he believed he would return very shortly to rule his kingdom in personKeeping the Now and Not Yet tension ever before us, this statement is in some sense true and some sense false. Now I know none of this will satisfy Mr. Ellis, who quoted this in a comment section, but again, I thought it would help those who would like to see if there is an answer to this question.
In this post, I want to demonstrate that Jesus taught that there would be a lengthy delay in His return. I will contrast that teaching with the more difficult problem from Matthew 26:63-64 in my next post.
In Jesus' parables on the nature of the Kingdom as recorded in Matthew, we are told quite clearly that there will be a delay in His Second Coming. Again, I refer the reader to the parable of the Wheat and Tares.
37He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.Here Jesus tells us that there is a planting time prior to the time of harvest at the end of the age. This planting time teaches that the Kingdom is to expand throughout the entire "world". We have seen in history that the planting time takes just that...time. Not only is there planting time, but both must grow up together until the harvest.
Another example is from Matthew 16 where Jesus teaches about the church in response to Peter's confession.
17Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." 20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.Jesus does not explain to us a specific time table, but He does tell us something about His church. He explains that He is going to build His church. As from the preceding context, He is beginning with the Jews and then He will expand to the Gentile world. By building His church in this present evil age, we clearly have an inference that there will be a delay in His Second Coming. In other words, why does Jesus need to give authority to the Apostles to bind and loose unless He planned on being absent from the earth in person?
We also see from Matthew 20 and workers in the Vineyard that there will be a delay.
1"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.Jesus goes on to explain that there is a full day of finding more and more workers for the field. Jesus is first establishing His church with His disciples. However, this is only the beginning of the day. Each generation has been continuing this work until the field/world is harvested. Therefore, there is a delay in His Second Coming.
In Matthew 21 and the Parable of the Tenants, Jesus says,
33"Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.As we see throughout this parable, Jesus will take away the vineyard from the Jewish leaders and give the Kingdom to others, who will do God's will.
41"He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time."Then there is Jesus' teaching on the Wedding Banquet in chapter 22,
1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.To which he later responds,
8"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.Since this is a reference to the gathering in of the Gentiles, there is a delay in His Second Coming.
Of course the passage in question, Matthew 24, teaches this extended delay.
6You 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. 7Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are the beginning of birth pains.Here Jesus specifically warns His disciples that prior to their deaths, many will come saying the end is right now. But He explains that there will be a lengthy delay. For nations must rise and fall and Kingdoms will come and go. Therefore, those such as Infidel.org, who would say the end should have come, are in error.
Again, Jesus does tell us that the age of the Gentiles coming into the church causes a severe delay.
14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.Now Jesus did not know how long this would take. Nevertheless, there must have been a delay in mind to take into account that Jesus taught that He was going to build His church among every nation and people and tribe and language.
One more piece of evidence I would like to submit from this very discourse.
36"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.If we are going to argue that Jesus believed He would return within 40 years, then we must argue that Jesus had set a date. It had to be by AD 70. Yet if Jesus had set a date prior to Ad 71, then Jesus had contradicted Himself in His own discourse. Nobody seemed to notice this? We modernists are just so smart while these ignoramuses were just too stupid to see there own error? This is just modernist arrogance.
Although far more evidence from the rest of the New Testament could be sought, I think it is sufficient to say that if we allow Jesus and His Disciples to explain the nature of the Kingdom of God, and not read into their teaching what we think they should mean, perhaps many of our apprehensions will subside.