Was Jesus’ promise, to return soon, fulfilled in His Resurrection, Ascension and Enthronement?
Some argue that Jesus came when He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. They justified this as follows:
“By the resurrection from the dead” Jesus was “declared the Son of God” (Rom. 1:4).
After His resurrection, He said that “all authority” was given Him (Mat. 28:18-20).
In Matthew 10 Jesus instructed His disciples to go to Israel only (v5-6), but after His resurrection, He gave His disciples a new commission to “make disciples of all the nations” (Mat. 28:18-20). Thus ended the special mission to Israel. Judaism came to an end at the crucifixion. At that moment her rituals, sacrifices, temple, priesthood and her whole status, were nulled.
The Apostles still expected His soon coming after His resurrection (See The Lord is coming soon).
The disciples did not experience major persecution prior to His resurrection, as Jesus said they would, before He returns (Mt. 10:16-23).
The Bible nowhere use such language (e.g., “the Son of man is come”) for His resurrection.
His resurrection was too soon. Jesus would not have said, “some standing here who will not taste death”, for something which was to happen only about a year later.
When Jesus said that he would come soon, He also said that, when He comes, will be “the day of judgment” (Mt. 10:15, 23; 16:27-28). His resurrection was not “the day of judgment”.
The preaching to Israel only did not come to an end at the Cross. Ten days after His ascension God gave His followers the power of the Holy Spirit to preach specifically and exclusively to Israel. This resulted in the exponential growth for the church, but limited to Israel. For a number of years after the Holy Spirit was received, the gospel message focused on die leadership of the Jews and on Jerusalem only. See the article on the Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church.
Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:3), where He “sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19; cf. Acts 2:32; 5:31; Rom. 8:33; Eph. 1:20; Rev. 3:21; etc.). Some argue that He came, not to the earth, but He came to God’s throne at His ascension. This is justified as follows:
When Jesus told His disciples to preach “that the Kingdom of God is at hand” (10:7), they probably understood this to be what was prophesied by Daniel 7, where Jesus comes—not to the earth—but to the Father (v13), to receive “dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion” (v14). This was fulfilled, they argue, by Christ’s enthronement, when He ascended to heaven.
After Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God” and the Holy Spirit was poured out, Peter explained, “God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).
Revelation 12 describes what happens in heaven when Christ ascended to heaven (see the article War in Heaven). At that time a loud voice announced: “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come” (Rev. 12:10).
Some of the objections against this proposal are similar to those against the previous proposal. This includes that the Apostles still expected His soon coming after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that the disciples did not experience major persecution before this time, that the Bible nowhere uses “the Son of man is come”-language for His enthronement, that it was too soon to justify the saying “some standing here who will not taste death”, and that His enthronement was not “the day of judgment”.
Holy Spirit Received
Some argue that Jesus came representatively at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, ten days after His ascension. This is argued as follows:
By saying, “the Father … will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; … I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16, 18), He promised to come to them in the form of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told His disciples to preach that “the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mt. 10:7). Since, in that chapter, both the “Kingdom of God” and His coming (Mt. 10:23) were imminent, His coming could be understood as the coming of the “Kingdom of God”. Similarly, Matthew 16:28 says that He will come “in his kingdom”, which is argued is not His physical return. In the parallel verses (Luke 9:27 & Mark 9:1) Jesus does not say that He will come at all, but only that “those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God”. Jesus therefore did not promise that He would come physically, but that “the Kingdom of God”, which is the spiritual kingdom that exists in the hearts of born again believers, would come.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit inaugurated the new dispensation. Some of those who listened to His voice in Galilee and elsewhere saw the power of the kingdom of God manifested on a scale unmatched during His ministry. Within a few weeks, the number of His followers multiplied tenfold; His kingdom was visibly on the march.
The objections against previous proposal also apply to this proposal.
Some rely of the phrase “kingdom of God”, which is found in some of the verses under discussion (Mt. 16:28; Luke 9:27; Mark 9:1), to justify the view that this is not His physical coming, but a spiritual coming. However, the “kingdom of God” is not something which will one day come, for it already exists. Jesus said “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21). Only the saved can see it today, but one day it will become visible to all. So when Jesus said, “There are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27), it must be interpreted by the context, and the context is that the Son of Man will come in the glory of the Father and with the holy angels (v26). The same applies to Matthew 16:28 and Mark 9:1. See the article What is the “Kingdom of God”? for more detail.