Jesus announced His return as imminent (Matt 10:23; 16:28; Mark 1:15; 9:1; Luke 21:31-32; cf. Matt 24:42-44; 25:1-13; Mark 13:33- 37; Luke 12:35-38; 21:34-36), and so it was expected by the early believers (Acts 3:19-21; Rom 13:11; 1 Cor 7:29-30; 15:51-58; 16:22; 1 Thess 4:15-18; Heb 10:25, 37; Jas 5:8; 1 Pet 4:17). On the other hand, He also left the disciples a worldwide mission (Matt 24:14; 26:13; Mark 13:10; Acts 1:8; cf. Rev 14:6), which requires time, and two thousand years later it seems that the church is still quite far from finishing it. This apparent contradiction has intrigued a number of scholars, and several solutions have been offered throughout the years. One of such solutions, which greatly affects the interpretation of Luke-Acts, goes as far as to suggest that the disciples’ mission was fabricated by Luke with no other purpose than to solve the issue of the delayed Parousia. The idea is that the adjournment of the eschatological hope had become such a major source of anxiety for the church that Luke decided to provide a definitive answer for it: he abandoned altogether the belief in Jesus’ soon return and, by envisioning the church’s world mission, pushed the final consummation into the distant future. In so doing, he devised a third phase in sacred history, one that was not originally within Jesus’ eschatological horizons: the period of the church; the other two being the OT period and the ministry of Jesus.1 Though this particular reconstruction has been severely criticized,2 the difficulty to reconcile the promise of an imminent return with the church’s mission remains. This essay is not intended to assess the issue of Luke’s eschatology and the debate around it.3 Instead, it will argue that, though Luke does admit a delayed fulfillment of the church’s expectation associated with the preaching of the gospel, he has not done away with the idea of an imminent end, and that the tension between both concepts goes back to Jesus Himself—it seems to have been deliberately conceived to keep the church healthy and functional. Much of the discussion will hinge on Acts 1:6-8.



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