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From Jesus:

Luke 17:37 (NLT)

 37 “Where will this happen, Lord?” the disciples asked.
   Jesus replied, “Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.”

Matthew 24:28 (NLT)

28 Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.

Revelation 3:11 (NLT)

11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.

Revelation 22:7 (NLT)

 7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.”

Revelation 22:12 (NLT)

 12 “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.

Revelation 22:20 (NLT)

 20 He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!”
   Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

From others:

Philippians 4:5 (NLT)

5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

1 Peter 4:7 (NLT)

 7 The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers.

[Emphasis all mine.]

Well, looking at the calendar, I see it's at least 1,800 years after these scriptures were written. Clearly, this is not "soon" in any modern sense of the word. Thus, I'm asking:

What does "soon" mean in these verses?
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+1 Wow. What a heavy hitting question. –  Richard Sep 17 '11 at 23:33
I'm not allowed to post scripture without comenting on it for an actual answer, so here I will just ask you to read 2nd Peter 3, as that's exactly what he addresses in verse 8 and 9, but please read everything in context as well. biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Peter+3&version=NIV –  2tim424 Sep 17 '11 at 23:54
@WhatAboutJohn3_17: thanks for the excellent passage! I included it in my answer (that I first wrote quoting just the other two passages). –  dancek Sep 17 '11 at 23:59

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Some translation details

The passages from Revelation you refer to (3:11, 22:7, 22:12, 22:20) all contain the same Greek phrase:

ἔρχομαι ταχύ

The phrase is translated "I come quickly" or "I am coming soon" in most English translations.

Strong's Concordance has the following definition for ταχύ:

Neuter singular of G5036 (as adverb); shortly, i.e. Without delay, soon, or (by surprise) suddenly, or (by implication, of ease) readily -- lightly, quickly.

Some claim the correct translation would rather be suddenly. This would be in line with the following three passages, at least:

2 Peter 3:8-10 (ESV)
8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Matthew 24:44 (ESV)
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

1 Thessalonians 5:2 (ESV)
For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

As for the other passages, I cannot answer. I suspect the all-encompassing answer isn't just a bunch of translation notes but will require some theology, too.

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The KJV renders the Revelation quotes as "coming quickly," not "coming soon". This can be understood as arriving suddenly, without warning, and brings to mind a passage in Matthew 24 a bit later than the one quoted in the example:

Matthew 24: 43-44

43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

As for the parallel verses in Matthew and Luke, they don't say that the end is near now; they clearly say that when "these signs" come to pass, then we will know that the end is near.

Not sure about the other two, though...

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