A Most Embarrassing Quote
Series: An Eschatological Mix
A MOST EMBARRASSING QUOTE
As a prolific author and late-blooming “believer”, the late, great C. S. Lewis wrote volumes of essays and books covering a wide-spectrum of interests. His many writings have become cherished by people of faith (myself included). Among his best-sellers are books like Mere Christianity and The Chronicles Of Narnia, recipients of rave reviews from multitudes of readers. Yet Lewis is not atypical in the sense that he could occasionally disappoint his audience. Such is the case with one of his more obscure essays, The World's Last Night, a “discussion” of the second coming of Christ. After an opening comment addressing words spoken by Jesus to first-century Jewish leaders (hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven / Mt.26:64), Lewis turns his attention to the Lord's declaration in Mt.24:34 (this generation will not pass away until all these things take place).
Regarding this text Lewis alludes to another's comments. “The apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have proven to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the second coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, this generation shall not pass till all these things be done. And HE WAS WRONG. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.” And then Lewis offers his own commentary, “It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.” Perhaps this was Lewis going beyond his field of expertise, but I find his quote to be most embarrassing!! Such is symptomatic of a blind spot that often prevents even the most highly-learned from grasping the true meaning of the eschatological affirmations of Jesus and His inspired apostles.
Lewis missed the import of Jesus' claim because he failed to ascertain that the eschatological teachings of the New Testament were focused on covenantal change. Jesus prophesied about the time of the end, not the end of time. The “end” to which Jesus pointed was not the cessation of life on planet earth, but rather the consummation of the Jewish age and the fulfillment of the Old Covenant Law (Heb.8:13), which as the apostle Paul noted had become our tutor to lead us to Christ (Gal.4:24). Many Bible students (even noteworthy Bible scholars) have failed miserably in making this vital distinction. Starting with the wrong premise can result in a most embarrassing conclusion.
Arrogance can be an insidious germ. WHAT COULD LEAD A MAN TO SURMISE THAT JESUS WAS WRONG? If we dare to contemplate such, wouldn't it be wise to first ponder the possibility that we might be wrong? Furthermore, are we not able to calculate the damage that is done by asserting that Jesus was wrong. If Jesus was wrong on this crucial matter (eschatology), who's to say that He wasn't wrong on a host of other key doctrines? The better option, by far: let us re-think our own preconceived notions so as not to embarrass ourselves!
Terry Siverd / Cortland Church of Christ