Think about a world where time is meaningless. Jesus said, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. What if the disciples wondered which “at hand” Jesus was referring…the “soon” variety or the “indefinite period” version, where a day can be a thousand years? Once you destroy the meaning of time, communication drastically loses focus and purpose and Scripture becomes a free-for-all interpretational nightmare.
How about God telling Joshua to march around the walls of Jericho for seven, 1,000 year days? 🙂
References to time are laced throughout Scripture and thankfully we understand what “soon”, “at hand”, “shortly and “in very a little while” mean…well that is until we arrive at the passages that involve prophecy. Then all of a sudden we invoke the 2 Peter 3:8 clause and time becomes rather elastic. As famous theologian/philospher R.C. Sproul argues, giving way to this fallacy has allowed a huge breach in Scriptural integrity. In his book, “The Last Days According to Jesus”, R. C. writes, “This generation will by no means pass away,” Jesus said in the Olivet Discourse, “till all these things are fulfilled.” [Matt 24:34] “These things” include “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.” Critics like Bertrand Russell (author of “Why I Am Not a Christian“) cite this passage as proof that Christ’s teaching was “defective.” Sproul believes Christians have not always answered these critics convincingly.”
Do we truly answer them convincingly? I surely don’t think we have. We offer equivocation and excuses and in my view don’t rightly handle the Word of Truth. Doesn’t it bother you that we (modern day Christians) have willingly ignored the first century imminent 2nd coming claims of Christ? If He said that He would return (parousia, which means arrival with a consequential presence) while some of His devout followers were still alive (Matt 16:27-28) why is it that we choose to disbelieve Him?
I think it has everything to do with the presuppositions that create our paradigm (worldview). We confuse the nature of His intended return and therefore are forced to ignore His stated timing? This kind of thing bothered me a great deal and is what originally motivated my extensive journey that thankfully brought me back to Christ. Although my views concerning things eschatological have radically changed, my commitment to the inspiration of God’s Word has increased one hundred fold.
No literature is functional without a concrete view of time, yet when we come to Scripture we’ve been duped to believe that time can suit our fancy. An attorney was once asked, “How long is soon?” “As long as you like”, he replied. Funny? Not so fast. Not when it comes to the Word of God.
Have you ever asked yourself why we began interpreting time schizophrenically? Why when Jesus made the emphatic “this generation” claim (not “that” generation),we refuse to take Him at His word? Why when 2,000 years ago Peter wrote, “The end of all things is near” (1 Pet 4:7), when Paul penned, “the time is short…the form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor 7:29, 31), or as John proclaimed, “The world is passing away…children it is the last hour,” (1 John 2:17-18) do we choose to ignore these rather explicit statements in context as though they’re addressed directly to us? How have we drifted so far off the course of time integrity?
Do we do it with extra-Biblical literature? Does my wife Debbie ever mysticize time in her writings? (BTW, shameless plug: “Mom Needs Chocolate“is hot off the press – it would make a wonderful Mother’s Day gift!) Do we do it when we communicate with one another? Is there anything in the Bible that encourages us to ignore time references as though they don’t exist? In other words, did Jesus, Paul, John or Luke ever tell their followers to take time relatively or figuratively? Is time ever allegorized as per a parable? Are there any instances of its abuse in the OT? I believe our willingness to destroy the integrity of time has lead to a whole host of inspiration issues.
Let’s follow the usage of a time word and see how it’s been interpreted. The Greek work “tachos”, means “quickly, shortly, soon”. It appears 7 times in the NT including the 3 verses directly below.
And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. (Acts 12:7)
And I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.‘ (Acts 22:18)
Festus then answered that Paul was being kept in custody at Caesarea and that he himself was about to leave shortly. (Acts 25:4)
In each of the verses above, is there any question that “tachos” meant quickly or shortly? Now consider “tachos” as it was used by John the Revelator in both the first and last chapters of Revelation:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, (Rev 1:1)
And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true “; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. (Rev 22:6)
How can we justify extending the meaning of these words from “soon” to 2,000 years? Real flesh and blood people were counting on the imminent implications of the promises contained in this Book. Put yourself in the mind of one of the direct recipients of the Revelation. You were one who was with Jesus just prior to His death/resurrection, when He said, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28)
It’s now some 37 years later (AD 67) and John’s Revelation is delivered to your church in Pella. (No it wasn’t written in AD 96) You recently arrived at Pella after heeding Jesus’ admonition to flee Jerusalem when you saw the Holy City surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20-21). Now hear the Word of the Lord! As the scroll is read aloud, you are heartened to the point of tears by the very first verse: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place.” Finally your long wait is about to end. Your Savior is going to silence the mockers (2 Pet 3) and return in judgment upon the clouds of His glory within the generation He promised! Hallelujah! As the reading continues you are captivated by the rich imagery and apocalyptic language. Much of it is familiar to you as you recognize the many quotes from the prophets of old.
When the reader reaches the 2nd to the last verse of the final chapter you hear the familiar refrain. “Surely I am coming soon”? (Rev 22:20) Don’t you feel unspeakable joy? Finally the vindication Paul promised just a few years ago. “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thes 1:6-9) And slightly later in 2 Thes you remember hearing, “We who are alive and remain…” Aren’t you excited?!!!
(to be continued…)