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Jesus and Paul;
The End of the World!
What did they say that is DIFFERENT than most believe today?
There is no consensus on the meaning of Jesus' and Paul's discussions of the end of the world as they knew it. Various interpretations of key passages in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament)lead to totally opposite conclusions:
* A literal interpretation of these passages shows that Jesus and Paul believed that the end would come sometime in their own very near future -- certainly during the 1st century CE. That, of course, did not happen. As they are commonly interpreted by the Modern 21st Century Church, Peter and Paul's beliefs were simply wrong.
* A symbolic meaning is the only other choice. Religious conservatives generally believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. Since they believe that Jesus is one person in the Trinity, then he could not have been in error. Since Paul's writing was directly inspired by God and preserved from error then he could not have been mistaken.
Thus a literal interpretation of Jesus' and Paul's sayings cannot be the correct ones. They must have intended to convey a more obscure, non-literal meaning.
Many different versions of Christianity were propagated by Jesus' followers and by others who had never met Jesus but had heard of his message. These fell into three general categories:
[I] The Pauline Christians were successful, and survived to form the Christian church which now exists in thousands of different forms.
[II] The Jewish Christians who were later scattered as the Jews who did not accept Christ were largely exterminated by the Roman Army when they destroyed the Temple, Jerusalem, and most of the rest of Israel in 70 CE.
[III] The Gnostic Christians who were oppressed and almost completely exterminated by the Pauline Christians with the help of the Roman Empire. Some survived, and the Gnostic version of Christianity is now in a period of rapid growth.
Almost all of the groups in the very early Christian movement anticipated the imminent appearance of the Kingdom of God, the arrival of the Son of Man in power, and angels taking the elect -- the true believers -- up into Heaven. It was a main focus of their belief.
It never materialized. The Church came instead.
Jesus' beliefs, according to a literal interpretation of the Gospels:
Many gospel passages, interpreted literally, show that Jeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) believed that the Kingdom of God (a.k.a. God's Domain) would occur very soon -- at least during the lifetime of some of his followers. In Mark 9 and Matthew 16, Jesus is recorded as referring specifically to some listeners who were standing in front of him as still being alive when the event occurs.
Since the life expectancy in those days was not as great as it is today, Jesus appears to have predicted the coming of the Kingdom of God sometime during the 1st century CE. Jesus is quoting as saying that "some" in his audience will not "taste of death" until they see the Son of Man Coming in His Kingdom.
This seems to imply that some listening to him would have died before the arrival of the Kingdom of God. Thus, Jesus apparently did not expect that the event would happen within his immediate future -- within days or weeks of his speech. Probably, he expected that at least a few years would pass.
In chronological order:bullet Mark 8:39 to 9:1: Jesus is recorded as saying:
"Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." i.e. Jesus was referring to the "adulterous and sinful generation" who were alive in the early 1st century CE when these words were spoken. Jesus expected that some of his audience would be alive when the "Kingdom of God" came with power.
Mark 13:30-33: Jesus is recorded as saying: "....This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished.... A "generation" normally refers to a forty year interval. If Jesus spoke those words circa 29 CE, then all of the events predicted in Mark 13:24-27 would have happened on or before 69 CE: the sun and moon would have been darkened, the stars would have fallen from heaven, the Son of Man would have arrived in the clouds with great power and glory, and the angels would have collected "his elect" from around the Earth and taken them to Heaven.
Matthew 16:28: Jesus is recorded as saying: "...there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." (KJV) As mentioned above, the early Christian movement assumed that Jesus was referring to the individuals standing in the crowd in front of him.
There is a further ambiguity in this passage: it is not clear from the contents whether Jesus was referring here to his own second coming, or to the arrival of another individual called the "Son of Man." This ambiguity is seen elsewhere in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament).
bullet Matthew 24:34: Jesus is recorded as saying: "...This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."bullet Luke 9:26-27: Jesus is recorded as saying: "For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.
But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God." (all KJV)
Paul's beliefs, according to a literal interpretation of the Epistles:
A literal interpretation of Paul's epistles shows that Paul anticipated the second coming of Jesus in his near future, and during his own lifetime. Again, this would have happened during the 1st century CE. He wrote 1 Thessalonians about 50 or 51 CE. Some theologians believe this is one of the oldest book in the Christian Scriptures along with The Revelation (New Testament).
In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, he wrote: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
Here, Paul seems to be referring to himself and some of the recipients of his letter as being alive when Jesus returns.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:2-11, he wrote: "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober." Here, Paul urges the recipients of his letter to be on guard at all times, because he expected the second coming to happen within their lifetimes.
Problems with a literal interpretation of the Gospels and Epistles:
The main deficiency with a literal interpretation of these passages is that Jesus' and Paul's predictions were wrong. The spectacular events did not happen during the 1st century CE. Some interpretations of these passages are:
Jesus actually believed that the end of the world was imminent, but he was wrong. This does not agree with the belief of most Christians that Jesus is God, the second person in the Trinity. As such, he possesses all-power, all knowledge, is infinite, and other attributes. It is inconceivable that he could have been mistaken.
Jesus did not believe that the end of the world would happen in the middle of the first century CE. But after his execution, traditions, legends and myths arose about Jesus and were spread via an oral tradition.
Religious liberals believe that four to seven decades later, when the Gospels were written, the authors did not have any first-hand knowledge of Jesus. They had never met him; they had to rely on the oral sayings about Jesus, and thus misquoted him.
This conflicts with the principle of biblical inerrancy.bullet Paul agreed with Jesus, but was also wrong. This does not agree with the belief of many Christians that God inspired Paul when he wrote the books in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament), that the Bible is inerrant, and thus that Paul's writings are free of error.
Of course this foolishness and nonsense.
Scriptural interpretations of Jesus' and Paul's teachings:
Many Christians normally interpret the Bible literally wherever possible. However, such an interpretation of the above passages about Jesus' and Paul' beliefs leads to the conclusion that both were wrong in their predictions. This conflicts with two fundamental belief of conservative Christians:
[I] That the Bible is inspired by God, that it is God's Word, and that it is inerrant -- without error.
[II] Not only were the authors of the Bible inspired by God, but early church councils were as well.
These were the ones who selected four gospels, 13 Pauline epistles (letters), and eight general epistles as inspired and inerrant from the 50 or so gospels and hundreds of epistles then in circulation.
These commonly believed myths are completely false, in that Church Councils did not decide these things.
FACT-1: A single individual decided on Four Gospels out of 50 or more, because there were Four Winds and Four Corners of the Earth.
FACT-2: Paul himself did not subscribe to the choice of his letters we include in modern Bibles.
FACT-3: There has never been agreement on the writings that should be included in our Bible: the word of God.
FACT-4: The NT Canon we have today was not selected by any Church Council, but by a bastardized Roman Catholic Priest who had been defrocked, exiled, etc., who wrote to his friends in a Easter Letter that these 27 out of an hundred or more, were his favorites. Just was just at the beginning of the 5th Century.
FACT-5: The Canon of the Bible was finally approved by a Roman Catholic Church Council in 1577. Of course it included the Deutero-Canonical books some call the Apocrypha, which were in the Bible Jesus used.
FACT-6: The NT Canon used today by the Protestants has never been approved by a Church Council
FACT-7: The NT Canon used today in the homosexual KJV Bible of the Episcopalian Church, included the Deutero-Canonical books for nearly 300 years and they were only left out to make more profit just preceding the 20th century.
Jesus being God, he could not have been mistaken.
An alternative interpretation is necessary.
These passages cannot not mean that the kingdom of God or the second coming of Jesus would happen in the 1st century CE while listeners of Jesus and Paul were still physically alive.
Conservative Christians generally interpret the texts as predicting a series of miraculous events in our future. The repercussions if Jesus and Paul were wrong would be enormous. A number of popular alternative explanations are:
The Stupid Interpretations
The passages must mean that these events would happen after the death of Jesus' and Paul's followers, but while their souls still lived. Thus it could happen in the year 100 or 1000 or 2000 or 3000 CE, etc. Many feel that this is an improbable interpretation, since Jesus is recorded in Mark 9 and Matthew 16 as saying that some of his audience circa 29 CE would not "taste death."
Some of the Jews who were in Jesus' and Paul' audience circa 30 to 50 CE never died and in fact are still alive, still wandering around the earth. The would be aged almost 2,000 years by now. They are known as the "wandering Jews." This also is believed by few Christians today. Few people live past their 100th birthday. There is no evidence of aged, wandering Jews. Still, this was a common Christian belief in the past. It does have the advantage of neatly resolving the interpretive conflicts.
The most commonly accepted excuse to cover Paul & Jesus being wrong, is that Jesus and Paul were not referring to the lifetime of their hearers. Rather, to a generation far removed, and once that generation began, they prophesied: " 'This generation' refers to those alive when the unmistakable signs of the end [of the world] begin to appear. S
Conservative Christians...regard the restoration of Israel in 1948 as such a sign, they infer that we are living in the terminal generation: thus they declared that 40 years later there were "88 Reasons Jesus Would Come in 1988."
The chief problem with this interpretation for several years was that Israel was supposed to be not simply in Palestine but in control of Jerusalem as well. When this came to pass, in 1967, at the conclusion of a six-day war that seemed almost miraculous even to many non-believers, expectation within Fundamentalist and other Evangelical prophetic circles grew feverish." (1)
Many Christians cannot accept this interpretation either because Jesus is recorded as referring to specific individuals who were alive and listening to his words.
The Coming of Christ as the Holy Spirit!
Jesus references to the Kingdom of God came to fruition when the Christian church was founded. This is traditionally dated at Pentecost, some fifty days after Jesus' execution, circa 30 CE. (2)
This interpretation conflicts with other passages:
In Matthew 16, Jesus is recorded as saying that the Son of Man would come to earth with his angels and will reward each according to his works.
In Mark 13, stars would have fallen from the sky; the Son of man would have arrived; and and the angels would have collected "his elect" and taken them to Heaven. None of these events happened, either in the 1st century CE or since.
Some of the passages actually refer to Jesus' transfiguration circa 30 CE, or to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE. As noted above, this is not a good fit because none of the events associated with the coming of the Son of Man occurred in 70 CE.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
1. William Martin, "Waiting for the End: The growing interest in apocalyptic prophesy," The Atlantic Monthly, 1982-JUN. Online at: http://www.theatlantic.com/
2. "The Spiritual Kingdom of God," http://www.truthandgrace.com/
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