AUDIENCE TIME IN THE
Part 3 (The Expectation
of the Apostles)
THE EXPECTATION OF THE APOSTLES
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
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
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
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
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
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
Paul makes a strikingly similar statement in his second epistle to the
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
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
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
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
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
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
Hebrews 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning
of our confidence stedfast 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
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.
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:
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
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
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
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.
/ KOSG Home