Most Embarrassing Verse
In The Bible
In Four Parts
If you could choose from the over 31,000 verses in the Bible, which one would you choose as the most embarrassing?
If you were to ask CS Lewis, he would say Matt. 24:34 is the most embarrassing. In fact, he already said it. In his book, The World’s Last Night, he says this, in the voice of an opponent to the Faith,
“Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘This generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.” (CS Lewis, The World’s Last Night, 1952, pp. 97-98)
Then, Mr. Lewis continues in his own thoughts,
It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side. (ibid)
He states, in his own opinion, that the most embarrassing verse is the following one.
34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
You have to ask, what is so embarrassing about this verse? Well, if you read his antagonist’s argument, the embarrassment is based upon the idea that Jesus taught His disciples that He would return within their lifetimes. At least, that is what they think He said. So, that being the case, the entire early Church was deluded by their master, to look for His physical return, while the apostles were still living. However, obviously, that did not happen.
Mr. Lewis admits this to be the “most embarrassing verse in the Bible,” based upon that premise. He attempts to soften the embarrassment by pointing to the close proximity of Jesus' statement of "ignorance" regarding the exact timing of its happening. However, the two statements of Jesus are in truth, unrelated. The first, establishing that all the things He prophesied would occur within that generation, is nailed down with such security, there can be no doubt. Jesus expresses the sureness of its happening within that generation, with the Greek double negatives (οὐ μὴ). A fact we will explore later in this study. Expressing His prophecy in such terms, leaves no wiggle room to rightly come to any other conclusion. This has no bearing on His statement of not knowing, "the day or the hour," such events would take place. It is one thing to give a list of events that are to come to pass within a certain time frame. It is a wholly different thing, to give the exact day and hour that any such thing would occur. This is a lesson many of the modern soothsayers should have learned. Setting dates and times is a fool's game. However, many people seem to love a fool. Their love for the fool is evidenced by how many books he sells of his latest divinations, or how many attend his latest, so-called "prophecy" conference. There never seems to be a shortage of Athenian Christians [Acts 17:21]. But, I digress.
However, Mr. Lewis in part and Mr. Russell more so have presented us with a huge problem. If what they say is true and Jesus was mistaken about the timing of His Second Coming, what else could He be mistaken about? If He deluded His disciples in this, how else did He deceive them? Suddenly, everything He said is called into question. If this is the truth of the matter, then Christianity is a lie, and the enemies of God have bested Him, and we are still in our sin.
However, it is not Jesus who is mistaken. Those who think He was prophesying His Second Coming are mistaken. Jesus never mentions His Second Coming in His Olivet Discourse. I know. I also can hear the shrieks of horror from those who say He did and did so very plainly. I would ask, where?
If you are one of those who are screaming, you will be pointing out verse 26, where He said,
“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”
This is the crux of the problem. Those who say Jesus made a mistake, equate the coming of the Son of man, with His Second Coming. Mr. Lewis did it, and the atheist Bertrand Russell did it, when he said,
Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about Him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one. I am concerned with Christ as He appears in the Gospels, taking the Gospel narrative as it stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise.
For one thing, He certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance: ‘Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come.’ Then He says: ‘There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom’; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching.
(Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not A Christian, 1957. pp.12-13)
The mistake does not belong to Jesus, but to those who confuse the two events as being the same. There is one fundamental reason we can say that the coming of the Son of man, and the Second Coming are not the same.
There are several reasons they are not equal. The main one is the coming of the Son of man is time restrictive. In all of its descriptions, it was to occur before the generation then living had passed. In every instance of use, the coming of the Son of man is given a specific timeframe. In every circumstance of its use, it was to occur within the generation of the apostles. The Second Appearing of Christ is not given any time reference in Scripture, at all.