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Particulars of Christianity:
313 Preterism


Behold I Come Quickly

Preterism Part 1: The Basics and Partial Preterism
Preterism Part 2: Olivet and the Transcendent "You"
Preterism Part 3: The Remaining "Proof Texts"
Preterism Part 4: Appealing to Josephus
Preterism Part 5: Uninterrupted Futurism into 2nd Century
Preterism Part 6: Nero, History, and Biblical Details
Preterism Part 7: Scripture and a Delayed Coming
Preterism Part 8: Brief Summary of Conclusions
Behold I Come Quickly
Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass
When Was Revelation Written?
A Throne of His Own

Addendum: "The Time Is At Hand"




In Revelation 2 and 3 (as well as Revelation 22) Jesus himself says he will return "quickly." Preterists have suggested this as proof that Jesus had to return by 70 AD. But are they correct? Let's start by looking a few of the passages in question.

Church of Ephesus
Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly [5035], and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Church of Pergamos
Revelation 2:16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly [5035], and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

Church of Philadelphia
Revelation 3:11 Behold, I come quickly [5035]: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

Revelation 2:5 and 2:16 could theoretically either mean "soon" or "suddenly." However, since it is stated as a dependent clause, we know that it must mean "suddenly." In other words, Jesus gives this to them as a warning, saying, "or else I will come quickly." To suggest that "quickly" here means "soon" is to suggest that Jesus coming depended on their noncompliance to his instructions. So, if they did not obey, Jesus would come soon, but if they did obey then he would not.

So, nothing in these two passages would negate a "soon" coming of Christ since his coming is only presented as a dependent clause. These two verses do not necessitate his soon coming because if the members of these two Churches complied with his instruction, his soon coming would be averted. That is once sense in which these passages do not necessitate a first century coming of Christ.

However, given the likelihood that Jesus' return was NOT dependent upon the compliance of these two Churches, the most probable meaning of these verses is as follows. If they did not comply with his instructions, his return would be sudden for them. It would take them by surprise. This would be consistent with Jesus warning in the parables as well.

Matthew 24:43 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.
...48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; 49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, 51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Luke 12:39 And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. 40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
...45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

First we should note that the definition of "quickly" in Revelation 2:5,16 and 3:11 is as follows.

5035 tachu {takh-oo'}
neuter singular of 5036 (as adverb);; adv
AV - quickly 12, lightly 1; 13
1) quickly, speedily (without delay)

This word is related to "en tachos" found in Revelation 1:1 and 22:6. It also occurs elsewhere in Revelation.

Revelation 20:6 And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. 7 Behold, I come quickly [5035]: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
...12 And, behold, I come quickly [5035]; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
...20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly [5035]. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

We notice in the definition that this word indicates "speedily" in the sense of "without delay." We also notice in both Matthew 24 and Luke 12, that the wicked servant says to himself, "My lord delayeth his coming." Jesus statements in Revelation 2, 3, and 22 are a reference back to these parables. Jesus is reminding his Church that he will indeed come and right on time. And this is perfectly in line with what Peter wrote in II Peter 3.

In II Peter 3, Peter writes that in the end times men begin to doubt the coming of Christ for the simple reason that it seems to be taking too long. God is being slack in his promises. Peter writes their contention as follows: "Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." In other words, so much time has elapsed since the coming has been expected that these men begin to doubt that Jesus' second coming is real at all.

To this Peter responds by telling them that God will come right on time and that the confusion over this matter can be alleviated by reminding ourselves that a short time for God is different than a short time for us. For God, a thousand years pass by as quickly as a day or a watch in the night does for mankind. So, we should not think God is a liar when he say he will come quickly but doesn't come in a timeframe we think is quick. God is not slow Peter says. He only seems slow as men count slowness. If we count according to our perception of time, that is when we get confused and think God is slacking off concerning his promises.

II Peter 3:3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
...8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night;

Peter concludes this passage by referring back to these very parables from Matthew 24 and Luke 12. So, we know that when he wrote these things, Peter had in mind the wicked servant who, like the scoffers, thinks "My Lord delays his coming." The idea is that Jesus is not going to return and so, like the wicked servant, these scoffers follow after their own lusts for the things of this life. It is a perfect parallel. And what it tells us is that Jesus coming can be "without delay" and yet it will not be quick from the perspective of men.

And so these phrases repeated in Revelation 2:5,16; 3:11; 22:7,12,20 indicate that Jesus coming will not be delayed. They are intended as a reminder for us not to think the same way as the wicked servant, "My Lord delays his coming, I have time to fool around."

And Paul comments on this as well. He tells us that for those of us who are not looking for it, the day of the Lord comes as an unexpected thief in the night. But for those who are watchful and sober, that day will not overtake us unexpectedly.

I Thessalonians 5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness,that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

And I Thessalonians is not the only place this notion is made clear in the scripture. Revelation and Mark also clearly indicate that those who are watchful will be ready and will not be caught unprepared for the returning Christ.

Luke 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

Notice how Luke 21 directly parallels the encouragement and approval Jesus gives to the Church of Philadelphia. In both passages those who watch and obey are counted worthy to escape the coming trouble.

Revelation 3:3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

Revelation 16:15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

Mark 13:35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:

So, Jesus' return will be surprising to those who think he has delayed his coming. Jesus' return will be a surprise for those who think the promise has been postponed again and again since the fathers fell asleep. But for those of us who keep watch and don't fool around with the things of this world, we will not be surprised and unprepared.

With all this in mind let's read again the passages in Revelation 2, 3, and 22 also keeping in mind that Jesus' return cannot be dependent upon their obedience. They cannot avert his return by compliance with his command. His second coming was not triggered by their disobedience.

Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly [5035], and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Revelation 2:16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly [5035], and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

Revelation 3:11 Behold, I come quickly [5035]: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

Revelation 20:6 And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. 7 Behold, I come quickly [5035]: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
...12 And, behold, I come quickly [5035]; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
...20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly [5035]. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

So, what is Jesus saying? He's saying, "Repent and obey because my coming will not be delayed as the lazy servants and scoffers believe. Repent and obey so that my return will not catch you unaware and unprepared like it will for those wicked servants and scoffers."

These passages cannot be interpreted to indicate Jesus would come soon or else chapter 2:5,16 would indicate Jesus' return was dependent upon their disobedience. Only if they failed to repent would he return "quickly" or "soon."

Revelation 2:5,16 "Repent...or else I will come unto thee [soon]."

By interpreting "quickly" to mean "without delay" solves this problem because it refers back to I Thessalonians 5 and demonstrates that these statements were a warning, not an indication of when he would return. Jesus is simply warning these churches that those who forget about Jesus' return will be caught unprepared for it.

Revelation 2:5,16 "Repent...or else I will come unto thee [unexpectedly without delay*]."

*"Without delay" is a reference to "unexpectedly" since those servants who thought "My Lord has delayed his coming" would not be expecting his return so would be caught off guard. This is the purpose of the parable in Matthew 24 and Luke 12, in which such servants are unprepared for their master's return and are therefore, assigned a place with unbelievers.

When we understand these passages in the context of the New Testament language concerning Jesus' return, we understand that these verses in Revelation 2, 3, and 22 are intended as a warning and a reminder not to become scoffers or lazy servants. These verses do not indicate that Jesus would come soon. They simply indicate that he will come without delay. Jesus will return and it will be right on time. So we should not become disillusioned or disobedient because of the amount of time that expires before he returns.

And there is one more proof text that Preterists might suggest.

Revelation 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. 11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

Preterists will argue that the return of Christ had to be soon otherwise, how would Christ keep the Church of Philadelphia from the "hour of temptation" which would not occur for hundreds of years?

Well, first of all, Christ's words here echo I Thessalonians 5 wherein believers are told to stay sober and watchful so that the day of his return won't overtake them unprepared.

I Thessalonians 5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
...9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

Just like the Church at Philadelphia, Paul tells the Thessalonians that if they keep God's word, they will not be caught unprepared and so they will not have to endure wrath. The "wrath" mentioned in I Thessalonians 5 is a reference to the "hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth" found in Revelation 3:11.

This does not necessitate a Pre-tribulation rapture, however, only a "pre-Armageddon" rapture before the day (i.e. literal 24 hour day) of the Lord's return.

In this sense, Jesus' promise to "keep" the Church at Philadelphia from "the hour of temptation" is intended as the converse of his statements to the Churches at Ephesus and Pergamos. Those 2 churches were in need of repentance. As such, they were currently unprepared for Christ's return and would be counted among the unbelievers according to Matthew 24 and Luke 12. On the other hand, Philadelphia had kept God's word and as such was counted as prepared and therefore, worthy to escape the coming tribulation. Jesus is doing nothing more than applying a general rule to Philadelphia just as he is to Ephesus and Pergamos. Jesus is not indicating a "soon" return by these remarks. He is merely commending the Church of Philadelphia for their preparedness and obedience and reminding them of the promised reward to encourage them to remain in obedience.

We would not assume that Jesus was ignorant of the long duration of time before his return. Jesus knew full well that his return would not be for thousands of years. Peter's teaching in 2 Peter 3 confirms this even though neither Jesus nor Peter knew the exact day or hour of his coming (Mark 13:32). (For more about Jesus' knowledge of his "delayed" return, please visit our article "Preterism Part 7: Scripture and a Delayed Coming.")

Jesus makes this promise to the Church at Philadelphia because their obedience made them worthy of his deliverance just as the Churches at Ephesus' and Pergamos' disobedience made them unready for his un-delayed return. Jesus is simply reminding Ephesus and Pergamos of the danger of disobedience and conversely, he is reminding Philadelphia of the reward for obedience so that they will continue in it. It was not relevant that his return wouldn't be for hundreds of years for two reasons.

First, whenever the return would be, the point for Ephesus and Pergamos was that they were not ready. That was the danger for them. Jesus' statement to these Churches, "You are not ready for my return" does not necessitate that his return be within their lifetimes. And the converse for Philadelphia is also true. After commending them in verse 10, Jesus tells them in verse 11, "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." The point for Philadelphia was "You are ready for my return, do not loose that. Hold fast to it." Just like the statement to Ephesus and Pergamos, Jesus' statement to Philadelphia is irrelevant to "when" he would return. As such it cannot be interpreted to require a "soon" return.

Second, given the principle of the Transcendent "You," we know that Jesus was aware that more generations of believers would read these letters than just the immediate audience. So, these statements to Ephesus and Pergamos as well as to Philadelphia use those three Churches as stand-ins for the rest of Christians throughout the coming generations. Thus, Jesus speaks this general warning and encouragement to them because these words are equally applicable to every coming generation of the Church. (For our study establishing the existence of the Transcendent "You" principle in scripture please visit our article "Preterism Part 2: Olivet and the Transcendent 'You'.")

But let's be absolutely frank about the Futurist interpretation of these verses. If Futurists are correct then Jesus is indicating to these Churches that his coming might be in their lifetimes when, in fact, he knows it will not be. Isn't that misleading? Are we saying that God would imply his immediate return when in reality he knows he's not coming?

Absolutely, unequivocally, yes. God has consistently demonstrated his practice of both being ambiguous about when Jesus' will return and at the same time implying that Jesus' could return very soon. And God even goes so far as to explain why he does this. On this point, scripture could not be clearer.

Matthew 24:42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 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.
...50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,

Matthew 25:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

Mark 13:32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. 33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. 34 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. 35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

Luke 12:38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 39 And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. 40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

Luke 21:34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

God does give signs of his return, but he is constantly implying that these signs and the return could begin to unfold at any moment. Scripture is very clear about four things regarding the return of Christ. 1. God won't tell us exactly when it is. 2. God desires for us to be ready for Jesus' return at all times including the vast majority of moments when he will not be returning. 3. God deliberately communicates to us in such a way as to make us think these events could unfold at any moment including those moments when he knows Jesus' will not return. 4. God does this so that we'll be ready at any moment and will not slack off in our obedience.

So, why should we be surprised that Jesus would indicate to Ephesus, Pergamos, and Philadelphia that he might return very soon when God knows that he would not be returning for centuries. Some might debate whether this is misleading on God's part, but one thing is not up for debate. God definitely engages in this practice. And since we know that God is not a liar, we would indicate that this is not misleading on God's part. He has given us indications that we might know when his return is near.

And, assuming a Preterists' view of Jesus' return in 70 AD doesn't get around this scenario either. Even if Jesus' return and the antichrist occurred in 70 AD, the Great White Throne Judgment is still ahead of us at which point all of us will be judged and sent to either heaven or hell. If the Preterists are correct, then there are no signs indicating when this Final Judgment will happen. As such, it could happen at any moment, in any generation and so we have to be ready at every moment. That would leave centuries of generations of believers who would not know if that judgment would come in their lives or not. So, ignorant of that fact, they would be forced to be always ready, even when not necessary.

And, even for Preterists, there would be 40 years after his ascension, when the apostles would believe the events surrounding Christ's return could unfold at any moment. Whether 40 years or 2000 years, God deliberately gives the impression of the "nearness" of these events in order to keep us in a state of readiness. It doesn't make God any more misleading whether its 40 or 2000 years. If God indicates it could happen "now" when he knows it won't happen for 40 years, that's just as misleading as if he indicated "now" when he knew it won't happened for another 2000 years. What's theoretically misleading is the indication of "now" when God knows full well that it is not now.

What's most likely is that Jesus himself was not fully aware of how long it would be but he was aware that it could likely be as much as 2000 years or so. This understanding he passed on to his disciples. And this may be exactly why Jesus chose to remain ignorant of this fact despite his omniscience. In other words, by choosing to remain ignorant in this area, it became possible for Jesus to function as a motivator indicating his return could be at any moment. In this way, he could speak as if his return could unfold "right now" without being misleading, because he did not know for sure.

In short, Jesus admits his own lack of knowledge of when he would return. He probably knew from the scriptures that it could be as long as thousands of years by drawing on the same hints in scripture that are available to us, hints such as Psalm 90. This possibility he passed on to the apostles including Peter. That way, Jesus could indicate a soon return without being misleading. So, men would stay motivated whether it was 40 years or 2000 years before God knew he would actually return.

So, having examined Jesus words to the Churches in Ephesus, Pergamos, and Philadelphia, we find that they do not necessitate a Preterist interpretations. The words in such passages as Revelation 2:5,16; 3:11; 22:7,12, and 20 can be equally and easily accommodated by Futurist doctrine.