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Taking God’s Word Seriously– Guest Article– Chuck Coty

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My friend Chuck Coty sent the material below to me in an email. He had posted it on his Facebook page, in response to those who so blithely dismiss the time statements of scripture. This is a very good article so take a look, and share it with your friends!

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Hardly a day goes by where I don’t hear someone dismiss a Biblical phrase like “…must take place SHORTLY [tachos]” as though the writer (in this case John in the Revelation 1:1) failed to realize the eternal nature of God. Clearly He didn’t mean “shortly” they argue, He was merely using this as a figure of speech.

So, let me ask you a question. If God is not bound by time, why would He ever use a time-sensitive word like “quickly”, “shortly”, “at hand”, or “a very little while”? If God had written the Bible to Himself, time wouldn’t have been relevant, right?  But didn’t God write and preserve the Bible for His time-bound, temporal creatures?

Consider the following four verses.

Acts 25:4  But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was going there SHORTLY [tachos].

Philippians 2:19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you SHORTLY [tacheōs], that I also may be encouraged when I know your state.

Philippians 2:24 But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come SHORTLY [tacheōs].

3 John 1:14 but I hope to see you SHORTLY [eutheōs], and we shall speak face to face. Peace to you. Our friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.

Is there any doubt that Festus, Paul and John were talking about events in their immediate future? Could they have been speaking about both near and far referents?  In other words, things that would take place shortly and also in a few millennia? Yes, I know that sounds silly, but then why do we use this interpretive method when we encounter Bible prophecy? We make up or accept hermeneutical (science of interpretation) principles that literally make no sense.

In the Garden, when Eve was deceived by the serpent, Mr. Reptile used these rather chilling words to drive a wedge into Eve’s trust and reliance upon God. “Did God actually say…?” This deceptive line of attack was devised to question the very Word of God? Do you yet see the correlation between the serpent’s Garden rhetoric and the reasoning we use to justify distorting God’s time-oriented words?

As respectfully and gently as I can, let me submit this question: When you hear this short phrase, “Did God actually say?”, doesn’t that sound eerily similar to those who contend rather flippantly, “Did God actually say these things ‘must take place SHORTLY’?” He didn’t really mean to say “shortly” did He?  After all, since God is timeless, couldn’t He have meant hundreds or thousands of years?  It is at this point where I believe the majority of Christians have opened Pandora’s box of deception into God’s immutable Word. Once we begin to question the clarity of statements like “Things which MUST take place SHORTLY”, and insert a time frame that suits our paradigm, we stand on very dangerous ground. And at this juncture the church’s eschatological conclusions are at a crossroad.

Conservatives point their fingers at those in the liberal theological departments and seminaries as though they are the root of all Biblical skepticism. But, in reality, I believe we (conservatives) have unintentionally assaulted the Bible by interpreting it through the lens of our presuppositions. Once the most basic form of speech (time words) can be elasticized and trivialized, then the Bible can be manipulated to say whatever suits our fancy. When we willingly assert, “Did God actually say?”, we have at the moment made the Bible subject to our interpretive schemes. And this continues to trouble me a great deal.

It may seem insignificant and mundane to you, but I believe once we question God’s ability to speak clearly, we open ourselves up to far greater abuses.

So what was the time horizon with which God inspired John to write in the very first verse of the Revelation (which means UNVEILING not concealing!)?

Revelation 1:1,3 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants–things WHICH MUST SHORTLY [tachos] TAKE PLACE…3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for THE TIME IS NEAR [eggys].

So we are left with a dilemma. We can, by faith choose to take God at His word (as it was intended), or we can rescue our eschatological conclusions and do as the serpent did by saying, “Did God actually say…”  Whether we realize it or not, by determining that God could not have meant what is plainly written, saying that He didn’t really mean “things that MUST take place SHORTLY…for the time is NEAR”, we unwittingly are questioning the very nature of God’s integrity. With any intellectual honesty at all, how can we approach Acts 25:4 (above) and Revelation 1:1, both using tachos, as if one was to be immediate and the other meant a very, very long period of time? Doesn’t that bother you just a mite, even if your seminary professor, pastor or Sunday School teacher has no problem with such a leap in logic?

If we continue to use the 2 Peter 3:8 card (a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day) to elasticize every “time phrase” that is not to our liking, are we not in fact guilty of calling God’s character into question? Are we not committing the same act as the serpent?

I believe we are.  Though we might not understand it, God said as clearly as He could have, that the things in the Revelation were to take place shortly because the time was at hand. And if one doubts this assuming this is an anomaly, they need only to turn to the last chapter to find this identical language.

Revelation 22:6-7  Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which MUST SHORTLY [tachos] place.   7 “Behold, I am coming QUICKLY [tachy]! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

In closing, let me ask one last question.  Is it fair and just that those unwilling to take God at His Word (the majority), label those who do (a  minority), apostate heretics? I submit that there is something grossly wrong with this equation.

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Be sure to read Don K. Preston’s in-depth analysis of the Biblical time statements in his Who Is This Babylon? In this book, Preston examines all of the major “arguments” that are offered to negate the objective nearness of the parousia and resurrection in the first century. This is one of the most indepth discussions of the time statements to be found anywhere.

 

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