Guest Article: Why No Record of Christ’s Coming?
by Timothy James
This article was written by Timothy James in 1991. I thought I had published it before but could not find it. James does a fine job of responding to a common objection to true preterism. Give careful thought to this good article.
The belief in the failure of Christ’s prophecies stem from the attempts of a Gentile-dominated church after A.D. 70 trying to understand Jewish concepts. This lack of understanding should not amaze us, for most of the Jewish world misunderstood the prophecies of His first coming, so why should we expect any difference in recognition of His second coming by Gentile interpreters?
The silence of the period after the destruction was a direct result of the downfall and captivity of the Jewish Nation. Along with its end the Jewish Christians were scattered and became almost lost to history. If any literature was written by them after the fall of Jerusalem that taught the return of Christ in that event, there is good reason to believe that it was suppressed or beyond the understanding of the dominant Gentile church (see E. Hampden-Cook’s section in Appendix I).
Careful study of Rabbinic sources shows that the remnant of the Jewish nation actively destroyed all apocalyptic works speaking of an imminent end after A.D. 70 because of its embarrassment to them. Hence, suppression of Jewish/Christian material referring to fulfilled imminence was a most likely target of this group also.
Another factor related to this is N. B. Stonehouse’s mention of a definite division in the church after A.D. 70. (Apocalypse, p.139f). Syrian Christianity was isolated from the Greek world because of its Aramaic language. This barrier caused a more pure line of understanding and tradition. Therefore, the Greek church considered the Syrian church “heretical” because they rejected the Greek’s sensual chiliasm and held to a spiritual/figurative understanding of Jewish/Christian apocalyptic. This distaste for sensual chiliasm was a major factor in their total rejection of the Apocalypse in the early Syrian texts and canon. It wasn’t till later that Revelation was added, and then with a heading that placed its date in reign of Nero, before the A.D. 70 event. (Note: chiliasm was a form of millennialism and was very common in the early church- DKP).
Interpretation of Scripture by the Gentile-dominated church was caught up in the idea of a physical return and a literal interpretation of the very figurative Jewish apocalyptic language found in the book of Revelation and other OT & NT prophecies. Yet, even in the early church, Christ’s return was seen by the Jewish Christians to be a spiritual change in the authority of the Kingdom. Such can be seen in the “jumping the gun” of the early church in the teaching that the Lord had come before A.D. 70, (II Thess. 2:1-2). This premature teaching was dangerous to the early church since it implied an acceptance of the Temple cultus, thus putting Christianity in the category of just a new sect of Judaism, rather than the fulfillment of the whole thing.
The fact that they believed the Lord had come before A.D. 70 shows that they interpreted His return as a spiritual coming in the early church. Even though they were premature, it only supports our early research that they expected His return just as He said, in that generation.
There are only two main verses that have loosely been used to assume a physical return of Christ by the Greek-dominated church. The first is Acts 1:9-11 (the Ascension), “he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight,” after this the two angels reassured the disciples saying, “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven.” (emphasis mine, tj.) The emphasis here is not on the transfigured form, but on the manner in which he ascended and would return, “in a cloud.” This event was a reaffirmation of Jesus’ being the apocalyptic “Son of Man” spoken of in Daniel and the Gospels. That he, “the Son of Man,” came with the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13), is later emphatically stated to be fulfilled in His return, in numerous places (Matt.16:27f; 24:30; Mark 13:26; and Luke 21:27).
Note: for an excellent study of Acts 1:9-11 get a copy of Dan Dery’s brand new 2019 – book– The Meaning of the Manner. Contact me for information on how to order- Don K. Preston.
The second verse under consideration is Revelation 1:7, “Behold, he cometh in the clouds and every eye shall see him, every one which pierced him: and all the kindred of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” Here one finds the same apocalyptic “Son of Man” imagery regarding His “coming in the clouds.” The language of the text shows that literally, those that would see him were even who had “pierced him”, namely the Jews (Acts 2:23,36; 5:30).
In His parousia in judgment on the Jewish theocracy, those that had rejected Him would now “see” the truth of Jesus’ claims and their error, i.e. a nationalistic expectation of the Kingdom (Matthew 26:64). Truly, upon a close investigation of the subject, there are not any verses in the New Testament that point to any other manner of coming other than a spiritual parousia of Christ in a judgment of God’s enemies at the redemptive-historical end-time of the Old Covenant system. In fulfilling this event, the bondage of the non-occurence theory is vanquished.
This information can be found in Timothy’s book: “THE MESSIAH’S RETURN, Delayed? Fulfilled? or Double-Fulfillment .“