against buying of God’s grace with charitable giving. Truth be told, some Christians believe the Second Coming of Jesus Christ still is in the future, meaning Christians do not agree on how exactly to recognize Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Perhaps more importantly, if we did not make it under grace, how exactly are we to make it by works?
So then, is the promise of a Second Coming by Jesus Christ the greatest fib ever?
If someone ever told the greatest fib, no one ever would be able to prove the fib to be a fib. A greatest fib would remain a statement in force because there would not exist any way to prove it to be a lie. Call Jesus Christ whatever you will, for those who do not believe, the promise of a Second Coming by Jesus Christ might be the greatest fib ever — the ultimate fib. At the very least, this paints Jesus Christ to be one of the most intelligent persons who ever lived.
How exactly do we know the promise of a Second Coming could be a greatest fib?
Well, Jesus told His disciples signs of His Second Coming would include among other things — marriage, earthquakes, eclipses of the sun, war, people not getting along, people at their jobs etc. Right now, you probably are wondering, ‘have these things not always been with us even before Jesus was born’? Marriage, eclipses, war, people not getting along, people showing up at their jobs? Could there be any hocus pocus greater than such a prediction?
C’mon now you exhale, C’mon now, you exclaim.
But I kid you not, these exactly are some of the signs promised by Jesus Christ. Regardless of how you feel about the extent to which stated predictions are unique or profound, one thing you will agree, no one ever will be able to prove Jesus Christ’s promise of a Second Coming has failed.
Why? All of the signs enumerated are guaranteed to remain with us for as long as this earth on which we live remains. Marriage always has been, always will remain. Jobs and Work always have been, always will remain. Sad to say, but there always is war in some part of the world. Earthquakes? seem to get worse and more frequent by the day.
If the signs always have been with us, and always will remain with us, this because they are part of our human existence, there never will come a time when anyone will be able to say ‘the promise of a Second Coming by Jesus Christ has failed’.
For those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, the promise of a Second Coming sounds like the greatest fib ever, the ultimate fib. The reason? The promise never can be proved to have failed.
But was Jesus really fibbing? Did Jesus give all of the signs He gave so no one ever could prove He was fibbing? Was Jesus leaving His disciples on earth forever and ever, merely consoling them so they would be willing to work their hearts out spreading His name to people all over the world? Was it a fib fit for creation of martyrs, a fib capable of generation of motivation and strength for martyrdom, the sort of martyrdom Jesus Himself demonstrated on the Cross?
But then again, who fibs just so His followers can do in future exactly what it is He Himself already has demonstrated? People fib so others are willing to do what they themselves are unwilling to do. Communist leaders ask their country men and women to make sacrifices for the sake of the motherland, ask them to live off of the state. Said leaders themselves, clothe themselves in fur, live with opulence in palaces vacated by deposed Czars — essence of the parody that is Animal Farm by George Orwell.
It is irrational for a man to fib just so His followers can value martyrdom as much as He Himself would first demonstrate.
So then, how exactly to view the promise of a Second Coming by Jesus Christ?
I believe the key lies in a statement recorded in Matthew 24:36. Right in the middle of His discussion of signs of His Second Coming, Jesus declares in stated passage (words in brackets mine):
But of that day and hour (timing of His Second Coming) no one knows (even with all of the signs enumerated in the same chapter — Matthew 24 — no one would be able to forecast the timing), not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
Wait a minute you say, you mean Jesus declared attention to all of the signs would not enable anyone predict the timing of His Second Coming? If the signs are irrelevant, with the outcome all who have attempted to predict the Second Coming are deemed to have failed (the most famous being the Millerite Movement of 1844), are we not again dealing with a greatest, ultimate fib?
If the signs do not matter for forecasting of Jesus’ Second Coming, do we not again conclude Jesus was fibbing, attempting to pull one over the eyes of His disciples?
Actually not. I believe Jesus in aggregate stated a profound truth, which is, the best way to prepare for His Second Coming is to live life to its fullest — to enjoy work, marriage, friendship — in midst of all of life’s imperfections — imperfections that are inclusive of war, earthquakes, eclipses etc.
In the signs of His Second Coming told to His disciples, and prediction no one would be able to predict the timing of His Second Coming, Jesus declares that the best way to prepare for His Second Coming is not to wait for life to be perfect before we attempt to live life to its fullest extent. Seems a lesson even non-Christians can appreciate.
Any evidence for my interpretation of the facts? In 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4-5, & 8, the Apostle Paul declares as follows (words in brackets mine):
For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night (Jesus’ prediction). But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief (Yes, it will come like a thief, but still you can be prepared). You are all sons of light and sons of the day…(means you are all people who are awake, sober). But since we belong to the day, let us be self controlled (be awake, be sober), putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet (faith without corresponding actions is dead; love is meaningless if it is not demonstrated in actions; hope requires effort for its acquisition).
In the passage above, we do not find any mention of attention to the signs predicted to forecast the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Quite the contrary, Christians are advised to apply themselves to living life to the fullest extent possible— to focus on actualizing of actions driven by faith, love, and hope. Faith, Love, and Hope — the only Christian qualities predicted to survive into eternity (1 Corinthians 13:13).
So was Jesus fibbing? In my opinion, combined, the promise of His Second Coming, the telling of the Signs, the promise that regardless of telling of signs the Second Coming still would arrive unexpectedly, and the advice to focus on living life to its fullest as best preparation for His Second Coming portray Jesus to be one of the greatest teachers ever — a teacher who attempts to develop His students’ capacity for reading between the lines, who attempts to develop His students’ capacity for arrival at independent interpretation of what they have been taught.
The greatest teachers do not attempt to indoctrinate, they focus on improving our capacity for arrival at personal interpretation of information or knowledge. They help us understand how to ask questions, find answers. In all of His teaching, prior to His death Jesus never demanded anyone acknowledge Him as the promised Messiah. If the understanding was proffered (Peter proffered), He asked it be kept secret. Only when He had returned to heaven could His disciples proclaim to the world that God came down and lived among us, and this is who (principles, character, values) He revealed Himself to be in His way of life and teachings.
Jesus did not tell the greatest fib ever, did not tell the ultimate fib. Jesus was demonstrating why it is exactly His Name has become quite an enigma all over the world, which is, Jesus taught like no man ever had, taught like no man ever has. Jesus never demanded agreement. Always left those taught to determine their response to His words.
Jesus Christ, non-domineering, emancipating, master teacher.
Whenever a teacher promises His students they will be greater in terms of achievements, and it happens as predicted (without any violence, 120 men and women enabled conversion of the Roman Empire, which itself crucified Jesus Christ, to Christianity in about 300 years), we find proof of a master teacher.