Jesus clearly predicted his return/rule within a human lifetime of his death, right?

Matthew 16
28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

Matthew 24
29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days 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:
30 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.
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
(Bolding mine)

Is there any other interpretation of these passages except that Jesus said he would return “with power and glory” within a human lifetime of when he spoke these words?

Folks who believe Jesus was/is the messiah and will return: how do you explain this?

The interpretation I’ve heard is that the generation he’s reffering to is the one who sees all of that stuff happening, not nessciarly the generation he’s speaking to.

If you firmly believe the Bible is inerrant, then you will be forced to find another interpretation than the simple and obvious. Such is the dilemma of the redactor or apologist.

Mind you, in no way do I subscribe to this concept of a divine biblical origin. But if I did, I would probably postulate that “a thousand years is like a day” to a deity, and the “generation” reference was not a human lifetime one, but a more general social concept that could be stretched to fit.

The “some standing here” text doesn’t really make that interpretation possible, IMO.

Hey, as far as I know, there’s some old guys living out in the desert year after year still waiting for God.

Forget all that, how could the divine son of God say

Youch. Not much of a generation is going to be left if that happens! Paging the Bad Astronomer!

Traditional Orthodox interpretation:

The “Son of man coming in His kingdom” refers to the Transfiguration, which occurs immediately following this event in the text (and about a week later in actual time). The Transfiguration was a vision of Christ as He actually is and will be in His kingdom, resplendent with uncreated light.

“This generation” is metaphorical, referring to the people living in these latter days waiting for the Second Coming.

A bunch of stuff needs bringing out here.

First, folks like Abbie Carmichael who hold to a fairly literal inerrant writing of the Gospel will have an explanation of what exactly is going on with these passages. And I don’t fully understand their thinking, so I’m not going to assert it. But I want to differentiate the fact that some do think that Matthew 24-25 is discussing the Last Days in toto, and their POV, though IMO strained, deserves respect.

Second, some people understand the “immediate” references to be meaning either the Resurrection or the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, as opposed to a long-delayed Second Coming.

But many Bible critics believe that Matthew interfoliated Jesus’s prediction of the Fall of Jerusalem (70 AD) with his eschatological teachings, resulting in a message that appears to be saying “I’ll be back shortly” when it actually originally did not – two different groups of prophetic remarks being intermixed and one implying the other.

Fourthly*, though a Christian will likely not believe this, it’s possible that Jesus, who as He said did not know the time of His return, which only the Father knew, had an opinion as to when it would be that was in fact mistaken.

Finally, people skeptical about Jesus’s Resurrection, divinity, or even existence will simply say that the whole thing is so much organic fertilizer.

That pretty well runs the gamut of responses – from Biblical literalism to arrant hyperskepticism. Shuffle and deal. :slight_smile:

  • I always wanted to put together a list of stuff that had “fourthly” in it! :wink:

That makes some sense, thanks.

That makes less sense. If that’s what he meant, then he was basically saying “The people who are around then will be around then.”

Boy, all these responses and no one brings up The Wandering Jew?
Some folks, reading the passages you cite (in addition to the one n John about “if I will tha he tarry 'til I come”) and taking them very literally, figured that there must, indeed, be at least one person who doesn’t get to die until Jesus comes back.Thus was born The Wandering Jew. Sort of a landlocked Flying Dutchman, forced to wander the earth and not die, repenting upon his not believing sooner.

I don’t now if anyon ever really believed in him, but The Wanderimng Jew served as inspiration for a number of stories and poems, a series of engravings by Gustave Dore, the name for a creeping plant, and (at least in part) the character of Nathan Brazil in Jack Chalker’s science fiction/fantasy “Well World” series.

Essentially, yes, or at least that’s what I’m remembering off the top of my head. He’s saying both that when you see these signs, the end is going to come really soon, and also that humanity as we know it will still be around (i.e. the Second Coming isn’t going to occur after the extinction of humanity or the sun going nova, etc.) When I get home, I’ll check my sources to see if there’s clarification and/or another explanation of that passage.

I’ve heard of this legend vaguely, somewhere. I have a hard time seeing how that bit from John would support it, though, as the “if he tarry” bit goes:

Seems to clearly be putting down the idea of John (or whoever) actually tarrying until He come.

What dilemma? The simple and obvious is that the antecedant immediately precedes the consequent — “this generation” references those who “see these things”. That’s why when you see them, you know that “it is near, even at the doors”. […shrug…]

Stricly speaking, you’re right, of course. But don’t overlook the power of incorrect interpretation and the quick and mistaken glance, coupled with wishful thinking. Some people ignore what went before, apparently, and simply noticed the “If I will that he tarry till I come…”, and that was all they needed for another patch of the legend.

If you think the Bible is inerrant you may want to skip this post:

Ok, here’s the scoop. Jesus almost certainly never predicted his own “return” during “this generation” or any other. The parousia was Paul’s idea and it was retrojected into Jesus’ mouth by the authors of the Gospels.

In very early Christianity there is no question that people literally expected Jesus’ immediate return. “This generation” was at one point interpreted as referring to the lives of the Apostles and there was an expectation that Jesus would return before the last Apostle died. Creative apologetics and reinterpretation became required in relatively short order (like after a century or so), but it’s pretty well documented by early Christian writers that the first Christian communities thought Jesus was coming any day, and that they accordingly gave everything to the poor, etc.

Some of them even wondered if the loved who died while waiting would still get to go up to Heaven (which in itself indicates they were expecting an immediate parousia). In 1 Thessolonians, Paul addressed this question by reassuring them that the “dead in Christ” would go up first and then the living. (This passage has now been perverted into the basis for “Rapture” theology.

Jesus’ seeming predictions about his own second coming are not generally regarded as authentic anymore, but he probably did say something along the lines of “The Kingdom of Heaven is among (or within) you now,” which was intended to be a wisdom saying not a grandiose declaration of personal divinity.
Anyway, the simple answer to the OP is that Christian theology was originally predicated on an assumption of an imminent parousia. That presumption was obviously wrong and they had to reinterpret it.

I just eed to clarify this. I meant to say those sayings are not regarded as authentic by critical historical scholarship. They are obviously regarded as authentic by hundreds of millions of Christians.

And don’t forget Eleazar in A Canticle for Liebowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1959)! He ties together the book’s three sections!

The Wikipedia has an article on the Wandering Jew:



Essentially, a lot of Jesus “coming in the clouds” passages reference Daniel 7 in which “the son of man” comes in the clouds TO the Father to receive His Kingdom, and the earthly sign that God’s Kingdom was given to Jesus & His people was the
70 AD Destruction of Jerusalem & the Mosaic Sacrificial-Priestly System, this is the “end of the aion” (“aion” oftimes misleadingly to modern ears translated as “world”).

Now, I do believe that the New Testament predictions of persecution of C’tians, judgement upon those persecutors, and the parousia of Christ (coming or presence) in Matthew 23-24, Mark 13, Luke 21, I Thess 4, II Thess 2 and Revelation apply to the first century situation, and also to the progress of Christian history until the final showdown between a last AntiChrist power & the literal physical return of Jesus.

So yeah, I am having my cake & eating it too! Blessed are we who are called to His supper! G

Another interpretation is that Jesus’ reference to “the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven” is a prophecy of the death of St. Stephen, in Acts 7:54-60, in which he has a vision of Jesus before he is stoned to death.

Another interpretation is that Jesus was prophesying two things, the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the Second Coming, and either Jesus or the gospel writer conflated the two together. Jesus explicitly mentions that He has no special knowledge of the time of the Second Coming (Matthew 24:36). So it is possible that He was not clear, or the Gospel writer did not understand, that the prediction that “this generation will not pass until all these things are accomplished” was referring to the fall of Jerusalem and thus the end of the Temple cult and animal sacrifice in Judaism.


It’s also possible that Jesus was much like the dime-a-dozen charismatic figures throughout human history that predict the immanent end of the world and vindication of their given cause. It’s a very compelling thing to believe about your own cause, making virtually any earthly barrier that you see standing in your way totally moot. That’s probably why it’s such a popular belief.

Just keep in mind that we’re not talking about what Jesus said, we’re talking about what somebody else claimed that Jesus said…and these are not exactly reliable sources. They were writing decades after the fact and they weren’t witnesses.

Shodan, the “Son of Man” quotation in Matthew is a direct quotation of a Messianic prophecy in Daniel. The only way such a reference would have been understood in Jesus’ cultural context was as a claim to the throne of David (not an assertion of personal godhood, though).

Jesus is not himself making a predictive prophecy in that passage, he is merely quoting Daniel to make a point (or more precisely, Matthew has Jesus quote Daniel so that Matthew can make a point).