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THE FALLACY OF JESUS'
NEAR RETURN

by Jacques More

The false immediate return of Jesus
Throughout my Christian life since my conversion at the age of 14 I have heard or read that it is normal to expect Jesus' immediate return. We are told that this is how the 1st Christians believed. We hear that there are bible passages that give that indication, and so on.

Not so
As I began to read my bible and hear different preachers I was blessed to note those who explained the logic that this is not so. The bible clearly points to the 1st disciples not expecting Jesus' return to be imminent. I think probably the first explanation I heard on this came from the bible teacher J. David Pawson.

Peter to die an old man
David explained that since Peter was told he was to die an old man he could not at the same time expect Jesus' return before that. This is what Jesus said to Peter:


'Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.'
This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God . . .

John 21:18-19


Not before the Spirit and witness
You have to admit that this indeed makes sense. Equally when Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem it is incongruous to understand that they expected his imminent return whilst they waited for the Holy Spirit's arrival as at Pentecost (Acts 2). Indeed Jesus said the purpose of waiting was to be empowered so they could then go and tell. If they need to go and tell, they were not expecting his return before they did this telling.

Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.
Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.

Luke 24:46-49


The disciples did not expect Jesus' return until this had been accomplished. More than that Jesus was specific that the return which corresponded with the end of things would not occur until the gospel was preached to the ends of the earth. First I need to quote and show the end and Jesus' return as linked, then I quote Jesus' statement that the end - i.e. his own return - will not happen until the gospel was preached everywhere.

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying 'Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'

Matthew 24:3

Here we see Jesus' coming again and the end linked. Now Jesus also says the end will not happen until this preaching has been done.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Matthew 24:14

Here we see explicit that the disciples knew Jesus would not return until the gospel mentioned was preached in all places of the world. This does not help me to believe that the 1st Christians believed Jesus' return was imminent.

Paul's warnings
When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians we see that some who had begun to think like this were rebuked by Paul. So yes, these were 1st century Christians who believed in Jesus' imminent return. But Paul says they are wrong. Paul proceeds to teach them again what he had apparently told them before. He repeated some of the things prophetically to occur before Jesus' return: And not just that, but indeed the same things to happen before the rapture too. First how do I know Paul had told them before? Because he said, 'Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?' (2 Thessalonians 2:5). Well that seems pretty clear. Paul was repeating something he had told them before. And what error was he speaking into (again)?

Paul was speaking again against the idea that Jesus' coming was imminent or had actually happened. And not that alone, but that 'our gathering together to Him', what we now call 'the rapture', was also imminent. Both those events, however close they may be to each other, were not imminent. That is the error Paul was speaking again to them about.

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

The readers were told not to consider as truth that 'the day of Christ had come', that it was near at hand, imminent or indeed had already happened. Jesus said this too,


. . . many will come in my name, claiming . . . 'The time is near.'
Do not follow them.

Luke 21:8 NIV


In fact Jesus preceded saying that with, 'Watch out that you are not deceived' (Luke 21:8 NIV). So with these warnings in mind, I trust you will forgive me for labouring on this point. Paul speaking against the error of a near return of Jesus then elaborated on what he had previously told his readers:


Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4


Paul outlines a number of things that must happen before Jesus' return and before 'our gathering together to Him'. This gathering he had mentioned before in his first letter to the Thessalonians. Paul had said, 'we . . . shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air' (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The link is clear the gathering together to Him is the event of meeting together with the Lord in the air. There are no other gathering together mentioned. This event is what is nowadays called the Rapture and together with Jesus' return is not near.
As Jesus said, if anyone says to you it is near, do not follow them.

For further reading I recommend When is the rapture? And, How Soon is Jesus' Return?



Ref. S.063

Unless otherwise stated Bible quotes are from
the New King James Version.

© copyright Thomas Nelson Inc. 1979,1980,1982.


NIV material is taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version

© 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society

© copyright Jacques More 2007. All Rights Reserved.

· The Early Church Fathers and Predestination
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