Today in 1844 the return of Christ was predicted by a group of believers. It has been over 2000 years since the first great Christian theologian and apostle, Paul, counted down the days until the return of the Lord, and many others have preceded him. First let’s examine the Biblical account of the Second coming in sequential order. First we have Paul’s writings, and we don’t get much discussion of a return in regards to specifics; the accounts of Paul parallel closest to Matthew, who happens to hold the most informed Jewish traditions of the Gospels. What is interesting about second coming teachings is the variation of adhered doctrines centered around them. For example, not many Christians I have encountered are aware of the New Testament’s push for alternative sleep cycles for Christians so they won’t be asleep when Jesus comes – Mark specifically warns of sleeping. This is an oddity that isn’t much discussed, among others.
There are four passages in 1 and 2 Thessalonians dealing with the second coming of Christ: 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Thess. 5:1-11; 2 Thess. 1:3-12; and 2 Thess. 2:1-12. The first passage is introduced by the words, “We do not want you to be ignorant, brothers” (1 Thess. 4:13), an expression frequently used by Paul to introduce teaching which he wishes to emphasize (cf. Rom. 1: 13; 1 Cor. 10: 1; 1 Cor. 12: 1; 2 Cor. 1:8). It concludes with an exhortation to encourage one another with these words (1 Thess. 4: 18). The second passage begins with “Now concerning” (1 Thess. 5: 1) and also concludes with an exhortation to encourage one another (1 Thess. 5: 11). The third passage is in the form of a thanksgiving to God (which normally follows the salutation in Paul’s letters) and it concludes with a prayer that the Thessalonians may be counted worthy of God’s calling (2 Thess. 1:11-12). The fourth passage begins “Now we ask you, brothers, concerning …” (2 Thess. 2: 1) and is followed by thanksgiving for their election by God (2 Thess. 2:13-14) and a prayer for encouragement (2 Thess. 2: 16-17).
After assuring the Thessalonian Christians that Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee that those who have died in Christ will be raised from the dead when he comes again (1 Thess. 4:14), Paul introduces his teaching with regard to the second coming by the solemn statement, “This we say to you by the word of the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:15). Since Paul characteristically refers to Jesus as “the Lord” (cf. 1 Thess. 1:1,3; 2:15,19; 3:11,13; 4:1; 5:9), he means to say here that the basis of his teaching about the second coming is jesus’ own word (cf, the NIV, “according to the Lord’s own word”).
A similar expression is used in 1 Corinthians 7: 10, where in giving instruction regarding divorce Paul appeals to jesus’ teaching on the subject: “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.” In the next paragraph Paul says: “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord)” (1 Cor. 7: 12). The obvious meaning here is that Paul does not have any explicit teaching by Jesus on the matter of the desertion of a Christian wife or husband by an unbelieving mate, as he had on the matter of divorce in general. Again, with regard to “virgins” Paul says: “I have no command from the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:25), meaning that he has no explicit command from Jesus governing this particular situation. It is interesting that the Synoptic Gospels include the teaching of Jesus against divorce (Mt. 5:32; 19:9; Mk. 10:11-12; Lk. 16:18), but they do not include any teaching of Jesus regarding the specific matters which the Corinthians had asked about and concerning which Paul gives his advice in 1 Corinthians 7: 12-16 and 25-38.
‘Some have argued from Paul’s use of peri de “Now about,” in 1 Thess. 4:9 and 5: 1 that Paul is replying to a letter from the church; cf. 1 Cor. 7:1; 7:25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1; 16:12. IbId., pp. 247-248.
In two other passages in 1 Corinthians, Paul refers to teaching which he had received and passed on to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 he says that he received from the Lord and passed on to the Corinthians certain facts concerning the institution of the Lord’s supper. The words of Jesus recorded by Paul are nearly identical with those recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (Mt. 22:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22: 19-20). The use of the verbs paralambano “receive by tradition,” and paradidiimi “pass on,” in this passage is paralleled in 1 Corinthians 15:3, where Paul states that he passed on to them as of first importance what he had also received. As already noted, in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul exhorts the Christians at Thessalonica: “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”
In all of the instances cited from 1 Corinthains, Paul refers to material which is found in one or more of the Synoptic Gospels. We should, therefore, expect that his use of a similar expression in 1 Thessalonians 4: 15 would refer to material also found in these Gospels. In point of fact, that is exactly what we do find. It will be the object of this paper to show that the teaching of Paul in this and the other passages in 1 and 2 Thessalonians on the second coming of Christ parallels the teaching of Jesus in the Olivet discourse recorded in Matthew 24-25; Mark 13, and Luke 21. It will endeavor to show that this discourse of Jesus was the primary source of Paul’s teaching on the second coming of Christ in these two letters. There are a number of words and expressions found in these passages in 1 and 2 Thessalonians that are similar to those used by Jesus in the Olivet discourse. These will be discussed in the order in which they occur in the Thessalonian letters.
- The word parousia
Parousia, the word used by Paul for the second coming of Christ in 1
Thessalonians 4:15 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1 and 8, is the same word used by the disciples in the question which precipitated the Olivet discourse: “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming (fJarousia) and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3). It is used three times by Jesus in the discourse itself: “As the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so will be the coming tparousia) of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:27); “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming fparousia) of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37); and after describing the life of the people before the flood who were unaware that anything would happen until the flood came and took them all away, Jesus adds, “That is how it will be at the coming fparousia) of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:39). Parousia is the only word for the second coming used in the Olivet discourse. It is used only by Matthew. It is also the only word for the second coming used by Paul in 1 Thessalonians. Besides 4:15, it is used also in 2:19; 3:13; and 5:23. Paul uses two other words for the second coming in 2 Thessalonians, apokalupsis in 1:7 and epiphaneia in 2:8, but each of them occurs only once. He usesparousia twice, in 2: 1 and again in 2:8.
- The Lord himself
Paul emphasizes in 1 Thessalonians 4: 16 that it is the Lord himself who will come down from heaven. In 2 Thessalonians 1:7 he speaks of the revelation of the Lord Jesus in blazing fire. In the Olivet discourse the only time that Jesus uses the word “sign” is when he predicts that “the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky” and people “will see the Son of Man coming” (Matt. 24:30). It is the very Son of Man who had no place to lay his head (Matt. 8:20) who is to come with great power and glory.
- From heaven
“The Lord himself will come down from heaven (ap’ ouranou)” (1 Thess. 4:16). This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven (ap’ ouranou) with his powerful angels (2 Thess. 1:7). Jesus said that the sign of the Son of Man would appear in the sky (en ourano) and that people would see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky (tou ouranou) with power and great glory (Mt. 24:30). His coming will be as visible as lightning which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other (ek t”iS hupo ton ouranon eis hup’ ouranon) (Lk. 17:24; cf. Mt.24:27).
- The Angels
Jesus will be accompanied by angels: “with the voice of the archangel” (1 Thess. 4: 16); “with his powerful angels” (2 Thess. 1:7; cf. 1 Thess. 3: 13, “with all his holy ones”). Jesus said that he would send out his angels to gather together his elect from the four corners of the earth(Matt. 24:31; cf. Mk. 9:38).
- The Trumpet
The coming of the Lord will be heralded with a trumpet blast: “with the trumpet call (en salpingi) of God” (1 Thess. 4:16; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51). Jesus said that he would send his angels “with a loud trumpet call (meta salpingos megalis) to gather his elect” (Matt. 24:31).
- The Survivors
Paul speaks of “those who are still alive and are left (hoi zantes hoi perileipomenoi) at Christ’s coming (1 Thess. 4:15 and 17; cf. 1 Cor.15:51-52), who together with the dead in Christ will be caught up to meet Christ. Jesus does not refer in the Olivet discourse to those who have died, but he does speak of those who endure (ho hupomeinas) to the end (eis telos) who will be saved (Mt. 24:13; Mk. 13:13; Lk. 21:19).
- 7. The Clouds
In 1 Thessalonians 4: 17 Paul says that we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with the resurrected saints “in the clouds” (en nephelais). Jesus predicted that his coming would be in clouds (en nephalais) with power and great glory (Mk. 13:26; cf. Mt. 24:30, epi ton nephelon tou ouranou, “on the clouds of the sky”; and Lk. 21 :27, en nephele, “in a cloud”; cf. also Rev. 1:7 and 11: 12),
- To Meet the Lord
Paul states that we will meet the Lord (eis apantesin tou kuriou) in the air (1 Thess. 4: 17). The same expression is used by Jesus in the parable of the ten virgins: “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him (eis apantesin autou)!‘” (Mt. 25:6).
- The Time of Christ’s Coming
Paul refers (/Jeri de) to a matter of concern to the Thessalonians, which they had perhaps written to him about, namely, the “times and dates” (ton chrontm kai ton kairon) of Christ’s coming. He says that there is no need for him to write to them about it because they knew perfectly well that the time of the Lord’s coming was unknown (1 Thess. 5: 1-2). A different expression, but one with essentially the same meaning, was used by Jesus, “but concerning that day and hour (/Jeri de tes nemepa sekeives kai horas), no one knows” (Mt. 24:36).
- The Day of the Lord
Paul says that the Thessalonians know that “the day of the Lord (liemera kuriou) will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5 :2). He uses the same expression in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 in his condemnation of the false report that the day of the Lord had already set in. In both cases, Paul is referring to the time of Christ’s second coming. He refers to the same time in 1 Thessalonians 5:4 when he says that the Christians are not in darkness that the day (lie hemera) should surprise them like a thief. Jesus refers to the time of his coming as “that day” (lie hemera ekeiiie) in Matthew 24:36; Mk. 13:32; and Luke 21:34.
- Like a Thief in the Night
One of the most striking resemblances between Paul’s words and those of Jesus is the apostle’s statement in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, “For you know very well that the day of the Lord will corne like a thief in the night” (has kleptes en nukti). Jesus used the illustration of the owner of a house who, if he had known at what time of night the thief (ho kleptes) was corning, would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into (Mt. 24:43). The same expression is used in Revelation 3:3 and 16:15.
- Sudden Destruction
Paul goes on to say, “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction (olethros)will come on them suddenly (aiphnidios) … and they will not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3). Jesus compared his corning with the time of Noah when people knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away (Mt. 24:39; cf. Lk. 17:27, “then the flood came and destroyed (ap”3lesen)them all”). He later warned the disciples against allowing their hearts to be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and anxieties, or that day will corne upon them suddenly (aiphnidios) (Lk. 21 :34; cf. Mk. 13:36).
- Labor Pains
Paul compares the suddenness of Christ’s coming to the onset of labor pains (odin) in the case of a pregnant woman (1 Thess. 5:3). Jesus used the same word to denote the woes that would precede his coming: “These are the beginning of birth pains (odinon)” (Mt. 24:8; Mk. 13:8).
- No Escape for the Unprepared
Paul concludes his statement regarding the sudden destruction to corne upon people at Christ’s corning by saying, “and they will not escape (ou me ekphugosin)” (1 Thess. 5:3). Jesus urged his disciples to be always on the watch and to pray that they “might be able to escape (ekphugein) all that is about to happen” (Lk. 21 :36).
- Sons of the Light
Paul goes on to say that the Thessalonian believers were not in darkness that the day of Christ’s corning should surprise them like a thief, because they are “sons of the light and sons of the day” (1 Thess.5:4-5), who are expecting the corning of Christ although they do not know the exact time of his corning (1 Thess. 5:1-2). “Sons of the light” means people who have been illuminated with the knowledge of his coming. Jesus told his disciples on the Mount of Olives, “See, I have told you ahead of time” (Mt. 24:25; cf. Mk. 13:23) and urged them to stand and lift up their heads when the things he predicted began to take place (Lk. 21 :28) in contrast to other people who are filled with terror and apprehension (Lk. 21 :26).
In view of the uncertainty of the time of Christ’s coming, Paul urged the Thessalonian Christians to be watchful: “So then, let us not be like others who are asleep, but let us be alert (gregoromen) and be self-controlled” (1 .Thess. 5:6). Jesus repeatedly used the same word to exhort his disciples to be ready for his coming: “Therefore keep watch (gregoreite), because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Mt. 24:42); “Therefore keep watch (gregoreite), because you do not know the day or the hour” (Mt. 25:13); “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ (gregoreite)” !Mk. 13:37}.
17. The Danger of Sleeping
Paul urges the Thessalonians not to sleep (me katheudOmen) as others do (1 Thess. 5:6). He goes on to explain that those who sleep (oi katheudontes) sleep (katheudousin) at night (1 Thess. 5:7}.Jesus warned his disciples lest his coming find them sleeping (katheudonlas) (Mk. 13:36).
- The Danger of Drunkenness
Paul also urges the Thessalonians to be sober (riiphomen) (1 Thess.5:6) and explains that those who get drunk (hoi methuskomenoi) get drunk (methousin) at night (1 Thess. 5:7). Jesus told a parable about an evil slave who during the delay in his master’s return begins to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with drunkards (ton methuonton) (Mt.24:45-49) and warns the disciples against being weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness (methe) (Lk.21:34).
We who belong to the day are to be self-controlled, putting on faith and hope as our breastplate and the hope of salvation (soteria) as our helmet (1 Thess. 5:8), for, in contrast to unbelievers, we have been destined to receive salvation (soteria) rather than wrath at Christ’s coming. Jesus said to his disciples who were facing persecution and the spread of wickedness, “he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (sothesetai) (Mt. 24:13; Mk. 13:13; Lk. 21:19).
- With Power and Glory
In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 Paul declares that “at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power (dunamis)” God will punish unbelievers by excluding them “from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty (doxa) of his strength, when he comes to be glorified (endoxasthenai) in his saints and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” Jesus said that his coming would be “with power and great glory (meta dunamdi: kai doxes pottes)” (Mt. 24:30; cf. Mk.13:26; Lk. 21 :27).
21. The Gathering Together of the Saints
In 2 Thessalonians 2:1, when Paul refers to the coming <parousia) of Christ, he links it with “our being gathered (h’emon episunagoges) to him. According to Granville Sharpe’s rule, when two substantives are connected by kai and there is an article with the first and not with the second, the two refer to the same thing. This is the case here. Paul refers to the event that he had described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ, at which time we are to be gathered to him. It is the verb from which this compound noun episungagoge is derived which was used by Jesus to describe the action of the angels when he comes: “He will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather (episunaxousin) his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Mt. 24:31).
- The Apostasy
In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 Paul urges the Thessalonians not to let anyone deceive them into believing that the day of the Lord had already set in, because that day will not come until the apostasy (lie apostasia) occurs. In Matthew 24:10-11 Jesus predicts that many will turn away from the faith (skandalisthesontai) and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
- The Antichrist
Paul goes on to say that another event must precede the day of, Christ’s coming-the revelation of “the man of lawlessness” (ho anthr’Opos t”iSanomias) (2 Thess. 2:3) or “the lawless one” (ho anomos) (2 Thess. 2:8), who is further described as one who opposes and exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, who even sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thess. 2:4). This person, whose coming is said to be according to the working of Satan in all kinds of miracles (dunamis), signs (semeia) and wonders (terata) characterized by falsehood <pseudous) and in every kind of evil that deceives those who are perishing (2 Thess. 2:9-10), will be utterly destroyed at Christ’s coming (2 Thess. 2:8). Jesus three times warned his disciples in the Olivet discourse concerning the appearance of false Christs and false prophets: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ’ and will deceive many” (Mt. 24:4; cf. Mk. 13:5; Lk. 21 :8); “Many false prophets <pseudoprophetai) will appear and will deceive many” (Mt. 24: 12); “False Christs <pseudochristoi) and false prophets <pseudopropliitai) will appear and perform great signs (semeia) and wonders (terata) to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Mt. 24:24). Jesus had already spoken of “the abomination of desolation” standing in the holy place, probably a reference to the temple (Mt. 24:15; cf. Mk. 13:14).
24. The Preaching of the Gospel as a Testimony to all Nations
In 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10 Paul had spoken of the punishment that will be brought to those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel (to evangelio) of our Lord Jesus, and of the glory that will be brought to his holy people who have believed, including the Thessalonian Christians, who had believed the apostles’ testimony (marturion) to them. In 2 Thessalonians 3: 13-14, Paul thanks God for the Thessalonian Christians because God chose them to be saved and called them to belief in the truth through the gospel (dia tou evangeliou). In the Olivet discourse Jesus states that the one prerequisite for the end of the age to come is the preaching of the gospel (to evangelion) of the kingdom to all the world as a testimony teis marturion) to all nations (Mt. 24: 14; cf. Mk. 13:10).
Predictions of the second coming
For full list of 242 predictions accounted for visit – http://www.bible.ca/pre-date-setters.htm
|44||Theudas declared himself the Messiah, taking 400 people with him into the desert. T beheaded by Roman soldiers. Josephus records this.|
|53||Even before all the books of the Bible were written, there was talk that Christ’s return had already taken place. The Thessalonians panicked on Paul, when they heard a rumor that the day of the Lord was at hand, and they had missed the rapture.|
|80||Ben Zakkai died about 80, and expected the Messiah about the time of his death|
|100 -200||Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (1-2 Cent) thought the days of the Messiah would last 40 years. Before Bar Kochba the Mess. age was short; longer afterward|
|130||Rabbi Jose, the Galilean, a contemporary of Hyrcanus and Azariah, thought the Messiah would come in three generations (60 years), after the destruction; namely 130 (Luther Martin, Date Setters, Guardian of Truth, Sept. 15, 1994)|
|381||Return of Christ; Tichonus a writer of the 4th Cent (Luther Martin, Date Setters, Guardian of Truth, Sept. 15, 1994)|
|400||Hippolytus “calculated that 5,500 years separated Adam and Christ and that the life of the world was 6,000 six full ‘days’ of years until the seventh the day of rest.” His calculations in 234 indicted there were still two centuries left. (from A History of the End of the World, Rubinsky and Wiseman, 1982)|
|400||Rabbi Dosa (2-3rd Century) said the Messiah would come at the end of 400 years. This was based (?) on Gen. 15:13 (Luther Martin, Date Setters, Guardian of Truth, Sept. 15, 1994)|
|435||Messiah comes; Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi (135-220) believed Messiah would come 365 years after Temple destroyed in 70 (Luther Martin, Date Setters, Guardian of Truth, Sept. 15, 1994)|
|470||Messiah would come; Rabbi Hanina (3rd C), though Messiah would come 400 years after Temple Destruction. (Luther Martin, Date Setters, Guardian of Truth, Sept. 15, 1994)|
|500||A Roman priest and theologian in the second and third centuries, predicted Christ would return in A.D. 500, based on the dimensions of Noah’s ark.|
|500||Return of Christ; Hyppolytus (170-236) and Lactantius (250-330) said 500 would be the time for the second coming of Christ (Luther Martin, Date Setters, Guardian of Truth, Sept. 15, 1994)|
The Great Disappointment
On October 22, 1844, as many as 100,000 Christians gathered on hillsides, in meeting places and in meadows. They were breathlessly and joyously expecting the return of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The crowds had assembled because of the prophetic claim of an upstate New York farmer and Baptist layman named William Miller (1782-1849). He was certain from his studies of the Bible that Jesus Christ was going to return on that day.
This dashed hope came to be known as “The Great Disappointment.” In his book When Time Shall Be No More, historian Paul Boyer offers an example of the deep despondency suffered by the Millerites. In the words of one tragically disappointed believer: “Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before…. We wept, and wept, till the day dawned” (page 81).
When Jesus did not return as expected, many who had hopefully waited for the return of their Savior threw off their faith completely. Some refused to give up their hope and eventually replaced one delusion with another. They would claim that Christ must have come invisibly in 1844, moving into the Holy of Holies in heaven to begin his “investigative judgment” of Christian lives.
Many simply returned to the churches out of which they had come, no doubt confused, distraught and embarrassed to have accepted something that was revealed to have been an empty fantasy. Miller, having renounced his prophecy studies after the Great Disappointment, died in 1849. Any remaining followers split up over differences of belief and doctrine. Ultimately, a variety of groups arose from the ashes of the Millerite camp.
If history is any indication
Christians have sought the end of the world for the last 2000 years, and it shows no signs of slowing down soon. If history is an indication you can rest easy; every generation has their “end of times” scares that captivate the ignorant masses. Even in my own life-span of 24 years I have went through Y2K, 2012, and the prepper movement that has been going on heavily for the last decade. People are psychologically hardwired to believe these things – regardless of the religious reinforcements on top of the underlying cognition.
Shmuel Lissek, who is a neuroscientist that studies the fear system at the University of Minnesota, believes that at its heart, the concept of doomsday evokes an innate and ancient bias in most mammals. “The initial response to any hint of alarm is fear. This is the architecture with which we’re built,” Lissek says. Over evolutionary history, organisms with a better-safe-than-sorry approach survive. This mechanism has had consequences for both the body and brain, where the fast-acting amygdala can activate a fearful stress response before “higher” cortical areas have a chance to assess the situation and respond more rationally.
When will Christians today accept the fact that not only is the return improbable given the 23 elements that we are provided to denote the approaching end time; most of these elements are simply not current to world events; Acts was aware of the problem of the non-return of Jesus; Acts 1 starts out with the ascension of Jesus with the disciples asking “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” – Luke-Acts being much later in date then Pauline epistles, and the preaching of the return that had been going on for 20-50 years depending on how late you date Acts. The writer here has to start the book off answering the first most common question in Christianity, why hasn’t Jesus returned yet? Now 2000 years later Christians are still asking the same redundant question, quoting the same scriptures, inventing new theological doctrines to keep the “second coming” can going down the road as popular as ever. Everyone else can lose sleep waiting for Freddy Kruger, I mean Jesus, but I will keep living, laughing, and mocking all the same 🙂