Don’t just let your eyes glaze over with these questions. This is a serious study of Scripture and Christians must come to grips with the implications of this material.
Note that the questions are organized by topic. Here are the topics:
A. Questions about the “End of the Age,” “Last Days,” and the “Day of the Lord”
B. Questions about the timing of the Second Coming (the Parousia) according to Jesus
C. Questions about the timing of the Parousia according to the New Testament writers
D. Questions about the book of Revelation
E. More Questions
James Stuart Russell (1816-1895) in his classic work The Parousia says this, “In prophecy, as in poetry, the material is regarded as the type of the spiritual, the passions and emotions of humanity find expression in corresponding signs and symptoms in the inanimate creation. The earth convulsed with earthquakes, burning mountains cast into the sea, the stars falling like leaves, the heavens on fire, the sun clothed in sackcloth, the moon turned into blood, are images of appalling grandeur, but they are not necessarily unsuitable representations of great civil commotions—the overturning of thrones and dynasties, the desolations of war, the abolition of ancient systems, the great moral and spiritual revolutions.”
A. Questions about the “End of the Age,” “Last Days,” and the “Day of the Lord”:
1. In such passages as Matthew 13:40; Matthew 13:49; Matthew 24:3; Matthew 28:20, etc., isn’t Jesus referring to the end of an age (Greek aion) rather than the end of the world (Greek kosmos)? In other words, if the author was talking about the end of the world, wouldn’t he have used kosmos when he actually used aion? (Compare the King James Version, which has been confusing people for a long time, with newer translations including the New King James Version.)
2. Since the thrust of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24/25; Mark 13; Luke 21) is the destruction of the temple, isn’t it reasonable to believe that the age in question was the age of the Old Covenant order—especially since the ancient Jewish system of temple sacrifices for sin ended with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD?
3. The end time mentioned in the book of Daniel was to be when the burnt offering was taken away (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11). Since burnt offerings ended in 70 AD, must not this be the time line, thus the “last days” of which the Bible speaks?
4. Considering audience relevance, can John’s declaration that “it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18) be construed to be far future events? (The last times become the last days, which become the last hour, as the decisive moment was now imminent.)
5. Didn’t Peter proclaim the last days to be the time of Pentecost, or more generally the time in which he and his hearers were living (Acts 2:14-20)?
6. Doesn’t Peter insist that the Old Testament prophecies were being fulfilled in his day (Acts 3:23-24)?
7. Doesn’t Peter in his epistles reiterate, or at least strongly imply and reaffirm, that the last times were in his era (1 Peter 1:5, 20; 1 Peter 4:7; 2 Peter 3:3, 12)? Remembering that Peter puts the last days in the first generation in Acts 2, read all of 1st and 2nd Peter to see if the imminency of the events of which he speaks is not evident.
8. Wouldn’t readers of Peter’s epistles have understood the radical nearness of the coming judgment? How else can you interpret Peter’s words in 1 Peter 4:7 that “The end of all things is near/at hand”? Unless you think Peter was a quack, doesn’t it make sense that he is speaking of the end of all Old Covenant things?
9. Isn’t the other New Testament writers’ understanding of what was to happen explained by Paul when he says in 1 Corinthians 10:11 that “the end of the ages has come” and in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 that it was the form or fashion of the world that was passing away, not the end of the physical universe?
10. When the writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 1:2) refered to his day and time as “these last days,” can he be referring to the far distant future? Don’t Hebrews 9:26 and Hebrews 10:25-27 confirm a first century setting?
11. Can there be any doubt that James 5:3-9 is telling his readers that they themselves are in the last days?
12. Does any mention of the “last days” or equivalent (last times, last hour) in the New Testament clearly refer without exception to any time outside of the first century (Hebrews 1:2; Acts 2:17; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1; James 5:3; 2 Peter 3:3; Jude 18; 1 John 2:18)?
13. Again considering audience relevance, doesn’t Paul imply in 1 Corinthians 1:7-8 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 that the Day of the Lord will come during the lifetimes of his readers? Does it make any sense for Paul to tell his Thessalonian Christian brothers in 52 AD to be watchful for the Day of the Lord if the catastrophe was not to take place until thousands of years later?
14. The phrase “the day of the Lord” is used in 17 or so passages in the Old Testament (Isaiah 2:12, 13:6, 13:9; Ezekiel 13:5, 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1,11,31, 3:14; Amos 3:8:18-20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7, 14-18; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 4:5) and in some 5 passages in the New Testament (Acts 2:20; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10). It is also alluded to in other passages (Revelation 6:17, 16:14). Since this phrase in the Old Testament at least sometimes refers to historical judgments that have already been fulfilled in some sense (Isaiah 13:6-22; Ezekiel 30:2-9; Joel 1:15; Joel 3:14; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:14-18), isn’t it reasonable to infer that the times in the New Testament that we see this term may also refer to already fulfilled events?
15. Since other times in the Old Testament where we see the term “day of the Lord” refer to divine judgments that will take place toward the end of the age (Joel 2:30-32; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 4:1-5), and since we can reasonably infer that the “end of the age” was the end of the Old Covenant age which ended in 70 AD, isn’t this consistent with a 70 AD fulfillment of the New Testament mentions of the Day of the Lord?
16. If you think there is more than one “end of the age” or “last day” or “Day of the Lord” period—one in the first century, and one in the 21st century—where is the Scripture support for this view?
Again quoting Russell, “His ‘coming’ or ‘coming again,’ always refers to one particular event and one particular period.” And: “The phrase, ‘the end of the ages’ (Heb 9:26; 1 Cor 10:11) is equivalent to the ‘end of the age’ (Mat 13:39, 40, 49, 24:3, 28:20) and ‘the end” (Mat 10:22, 24:6, 24:13, 24:14; 1 Cor 1:8, 15:24; Heb 3:6, 3:14, 6:11; 1 Pet 4:7; Rev 2:26). All refer to the same period, viz. the close of the Jewish age, or dispensation—that is, The Old Covenant—which was now at hand….It is sometimes said that the whole period between the incarnation and the end of the world is regarded in the New Testament as the ‘end of the age’ [or the ‘last days’]. But this bears a manifest incongruity in its very front. How could the end of a period be a long protracted duration? Especially how could it be longer than the period of which it is the end? More time has already elapsed since the incarnation than from the giving of the law to the first coming of Christ: so that, on this hypothesis, the end of the age is a great deal longer than the age itself.”
B. Questions about the timing of the Second Coming (the Parousia) and judgment—according to Jesus:
1. Doesn’t Jesus make it clear that the days in which He and his contemporaries were on earth—his literal generation—were the days of vengeance to fulfill ALL Old Testament prophecy (Luke 21:22, 32)? If there is any yet any unfulfilled prophecy, why did Jesus say that his days were the days of vengeance to fulfill ALL that was written?
2. Doesn’t Luke 21:20, 22 provide biblical proof for 70 AD fulfillment of prophecy? (“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near….For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.”)
3. The term Parousia is the Greek word used 24 times in the New Testament which is often translated as “coming,” that is Christ’s Second Coming or his return. Can’t this term also legitimately mean “divine presence” or “nearness,” or even in specific reference to Christ’s punishment of Jerusalem or finally the wicked? (See Strong’s #3952.) Isn’t it indeed translated as “presence” in 2 Corinthians 10:10 and Philippians 2:12? Doesn’t this understanding at least open up the possibility of a past fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Luke 21: 22, 32?
4. Doesn’t Matthew 10:23 clearly say that his Parousia would be before his disciples finished going through the cities of Israel?
5. Doesn’t Matthew 16:27-28 clearly say that his Parousia would be before all his disciples had died? Isn’t it also clear that this could not mean the time of the transfiguration (just a few days away) unless Jesus thought that some of his disciples would die in those few days? (Compare the language here to see if it is not essentially the same as in the Olivet Discourse, just a few chapters later in Matthew 24/25).
6. The term generation (this generation) is used in 23 passages in the New Testament outside of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21), and every time it clearly means without debate the generation of people alive when Jesus spoke. Isn’t it reasonable to interpret this generation the same way in the Olivet Discourse? How can “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 be talking about people thousands of years later? Jesus does not say “some future generation.” (For confirmation, here is a list of all the times that generation is used in the New Testament: http://www.searchgodsword.org/desk/?l=en&query=generation§ion=2&translation=nas&sr=1&Enter=Perform+Search).
7. Note especially that Jesus, in Matthew 23:35-36 uses this generation to refer to people living right then and there—the scribes and Pharisees. Wouldn’t this have strong implications about his meaning just a few verses later in Matthew 24?
8. Isn’t the focus of Jesus in his “this generation” prophecies (Matthew 12:38-45; Matthew 23:36; Mark 8:38-9:1; Luke 11:50-51) about judgment upon Israel? Wouldn’t this coincide with the destruction of Israel and the temple in 70 AD?
9. Don’t many of Jesus’ parables speak directly to the coming judgment on Israel and the Jewish leaders—The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19), The Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14), The Parable of the Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9, ref Mark 11:12-21, Isaiah 5:1-7). etc.? Don’t they perfectly fit the destruction of Israel and the temple in 70 AD?
10. If Jesus’ Second Coming would be the world seeing him coming in a physical body, why does Jesus say “In a little while and the world will see me no more” in John 14:19?
12. If you think that Matthew 24 speaks of two different time periods, some to near events (Matthew 24:1-34), and some to far away (Matthew 24:35ff), please comment on this statement: The problem with this idea is that in Luke 17, where Jesus speaks of the same events (“the day that the Son of Man is revealed”), Luke mixes the events up and thus cannot be divided out. When were these events to take place? Jesus tells us: the “generation” alive when he spoke those words. Here is a web link: http://www.worldwithoutend.info/start/articles/ed_stevens_03-matt24.htm.
13. The unbelieving Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for their Messiah, but when he arrived they did not recognize him. They were looking for a Messiah that would reign over a materialistic kingdom. Could it be that Christians have made the same mistake as the Jews, and are still looking for a Second Advent in a way different than what Jesus meant—when in fact he came just as promised in the generation of those then living, but in a way different from what was expected?
C. Questions about the timing of the Parousia and coming judgment—according to the New Testament writers:
1. Doesn’t every book in the New Testament (except Philemon) attest to the expectation of a soon fulfillment of the great prophesied evens spoken of by the prophets?
2. Here are all 19 times the phrase “at hand” is used in the New Testament:
Doesn’t James’ pronouncement that the Lord’s Coming is near/at hand (James 5:7-9) mean just that? Can it possibly mean anything other than the literal interpretation? If “at hand” means 2000 years later or longer, how could the original audience (or anyone else for that matter) know when “at hand” would be? Why isn’t there a single instance in the New Testament that says Christ’s coming was not “at hand”?
3. What about Paul’s comment that the “time is short” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)? Can “short” mean “long?” What time frame did Paul have in mind when he said that the present form of the world was passing away? What time frame would Paul’s readers have understood? (To quote R. C. Sproul, “Surely the Corinthians would not have understood Paul to be urging them to do something because the time is short when in fact it is thousands of years away.”)
4. When Paul says that “the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11), could he mean the “end of the world”? If so, why didn’t he say what he meant? If so, why does the Bible speak of the world NEVER ending (Psalms 78:69; 89:36-37, 93:1, 96:10, 104:5, 148:4-6; Ecclesiastes 1:4; Ephesians 3:21)? Isn’t it clear that Paul did not have the end of the world in mind since he spoke of more distant ages and generations elsewhere (Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:21)? Doesn’t Paul clarify in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 that what is soon to pass away is the present form or fashion of the world, not the world itself?
5. Isn’t Paul strongly suggesting in Colossians 3:4-6, 1 Timothy 6:11-21, and Titus 2:11-13 that he and his readers would witness Jesus’ Parousia?
6. Doesn’t it seem clear in 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10 and 2:14-19 that the Parousia and judgment was imminent—the time frame being so close at hand that it “has come upon them?” Isn’t the wrath here the same as in Luke 21:21-28, which is limited to Jesus’ generation?
7. Did Jesus come to grant relief to the Thessalonians as promised by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10? Would it make any sense to reassure those to whom he is speaking that relief was on its way in thousands of years? (That would be like your calling 9/11 for a life threatening situation and the dispatcher says the ambulance will be there soon or quickly, but doesn’t show up for many years later. For this to mean that soon or quickly means that whenever they do come in the future that they would come very fast—would make language ridiculous.)
8. If Paul taught that some of those to whom he was writing would still be alive at the Second Coming (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), but in fact none were since the Second Coming was thousands of years away, was Paul really inspired?
9. When the writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 10:37) states that Jesus was coming again in a very very little while (will not delay/tarry), what time-frame reference did he have in mind? Is there any doubt about the time frame of a first-century fulfillment of last-things events according to Hebrews 8:6-14, 9:26-28, and 10:25?
10. Consider Peter’s words in 1 Peter 1:5-7, 20; 4:5-17—salvation ready to be revealed, the last times and the end of all things/fiery trial were at hand/near for Peter’s readers, in which Christ’s glory would be revealed, and the time for judgment had come! What time frame reference did Peter have in mind?
11. Also consider Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3:1-18—as you look forward to the Day of the Lord and the speed of its coming, with its destruction of the heavens by fire, ushering in a new heaven and earth, etc. While an end-of-the-world interpretation is the standard one for this passage, wouldn’t you agree, that in light of Peter’s comments in 1 Peter, that this Day of the Lord and the new heaven and earth would be known to those to whom he was speaking? Isn’t the language here similar to the Olivet Discourse—fire symbolizing God’s judgment and foreshadowing of the fires that burned the temple in 70 AD?
12. Given the overwhelming imminence of the events described in Peter’s epistles, and given references to Old Testament language with which Peter and his readers would have been familiar (Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22; Haggai 2:6), as well as New Testament language (Hebrews 12:26-28, etc.), is it reasonable and consistent to interpret “new heaven and earth” as a theological (covenental) term rather than a cosmological term? That is, could this refer to a new religious order at the end of the Jewish age?
13. When Peter in 2 Peter 3:8 said that a day is like a thousand years, can this be literal? Wouldn’t it be nonsense if so? A short time cannot really mean a long time, can it? Isn’t Peter merely quoting Psalm 90:4 to assert that God is sovereign over time and that his perspective on time differs for ours? Indeed, in context, isn’t Peter using this phrase to tell his listeners that the expected events would be soon in coming rather than a long time away?
14. Doesn’t more confirmation about Peter’s language come from an understanding of the term elements in 2 Pet. 3:10-13 (incorrectly translated as “heavenly bodies” in some translations, see Strongs #4747), in that while literalists think this term refers to physics, the term is always used in the New Testament in connection with the Old Covenant order (Gal. 4:3, 9; Col. 2:8, 20; Heb. 5:12)?
15. Really, now. Is there a shred of credible evidence that the first century Jews and Jewish Christians were anticipating a cosmic catastrophe that would terminate time, burn up planet Earth, and end human history?
16. Isn’t Jesus’ promise that Peter refers to in 2 Peter 3:13 concerning the new heavens and new earth the one that Jesus mentions in the Olivet Discourse, and which Jesus told us would be in his generation?
17. Since Jeremiah 4:23-31 uses heaven and earth language about the imminent fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC, isn’t it reasonable to view the heaven and earth language in the New Testament as a parallel to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD?
18. If Jesus’ purpose for coming in the flesh was to destroy the devil (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8), and Paul said Satan would be crushed shortly in the first century (Romans 16:20), how can Satan still be here? Did Jesus forget to destroy Satan and decide to let Satan linger 2000 years longer?
19. Are there any passages in the Bible that clearly offer a time-reference for the Parousia past the first century?
20. Did Paul and the other inspired writers mislead their readers about the timing of the Parousia, or did Jesus in fact come—but in a different sense than what most futurists envision?
Christians widely acknowledge that the New Testament writers expected the Parousia along with a cataclysmic world-changing event to occur soon, thus openly admitting the time-texts to be of first century fulfillment. From whom did they get this expectation? Wasn’t it from Jesus himself? This is most perplexing. How can all of these supposedly inspired writers have been wrong? Is not the logic obvious—that if they were wrong they were not really inspired?! Should not our conclusion be that the New Testament writers were in fact correct and the modern interpreters are wrong in thinking that it was the end of the world (rather than the end of an age) that was in view?
D. Questions about the book of Revelation:
1. Don’t Revelation 1:1-3, 3:11, 22:6, 22:7, 22:10, 22:12, 22:20 mean what they say—that Revelation is about things that MUST SHORTLY HAPPEN (soon after Revelation was written)? Can we overlook or minimize audience relevance? Can “soon” or “quickly” mean far distant future—or that when Jesus does come that he will come quickly? Wouldn’t that be like telling your daughter that you will pick her up from school soon, and not showing up for years later? When Paul said the he trusted that Jesus would send Timothy to the Philippians soon, could that have meant thousands of years later?
2. Don’t the instructions in Revelation 22:10 not to seal the words of this prophecy stand in deliberate contrast to the instructions Daniel received at the end of his book to seal the words of his prophecy? Isn’t this a strong implication that, in contrast to Daniel (Daniel 12:4, 9), the time for the culmination of prophecy was imminent—indeed near, thus at hand (Revelation 22:10)?
3. In other words, Daniel was to be sealed because it was for “many days” (Daniel 10:14, NKJV), which turned out to be 500 years until the time of the writing of the book of Revelation. And if that is true, how can “at hand” in Revelation be 2000 years?
4. Why would John write to the seven churches if his message was not directly and principally for them? Wasn’t the book written specifically and obviously about events relevant to John’s first readers? Wasn’t the book to have been read out loud to the churches? How could hidden meanings of things to come thousands of years later have been relevant to these first century Christians?
5. Do you really think that Revelation should be given literal or scientific interpretations (a third of the sun smitten, etc. in 8:12)? Isn’t this language drawn from an Old Testament context—the judgment and destruction of nations (Isaiah 14:12 and Jeremiah 9:12-16)?
6. Why should we read the “thousand years” in Revelation 20 as literal, when the number thousand is used figuratively elsewhere in the Bible to mean perfection, completion, etc. (Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Chronicles 16:15; Psalm 50:10; Psalm 105:8)?
7. If the teaching that 1 day = 1000 years and 1000 years = 1 day to the Lord (2 Peter 3:8) is how we are to read time in Scripture, does that mean that the 1000 years in Revelation 20 is a single 24 hour day?
8. If Revelation was written after 70 AD, why does John give time statements throughout the book pointing to imminent events which fit the description of Jerusalem’s destruction from Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 17/21?
9. If Revelation was written after 70 AD, why was John told to measure the temple (Revelation 11:1-2), if the temple was already destroyed?
10. If Revelation was written after 70 AD, why is there nothing mentioned about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple?
11. If Revelation was written after 70 AD, how could there be other apostles alive (Revelation 2:2), when all the apostles except John were dead before 70 AD?
12. Doesn’t John make it clear in Revelation 1:9 that the tribulation was already present when he wrote the book?
13. What purpose would it serve for John to tell the first readers of his prophecy to “calculate” the number of the beast if he was not to born for thousands of years later?
14. John told the seven churches in Asia that “Behold, He is coming with the clouds and every eye shall see him, even those who pierced him.” Doesn’t that mean that those who killed Jesus would be alive when Jesus returned? If you think this statement refers to heaven, doesn’t the mention of “tribes” in the same passage (Revelation 1:7) refer to the tribes of Israel, confirming a first century fulfillment?
15. When John says in Revelation 14:7 that “the hour of his judgment has come,” could he possibly be talking about the far distant future?
16. Is there anything in the text of Revelation to suggest that John speaks of generations and generations into the future?
17. If Revelation would occur thousands of years after it was written, why does John say the sixth king is the one who “is” which would mean his present day (Revelation 17:10)?
18. If the 144,000 from Revelation 7 and 14 are still yet in the future, why are they described as “firstfruits” (Revelation 14:4)? Since they are the “firstfruits,” wouldn’t they be the first Christians rather than the last ones?
19. Who was the “great city” Babylon of Revelation 18-19? Isn’t she identified as the city where the Lord was slain in Revelation 11:8, i.e. first-century Jerusalem?
20. Since John did not place the Olivet Discourse in his gospel, as did the other three gospel writers, is it reasonable to think that Revelation is an expanded version of the Olivet Discourse, and would be fulfilled in the same time frame. i.e. “the generation of those living in the first century per Luke 21:22, 32)?
E. More Questions:
1. If most Bible prophecy has not been fulfilled or is being fulfilled today, why doesn’t ANY New Testament passage say its fulfillment would be 2000 years later?
2. If “like manner” is exactly how Jesus would return as he left in Acts 1:11, does that mean Jesus left riding a white horse (Revelation 19:11)?
3. If “like manner” is exactly how Jesus would return as he left in Acts 1:11, does that mean Jesus left with a sword coming out of his mouth (Revelation 19:15)?
4. If “like manner” is how Jesus would return as he left, wouldn’t he be in fact hidden per Acts 1:9?
5. If the Jews in the first century missed the first coming of Jesus because of their ignorance of the scriptures (Mark 12:24), isn’t it entirely possible that Christians living in the twenty-first century have missed the second coming of Jesus for the same reason?
The good news is this: Christ’s work of redemption is complete! If you are confident that this is true, Christ’s Second Coming has already happened!
Don’t these questions show that Jesus did in fact come—in judgment—in 70 AD, just as he predicted?!