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Jesus" false predictions on the end times

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There are many scholars in the field of the historical Jesus who have come to the conclusion that the historical Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. What this means is that Jesus was a prophet who was preaching about the imminent of the end times, that God was about to intervene.

Now the reason such scholars have come to this conclusion, is because if one were to read the Gospels, one would clearly find the sayings of Jesus clearly discussing the end was near, and in this article we shall highlight those passages so everybody can see them for themselves.

In Matthew 24, Jesus is said to be sitting with his disciples on the Mount of Olives when his disciples come to him asking him about the signs for the end times and when he shall reappear, and so Jesus gives them a whole list of signs to look out for:

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’[a]spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.

For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

See, I have told you ahead of time. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

“Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, 
 andthe moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, 
 andthe heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth[c]will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:4-32)

So according to Jesus, once all of these things happen, Jesus will appear on the clouds with the angels. So after Jesus explains all of the signs he comes to the most crucial part, he specifically tells his disciples that they alongside the rest of the current generation of his time, will be witnesses to all of this, that the end times will be occurring in their own life times:

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it[e]is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:32-35)

So according to Jesus, all the signs of the end times, including his eventual appearance on the clouds, will all happen in the lifetime of the disciples, in the lifetime of this generation, Jesus couldn’t have said it any clearer than that, that the end times will occur in this generation.

Now as we all know, this prediction by Jesus was obviously false, that generation has long passed, and Jesus never came back on the clouds, his generation never witnessed his return, so he made a wrong prediction

This wasn’t the only time Jesus made a prediction about his imminent return, during his trial in Jerusalem; he made the some prediction while speaking to the high priest:

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:60-62)

So the high priest asks Jesus if he is the Messiah, the son of the blessed one. Jesus answers in the affirmative, and not only does Jesus answer in the affirmative, he goes on to tell the high priest that he shall see the son of man (Jesus) appearing and coming on the clouds.

This was yet another false prediction by Jesus, because the high priest has long died, and the high priest never witnessed Jesus, the son of man coming on the clouds.

Now some might try to say that when Jesus told the high priest that he’d see him coming on the clouds, that Jesus was talking in general terms, so when he said ‘you’ to the high priest, he didn’t mean ‘you in the specific sense, but in the general sense.

The reason this answer fails is because of context, when one reads everything in context, one would see that Jesus had already previously just told his disciples that the end would come in their times, in their own generation, so when Jesus tells the high priest that he will witness the son of man coming on the clouds, this only corroborates what Jesus said earlier to his disciples, that this current generation would see him coming on the clouds.

So what’s one to make of these failed predictions? Well the first option is to say that Jesus did make clear false predictions, when he said the end was coming, and he was about to reappear, he was obviously wrong. More problematic with Jesus’ failed predictions is it shows he was a failed and false Messiah, just like his accusers said he was. If Jesus made these predictions, then he really thought he was the Messiah, that he was speaking for God, but none of what he claimed happened, he never came on the clouds, so he was not a real Messiah, he expected his return, it didn’t happen.

Another option for these false predictions is that these teachings were misattributed to Jesus, or misinterpreted by the writers of the Gospels. In other words Jesus never made the predictions that the end would happen in his generation, rather this was the hope and misunderstanding of his followers who began to propagate such beliefs in Jesus’ name. So Jesus was never wrong, because he never made these claims in the way he’s been quoted, and rather it was his followers who got it wrong.

There is no 3rd option, there is no 3rd option of reinterpreting these verses to mean something else, because they mean what they say, and they are as they are. Now obviously this doesn’t stop many people from trying to reinterpret these clear verses to mean something else, but such attempts are as weak as trying to argue the earth is flat, and that 2+2=4. The text is clear, Jesus (supposedly) made predictions that the end times were coming, and that they would happen in his generation.

Now if these false predictions are down to the misunderstood belief of Jesus’ followers, then we must ask what else have they misunderstood concerning the message of Jesus, and what else have they misattributed to Jesus? It opens up a whole Pandora’s box when one thinks of it, because who says if they misunderstood him here, that they didn’t misunderstand him in other instances? In fact it’d be quite naïve to think that they only misunderstood him once when it came to this specific issue of the end times.

Recommended reading:

For those looking for a more in depth study on the issue, we suggest the following two scholarly books on the matter:

-The Historical Figure of Jesus by Dr. E.P. Sanders

-Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium by Dr. Bart D. Ehrman 

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