Part 3 (The Expectation of the Apostles)
By Ward Fenley


A word that was popular among first-century Christians was apekdechomai (to look). This term is used in several books to convey the nearness of resurrection life to first-century Christians. The first example is found in Philippians:

Philippians 3:20-21 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Whatever the constitution of this body, it is crucial that we observe the statement of imminence first before jumping to the assumption that the body is anything other than spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:44). Here, we notice the expectation of Paul and the Philippians as they looked for the Savior. The word look (apekdechomai) is fascinatingly translated in the NKJV as "eagerly awaiting." Thus, the text: Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ It is astonishing to observe the abundant readiness and expectancy of the first-century Christians. They were eagerly awaiting the Savior. Were they disappointed? The phrase that every first-century Christian embraced was "He that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Hebrews 10:37). Their hope was "He will come! He will not tarry!" This is why the Philippians could, with full assurance, eagerly await the Saviorís return. With the anticipated glorification in mind, their only thought was Christ in them, the hope of glory. The glorification of the saints is inseparable from their resurrection. The Philippians were eagerly awaiting their full resurrection life, or, the fullness of everlasting life.

Romans 8 also associates the same theme of resurrection and glory with eagerly awaiting:

Romans 8:16-25 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth (eagerly anticipates) for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting (eagerly anticipates) for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait (eagerly anticipates) for it. The Christians at Rome were, likewise, eagerly anticipating the return of the Savior to glorify them. They, as well as the creature (those who had fallen asleep in Christ), were eagerly anticipating this great event. In verse 19, the Greek word apokaradokia is used and is defined by Strongís as "intense anticipation." The questions that must be asked if one maintains a future coming is: why is there so much emphasis placed upon eagerly awaiting in the epistles? Also, why would this suddenly be such a major theme in not only the living saints but also those who had died in Christ as well? The dead in Christ were "subjected in hope." Not only them, but all who were alive at this time were subjected to the same hope. Once again, were they disappointed? Deluded? Deceived? Or, were they holding fast to the inerrant words of our Lord Jesus Christ?

The first epistle to the Corinthians contains an assertion in chapter one that would implicitly lead the readers to affirm that the coming of the Lord Jesus would be accomplished in their lifetime:

1 Corinthians 1:4-8 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Corinthians were encouraged to be "waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Here, also, the NKJV translates the word "waiting" as "eagerly waiting." Strongís defines the word as "expecting fully." Why would Paul exhort the Corinthians to eagerly expect the coming of Jesus Christ? Even more crucial is the promise that Paul made in saying that Christ would "confirm them to the end" (i.e. the end of the Jewish age-cf. Matthew 24:3; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Corinthians 10:11). Not only this, but he gave surety that those to whom grace had been given (verse 4) would be kept "blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." The problem of interpretation is not the difficulty of the passage; rather, the problem is adamant futurists insist on trying to fit the Bible into their own timeframe and worldview. However, through the plain design of the text, we can boldly say that Paulís intent with this passage is exactly what is written: the Corinthians were given assurance that their waiting for the coming of Christ would render the great dividend of His confirming them to the end, or the Day of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As was mentioned earlier, waiting was a prominent theme to first-century believers, chiefly because of the blessing that would be procured in patience (cf. Luke 21:19). The exhortation to the church at Galatia was equally admonished in their perseverance. This was eminently necessary in the case of Jews in danger of apostatizing. Of course, this was the principal reason for Paulís discourse to the Galatians. In the fifth chapter, he interjects a controlling impetus to compel the Galatians to endure the reproach and persecution of the apostate Jews:

Galatians 5:5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. The completion of righteousness and justification by faith was not obtained at this point in the first-century believerís life, which is why they were still hoping for their new kingdom which they were receiving (Hebrews 12:28). Keeping the faith and enduring were the pressing objectives in the hearts of the N.T. writers. In this passage, Paul assured the Jews at Galatia that he was waiting along with them for the righteousness promised to the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:7-9). Once again, the objector might argue that the death of the flesh was the intended hope in Galatians 5:5. However, this position is contrary to the expected hope of all first-century saints: the hope of righteousness, or, the hope of the New Heaven and New Earth wherein would dwell righteousness.

There is another word which is also translated "look," and that is the word prosdokao. In 2 Peter 3, the apostle uses the word to admonish Jewish Christians to ignore the mockers of the last days who were doubting (verses 3 and 4) the promise of the Lordís coming:

2 Peter 3:10-14 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. Those whom Peter addressed knew very well that the elements and works to which Peter referred were the O.T. rituals and system (Galatians 4:3-9). This is precisely why He reminded them (verse 1) that the prophets of old warned of these times (Acts 3:21-24). Peter used pressing language that would prompt their awareness of godly living. Because the Day was at hand, Peter showed them what manner of persons they were to be while "looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God." This is very significant as we remember that Peter was present at the Olivet discourse. Because of his keen eschatological knowledge, he, with Paul, understood that just as Jesus warned them that when certain signs came to pass they were to know that the time was near, so, likewise, Peter warned that the last days had come. Peter said, "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness." In other words, "because that Day is at hand and God is about to utterly waste the Temple, the Old Covenantal system, and its adherents, you had better be ready. Do not fall into the error of the scoffers." By this warning, he could be assured that those who were truly Christís would be "found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless." It is certain that any true Christian would not deny these compelling words of Peter and would, therefore, be prepared at the coming of the Lord.

Our Lord gave a parable which was mentioned earlier about those who would begin to say "My Lord delayeth His coming." The particular portion that is obviously related to 2 Peter 3 is found in the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 12:45-46 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. A question we must all consider is, why were the scoffers saying, "Where is the promise of His coming?" The scoffers, like the Pharisees of Matthew 21:45, knew that Christ was referring to them and their generation. The problem was, their generation was almost finished, and Christ still had not come and destroyed the Temple like He promised (Matthew 24:2). Of course, this would be inciting the God-hating Jews to mock the apostles, Christ, and the Way. Knowing this, Peter forewarned the Christians not to bend to lies of the enemies of the cross who consequently would be "cut in sunder and appointed his portion with the unbelievers."

Finally, the phrase eagerly awaiting is found in Hebrews as it pertains to the High Priest coming out of the holy of holies to declare that the sacrifice was accepted (Leviticus 16:17 cf. Revelation 15:8).

Hebrews 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. Again, in the King James Version, the word look is used. It is the same word translated eagerly awaiting. There is a clear promise in this passage. The promise is that He will appear for those that eagerly awaited Him. The questions are: Were the first-century Christians eagerly awaiting Christís return? If so, did Christ appear? The answer to the first question is a jubilant "yes" as is testified by the above passages. The second question, however, demands more attention. Did Christ appear? The promise was that He would appear for those who eagerly awaited Him. If, as the futurist affirms, He did not appear, then His integrity is at stake. But "what saith the Scripture?" "That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." Hebrews 6:18. Christ did, in fact, appear to those who eagerly expected Him to appear when He said He would appear-in their generation!

It is amazing how the book of Hebrews is the chief N.T. book that describes the transition between the two covenants (8:13). The present passage (9:28) specifies that Christ died at the "end of the age." This age was fully consummated when the old age finally did pass away with the destruction of the Temple, and Christ appeared the second time without sin unto salvation (2 Corinthians 3:11). The churchís eagerly awaiting the Saviorís return was simply the substance (Hebrews 11:1) of the type in Leviticus 16:17 of the congregation eagerly awaiting the High Priestís return after the atonement was made.

We have seen the Bibleís clear commands and expectations of eagerly awaiting the return of Christ. The simple command of waiting for the Lordís coming discloses the N.T. writersí anticipation of the appearing of Jesus Christ. Paul counseled the Thessalonians in this manner as well:

1 Thessalonians 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. Here, we see not only the command to wait for "His Son from heaven," we also see the promise and security of knowing that wrath was coming and that the Christians had been delivered from this wrath. Godís judgment and presence are inseparable and intimate events that would come upon the first-century generation.

Paul makes a strikingly similar statement in his second epistle to the Thessalonians:

2 Thessalonians 3:5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. Paul actually prays that the Lord would direct their hearts to wait for His coming. If it was not enough for Paul to make them think that Christís coming was near, now he is praying that the Lord would make them think, and know, and be assured that it was near, insomuch that God would cause them to actually wait for Him! The apostle directed Titus to the same watchfulness: Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Just as Paul gladdened the hearts of the Corinthians by imparting to them the knowledge of the inexpressible joy he would receive as he and they would be present at our Lordís coming, so, likewise, he conveys this same glad tiding to the Thessalonians: 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy. Again, the Thessalonians were assured by Paul that this great event of glory and resurrection life would soon be fulfilled. Paul, as is his manner, not only assured them of their partaking of the presence of Christ at His coming but also exhorted them in the Lordship of Jesus Christ that, if they were truly His, they would be loving one another and unblameable in holiness at His appearing: 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. Therefore, the promises and commands go hand in hand as first-century believers were about to experience the presence and kingdom of Jesus Christ.

A parallel passage to 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 is the monumental "rapture" text of 1 Thessalonians 4:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. It is the plain implication which this passage would have on the Thessalonians that will we ponder at this point. Paul first informs them that God will bring with Him those who had fallen asleep in Christ. "Bring with Him" is the phrase used because the first-century Christians were those who were alive and remaining at the Lordís coming who would experience this grand reunion. What relevance would this statement have at all to the Thessalonians if they were all going to be dead for two thousand years? More importantly, why would Paul even remotely build their expectation that they might be living when the Lord would come? The whole element of commanding them to "comfort one another with these words" was so they could rest assured that this glorious Day would, in fact, come upon them. Many inconsistent preterists will gladly affirm Christís use of the second person plural in Matthew 24. Their argument is that the people living in that first-century generation were those to whom Christ was referring in the Olivet discourse. However, these same inconsistent preterists have no answer when confronted with Paulís use of the first person plural in Thessalonians. He uses the phrase, "we which are alive." Was Paul mistaken in his assumption that those of the Thessalonians who were alive and remaining would experience this "rapture"? We dare not accuse the inspired apostle of such delusion! Perhaps more than anyone except the Lord, Paul understood the kingdom and its nearness. These Thessalonians fully placed their trust in these inspired writings of Paul. How despicable it would be for Paul, if he was not deluded, to dupe these hopeful Christians into thinking they would soon be with their loved ones in heaven. Ah, but thanks be to God that truly they, as well as all who believe, have sat down with "Abraham Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."

The Day of the Lord would truly come as a thief in the night. God, however, does not build hopes, mislead, and deceive His people just for the sake of getting them to live godly lives. God is a sovereign God who creates and causes every good work and godly action for His own pleasure and glory. Does He not have this power? "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?" Matthew 20:15. Why would God need to give misinformation just to make His people be watchful. God is a God of truth who admonished His people with truth because of the truth-namely, the truth that He was about to come:

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. Who were "they" of verse 3? The answer is found in chapter two of the same book: 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. The culprits persecuting the Christians were the apostate Jews. "They shall not escape." "They" were the same scribes and Pharisees of Matthew 23:13-39. They were the ones to whom Paul referred in 1 Thessalonians 5:3. Paul identifies the Christians as "ye brethren." He continued even more clearly to emphasize the fact that the Day of the Lord would not overtake them as a thief because if they were truly the elect of God, they would continue to watch and be sober (1 Peter 4:7). "Therefore" is again used in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 to qualify the nearness of the coming of the Lord. Paul proclaimed to them that the Day would come, and if they were not prepared, it would overtake them as a thief. He then advised, "Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober."

Lastly, in the book of Thessalonians, Paul, concludes with a promise by the will of God that is inescapable in its connotation:

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. "Who also will do it" is the promise that was made. Do what? Whether you are a trichotomist or a dichotomist in your view of the soul and body, if you are a futurist, you are going to have tremendous problems with this text. Paul prayed and promised that the Lord would preserve their whole spirit, soul, and body blameless at His coming. Regardless of the constitution of these elements, whether all two or three of them, Thessalonian converts would be thrilled about this promise. These converts were already familiar with the incredibly urgent nature of the letter. This last magnificent and inspiring promise, Paul knew, would render the life-changing effects that only the Word of God could perform: preparation for the imminent Day of the Lord.

The Greek word mello is an interesting word when considered as it is used in passages pertaining to eschatological imminence. We see an example of this in Paulís first epistle to Timothy:

1 Timothy 6:19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. The word mello is translated here "to come." Strongís first definition of the word mello is "through the idea of expectation; to intend, i.e. be about to be." With this in mind, the passage comes alive when this translation is used: 1 Timothy 6:19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time about to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. Consider these passages with the same word using the translation "about to come": Acts 24:15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there is about to be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.

1 Timothy 4:8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is about to come.

Hebrews 2:5 For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world about to come, whereof we speak.
Hebrews 6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world about to come,
Hebrews 13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one about to come.

2 Timothy 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is about to judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

Some modern "eschatologists" are propagating that Godís kingdom, appearing, and judgment are about to happen. The Bible, however, says that it was about to happen in Timothyís lifetime. Paul certainly would not command his right-hand man to preach that the kingdom, appearing, and judgment of God were about to take place if these events were not to happen for two millennia. The above verses become remarkably clear as we consider how imminent Christís coming really was, especially if we contemplate the mind of a first-century Christian and the eager expectation which was justifiably created in them.

We have already observed that first-century Christians were waiting for "the end" and that this end was referring to the end of the Jewish system and age (Matthew 24:1-3; 1 Corinthians 1:8). In Hebrews, however, the mindset of the professing converted Jews must be absorbed in our minds if we are to understand the purpose of the writer as he used the word end. As we noted earlier, Hebrews is a book about the transition from the Old Covenant and its world to the New Covenant and its world. The Christian Hebrews were anticipating the looming judgment that was to fall upon Jerusalem. The writer identified this destruction as "the end," and, accordingly, he repeatedly warned the professing Christians to endure until this end:

Hebrews 3:6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

Hebrews 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
Hebrews 6:11 And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

This same end is implied in chapter 10, especially when taken in context with "the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:22-37 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised; And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works 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 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. This is astonishing. Note the phrase, "The Lord shall judge His people." This is a quote from Deuteronomy 32:36-38 that exclusively refers to the Jewish people. The exhortation, once again, is to hold fast because His judgment is near! This passage correlates perfectly with the Olivet discourse in the gospel of Luke: Luke 21:19-36 In your patience possess ye your souls. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. The passage in Hebrews tells us that the Lord will judge His people, which were none other than the apostate Jews. Jesus tells His disciples that, in patience, they would possess their souls. He went on to speak of judgment and wrath upon "this people," clearly referring to unbelieving Jews.

After the detailed analysis of the types and shadows of the O.T. system, the writer of Hebrews then gives the prodigious account of the great men and women of faith (chapter 11). An amazing statement is made at the end of the chapter implying clearly that the promises and heavenly country for which the O.T. believers looked was about to be received by these O.T. saints and those who were living at the time of the destruction of the Temple (A.D.70):

Hebrews 11:39-40 And these all (O.T. saints), having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. The promise to which the writer was referring which first-century saints were receiving is none other than that for which Abraham and the rest of the O.T. saints were looking: Hebrews 11:10,13-16 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. This same City is that of Hebrews 12:22,23 which positively declares that first-century saints were the recipients: Hebrews 12:22-23 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, This City is none other than the dwelling place within the New Heaven and New Earth of 2 Peter 3.

Hetoimane is the Greek word used to convey the nearness of both the salvation and judgment of God in the book of 1 Peter. The first use of the word is found in the first chapter:

1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. This passage reveals what might be startling to most futurists: salvation to the pre-Parousia saints had not fully arrived. However, as the passage states clearly, it was ready to be revealed in the last time. The revealed salvation was Christ in them (Colossians 1:27). The word ready means exactly what is translated. No matter how much one may scramble, squirm, and twist, there is no way to escape the unmistakable implication that this passage has on the futuristsí view of what they would call ultimate salvation. The simple fact of this passage is that ultimate salvation was about to take place. Not only was it about to take place, it also was going to take place in the last time. Last time, here, simply refers to the last season of the Jewish Old Covenant economy, which, of course, was in the process of vanishing away (Hebrews 8:13). Jewish Christians alive at this time were very cognizant of the promise of Jesus to destroy the Temple and change the customs (Acts 6:14). Inseparable from the destruction of the Temple was the consummated salvation that would come to every Christian living at that time (John 11:25). Peter reminds his hearers of both events as is seen in this next passage: 1 Peter 4:3-7 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. The fact that God was about to judge the living and the dead is manifest in the words, "For this cause was the gospel preached to them that are dead." Why would the gospel suddenly be preached to the dead if they were not to be judged for another two thousand years? In the Revelation, we see another account of this same event: Revelation 11:18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. It is specifically because the judgment was about to happen that the gospel was preached to the dead so they would likewise be held accountable to be judged by the word of God (John 12:48).

Our concluding passage that we will assess carefully is found in the general epistle of Jude. The writer, after warning the flock against wolves that would creep into Christian circles and bring them damnable heresies, proceeds to give a description of the apostate in the last days. Jude established that apostates had arisen and that this torrent of false prophets was foretold by the apostles of the Lord:

Jude 1:17-25 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen. Like Peterís admonition in 2 Peter 2 and 3, Jude reminds his readers of what was spoken by the apostles of the Lord Jesus. He emphasizes the portent given by the apostles and the Lord that there would arise false prophets. Judeís caution was that these Christians would be mindful of this apostasy. With this caution, he makes the explicit statement that they are in the midst of what the apostles warned: the last time. The popular argument against the coming of Christ in A.D.70, as we have mentioned earlier, is that we have been in the last time for two thousand years. As has become profusely clear, this is an eschatological hoax that has beguiled many unsuspecting sheep and goats. Jude gives implicit admonition that defines the soon coming of the Lord Jesus: "Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." Those in the church who read this omen-focused epistle would undoubtedly heed and acknowledge the vigilance urged because they believed Jude to be an inspired writer of Scripture. Certainly, the true sheep of God would be looking for His mercy at His appearing to give them eternal life. Not only would they be looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of Jesus Christ, but they also trusted Him to "present them faultless before the presence of His glory." We must be careful to always search the Scriptures to understand the historical context of what the people were experiencing and how they were interpreting these letters. Judeís hearers were ever so mindful that the Lordís coming was imminent. This is not only based on the epistle of Jude, but also on the inspired writings of the apostles of which Jude said they were aware.

John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus were very united in their eschatological outlook. They both began their ministry with words that no other prophets used as pertaining to the Lordís final coming in judgment: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." What would incite their audience more to prepare for the coming desolation of the Jewish nation and religion? Urgency! Imminence! It was the nearness of Christís coming that was the compelling motive for first-century Christians to be on their guard against the heresies of the apostate Jews. Every writer of the N.T. impelled circumspection in the area of shunning attempts to be justified by the law, that they all would be presented blameless before Him at His coming. Only Godís true elect knew that Christ would come in the generation which He had promised, not in some far removed technological generation that had nothing to do with the judgment of national Israel. All the apostles knew this. Therefore, the N.T. epistles contain, in no uncertain terms, the strong warnings of impending doom upon the Jerusalem which was below; that the Jerusalem which was and is above would be inhabited by those sheep of God sovereignly elected and redeemed to experience His eternal Presence.


As we have seen, the very clear time statements of Scripture conveyed with certainty that the coming of the Lord was going to take place during their lifetime. We noted that a first-century recipient of one of the epistles would never assume that an inspired writer of the Bible would be trying to fool his audience. When Paul said "at hand," or James said "draweth nigh," the audience knew what the writers were communicating. There are numerous other passages that would positively lead the hearers to believe that Jesus was coming back during their generation. These passages will not contain such explicit time statements as those we have previously studied. Rather, these passages will expose the grammatically natural assumptions of the audience as they understood the Lord and the inspired apostles.

The denial of the time statements of imminence in Scripture should be recognized as a liberal-supporting doctrine that contradicts the fulfillment of Godís monarchy and glorified people. The position is unhealthy. I once was there. May God who is rich in mercy and compassion give His sheep understanding and show them the wealth of residing in the Heavenly Jerusalem, the City of the Living God.

Ward Fenley