Part 2 (The Time is at Hand)
By Ward Fenley



If the apostles were correct in saying that the coming of the Lord Jesus was drawing near, they were also correct in saying that the coming of the Lord was ready. The phrase at hand is used in a more urgent sense than that of the word eggizo or drawing near. The word eggus is used to mean ready or up to the point. Interestingly, Jesus first used the term as it pertained to His coming:

Matthew 24:32-33 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. We must first cast down imaginations that would try to twist the meaning of this term. Other passages use the same term, confirming the vanity of twisting the term when it pertains to the coming of the Lord. Matthew 26:18 And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time (speaking of His death) is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.

John 2:13 And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
John 7:2 Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand.

It is clear that the phrase at hand in these verses cannot be interpreted to mean two thousand years. Was Jesus speaking in vague terms which no one could understand? Was He just an unknown guru for whom time meant nothing? Are His statements concerning time to be interpreted as exclusively transcendent to finite humans? If so, then we must interpret the apostlesí use of time statements the same way. Some argue that, whenever time statements are used in reference to the coming of the Lord, Godís time is not our time. Where do we find this hermeneutic in Scripture? It simply is not there. In fact, from the verses just cited, we see that Godís time (Jesusí time) is our time. In light of the clear interpretation of these passages, the verses dealing with the coming of the Lord will come to life, especially as we ponder what a first-century Christian would think. Modern day evangelical prophecy experts argue the transcendent nature of Godís time. However, when they see what they call a "sign of the times" they immediately conclude that we are definitely in the last days. Why do we not apply this same hermeneutic with their definition of last days. If at hand is Godís transcendent timing, and the apostles were not really saying that Jesus was returning in their generation, then why not say that the last days are Godís timing as well? Why not say that Jesus may not return for another two thousand years? Many futurists comfortably interpret time statements depending on whether the statements apply to the return of Jesus Christ, i.e. if the time statements are not referring to the coming of the Lord, then interpret them literally. If they are referring to the coming of the Lord, then Godís time is not our time. We believe that Christís use of time statements during His physical ministry on earth is to be interpreted the same way the apostles interpreted them: Godís time is our time. This is true especially as we consider not only the everyday use of time statements by Jesus Christ but also the urgency in the N.T. Scriptures concerning warnings that the return of Jesus Christ was imminent during the writing of the N.T.

One thing we can know for certain is we could never know that the time was near or ready until the signs in Matthew 24 came to pass. Once again, we must remember what Christ said immediately after He described the signs that would come to pass just before His return:

Matthew 24:32-33 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. These sobering words of Jesus should convince us that it would be a lie for any of the apostles to say that the coming of the Lord was near or ready unless the signs had already taken place. But what saith the Scripture? Philippians 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Hebrews 6:8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
Hebrews 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

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.
Revelation 22:10 And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.

In order for the apostles and Jesus to be telling the truth, and in order for the Bible to be fully inspired by God, the signs in Matthew 24 would have had to have taken place for the integrity of the apostles and Scripture to be upheld. When an apostle uses the same word (eggus) that our Lord used in the Olivet discourse in proclaiming the readiness of Christís coming, it must have an impact on our view of Biblical eschatology. The gainsayers might argue that the apostles were not aware that they were using the same word. This argumentation ultimately attacks the authority and inspiration of Scripture. Every jot and tittle of the holy Scriptures is fully harmonized and cohesive, always relating to itself (Psalms 19:7,8 "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes"). With the word of God being perfect, sure, right, and pure, it is very presumptuous to assume the apostles were not thinking about what they were writing. The apostles did not write the words of God without carefully considering every other word of God; after all, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2 Peter 1:20-21. All the apostles knew and understood the Olivet discourse, and they would never write anything that would contradict the words of Jesus or mislead the people of God.

Ward Fenley