Many passages in the New Testament indicate Christ will come soon. Since he hasn't yet come, whatever does this mean?
In this article...
The context of each passage makes the meaning clear.
Full Preterists overstate their case in insisting these passages can only be interpreted in a Full Preterist manner. Certainly they can be interpreted this way, but there are other valid and reasonable interpretations. In addition, there is a side-effect to the Full Preterist view...
There is a tendency in the Full Preterist interpretation of these passages to understand the word "you" as referring only to those who first heard the words and that the word "you" does not refer to us today. But as the following verse illustrates, this results in a very severe side-effect...
Much of the New Testament becomes meaningless if we interpret this way. Therefore, the word "you" cannot be limited in meaning to the original hearers but must apply to believers of all time.
The word "soon" in the Old Testament does not necessarily mean "soon in time" but often indicates a sense of urgency. For example...
This didn't happen for many centuries.
A summary of the meaning of each passage.
|Hebrews 10:25,37||"He who is coming" refers to the Parousia (Christ's second coming).|
|James 5:7-8||and (2) the second coming of Christ.|
|Romans 16:20||It will happen "soon" because God will give them "peace" in their times of trial and persecution. Anytime believers call on the Lord for strength in times of trouble and he comforts them, he has "crushed" Satan again just as Christ did at the cross.|
|1 Peter 4:7|
|Revelation 1:1,3; 2:25; 3:10; 22:6-7,10,12,20||
These passages refer to...
|1 Corinthians 1:7-8; 7:29||
The "time is short" until the persecution from the Judaizers gets much worse and there will be "many troubles in this life".Christ is revealed at his second coming. Christians need to be "strong to the end" and endure the trials so they will be "blameless on the day of Christ". If they fall away from the faith in response to the trials they will not be acceptable to the Lord. The "day of Christ" refers to either: (1) the death of believers when they are present with the Lord, or (2) the second coming of Christ when he judges everyone and gives believers their resurrected bodies.
|Luke 9:27, Matthew 16:28|
|1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:15; 5:23|
|Revelation 22:20||26:64; John 21:23). Obviously he was not saying he would come back within a few years.|
This passage refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple which did occur some 40 years later (in 70 A.D.) But it does not imply the second coming of Christ occurred in 70 A.D. — that event is still future.
Full Preterists use this passage as a key passage to support their view that the Parousia (second coming of Christ) occurred in 70 A.D. But there is a serious side-effect to this view ignored by Full Preterists. Since the phrase "all of these things" is used and this phrase is applied to the events of 70 A.D. then we should not expect to see any of these events occurring after 70 A.D. But in actuality we see many of these things occurring after 70 A.D., for example, wars, famines, persecution, the gospel is preached in the whole world, the Jews are persecuted in Nazi Germany, etc. In addition, there are no witnesses to confirm that the events attributed to the parousia in 70 A.D. ever happened — it is merely assumed they did.
In the context we see this verse meaning there will always be another town to evangelize, not only in Israel, but also in the whole world.
The context of this passage is the sending out of the 12 disciples to evangelize Israel (Matthew 10:5). Jesus then expands on his theme to include the persecutions Christian evangelists will experience during the Church Age...
Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. (Matthew 10:17-18)
The phrase "will not finish going through the cities of Israel" means the task of evangelizing the world, and even Israel, will never be finished for the duration of the Church Age. Christian evangelists will still be evangelizing, even in Israel, when Christ comes again at the second coming, a still future event.
In verse 22, the phrase "the end" refers to the importance for Christians to stand firm in their faith even in the face of intense persecution. The theme of "persevering to the end" is a major theme of the book of Revelation and occurs many times throughout the New Testament.
Full Preterists must assume the word "you" refers only to the disciples. But this is incorrect; it also refers to the church.
In the Full Preterist view this passage refers to the Parousia (second coming of Christ) which occurred in 70 A.D. According to this view the writer of Hebrews is encouraging the believers to have good deeds so they will be ready for Christ when he comes within their lifetimes. Examples of the context indicating the writer is referring to their good deeds...
If we accept the Full Preterist view we have to also accept that the "rapture" of believers in 70 A.D is dependent on whether they are habitually doing good deeds when Christ comes in 70 A.D. Presumably, those who are not will be left behind.
A better interpretation of these passages considers the context of the book of Hebrews with its emphasis on...
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. (Hebrews 10:32-34)
Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned ; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:35-38)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)
It seems the writer is exhorting the readers to beware of certain false teachings and to remain true to the faith as taught by the apostles. Some examples of these erroneous teachings...
If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come — one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? (Hebrews 7:11)
Hebrews 8:13 By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Perhaps they quit meeting together with the Church because they were following another false teacher who was leading them back into Judaism. This would explain the connection between meeting together and "the Day" (the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple). When "the Day" arrives it will demonstrate God is finished with Israel and that the Church is the new Israel.
The phrase "the Day" implies an event. This event is likely the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. Jesus predicted this event in the Olivet Discourse so it was common knowledge it would occur. This day may also be each person's death when they meet Christ for judgment.
Considering the emphasis in this book on "falling away" and adopting Jewish practices, it makes sense to refer to "the Day" when exhorting the people to not fall back into Judaism. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. signals that God is finished with Israel and that the Church is the new Israel.
An additional question regarding Hebrews 10:37...
If the word "come" refers to the Parousia (second coming of Christ) in what sense will he come in just a little while? The previous verse gives the answer...
The significance of Christ's coming at the Parousia is he delivers his final reward of glorified bodies to believers at that time. For someone who has been enduring suffering and persecution it would be comforting to know it will be over in a "little while" whether because of changing circumstances or even by death. Because they suffered for the sake of Christ, they will receive their reward.
The verses in Hebrews draw from two other Old Testament verses...
The passage in Isaiah refers to judgment, and the passage in Habakkuk emphasizes the certainty of this judgment. In the passage in Hebrews, the author is referring to the judgment of God; that it will occur. The destruction in 70 A.D will highlight that God's judgment of sin is sure and certain. Finally at each person's death they will meet Christ for judgment.
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. (James 5:7-8)
In the larger context of this passage, we see James talking about the following flow of ideas...
The following passages illustrate this flow of ideas.
Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (James 5:9-10)
In this passage in James 5:7-8 the phrase "Lord's coming" refers to the Lord coming to individuals to comfort them. It does not refer to the second coming of Christ at all.
Paul wrote the book of Romans in 57 A.D. The persecution in Rome under Nero would begin in 64 A.D., only seven years in the future. The general persecution of Christians by Jews and the Romans is a prominent theme in the New Testament.
Since this can't be true, we must look to another explanation.
The phrase "the hour has come" refers to the "present time," the time when the book of Romans was written.
They should "wake up" because when they first believed they didn't realize the full truth (they were in the dark, in the night). But now they do (they are in the light, in the day). As they became more Christlike their "salvation was nearer". This points to the time of death of believers in which they are present with the Lord. It also has application to the second coming of Christ when he rewards believers with resurrected bodies.
Paul exhorts the believers to come to a full knowledge of the truth; to wake up from the slumber of ignorance. It is important they do this because they would soon enter a time of intense persecution and testing of their faith.
The word "day" does not refer to the parousia, but Full Preterists must assume it does. There is no compelling reason to assume this at all, rather, it is totally arbitrary.
This passage has the same general theme as Romans 13:12. It will happen "soon" because God will give them "peace" in their times of trial and persecution. Anytime believers call on the Lord for strength in times of trouble and he comforts them, he has "crushed" Satan again just as Christ did at the cross.
The immediate context of this passage...
But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (1 Peter 4:5-6)
In the Full Preterist view God judged in 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. But again, there is a disturbing side effect of this view. Notice the phrase "for this reason the gospel was preached". The implication is the gospel only applies to the generation of believers alive before 70 A.D. — after that the "end of all things" occurred and God judged the "living and the dead" so they now have eternal life (they "live according to God in regard to the spirit").
The phrase "the end of all things is near" is in the context of God's judgment of all men, whether they are alive or have died. This refers to (1) the judgment of everyone at death, and (2) the final judgment. These events are "near" (1) in the same way that God is near as he observes our actions, and (2) because everyone will eventually die within a relatively short time (less than 100 years).
These passages refer to...
Second Coming of Christ
Increased persecution of Christians, leading to fall (judgment) of Roman Empire
The angel said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place". (Revelation 22:6)
In the Full Preterist view, the Parousia (Christ's second coming) occurred in 70 A.D with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Certainly the above passages in the book of Revelation could be used to support this view. However, I reject Full Preterist view on other grounds.
Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:7-8)
The context of the phrase "the time is short" concerns trials and troubles for Christians as the following two verses show...
Notice that these trials occurred in Greece, in Corinth; and not in Jerusalem or Rome. Therefore, the troubles were most likely a result of persecution from the Judaizers as the following two verses show...
But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles". (Acts 18:6)
Paul is saying that the "time is short" because he knows the persecution will get worse.
This idea is confirmed in the following passage which indicates that the world which was at first accepting of Christians was about to become antagonistic towards them.
Christians, therefore, need to be "strong to the end" and endure the trials so they will be "blameless on the day of Christ". If they fall away from the faith in response to the trials they will not be acceptable to the Lord. The "day of Christ" refers to either: (1) the death of believers when they are present with the Lord, or (2) the second coming of Christ when he judges everyone and gives believers their resurrected bodies.
The phrase "time is short" in 1 Corinthians 7:29 refers to a time of peace for Christians which will soon be over. Full Preterists must assume it refers to the imminent coming of the parousia, but there is no compelling reason to assume this.
In the Full Preterist view the word "you" in 1 Corinthians 1:7 must be limited to only those who first read this letter but this is rather arbitrary. In addition, the phrase "Jesus Christ to be revealed" must be interpreted to refer to the parousia, but this raises the question of how he was revealed in 70 A.D.? The answer is he was not. This Full Preterist interpretation is contrived in the extreme.
The word "end" in 1 Corinthians 1:8 refers to the end of a person's life and not to the parousia in 70 A.D.
In the Full Preterist view there were believers who heard Jesus make these statements who would still be alive in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. Full Preterists consider these events to be the Parousia (second coming of Christ).
The following five passages highlight a serious problem with this view. It would mean the "kingdom of God" began in 70 A.D. instead of 30 A.D. The side effect of this is that we are now in this kingdom of God but that the believers before 70 A.D. were not. But there are many passages indicating the kingdom began at the time of Jesus...
The usage of the word "some" is also troublesome for the Full Preterist view. The word should be "most" or "all". This is because in the context, Jesus was talking to his disciples as the following verses indicate...
The verse immediately before the one talking about those who will "not taste death" clearly refers to the second coming of Christ...
Some possibilities for the interpretation of the phrase "some will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God" (and my votes)...
"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven". (Matthew 26:64)
The verse immediately preceding indicates that Jesus made this statement to the high priest and to those who were present...
In the Full Preterist view these verses imply that some of those people would still be alive in 70 A.D. at the Parousia (Christ's second coming). This is certainly a valid interpretation. However, I reject Full Preterist view on other grounds (read more).
The following passage affirms everyone will see Christ at his second coming...
Full Preterists assume the phrase "in the future" refers to the parousia and the word "you" only applies to those who were living at the time of Jesus. They assume this event will only be observed by those who are living at the time. But this is incorrect because the parousia will be seen by both the living and the dead as the following passage illustrates...
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17)
In the Full Preterist view the phrase "we who are still alive" refers specifically to those first readers of the letter to the First Thessalonians. Some of them would still be alive in 70 A.D. when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. In addition, in this view, the phrase "the coming wrath" refers to that event. The word "blameless" is significant because, according to that view, it refers specifically to the believers at that time.
These are certainly valid interpretations of these passages. However, I reject Full Preterist view on other grounds (read more).
These three passages all deal with the yet future second coming of Christ.
Read additional info concerning the usage of the word "wrath" in the Bible.
Full Preterists must assume the word "we" in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 is limited to those who were alive at the time Paul wrote the letter. But this is an arbitrary assumption.
How did God rescue them from the coming wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10) in 70 A.D.? The recipients of the letter didn't live anywhere near Jerusalem and would not be directly affected by its destruction in 70 A.D.
Another problem with the Full Preterist view is that the phrase "coming of our Lord" must refer to a special judgment which occurred in 70 A.D.; after that time there is no more judgment. But why wouldn't there be since there is really nothing special about the time period between 30 A.D. and 70 A.D.? Making this time period special is merely a fabrication of the Full Preterist view.
Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you". (Matthew 11:20-24)
This passage is significant in the Full Preterist view of the Parousia (second coming of Christ) occurring in 70 A.D. because it indicates that "cities" are judged. This would have referred to the destruction of cities by the Romans.
However, there are two serious problems with that view...
This passage is referring to judgment of "people," not of "cities". The people in the cities who had rejected Christ and his message would be judged harshly because they had even seen Jesus' miracles to confirm his message.