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  • Writer's pictureJon Peters

Jesus: The Ultimate Failed Prophecy?

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

"No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says:

He is always convinced that it says what he means." ~ George Bernard Shaw


Based on the New Testament (NT), the consensus of non-Biblical NT religious scholars is that Jesus was another failed apocalyptic preacher of his time. His close followers, and later Paul, all thought the end times were eminent. Of course a consequence would be in general not to get married according to Paul; the end of the world is hardly a time to get married and start a family. Please read the NT verses below that attest to the authors in multiple NT books writing that Jesus was the Christ and claimed to be coming back soon, even before some in the audience listening to him died. The delivery never happened.

New Testament Verses And The Return of Jesus: the "soon" that never happened.

Hebrews 10:37 - “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay”

Rev. 1:7 - “… he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him…”

Rev. 1:1 - “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to show to his servants the things that must soon take place”.

Rev. 3:11 - “I am coming soon.”

Rev. 22:12 - “Behold, I am coming soon”.

Rev. 22:20 - “…, surely I am coming soon. Amen”.

Rev. 22: 6-7 “The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place. 7 Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll”. (NIV)

James 5:8 - “… for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

1 Peter 4:7 - “The end of all things is at hand.”

1 John 2:18 - “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.

1 Corinthians 7:26 to 31 - "I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. (26)...This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short... (29) From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.”(30-31)

Philippians 4:5 - “Remember, the Lord is coming soon” (NLT). “The Lord is at hand”. (KJV, NKJV, ESV, WEB, WBT, ERV, AmKJV, KJ2000). “The Lord will soon be here”. (Cont. EV). “The Lord is coming soon”. (GNB). There are several different translations of this verse and many state that the “Lord is near”, which could be close-by versus soon. But those that do make the difference are clear that it’s time weighted and not personal distance or geography.

1 Thessalonians 4:17 - “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (ESV). Paul thought those dead would be raised first but those left and still alive would also be raised. This makes no sense if all are dead and Jesus is still coming (our time for example).

Soon means soon

And to be sure the reader or listener understood that soon really means soon as we use and understand the term, the NT includes these verses also:

Matthew 10:23 - “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Mark 9:1 - “And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Matthew 16:28 - “Truly I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Luke 9:27 - “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

Matthew 24:32-34 - “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened."

Common Objections

1. The Greek word for “soon” can also be translated as “quick” (adverb: ταχύ) and in many of the verses above they both fit if just reading an isolated verse. However, in the context of all the verses together, “soon” is the best and most true, the most parsimonious, and the one that meets Occam’s Razor hands down. In addition, several verses that state some will not die before Jesus returns is again the best fit for “soon” and leaves no doubt which adverb is meant throughout the NT. If some will not be dead then some did die and attempts to apply the transfiguration for example as an interpretation that occurs only after a week later reveals how desperate apologists can become to hold to a position that is inferior to the obvious and most straightforward. No hand waiving needed. Apologists who argue that all of these work well with quick instead of soon just reveal a bias, and incredible motivated reasoning.

2. When looking at 61 different NT translations of Rev. 22:12 for example, 52/61 translate the verse “soon” and not “quickly.” When examining Philippians 4:5, only 34/61 translate purely “near”. Several of these - 14/61 translations - include a phrase or notation that "near" best refers to “soon” and not proximity. For example see AMPC and EXB.

> Quick or Soon?

3. The NT verse that states no one knows the time and day does nothing to rescue the apologist since that is not an issue; it was to happen soon, before some die. The exact time and day has no bearing on this red line for Bible believers.

4. Another common apologist attempt at reconciliation is to take each verse separately in isolation and try and explain it as not meaning that the return of Jesus was eminent. However, when looking at all the verses together as presented here, the NT context is clear and powerful that the central theme results in a consistent message of a failed prophecy."

5. In regards to the term "generation" in Matthew 24, many apologists will try and interpret this as meaning to the generation of the Hebrew people, or some variation. However, here again the Hebrew bible makes specific claims as to what a generation is. In Genesis 6:3 we read "... for that he is also flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years". And also Psalm 90:10: "the days of our years are three score and ten; if by reason of strength they be four-score years; yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." Not to dwell on the fact that one verse says a man's lifetime limit is 120 and the other 80, a generation is not thousands of years. And going on even further. 6. What about 2 Peter 3:8 - "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day." Notice that there are two persons represented - God and us. Who is the Bible written to and for, if not us? When verses are quoted in parables that he is "delayed" is the author really meaning that when we are delayed it can mean thousands of years to us? No, that's how God may see it, but we would never think that if someone was delayed due to traffic and on their way that having them arrive 2,000 years would be a way to interpret their message to us?

7. Over 20 verses are by far best understood as a failed prophecy. He never came back and the world did not end. But two can be interpreted as he's still coming and is just delayed, even though 2,000 years and counting is one heck of a delay!

Matt 24:14 - "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." [there are probably remote areas that have not heard the gospel. Or ever will? How convenient] Acts 1:8 - "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” [again, there are probably areas that have not heard the gospel]

Another failed apocalyptic preacher

Outside of the fundamentalist and other conservative Christian theologians it is well accepted that Jesus was just another failed apocalyptic rural preacher. The end of the world did not happen and neither did Jesus come back after his death. All the great religious scholars outside of sectarian schools teach this (Yale, Harvard, Princeton, U.of Chicago, U.of North Carolina, Stanford, etc.). Please note that the conservative seminaries often have a “statement of faith” all faculty must sign. If in their research they come to agree with the consensus of non-Biblical religious scholars and publicly say so these scholars often must resign their academic positions. I don’t know how one could be even considered a respectable scholar under those conditions. No such constraint exists for religious scholars at major universities.

Tim O’Neil: “That the historical Jesus was most likely a Jewish apocalyptic prophet preaching the coming kingship of God to fellow Galilean peasants is an interpretation that has dominated the study of the origins of Christianity for over a century. In his 1910 masterpiece The Quest of the Historical Jesus, Albert Schweitzer traced the scholarship on who the historical Jesus was from the eighteenth century attempts at gospel harmonization to the Historical Jesus Quest his own day, and decided that the idea of Jesus as an eschatological prophet preaching a coming apocalypse was the inevitable conclusion that had to be drawn… Obviously, a Jesus who was an apocalyptic prophet who proclaimed the kingship of God as coming in his lifetime or that of his listeners does not fit well with orthodox Christian beliefs, so conservative scholars have to work to explain all the evidence above in a way that somehow maintains the idea that Jesus was “God the Son” and a deity in human form - no small task… Now, as in Schweitzer’s time, almost all historical Jesus studies are either an endorsement of or a rear-guard action against the unavoidably powerful idea that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet.”

“As noted by E.P. Sanders (Jesus and Judaism, 1985, pp. 91-95) and many before him (e.g. Bart Ehrman, James D.G. Dunn and Klaus Koch), Jesus’ position between John the Baptist, for whom the imminent judgement was reportedly central, and the early church as reflected in Paul’s letters, who longed for the apocalyptic παρουσία in their lifetimes, means a Jesus who also expected the apocalypse soon makes the most sense… Despite the rearguard actions of conservative and many progressive Christians, the conception of Jesus as a Jewish apocalyptic peasant preacher is accepted in some form by many or even most non-Christian and even some progressive Christian scholars (e.g. Allison). Bart Ehrman, E.P. Sanders, Paula Fredricksen and many others fully accept this reconstruction of the historical Jesus.”

James Daniel Tabor (born 1946 in Texas) is a Biblical scholar and Professor of Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he has taught since 1989 and served as Chair from 2004–14. He previously held positions at Ambassador College (1968–70 while a student at Pepperdine University), the University of Notre Dame (1979–85), and the College of William and Mary (1985–89). Tabor is the founder and director of the Original Bible Project, a non-profit organization aimed to produce a re-ordered new translation of the Bible in English.[1] He retired in 2022. [Wikipedia; now Professor Emeritus]


A close examination of apologist rationalizations reveals that they are forced to explain why over fifteen NT verses across multiple NT books all make the same claim - that it was expected Jesus would come back soon as a second coming. Reading horizontally across the NT about this subject instead of only reading a single verse shows in context that Jesus' expected return was very soon. Indeed the claim that the end times are coming during our present time is a repeated failed assertion by Christians every few years for the past 2,000 years. It's especially useful at occasional revivals to produce fearful converts.

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful." ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca

See links below if one has doubts that Jesus as a failed apocalyptic prophet is not the consensus view among respected religious scholars at major universities around the world. Importantly, the major evidence comes from the NT writers themselves. The repeated failure of the prophesied return of Jesus over the years must be considered one the most damning charges against believing this religion.

𝐖𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞...

• Not one word written by Jesus

• Not one word about Jesus from any witness

• Not one word about Jesus written in the time of Jesus

• Not even one credibly sourced reference to Jesus

• No inscriptions to Jesus from the time of Jesus

• No monuments to Jesus from the time of Jesus

• No artifacts for Jesus from the time of Jesus

Creative Commons License. From:


Note: Due to its importance of showing that the NT has failed arguably with the second most important claim for Christians in the Bible (the first being the resurrection), this part was given its own blog. This section was extracted from a larger discussion of Biblical Errors on this site.

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