Revealing Revelation – What Time Is It? Part 2

14Mar11

I once heard a story about a famous televangelist who specialized in Biblical prophecy and who constantly ended his program with the phrase, “Jesus is Coming SOON.” When questioned on his consistent incorrect dating for the return of Christ he would answer with the phrase, “Well, a day is like a thousand years to the Lord.” By that he meant to express that soon to the Lord could be a very, very, VERY long time, maybe as much as a thousand years or more if that verse was to be taken “literally.”

Well, one day he was given the opportunity to speak directly with the Lord. The preacher asked God if it was true that a day was like a thousand years. The Lord responded in the affirmative. The man then, using that train of logic asked if one dollar was a million dollars to God. The Lord responded with a yes.

“If that is true Lord, then can I have a “dollar?”

“Sure,” the Lord responded, “tomorrow!”

To continue our discussion of the time text and indicators we will now turn our attention to how the rest of Scripture uses the exact same terms as those found in Revelation and then discover how best to interpret them here. We will also address the point above and how it is important that we do not project a truth about God into the word of God that it never intended to convey.

Before doing so let’s consider the terms near, at hand and soon. What should one consider when they hear those terms used? Should one consider that the subject in question would be far off or a long time from taking place? What is the normal and “literal” usage of those terms?

Perhaps you are a parent of a teenage girl. Her room is always a mess and you have finally had enough. You demand the room needed to be cleaned soon. Would you expect your daughter to understand your request to mean that she had at least two thousand years to complete the task?

Perhaps you need the room cleaned because you had guests coming over and they were “near.” Should your daughter understand that phrase to mean that they were miles and miles away?

Obviously in both cases we would, using the normal and literal rules of language understand that your daughter needed to immediately clean her room since the guests that were coming were in a very close proximity. But for some reason we allow these terms to mean something expressly different when it’s used by the God of the universe whose words are never false. Remember, as we mentioned in the previous post, the Lord wrote these words for our benefit, not for His.

When one writes a letter to another person it is always important to note that in order for communication to be successful words and phrases must be chosen that express things in a way the recipient will understand. It is no different with the Lord. He inspired the writers of His word to express what he desired in a way that WE would understand.

We also have to ask ourselves what would happen to prophecy in general if the time text used within them were fluid? Would we ever trust the word of the Lord if He constantly changed the rules of language and the timing of those events predicted would take place? Of course not!

It is precisely because when the Lord speaks it is always truthful that the time texts must remain in tact and be understood in their natural, normal usage. As mentioned a while back regarding the limit of the time of exile in Babylon, what would Daniel think about the trustworthiness of the words of God if rather than being in exile for the 70 years determined, the Israelites were in exile for 100, 200, 500 or more years? The same must hold for when He chooses terms like near, soon and at hand.

A DAY IS LIKE A THOUSAND YEARS

So, what do we do with the above mentioned verse that is often rolled out when prophecy experts miss their dates or try to avoid the obvious time texts and context?

2 Peter 3:8  But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Interestingly enough, some have taken this verse to such an extreme that they have determined that the days of creation are a pattern for all of history. The concept is that since there are seven days of creation then there will be seven thousand years of history. The seventh day would be the Millennium. So, we should be in the millennium right now since this is, according to some, the seventh millennium of human history.

Most, though, use the above verse as an explanation for why when God used terms like soon, near and at hand, that it could actually refer to a long period of time. But, as mentioned previously, prophetic passages are not meant to reveal something like the nature of God, but are rather used to predict when certain things are going to happen. Peter may be reflecting on the nature of God and His being “outside of time” but John in Revelation is giving his readers a time indicator as to when these events were going to take place. God is not limited by time, but we, His audience, are limited!

One other note, if we are going to take the above as literal as many Dispensationalist do and wrench it out of it’s context, then let’s consider the second half of that verse.

2 Peter 3:8  But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

If the second half is just as true as the first half then why cannot someone simply state that the millennium will actually only last one day! Just trying to be consistent in the illogical use of this passage to determine whether the words soon, near and at hand mean something other than what they normally intend! Remember, it is the intention of the book of Revelation to reveal Christ, not cover things up!

One last thought on these words and the arguments used to denounce a early fulfillment expectation. It is argued, like in the Olivet Discourse, that it is when the reader sees these events taking place that they will happen quickly. It is not that the events were close in proximity to John’s day, but rather that the speed at which the arrive when they do arrive will be swift.

That may in some way deal with the term quickly in some translations, but it does not help in understanding the terms near or at hand. Also, one must ask themselves which is easier to understand in helping one decipher the timing of the events; the time indicators (near, soon, at hand, this generation) or the events that appear to be taking place that are COMMON in nearly every generation?

Obviously the time texts are outside of subjective guessing like the events in each generation. The mountain of books written in each generation depicting the end of the world and soon coming of Christ should serve as a warning to this.

So, now what do we do with those terms as found in other passages and how are they used. Will their usage elsewhere help us understand how the should be considered here in Revelation? I will list below several verses using common language and term usage and then ask how best to interpret those passages.

Luke 21:29-30 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. [30] As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near.

Should we assume from this passage and what we know of horticulture that when leaves appear on a tree that summer is actually a great distance off and may not ever arrive?

Matthew 24:33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

So, using the futurist understanding of these terms, should we assume that the gates are really, really far away? Nonsense. The term obviously refers to the closeness of the person arriving…he is at the gate, a place very close in proximity to the speaker.

Matthew 26:45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “…See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

This was said mere moments before Judas and the Roman guard arrived to arrest Jesus. But again, using the futurist logic, Judas and the Roman guard must have been somewhere around Kentucky when Jesus said this!

Matthew 26:46-47 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” [47] While he was still speaking, Judas came

Note here how when Jesus said this Judas arrives immediately. There was no delay in understanding that at hand was meant to signify close proximity not miles or years away.

John 11:55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand

So, just when was Passover? In actuality it was within a few days, but using the futurist logic He must have been referring to a Passover thousands of years in the future.

Matthew 26:18 He said, “…My time is at hand…”

Jesus, speaking of His death, must have been mistaken. Surely His time meant He should not have died for another two thousand years!

Now, consider the passage below and how the opposite of the above terms is used.

John 7:6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come...

Jesus, again here referring to His death, notes that it was still in a distant future of some sort by stating that His time had not yet come and that His time was not at hand. This takes place just a few years before His death. If “not yet” means only a few years than how can “at hand” or “soon” mean two thousand plus years in the future?

So, as can be plainly seen, the terms used elsewhere is Scripture obviously refer to a time of immediate proximity. There is no gap of time. In fact, as noted in the last verse above, a future understanding of time was seen as being “not yet,” and that was relating to only a couple of years. We must not and cannot play loosely with the word of God to fit our eschatological model, even if it means forcing a paradigm shift in our thinking and the skewering of some of our most sacred cows.

Let God be true and man a liar…

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