“1. Preterists. The prophecies contained in the Apocalypse were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of heathen Rome.”[1]

If today’s prophetic theorists are to be believed, Jesus will be returning “soon.” Dave Hunt’s book How Close Are We?, written nearly thirty years ago, claimed to answer the question in the subtitle: Compelling Evidence for the Soon Return of Christ.[2] On the Brink is the title of a prophetic work written by Daymond R. Duck. In the introduction, Duck tells us that his book has “300 Points of Light on the Soon Return of Jesus.”[3] What did “soon” mean for these authors when they wrote their books? Directly, forthwith, quickly, right away, presently, shortly, without delay. Both authors claimed that their books offer evidence that Jesus’ coming is near at hand. The late Dave Hunt (1926–2013) told us that the evidence is “compelling” that Jesus will return “soon.” The Bible says the same thing about events nearly 2000 years ago!

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While Hunt offered what he believed is “compelling evidence for the soon return of Christ,” he claimed that “the early church believed that Christ could come at any moment.” In a chapter describing what he believed is the New Testament doctrine of “imminency,” Hunt writes:

From even a cursory reading of the New Testament there can be no doubt that it was considered normal in the early church to expect Christ at any moment. Paul greeted the Christians at Corinth as those who were “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7) — again language that requires imminency. He urged Timothy to “keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:14).[4]

What one finds missing in Hunt’s study of the issue of timing is a discussion of verses that deal with the timing of Jesus’s return. The Bible does not tell us that Jesus will come “at any moment” or that His appearing is “imminent.” Rather, the New Testament writers informed their first readers that Jesus’ coming was “near,” close at hand for those then living. Here are some examples:

• “Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5).

• “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as it is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).

• “Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7–8).

• “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:9).

• “The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (1 Peter 4:7).

• “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond‑servants, the things which must shortly take place¼“ (Revelation 1:1).

• “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).

• “And he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true’; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to his bond‑servants the things which must shortly take place” (Revelation 22:6).

• “And behold**, I am coming quickly**. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7).

• “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near’” (Revelation 22:10).

• “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12; cf. Matthew 16:27).

• “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

These verses, and many more like them,[5] clearly state that Jesus’ return was “near,” that He was coming “quickly.” “Any moment” does not appear in the New Testament, and if it did, the impression it would leave was that Jesus’ return was on the immediate horizon. “That James does not expect the period to be long is clear when he says the parousia of the Lord (cf. 5:7) is near.”[6]

When Dave Hunt writes that he is offering “compelling evidence for the soon return of Christ,” are we not to assume that he means that Jesus’ return is near at hand for Christians living today? Would Hunt want to leave the impression with his readers that Jesus’ return could be in the distant future, say, two thousand years in the future? I don’t think so. Remember, he offers what he believes is “compelling evidence for the soon return of Christ.” He expects his readers to believe his argument that Jesus’ return is near for them. But the New Testament, written nearly 2000 years ago clearly states that Jesus’ return was near for those who first read the letters that were circulated to them. When they read the words “near,” “soon,” “shortly,” and “quickly” how would they have interpreted them? Why does “soon” mean “near” for Dave Hunt but not for the New Testament writers?

Numerous commentators try to get around the obvious meaning of these clear time indicators by claiming “that ‘near’ is a relative term.”[7] While claiming that near is a relative term, this same author states that “the coming of Christ is near. The ultimate epiphany is just around the corner. If we think otherwise, we tragically impoverish our souls…. The Scriptures say his coming is near, and we are not only to believe this, but to embrace it!”[8] If near was a relative term for first-century believers, then why isn’t it a relative term for twentieth-century believers? If God had wanted to tell first-century Christians that His coming was indeed near, how would He have done it?

Most of the commentaries on Revelation are either historicist or futurist. “Of these prophecyings,” C. H. Spurgeon observed, numbers “have been disproved by the lapse of time, and others will in due season share their fate.”[9]

Dispensationalists are at a distinct advantage in that their views, if their brand of futurism is accepted, can never be disproved. Everything from Revelation 4 to the end of the book takes place after the supposed rapture of the church. The same is true, for example, of the events depicted in 2 Thessalonians 2.[10] Dispensationalists can always maintain that the events they claim will happen can take place only after the church is raptured. For example, how does one evaluate the accuracy of John F. Walvoord’s commentary on Revelation? All Walvoord has to say is, “Well, these events happen after the rapture.”

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[1]Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1876] 1969), 198.

[2]Dave Hunt, How Close Are We?: Compelling Evidence for the Soon Return of Christ (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1993).

[3]Daymond R. Duck, On the Brink: East-Understand End-Time Bible Prophecy (Lancaster, PA: Starburst Publishers, 1995), 9.

[4]Hunt, How Close Are We?, 248.

[5]Douglas Wilkinson, Preterist Time Statements (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014).

[6]Peter Davids, Commentary on James (NIGTC) (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 184.

[7]R. Kent Hughes, James: Faith that Works (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 224.

[8]Hughes, James, 225.

[9]Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries, 198.

[10]To support a late-date for the composition of Revelation, Thomas Ice and H. Wayne House quote Donald B. Guthrie approvingly: “In certain passages regarding the great harlot (i.e. Rome) there are statements about her being drunk with the blood of the saints (xvii.6, xviii.24, xix.2, cf. also xvi.6, xx.4)…. The next question which arises is whether this persecution situation fits best into the Domitianic period.” Quoted in Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse?: An Analysis of Christian Reconstruction (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1988), 255–256. Dispensationalists contend that Revelation 4:1 to the end of the book describes a period of persecution that happens after the rapture, a still future event according to their system. How can a description of persecution that happens after Revelation 4:1 be describing “the Domitianic period” of AD 95 when the prophecy is about events that have not taken place?

Then there’s the question of whether there was a massive persecution of Christians during the reign of Domitian. See Arthur M. Ogden and Ferrell Jenkins, _Did Domitian Persecute Christians? An Investigation _(Ogden’s Biblical Resources and BibleWorld (1999).