Social media recently reported that a Roman Catholic Cardinal, Georgio Salvadore, has stated that it looks as if Jesus Christ is not coming back, thus refuting a core Christian doctrine that lasted for nearly two thousand years. The cardinal is said to have then astounded his audience by claiming that when Jesus promised to return he must have been drunk!
Christians at first were upon in arms and later relaxed when the word spread it was a hoax. Apparently there is no such person as Cardinal Georgio Salvadore.
Even so, the fictional Cardinal was touching on a raw nerve. The Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke, originally written between 70 CE and 85 CE) make it perfectly clear that their prophet, known as Yeshua in his lifetime, promised many times before his death that he would return at Father God’s instigation to establish the kingdom of God on Earth, and he would do so within a generation.
If you doubt this, take a look at Mark 9:1: ‘Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the Kingdom of God has come with power.’ If that doesn’t convinced you, Mark 1:15 reports him as saying ‘The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
He reaffirmed it in his Last Supper speech, telling his disciples, ‘I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it with you in my Father’s kingdom’ (Matthew 26:29). He didn’t mean a kingdom somewhere else and in the far distant future, but right here on Earth within the lifetime of those present.
By the time the Fourth Gospel was written around the turn of the 1st century, it was already clear that Yeshua’s prophetic words had been empty. Christians were embarrassed and widely mocked. He had not returned, and far from God establishing a kingdom for the Jews, the Jerusalem Temple had been destroyed by the Romans along with the rest of the city. Jews who survived had scattered in fear of their lives. That’s why the Fourth Gospel hardly mentions the supposed return.
It’s also why the last book of the New Testament to be written, the Second Letter attributed to (but not actually written by) Peter, felt the need to make excuses for the uncomfortable fact that the kingdom promised by Yeshua nearly a century earlier had still not materialised. ‘Do not ignore this one fact, beloved,’ it pleads, ‘that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.’ (2 Peter 3:8)
Why doesn’t the church have more to say about this part of Yeshua’s message? Is it because they worry that bringing it to people’s attention would make a vital part of his core teachings irrelevant in our time? After all, he was wrong. The world was not transformed within the lifetime of his disciples. God did not appear, and neither did he. And he probably never will.
©David Lawrence Preston, 7.11.17
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston
Hay House/Balboa Press, 2015