Assuming the alleged prophecy in the Old Testament book of Daniel, Jesus thought the kingdom of God would transform the world, as we know it, and start a ‘new age.’ Moreover, he thought this was going to happen within his generation, by 100 CE, say. As it turned out, however, he was wrong by two millennia and counting.
What did the book of Daniel prophesy? In Daniel, the protagonist supposedly had this vision:
“I [Daniel] saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days [God], and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13–14, KJV, emphasis mine),
So Jesus envisioned a worldwide ‘kingdom’ in which God would ‘rule’ supreme in the mind and ‘heart’ of humans: a kingdom of justice, sharing, love, equality, truth, and peace. He jump-started this kingdom and, indeed, it took some roots according to the Acts of the Apostles:
“All that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat [food] with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour [goodwill] with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:44–47, KJV).
However, it stalled.
As mentioned, Jesus thought this kingdom of God would be in ‘full bloom’ within his generation; for example, in Mark’s gospel, we read,
“He [Jesus] said unto them [his disciples], ‘Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.’” (Mark 9:1, KJV).
Jesus also thought that the inauguration of this kingdom of God would spell the end of the world, as we know it, and initiate a new world order—a ‘regeneration’ of the world. Unfortunately, things didn’t happen as Jesus supposedly foretold: his initiation of God’s kingdom, for some reason fell through.
Let’s first look at what Jesus is portrayed predicting in Mark’s gospel.
The Great Tribulation
“As he [Jesus] went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, ‘Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!’ And Jesus answering said unto him, ‘Seest thou these great buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.’ And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives over against the temple, [his apostles] Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?’ And Jesus answering them began to say, ‘Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, “I am Christ”; and shall deceive many. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows. But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. And the gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost [Spirit]. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house: And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment. But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. And then if any man shall say to you, “Lo, here is Christ”; or, “lo, he is there”; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things. But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.’” (Mark 13:1–32 emphasis mine)
Let me summarize the above passage for the benefit of the reader. Jesus first supposedly foretells the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. The four apostles ask him for the signs preceding the destruction of the temple. Jesus replies that after the wars in Jerusalem and elsewhere, there will still be some time left before the end-times. The wars will be followed by earthquakes and famines on earth; after which, Jesus’s followers will be harshly persecuted. The end-times will be extremely near when an imperial shrine (or a pagan altar) is erected in the Jerusalem Temple. At that time, great tribulations will occur, and false messiahs will appear; after which there will be a bout of cosmic upheavals. The “Son of Man,” whom the evangelist later identifies with Jesus (Mark 14:62), will then come to earth (his Second Coming), and he will execute universal judgement. All this was supposed to happen within the then-living generation. Admittedly, Mark adds that we cannot know the exact time when this will happen—a cautious insertion; but, of course, he was way off by two-thousand-odd years. Christians are usually amazed that a prophecy Jesus supposedly made didn’t transpire. They are even scandalized if you dare say that Jesus was wrong in this instance. But those are the facts according to the gospel text!
Now, as the reader probably knows, if a single star were to fall on earth, it would incinerate the earth before it arrives—nothing would be left of the earth but ‘dust’—and there wouldn’t be anybody left alive to “see” anything. Surely, not a single star has fallen on earth prior to 100 CE, or ever. Can we then still insist that Jesus was scientifically right as well here? Jesus, or rather the evangelist, went by the paradigms of his time. But, technically, that makes Jesus wrong in what he supposedly ‘said.’
We have similar accounts in Matthew 24:1–36 and Luke 21:5–33. According to all three synoptic gospels, therefore, Jesus was wrong in his predictions both scientifically and historically. Indeed, two of the synoptic gospels admit that he didn’t know when the end-times would occur:
“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” (Mark 13:32, KJV, emphasis mine)
“But concerning that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of the heavens, nor the Son, except the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36, BLB, emphasis mine)
Luke, conveniently, omitted this verse.
Still, Jesus, or rather the synoptic evangelists, persisted in predicting that the destruction of the temple, the great tribulation, the cosmic cataclysms, the end-times, and the kingdom of God would happen in Jesus’s generation. The only thing that transpired was the destruction of the temple, which happened in 70 CE; that is, prior to the first gospel written, Mark’s. So much for biblical prophecies!
Book of Revelation
In his book God and Empire, biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan points out that although Mark’s gospel separates the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple from Jesus’s supposed return, he clearly indicates that the latter will follow very shortly afterward—and certainly within the lifetime of his listeners. Moreover, Mark’s ‘Little Apocalypse’ precedes Jesus’s return. By inference, therefore, any violence God may have had to perform to renew the earth will be over by the time Jesus comes again: so, in effect, Jesus could not possibly promote any warfare during his return (pp. 216–17). This is diametrically opposed to what Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, predicts in 19:11–21:
“I [John of Patmos] saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called ‘Faithful and True’ [Jesus], and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called ‘The Word of God’ [Jesus]. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’ [Jesus]. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.’ And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse [Jesus], and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse [Jesus], which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.” (emphasis mine)
It portrays Jesus as an armed conqueror to which Crossan (p. 223) strongly objects:
“To turn the nonviolent resistance of the slaughtered Jesus into the violent warfare of the slaughtering Jesus is, for me as a Christian, to libel the body of Jesus and to blaspheme the soul of Christ.” (Pp. 234–35).
Talk about biblical contradictions: so much for biblical consistency!
Since Jesus was taken away so suddenly from his followers, early Christians believed that he would come back a second time to finish what he had started: the Messiah (Hebrew for ‘Christ’) would return to earth and transform it totally in the end-times. This belief persists even today: after two millennia.
They also believed, however, that the second time around he would not come to suffer and die; he would come victorious to rule the whole world: just as a first-century victorious emperor would visit a city in what was termed Parousia. In fact, in the Nicene Creed, Christians profess,
“He [Jesus] will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” (“The Nicene Creed” accessed May 7, 2022)
In my opinion, this is pure and simple wishful thinking.
As mentioned, the early Christians also thought he would come back in their generation. Almost two thousand years later, he has not come back yet. Could it possibly be the case that they were wrong, and that also we are wrong?
Both biblical scholar John Crossan and New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman contend that John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, and Paul of Tarsus believed that God was going to clean up the world single-handedly in a swift violent action very shortly; that is, in their own generation. Indeed in Matthew’s gospel, we read,
“As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:27, KJV)
In one of the alleged messianic passages, Isaiah has,
“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:7, KJV, emphasis mine)
Notice, especially, the last clause: “the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
In his book God and Empire, Crossan argues that both Jesus and Paul believed that God had already started cleaning up the world of its evil, and that this cleanup would be completed within the then-living generation’s lifetime: they were both quite wrong, of course (p. 207).
As it happened, just prior to Paul’s writing First Thessalonians in the early 50s CE, many of the Thessalonians had experienced harsh persecution and some even suffered death. This upset many of them considerably. Why? Crossan explains that since they assumed Jesus was going to return in their own lifetime, their immediate question was: would the martyred Thessalonians miss out on something, simply because they were already dead? (p. 207). After all, it was the dead who had suffered most for the benefit of the Christian community. Paul tries to console them by assuring them that this is not the case: he, therefore, parallels Jesus’s Second Coming to an emperor’s Parousia, which was a happy, quite possibly, once-in-a-lifetime event. So, in his (authentic) First Thessalonians, Paul writes,
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, KJV, emphasis mine)
This couple of verses has caused so much controversy among the various Christian denominations.
There are many movies, https://creepycatalog.com/movies-about-the-biblical-rapture/ (accessed May 12, 2022), such as the “Left Behind” series, which are based on the following couple of verses in Matthew’s gospel:
“Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.” (Matthew 24:40–41, NKJV; see also Luke 17:35–36)
However, this is how Crossan explains the background for Paul’s verses:
Inhabitants of ancient cities, naturally, did not bury their dead inside the city walls; they buried them just outside the city along any of the major roads. So, as one approached the city, one first allegorically ‘met’ the city’s dead and later the living. Now, the technical term Parousia involved the arrival of the emperor, a conqueror, or an emissary at a city. Such important personalities were first greeted outside the city gate and then escorted into the city. Thus, it is ludicrous to think that the city inhabitants met the imperial figure outside the gate and then departed with him to where he came from, leaving their city deserted. That was not the background of the metaphor used by Paul here (Crossan pp. 204–6).
So, Paul tried to explain that, at his Second Coming, Jesus would first ‘meet’ with the dead Christians outside the ‘city’ (“in the clouds,” or “in the air,” not “in heaven”) and bring them back to life—resurrected. The living would then also join them there, and everyone would enter inside the ‘city’ (i.e., back on earth) in a great celebration, and live in a just and nonviolent earthly ‘paradise’ where Jesus would reign forever—in the ‘kingdom of God.’
The phrase “caught up” is variously translated as ‘taken up,’ ‘snatched up,’ or ‘raptured’; but, following the metaphor, we will not be taken up to heaven: we will return to earth, if anything. This is the real explanation of the so-called ‘Christian Rapture’; it is a complete misunderstanding of Paul’s metaphor: as happens often, its intended meaning has been completely lost over time (Crossan, p. 208).
To me, the Second Coming seems more like wishful thinking on the part of the early Christians—nothing more. In fact, I believe Crossan would agree with me, for he writes:
“The Second Coming of Christ is not an event that we should expect to happen soon … violently … [or] literally. The Second Coming of Christ is what will happen when we Christians finally accept that the First Coming was the Only Coming and start to cooperate with its divine presence” (pp. 230–31).
The Second Coming of Christ will happen when the Mystical Body of Christ (i.e., his Church) becomes totally Christ-like—if that will ever happen.
The above so called biblical prophecy keeps many Bible believers on edge: to the point of giving them sleepless nights. All it shows, however, is that the Bible is neither a truth factory, nor is it able to foretell the future.
In their book The Bible: God’s Word or Man’s? Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to predict that the present condition of the world will soon come to an end; and that Jesus will be coming back shortly afterward to rule the new world order. Jehovah’s Witnesses have this to say about the subject. They contend that, starting in 1914, the beginning of the First World War, the world started on a downhill roll to complete annihilation. They claim that this alleged Bible prophecy is currently being fulfilled and that it will even be consummated in our time—maybe not mine. I wish I had a dollar every time I heard the prediction that the end of the world is near: I would probably be filthy rich by now. John the Baptist said it; Jesus of Nazareth said it; Paul of Tarsus said it; all four evangelists said it; John of Patmos said it: practically every modern evangelist on television preaches it; Jehovah’s Witnesses preach it, and so many others.
The reader might find it strange that also Jesus said so, but after predicting the end of the world as we know it, in Matthew’s gospel, he is portrayed saying,
“Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till ALL these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:34–35, KJV, emphasis mine)
Presumably, Jesus’s generation is all dead, but the great tribulation never happened; yet, heaven and earth are still here: and so also will Jehovah’s Witnesses’ predictions turn to dust.
The biblical passage they reference in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 24:1–51) portrays Jesus foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple followed, shortly after, by the end of the present world order—or disorder, rather.
It is undoubtedly true that there were several false messiahs prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE. However, the evangelist Matthew knew all about them because he wrote his gospel around 80 CE, so it was not really prophecy, was it?
In their book, Jehovah’s Witnesses go through a whole list of wars, famines, earthquakes, plagues, and ‘wild beasts’ (metaphoric: violent, predatory people) to prove that starting in 1914 evil has increased exponentially, and that the end of the world must therefore be near (pp. 134–48). May I ask, however, could it perhaps be the case that nowadays we get to know more news than in the past since communication has also increased exponentially in the last century?
Now, as I already pointed out above, whatever else Jesus allegedly prophesied about the end of the world should have happened before Jesus’s generation had passed away—not in our time—the gospel text itself says it! (Matthew 24:34–35) So clearly, Jehovah’s Witnesses are here interpreting the above passage in Matthew out of context. Whatever they say is all irrelevant because, even according to Matthew’s gospel itself, what was allegedly prophesied should have happened within Jesus’s generation (Matthew 24:34–35). It is ludicrous to try to assert that a ‘God-inspired’ prophecy would happen centuries after the time limit clearly spelled out in the prophecy itself. All bets are off by now.
I was thinking to myself: why do Jehovah’s Witnesses leave out such an important detail in their treatment of this alleged prophecy? Do they translate the relevant Bible verse the same way? So, I decided to check it out; and the answer is yes, they do translate it the same way. The verse in their New World Translation reads,
“Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things happen.” (Matthew 24:34, NWT, emphasis mine)
It makes one wonder therefore why they do not reveal the whole truth; but then scare tactics have always been the favorite method used by all religious institutions to control their followers: it’s understandable because they have no police force.
These are the people who, in their book, pride themselves to be an “outstanding example of human behavior” (p. 181), the “most honest … tax payers,” and most exemplary citizens (p. 182); not to mention that they also claim to possess “accurate knowledge [of] the Bible” (p. 178).
Had I believed in God’s inspiration of the Bible, I would have thought that God inserted this gospel verse in there simply to tell us to disregard such nonsense as predicting the end-times. As if inserting it once were not enough, it seems that God wanted to make sure we got the message right by inserting it in the Bible, not just once, but three times—in three of the four gospels—the synoptic gospels. (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30 & Luke 21:32)
Jehovah’s Witnesses then refer to the gospel being preached before the end of the world arrives, as stated in the following verse from Matthew’s passage:
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14, KJV)
They claim they are the ones currently doing this work supposedly prophesied by Jesus: it seems they made this their agenda by preaching door to door; they seem to be doing their utmost to make this ‘prophecy’ come true single-handedly. Should not prophecy happen spontaneously rather than forcefully? They remind me of the evangelists who made up accounts corresponding to ancient so-called prophecies.
They claim they are the ones being persecuted, hated, and prosecuted because of this; as is supposedly foretold in the following verse from Matthew’s passage:
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 24:9, KJV)
They don’t realize their ‘persecution’ stems from holding on to outdated biblical concepts. They claim that they are the final bearers of Christianity’s banner by their good works and love of neighbor. They describe all of Christendom (Catholics & Protestants alike) as mere failures, stating that their “religion is all but dead” (pp. 146–47). I suppose they have in mind another alleged prophecy in Luke’s gospel:
“Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8, KJV).
They seem to follow the gospels meticulously except that they do not show any love for their fellow Christians (pp. 25–36, 146), which is what Jesus said would be the distinguishing feature of a Christian (pp. 134–89). Recall that in John’s gospel Jesus presumably says,
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35, KJV).
This verse does not mean that we should just love fellow believers; it means we should love everybody: recall the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:30–37) Are they also trying their best to make another Matthean verse, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” come true? (Matthew 24:12, KJV). It is easier to be charitable to someone living a block away than to one’s next-door neighbor.
In his lifetime, Jesus did denounce the Pharisees and the Sadducees of his time for focusing their efforts on exterior behavior without giving any importance to love of God or neighbor. I suppose Jehovah’s Witnesses think they have the right to take over Jesus’s job condemning everyone else. However, Jesus was God’s Son, and he was beyond reproach.
For Jehovah’s Witnesses to condemn everyone else they too must be beyond reproach; otherwise criticisms are going to flow back and forth between religious organizations—resulting in religious division. As it was in Jesus’s time, there probably are no religious institutions worth joining—including Catholics and Protestants. All religions should be looking for God; they should therefore draw us closer to God and unite us—not separate us.
I am totally against violence stemming from different religions or religious denominations. I detest divisive attitudes among religious institutions because of different beliefs or opinions. I think the various religions and religious denominations should do their utmost to inspire us to love God and neighbor, and to stop bickering and pointing fingers at other religious institutions: this “I’m holier than thou” attitude among all religious people must stop.
When all is said and done, the above Jehovah’s Witnesses’ end-times prediction in our generation is all smoke-screening. The key question here is: why do they insist this was a prophecy for our times when it is clearly stated, in three gospels nonetheless, that it should have happened within Jesus’s generation? It seems Jesus thought the end of the world would come in his generation, but it didn’t: the alleged prophecy therefore did not transpire—end of story.
Catholic Online: “The Nicene Creed”: https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=495 .
Creepy Catalogue: “Movies about the Biblical Rapture.” https://creepycatalog.com/movies-about-the-biblical-rapture/.
Crossan, John Dominic. God and Empire: Jesus against Rome, Then and Now. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2008 (ISBN: 9780060858315).
Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1982.
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Wallkill, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc., 2013.
The Holy Bible: Berean Literal Bible (BLB). Bible Hub, 2016: https://literalbible.com/.
The Holy Bible: King James Version (KJV). Oxford, UK, 1769. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. The Bible: God’s Word or Man’s? Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. International Bible Students Association, 1989.