In the April 2, 2011, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Billy answers a question about why Jesus has delayed his second coming.
Billy’s reader asks, “I know that after His death and resurrection Jesus was taken up into heaven, and that some day He’ll come back to rule over everything. But what is He doing in the meantime? And why hasn’t He already returned?” You can read all of Billy’s answer here.
The first part of the question relates to what every Christian is supposed to believe: Jesus died, was resurrected, ascended into heaven, and will return to Earth.
The next part of the question has some interesting theological implications. How is ‘in the meantime’ interpreted for a being that is supposed to be outside of time and be able to see all of time at once? The Bible is not a good source of information since it fairly consistently treats God and Jesus as having a human sense of duration, except that God is supposed to have foreknowledge of everything. In other words, God and Jesus have a sense of time, a past that has happened, a present, and a future that has not yet happened. God speaks of what He ‘did’ or ‘will do’ as if He was present in the now and was remembering what He did in the past or considering His plans for the future. If God truly were outside of time and present at each moment, wouldn’t every act for Him be in the now? If Jesus is God, there should be no ‘in the meantime,’ as He should be present at every moment.
It is difficult for a time-sequential being like a human to conceptualize the way the world would look to a time-gestalt being as God is portrayed. The best example I have is that of a motion picture film.
A motion picture film is a series of still pictures strung along to make a ribbon thousands of feet long. Human time sense is looking at each frame in order. There are frames we have viewed, the past, the frame we are currently viewing, the now, and frames we have not yet viewed, the future. We can remember the past, but we have no way of knowing the future.
God, supposedly, can view all the frames at once, so He knows what was in our past, what is in our now, and what is in our future, as a gestalt. Since He can view all of time at once, He would not have a sense of time or a sense of the passage of time.
It is fairly easy to write about what you know. However, it is much more difficult to write about something where you lack experience. That is probably the main reason the writers of the Bible treated God as a time-sequential being like our selves. They did not have any technology that would even allow them to make an analogy such as the film analogy I just discussed.
Billy’s answer to the question of why Jesus has not returned is very weak. Billy says Jesus has not returned “… because God wants to give everyone an opportunity to know about Christ …” Why is this answer weak? If God wants everyone to have a chance to know about Jesus, why did He set up a system that was designed to miss or ignore billions of people? According to Christianity, God sent Jesus to die for the sins of humanity, but each person has to learn of Jesus and accept Jesus as their personal savior. The most fragile link in the chain is ‘learning about Jesus’, since God has decided to establish a ‘chain letter’ approach to salvation.
In this day of email, texting, and instant messaging, some may not have ever heard of a chain letter. In its simplest form, a chain letter was a paper letter sent through regular postal mail. The letter instructed the recipient to make copies and send those copies to ten friends. There were many variations. Some chains were just a happy wish to everyone; more often the message was scary – a curse if you broke the chain and didn’t send the letter on.
Some chain letters included a list of three to five names and addresses. You were asked to send a dollar to the name at the top of the list, remove that top name and add your name and address at the bottom when you copied the letter. As others copied your letter, you would, in a perfect world, get $10 from the people you sent the letter to, $100 from the people they sent the letter to, $1,000 from the next level, $10,000 from the fourth level, and $100,000 from the fifth level. The weakness of such a scheme should be obvious.
The funniest chain letter I ever saw was sexist. The letter was supposed to go only to married men. The man was to send his wife to the name at the top of the list of three and so on. The letter closed with, “In a few weeks, you will have 1,000 women at your home, and some will be doozies.”
The angel emails and prayer emails of today are the bastard children of the original, snail mail chain letters.
This is the process that God decided to use to spread the word about salvation. Jesus had 11 living disciples and they were to tell the world about salvation. Each of those 11 might be able to preach, witness and convert several thousand non-Christians in their lifetimes. Some, but not all of those new converts would become evangelists and convert others. What was required was that personal contact.
Did God know about the people living in North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and all the islands in the all the oceans that had no land connection to the Middle East? If He did, he had no provision for evangelizing them until centuries after Jesus. God must have known that America would not be discovered until 1492 and that the oceans would not be fully explored until even later. Billy says God wanted to make sure everyone got the word, but God seems content letting 1500 or more years worth of un-contacted people die and go to hell.
Billy quotes Peter as saying, “[God doesn’t want] anyone to perish, but [wants] everyone to come to repentance.” If that is the case, why didn’t God just whisper the secret of salvation in everyone’s ear? Why did God allow all those billions of people to die in ignorance?
The truth about the second coming is that Jesus believed it would happen within a few years of his ministry. Jesus, speaking to his followers says, “Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:27-28 KJV)
Neither Jesus nor the Son of man have returned or arrived. Jesus was a failed apocalyptic preacher who was used by His followers as a basis for a new religion totally unlike what Jesus Himself was preaching. Jesus was Jew and He ministered to the Jews believing He could change Judaism into something different and better. His followers changed His message to recruit from the much larger population of non-Jews.
Billy is still trying to do the same thing.
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