“Catholic Christians have always believed that Jesus Christ would come back to close the current period of human history in earth. The time when Jesus will return is given many names: the Day of the Lord, the Parousia, the end time, and the Second Coming of Christ.”
“Be patient therefore, brethren, until the parousia. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient, establish your hearts, for the parousia of the Lord has drawn near.”
If scriptural anti-Judaism is the “objective” source of modern antisemitism then the source of insecurity driving Judeophobia and the “need” for a solution to the Jewish Problem is found in Christian theology. According to Paul, the “father” of Christianity, the principle “promise” of Christianity is Eternal Life through faith in Jesus. And the reward will be bestowed by Jesus at his Second Coming:
“4:14 we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him... 4:16 the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
“5:1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates… you know very well that the day of the Lord will come… “
If “eternal life” was the reward for Paul’s converts then Jesus, at the time of his Second Coming, was the bearer of the gift. But Paul’s problem was that his promises of Jesus return were never satisfied and in the end he was only able to provide as explanation the fallacy contained in 1 Corinthians, that Jesus resurrection is evidence of the Eternal life for his followers. And that the promise will be made good upon Jesus return. Whenever that may occur.
In Romans, written around the year 55 Paul sounds supremely confident:
“The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
But a few years later, in his epistle to the Philippians around the year 61 he is more circumspect:
“Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.”
But this was not a gradual onset of confusion faced with repeated disappointments. In 2 Thessalonians 3 Paul writes,
“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him… it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction… the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan…”
2 Thessalonians was written around the year 51.
What was a problem for Paul in 2 Thessalonians would remain so for centuries, an act of faith based only on Paul’s assurance that Jesus will appear at the End of Times and gather up the dead and living in the Rapture and accompany them to Heaven. Fear of death and hope for eternal life inspired Pascal’s Wager. According to Pascal by believing that God does not exist the Atheist is waging away the Christian promise of Eternal Life in Jesus if he turns out wrong. So the person of reason should opt for belief in God, to be safe. But for those who would explain how Paul could have been consistently wrong regarding the Parousia: If Christian scripture is the “inerrant word of God” (as recently as 1978 the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy maintained that “Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God”) how explain Paul’s confusion regarding the imminence of the Parousia? How understand the John gospels many references to Jesus’ Second Coming? The failure of Jesus return is explainable, and many such explanations have been offered over the centuries. But always at the end is the absence of Jesus’ Return.
But these were “academic” problems, for “scholars” to worry and work out. In the Real World the promise of Jesus return remained for ever unfulfilled yet anticipated. And particularly during periods of social stress, such as famine or plague; traditional anniversaries of Jesus’ birth and death expectation rises and religious fervor intensifies, followed by the failure, however explained. With the approach of the year 1000 (the millennium identified with the crucifixion) and 1033 (associated with Jesus’ birth) dread anticipating the End of Days and hope in anticipation of Jesus’ return and the Rapture gripped Europe:
"Manifold signs and prodigies came to pass in the world, some earlier and some later, about the thousandth year from our Lord''s birth."
So wrote Radulfus Glaber, one of the few contemporary historians of the period. Certainly the period leading up to the year 1000 brought with it great expectation. And however much the events the monk described were historical or exaggeration (some present day historians represent the monk as “over-dramatic”) it is nonetheless obvious that the approach of the year 1000 brought with it expectation, apprehension and, when Jesus failed to appear, disappointment.
We know from history that the year 1000 came and passed without the anticipated end of the world and return of Jesus; as did the year 1033. Still,
“there was a resurgence of apocalyptic fervor that the "End" was near. There was no shortage of prophets to predict a NEW date: The years 1186, 1229… 1492-4 were all examples of "predicted" dates… In looking for a "cause" as to why the End had NOT occurred, charismatic preachers traveled from town to town, preaching that before the Second Coming would occur that all unbelievers must first be removed from society.”
In his seminal work, A Marginal Jew – Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Catholic theologian John P. Meier, referencing several gospels, provided an important commentary:
"And he said to them, ''Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power. (Mark 9:1, Matthew 16:28, Luke 9:27)
"(This saying was) most likely...produced by early Christians who sought to reassure themselves of Christ''s coming in glory as the years passed by with no parousia in sight."
That reassurance needed by “early Christians” regarding the promised Return and fulfillment of Christianity’s central promises remained one thousand years later. And another thousand years after that. And the problem of Jesus failure to return remains. An excellent review of the “problem” and efforts to understand, to explain it are well summarized in Anglican scholar Arthur Moore’s, The Delay of the Parousia in the New Testament:
“If we wish to make sense of the Parousia delay we must first learn to understand what the New Testament means by the nearness of the Parousia. The N.T. insistence that the End is near… has long been a thorn in the flesh of N.T. scholars. Some, seeking to defend Jesus against apparent errancy, have gone to great lengths to blame the earliest disciples for sayings which appear to predict a return of Christ within their own lifetime, concluding that they returned to a pre-christian apocalyptic. Others have interpreted the sayings in question, often with considerable difficulty, in terms of Christ''s death or resurrection, the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, or the expansion of the Christian mission. Others, however, have been content to say that Jesus was in this matter, as in some others, simply mistaken and that such errancy belonged to His humanity.”
And while Dr. Moore well describes the “problem” of the failed Return in its many forms, in the end provides no alternate explanation. As he defines the issue above the failure may be attributed to hubris, extreme pride by generations, and particularly the “early Christians,” believing themselves the “Chosen.” At the other extreme the confusion was created by the central figures of Christianity themselves that,
“Jesus was in this matter, as in some others, simply mistaken and that such errancy belonged to His humanity.”
In other words human beings, even Jesus in his human form, can be mistaken! But where does that leave Christian promises? If Paul, the “father” of the religion was wrong about the Parousia, then where does that leave the central promise of Eternal Life in Jesus? And if even Jesus, Son of God and the Christ was mistaken… Does Christianity just come down to Pascal’s Wager?