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Life of the Historical Jesus

The four Gospels of the New Testament provide most of our information about Jesus. Matthew and Mark, the two oldest Gospels, were written around 70 A.D. at a time when Roman armies were destroying Jerusalem. Until that time, knowledge of Jesus was confined to the memories of those who had known him personally. Stories of Jesus' life and teachings circulated by word of mouth. The Gospel of Luke was probably written between 70 A.D. and 100 A.D; and that of John, in the early part of the 2nd century A.D.

If, as Matthew states, Jesus was born in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, it would suggest a birth date several years earlier than the traditional date since Herod died in 4 B.C. The Roman emperor then was Augustus Caesar. Schweitzer estimates that John the Baptist began preaching on the banks of the Jordan river around 28 A.D. He estimates that the death of Jesus occurred around 30 A.D. during the reign of Tiberius Caesar. The Gospel of Luke states that Jesus was around 30 years of age when his work began. People supposed that he was the son of Joseph, a descendant of David. Living in Nazareth, Joseph and Mary had several other children. It is thought that Jesus preached for about three years. Jesus might have been thirty-three years of age when he was crucified.

Jesus was conscious of living in accordance with prophetic scriptures. The story of his life would also include Jesus' growing awareness of scripture and the spread of this awareness from him to others. Jesus' own views were based on the scenario of events leading to the Kingdom of God developed by the prophets. Two of its more important elements were, first, the prior appearance of Elijah and, second, the great tribulation immediately preceding the Kingdom's arrival.

Events Happening before his Ministry

The story of Jesus' life includes the story of his birth in Bethlehem. The Roman emperor Augustus had ordered a census to be taken throughout the empire. Joseph went from Nazareth in Galilee to his ancestral town of Bethlehem to be counted in the census, taking along his pregnant fiancee, Mary. Joseph was not the father of the expected child. An angel had told Joseph that Mary had conceived her child "by the Holy Spirit".

While Mary and Joseph were traveling to Bethlehem, astrologers from lands to the east learned from a star formation that a child was to be born in Bethlehem who would become king of the Jews. Herod asked the astrologers to tell him where the child would be so that he, too, could pay homage. Actually Herod wanted to kill the baby, seen as a potential rival. The astrologers did locate Jesus after he was born in a manger. They did not return to Herod. Herod then decided to kill all children in Bethlehem who were less than two years of age. An angel warned Joseph of Herod's plan. Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus fled to Egypt to escape the massacre. When they learned of Herod's death, they returned to Nazareth.

Little is known of Jesus' life as a boy in Joseph's household. Since Joseph was a carpenter, Jesus presumably learned that trade. We also know that Jesus was literate since Jesus could read the written prophecies. Mark said "he taught with a note of authority." (Mark 1: 23)

The Gospel of Luke tells that, when Jesus was twelve years old, his parents took him to Jerusalem for the Passover. As they started to return home, they realized that Jesus was missing. Three days later they found Jesus sitting in the Temple surrounded by religious teachers. He was "listening to them and putting questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his intelligence and the answers he gave." (Luke 2: 47)

Jesus' Baptism by John the Baptist

John the Baptist's career precedes that of Jesus. John attracted a following as he preached the imminent arrival of God's kingdom. John baptized people to wash away their sins. Jesus was not a rival preacher nor John's disciple. Perhaps out of courtesy to John, he did not begin his own ministry until after John was arrested. Jesus did allow John to baptize him. As Jesus emerged from the water, some saw the heavens open up and the Spirit of God descend upon Jesus like a dove. A voice from heaven said: "Thou art my Son, my Beloved; on thee my favor rests." (Mark 1: 10-11) This is when Jesus received the call to be the Messiah.

After being baptized, the Spirit led Jesus away into the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus fasted in the desert. The devil tempted him with food: "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered: "Man cannot live on bread alone; he lives on every word that God utters." (Matthew 4: 3-4) The devil then took Jesus to Jerusalem, placed him on top of the temple, and urged him to jump so that, when angels saved him from death, people would know he was the Son of God. Jesus responded to the devil: "You are not to put the Lord your God to the test." (Matthew 4: 7) Again, the devil took Jesus to a mountain top and promised him dominion over all the territories that he saw if Jesus would do him homage. Jesus said: "You shall do homage to the Lord your God and worship him alone." (Matthew 4: 10)

There was no more testing. Nothing more is heard of Jesus until Jesus hears that John the Baptist has been arrested.

Jesus' Early Ministry

Upon hearing of John's arrest, Jesus went into Galilee to begin his own ministry. Matthew said that "Jesus began to proclaim the message: 'Repent; for the kingdom of God is upon you." (Matthew 4: 17) In other words, the Kingdom's arrival is imminent. Jesus went first to Nazareth, his home town, and then to Capernaum, on the west bank of the See of Galilee. There he recruited several disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Then Jesus, accompanied by his band of followers, walked around Galilee, "teaching in the synagogues, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing whatever illness or infirmity there was among the people ... and sufferers from every kind of illness, racked with pain, possessed by devils, epileptic, or paralyzed, were all brought to him, and he cured them." (Matthew 4: 23-25)

"Casting out demons" was a major part of Jesus' ministry in the early days. He cured leprosy, blindness, paralysis, and even raised people from the dead. Jesus performed other miracles such as stilling the winds on the lake or turning water into wine at a wedding party. The Pharisees thought he was a sorcerer practicing magic by the power of Satan. From Jesus' point of view, such actions were to fulfill prophecy - for instance, the prophecy of Isaiah which said: "He took away our illnesses and lifted our diseases from us." (Matthew 8: 17) Prophetic scripture held that God's Kingdom would arrive in an environment of miracle working. With that in mind, Jesus told John's disciples when they asked who he was: "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind recover their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean ..." (Matthew 11: 4-5) The end of the world was fast approaching.

During this period, Jesus also preached in the synagogues. His preaching and his miracle-working attracted crowds. Jesus was besieged by persons asking to be cured. In one place, he walked up a hill where the crowds were gathered and delivered a talk known as "the sermon on the mount". Jesus was telling people about the Kingdom of God and what they would need to do to prepare themselves to enter this domain.

Jesus returned to Capernaum where he cured the son of a Roman centurion. More crowds gathered. Jesus decided to cross the Sea of Galilee in a boat with the disciples, complaining that "the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." (Matthew 8: 20) While on the lake, he caused the wind to be stilled. There were more miraculous healings when he reached the other shore. People asked Jesus to leave after he caused the madmen's spirits to be transferred to pigs. So he returned to the west side of the Lake. Jesus' reputation was spreading. All over Galilee people were saying of him: "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel." (Matthew 9: 33)

Sending the Disciples Out on a Mission

The crowds of people moved Jesus to seek help in ministering to their needs. He decided to send the twelve disciples in pairs to visit towns in Israel. He gave them authority to perform miracles and cures. The disciples were to preach the message: "The kingdom of Heaven is upon you." They were to cure people without charging money. They were to live on the hospitality of communities which they visited. Jesus warned that this mission would be difficult. The disciples might be arrested, flogged, and perhaps even killed. "When you are persecuted in one town, take refuge in another, " Jesus said; "I tell you this: before you have gone through all the towns of Israel the Son of Man will have come." (Matthew 10: 23)

Jesus thus set a time limit for the coming of the Kingdom. He promised that the Kingdom of God would come before the disciples had finished their mission. By the time they finished visiting the towns of Israel, God's Kingdom would have arrived. This would introduce the period of the pre-Messianic tribulation which scripture had said would precede the arrival of the Kingdom. Once the tribulation was finished, the Messiah would arrive - Jesus would be transformed into the supernatural Messiah - and God's kingdom would be established on earth.

After Jesus instructed the disciples, they went off on their mission. Jesus preached by himself in neighboring towns. It was during that time that John the Baptist, who was in prison, sent disciples to Jesus asking him whether he was "the one who is to come" or "some other"? (Matthew 11: 2-3) Jesus gave an evasive answer. When John's messengers had left, Jesus told the crowd that John the Baptist was the Elijah foretold in scripture. Another barrier to the Kingdom was thereby removed. Jesus continued preaching and performing miracles, frustrated that people continued not to believe. The Pharisees and other learned ones were the most stubborn critics.

While the disciples were still away, Jesus received news that John the Baptist had been beheaded. Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, had arrested John some time earlier. Herod's brother's wife, Herodias, who was also his wife, nursed a grudge against him because John had told Herod: "You have no right to your brother's wife." (Mark 6: 18) Herodias' daughter danced seductively before Herod who promised her anything she wanted. After consulting with her mother, the daughter requested "the head of John the Baptist." So King Herod ordered John's execution. His head was brought on a platter and given to Herodias. John's disciples told Jesus what had happened after burying their master's body. Herod was meanwhile hearing reports about Jesus' preaching. Not knowing who he was, the king thought it might be John the Baptist raised from the dead.

A short time later, the disciples returned from their mission. They told Jesus about their experiences. The Gospel of Luke reports: "The seventy-two came back jubilant. 'In your name, Lord,' they said, 'even the devils submit to us.'" (Luke 10: 17-18) It's clear, then, that, contrary to Jesus' warnings, the disciples had a largely positive experience. None of the troubles associated with the pre-Messianic tribulation had occurred. On the other hand, the Kingdom of God had also not yet arrived.

John the Baptist was dead. As John's arrest had triggered Jesus' own preaching, so his death brought another change in the direction of Jesus' career. John's death meant that the prophet Elijah had come and gone. One precondition of the Kingdom's arrival had now been satisfied. Also, Jesus had expected that the pre-Messianic tribulation would occur while his disciples were on the road. This had not happened. Either God must have canceled the tribulation or else it must have been satisfied in some other way.

Preparations to Cancel the Tribulation

Jesus' ministry changed after the disciples return from the towns of Israel. Jesus did less healing and preaching, and was more interested in being alone with the disciples. He talked more about his own fate. Jesus began to tell the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, be condemned and crucified, but on the third day, like Jonah, rise again.

Jesus' career centers in the spreading awareness of his Messianic identity. While Jesus knew it from the start, the disciples gradually learned Jesus' secret. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him on a mountain where they witnessed the Transfiguration. They saw Jesus there with Moses and Elijah, and heard a voice from heaven identifying Jesus as "my Son". In a conversation six days later, Peter told Jesus and the other disciples that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus did not deny it. On a third occasion, Judas Iscariot told the High Priest that Jesus considered himself the Messiah. The stage was set for his arraignment on charges of blasphemy.

During this period, Jesus and the disciples were continually moving about to escape the crowds. Their base of operations was often in Capernaum. From references in Mark, Schweitzer tracks down Jesus' itinerary: "At first he tries to escape from the people in the neighborhood of the Sea of Galilee by moving from place to place by ship at night. He does not succeed; they will flock to him. Then he withdraws to the Gentile (Phoenician) neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon. From here he returns to Galilee. At first he remains, still surrounded by the people, on the eastern shore in the district of the ten cities. Then he crosses to the western shore, in the neighborhood of Damanutha, where people again gather round him. He then retires to the north to the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi. From here he returns to Galilee. He crosses it, in order to make his way to Jerusalem."

Although Jesus was facing increased opposition from the Pharisees and Sadducces, he was not traveling for the purpose of escaping the authorities. Jesus wanted to be alone with his disciples. He had to prepare them for the important events that would occur when the group reached Jerusalem.

Final Events in Jerusalem

Jesus went to Jerusalem to be crucified, die, and rise again in accordance with scripture. He thereby fulfilled conditions necessary for the Kingdom of God to arrive. He hatched no earthly plot to take over the government. Jesus had the people on his side. Jewish religious authorities were on the other side. Pontius Pilate exercised military control on behalf of Rome.

Jesus and the disciples began their journey in Galilee, stopping for awhile in Capernaum. Then they went through unnamed regions of Judaea and the Transjordan. They took the road to Jerusalem which ran on the east side of the Jordan river to avoid Samaria. "We are now going to Jerusalem," Jesus told the disciples; "and the Son of Man will be given up to the chief priests and the doctors of the law; they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the foreign power. He will be mocked and spat upon, flogged and killed; and three days afterwards, he will rise again." (Mark 10: 33-34)

On the road to Jerusalem, Jesus had discussions with the disciples about their role in the Kingdom. James and John wanted to sit on Jesus' right hand. As they passed through Jericho, a beggar shouted, "Son of David, have pity on me!" (Mark 10: 48) In the vicinity of Jerusalem, the group reached Bethphage and Bethany and the Mount of Olives. There Jesus borrowed a colt. He mounted the colt and rode triumphantly into Jerusalem as crowds shouted to Jesus: "Hosanna! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Mark 11: 1-10) Jesus and his followers proceeded to the Temple. However, it was late in the afternoon and they returned to Bethany.

On the next day, Jesus went straight to the Temple after cursing a fig tree which bore no fruit. He "began driving out those who bought and sold in the temple. He upset the tables of the money-changers ..." (Mark 11: 15-16) He began preaching in the temple. On this and subsequent days, Jesus went back and forth between Jerusalem and his camp outside the city. In the city, Jesus argued with the Pharisees, lawyers, and priests, defending himself against accusations of usurping God's role. He told parables about the Kingdom. He predicted that the temple would be destroyed. He expounded on the nature of the Messiah. He answered a question about paying taxes. He identified the signs which would precede the coming of the Messiah. He described the "birth-pangs of the new age", an age in which God's kingdom would be established on earth. His message to his followers was: "Keep awake." (Mark 12-13)

The festival of Passover and Unleavened bread was approaching. In Bethany, a woman poured the oil of a costly perfume over Jesus' head. Judas Iscariot went to see the chief priests to sell Jesus' secret for money. Jesus and the disciples arranged to share the Passover supper in a large room in Jerusalem. At this meal, Jesus disclosed that one of his disciples would betray him. He broke bread and drank wine. After singing the Passover hymn, the group returned to the Mount of Olives. Jesus predicted that his followers would abandon him. When Peter objected, Jesus predicted that Peter would betray him three times before the night was done.

Then Jesus went into a garden at Gethsemane to be alone with Peter, James, and John. He prayed that God might spare him the coming ordeal. The same prayer applied to the three disciples. Jesus reproached them when they fell asleep. While Jesus was speaking to these disciples, Judas Iscariot approached with armed soldiers and priests and kissed Jesus. When the soldiers tried to arrest him, a follower drew a sword in his defense. Jesus told him to desist; it was God's will that he be seized. The soldiers brought Jesus to the house of the High Priest.

The priests were trying to find evidence upon which Jesus might be convicted of blasphemy. They needed three witnesses but could not find enough people with consistent stories. Finally the High Priest asked Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus admitted that he was. That was all the evidence the priests needed. They judged unanimously that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy. The High Priest's men blindfolded Jesus and beat him with their fists. Some spat upon Jesus. Standing in the court yard, Peter meanwhile denied three times that he knew Jesus. The cock then crowed again.

Next morning, the high priests brought Jesus in chains before Pontius Pilate, charging that he claimed to be "king of the Jews". Jesus said nothing in his own defense. Although Pilate could find no fault in him, the Roman governor decided to allow the people to free one of two prisoners: either Jesus or a murderer called Barabbas. People in the mob shouted that Barabbas should be released and Jesus be crucified.

Desiring to please the mob, Pilate complied. "He had Jesus flogged and handed him over to be crucified ... Soldiers ... inside the courtyard ... dressed him (Jesus) in (royal) purple and plaiting a crown of thorns, placed it on his head. Then they began to salute him with, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' They beat him about the head with a cane and spat upon him, and then knelt and paid mock homage to him ... Then they took him out to crucify him." (Mark 15: 21)

It was nine o'clock in the morning when the Roman soldiers brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha and fastened him to a wooden cross, after casting lots for his clothing. A sign above him said: "The king of the Jews". Two bandits were also crucified on either side of Jesus. Bystanders ridiculed Jesus for claiming to be the Messiah. Jesus was heard to mutter: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15: 35) A man held a sponge with sour wine to Jesus' lips. Darkness fell over the scene. Jesus died about three o'clock in the afternoon, after giving a loud cry. The curtain of the temple was torn.

The Resurrection

That evening, Joseph of Arimathaea, who was one of Jesus' followers, claimed Jesus' body. Joseph arranged for it to be wrapped in linen and laid in his own unused tomb which had been cut out of a rock. He rolled a boulder in front of the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James and Joseph, sat opposite the grave. The chief priest and Pharisees arranged for someone to guard the tomb lest the disciples steal Jesus' body.

Even so, on the morning of third day, when the sabbath was over, the two Marys returned to Jesus' tomb. A violent earthquake occurred and an angel descended from heaven. This angel, in white clothing, sat next to Jesus' grave. The angel told the two women that Jesus' body was no longer in the tomb. "He has been raised from the dead," the angel said, "and is going on before you into Galilee; there you will see him." (Matthew 28: 7)

The "good news" of Jesus' resurrection galvanized the disciples and other followers. The eleven disciples made their way to Galilee, as they had been instructed. There they saw Jesus standing on a mountain. Jesus revealed that "full authority in heaven and on earth has been committed to me." (Matthew 28: 18) He commanded his followers to go forth into the world making all nations his disciples and baptizing with his spirit. In the Gospel of Mark Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, to two followers on a road near Emmaus, and to the remaining disciples as they were assembled for a meal. (Mark 16)

The Gospel of Luke, chapter 24, gives additional detail about the last two encounters with the risen Jesus. At the meal with his disciples, Jesus allowed the disciples to touch his wounds and even ate part of a fish. The Gospel of John, chapters 20 and 21, reports still other post-Resurrection experiences of the disciples.

How Jesus fulfilled prophecy and brought about the Kingdom of God

Jesus thought of himself as the Messiah - not so much as a Messiah who was “Son of David” but the supernatural “Son of Man” who would appear when God ushered in his Kingdom at the end of human history. Albert Schweitzer believed that Jesus became the supernatural Messiah when he was resurrected from the dead. Previously, as a live man, he had not been in the proper form to assume that role.

The life of Jesus was about satisfying the scriptural conditions needed to bring about God’s Kingdom. Certain things had to happen before the Kingdom would arrive. Two conditions, in particular, were critical.

The first was the prior return of Elijah. The prophet Malachi has written: “Look, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will reconcile fathers to sons and sons to fathers, lest I come and put the land under a ban to destroy it.” (Malachi 4: 5-6) This is the last passage in the Old Testament.

That scriptural precondition was satisfied when Elijah did return in the person of John the Baptist. Jesus let John the Baptist baptize him in the river Jordan. It was here that Jesus received his calling to become the Messiah. As a human being, however, he was not the Messiah yet. John the Baptist does not know who Jesus is. John does not even know that he himself is Elijah.

These roles become clear in the conversation which Jesus has with a crowd of followers, reported in the eleventh Chapter of Matthew. After John the Baptist was imprisoned, John’s followers came to Jesus on his behalf and asked: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect some other?” Jesus gave an indirect response, citing miraculous events that would occur in the final days.

Some believe that John’s disciples were asking Jesus if he was the Messiah. Even though he was, Jesus could not give away that secret at this point in his ministry. But actually, as Schweitzer explained, John was not asking if Jesus was the Messiah. It was generally understood that the Messiah was a supernatural being, not a man. Instead, John and his disciples were asking if Jesus was Elijah. He was not. John, not Jesus, assumed the role of Elijah.

This identity is revealed only after John’s disciples have departed. Jesus asks the crowd who they think John is. Jesus first reveals that John was the “herald”, foretold by the prophets, who will “prepare your way before you.” Then Jesus says point blank: “John is the destined Elijah if you will but accept it.” (Matthew 11: 15) That settles it. One of the scriptural preconditions was satisfied.

The other precondition was a period of great turmoil and suffering that would immediately precede the arrival of God’s Kingdom. Schweitzer calls this the “pre-Messianic tribulation.” He points out that in the tenth chapter of Matthew it is reported that Jesus sent out his own disciples to preach the Gospel and perform miracles in all the towns of Israel. The disciples were to expect much suffering. In the 23rd verse, Jesus said to them: “Before you have gone through all the towns of Israel the Son of Man will have come.” Therefore, the Kingdom of God will have come because the Messiah - “Son of Man” - appears with its arrival.

The disciples do travel throughout the land of Israel. They do eventually return to Jesus, but not as expected. First, Jesus’ disciples have not experienced suffering. Their missionary work has been a triumph. “In your name, Lord,” said the seventy-two missionaries, “even the demons submit to us.” (Mark 10:17) More important, the earthly situation seems much as before. God’s Kingdom has not yet arrived.

This begins a period of reassessment. Jesus becomes more introspective. He wants to be alone with his Disciples rather than preach to crowds. What emerges in this period is the idea that perhaps it will not be necessary for a period of suffering - the pre-Messianic tribulation - to occur before God’s kingdom comes. In fact, Jesus teaches the Disciples to pray for this.

In the Lord’s Prayer, the Disciples are taught to say: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6: 13) In another translation, it reads: “And do not bring us to the test, but save us from the evil one.” The idea is that the pre-Messianic tribulation would be a period of intense pressure to renounce Jesus and the promise of God’s kingdom. Those who gave way to these pressures and temptations would forfeit their chance to enter the Kingdom. The Disciples were taught to beg God to spare them of the need to undergo such a test which they might fail. The Kingdom should arrive without such a previous test.

Schweitzer sums up the situation in these words: “Because of the delay in the tribulation the prospect of which he had held out to the disciples when he sent them out on their mission, Jesus came to the conclusion that God was willing to spare believers from it if he fulfilled it in his own person. This he would accomplish by voluntarily undergoing death and so bringing about that end of the domination of evil which was to mark the conclusion of the tribulation.”

An element pointing to that conclusion was the fact that John the Baptist had been executed by Herod Antipas. Malachi had not written that the destined Elijah, forerunner of the Messiah, would have to die. Schweitzer writes: “The fact that (John) the Baptist did not suffer death in the pre-Messianic tribulation, but through a purely human ploy, confirms Jesus in his conviction that a similar fate is in store for himself.” Jesus begins to anticipate the Crucifixion.

Jesus goes to Jerusalem with the Disciples. Judas betrays to the High Priest and his retinue the fact that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, which was a secret that Peter, James, and John had learned at the Transfiguration. Such a claim is blasphemous, punishable by death. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus disposes of these disciples’ promise to share his “cup”, which meant death. The three disciples fall asleep in the Garden. Jesus is soon arrested, arraigned before Pilate, and sent alone to die on the Cross. Then, two days later, he is resurrected from the dead.

The scriptural significance of Jesus’ death is that the pre-Messianic tribulation has been canceled as a precondition to the arrival of God’s Kingdom. Since the other precondition (Elijah’s return to earth) has also been satisfied, there are no remaining barriers to the Kingdom. The scriptural significance of Jesus’ resurrection is that Jesus becomes a supernatural being fit to be the Messiah. Jesus is now in that role.

Schweitzer expresses this in the following words:

“Jesus is thus convinced that the meaning and effect of the pre-Messianic tribulation are transferred by God to the suffering and death which he has freely accepted as the future Messiah. His self-sacrifice accordingly has the consequence that the final events have now arrived at the point that they would have reached after the tribulation had taken place. This means that the evil world powers have lost the dominion which they possessed alongside of God’s. According to late Jewish eschatology it was their allotted role to rise against God in a final contest at the pre-Messianic tribulation, in order that they might suffer destruction at his hands and the Kingdom could then appear.

“The death of Jesus thus brings about the coming of the Kingdom of God. This is its fundamental meaning. The way in which it benefits believers is that it gives them the possibility of entering the Kingdom. At the same time it also benefits them by sparing them the necessity of having to pass through the tribulation before entering the Kingdom.”

One problem remained. People expected that the coming of God’s Kingdom would bring a total transformation of the world. The world would be changed from evil to goodness, from material to spirit. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, nothing like this seemed to have happened. The same world powers remained in power with their same evil ways.

The early church, inspired by the apostle Paul, developed an expectation that the world would gradually be spiritualized. God’s Kingdom would then be fully seen. At the Pentecost, when people began speaking in tongues, church leaders believed that this process was happening before their very eyes. It was like the dawning of a new day.

The other expectation was that Jesus would return to earth some day, in power and glory, “on the clouds of heaven”. Even if Jesus was now the supernatural Messiah, his arrival in full splendor had been delayed. Some day, however, this would happen. At the “second coming” of Jesus, all would be plainly seen.

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