How Do You Handle Time?
Series: An Eschatological Mix
HOW DO YOU HANDLE TIME?
In the New Testament there is a multitude of references to eschatological happenings (judgment, the second coming of Christ, end of the age/world, resurrection, etc.) These many citations pertaining to “last things” are often accompanied by an impressive array of modifiers that communicate a clear and definite expectation of nearness. In combing through the twenty-seven books of the New Testament canon one does not occasionally stumble across a somewhat anomalous time statement implying imminency, but rather, it is a case of being overwhelmed! They seem to be everywhere! Instead of being a rare occurrence, they appear to be quite pervasive.
One thing appears indisputably clear - - a general awareness that Jesus taught and first-century saints expected the end of all things within their lifetime. cf. Mt.16:27-28; 34:3,30 & 34; Rom.16:13; 1Cor.1:7-8; Philp.4:5; Js.5:7-8; Thess.5:23-24; Heb.10:25f & 35f; 1Pet.4:5-7; 1Jn.2:18 and Rev.1:1-3 & 7 and 22:6, 10 & 22 - - to reference just a few choice examples. Texts like these have constantly presented “problems” for both those in the pulpit and those in the pew. What is meant by some shall not taste of death? And how does one explain the obvious meaning of this generation shall not pass away till all these things are accomplished? Do the Scriptures really say the day and the end was “drawing near” and/or “at hand”? Was the judge declared to be “at the door” in the first century? Did Paul speak the truth when he wrote to the Thessalonian Christians (c. 52 AD) - - may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ? Did John indeed proclaim, “it is the last hour”? These are fair questions that originate from diligent inquiry that deserve honest answers.
Even a cursory study of the doctrine of last things reveals a noticeable emphasis on NEARNESS. This proximity factor must be recognized and reckoned with - - to do otherwise would amount to intellectual dishonesty. Our Bibles are replete with many, many time constraints. And these time-binders are not vague. Quite the contrary, they are very precise, employing words and phrases like: near, soon, shortly to take place, at hand, in a very little while, etc.. Indeed, Biblical eschatology does not come to us by way of obscure generalities. Sadly, however, while the word of God seems quite clear, many have proven to be inexcusably reckless in the handling of this issue of time. Some have chosen to downplay or minimize these words by asserting that Jesus and His apostles were apparently mistaken about their soon-to-happen expectations. This line of “reasoning” is riddled with negative ramifications. Some have opted to just ignore these numerous time tags, perhaps hoping that no one will ask questions. Still others have attempted to brazenly redefine the meaning of select words like “soon” and “near”, thereby eroding their own credibility. There is however another option: to accept the language of Scripture at face value and set about to re-think one's concept of eschatology in search of a view that truly harmonizes with the sacred text.
Terry Siverd / Cortland Church of Christ