Show Notes - Episode 47
Why Jesus Is Never Coming Back
Is the return of Christ a blessed hope or is it a blessed hoax? To get our answers, we're going to go to a place where very few evangelicals would ever expect to find them: the Bible itself, and one key place in particular that the writers of the gospel found important enough to carbon copy in all three of the synoptic gospels. Lies so nice, they told them thrice.
The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21)
This one shows up in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke, with Luke's setting for the story being less specific)
Mark 13:6 “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.”
At what point in history has this ever happened? Sure, you can look to cult leaders as partial evidence, but most defer back to the source. Even Jim Jones and David Koresh never claimed to be Jesus incarnate. They just asserted their self-importance as part of the equation.
Of the ones who did make direct claims, few were taken terribly seriously and most never tried to convince anyone that they and Jesus were one and the same:
Dositheos the Samaritan – His adopted name literally meant “Partly God.” he wanted to convince the Samaritans that he was the Messiah.
Ann Lee – shaker messianic figure who claimed that she “embodied all the perfections of God.” Oh lord, it's hard to be humble...
John Nichols Thom – The perfect typological avatar of the lunatic messiah. He made his messianic claim after a stint in a mental institution. He should have stayed.
Mizra Husayn – claimed to be the messiah and founded the Baha'i Faith.
Lou De Palingboer – made messianic claims from about 1950 to the time of his death in 1968. Praise the Lou!
There were some who made direct claims to be incarnations of Jesus but they were few and far between. History shows a more distinct pattern of people taking on self-appointed messianic roles that did not, in fact, equate them with Jesus. Why is this problematic? Read the verse again. “Many will come in my name...” Most of these crackpots were more interested in making a name for themselves with either veiled associations with Christ or asserting that they were different personas, not that they were direct incarnations or representations of Jesus.
It's also worth mentioning that many of these so-called messiahs had already been infused with toxic doctrine from other sources. The resulting mental illnesses they suffered caused them to make claims that might have netted them a niche following, but none of them were ever able to successfully circumvent the gospel or lead significant numbers of people away from the traditional doctrines of Christianity. So the notion of “many” being led astray by niche cultists and looneys over the centuries doesn't hold up when you match the numbers of followers they gained versus those who were following more traditional Christian doctrinal models at the time. Not many people have ever been persuaded to give up the notion of Jesus as the messiah in favor of a contemporary.
In Matthew 24, as part of the same apocalyptic message, Jesus lays out a number of signs and predictions including wars, earthquakes, and famine, along with the previous claims of false Messiahs. These things in parallel were supposed to be “the sign of the Son of Man" that would culminate in his promised Return (Mt. 24:30).
For starters, I would have spent hours simply reading the NAMES of all the wars that have been fought since the alleged time of Christ. My hat's off to the wikipedia contributors who chronicled all of this, but just scrolling through the list covering the first millennium of the common era took a couple minutes.
Wars have been present in human history and throughout the world almost constantly since the day that Jesus is alleged to have spoken these words.
You can say the very same thing about famines. There are several exhaustive lists that I found that had much of the same information. The Wiki here is trustworthy so check out the link and scroll fo the five minutes it'll take to start seeing common era examples (and they are plenty).
Earthquakes? Well, this is just one more example of how the creator of the universe manages to not know Jack Q. Shit about science. Earthquakes are the result of plate tectonics, geologic faults, and other geological processes, all of which have always happened, and always been here. They are signs of nothing except the imperfect nature of our planet and the universe. None of them have ever signaled any apocalyptic or spiritual anything. None of them have ever given evidence of intelligent design either.
This, of course, hasn't stopped the likes of John Hagee, Jack Van Impe, Herbert W. Armstrong (whom I was almost taken in by back in the day – was prepared to ship off to his youth camp one summer), and my personal favorite, Hal Lindsey, not to be confused with Hal Linden, the lovable star of Barney Miller. If you're my age and had exposure to all of this, you've made that mistake too. Admit it. :-)
These people use their cunning amalgamation of exegetical prowess and confirmation bias to draw parallels. They make approximations based on things that happened in close enough proximity to be able to complete the wars, famines, and natural disasters trifecta. The end result is “compelling” evidence that sells a lot of books, and yet, not a single person has yet to be raptured while reading The Late Great Planet Earth. Go figure.
It's almost like a card game. Like Magic: The Gathering. You have your war cards, your famine cards, and your natural disaster cards and once in a while, you get the upper hand and draw a card like “Chernobyl.”
And that's another point, right there. This combination of events is so prevalent throughout history, these doomsday snake oil salesmen have always been able to piece together details that make them able to predict the second coming and end times within their own lifetimes or generations. This started around 500 CE and often revolves around turns of centuries as well as turns of millennia.
The association of these kinds of events exists only as a diversion designed to create “See??? SEE???” moments in the minds of the faithful. It keeps them centered, hopeful, and (at least in theory) on their best behavior, being obedient to the tenet of faith when the “signs” are all around them that the end is near.
The most damning pieces of evidence anywhere in the Bible, though, can be found in three distinct places, and two that are a scant few verses apart from each-other. These verses blatantly and obviously contradict each-other at several key crossroads.
“This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Mt. 24:14
"Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." (Matthew 24:34).
Jesus also said that he'd be back within the lifetimes of some of the people present at that moment. Mt. 16:28, Mk. 9:1, Lk. 9:27 all say the same thing in practically the exact same words. Here's Matthew's version:
“Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
How any sane, thinking, grown-up person can read any of this and glean anything from it that exposes Jesus as anything but a raving lunatic or charlatan are totally beyond me. How can ANYONE look at any of these verses and see anything but fraudulent claims and errant predictions? The generation passed. Everyone who, in the fictional world of this narrative, heard those words is now quite dead, and as for the world being saturated with good-time gospel goodness? Heh...
But let's look at each of these verses in turn and see how they ALL negate the idea of any return of a fictional character in a poorly-written novel at any time ever.
Mt. 24:14 – According to the Joshua Project, here's where we stand in terms of global evangelization (and I personally think these numbers are still inflated and have their own meanings and provisions built into them).
Reached people groups: 57.5%
Unreached People groups: 42.5%
If you look at this in terms of real numbers, looking forward from 33CE, It took 1988 years to reach just over half the world with the gospel. Crunching the numbers, and my math is awful but this is, I believe close, it will take a minimum of 1100 more years to get the job done.
Even with mass communication, a global communications system in the form of the internet, the advent of modes of transportation that can literally place you in any climate you want to be in within just five short hours, only half the world has, allegedly, heard the gospel.
And Jesus thought people would have this nailed down in a very small expanse of time using transportation methods like sandals and boats and using communications mediums like the un-amplified, un-broadcasted human voice as the conveyance of the messaging. Come on now...
The same source flat out admits that only about 10% of the world believes seriously in the Gospel, with another 23 percent making up the ones who only go to church on Christmas and Easter and go to confession whenever they feel like there's enough red on their ledger. In evangelical terms, you can equate that with the tens or more of times people “rededicate” their lives on Sunday and are back to their sinful heathen shenanigans by about Tuesday night.
They also state that of the 7,360 languages currently spoken on Earth (not sure if that's entirely accurate but I've seen numbers that are at least close), 2,252 have the New Testament available.
There are currently 23 languages that account for nearly half the population of the world and at least parts of the Bible have been translated into all of them. Source: https://www.ethnologue.com/guides/how-many-languages#:~:text=7%2C117%20languages%20are%20spoken%20today.&text=This%20is%20a%20fragile%20time,than%20half%20the%20world's%20population.
The Joshua Project claims that Bible translation covers over 90% of the world’s population. Most people have access to at least the parts of the Bible they deem important and can read it in their own language (with the wonderful game of telephone that occurs when non-native speakers decide how to translate things).
“Today I am a jelly doghnut.” - John Fitzgerald Kennedy, trying to say “Today, I am a Berliner.” (largely urban myth – the audience understood him just fine) Source: https://www.history.com/news/i-am-a-jelly-doughnut-or-am-i
“I'm tickled to death to be here!” - Translated to “I itch, I scratch, I am about to die,” in a missionary's salutation to his newly adopted congregation.
Still, about half of the people who could be reading the Bible don't even care that it's out there. The Joshua project would call these people either unreached or, “heard, not responded.” I simply call them, “smart.”
The next two are much easier to pick apart.
Matthew 24:34 – The typical generation is measured by about 2.5 to 3 decades, so 25 to 30 years. The Bible has its own contextual definitions.
“This is one of the hardest verses in the gospels to interpret. Various views exist for what generation means. (1) Some take it as meaning “race” and thus as an assurance that the Jewish race (nation) will not pass away. But it is very questionable that the Greek term γενεά (genea) can have this meaning. Two other options are possible. (2) Generation might mean “this type of generation” and refer to the generation of wicked humanity. Then the point is that humanity will not perish, because God will redeem it. Or (3) generation may refer to “the generation that sees the signs of the end” (vv. 25-26), who will also see the end itself. In other words, once the movement to the return of Christ starts, all the events connected with it happen very quickly, in rapid succession.”
The last part, coupled with the statement in the last verse of this trifecta of Jesus saying that some standing there would never taste death before his return form the basis for a little splinter faction of Christianity known as Preterism. I was a Preterist for quite a while because, in my mind it explained a lot. And I'll get into that more in a few minutes.
There's a lot of scapegoating going on here. For starters, as stated in the quote, it's not at all likely that the word used in that verse meant “race.” There is also nothing in any greek translation from classical Greek to Koine Greek (predominantly the LXX) where any operand that suggests “type of” even exists. Lastly, the word “this” in “this generation” kinda negates any notion of it being a generation in the distant future. It says “this.” In all common translations and by all linguistic standards applied to the English translation of that verse, whether you want to read it as a pronoun, an adjective, adverb, or modifier (because it can be any of those in specific contexts), when translated into english it means what we all think it means: a description of something that exists in the present.
And when you read it like that, it makes Jesus a little thing we like to refer to around here as “wrong.”
Now let's chat a little about Preterism...
Riding on the clouds = judgment clouds=spirit
All prophecies in revelation have already been fulfilled
Nero was the antichrist
There was a brief period where people needed a distinct sigil or “mark” to be able to buy and sell
The gospels were written after all of this... which leads one to wonder (and it sure led me) if this wasn't how the whole thing was supposed to be interpreted all along.
Bottom line, it's still a product of a lot of wishful thinking and wordplay.
I'll put this as simply as I can. It's been two thousand years. Jesus is never coming back. Everything evangelicals believe about the return of Christ has been very eloquently negated by the same book that claims that this is a thing that's going to happen. We haven't even gotten into the book of Revelation and, honestly, I see no need to drag that long, drawn out bronze age acid trip into this. Jesus himself painted a much more muted image of what the end times would look like, but it was still as violent and chaotic as anything in revelation, just without whores of Babylon, beasts with seven heads, stars falling from the sky, or rivers of blood up to a horse's bridle (more of that awesome Bible-based science).
C.S. Lewis put it eloquently, too, when he gave his famous ultimatum which, to paraphrase, states that there are only three ways to view Jesus: lunatic, liar, or lord. Well, we know it isn't that third one. That leaves Lunatic or liar. Or does it? The way this character is framed in the narrative, he doesn't come across as a liar. He comes across as believing every word he said. So does that make him a lunatic? Not when you weigh his words with things like turning water into wine and raising the dead. At that point, you kind of have the right to make certain postulations about yourself.
So I think C.S. Lewis left out one very obvious option. Jesus was not a lunatic, a liar, or worship-worthy lord. Knock off just one phonetic element and you get it right. He's lore. Nothing but the construct of the minds of people who, for the time they lived, understood way more about human nature than we'd like to think they could.
If you're an evangelical, you are basing your entire life on a work of fiction, pure and simple. If you look with an objective eye at all the evidences we've offered you tonight, you can come to no other conclusion. This is nothing more than a poorly thought-out story that could have used a little competent redaction to make it more believable. You believe it for several key reasons.
First, you believe it because you were either conditioned to believe it from a very young age, or because at some point you found yourself in a place of vulnerability where someone convinced you that you somehow needed to be saved from the burden of your own sense of self. And when that happened, it became way too easy for people to impart their beliefs to you and persuade you to believe them too.
Let me ask you something: when you chose to believe it, did you actually read the book? Did you ever use your own mind and ability to think critically about any of this and simply consider how what the book says lines up with what you've been told. What about what you can easily observe about what reality contradicts in this divisive narrative? Presented with compelling evidence that one of the key areas of the doctrine that you embrace is loaded with observable error and untruth, what do you think?
What do YOU think?
I know what your pastor thinks. I know what you've been told. I know how deeply rooted it is.
But I'll ask again: what do YOU think? Because what you think matters.
The way I see it, if any part of what you believe proves to be untrue, it disproves all of it. And that's a scary notion. Believe me, I know. I've been in that place of fear where my brain knew that what I believed was untrue, and I too clung to it for a long time because I didn't know what I would do without it. I said it recently: if God hasn't given you a spirit of fear, why would you be afraid of anything that involves him? God hasn't given you a spirit of fear. He can't. He has no power. He can't make you think or feel anything. He can't even get his own story straight in his “god-breathed” narrative.
See, the truth is a difficult thing. It's an uncomfortable thing. But one thing about the truth that you can't escape is that it remains true whether we want to accept it or not. That, I think, is the most uncomfortable thing about it. And if what I told you tonight makes you uncomfortable, consider why. Is it because I had the audacity to question an important part of what you believe or because what I said about it makes more sense than believing it ever will?
When you figure out the answer to that question, two things will happen: you'll have the responsibility to deal with it, and if you deal with it the right way, the other very crucial thing that will happen is that you will start questioning everything else about this religion. And when that happens, whether you realize it at that moment or not, you will start thinking differently about how valid any of it really is, and you'll begin steering your thoughts in the direction of getting and staying unbound.