Thursday June 1, 2017
Do you remember when you were there? There? Where? When you were a child and your folks told you the family was going to see the grandparents. Didn’t you ask several times, “Are we there yet?” Didn’t the anticipation prompt the question? Maybe the distance played a part in motivating it? If you have a GPS, the instrument’s little voice will announce, “You have arrived at your destination.” Most of the time, it is correct. You are there!
When Jesus ascended into heaven, the angels announced to the goodbye crowd, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Before Jesus and the disciples got around to the Passover meal they were admiring the Temple. During his dialogue he told them about his return with,
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:36-37).
That passage has been summed up in several ways? One says you can’t know the second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year, or century when Jesus is going to return. Others claim that you cannot know the day or hour, but you can know the week, month, or year due to the signs. The first group says the “days of Noah” had no signs therefore the first group is in error! The second says when that first rain began, that was the beginning sign of Noah’s preaching being fulfilled! So, it is with today. The problem is that the second group is guilty of giving multiple false starts. That tends to cause folks to become skeptical and join the doubts of those described in 2 Peter 3:4, 9. Yet, some are confused by the statements of Jesus and inspired writers.
Jesus told his apostles,
“When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 10:23).
Notice Jesus said the apostles would not be capable of covering every city in Israel before he returned. That points to an immediate return in their lifetime, not ours! This is backed up by Paul who states, “The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5), Peter writes, “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7), and John warns, “Little children, it is the last hour . . . we know it is the last hour [it is the last time,” KJV] (1 John 2:18). The two letters to the Thessalonian saints are the earliest books found in our New Testament. They were written in the early fifties. Notice what Paul repeats in the first letter.
“to wait for his Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:10), “the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes” (2:19), “at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (3:13), “we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (4:17-18), and “be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:23).
If you were a member of the Thessalonian assembly, wouldn’t Paul’s letter make you think Jesus’ coming was imminent? The letter is to them, not twenty-first century saints!
Did Jesus “come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” during the period when the Thessalonian congregation existed? He certainly did not return in that fashion before the apostles had covered the cities in Israel. Several explanations have been given to show that he did return, but not as he was “seen” as he was when he went “into heaven.”
★One group stated that Jesus did return in the clouds, but his coming was invisible. He returned only to those who had the spiritual vision to see it. But, that theory overlooks the statement that his coming would be seen as they saw him go. Was his ascension invisible? This view is considered extreme since this group has given multiple dates for a “visible” return which never materialized. They were forced to make it an invisible one to fulfill their erroneous teaching.
★Another idea is that Jesus will suddenly return, refurbish the earth, 144,000 will go to heaven while the rest of the faithfully will live on a new earth forever. This group also gave numerous failed dates, built a house for Abraham to reside in when he would return in 1925, sold it a few years ago, believed those on earth would revert back to the age of 21 beginning in 1925, and believe Jesus is a created god.
★A third group believes Jesus will return for 1,000 years and reign with the righteous. Then wickedness will resurface, the battle of Armageddon will take place, wickedness will be defeated, Satan will be destroyed, and the righteous will all reign with Jesus. This view has many different facets to each of the points made.
★A fourth group believes two returns are mentioned. Those with time values are attached to Jesus’ return in judgment upon the Temple and city in A.D. 70. The second coming, given by the angel in Acts 1:11, is still future. Sometimes those prophecies with time values are mistakenly attached to the coming of Acts 1:11. The ones with time attachments should not be aligned with that passage. When this happens, it creates confusion and error results. This view has a number of aspects to it, with some being inconsistent.
★A fifth view is that Jesus fulfilled the coming of Acts 1:11, as well as the immediate ones, by his coming in judgment in A.D. 70. The language of the Old Testament is produced to explain all passages concerning a future judgment and destruction in the first century. Those which refer to an event in the lifetime of the recipients of the New Testament letters were the ones who would be living when the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by Titus and the Roman army. Acts 1:11 is re-explained to fit this scenario. Some of the explanations are not always clear to those who hear them.
When one reads “the time is at hand” and “shortly come to pass” as statements made in the first century, but were to be applied only to folks in the twenty-first, it is a twenty century stretch that is a little tedious. It removes those statement from a first century context to reformat them in a twenty-first century one.
The question is, “Are we there yet?”