A Failed Prophecy of Christ?
According to The Skeptics Annotated Bible, in Mark 9:1, “Jesus falsely prophesies that the end of the world will come within his listeners’ lifetimes.”1 Skeptic Dennis McKinsey calls this prophecy2 “one of those classic predictions that has haunted his supporters ever since, forcing them to concoct an endless number of rationalizations to explain its failure.”3
What exactly did Jesus predict in Mark 9:1? Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.” Jesus prophesied that some of His listeners on that occasion (including His disciples—Mark 8:34) would still be alive to “see the kingdom of God come with power” (NIV).
Skeptics contend that the coming kingdom Jesus mentioned in this passage is a reference to “the end of the world,”4 when Jesus returns (Matthew 24:36-25:46; 2 Peter 3:10-13) and when “an entrance will be supplied…abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11). The same eternal, “heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18) that Peter and Paul eagerly anticipated is supposedly the same kingdom about which Jesus prophesied in Mark 9:1. Are skeptics correct?
As is the case with so many so-called “contradictions,” skeptics have once again assumed a sense (or definition) of a word, which cannot be proven. They have chosen a meaning that contradicts the passage rather than considering a logical sense of the word “kingdom” which perfectly fits with Jesus’ prophecy.
Admittedly, at times God’s kingdom is rightly understood in its future sense. After all, Jesus taught: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him…. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’” (Matthew 25:31,34). This “kingdom” is the heavenly phase of God’s kingdom, which the righteous will “inherit” at the end of time (1 Corinthians 15:50).
However, there is a real, biblical sense in which God’s Kingdom exists in the present—and has been in existence since the first century. In fact, long before Jesus correctly prophesied of this coming Kingdom, the Old Testament prophets did so. Isaiah and Micah prophesied of “the mountain5 of the Lord’s house” being established in Jerusalem “in the latter days” (Isaiah 2:1-4; Micah 4:1-4). About 200 years later, in the sixth century B.C., Daniel recorded a divinely revealed, prophetic dream of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Daniel 2:1-45). According to Daniel, the king dreamed of a great image with a head of gold, a chest and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet partly of iron and partly of clay. In the dream, a stone was cut out of a mountain without hands and struck the image. The clay, iron, bronze, silver, and gold were crushed and became like dust, carried away by the wind. But, “the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:35). Daniel revealed to Nebuchadnezzar that the image he saw represented various earthly kingdoms. Babylon was the head of gold, while the other elements of the image stood for future empires that would rise up after Babylon. History has shown that the chest and arms of silver represented the Medo-Persian Empire. The belly and thighs of bronze were for the Grecian Empire. And the legs of iron and feet of both iron and clay stood for the Roman Empire.
Daniel informed Nebuchadnezzar that it would be during the days of this fourth kingdom6 (the Roman Empire) that the God of heaven would “set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed;…it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44). Its beginning would be small, like the stone that was cut out of the mountain without hands, but it eventually would consume all other kingdoms and become a great mountain filling the whole Earth.
What is this kingdom of which Nebuchadnezzar dreamed, and Daniel spoke? What is this great kingdom that would eventually fill the whole Earth? It’s the spiritual Kingdom of Christ—the Church. More than 500 years before the Church was established, God revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar in a prophetic dream that a Kingdom made “without hands”—a spiritual Kingdom of divine origin—would be established during the days of the Roman Empire.
This entity is the Kingdom that Jesus prophesied would come during the lifetime of His first-century hearers. Jesus not only prophesied of this Kingdom in Matthew 16:28 (as well as in the parallel passages in Mark 9:1 and Luke 9:27), He also predicted it just a few verses earlier in Matthew 16:18-19. To the apostle Peter, Jesus said: “I will build My church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven….” Jesus promised to establish His Church and then equated the Church with the Kingdom of heaven, to which He gave Peter “the keys.” What do keys do? They unlock doors, thus allowing entrance. When did Peter open the doors to the Kingdom? Only a few months later in Acts 2 when Peter and the apostles were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (2:4), preached the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and about 3,000 souls became Christians (2:41), submitting to the authoritative lordship of Jesus Christ—the King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15-16; Ephesians 1:21). On that day, the Day of Pentecost, the Kingdom of God (in its present sense) came “with power” (Mark 9:1), just as Jesus had prophesied.
From Acts 2 onward, God’s Kingdom has existed, and New Testament Christians have been servants in this Kingdom. To the church at Colosse, Paul noted how God “has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Colossians 1:13). With the Christians in Asia Minor, the apostle John declared that he shared “in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9). Indeed, the Christians in Asia Minor nearly 2,000 years ago were already fellow citizens in the Kingdom of Christ.
Christians are not “haunted” by Mark 9:1, nor do we have to “concoct an endless number of rationalizations to explain its [alleged] failure.”7 A rational, biblical, easy-to-understand explanation exists: words have different meanings, and Jesus used the word “kingdom” in this verse in reference to His Church—God’s spiritual Kingdom in the present. Indeed, those who heard Jesus’ prophecy of Mark 9:1 saw Christ’s Kingdom come in their lifetime.
1 Steve Wells (2020), The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/mk/9.html#1n, emp. added.
2 Referring specifically to Matthew’s account of the prophecy: Matthew 16:28.
3 C. Dennis McKinsey (1995), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus), p. 308.
5 The term “mountain” is sometimes used figuratively in the Old Testament in reference to a particular government or kingdom (Psalm 76:1-4; Jeremiah 51:25; Isaiah 11:9; Daniel 2:35).
6 Equivalent to “the latter days” mentioned in Isaiah 2:1-4 and Micah 4:1-4.
7 McKinsey, p. 308, bracketed word added.
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