IT'S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME
Part 1 (The Coming of the Lord Draweth Nigh)
By Ward Fenley

INTRODUCTION

A key issue in understanding the timing of the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and His redemptive work in fulfilling the Everlasting Covenant is the Bibleís explicit use of time statements. The modern "evangelical" world has insisted upon taking Godís precise time declarations and distorting them to fit a fleshly hope ( "Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things." Philippians 3:19). Most professing Christians are so engrossed in an eschatological outlook that will take them out of their miserable world that they misunderstand the nature of the kingdom of God. They are so consumed with a world that will give them perfect physical peace and health, that they totally disregard not only the abundance of Scripture that explains the nature of the kingdom but also the very clear time references that pertain to the imminence of the kingdom of God. Consequently, for many, their only hope is in a physically realized future kingdom and god and not in the present riches of the glory of Christ.

If you have gone through any eschatological battles concerning the kingdom of God, you probably have been confronted with the difficulty of what seem to be very definitive time statements. When I was a premillennial dispensationalist, I was confronted more than once by postmillennial moderate preterists (These are futurists who believe that all or most of the book of Revelation pertained to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, with the exception of the majority of chapter twenty. Many great Reformers, such as John Owen, were moderate preterists.) Those who affirmed the verity of the time statements kept bringing me back to the same passages:

Matthew 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

Revelation 1:3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

James 5:7-9 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

Philippians 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

1 Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

I remembered reading those words as a young teenager, and I thought, "It (the Second Coming) sure seems like it was supposed to take place back then!" Nevertheless, I could not let the moderate preterists know that. Therefore, I always responded, "Oh, but see, 2 Peter 3:8 says ĎBut, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.í " Then in my pride and tradition, I would interject, "Godís ways are not our ways," attempting to look like a spiritual superman in the eyes of men. As a premillennialist, I always followed the "literalist" interpretation. However, when confronted with the clear time references in Scripture, suddenly I would throw out my literalist hermeneutic.

God saw my heart. He alone knew of my neglect and misuse of certain Scriptures. Even the unknown deception that existed in my heart (Jeremiah 17:9) He was always seeing. "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Hebrews 4:13 cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:4. He shows such incredible mercy toward His children. He has been faithful in abasing and scourging this son whom He has received.

If you have gone through the same experience or a similar experience, know that you are not alone. Regardless of our past or our present, we are responsible for giving an answer to every man that asks a reason for the hope that is in us. Moderate preterists are gravely inconsistent. Even in my own ignorance, I could see their inconsistency. In spite of this inconsistency, God has called us to accept what is true and discard the rest. In other words, once God shows you His Truth, get the spoil (the Truth) and run for your Life (Romans 16:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 Timothy 1:13)!

THE COMING OF THE LORD DRAWETH NIGH

(Drawing Near)

There are several Greek words used in the N.T. for the phrase "at hand." We will focus on some of these words as they pertain to the nearness of the kingdom of God. First, however, there are some comparisons that need to be made with other passages that are not related.

We first see the phrase at hand in the ministry of John the Baptist. It is very interesting to note that the first proclamation of any warning or salvation message that John preached was, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 3:2. The phrase used here for at hand is the Greek word eggiken (angiken) and has the essential meaning of drawing near.

The futurist, of course, would argue from 2 Peter 3:8:

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. That is, Godís timing is not our timing; therefore, it could mean millions of years. In spite of this, many futurists affirm that we are in the last days. They make this claim based upon their analysis of certain events that are taking place throughout the world. Consequently, predictions are made to convince people that Jesus is about to come. A question that should be asked is: if one interprets the rest of the time statements with the thousand-years-as-a-day hermeneutic, why not use this hermeneutic with the phrase "last days" as it appears in Scripture? The reason: it would take away all the excitement of wild-eyed predictions of men like Hal Linsdey, Harold Camping, and hundreds of other false prophets. Yet, they tell us we are wrong for interpreting the time statements literally. This amounts to picking and choosing when they want to apply a literal hermeneutic with the time statements. Therefore, they neglect Scriptures they are unable to defend, especially when confronted with other Scriptures that support the same idea. There are several examples of the phrase at hand showing its meaning of obvious approaching nearness. The following Scriptures should make apparent that if we take the dangerous position of interpreting time statements in Scripture to not mean what they say, the Bible would lose all meaning as it pertains to time and space: Matthew 26:45-46 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

Luke 22:1 Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.

Even pertaining to physical proximity, we see the word eggizo or at hand used in a very transparent manner to show the nearness of the person or object. Luke 22:47 And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.
Luke 24:15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.

Acts 22:6 And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.
Acts 23:15 Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would inquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him.

These verses support the plain use of the term at hand or drawing near. To assume otherwise or impose vain twisting upon these words of God as they pertain to the coming of Christ is very dangerous and affects the continuity and integrity of Scripture.

The phrase at hand (eggizo) concerning the Day of the Lord should stand very clear in terms of intention and meaning as we see in these next passages.

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching (eggizo).

Romans 13:11-12 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

James 5:8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

1 Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand: be YE therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

A very important aspect of these passages of imminence is the use of words like, "ye," "your," and "our." Who were the apostles addressing? How would the audience on the receiving end of these letters interpret these time statements? According to the faulty interpretation of modern "evangelicals," the response of a first-century believer might be something like, "Well, Paul does not really mean what he saysÖor Peter for that matter. ĎAt handí does not really mean Ďat hand.í Peter, Paul, and James were just trying to keep them on their toes." If this were true, as many evangelicals affirm, would this not be lying against God and the first-century churches? There is one of three possibilities: Either Paul was misled because the Holy Spirit lied and did not lead him and the rest of the apostles in all truth; the apostles were liars and deceived thousands of church members; or they were telling the truth, and Jesus Christ did return when He and the apostles said He would. Using the thousand-years-as-a-day argument to interpret time statements in Scripture is vanity and makes God out to be a liar. God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar!

We also must consider the fact that the apostles were promised of God that He would lead them into all truth. Many professing Christians claim that the apostles really thought Jesus Christ was going to return in their generation, but that the apostles were mistaken. Would this not mean that Jesus lied to them?

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. Was the apostle Paul incorrect in assuming that the Day of the Lord was at hand or drawing near? If, in fact, he was led in all truth, why would he write a letter to poor, unsuspecting Christians building their hopes only to realize, "Oh, you mean Ďat handí really meant a thousand years? I sure wish somebody would have told me that thirty years ago." Neither Paul nor the rest of the apostles nor the churches to whom they were writing were mistaken.

Not only were the apostles certain that the Lord was returning in their generation, but they also were obeying a strict command of our Lord:

Matthew 10:7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Even the Lord Jesus preached His first gospel message with the identical words of John the Baptist. Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Very clearly, first-century believers knew that the Lordís coming was drawing near. Our Lord Jesus and His apostles knew that the Day of the Lord was approaching and would come upon their generation. The word of God abundantly supports this.

Ward Fenley


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