Imminency of the Parousia and the New Testament

I’ve encountered criticism from non-Christians that the New Testament, especially Paul, thought that the Parousia was about to happen in their lifetimes. If true, it would mean the New Testament is not infallible. Now, I’ve read a good book on the subject of Christ’s teaching and the Parousia and I’m convinced He did not teach an imminent Parousia. But what of Paul and the other apostles? Did they teach an imminent Parousia and what should we say about this issue when it is brought up in conversation? I don’t have the time right now to provide specific biblical references but suffice to say, I’ve had several quoted to me.

It does appear that Paul thought that the Second Coming would occur in his lifetime, but he never actually comes right out and names a date, etc.

Therefore, Paul’s exhortations such as “What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short (1 Co 7:29)” are true on multiple levels. First, the time IS short for each of us individually. Second, the time of this age is just a blink of an eye in the vastness of eternity.

Additionally, the earliest believers sold their property and held everything in common, etc. However, this actually turned out to have been a very wise move, because they sold while the market for property was still good; after the temple was destroyed in AD 70, Christians would not have been able to give their homes in Jerusalem away. Perhaps the Holy Spirit had something to do with that, eh? :thumbsup:

I’m not sure that the person who makes this argument has much to work with; but remember, since he already believes that the Bible is true, it doesn’t take much for him to see evidence that is not there.

Maybe Judaism can help.

Paul uses a phrase ‘These end times’, which makes it sound that the 2nd coming was right around the corner in his day.

Since Paul was a Pharisee - a very devout Jew, he probably was speaking in Jewish terms.

The Jews believed in 2 time periods. They used the phrases ‘These Days’ and ‘The Last Days’

‘These Days’ referred to the time before the Messiah.

‘The Last Days’ referred to the time after the Messiah’s Coming.

Since Paul was living in the times after Jesus had come, he just referred to his time period as ‘These end days.’

The end of the age, or what we think of today as ‘the last days’ is something totally different than what Paul was meaning.

I agree he doesn’t name a date. My concern with all this is what it means for biblical infallibility. Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, did he not? Even if he didn’t offer a date, he makes it clear he thought it would be very soon.

Well, this does help a little bit. My problem is with your second point. Wouldn’t God want to give us information about imminency according to our understanding of time, not in terms of eternity? It seems almost deceitful to say the end is near and really mean it is thousands of years in the future.

Good point. :slight_smile:

That is interesting. It could potentially resolve this issue. Do you have any sources that I could use to back it up? Thanks.


This is something I read a very long time ago, and even though I’ve been searching, I can’t, at this time, find the source. SORRY!,

I did find in the Catholic Navarre Commentary a note on Hebrews 1:1 ‘In these last days, he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things.’

The commentary says, ‘The last days’ refer to the period of time between the first coming of Christ and the second coming.’

And I found this which I thought was interesting: The term “End of Days” (Hebrew “Aharit HaYamim”), which has also been variously translated as “The Latter Days” and “The Last Days”, has the meaning in Hebrew of “a long time from now”


I don’t think there is an error in scripture, it just reminds me of the verse in II Peter which says that ‘scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own ways and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?’

In the meantime, if I find a specific mention of what I wrote earlier, I will certainly let you know.

How strange it is that at Ccom we have only 5 threads entitled Parousia, yet 224 with the protestant term rapture in the thread.
And curiously, neither term is listed specifically in the Catechism index.
Also strange, I think, is how often we accept the word mystery in respect to our Christian Faith, and yet struggle to claim and defend the concepts of infallibility, revelation, and discernment.
I pray for patience, perseverence, hope, and trust for all who study Scripture and the writings of the Fathers.

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