Dear Friends,

It is a commonplace that the apostles were seriously mistaken. It is said that they believed that Jesus would return very soon, before they died. Jesus has not returned, so they were mistaken. This commonplace is often used as part of a project to undermine a Christian’s confidence in the Bible But is it an accurate way to understand the New Testament?

I write this blog on Friday morning and I finish my sermon, hopefully, Saturday morning. So I know that I will preach on 2 Corinthians 5: 1-10, but I have not yet finished what I will and will not say. I do not know how much I will go into this, but this text of Scripture is part of the hard evidence that Paul was not predicting the imminent return of Jesus. Among other things, in this Scripture text, Paul is explaining what happens to Christians when they die before the return of Jesus. When you read 2 Corinthians 5: 1-10 note that he says “we” – he includes himself among those who may very well die before the return of Christ.

But what about texts that seem to say that Paul will be alive when Jesus returns? For instance, 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17, For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Often people only quote part of the above – Paul clearly says that some Christians have and will have died before the Lord returns. But does the “we who are alive…” imply that Paul personally
believed that he would be alive when Christ returned? Not at all. Paul is experiencing the attitude and belief all Christ followers should have.

Should I live each day saying, “Jesus will definitely not come for centuries, much less during my lifetime”? No. This is not how a follower of Jesus is to live! Jesus said, “I will come like a thief in the night, unexpectedly, with no person knowing the day or the hour, so be alert.” He expects us to live our lives in the hope that He will return during our lifetime. It is a very different way to live saying, “He will return for sure, I know not when; come soon, Lord! Hasten the day!” then to live saying, “Nah, He won’t come for centuries.” The New Testament teaches His return and teaches that no one knows the day or hour.

Dear friends, ask the Lord to grant you to live confident He will return!

George +