The apostle Paul, fanaticus extremus, all the symptoms of your typical religious fanatic rolled into one (Part 1 of a 2 Part Series)

Paulʼs predictions have proven as false as those of the Christian below

The apostle Paul, fanaticus extremus

Did the apostle Paul predict Jesusʼ imminent return like many other religious fanatics over the centuries? Letʼs look at what he wrote to the believers at Corinth:

‘The rulers of this age… are passing away’ [“will not last much longer” - Todayʼs English Version]… Do not go on passing judgment before the time [i.e., “before the time” of final judgment which he predicted was near at hand], but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of menʼs hearts… The time has been shortened so that from now on both those who have wives should be as though they had none [i.e., Paul preached that the time was so “short” that married Christian couples “from now on” would be better off to consider celibacy so they could serve the Lord full time]; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it [i.e., this was not the time for marriage or buying or selling, it was best to serve the Lord full time, like Paul was doing, while awaiting his soon return, or as Paul also said, “it is good for a man not to touch a woman,” and, “I wish all men were as I am” (celibate) 1 Cor 7]; for the form of this world is passing away [“This world, as it is now, will not last much longer” - Todayʼs English Version]… …These things were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come…

Since Paul tells his first century readers that the “ends of the ages have come” upon them, letʼs note how Jesus, according to the gospel of Matthew, defined “the end of the age”:

…The harvest is the end of the age…at the end of the age…the Son of Man will send forth his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. [Matthew 13:40-41 - based on the description of “the end of the age” found in Daniel 12]

Paul continues in the same letter:

Proclaim the Lordʼs death until he comes [i.e., Paul did not say, “Proclaim the Lordʼs death until the day you die,” but rather, “until he comes,” which means that he considered Christʼs coming to be nearer than the time when the believers he was writing to would all be dead]. We [Paul and the first century believers being addressed] shall not all sleep… At the last trumpet… the dead will be raised… and we shall be changed. Maranatha [=“Come Lord”] 1 Cor 2:6; 4:5; 7:29-31; 10:11; 11:26; 15:51-52; 16:22

Or consider what Paul wrote to the believers at Thessalonica:

…How you turned to God from idols…to wait for His Son from heaven [Compare 1 Cor 1:7, “…awaiting eagerly the revelation (revealing) of our Lord Jesus Christ”]… For who is our… crown… Is it not even you [the first century Christians being addressed], in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming?… May establish your hearts… before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we [Paul and the first century Christians being addressed] who are alive and remain [notice how Paul included himself as one who will still be alive] until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep…the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air… May your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. [1 Thes 1:9,10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:15-17; 5:23]

Keep in mind to whom Paul wrote the above letters, and also that Paul claimed that he was repeating a “word” that he had received directly from “the Lord.” What marvelous truth was revealed to Paul in this astonishing revelation? Namely, that “we” [the first century Christians who “remained alive” at the time this letter was written, including Paul, its author] “shall be caught up…in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air!” For Paul there was no doubt that Jesus would arrive before he and the believers he addressed would all be dead. “We,” including himself, “shall not all sleep” [1 Cor 15:51]. Yet all of those to whom Paul once wrote, including Paul, now “sleep” - the “word of the Lord” notwithstanding. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul remained just as certain that Jesus would return shortly:

…It is just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution…these will pay the penalty…when He comes… [2 Thes 1:6-10]

That is to say, Jesus would be revealed from heaven “with his mighty angles in flaming fire” soon enough to “relieve” the afflictions of the Thessalonians, and Paul, and other first century Christians!

Or take these passages from Paulʼs letter to the believers at Philippi:

…He who began a good work in you [the first century Christians being addressed] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus [i.e., rather than saying, “until the day you die,” which he assumed was not going to happen to all of them, since, as Paul pointed out in 1 Cor, “we shall not all sleep!”]… …In order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ [Compare 1 Tim 6:14, “Keep the commandment…until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”]… …We eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ… …Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. [Philip 1:6,10; 3:20; 4:5]

What about Paulʼs famous letter to the Christians at Rome?

…The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is soon [mello] to be revealed to us… The whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now… We…groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body… Knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed! The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand… The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. [Rom 8:18,22-23; 13:11-12; 16:20]

What “things” had to occur before Christ could return?

1) The Anti-Christ must first be revealed. But Paul taught:

The mystery of lawlessness is already at work… Pray… that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly… [2 Thes 2:7; 3:1]

2) The Gospel had to be preached to the “whole world.” But Paul taught that the gospel had already been preached to “the whole world,” i.e., the Roman Empire, from Spain to Jerusalem. Therefore nothing prevented Jesus from returning “shortly”:

Their voice [of first century Christian preachers] has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world… The revelation of the mystery… now is manifested and… According to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations. [Rom 10:18; 16:25-26]

…The gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing… …The gospel…which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. [Col 1:5-6,23]

Back then the Roman Empire was recognized as the “whole world,” i.e., Lk 2:1, “Caesar took a census of the whole world,” and Acts 11:28, “…a great famine all over the world… took place in the reign of Claudius.” Naturally, this conception influenced the belief in how “soon” the Son of Man would return, since Jesus predicted: “…this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.” [Mat 24:14]. If the “whole world” according to the New Testament itself, referred to the Roman Empire, the “end” must have been expected very soon indeed! I wonder why God inspired the authors of the New Testament with such an archaic notion of the “whole world?” Even second century Christian fathers made the same identification of the Roman Empire with the “whole world.” Irenaeus (125-202 A.D.), one of the earliest Fathers of the Church, wrote in his book, Revolution and Overthrow of False Knowledge (or Against Heresies), circa 180 A.D.:

Now the Church, spread throughout all the world even to the ends of the earth, received from the apostles and their disciples her belief… [1.10.1]

…the Church has carefully preserved it [its kerygma and faith], as though dwelling in a single house, even though she has been spread over the entire world. [1.10.2]

Anyone who wishes to see the truth can observe the apostleʼs traditions made manifest in every church throughout the whole world. [3.3.1-2]

Augustine was another Church Father who was aware of Paulʼs belief that the Gospel “had” already been preached to the “whole world.” Paul wrote in Romans, “Their line has gone out through all the world, and their words to the ends of the earth.” Augustine dwelt with great force on the fact that St. Paul based one of his most powerful arguments upon this declaration regarding the earliest preachers of the gospel (Rom. 10:18), and that, as those preachers did not go to the opposite side of the earth to preach the gospel, no people must exist there; hence those who believe such things, “give the lie direct to King David and to St. Paul, and therefore to the Holy Ghost.” Thus the great bishop of Hippo taught the whole world for over a thousand years that, as there was no preaching of the gospel on the opposite side of the earth, there could be no human beings there. [A. D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, Vol. 1] If I may be forgiven for injecting levity thereʼs a quotation by Mark Twain that also strikes me as relevant: “The Biblical prophets wrote book after book and epistle after epistle, yet never once hinted at the existence of a great continent on our side of the water; yet they must have known it was there, I should think.” As for the argument that the apostles must have known that people existed beyond the boundaries of the “world” of the Roman Empire, yes, certainly, as “heathens” living outside of civilization (and for whom provision was made in Paulʼs letter to the Romans, chapters 1-2), so Rome remained the “whole world” to Paul who prayed that “the word” might spread “rapidly,” from Jerusalem to Spain, before the day of final judgment.

For Further False Predictions in the Bible See The Lowdown on Godʼs Showdown

Some Christians like the above article, they are called preterists, who believe that some or all of the biblical prophecies concerning the Last Days refer to events that took place in the first century after Christʼs birth, especially associated with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. However, preterism is no better than pre-millennialism. Both involve excuses that were invented to make the Bible appear inerrant when it is filled with false prophecies about the Son of Manʼs or the Lordʼs soon return in final judgment.

Speaking of the preterist view that Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem a generation before it happened, most scholars agree that the earliest Gospel, “the Gospel of Mark,” was composed near the time of Jerusalemʼs destruction or a little after it. So, did Jesus speak about the soon coming destruction of Jerusalem and/or the Temple in Mark 13, or was that prophecy (or parts of it) added or edited by the author to make it appear like Jesus said such a thing? We canʼt be sure. The earliest version in Mark 13 is not as explicit as the later versions in Matthew and Luke. So it all hinges on the question of Mark and his sources or edits, and he was writing either very soon before such things happened or during or soon after them happening. There were certainly prophets before Jesus who preached doom on Jerusalem and/or the Temple, so Jesus could have picked up the idea from them. The first century was a time of apocalyptic ideas such as those found in the Dead Sea Scrolls whose sectarian writings are filled with expectation of a soon coming final judgment, and who even predicted a final battle b/w sons of light and darkness that centered on Jerusalem. The fear that Romans would destroy Jerusalem and/or desecrate or destroy the Temple seems to have been on a lot of peopleʼs minds. Josephus mentions some other fellow prophesying the doom of Jerusalem soon before it occurred, but it wasnʼt Jesus.

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