I think that anyone who is a serious student of the Bible will sooner or later come to realize that there is a problem with Yeshua's predictions of His parousia. Almost all mentions of the Parousia have a time statement with them, it's coming soon. So if Yeshua didn't return in the first century as He said He would, something is wrong.
Hays tries to deal with this problem in his recently published book, "When the Son of Man Didn't Come: A Constructive Proposal on the Delay of the Parousia." This book is written by Dr. Christopher M. Hays. Hays is currently Professor of New Testament at the Biblical Seminary of Colombia. From the title I'm sure that you can tell that Hays doesn't believe that the Lord Yeshua has yet returned.
Hays writes, "The basic reason there is a debate about the delay in Christ's return is that Jesus told the first generation of his disciples that he would be back before the last of that crew kicked the bucket," then he quotes:
And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power." Mark 9:1 ESV
Hays says, "He assured them,
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Mark 13:30 ESV
Hays says, 'all these things' apparently including reference to the 'Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.'"
"In light of that promise he adjured them again and again, 'keep alert . . . keep awake . . . keep awake' (Mark 13:33-37), for 'truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes' (Matt. 10:23).
"Admittedly, he said that nobody would know the 'hour or the day' of his return, but in general terms, Jesus definitely prophesied that he would be back before the end of the first century. And since we are still here, it seems like he was pretty wrong!"
"Obviously, scholars have suggested other solutions, but none have struck me as satisfying. N.T. Wright, for example (see Jesus and the Victory of God, pp. 348-68), has made the very attractive argument that the 'coming of the Son of Man' language in Mark 13:26-27 refers to Jesus' enthronement in heaven after his death, rather than his final descent to earth in judgment."
"It's an intriguing possibility, since Mark definitely alludes to Daniel 7:13, in which the 'one like a son of man coming' is indeed enthroned in heaven. However, Mark 8:35-38 indicates that the coming of the Son of Man is a coming in judgment, rather than ascending to rule in heaven after his death. The same idea seems pretty clear in Luke 12:40//Matt. 24:44. And both Mark 8:34-9:1 and 13:24-31 say that the coming in judgment is supposed to occur within a generation."
"So, insofar as I don't think that the judgment transpired during the first century, it's hard to take refuge in Wright's thesis. It still seems like Jesus miscalculated when he foretold that he would return before the first generation of apostles died."
What? He doesn't think that the judgment transpired during the first century. So the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 plays no part in Yeshua words? He doesn't see the parousia as connected with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70?
Hays goes on to say, "If Jesus' prophecy about the timing of the Kingdom's coming was not fulfilled, then isn't this Christianity thing really just all wrong? Well…no, actually. You see, even though Jesus did prophesy that he would return before the first generation of disciples expired, the important thing to remember is that Jesus was making a prophecy. And prophecies do not purport to forecast fixed future events. Prophecies are, by their nature, conditional. A prophesied outcome may or may not transpire; it all depends on how the audience responds to the message of the prophet. Perhaps the problem of the delay of the parousia is . . . us."
So Hays sees Yeshua's statements about His second coming as conditional prophecies, which aren't meant to be predictions of future events, but which are dependant upon us.
In discussing prophecy, we need to make a distinction between "foretelling" and "forthtelling." Not all prophecy is foretelling, i.e., predictive in its nature. Biblical prophecy can be divided into two types, conditional and predictive. Conditional prophecy is when the prophecy fulfillment is dependent on the compliance of those to whom the promise is made, with the conditions on which it is given. A prophecy in which the prediction is predicated upon a condition. Predictive prophecy is one in which there is no condition predicated. A prophecy from God that will come to pass exactly as prophesied no matter what humans do.
Hays says, "The Book of Jeremiah comes closest to giving a model for how predictive prophecy works, and it is rather different than the 'predict the future' model." The problem is that the text he uses in Jeremiah is an example of conditional prophecy not predictive prophecy. Let's look at the text he uses:
Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Jeremiah 18:5-10 ESV
So Yahweh says, I will do this unless you do this, then I won't do it. So we see here that some prophecies in the Bible are conditional. This is especially true with reference to predictions that contained warnings of impending judgment upon wicked peoples. The doom prophetically announced was dependent upon whether or not that nation would turn from its evil. For example, when Jonah went to the city of Nineveh, he announced: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown" (3:4). However, that warning was obviously conditional as evidenced by the fact that when the people of Nineveh repented, and "God saw their works that they turned from their evil way," he withdrew the judgment and did not destroy them (cf. 3:10).
Similarly, when God promised the Israelites that the land of Canaan would be their inheritance, that pledge was contingent upon their faithfulness to Yahweh. Note the testimony of Joshua 23:
if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you." Joshua 23:16 ESV
The Hebrew nation did apostatize and lost its special privileges with God. Yeshua said to the Jewish leaders of his day:
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. Matthew 21:43 ESV
Those Bible teachers and politicians today who argue for Israel's intrinsic right to Palestinian territory overlook this very critical element of Bible prophecy.
So there is biblical prophecy that is conditional. But on the other hand, some prophecies were absolute.
Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). Acts 11:27-28 ESV
Do you see any conditions in this prophecy? Hays says, "Prophecies are, by their nature, conditional." He tries to lump all prophecies into the conditional class, but this doesn't fit with Scripture.
There are many predictive prophecies in Scripture. The mission of Josiah was foretold more than three centuries before his birth (cf. 1 Kings 13; 2 Kings 23). The role of the Persian king, Cyrus, in releasing the Hebrews from Babylonian captivity, was described more than a century and a half before his reign (cf. Isaiah 44:28; 45:1ff).
who says of Cyrus, 'He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose'; saying of Jerusalem, 'She shall be built,' and of the temple, 'Your foundation shall be laid.'" Isaiah 44:28 ESV
Daniel's descriptions of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires are nothing short of miraculous (cf. Daniel 2,7,8). These were not conditional. Then there is the matter of messianic prophecy. Of the more than eight hundred prophecies in the Tanakh, at least three hundred center on the coming Christ. Predictions concerning the coming Messiah were not predicated upon human response; they were fulfilled with amazing accuracy. The Messiah was to be: the seed of woman (Genesis 3:15), the offspring of Abraham (Genesis 22:18), from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), born to a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), etc. There was nothing conditional about these statements.
Yes, sometimes prophets spoke for God rather than predicting the future. For instance, not everything Isaiah said was predictive. So prophets gave present and future truth. But, when they spoke of the future, they were to be 100% accurate, or they were to die:
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. Deuteronomy 18:18 ESV
This is speaking of Yeshua. He calls Him a prophet and then says, "I will put my words in His mouth." A prophet is the mouth of God. He is speaking for Yahweh.
And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.' And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?'-- when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:19-22 ESV
So a prophet is to be accurate or die! A prophet is the mouth of God. In Isaiah 41:23, a challenge is issued to the false gods of paganism:
Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be dismayed and terrified. Isaiah 41:23 ESV
The design of predictive prophecy was to establish the credibility of God and, ultimately, the authenticity of his sacred Scriptures. If Yeshua was wrong about "when" His parousia would happen then he was a false prophet.
Hays writes, "This is kind of a trip for 21st century believers, because we tend to think of the Second Coming of Christ as being firmly scheduled on the celestial calendar. But that's definitely not what New Testament authors all claimed."
I think that a study in Biblical typology will show that Hays is wrong and the Second Coming was firmly scheduled on the celestial calendar. A type may be defined as "[a] figure or ensample of something future and more or less prophetic, called the 'Antitype'" (Bullinger 1968, 768). A simpler description of a type might be "a pictorial prophecy." For example, Melchizedek, who was both king of Salem and a priest of God, prophetically symbolized the Son of God who rules as our King and serves as our High Priest (cf. Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:5-10; 6:20; 7:1-17). Jonah's three-day confinement in the belly of the great fish was a pictorial prediction of Christ's three-day entombment (cf. Matthew 12:40), and his resurrection from the dead. Typology is a form of prophecy.
And when we examine the types of the Feast of Israel we see that contrary to what Hays says the Second Coming of Christ was firmly scheduled on the celestial calendar.
Whey you study the Feasts of Yahweh you will see that there are seven of them listed in chronological order in Leviticus 23. These feasts are a study in typology. The feasts of the Lord actually convey two forty year exodus periods, the type and the antitype. The first exodus period is when Israel was removed from bondage to Egypt at Passover, and they were put in the wilderness on a physical journey to a physical promised land. Now, the more important, the anti-type, is the spiritual exodus. This exodus runs from the Cross to A.D. 70. In this exodus, Israel, after the Spirit, left its bondage to the Law of the sin and the death (Ro. 8:2) and begins a forty year spiritual journey to a spiritual inheritance; the Kingdom of God, or the New Heavens and New Earth.
The typical significance of the Passover is very clear in the New Testament writings. Probably no Mosaic institution is a more perfect type than this.
and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. Exodus 12:6 ESV
The first Passover was celebrated on the 14th of Nisan, beginning Israel's exodus out of Egypt. Then almost two thousand years later, Yeshua was crucified on the 14th of Nisan, beginning the second exodus. So the first and second exodus, the type and the anti-type, both began on Passover.
There were four spring feasts: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and Pentecost. These four feasts were a prophetic foreshadowing of the first coming of the Lord Yeshua the Christ. They spoke of His death, burial, resurrection, and the advent of the New Covenant; all of which happened on the exact days of these feasts.
The remaining three feasts were the fall feasts, which were a prophetic foreshadowing of the second coming of Christ. The Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles started about 4 months after the end of the spring festivals. All three of these feasts took place in Tishri, or September. These three feasts speak of the resurrection, the consummation of redemption after the outpouring of God's wrath, and the New Heaven and Earth, which is typified by the Feast of Tabernacles.
Between Pentecost and Tabernacles there was an interval of time of about 4 months. This four month gap was a picture of the forty year exodus. Just as the children of faith were allowed to enter into the temporal land of rest the first time, the children of faith in the generation directly following the cross of Christ were given entrance into the eternal land of rest. With each covenant, a 40 year transition period followed the initial act of deliverance into the entrance of the land of promise.
What event ended the first exodus period? The destruction of Jericho. Jericho stood at the entrance to the promised land. It was a fortified city that represented a serious challenge to Israel's claim to the land. Its fall telegraphed a message to all the world that God was the Lord of this people.
What event marked the end of the second exodus? The destruction of Jerusalem. Old Covenant Judaism was a major problem for those early believers. Nothing represented the old system better than the Temple. Here was where the presence of God dwelt. His presence assured them they were His people. But forty years after the cross, in A.D. 70, believers fled the city of Jerusalem as the walls fell and the city was destroyed and burned.
Similar to the collapse of the walls in Jericho, the fall of Jerusalem's walls symbolized the entrance of the redeemed remnant into Christ's everlasting Kingdom. The believers were vindicated and revealed as "the sons of God" while judgment fell on the Jewish system which had rejected God as King.
So the Feasts of Israel are a prophetic type that give us an exact time line of the death resurrection and second coming of Christ. So Hays is way off when he says,"This is kind of a trip for 21st century believers, because we tend to think of the Second Coming of Christ as being firmly scheduled on the celestial calendar. But that's definitely not what New Testament authors all claimed.
Let's look at one of Yeshua's prophecies about His second coming.
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, "As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." Luke 21:5-6 ESV
This is a pretty incredible prophecy. Do you see any conditions here? Nope, no conditions. This must have shocked them. They point out the buildings of the Temple and their magnificence. What could possibly happen to such a massive edifice? The stones themselves of these buildings were huge in size. Those in the foundation were as much as 60 feet long, and others above as much as 67 feet or more long, 71/2 feet high, and 9 feet wide. This area was prone to earthquakes and Herod had built an earthquake proof temple. To the Jewish people, there was nothing like this building in the whole world. There was such a reverence for the temple, even in distant parts, that one would scarcely dare to imagine that it could ever be destroyed. So the disciples ask:
And they asked him, "Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?" Luke 21:7 ESV
Their question was two-fold. First they ask, "when will these things be?" All three of the synoptic gospels ask, "when."
Matthew 24:3…"Tell us, when will these things be?"…
Mark 13:4 "Tell us, when will these things be?"…
Luke 21:7 So they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, but when will these things be?"…
The "these things" refers to the temple's destruction in verse 5. In verse 5 the disciples are talking about the temple buildings. In verse 6, Yeshua says, "All' these things' shall be destroyed." It should be clear that they are asking, "WHEN will the temple be destroyed? When will our house be left desolate?" After all Yeshua had just said about judgement on Jerusalem, and then about not one stone not being left upon another, the disciples' response is, "When?" That makes sense, doesn't it? I would hope so. It is the second part of their question where things get sticky.
Then the disciples ask, "what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?" In Matthews account they ask, "What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" Matthew 24:3. To help us understand the question, we need to compare all three synoptic gospels.
Matthew 24:3 … " And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
Mark 13:4 …"And what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?"
Luke 21:7 … "and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?"
Comparing all three accounts shows us that the disciples considered His "coming" and "the end of the age" to be identical events with the destruction of the temple.
"Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?" Mark 13:4 ESV
Notice in the first part of the verse he says, "When will these things be?" -- referring to the temples' destruction. Then in the second half, he asks, "What will be the sign when all 'these things' are about to be accomplished?" The sign of His coming and the end of age was the same as the "these things," which referred to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year AD 70. These are not separate questions that can be divided up into different time-events. The disciples had one thing, and only one thing, on their mind and that was the destruction of the temple. With the destruction of the temple, they connected the end of the age and the coming of Messiah.
The Greek word for "coming" is parousia, which means arrival, not return. The disciples could not have been asking about a future return of Christ, because they had no idea that he was leaving. They believed that Yeshua was the promised Messiah. They believed that Messiah would come and rule, they had no idea of Him coming, then leaving, then coming again. Yeshua talked to them about his death and going to the Father, but they did not understand it at all.
"A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me." So some of his disciples said to one another, "What is this that he says to us, 'A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'; and, 'because I am going to the Father'?" John 16:16-17 ESV
This account in John takes place after he had given them the Olivet discourse and they still didn't understand that He was leaving them. After the crucifixion, they still didn't understand that Yeshua was going to rise from the dead.
Now let me ask you a question, "If they had no idea that Yeshua was going to leave them, why would they ask Him about His return?" They didn't understand anything about a second coming. You might ask, "Why did they ask,'what will be the sign of your coming,' if they didn't think He was leaving?" Good question. The answer is in understanding the Jewish concept of the parousia. As I said, the word meant arrival or presence, and not return. It didn't refer to any future return of Christ. To the disciples the "parousia" of the son of man signified the full manifestation of His Messiahship; His glorious appearing in power. William Barclay says of parousia, "It is the regular word for the arrival of a governor into his province or for the coming of a king to his subjects. It regularly describes a coming in authority and in power."
The disciples were accustomed to hearing Yeshua speak of His coming in His kingdom, coming in His glory and power, and that within their lifetime. They didn't know he was leaving, but they looked for a time when he would appear in full glory and power bringing in the Kingdom and rewarding every man.
Now, you might ask, "Why would the disciples connect the destruction of the temple with Christ's parousia?" The disciples knew the Tanakh and they knew that the destruction of Jerusalem would usher in Messiah's kingdom (Zechariah 14:1-5).
And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. Daniel 9:26 ESV
The disciples believed that the coming of Messiah would be simultaneous with the destruction of the city and the temple.
"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Luke 21:20-22 ESV
Yeshua predicted that this massive temple would be utterly destroyed in an act of God's judgement. At the time this was spoken, no event was more improbable than this. Yet, all this happened in AD 70 exactly as Yeshua said it would. After the city was taken, Josephus says that Titus," gave orders that the soldiers should dig up even the foundations of the temple, and also the city itself." Thus fulfilling the prophecy of:
Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height. Micah 3:12 ESV
By reading the surrounding verses in Luke, you cannot deny that this is a parallel account to Mark and Matthew's Olivet Discourse. Parallel accounts cannot have a different meaning. By combining Luke's statement with secular history, it is clear that Cestius Gallus and his Roman army were the judgment of God on Jerusalem.
Hays says, "Jesus himself recognizes that the timing of the Kingdom's consummation is not set in stone…" I disagree and so did Yeshua, he said:
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Matthew 24:34 ESV
Yeshua here, very plainly and very clearly, tells HIS DISCIPLES that ALL of the things He had mentioned would come to pass in THEIR GENERATION. There are no "ifs" here, this is not conditional. This includes the Gospel being preached in all the world, the Abomination of Desolation, the Great Tribulation, and the Coming of the Son of man. This is so clear that it greatly troubles those who hold to a Futuristic Eschatology.
Yeshua uses the near demonstrative "this" generation. Every time "this" is used in the New Testament it always refers to something that is near in terms of time or distance. Yeshua could have said, "That generation." But He didn't! Yeshua is saying that everything that He has spoken about will happen before the generation that He was speaking to would pass away.
A study of the Feast of Yahweh backs up the idea of the parousia happening in their generation. A study of the Feasts will show that the first four feasts were fulfilled on the exact day of the shadows. So, I would assume that the last three would be also. Because the Cannon was closed before the completion of the last three feasts, we have no record of their fulfillment. What we know for sure was that they were to be fulfilled with the forty year period, which began at Pentecost.
The Feasts of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles take place in the SEVENTH month. Number seven is the number of perfection and fullness. In these feasts, the believer is brought to the fullness of the Godhead. We see the spiritual anti-type of the fall feasts in the fall of Jerusalem and the parousia of our Lord in A.D. 70. Thus, at the blowing of the trumpet, in Matthew 24, the scene was set, and Christ fulfilled the feast. Guess what month it was when Jerusalem fell? "The city was taken on September 8, A.D. 70, after the last siege had lasted about five months" (Josephus, vol. 1, p. 467).
The Feast of Tabernacles, the last feast, was to celebrate and commemorate: (1) The end of the wanderings in the desert of the children of Israel. (2) It also was a celebration of their inheritance of, and entry into, Canaan-the Promised Land.
The anti-typical fulfillment came at the end of the 40 year transition period (A.D. 30-70) when the Old Covenant came to an end, and the New Covenant was fully consummated, and the inheritance of the New Heavens and the New Earth arrived, where we "tabernacle there with God." Tabernacles speaks of the final rest, as well as the final harvest.
Believers, Jerusalem fell in September of AD 70 fulfilling to the letter the prophecies of Yeshua. This judgment was synchronous with the coming of Christ and the end of the age. Yeshua's prophecies about his second coming were not conditional, the time statements were not flexible, Yeshua returned in the first century judgment on Jerusalem just as He said he would. He ended the Old Covenant and consummated the new. We now live in the new heavens and earth which is synonymous with the New Covenant.
Instead of trying to come up with ways to explain why Yeshua didn't keep his word maybe these scholars should take him at his word and understand that time defines nature. His coming and His kingdom are spiritual.