But I fear the discussion of this one passage is getting away from the bigger New Testament picture. Do you maintain that when Paul wrote, "we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air," (1 Thess. 4:17) he did not believe he was going to be among those still alive at Jesus' return? Or that when Paul stated in 1 Cor. 7:29 that the "time is short" and advised his readers to live as though the end was at hand, he didn't really think the end was at hand? Do you maintain that the author of 1 John 1:18 believed "the end" to be in a future generation: "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"? Or that when Jesus pronounced that "some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom" (Matthew 16:27-28), he had a future generation in mind? Or that when he said to his disciples in Matthew 10:23, "When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes," he meant that there would still be towns in Israel to go through in the year 2012? If God inspired the New Testament writers, and he knew that Jesus was not going to return in the generation then living, is the reference to "the ends of the earth" (and the 1 Peter passage you quoted, which I'll come to momentarily) the best he could have done to make it clear he wasn't in fact going to return in that generation, as all the above passages suggest? I see this as an illustration of the principle I alluded to in an earlier comment: the smartest committed believers (among whom I'll count you) are the best equipped for devising ingenious solutions to the challenges to their faith. But we have to stop and ask ourselves: is this what the text is really pointing to, or is it just a way to sidestep the weight of the problem?
I'll close with a general observation that those who purport to foretell future events almost always have in mind a fulfillment in their own lifetime. Take Harold Camping's prediction that Jesus would return on May 21, 2011. Are we to suppose that his advancing age had nothing to do with his choice of 2011 rather than, say, 2100? Is it a coincidence that Hal Linsey is convinced Jesus will return in his generation? Or that William Miller predicted Jesus' return in 1844, when Miller happened to be living? Or that the New Testament writers believed they were living in the generation of the parousia? (Even the author of 2 Peter, who used the day-is-a-thousand-years argument, goes on in 2 Peter 2 to warn his readers of Jesus' impending return.) I'm not saying that no one has ever prophesied about events specified to take place after the death of the seer, but surely it must be a very rare exception. After all, of what benefit is it to the seer if the fulfillment is going to take place after he's dead? This being the case, should it surprise us that the very human New Testament Christians believed they were part of the end times?