I care about this issue, though all the different beliefs are understandable, because all this talk about Jesus coming and predictions failing makes God-folks seem slightly looney. Too, certain end-time views can lead to passive living and not taking care of the world for the next generation. God surely prefers focusing on making a difference than escaping. I believe Jesus has already come according to the Bible, thus the world is not ending, as evidenced by:
- The biblical writers and readers expected the “end times” spoken of to happen within their generation. There is no reason to believe otherwise except because of our own assumptions. Peter writes to his readers in the first century that “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Pe. 4:7). Jesus says: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass way until all these things have happened” (Mt. 24:34). Jesus in the same context recommends readers flee because predictions made are to take place in their generation (v. 16). When asked about the sign of His coming and the end of the age, Jesus said to His readers: “watch out that no one deceives you….you will hear of wars and rumors of war (Mt. 24:4-6).
- Jesus’ and Paul’s generation did not assume Jesus’ coming again was visible. Comings in the clouds, a common metaphor in the Bible, were not always physical. The Old Testament often refers to God coming in the clouds to serve justice. This is obviously metaphorical as God never made a physical appearance. Paul assured his audience they have not missed the “day of the Lord” (2 Thess. 2:1-12). Why was Paul’s audience fearful they could miss the coming of Jesus if such a coming is supposedly a rapture-removing, visible, world-ending coming? Only a non-visible, spiritual coming of Jesus could possibly be missed. The disciples did not think of Jesus’ coming as being visible as they ask: “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age” (Mt. 24:3).
- Heaven is referred to over 80 times in Matthew in references to the “kingdom of heaven.” Jesus says the Kingdom of God is coming in His readers’ lifetime (Mt. 16: 28). Thus, we are presently living in the kingdom of heaven and this major event or any other major event is not something in our future. Besides, many speak of Jesus being with them now but how so if Jesus hasn’t come yet.
- History suggests Jesus’ prediction of coming in the “last days” has taken place. In the first century the great tribulation was fulfilled. The temple and Jerusalem was destroyed and millions of lives were lost. Biblical Judaism ceased to exist. This was the end of the age that Jesus spoke of. The destructive of Jerusalem was the end of the crucial redemptive-historical epoch. God no longer dwells in temples but people’s hearts. Sacrifice simply conveyed the destructiveness of selfishness, thus forgiveness is never without a cost. Jesus, as the ultimate and final sacrifice, was God’s desire to show His love and to persuade us to run from evil and love others as we wish to be loved.