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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

6 Answers 6

up vote 6 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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Your question, is one which has been around for quite some time. I can remember hearing it when I was a kid back in the 1950's, (and yes there are some of us that old still around).

All Scripture is quoted from the King James translation, unless otherwise noted.

We as mere humans seem to not be able to understand what time is, and that it has no function in eternity. Time was created by God in Genesis, as a way of dividing his labors into segments.

Genesis 1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Genesis 1:8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

If you will; notice in Genesis 1:5, that God called the light which he had created day and the darkness which the light divided he called night. It is also noteworthy that he began his first day and all following with the darkness beginning the day. The darkness of the first day is Eternity before God created the light.

Genesis 1:1 through 4 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

So therefore Creation began some where in eternity, but we actually have no time reference as to when since, that first night was eternity. It is also cogent to notice that God divided the light from the darkness. This brings up another controversy, in how can you have both light and darkness at the same time, and the only answer I can come up with for that is:

Mark 10:27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

So our definition of time is not the same as God's, with God a day can be just as long as he wants it to be, but with us a day can only be twenty four hours long. We as mortals have to fit things neatly into a package of our making, but with God he is unrestricted, and we need to conform to him and he is in no way compelled to conform to our concepts of either time or space.

As an example in Genesis which God must have given to Moses, He says:

Genesis 3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

and

Genesis 5:4 and 5 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters: And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.

Notice that in these Scriptures God's use of the phrase;(all of the days) even though Moses has substituted years.

With God there are no such thing as years, or decades or centuries, or for that case not even millennia, there is only undivided eternity. All divisions of time other than days are a creation of man, and as an example a month on the current Calendar can be 28 days, 30 days or 31 days long; but the Hebrew calendar, which predates our calendar, all months were 30 days long. Man has so completely confused the division of time that eternity has no real concept anymore, and man appears incapable of comprehending such a thing as not having an alpha and omega.

As a consequence; whether the Scripture means either quickly or soon, that time period is determined by God and not by us.

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God is outside of time. Soon is a relative term. I think God wants everyone to be ready because the return of Jesus will happen and only God knows the exact time. My guess is that it will be soon. Days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries? Yes. The question is "are you ready?" Are you living your life as one who is ready?

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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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Hi Bruce! On the Christianity.StackExchange site, we're looking for answers that express actual doctrines of groups of Christians. Your answer, while interesting, doesn't refer to any group of Christian that holds this as a belief. Can you edit it to demonstrate that there are such groups? –  Matt Gutting Oct 24 '14 at 18:45
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Welcome to the site! This next is just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites?, and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Oct 25 '14 at 22:42

I will offer two compatible interpretations based on the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) and the churches that accept his theology.

1. "Quickly" means "definitely"

Here is how Swedenborg interprets the same phrase in Revelation 1:1:

Things which must shortly take place. This symbolically means that they must surely come to pass to keep the church from perishing.

"Which must shortly take place" does not mean that the things predicted in the book of Revelation are going to happen immediately or quickly, but that they will happen surely, and that unless they come to pass, the church will perish.

In the Divine view, and so in the spiritual sense, time does not exist, but instead of time, state. And because "shortly" has to do with time, it symbolically means certainty and that something will happen before its time. For the book of Revelation was written in the first century, and seventeen centuries have now gone by, from which it is apparent that "shortly" means, symbolically, what corresponds to it, which is certainty. (Apocalypse Revealed #4)

You can read the full section from Apocalypse Revealed, including some supporting passages from the Bible, here.

Here is the basic idea:

God exists outside of time. And there is no time as we know it on the spiritual level of reality. So if we read the Bible from a spiritual perspective, every mention of time in the Bible means something other than time, because spiritually there is no time.

When it comes to "quickly" or "soon," the idea conveyed spiritually is that this is definite and inevitable. It's going to happen. No doubt about it!

2 Peter 3 conveys this meaning powerfully. Peter's appeal is not a temporal one. He is not saying that it's going to happen at a specific time. Rather, he's saying that it's going to happen, so we must be prepared for it. Don't delay repenting, or it may be too late!

So the spiritual force of the Lord saying "I am coming quickly" is that this is definitely going to happen, so you had better not dawdle, but prepare yourself for it through repentance and accepting the Lord into your life.

2. For individuals, Jesus does come quickly

The book of Revelation as a whole, and other places in the New Testament that speak of Jesus' coming, are usually interpreted as applying to Jesus coming on the scale of the whole world and its people. And that is a perfectly valid interpretation.

However, for each one of us individually, Jesus, the Apocalypse, and the judgment also comes. And for us individually, that effectively happens on the day that we die.

Whether you believe in a universal judgment at some future date or individual judgment immediately after death, it really doesn't matter for us as individuals.

For us as individuals, the day we die is the day that our judgment is made certain. At that point, we have lived our lives. We have either repented or not repented. We have either believed in the Lord or not believed in the Lord. We have either obeyed God's commandments or not obeyed God's commandments.

No matter what our particular church or religion says we must do to be saved, there is a deadline to it (assuming there is no reincarnation, as nearly all Christians believe).

That deadline is our death.

So when Jesus says, "I am coming quickly," or "I am coming soon," for us individually it means, we do not know the day of our death. It could happen next year, next week, tomorrow, or tonight. We may think we have plenty of time. But death could come to us suddenly.

This is what Jesus was talking about in the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:13-21, which concludes with:

But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"

This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:20-21)

So for us individually, the force of "I will come soon" or "quickly" is that it's definitely going to happen, we don't know when, but it could be any ordinary day that we get up thinking we're about to have another boring day.

The message of "I am coming quickly," then, is not to dawdle or delay, but to do today what we need to do to prepare ourselves for eternity, and to keep doing that each day as if it is our last--which it might just be.

Once again, this interpretation is based on the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg and the churches that follow his teachings.

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Jesus meant exactly what you would expect him to mean. He was returning soon and he did just that in the 1st Century. At least 21 other statements in the New Testament say the same thing. Jesus even said the apostle John would still be alive when he returned (Jn. 21:21) Only two authors of the New Testament DON'T say something about his soon return. There is every indication that ALL of those who heard or read these statements understood soon to mean soon. Most of them are given as exhortations to godly living, which wouldn't make sense, in fact, would be deceptive, or out right lies, if Jesus were actually coming 2000 years later.

Some will counter that "to the Lord a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day." The gist of 2 Peter 3 which has this verse is that God would fulfill His promises on His timetable, within the time constraints already given by Jesus and His apostles. It was going to happen. Soon. Stay faithful.

The next question that needs to be answered is HOW he came in the 1st Century, since it's not obvious to most. Josephus and other historians of the time report that people saw Jesus in the sky when the Roman armies were destroying Jerusalem. This destruction was prophesied several times in scriptures and came to pass in 70 AD. Remember Jesus saying to the religious leaders of his time, "Who warned you of the wrath to come?" (Lk. 3:7) What wrath did they experience? The wrath of Rome. Had the Jewish religious leaders embraced the prophets and their Messiah the end of the Old Covenant wouldn't have needed to be so "abrupt," but as Jesus said, "And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." (Lk. 21:20-22)

The makes the "End Times" more understandable. The End Times are not the end of the world, but the end of an age, specifically the end of the Old Covenant age. The New Covenant had already been ratified and instituted and was in force and as Hebrews says, "By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. (Heb. 7:11,12, 18,19, 8:6-13, pp Jer. 31:33) That "soon" happened in just a few years - in 70 AD. God abolished the Old Covenant by destroying (or at least allowing to be destroyed) the temple that was central to the Old Covenant. The End Times were in their times, not our times. John taught, "It is the last hour," not "It will be the last hour 2000 years from now." (I Jn. 2:18)

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