Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him--even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the earth will weep because of him. Yes! Amen!
In a recent blog post, I wondered what would people start to say when another whole millennium passes and Jesus still hasn't returned.
After some reflection, I think I might know what would happen now.
Nothin'. Christianity will still be going strong.
Here's why I think this:
The first Century Christians seemed to believe that Jesus was to return within their lifetime. But, Jesus never returned as expected. Yet, Christianity still rolls on. After Jesus' failed promise to return, one would think the church would have died out.
I won't try to defend the argument that first century Christians expected Jesus to return within their lifetime in this post. Rather, read this article by Dave E. Matson. Edward Babinski posted the article on his website.
So if the over due return of Christ is well founded, how can Christianity still survive with this glaring failed prophesy?
Robert Cialdini cites an eye opening study in his book Influence: Science and Practice. Cialdini cites how a group of social psychologists infiltrated a cult that believed a UFO would come and carry them away from earth just before the "great cataclysm". The study was done by Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter.
This team also produced a book entitled When Prophecy Fails as a followup to their experiment.
This group of social psychologists predicted that the exclusive UFO cult would change their habits and proselytize others once their cult leader's prophecy failed. The psychologists based their prediction on the principle of cognitive dissonance.
Keep in mind, the cult was exclusive before the UFO was expected to arrive. This cult grudgingly accepted new members, did not actively proselytize and shunned interviews from the news media in their town. That's another point which makes this study interesting. The three psychologists had to make personal sacrifices to "join" (infiltrate) this cult and get reliable data for their study.
The UFO cult waited in eager expectation to be exported away to another world. But, nothing happened! The group had to do something to deal with their disappointment because of the large amount of personal sacrifice each cult member had made -- particularly their leaders. While some members left in disgust, many members still stayed and hoped for answers. Soon, the leaders "rationalized" that the earth was spared for now; therefore, they should spread the message to the world and actively take new disciples into their cult.
I found the results of that study quite chilling when the implications finally dawned on me.
Perhaps since Jesus never came back from the dead, the disciples had nothing left to do but spread the gospel in order to deal with their disappointment. And, since he never came back for his growing church -- nothing was left to do except spread the faith even more.
And since the return of Jesus is constantly delayed, nothing is left to do but spread the Christian belief perpetually. Surely this could apply to any belief system where people make great personal investments and sacrifices.
Such a cycle just goes on and on -- far into the future.
Nonetheless, the fact still remains; Jesus is still 2000 years too late.