When Does 'Soon' Mean Soon?

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Greetings pilgrims,

I was going to put this in the Revelation and Eschatology forum but decided it's better here.

I have often laughed as I read the many places in the Bible that the Lord says He would do thus and such soon, or quickly, or the time is at hand, and the thing didn't take place for hundreds and even thousands of years.

When Jesus spoke to the seven churches in Revelation Chapter 2 and 3, I get it, soon meant soon. But there are many places in the Bible where soon does not mean soon at all.

I have been studying the early church from the Apostles to about 350 AD, and I have found these verses have contributed to much false hope and faulty doctrines of eschatology. The problem started even during the days of the Apostles. (2 Thessalonians 2:1‭-‬2; 3:6-12) It seems that every generation thought that soon meant them; from the days of the first Christians and continuing today

So my question to you is, how are we supposed to take these verses, and when do we know soon doesn't mean soon and when it does?

Thanks.

Several examples verses in Revelation that have resulted in a lot of havoc over the years:

Revelation 22:6‭-‬7 ESV
And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Revelation 22:10‭-‬12 ESV
And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.

Revelation 22:20 ESV
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I think the emphasis may be misplaced. It is not when, but what will be done, namely that Jesus comes or is coming. When we determine what the verb means we can properly understand the adverb.

Consider that God is said to have come down to Babel and Sodom but we do not believe that a spiritual being who encompasses and surpasses the physical universe in any way has truly moved from one position to another. Scripture speaks similarly when it says that God visited his people in their distress but we do not mean to say that he is now there when he previously was not. Rather, all this means is that God is manifesting himself in space and time in a new way.

So when Christ is said to come, are we required to believe that in every instance he returns bodily (i.e. to judge the world) or does it mean, as above, that he will be present with his church in a special way? We do see this elsewhere in Revelation. Granted that it is a conditional threat, but since Jesus says in Revelation 2:5 that he will come quickly (taxu the same word used in Revelation 22) to remove Ephesus' candlestick if they do not repent, we would not conclude that Christ will suddenly appear bodily but manifest his judgment.

Indeed, the Lord is said to come with his reward for every one's work (Revelation 22:12) which may make us the second coming. However, in Revelation 2:23 the judgment against Jezebel in Thyatira will happen in real (or pre-judgment) time because Jesus promises sickness, tribulation and death. This is directly parallel to the reward for all, "according to your works" (vs. 23).

Moreover, whether you are a futurist, historicist, idealist or preterist, the truth of the matter is that the promises and threats of the book of Revelation are unfulfilled from the standpoint of when it was written. The Lord could simply mean, therefore, that the events that have been predicted are about to begin to be fulfilled as he comes to work out his will in the life of the church and the nations of the earth.
 
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Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Greetings pilgrims,

I was going to put this in the Revelation and Eschatology forum but decided it's better here.

I have often laughed as I read the many places in the Bible that the Lord says He would do thus and such soon, or quickly, or the time is at hand, and the thing didn't take place for hundreds and even thousands of years.

When Jesus spoke to the seven churches in Revelation Chapter 2 and 3, I get it, soon meant soon. But there are many places in the Bible where soon does not mean soon at all.

I have been studying the early church from the Apostles to about 350 AD, and I have found these verses have contributed to much false hope and faulty doctrines of eschatology. The problem started even during the days of the Apostles. (2 Thessalonians 2:1‭-‬2; 3:6-12) It seems that every generation thought that soon meant them; from the days of the first Christians and continuing today

So my question to you is, how are we supposed to take these verses, and when do we know soon doesn't mean soon and when it does?

Thanks.

Several examples verses in Revelation that have resulted in a lot of havoc over the years:

Revelation 22:6‭-‬7 ESV
And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Revelation 22:10‭-‬12 ESV
And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.

Revelation 22:20 ESV
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

In the three verses you quote from Revelation, would not the context be the imminent nature of Christ's return? Imminent in that it can happen at any time, not necessarily in a short period of time as we judge time.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Moreover, whether you are a futurist, historicist, idealist or preterist, the truth of the matter is that the promises and threats of the book of Revelation are unfulfilled from the standpoint of when it was written. The Lord could simply mean, therefore, that the events that have been predicted are about to begin to be fulfilled as he comes to work out his will in the life of the church and the nations of the earth.

I could have quoted your whole post. They were all good thoughts.
Thanks
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
In the three verses you quote from Revelation, would not the context be the imminent nature of Christ's return? Imminent in that it can happen at any time, not necessarily in a short period of time as we judge time.

Thanks, Herald,

You gave a precising definition of how you are using the word 'imminent,' which was helpful.

The lemma 'ταχύς' is used 13 times in the ESV. In every case except the Revelation, it is translated 'quickly,' except Mark 9:39 ESV, which is also translated 'soon.' In every case (in my opinion), the word means 'soon' as it relates to time. The verses are listed below.
Matthew 5:25 ESV; Matthew 28:7 ESV; Matthew 28:8 ESV; Mark 9:39 ESV; Luke 15:22 ESV; John 11:29 ESV; James 1:19 ESV. - I didn't list the six times in Revelation.

It is easy to see why the Apostolic and post-Apostolic Church often thought the coming of Jesus was imminent.

Here's the first definition of the Oxford Dictionary of imminent.

1. Of an event, etc. (almost always of evil or danger): Impending threateningly, hanging over one's head; ready to befall or overtake one; close at hand in its incidence; coming on shortly.
 

SeamusDelion

Puritan Board Freshman
So my question to you is, how are we supposed to take these verses, and when do we know soon doesn't mean soon and when it does?
Logos Bible Software


Open a lexicon and check out the word. However, I think in this context He is referring to how He will come and not when He will come. I have charted for you some examples. I do believe when Jesus comes it will be without hesitation and a quick happening event. Matthew 24:38-41
38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,
39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.
41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.

Imagine eating and drinking one moment then being swept away by the flood the next. So shall be the coming of the Son of Man. :p Hope this insight helps. I am not much of a theologian. I just use Logos well.



ταχύς -ας, ἡ;(tachys),adv.,adj.quickly.Hebrew equivalent:מהר 1(4),
מִדְבָּר1(1),קלל(1).
Adverb Usage
1.promptly— with little or no delay. Related Topics:Haste;Papyrus Plant.
Mt 5:25ἴσθιεὐνοῶντῷἀντιδίκῳσουταχὺ ἕωςὅτουεἶ
bemaking friendswithaccuseryourquicklywhile[-]you are
μετʼ
with
Mt 28:7ταχὺ πορευθεῖσαι
quicklygo
Mt 28:8||ἀπελθοῦσαιταχὺ ἀπὸτοῦμνημείουμετὰφόβουκαὶχαρᾶς
[they] departedquicklyfromthetombwithfearandjoy
μεγάλης
great
Lk 15:22Ταχὺ ἐξενέγκατεστολὴντὴνπρώτηνκαὶἐνδύσατεαὐτόν,
quicklybring outrobethebestandput [it] onhim
Jn 11:29ἐκείνηδὲὡςἤκουσενἠγέρθηταχὺ
that onesowhenshe heard [it]got upquickly
2.soon— in the near future.
Re 3:11ἔρχομαιταχύ·
I am comingquickly
Re 11:14ἰδοὺοὐαὶτρίτηἔρχεταιταχύ.
beholdthewoe[-]thirdis comingquickly
Re 22:7καὶἰδοὺἔρχομαιταχύ·
andbeholdI am comingquickly
Re 22:12Ἰδοὺἔρχομαιταχύ,
beholdI am comingquickly
Re 22:20Ναί·ἔρχομαιταχύ.
yesI am comingquickly
 
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