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"And behold, I am coming soon!"

Lerk

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Revelation 22: 6-7 says

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

 

Depending upon the theology taught by various churches, the visions in Revelation (most of the book, after the letters to the seven churches) may have to do with events that are still in the future as of today, or it may be that most of them were fulfilled when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, but some have yet to be fulfilled and it's hard to tell which are which.

 

Those who don't believe in pre-millennialism (the idea that the 1000 year reign is in the future) would say that Revelation is about Jesus using Rome to judge Israel for rejecting him. Others think it's about Jesus judging Rome itself for persecuting the Christians, and they're being encouraged that it'll happen in good time. Most evangelicals believe it's about a coming judgment -- the "rapture" of the saints and the remaining here on Earth of everybody else for 1000 years. One of the main arguments against pre-millennialism is the passage quoted above, where John sees Jesus saying he'll return soon. But verses 1-6 describe what's going to happen when Jesus comes. Verses 3-5, in particular, claim

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

 

If that's about a future on Earth, it hasn't happened yet. If it's about Heaven, the final judgment hasn't happened yet, either. If it's about Rome, well, Rome was never destroyed, it just gradually lost power (ceding it to the Catholic church). If it's talking about the church, which some theology teaches is the kingdom, it's a miss because this vision does not describe life as  a Christian today. The "servants will worship him" could be said to be true, since Christians do worship, but the "seeing his face" and "no more night" parts are not a part of today's Christian life.

 

Matthew 24 is a similarly debated passage. The part about the "abomination of desolation" is clearly about the temple being destroyed, and Jesus telling his followers to (literally) head for the hills. Then you get to verses 29-31 which say

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

 

This is all supposed to happen immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem. In non-pre-millennial churches they'll tell you this part is still in the future, but the part before already happened. In pre-millennial churches they'll tell you that none of it has happened yet. So is the pre-millenialist's conclusion more logical? Well, no, because Jesus tells them that they, personally, will be delivered up to tribulation and be put to death at that time. and if it's 2000 years in the future, they can't be a part of it.

 

The truth is that both Matthew 24 and Revelation 22 present events that are supposed to happen within a very short time span. There's no room here for 2000+ years.

 

By the time II Peter was written, people were beginning to wonder why Jesus hadn't returned. No wonder! He clearly said it wouldn't be long! So Peter just says "a day with the LORD is as 1000 years and 1000 years as a day" -- in other words, "soon" doesn't mean the same thing to the LORD that it does to people. And besides, he just wants people to have time to repent.

 

I was in a Bible class the other night where Ezekiel was being studied (Ezekiel having been reinterpreted to be about the Christian age, because everything in the Old Testament is force-fit by Christianity into New Testament theology). Revelation 22 was referenced, so I highlighted verse 7 and made a note in my (phone app) Bible: "For sufficiently large values of 'soon'." That's a math joke. There are equations that can be said to be true only for sufficiently large values of a particular variable "n". In those cases, the equation wouldn't be true for small values of "n". There's an explanation here that's sort-of cryptic to me. I grasp the basic concept, but couldn't quickly find a clear explanation online. Anyway, my note here simply means that Jesus' statement in Revelation 22 is true only for sufficiently large values of the variable "soon." The problem there is that "soon" implies a small number and 2000+ years cannot be construed as "soon", Peter's "1000 years is as" comment notwithstanding.

 

Jesus' own words in Matthew 7:15-20 say that a prophet is known to be true or false by their fruits. The most obvious of the fruits you might know a prophet by is whether their prophecies come true. The prophecy in Revelation 22 (John's vision of Jesus' words) and Jesus' own prophecy in Matthew 24/Mark 13 failed. Period. Peter's readers were right to reject Christianity, because the religion's prophecies were and are false.