My Thoughts. . .
According to scholars, the first two books of the New Testament were 1 and 2 Thessalonians, written about 21 years after the church was established. In the first letter Paul writes, “According to the Lord’s word, we . . . who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:15). In 2 Thessalonians 2:1, Paul covers this topic again with, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him. . .” There are similar statements on the “last days” in the following passages: 2 Timothy 3:1; James 5:3,7-8. The “coming” of Jesus is found in Matthew 24:3, 27, 32; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:26-27; and 1 Corinthians 1:7. The words “that day” are in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32. From those passage, Bible students from the first century until today, have laid claim to their generation being the one who would see the clouds produce a returning Jesus.
When Jesus did not return in the first century, as some thought he would, each generation after that claimed those passages must have been written to their specific time. Although failure was their reward, some continued to recalculate hoping for success rather than disappointment. Some thought the Lord would set up a physical kingdom and rule for 1,000 years on earth. Some believed their church leader would be highly honored and amply rewarded by being God’s spokesperson upon earth. Despite the varied beliefs on Jesus’ return, the results was in “hopeless prophetic guessing” which produced more divisions among believers (John 17:20-21).
2021 was not the year nor people Paul, Peter, James, and other inspired authors were addressing. Their recipients were folks living when they authored their letters. When they spoke of “the coming,” being “gathered,” or the “last days,” they were addressing those living in Rome, Colossae, Ephesus, Laodicea, Sardis, and Jerusalem. Paul wrote to Titus, Timothy, and Philemon, not to you nor me nor any specific twenty-first century believer. Each book may have some application which we may apply, but we are only being addressed indirectly. If the 27 books were written directly to us, our name, nationality, or location would be mentioned rather than first century assembles and individuals. If written directly to us, we would need to greet one another with a holy kiss rather than giving a knuckle or elbow Covid-19 bump. Paul and Peter commanded their audience to greet one another in that fashion (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14)! We substitute with a handshake. We do not own slaves, so we mentally change God’s Word from the expression “slave” to “employee” to harmonize with our world, not theirs! Such substitutions are necessary only because we are not the original recipients.
Believers from the first century until our day have believed, taught, and waited for Jesus to appear to our generation. Why? We accepted a false interpretation! Would that not be a hope which was based upon a false belief which was established upon a lie rather than upon God’s truth? If biblical authors were addressing an audience living in the first century, would biblical language not contain words negating an expectation in 2021? Jesus himself 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, NIV). Notice, Jesus does NOT say, ““When you who are living in 2021 are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of the United States in 2021 before the Son of Man comes”
Jesus promised the apostles that he would come before they had finished covering “the cities of Israel”! Did Jesus not know what “before” meant? The hour or day might not be known, but the apostles would know that the coming of “the Son of Man” would be before they could “finish going through the cities of Israel.”
We read a number of passages on this topic, but mentally add a small difference to each.
“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be in 2021? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world in that year?” (Matthew 24:3).
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days in 2021, shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. . .So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things in 2021, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation in 2021 shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 24:29-34).
“Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?. . .In 2021 the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they who are living in 2021 see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. . . .And Jesus said,. . . .in 2021 ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 13:4, 24-25; 14:62).
“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for in 2021 your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:27-28). (No redemption until Jesus comes?).
“So that ye in come behind in no gift; you who are living in 2021 will be waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7).
“Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. . . .Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord in 2021 is at hand” (James 5:7-8).
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass in 2021; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John. . . .Blessed is he in 2021 that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand will be in 2021.” (Revelation 1:1-3).
“Behold, in 2021 I will come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. . . .And, behold, in 2021 I will come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. . . .He which testifieth these things saith, Surely in 2021 U will I come quickly. Amen. Even so, in 2021 come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20).