A women’s lifetime of dreams is upon her. Other than her commitment to Christ many years earlier, the most magnificent day has finally arrived. She is about to wed the love of her life. While readying herself in the bride’s quarters she can hardly contain herself. Soon she will walk those few glorious steps down the aisle to meet her man.
As she waits patiently she’s given word that the groom has not yet arrived. Of all days to be late! But there’s no cause for alarm since there’s still time. She knows in her heart that he’ll be along any minute so she tries as best she can to relax. As her mind runs wild, she begins to wonder if something’s gone awry—her groom has always been abundantly faithful.
The bride’s spirit is quieted somewhat as she’s given word that he will “soon” appear at the altar awaiting his beautiful bride. Minutes pass and the bride continues to sit without her beloved as tensions begin to rise. Another word from the groom’s best man is such heartening news—he is now said to be arriving “shortly”. The anticipation grows with these more imminent words but still no groom as the clock keeps ticking and the guests grow impatient, evidenced by their ensuing chatter.
A note of certainly has sprung from the groom’s entourage and the maid of honor whispers the good news to the bride saying, “It’ll be a very little while”. He must be right outside the church she surmises. She’s hardly able to contain her eager anticipation. Her hopes continue to heighten. The rush is coming. Her heart begins pounding wildly. Another encouraging report saying, “it’s the last hour”, his coming is “at hand”. Her enthusiasm crescendos to a new pinnacle. She can hardly stand still. Her Groom is about to appear. She can feel his presence!
Now hours have passed and no Groom is in sight. All the guests but the parents have returned to their respective homes. The bride, sobbing and downtrodden, experiences untold sorrow. “But he was on his way. Why didn’t he come? And why did they continue to tell us that he’d be here soon?” She felt the epitome of rejection, telling her maid of honor that it would have been better to have never loved than to go through this tortuously agonizing trial.
Days pass and still no Groom as the bride grew increasingly despondent. Weeks and still no sign of him. Not even a Word from his parents. Years are now in the books and although the bride was clearly grief stricken, she had moved on. Her faith was irreparably shattered, no longer able or willing to trust her Groom even if He did one day return.
And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 (ESV)
It is my conviction that neither Jesus nor His 2nd Testament authors spoke presumptuously. However, if in the prevailing belief today, God did not carry out His “second coming” plans within the “this generation” (first century) time frame stipulated by Jesus, how then do we consider God faithful under the rules He laid down in Deut 18? Faithfulness is predicated upon timely fulfillment. How could any prophet be judged either truthful or presumptuous if there are no time constraints placed on their prophecies?
The God we serve has never been late for anything and I don’t believe Jesus needed to purposely confuse His 1st century followers nor the immediate generations to follow, in order to artificially create a sense of perpetual expectancy. If there was a concerted attempt to deliberately mislead by using clearly understood speech (like shortly and at hand etc.), why is that not considered lying? I understand why we attempt to do it because we don’t like the implications but don’t you think we’d be better off stopping these kinds of private interpretations and force ourselves to deal with understanding these statements in context?
The atheists are picking up on this and are beginning to turn up the heat. In my view, we will continue to lose influence as long as we allow this kind of interpretational free for all where plain language is totally distorted. Men like Dan Barker, a preacher turned atheist, base their doubts in part upon the premise of the wedding parable. So the reason for their atheism has nothing to do with Scriptural veracity or consistency and everything to do with their common Church-ordained misinterpretations of Scripture.
Throughout human history “soon” may have had a slightly varied meaning. In the first century with camels dominating the dusty roadways, “soon” and “shortly” may not have had the exact same urgent intensity that we give them today. However, there is no scenario where “in a very little while” or “quickly” could possibly be stretched 2,000 years.
Every detail of Jesus life, from birth to death, was with a watchmaker’s precision, meticulously orchestrated by the Father. Nothing escapes His sovereignty. The redemptive design was conceived before the foundation of the world. God’s plans are never foiled. Unfortunately the wedding parable is a consistent logical extension of what most believe concerning God’s last days eschatological appointment.
Only a faithless generation (in which I was firmly entrenched for 33 years) lacks the confidence to comprehend the real time faithfulness of God as laid out in the NT. If Jesus was not faithful to the heavily persecuted direct recipients of His and His NT author’s time laden promises, why do we expect Him to be faithful to us? Isn’t faithfulness predicated upon the timely fulfillment of a promise?