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Did Jesus and his earliest followers believe that he would return during their lifetime? Part 2/2

Updated: May 21

A study of Mark 9:1, Mark 13:30, and Matthew 10:23.

Craig L Blomberg [1] has suggested another approach to Matthew 10

Blomberg suggests we need to focus in on the larger context of Matthew 10:23 (within Jesus’ sermon) on the mission described by Jesus in Matthew 10.

Vv. 5–15 seem limited to the immediate circumstances of Jesus sending out the disciples without going with them. Many of the teaching points in these eleven verses surely cannot refer to the longer-term mission of Jesus’s followers. Specifically, when Jesus applies the restriction to going anywhere among the Samaritans and Gentiles but only to the lost people in Israel (vv. 5–6) this contrasts with the instruction (to make disciples of all nations) that Jesus gives in his Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20.

It is also unlikely that Jesus intended his followers to never take money or extra provisions with them (vv. 9–10) in their later missionary activity, nor always to rely on others’ hospitality for their room and board (vv. 11–12). So it appears that as far into his message as verse 15, he is still speaking of the literal towns in first-century Israel.

In verse 16, however, he segways into a longer-term perspective. While it is always true that Christ’s followers should be as “wise as snakes” yet “as innocent as doves” (v. 16), this is particularly relevant for their ministry after his death and resurrection. Verses 17–42 contain warnings against rejection, persecution, hostility, arrest, imprisonment, beatings and even martyrdom for allegiance to Jesus (see esp. vv. 17–23a). Most of the above forms of persecution did not begin until after Jesus’s death, resurrection, and the sending of the Spirit, although it has sadly continued in various parts of the world ever since.


The Great Commission to make disciples of all nations includes Israel just as much as any other of the world’s nations.

Since verse 23b appears in this precise context, within the same verse as the prediction of persecution, it is best to understand Jesus as teaching the ongoing incomplete nature of the mission to the Jews, with “cities of Israel” is to be understood both literally and (by implication) to refer to all Jewish people everywhere. The Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (or people groups) includes Israel just as much as the rest of the world’s nations.

Blomberg then argues that in practical terms the meaning of Matthew 10:23 is that all believers should keep busy being about the Father’s business until the ‘Son of Man’ comes back.


Conclusion

Our closer look at the above 3 verses clearly demonstrates that Jesus did not claim he would return to earth during his first follower’s lifetime. Further, as far as these three verses are concerned, it is clear that the internal consistency of the bible remains intact and that there is no evidence of Jesus’ words proving unreliable.

Amen


[1] Craig L. Blomberg is distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado.

 

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