As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to more fully address to whom and for what reason the New Testament prophecies were written. Many today live under the assumption that they were written to, and about, us. Jesus and the apostles, however, use a lot of “soon” language in reference to the end times (aka the end of the age). Have you ever wondered why such wording was used, yet today we insist it hasn’t happened yet?
First, there has been much research done and a general acceptance that most of the Old Testament prophecies have already been fulfilled. The problem is more in the New Testament prophecies.
In this particular post, I wanted to focus more on the timeline in which these prophecies were to take place—that is, soon.
For brevity’s sake, I will only list some of the more appropriate and direct verses:
Revelation 1:1; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20
These verses appear to be fairly straight forward if we let them speak for themselves. It’s when an external meaning is attempted to be retrofitted that they become confusing and lose their original intent.
In addition to the above, the apostles also taught this soon theology in regards to these same prophecies.
So what’s the point of bringing up this timing issue? Either the events have already happened like Jesus said they would, and the apostles reiterated, or we have to do theological gymnastics to justify our stance that these things haven’t taken place yet.
One of the verses commonly used to circumvent the “soon” terminology is 2 Peter 3:8. This verse is referencing God’s patient in bringing judgment on Israel, but now that Jesus had come, delivering a timetable (that generation), the judgment would commence, and the new age would be fully substantiated, very soon.
A second verse like this is when Jesus states that no one knew the day or time, but only Father did (Matt 24:36). How could Jesus state “soon” if he didn’t know? The question is answered from the other verses (above). Jesus knew it would be within that generation and that some standing there would in no way taste of death until they saw it. The day and hour, however, weren’t specified.
Another view is that prophecy can mean multiple things, having a double or triple meaning and fulfillment. However, this isn’t how prophecy worked in the Old Testament, and isn’t how it works in the Bible all together. A prophetic passage always related directly to the specified event or people. In addition, if a passage can have multiple meanings, we can manipulate scripture to mean whatever we want. If scripture can have any meaning, then it has no meaning at all. I believe this to be also communicated in Rev 22:18-19 as adding to or taking away from what was originally intended to be heard by those the passages are written directly to. Revelation, for example, is written to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Why would Jesus give assurances to these churches that wasn’t relevant to their lives? Why would the apostles give the same kind of false hope to the recipients of their epistles?
Yet another view is that Jesus and the apostles wanted everyone to be ever vigilant throughout all of human history. This is a bit of a stretch as it would give false hope of deliverance from oppression to those that the messages of “soon” were delivered. This was a large part of the prophecy—that the extreme persecution would come to an end, and soon. The call was to be on the lookout for “The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.” Great for those being delivered from oppression, terrible for those doing the oppressing. The idea, I believe, was for the sheep not to be caught up with the goats (Matt 25:32—this was part of the same prophecy), but instead, flee from Judea when they saw the signs of the judgment coming lest they be caught in the tribulation also.
So this is my view of the “soon” terminology used. Overall, the topic of New Testament prophecy goes much deeper, but I only wanted to point out how the timetable was applied relevant to those that were originally receiving these messages. I may continue deeper into this as God prompts.
One last question for thought—If that Day was to be within a generation, and some of those that heard the prophecy would live to see its fulfillment, when did it actually happen?