Liar, Lunatic or Lord? Making Sense of Jesus' Second Coming
- Tuesday, July 24, 2012
This past month I visited an old friend for vacation that I had not seen in years. We talked about everything under the sun from football to world events. As we discussed world events he began to talk about how bad things are getting and how we are in the "last days." I asked my friend to grab his Bible and we sat down for a more serious discussion of the subject.
I started out by asking him a few questions and had him write his answers down on a piece of paper:
Has Jesus come back yet? Fast answer: NO!
Are we in the kingdom yet? Fast answer: NO!
In general how should we interpret the Bible? Answer: Take it for what it says, and interpret it in a literal sense. OK.
What do we do when our theology/eschatology does not match what Jesus says? Fast Answer: Change our theology, because Jesus can’t be wrong!
I asked him if he remembers Josh McDowell’s book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. He did remember. So I reminded him that as McDowell set out to disprove Christianity, he stated that Jesus was either a "liar, lunatic or Lord." Thankfully, Josh got it right…. his conclusion was that Jesus is the Lord, and he received Christ as his Lord and Savior!
I proposed to my dear friend to keep these questions in mind as we carefully review five statements made about Jesus' return. Here are the passages he wrote down, and I would encourage the reader to do the same:
1. Matthew 16:27-28: For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN RECOMPENSE EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. Truly I say to you, there are some of those standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
Jesus says there are some standing there with him who would not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. Either Jesus has come in the glory of His Father as He stated or some of those guys are still alive today, 2000+ years later!
Many have tried to explain this away by saying that in the next chapter, six days later, Jesus was transfigured and this is when this event occurred. My question then is: Were there any angels with Him? Was every man recompensed of his deeds at the transfiguration? Not that we know of. Others have tried to split verses 27 and 28 to explain a short-term and a long-term meaning. When were we taught to do that in Sunday School?
2. Matthew 24:30, 34: In the Olivet Discourses Jesus describes His return. He describes to His disciples what signs they should look for that were to precede His coming. In verse 30 it says: “and then the signs of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.” A few verses later in verse 34, Jesus says: Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
Jesus now tells His disciples that His coming on the clouds and the events He describes concerning the temple and the tribulation would happen within their generation.
Did this happen? Did Jesus get it right? Tragically, some say "no it didn’t happen." Famed Christian theologian C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, said this about this passage:
"Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be 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 had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be 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." (C.S. Lewis, The World's Last Night: And Other Essays, p.97)
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