Roughly as many Americans say Jesus Christ will
return to earth in the next 40 years (41%) as say he
won’t make an appearance by 2050 (Pew Research Center).
by Mark Mountjoy
There are many obstacles that conspire to obviate or conceal a past Second Coming from the eyes of millions of individuals who have been groomed and trained to look intently at current events for clues and cues. Regardless of whether it is believed to be near or far away, what resonates for many American Christians—across multiple faith traditions—is that such an event has not been satisfied by any recognizable event in historic antiquity. And such a site as this represents something that is completely contrary to familiar beliefs and is, doubtlessly, totally out of the question for the majority who visit and consider the context and logic, framework, and arguments that seeks to give credence to the notion that the Church, almost from the very beginning, is basically and fundamentally misguided, and dismissive of circumstantial constraints that demand a completely opposite view.
But since the first century, a number of developments have unfolded to complicate this picture to make it much more challenging to get the message across. Here is a list of four critical factors that can make or break a discussion around these issues:-
1 Canon of Scriptures determines a lot and familiarity with Jewish salvation history. If the Chronicles of the Maccabees are missing that is a necessary chunk of Jewish history that helps make New Testament eschatology make sense. Isolation and identification of themes, entities, and architecture that define the contemporary situation in the generation of Jesus, the Apostles, and the first Christians will make a discussion like this be insightful, profitable, and fruitful—but not otherwise. No effort to disregard the background will result in a satisfactory result in the here and now, nor will it lead to the fulfillment of Futurist hopes and ambitions at any time in the future: This is an axiom.
2 Dependence upon creeds as primary guides. Dependence on creeds and writings of early Church fathers muddles the issues, but appealing to the Bible directly and to histories immediately surrounding the events in question tends to clarify contentious or debatable points.
3 Authority of the Church over the truth of the Scriptures. If a Christian organization believes it has authority over God's Word that means that those individuals will believe they can impose and dictate meaning to Bible passages whereas groups who believe they have to submit to the authority of the Scriptures will strongly be inclined to understand and change their ideas about what the Bible says, accordingly.
Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and New York are three religious organizations that believe that their leadership has the right to dictate what the Bible means, regardless of the actual circumstances and claims of the Bible itself.1 It will matter greatly therefore if people we are sharing with believe they have to submit to God’s Word or if God’s written Word has to submit to them. And it is our view that problems will remain unresolved so long as the idea persists that we are over the Bible instead of the Bible being over us.
4 Acknowledgment of faulty reasoning that led to mistakes in the past. What assumptions proved false and in what way do brand-new claims differ from failed expectations of yesteryear? It has been noted that those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them. That maxim will be doubly true for those who look to 2050 for anything like a Second Coming which the Bible says not a single word about!
On the third point, churches who claim they are under the Bible really will be acting like churches who believe they are over the Bible for the simple reason that they are imposing a definition of a generation, replacing the Second Temple with the Third Temple and pretending like the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 is the restoration that Jesus accomplished when he established the Christian church firm and steadfast in the midst of the terrifying Zealot commotions and debacles of the first and second centuries of our Common Era.
Reversal of Meaning in Two Key
New Testament Disciplinary Texts
The future Second Coming is strongly reliant on an interpretation of 2 Timothy 2:17 and 18 that is both inaccurate and superstitious; it creates a false dichotomy between the denials of Hymenaeus and Philetus on one hand and the affirmations of Paul’s own apocalyptic teachings on the other hand. Where Paul is crystal clear that the removal of the Second Temple is a necessary event in Bible eschatology fulfillment, the destruction of Jerusalem is, therefore, KEY to his thinking and central to the realization of the resurrection of the dead.
But traditional futurism has transmogrified the 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 passage into a eulogistic text that sidesteps, weakens, and debilitates the main point of the passage, especially in light of what the Hebrew Writer states in Hebrews 11:8-16 about the city and the country, not made by the hands of man. Is this not the resurrection of the dead, and is this not the dissolution of the Second Temple and the very time Paul says that the house, not made with hands would be ready to don? And this is exactly why the Second Temple is so important to stress, highlight, and underline in this New Testament eschatology: It is a complete and utter mistake to move the goalposts of the end of the world and make it pertain, in any way, shape, or form, to a Third Temple, which may seem exciting and fantastic on paper or in the imagination but is NOT in any way a possibility the Word of God entertains, no not even once, my Christian friends.
The blasphemous claims of Hymenaeus and Philetus are egregiously used in a way that was not intended or supported by any known teachings of the Apostle Paul: He did not teach open-ended futurism. At the very same time, American Christians (and Christians in general) are far too comfortable with the idea of a future coming of our Lord that they actually imagine that the situation of Hymenaeus and Philetus condemns a past coming of our Lord when, in fact, it does the very opposite! As it can be shown that the Apostle Paul believed our Lord’s return would be in the lifetime of at least some of the original Christians, that fact shuts down the argument that Paul was against a contemporary Parousia.
Scoffers, the Last Days, and Second Coming Denial
A passage in 2 Peter 3:1ff is abused to mean something that the context of the passage absolutely won’t allow. Let’s read the passage and get a good look at the sense of it from a first century perspective:
“This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:
2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:
4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
In verse 4 these individuals both deny the possibility of Christ’s return but also reject the catastrophes of the Bible, specifically the Deluge recorded in Genesis, the first book of Moses.
5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
The Apostle Peter attributes their amnesia to willful ignorance and he describes the Antediluvian world as heaven and earth standing out of the water and in the water, yet we all know that Adam and Eve and all mankind that dwelt on earth before the flood was on the same plane as we today live on after the flood. In this sense, it is doubtful that Peter wishes Christians to understand that the heavens and earth destroyed by the flood were a different planet but rather a former civilization.
7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
If we understand the Apostle Peter thus far, he is saying that the CIVILIZATION marked for judgment would be destroyed by the agency of fire, judgment, and eternal damnation of ungodly men. These people are described in great detail in 2 Peter 2:1-22 and are people who are living and breathing at the time this epistle was being penned.
8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
An excuse is made of 2 Peter 3:8 to smuggle the Second Coming out of the first and second century but Peter’s whole purpose is to illustrate that the passage of time between Christ’s departure and his return would be immediate on a larger timescale than Jesus leaving ten days before Pentecost and turning around and coming right back there and then. The argument of the scoffers was that since Jesus left and had not come back yet he was not coming back at all (even as they also believed that since the Second Temple and Jerusalem had not already fallen they would not fall at all), however, the entire litany of reasoning was false and Peter’s urging that these Anatolian Christians can hasten, look for and expect the Second Coming argues directly against 2 Peter 3 as a defense, in any guise for any form of Futurism or church discipline which wishes to use this passage to restrain the very idea the Apostle Peter sought to fortify: the certainty of Christ’s Second Coming before that wicked and adulterous generation passed away.
9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (See Revelation 16:12-21)
11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, (See 2 Corinthians 5:1-4).
12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (See “looking for” and “hasting” in the Greek Interlinear).
13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (See Revelation chapter 21).
14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” (Again, check the Greek Interlinear for “look for”).
That the scoffers doubted the promises of Christ’s Second Coming, there can be no question, however, the question left open and unaddressed is whether or not these scoffers disbelieved a future Second Coming or a Second Coming that was impending at the very time the Apostle Peter wrote his epistle in the mid-60s of the first century, possibly months or several years before the Destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem? If we requestion our assumptions and are willing to rethink what we believe 2 Peter 3 means (within narrower contextual constraints that connect the chapter to the previous chapter in 2 Peter) there are possible ways that Christians can come to terms with the overall gist of what the New Testament says about eschatology as a whole.
The Purpose of This Site is to Be
a Catalyst For Change
A catalyst for change will be realizable just as soon as enough Christians recognize that the combined constraints of Peter’s total message from 1 and 2 Peter DEMAND that the scoffers of 2 Peter 3 mocked a specific eschatology: One foretold that our Lord would return in power and great glory to oversee the Destruction of Jerusalem and the termination of the ancient Israelite State in fire, heat, and destruction.
Now, why did I decide to commit myself to a work like this? Why did I go forward to preach a message I knew full well would make me look like a fool in the eyes of thousands if not millions? I did it because on 7 November 1981 at almost exactly 5:00 PM I saw a vision of the 9th of Ab A.D.70 that completely and utterly terrified me to the core of my being. I did not ask for that (and yet I did ask for it, I will explain it below).
That was a Saturday evening and I was reading the Gospel According to Luke. I had started from the very first verse in chapter one and made it all the way to Luke 11:45-51. I stopped there! I had read that passage a million times before, but this time it was different. For the very first time, I noticed that the discussion was between Jesus and the “lawyers” and the controversy or the accusations were around them killing the prophets and saints of God and Jesus was telling them then and there that they were going to be held responsible for the deaths of all the prophets, apostles, and saints.
In my mind I was thinking, Wow, this reminds me of something I read in the Book of Revelation about a city that was paying for the same sins! I flipped over to Revelation but I could not find the verse. I got up and walked across the room and grabbed a copy of my Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and looked up the keyword, “Blood.”
I came back and sat down and located the verse in Revelation 18:20-24 where it said,
20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.
21 And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.
22 And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;
23 And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.
After I read that I was thinking, Jerusalem is Babylon?!? This was a completely brand-new idea for me that I never in my wildest dream would have considered for a minute. And that is when all of a sudden it clicked that this happened ALREADY! As I realized that Jerusalem was Babylon and Babylon was NOT the Roman Catholic Church (as I had been taught and what I believed all my life) time seemed to stand still and a vision appeared towards my left as if I was looking down a corridor in time. In the vision, I saw what looked almost like what you see from a snapshot of this image of the 2010 Icelandic Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption.
Words involuntarily came out of my mouth, Something happened a long time ago! I didn’t have to think about it, I was looking at it in terror thinking too much Bible study had finally made me lose my mind! It was so shocking and terrifying to also realize that my Lord’s Second Coming somehow and in some way happened in direct connection to that terrible event and I KNEW IT BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT!
However, I knew nothing about what Josephus said or what the Rabbis said or what anyone else said about A.D.70. In the vision I did not even see a date at all—but I knew instinctively that it WAS the destruction of Jerusalem and that it happened already. My eyes were bulging out of my head and I was trembling and feeling weak in my knees and sick to my stomach. I closed my Bible and staggered across the room to my bed and as I did so I sat it on my dresser and glanced at it and it was moving, beating like a blue heart!
For almost seven weeks I was too scared to even look at my Bible or even think too deeply about the subject at all, but afterward, I purchased a half dozen notebooks and embarked upon a journey to pray, research, explore, and discover that which was totally unfamiliar to me: Jewish salvation history—particularly the Second Temple period and the events leading to the disappearance of Israel as a state in antiquity.
I Did Ask for It
I detail some parts of my journey in various essays on this site (here, here, and here) and it was not easy because, in the first place, a whole year before God showed me the destruction of Jerusalem I was on my knees praying to him to help me understand the Book of Revelation. I was from a Premillennial background and now I was newly involved in this Restoration Movement church that told me that Dispensational doctrine was all wrong and they were able to show me enough Scriptures in the Old Testament to validate that the Cross and the Church were definitely a part of God’s plan and not a last-minute development to be discarded when Jesus comes back to reify Israel.
So now I had to start from square one: How does the Book of Revelation make sense if it is not in the way Premillennialism understands it? When I tried to understand Revelation the way Amillennialism wants to frame its issues too much material was cut out so that, basically, Revelation was abbreviated to only chapters 20, 21, and 22—only that much! And the longer I reflected on what I was being fed to me the more crystal clear it became to me that Amillennialism had no way to explain what was between Revelation chapter 1 and Revelation chapter 19, but I did not have the answer either! So I was on my knees begging God, Please, please tell me what this last book means! Help me understand it because it does not make sense to me!
And as I was winding my anguished prayer down I tried to project to God my trust that I could give him the benefit of the doubt and that no matter what the meaning was, I believed he would show me (little did I know how jarring, terrifying and painful it would be!). A year later, after buying and going through all these brotherhood books and tracts, which each had something almost completely different to say, I was at my wits end to reach anything like a stable idea about the last book of the New Testament. But one thing is for sure: I never would have suspected that it happened already!
Now, this has been a lonely journey mainly because good or bad, I have discovered that many people believe what they believe because of friendships and allegiances (and I am not trying to say that friendships and allegiances are necessarily bad because we are trying to establish such relationships with Christians, too). Some people may see the facts, but their friendships will determine what they will do with those facts. Other people may be under the constraints of authority which will prevent them from openly declaring what they believe and know.
I knew a Pentecostal minister who was like this and I know a Greek Orthodox priest who is fully cognizant of what the situation is but constraints on his actions mean he cannot come out and announce to Christians what he truly believes in his heart. So there’s that problem of people asking, Ok, maybe that happened but who else believes it? And here is where a buildup of a new framework seems obvious: There can be no practical support if there are no friendship and allegiance framework to work within. Efforts will fail on a local level because ministry depends on specific kinds of leadership skills and a person who is an introvert and a researcher is very different from someone who is an extrovert and a director.
A believer who is also a director would also solve the issue of restrictions that exist because we have no right to impose what we know on groups and congregations who have their own authority and reality agreements.
What I hope to convey is this: We can get out of this Futurist rut with some effort but we will need a canon of Scriptures that includes the Maccabees, we will have to prioritize the Bible over creeds and the authority of the Word of God over the pronouncements of the Church. We will also have to know the history most intimately important to where Christianity came from which is Israel and the synagogue so we will need to be deftly familiar with Jewish salvation history, specifically from the Nebuchadnezzar to Simeon Bar Kokhba.
After this, we will need to be frank and honest about Bible prophecy claims and failures over the past nineteen centuries since Montanus without also making the blasphemous mistake of claiming our Lord and his Apostles were somehow wrong about theirs. We must fully look Bible prophecy mistakes of the past in the face and acknowledge them for what they lacked and why they failed, from this, if it is the will of God, will emerge Atavist Bible churches. To be sure, a development like this is not something that is in my strength or power to “make” happen. My assignment is simply to put out the information, to the best of my ability, to make Christians and truthseekers aware of what the issues, obstacles, and challenges are and leave the rest up to someone else to water but ultimately it is God who can bring these insights to fruition.
Whatever else Christians are doing right, now we are not on the same Bible prophecy page that conventional consensus says we are on. And it is completely certain that there is this mistaken need to have the Second Coming in the future but this notion will continue to be the Achilles heel of the Church until such time as leaders and laymen begin to look at the New Testament from a first and second century perspective and take the claims of the New Testament seriously and rethink the distant past when Christians first appeared and walked away from the deadly Zealot revolts with the promised kingdom of God, just as Jesus our Lord had foretold (Luke 12:32).
1 This is why, for example, people will pray to the Virgin Mary as a Mediator instead of the Lord Jesus, monks still inhabit a monastery in the Sinai Peninsula which is not the Mountain of God, which is in Saudi Arabia, and sectaries will hold to a 1914 date and end-of-the-world-timetable that has no basis at all in the entire Bible.