A Little More On "A Little"

Series: An Eschatological Mix


Sermon By Terry Siverd / October 03, 2021 / Cortland  Church of Christ  - -

Welcome to those who may be joining us online.  As always, we're grateful for your participation.   

    “Hermeneutical gymnastics” (a lot of bouncing around, stretching & twisting) is a term that adherents of realized or fulfilled eschatology sometimes use when critiquing those who contend for a futuristic view of eschatology.   It's one thing to try to properly discern the sacred writing when the goal posts remained fixed, but it becomes an almost impossible task when the goal posts are continually moved, which is what happens with hermeneutical gymnastics.  There's a kind of exegetical morass (swamp) that is created when words become redefined

Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in Mt.24:34 - - truly I say to you, THIS GENERATION shall not pass away until all these things take place.  A reasonable explanation of this passage is derived when we allow both CONTEXT and LOGIC to dictate.  Inexcusably, many interpreters have wrested this word “generation” from its context so as to make it compatible with conflcited eschatological views.  For them, the language of Mt.24:29-31 has to be future.  Because of their preconceived notions they are driven to redefine “generation”, defying both logic and context.  

If only they would turn back a few pages and read Mt.16:27-28.  The event described is almost identical with Mt.24:30-31.  However in the Mt.16:28 text Jesus states:  Truly I say to you, there are SOME STANDING HERE WHO SHALL NOT TASTE DEATH, until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.

In Mt.23 Jesus announces multiple woes against the leaders of Judaism.  In Mt.23:36 Jesus states - - truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon THIS GENERATION.  In this text commentators are quite united in ascertaining that Jesus' words were addressed to a first-century audience.

Mt.21 records a number of parables that Jesus spoke a few days before His Olivet discourse.  Mt.21:35 notes,  when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard the parables, they understood that HE WAS TALKING ABOUT THEM. 

The title of my sermon this morning is, A Little More on 'A Little'.

I am truly perplexed when I hear people try to make shortly mean longly as in Rev.1:1/things shortly to take place …  or when they attempt to make near mean far as in Rev.22:10/the time is near.  In the case of this morning's message, there are also ones who dare to make a little while mean a long period of time.  To make obvious time statements so elastic that their meanings are altered 180° amounts to exegetical malpractice.  

Briefly, let me share with you some passages that employ this phrase, “a little while”.  I will be brief.  It would not be appropriate to speak at length in a sermon announcing “a little more”.


Jn.16:16 / a little while, and you will no longer behold Me; and again in a little while you will see Me.  These words are repeated in Jn.16:17 with the additional explanation, because I go to the Father.  This was not about the disciples seeing Jesus after the Lord's crucifixion & resurrection, but rather it was a reference to their seeing Him in His parousia or second coming.  Remember Jn.14:2-3 - - I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I WILL COME AGAIN, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am you may be also John also uses this “little while” phraseology in Rev.6:10-11.   Here is a heavenly depiction of the saints who had been slain because of the Word of God, and because of the testimony they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain (hold back) from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?'  And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer...


In 1Pet.1:5-6, Peter speaks of first-century saints who were protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  In 1Pet.5:10 Peter returns to this theme, writing:   After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.  In his second epistle, Peter admonishes the early Christians (2Pet.3:3-4) - - Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with mockings, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?  For ever since the Fathers fell asleep, all continue just as it was from the beginning of creation'.  Peter combats these false notions by declaring in no uncertain terms (2Pet.3:9) - -  The Lord is NOT SLOW about His promise, as some men count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.


In Heb.9:28 Paul writes - - So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.  Then one chapter later, n Heb.10:37, Paul proclaims:  For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and WILL NOT DELAY.  These passages represent a handful of citations that have been sorely twisted.  Resorting to hermeneutical gymnastics is a serious error, especially if and when such hopscotch exegesis undermines and contradicts the very promises of God.

As we conclude let us summarize let we miss the impact of what we have briefly studied.  Jesus did not tell His disciples that it would be a long while until they saw Him again, He said a little while.  Those slain ones who cried out for judgment and vengeance upon their persecutors were not told to rest for a long while - - they were told to rest for a little while.  Peter did not tell the saints that they would need to suffer for a long while, their suffering was to be for a little while.  Furthermore, Peter insisted that the Lord was not slow about keeping His promised return.  When Paul wrote the epistle to the Hebrews, he did not tell them the Lord's coming was yet a long way off, In fact, he told them just the opposite - - he assured them that the Lord's coming would occur in a little while.

The language of Scripture regarding the coming of the Lord was made very clear to the early Christians:  Christ would come again in a little while … Vengeance and judgment was due to arrive in a little while … They were call to endure suffering that would last for a little while.  In clarifying even more they were explicitly taught:  The Lord is not slow and the Lord will not delay.

Bible words must not be changed - - a little while never means a long way off.

No amount of hermeneutical gymnastics can alter a thus saith the Lord.

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