Yikes, what a title that is! I’m glad I got your attention though. The fact is that, alongside my realization that the Bible is not inerrant or infallible, this revelation was one of the strongest factors in my leaving the Christian faith. The veracity of the Bible having fallen apart in my hands, I tried to look to the supposed “subject” of the writings to see if there was anything I could hold on to about this One I had spent my life following. Perhaps the Christian mystics were onto something? Perhaps Gnosticism? The Catholics, with their focus on the authority of the Church over the written Word? Maybe the true teachings of Jesus had been lost or watered-down along the way but Jesus himself was still worth following. I tried and failed to hold on to the faith that really was the cornerstone of my life, my fingernails digging into anything that may give that faith a last leg to stand on. In the end, it came down to a simple realization (and my Biblicist, evangelical mind was still at play here): the Bible itself declares that the Christ of its message doesn’t fit his own requirements in a very specific, and yet absolutely vital, way. The Jesus we see in the New Testament is a false prophet as described by the very book that is supposed to reveal him as God.
So, first, a few points of clarification. Richard Blaylock, on The Gospel Coalition website, has described prophecy this way: “An overview of the biblical data leads to the following definition: prophecy can be defined as (1) a miraculous act of intelligible communication, (2) rooted in spontaneous, divine revelation and (3) empowered by the Holy Spirit, which (4) results in words that can be attributed to any and all Persons of the Godhead and which therefore (5) must be received by those who hear or read them as absolutely binding and true.” So, then, a prophecy is a unique message, straight from God, through a person, to an audience. Logical extension, obviously, then makes the person giving the prophecy to the audience a prophet. In this way, since the Bible declared Jesus to be both God and messenger, then anything he said was an intelligible, spontaneous, divine revelation to those who heard and to us who have subsequently read. In other words, the biblical Jesus is God, messenger, and message all rolled into one.
So what was Jesus’s message? Himself, essentially, and his bringing of God’s Kingdom to mankind. Great stuff! And very few people would argue that much of what Jesus had to say would be world-changing if put into practice. Look after each other, do right, mind your own flaws rather than everyone else’s, and on, and on. The problem comes with the fact that Jesus said other things as well. Some are merely difficult but can be explained, such as the non-Jewish woman Jesus ignored and called a dog in Matthew 15. Some were hard to understand and have given rise to all sorts of interpretations, like the parables that seem to describe Hell. One would have thought that, if God wanted things to be explained properly, He would have done it in a way that was less vague. Another issue is the fact that Jesus never once offers anything even close to a “plan of salvation” such as the Evangelical church has invented. Jesus talked vaguely about the Kingdom and told gave a good deal of moral teaching but never put a bullet-point outline together of must-do’s for salvation. Doing so would have been super helpful and stopped a lot of arguing and, dare I say, actual bloodshed over the centuries. I suppose God had other things on His mind that were more important.
The crux of things for me and my deconversion, though, is this: Jesus made predictions that didn’t come true. Specifically, Jesus told his followers that certain things were going to happen regarding what we would now call The End of the World, or more specifically, his so-called “second coming.” In the Gospels (the New King James version, if you’re interested), directly reported by his followers, Jesus said:
“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.“ (Matthew 16: 27, 28)
“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.“ (Matthew 24: 25-34)
“Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven. Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place…“ (Mark 13:26-30)
“Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Then He told them a parable: Behold the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place.“ (Luke 21:27-32)
“But Jesus kept silent and the high priest said to Him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” (Matthew 26: 63, 64)
Just to note, these may seem a bit repetitive, but also note that they appear at different places in the various Gospels, meaning these words weren’t a one-off mistake or curiosity, this was Jesus’s teaching on what would be the signs of his return. To emphasize the fact that the early church took Jesus at his word and expected his return at any moment, consider the following:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18)
“Do not seek a wife. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:27,29-31)
“The end of all things is near…” (1 Peter 4:7)
“For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed“ (1 Cor. 15:51)
“…the coming of the Lord is near. …the Judge is standing right at the door.” (James 5:8, 9)
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)
“And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.“”… (Revelation 22:6,7,10,12,20)
My thanks to the writers at Black Nonbelievers (blog can be found here) for compiling this list. You certainly saved me some time!
Rest assured, Dear Reader, that the church has gone out of its was for centuries developing mental gymnastics that will account for this simple problem: it has been 2,000 years and Jesus has not returned. By this very fact, that he stated something simply and it has not come to pass, we can say that the Bible itself condemns Jesus as a false prophet.
The question is this: what are we to do with this revelation? Well, Jesus could have been mistaken. It is possible that he spoke according to his earthly, incarnate knowledge and not according to his deity. Jesus could have been technically wrong and not sinned, since sin would have negated his God-hood and made him an unworthy sacrifice. Alternatively, Jesus could have been misreported. That once-again debases the Bible, but wouldn’t necessarily dismiss Jesus himself. Jesus could have been delusional. He was a doomsday prophet whose movement refused to die off when he did, unlike many modern day messiahs. Maybe the Jesus we see in the Bible and have had passed down to us by the church simply never existed, or at least not as one single person since there are theories that he was pieced together from several first-century preachers. In this instance, I’m actually going to do my Evangelical training justice and give the Bible the final word. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 (English Standard version) says:
“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.”