A gracEmail subscriber asks how the New Testament writers could say that the end is near, since 2,000 years have now gone by and world history still continues.
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The Jews in Jesus’ day expected Messiah to come at the End of world history. This End would not be recognizable by a calendar but by End-time events. When Messiah came, God would make atonement for sin, raise the dead and pour out his Spirit on his people in a new creation. To their surprise, in the midst of time and history Jesus appeared — whom the Apostles declared to be God’s Messiah (Christ, Anointed One). God raised him from the dead, poured out his Spirit shortly afterward and announced salvation through the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.
Seeing all this, the Apostles of Jesus declared that the End has begun — and also that the End is yet to come. Jesus decisively defeated Satan and accomplished the atonement for sin in his first coming. However, these accomplishments are not yet visible though we have begun already to enjoy them by faith. The New Testament assures us, however, that what Jesus has already accomplished will become universally evident at his return, when he comes again in person and in power.
When God raised Jesus from the dead, it was as if he called out “Number One” and the Resurrection began. (That signaled the beginning of the End of the world.) Then God paused — for a length of time no one knows but God alone. One day he will announce, “Number Two!” and Resurrection will continue. (That will signal the end of the End of the world.) We live between the advents, between the “already” and the “not yet.” It does not matter how long the world might continue — Christians from the beginning have lived in the End-times, just as the Apostles said.