In a lengthy piece of prose (which contains mostly scriptural quotations) titled The Lowdown on God's Showdown, former Christian Edward Babinski lays out his case that the Apostles and Jesus Himself had to be mistaken about the "close" return of Christ. He writes:
If Jesus and his apostles, for whatever motives, were mistaken in a matter of this consequence, how could I be certain that any one of them may not be mistaken in any other matter?
So, exactly what is the lowdown on God's showdown? Is it that Jesus, the "false prophet," may not have been "neurotic" after all? No. The lowdown on God's showdown is that it never took place as predicted. And how likely is it to occur in our era, when the most "inspired" believers, living and writing in Jesus' era, including Jesus himself, were certain that it was going to occur in theirs? Believers in an inerrant Bible should wonder why the Bible's error's concerning this matter are so plainly visible. But then, as Arthur Koestler once pointed out, "Faith is a wondrous thing; it is not only capable of moving mountains, but also of making you believe that a herring is a race horse." Indeed, how can Christianity compete for world-wide approval against the host of faiths and non-faiths that now litter the earth, when its own holy book informs whomever reads it that the race to demonstrate the superior truth of Christianity ended 2000 years ago by Jesus' own admission?
It is commonly understood that the early Christians believed that Christ would return to earth in their lifetime. Babinski claims that Jesus had a similar expectation of His imminent return as well. It is true that their expectations went unmet. He even quotes a couple of theologians, including C.S. Lewis, that such an expectation was a mistake on Jesus' part (on account of his limited human knowledge of end-times events).
However, do the internal thoughts of the apostles affect the integrity of the Christian faith? Is a certain eschatology a fundamental? Was Jesus speaking out of ignorance and vulnerable to mistake? Is this, in fact, a "matter of this consequence?"
Even if I were to admit that both Jesus and the Apostles were mistaken, it makes little difference that they expected something that did not occur. Of the Second Coming, Jesus Himself states, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matt. 24:36). An imminent return is nonspecific. To put things into perspective, the imminent arrival of the Messiah was also an unwavering expectation of the Jews throughout their history. Yet, from the time of the first prophecy in Genesis 3 until the actual time of the birth of Messiah was no less than six thousand years (depending on one's chronology).
Babinski may have a point worth debating, but unless it's the year 10,083, I think he's jumping the gun.