If I find Atheism coming up short on what it offers for hope, Gentile Christianity has proven to be guilty to the opposite end of the spectrum.
Listen: If you’re in dire need— a life and death crisis— and I promise you that I will return and give you relief from your burdens, from the stresses and tearing-down that many of experience on a daily basis, clawing our way to the peaceful rest of our tomb with every breath we draw in— and I never show up, how is that a promise fulfilled in which we’d clung to as hope and what it gave us to continue the struggle.
I’ll tell you this: my life isn’t the one idealized through evangelical programs on YouTube, the television, or the radio programs that try to tell me what I should believe about God, Jesus, and the Bible— and how success of some sort awaits me as a result of my faithfulness (“seek first the Kingdom of God, then all these other things will be added to you…”).
I’d like to, but it flies in the face of the realities which have encompassed my life and continue to do so. There is no rest from the tribulations AND I get to look forward to the Great Tribulation which will be so consummate and far-reaching in magnitude and cost in lives that only a fortunate few will make it through faithfully.
That’s the hope that remains a constant in the mainstream view of the Gentile Christianity of my day, because with all that is their doctrinal view Jesus is coming again because it says so in the Gentile Christian Bible. The faithful ones will be the ones that are saved from what’s coming down on this godless world, according to every sect I’ve read up on or congregated with.
So, now I have that added to my struggles. As if it isn’t challenging enough already to believe that God hasn’t maybe (and justly) written us off when I look around and read about the things human go about their way doing to one another.
Gentile Christianity of my time insist that Jesus’ second coming is coming at any moment, and this is supposed to give us hope in the face of the dregs of our lives, our circumstances so disparate from life of joy assured to us by the preachers talking through my speakers or from a platform in a roomful of people we see nodding and shaking their heads in tune with the crests and falls of the words pouring over the congregation.
Somehow, the reality that it has now been nearly 2,000 years since the epistles of the Apostles of Jesus of Nazareth were committed to writing.
The same men who were convinced when Jesus promised them that he would return soon believed that
“soon” was so soon that one writer insists under inspiration of holy spirit, Gentile Christianity insists, that it was, in fact, the last hour!
So far, an hour means 2,000 years— which really creates a problem since the Bible statement “A day is as a thousand years to YHWH” establishes a thousand years as a 24-hour period. Math is not my strong suit, but that means that an “hour” as used by that particular writer in the Gentile Bible is the equivalent of two full 24-hour periods (2 days) in spite of what humans understand an hour to be— and a day has 24 of them and has been for long enough that people should know better than to suggest otherwise.
You don’t need to agree with me to consider the following:
For a moment, let’s place ourselves back in the first century. We’re followers of Jesus— and enduring some ferocious persecution from primarily our fellow Jews. They beat us when we’re in their synagogues— places of worship for the Jew who was not in reasonable proximity to the Temple, because that’s where we go to meet together.
Saul played a huge role in persecuting Jews who began to become followers of Jesus, whom Rome had put to death through the ignoble crucifixion, or impalement at the instigation of the leaders of Israel, himself taking the lead in this first-century Jewish Inquisition over this false messiah.
Rome took messianic movements as a threat against its own empirical authority, and put them down swiftly and thoroughly, as documented by accounts of the first century. The time was rife with messiahs, and if you’ve never looked into how pervasive these movements were, I’d recommend you do.
In any case, can we agree that the first century was a pretty bad time to be a follower of Jesus— and writings such as The Revelation of Jesus Christ stressed the assurance in clinging to the hope in the truthfulness of Jesus’ promise to return soon and settle matters with those who had been carrying out the persecution.
So, we’re living in those days, clinging to the belief, the hope, that this vicious tribulation will be over soon so our children and their children never have to know this misery, pain, and suffering.
Just a little bit longer…
Then, Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Temple with it in 70CE.
While that pretty much shut-up the tribulation from the Jews, who suddenly had much bigger problems in light of the wrath of Rome coming down on Judea. Jerusalem was no more. The Temple was no more. The priesthood was no more.
A year passes… then two years… five…
By 80CE, what’s running through our minds? Because I’m inclined to think the question that would be coming up in my mind, and others, is “Where’s Jesus?” He said he’d return and we’d be with him forever after.
By 90CE, what were the followers of Jesus thinking?
And by 100BCE, we die, 70-some year-olds, and life goes on for the followers of Jesus and non-believers alike.
And this has gone on for generations.
That “last hour” sure is dragging on.
But according to the mainstream Gentile Christian, I can continue to have hope in two things: 1) that Jesus’ Second Coming is just ahead of us; 2) even if it turns out that just ahead of us means sometime after we died believing in this hope, we can believe that our faithfulness as we endured will mean something in what comes after this life.
How many years passed before the followers of Jesus realized that he wasn’t coming back after all in the way that Gentile Christians insist is to be my hope?
I mean, there had to be someone who finally say, “Hey, guys… we need to plan for the long-term here” didn’t there?
And I have to ask this question: if you and I are living in the first century as followers of Jesus… our friends in the faith being hunted down, beaten, stoned, and us, too…. And someone told me that the return that gave me the hope to carry on in enduring in my faithfulness as a follower of Jesus wouldn’t actually happen for 2,000 years hence to some far-off-in-time other people— well, it renders my present suffering meaningless!
How much does this bolster your faith and the strength of your hope if you were to find out that Jesus won’t be back for another 2,000 years hence?
Of course, we’ll do the obvious: ridicule the possibility because, from our perspective the world scene teeters on self-annihilation. Times difficult to deal with have found our generation, we declare.
Yeah? Imagine ourselves as first-century followers of Jesus, the very first ones, in their day, going through what they did under the conditions they found themselves— and you or I somehow going back in our time machine to tell them that all of the prophecies they believed were being fulfilled in their day as a divine reassurance of the hope toward which they desired and believed and drew endurance from wouldn’t actually be fulfilled for 2,000 years… would you ask me to believe that it wouldn’t make a modicum of difference to them in their grievous suffering?
Hearing an epistle assure you that comfort was “at hand” helped you hang on, but it was a ruse to see you through the tribulation of the followers of Jesus in the first century because the fact was that they all died, and the years passed, and at some point during the second century, Gentiles secured the Way, and Christianity changed from being a Jewish Christianity to being a Gentile Christianity.
From the Roman (Gentile) perspective, the role of Christianity is to rule the followers of Jesus until Jesus returns to rule over the Earth.
At some point following the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the followers of Jesus stopped looking for Jesus to return as they had done in the first century, and eventually “Classic” Dispensationalism came along to offer its own brand of hope for Gentile Christians, finding a ready and fertile environment especially in the United States around 1854.
Today, Darby’s views continue to shape and mold what numerous Gentile followers of Jesus hope toward in my generation.
That Jesus is due back at any moment now.
And even if he doesn’t, it’s okay because we still have the hope of the resurrection, right?
Do you mean the same promises and hopes that were given to the followers of Jesus in the first century so they could suffer “just a little while longer”?
It’s as though the return of Jesus has been reduced to a tug on the arm of the slot machine: We haven’t won yet, so the likelihood of our winning on this next spin makes it nearly impossible to turn out otherwise.
Prophetic interpretation by probability? Seriously?
And if this system of things continues on for another hundred years, then it’s even more probable that Jesus is coming back a second time, right?
Eventually someone has to win the jackpot that unlocks all the anticipated unfoldings of Bible prophecy that ,from the Gentile Christian perspective, to go unfulfilled to this day.
But any day now, you can bet on it.
I have to wonder about those who have believed the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society— which has been publishing assertions that these are the Biblical “last days” of prophecy, and a bunch of other assertions, too. “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” seems like a pretty big claim to me that they published as unassailable truth in 1925.
It’s been a few hours since 1925, but this hasn’t stopped the religious organization from instituting doctrines like “generation” and “1914” and “1919” into the hopes of its membership that the world at-large knows as “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
False hope is worse than having no hope at all, as far as I have lived to see. Believing in something as a defense and fortress against the storms of one’s existence, and then come to see that what was believed wasn’t the case at all. It hadn’t been true, your hope hadn’t been real and never had been… and now you’re all out of faith, strength, and life.
People hold on because they have hope. Take away their hope, and you’ve signed their death sentence.
[To be continued]
—Timothy B. Kline, October 6, 2019