Gary responds to recent article by John Piper, which is an excerpt of his new book, Come, Lord Jesus.
The biblical writers are straightforward in their claim that certain prophetic events were to happen “soon” for those who first read the prophecies. The eschatological events were near for them. No other interpretation is possible if the words are taken in their “plain, primary, ordinary, usual, or normal” sense; that is, if they are interpreted literally.
If the biblical authors had wanted to be tentative, vague, or ambiguous in the way they described the timing of future events, they would have equivocated by using words expressing probability, similar to the way Paul expresses himself in 1 Corinthians 4:19: “But I will come to you soon [taxu], if the Lord wills. . .” (also see Acts 18:21: “I will return to you again, if God wills.”) If the inspired New Testament writers wanted to tell their first readers that Jesus could come at “any moment,” they would have written “any moment.” They didn’t. They said His coming was “at hand,” that He was coming “quickly,” that the time is “near.” Thomas Ice completely negates the clear assertion of the Bible’s time texts by turning them into the “manner” in which an event is to occur. For example, for Ice “quickly” simply means that an event happens fast when it happens. But how does this reinterpretation explain “near” and “shortly”? In what “manner” does one come “shortly”? After confusing his readers with his “manner” argument, Ice concludes that every time “quickly” is used “the actions all came about ‘soon’ after the prophecy was given….” Exactly!
Debate continues to rage over the use of words like “near,” “soon,” and “quickly,” even though everyone knows what these words mean in normal conversation. Supposedly these time indicators are fluid. In fact, they are so fluid that they actually mean their opposite. For example, Revelation 1:1 tells us that the subsequent events outlined in the book “must shortly take place.” In 1:3 we learn that “the time is near.” Why are these definitive time indicators used if they hold a “small place in prophecy”? Why use time markers that in ordinary speech mean close at hand if their real meaning actually stretches time over centuries? There is no need to be ambiguous about the meaning of “near,” “shortly,” and “quickly.” Translators chose these English words because they convey the proper meaning of their Greek counterparts. If these words really meant something else, then translators would have used the appropriate words.
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Gary responds to recent article by John Piper, which is an excerpt of his new book, Come, Lord Jesus. Pastor Piper rehearses similar arguments to those in the past trying to explain away the imminency of the coming of the Lord in Matthew 24 (and many other NT passages). Jesus meant what He said about the nearness of His coming in judgment on first-century apostate Israel.
 Thomas Ice, “The Great Tribulation is Future: The New Testament,” in Thomas Ice and Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Great Tribulation: Past or Present?: Two Evangelicals Debate the Question (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1999), 113.