“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Christ predicted his second coming would occur very soon after his death. He was emphatic in many verses that he and his apostles were already living in the end times, and that various signs of the immnent end of history had already come to pass.
Of course that never took place, or you wouldn’t be here to read this. Revelations was a metaphorical prediction of the fall of Rome, written as metaphor because Christians could not openly criticize Rome at the time for fear of persecution. Everywhere in the New Testament that Christ discusses his second coming, it is explicitly said to be imminent, not 2,000+ years later.
“…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 (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1973), 98. (Post-conversion)
Pre-emptive answers to common objections:
- “No one knows the day or the hour” means that the date cannot be known precisely. However, that does not stop Jesus from repeatedly giving a general timeframe of several decades within which to expect his second coming.
- It can’t be interpreted to mean you and I as metaphorical apostles because he specifically says “some of you standing here”, as in the people he was talking to at that time. The full context reinforces that, he was speaking to disciples who accompanied him to Caesar Phillipi who wanted to know how they would recognize the second coming.
- It can’t be interpreted as referring to the transfiguration because the events described in verse 27 don’t happen at the transfiguration (Jesus, God and angels coming from the clouds, judging mankind according to their deeds). Besides this, the transfiguration only satisfies one of these predictions, only partially, and only on a technicality. The New Testament was compiled long after Jesus died, so there was ample opportunity to make late additions, and one might speculate this was done to hedge their bets. Otherwise it seems like a silly, cruel prank to say something which clearly implies a near term second coming when what he really meant is “I’m gonna briefly float and glow for 2 guys later”.
- Daniel’s visions don’t satisfy the claim either because while they depict seven apocalyptic creatures (representing kingdoms that ruled over the Jews up to that point) nowhere does Daniel’s vision describe Christ’s return.
- The 666/616 gematria code known as the number of the Beast must mean Nero/Neron, because only that name fits both 666 (Nero) and 616 (Neron). Source: http://www.math.harvard.edu/~elkies/mp666.html. This is because the book of Revelations was intended to metaphorically describe the fall of Rome, in a time when Christians could not openly predict it.
- It’s true that some of the events Christ said must occur before his second coming have not yet occurred. However, submitting this as proof that Christ must have meant something else in the verses supplied above presupposes that he actually was clairvoyant, instead of simply being wrong about those predictions too, because he was a regular human being without the ability to see the future.
- For those who say that no Christian tastes death but lives on forever, it is clear Christ meant bodily death by other verses wherein he tells his traveling companions which signs they may personally expect to witness as his second coming approaches. They, according to Christ, should anticipate those signs within their lifetimes and would know by those signs that his second coming was imminent. There are two deaths: bodily and spiritual.
- Jesus’ resurrection does not fit the criteria supplied by the verse because he did not, on that occasion, “come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and reward each person according to what they have done.” By that description it’s clear he is referring to his second coming, as explored more thoroughly in Revelations.
- “When Christ said some standing there would not taste death before witnessing his return, that isn’t the kind of death he meant.” But it is. Hence “taste”. There are two deaths. The first bodily and the second spiritual. He’s referring to the first (to merely taste, rather than to eat) as those saved in him will only briefly experience death before being resurrected.
- He cannot have meant the destruction of Jerusalem because the events described (Christ coming in the clouds with God and angels, judging men according to what they had done) did not occur when Jerusalem fell.
- “But Jesus performed miracles!” ….according to a book written by his devoted followers, used to convert more people to their religion. According to books written by Scientologists about L. Ron Hubbard, he was one of America’s first nuclear physicists, a war hero and the greatest humanitarian ever to live. And the Qur’an says that Muhammad once split the moon in half by pointing at it, then rejoined the halves. Was Muhammad therefore a true prophet?
- “How do you explain all those fulfilled prophecies?” Almost all of which are recorded in one book of the Bible, then recorded after the fact as having come true in a later book of the Bible. This is a very easy trick. Observe: In 1998 I predicted that on Sept. 11, 2001 planes would collide with the WTC towers. Amazing! How did I know that? Am I clairvoyant?
This is also how Qur’anic prophecies work, although I assume you’d already figured that out, just not applied it to Christianity. The ones not yet fulfilled are sufficiently vague as to always be true. Like “there will be wars and rumors of wars”. This is so the eschaton always appears imminent: World events will always appear to confirm Biblical prophecy, no matter what century you live in. The purpose being to supply a perpetual sense of urgency to drive evangelism.
The entirety of Matthew through John, wherever Christ speaks of his return he does it in language that makes it clear he expects it to be imminent. A good example of this is in 1 John 2:18, where Christ urges the followers he is writing to: “18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” also Matthew 10:23, “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”They long ago fled through all the towns of Israel, so where is Jesus?
Over and over it is stressed to early Christians that they should not to make long term plans (like marriage: 1 Cor. 7:29–31), not to go on living in the world as if it will still be here for the rest of their lives, and to look for specific signs that they could expect to see.
This was committed to writing a few decades after Christ’s death by people who still believed they were living in a window of time that was consistent with what Christ predicted for his return. Then it just never got changed, because of the freezing effect of orthodoxy on preserving the contents of a holy text. It was just continually reinterpreted in a way to make it seem like Jesus wasn’t wrong.
Incidentally, Preterists accept all of these verses, but reconcile it with their faith by saying it was a “spiritual second coming” which transpired invisibly, the same rationale used by Jehovah’s Witnesses for their failed predictions.
The other denominations generally deny Jesus predicted such a thing, falling back on the “no man knows the day or the hour” verse as if it cancels out all the rest. Knowing which denomination someone is before engaging them on this issue should inform your approach.
Follow me to read more articles like this one!