Stretching The Truth
STRETCHING THE TRUTH
“Any interpretation that stretches the words 'shortly' and 'at hand' into 2,000 years stretches the truth.” How excited we were to read this statement (made a few years ago by a brother in Christ who preaches for a large church in an area that might well be considered the buckle of the Bible belt) regarding the interpretation of New Testament time statements. It's an insight that seems so obvious, yet one that is denied and ignored by so many. He's right, you know! There is just no way that words such as shortly, at hand, soon, and near could have been chosen by Christ and the Apostolic college in the first century AD without intending to imply imminency. Yet, if we today in the year 2,021 A.D., are still awaiting the consummation of end-time events (as many teach and preach - - albeit, we think, in error), then words like shortly and at hand have been stretched to the snapping point.
And that is precisely what has happened and what continues to transpire. When such time tags are disregarded and elasticized to such an unacceptable degree there is an eroding of the credibility of the Bible. The veracity of the holy Scripture comes under scrutiny and men and women begin to doubt the truthfulness of the inspired word of God. Many serious truth-seekers read New Testament passages and conclude that the eschaton was an imminent concern to first-century saints. e.g. Mt.16:28 & 24:39-34; Rom.13:11-12; Philp.4:5; Heb.10:37; Js.5:7-9; 1Pet.4:5-7; 1Jn.2:18 and Rev.1:1-3. Without considering an alternative and harmonious understanding (such as covenantal eschatology or fulfilled prophecy) many have turned aside completely from the Word, surmising it to be fallible and unreliable.
We feel quite strongly that one of the prime contributors to a weakened faith is a faulty hermeneutic that per-sists in stretching the truth. With every passing year, shortly looks more like longly and near looks more like far. Yet many remain entrenched - - unwilling to budge from their long-held traditional, futuristic concepts. It is not at all noble (Acts 17:11) to adamantly refuse to even consider the possibility that one might need to re-study or re-search their views on the study of last things. Is it ever wrong to re-think and/or re-examine? None of us are incapable of error! One impetus for writing often on this important theme is the hope that we might help stem a growing tide of unbelief. TRUTH MUST NOT BE STRETCHED BEYOND BELIEF. To do so is to create a breeding ground for skepticism.
Terry Siverd / Cortland Church of Christ