Faith, Doubt, Time: Seeking a Better Country

No, we do not need to apologise for saying Jesus is coming back soon. On one hand the longest delay is the lifespan of the believer. On the other hand, in 1906, EGW said the coming has been delayed by unbelief and the added delay will be much longer than the 40 yrs of wilderness wandering.

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At what point does a rational person conclude that a failed certainty based on hope and communal reinforcement is a delusion? It is evident that not only were the SDA pioneers wrong, but so were the writers of the New Testament who fanned the flames of the same expectation in their own time. Such are the consequences of belief in the absence of evidence or in spite of evidence to the contrary.

Forget 200 years. Consider 2000 years. “Behold I come quickly” or “The day is at hand” rings a bit hollow…


As the little boy in the commercial said to his brother who was trying to drive a square peg into a round hole, “Just keep hitting it.”



Since we’re waiting for Jesus to return, maybe we should pay some attention to what he said about his own return - and it wasn’t about 1844, or based not at all on any date. By now, we should know that time, calculated in years, is valid only on this globe we inhabit, based on the number of times earth travels around a minimum star in one of a gazillion galaxies. The cosmos, and whatever is beyond it, has no such bases for calculating time. In fact, there is no time out beyond our own solar system.

Jesus didn’t talk about those rotations around our star. He was concerned about the state of mankind, and the integrity of the solar system, both of which are becoming more and more tenuous. He specifically said, “unless he returned, there would be no man left to greet him” (paraphrased from Matt.). Unless Noah dodged a nuclear bullet, our day is the first, that has the buttons that could put a final end to the physical world we inhabit. Add to that the fact that no weapon has been created, up to this point, that hasn’t been used. So, no matter how many thousands of windmills we erect; or, how many electric cars we buy, this globe stands to blow up any time some egocentric maniac thinks he’s able to survive a nuclear event, and remain alive amidst the radioactive rubble.

If fairness is the issue, the only thing that makes sense, is for the ultimate salvation come a nanosecond before that flare. Or, “time” in the cosmos has been able to turn upon itself, and each death has catapulted time to that final moment. IOW, we don’t know.


Yeah…I don’t see the institutional SDA church as being able to seriously consider any analysis of this issue…entropic tendency is in full sway. To meaningfully reorder our corporate views of a ‘soon’ coming would also call our status as ‘the remnant’ into question and you know that’s a non-starter.

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Thanks, @PapaAfful:

I’ve never understood SDA angst over the admonition “Christ is coming soon.” He is.

He also foresaw discussions like this one. In 2 Peter 3, the disciple goes right to this very issue:

3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

I say all of this as a middle-aged man whose been a Seventh-day Adventist since birth, and who, like the figurative one you noted, doesn’t believe Jesus will come in my lifetime. I don’t think of these thoughts as “occasional,” “unguarded,” “relished,” or anything else but mathematical: He hasn’t come in most people’s lifetimes, so the chance He will come in mine may be low.

And…so what?

Indeed, this topic comes up so often on these boards, it quickly prompted my recall of an exchange I had with @waten on this very matter, just a quarter-decade ago.

When he observed SDAs “have been proclaiming the ‘nearness’ of Jesus’ return…—that he is coming “soon”—for 176 years!”, @timteichman pointed out:

I’m not sure if Tim was being tongue-in-cheek or not, but I thought it was a good response. In other words, to the Author of a multi-billion year-old cosmos, any shorter period is, comparatively, brief. This would include the roughly four millennia it took God to fulfill the promise of Genesis 3:15, and the two-plus millennia it’s taken Him to return.

@waten didn’t seem to agree.

He added:

I didn’t think @waten was considering all of the permutations of the word soon, particularly given the way he’d roughly dismissed Tim’s insight.

So, I asked:




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In other words, the word “soon” as used by Jesus in this case is so relative and ambiguous as to have been rendered meaningless and one wonders why Jesus would have wasted his time in uttering such an inane comment.

But oh yeah, there’s no reason to believe that he did make this statement as the whole concept of his imminent return may have been something the gospel writers threw into their propaganda in an effort to make a quick sale and create new converts.

That is, everyone who’s ever tried to motivate anyone to do anything knows that in order to “close the deal” it’s important to add an element of time, even if it wholly contrived and arbitrary, as when a salesman says “ACT NOW!!!”, a teacher says, “Put down your pencils in 5, 4, 3…”, or the IRS insists on an April 15th deadline.

Please get back to us as soon as you have a gospel that Jesus, himself, wrote, or when you have an authenticated, handwritten note from the messiah saying “I approve the following message.”


The sun will supernova in about 7.5 billion years, so we have until then to find out the meaning of “soon”.

A characteristic of a deeply held delusion is to find the most stretched explanations, and multiply them, in the vain attempt to defend that belief. Anything is worth a try to avoid facing the obvious.


Thanks, @NY_G_PA2.

That’s incorrect.

In other words, Christ had to use a temporal adverb which:

a) characterized the timing of His return truthfully,

b) conveyed necessary impetus to believers,

c) was appropriately vague, so as to be true in every era of Christianity,

d) accomplished other objectives of which I, or other readers, may be unaware.

… who would, then, go on to societal revulsion, ostracism, and painful deaths…for…well, for what?

Thanks, Bruce.

I think you take yourself, your ideas, and your writing of them seriously. I believe you do.

Also, in a way, I agree with you: I think I see how the fact Christ did not write these documents, or any, could move one to say they are not credible.

(I mean, had He written them, one might then object that these were merely words He’d written about Himself, not about Him by others, and, thus, they were not objective. But we can address that another time. :slightly_smiling_face:)

If your argument, however, is Christ would have to write them, in order for them to be believable or authoritative, I wish you would acquire the necessary apparatuses to see how truly odd a demand yours remains.

You state it, seemingly, at every opportunity, as though it is a sophisticated bifurcator of falsity and verité.

But it isn’t. It’s not a call any serious student or professor of historiography would recognize.

The fact is, most significant figures of history did not leave behind written autobiographies. This is especially true of figures in deep antiquity, like Jesus Christ. The autobiography, like the novel, is a relatively recent literary form. Your dictate is highly idiosyncratic and anachronistic.

Socrates, for example, did not leave behind any written documents. Do you doubt whether the ideas accorded to him are his?

Meanwhile, the earliest biography about Alexander the Great — who also did not write an account of his life or thoughts — wasn’t penned until over 400 years after his death. Did Alexander the Great actually exist?

Instead, you harp on the fact four biographies were written about Jesus shortly after His life ended; within decades. Again: This is so queer an objection as to border on the bizarre. It’s somewhat akin to rejecting a turbocharger, because it’s extremely noisy, “and a good engine should make its own power.” What you hail as a bug is, in fact, a feature.

Put another way: Name another ignominious, executed, itinerant teacher of the era about whom four biographies were composed, within a brief period after His death, and whose life story subsequently catapulted a movement which not only, essentially, created Western civilization, but which enthralls billions today as the largest socio-cultural aggregator on the planet.

This is apart from whether one believes Christ to be the Son of God, or not. His was a unique life, by any objective measure. You would do well to think gravely about this, and not about the books He didn’t pen.


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In fact, @bartwillruth, the Sun will never supernova.

It simply doesn’t possess enough mass to generate a hyper-detonative event, this being the domain of stellar objects 20X the Sun’s mass, or above.

Instead, in about five billion years — not seven-and-a-half, though, admittedly, opinions necessarily vary on this — the Sun will radically grow in size, enveloping or nearly enveloping the Earth, below. Its emissions and color will change, as it becomes a red giant.

After a few billion years in this form, it will contract into a final, white dwarf stage, where, for at least 10 or more billion years, it will spend the rest of its visible, radiative existence.


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OK, I will predict that that time frame will qualify as “soon”. That is, soon in cosmic time. (Is that similar to Yahweh time?)

But back on track, it is clear that the writers of the earlier NT documents thought, or wanted others to think, that the end was nigh. Paul told his readers to not marry, the time being so short. That sort of limits the meaning of “soon”.


This is another assertion made without evidence and which can be rejected on those same grounds.

But okay, you want me to take your claims about Jesus more seriously than my own, so I’ll make you a deal.

When you can perform any of the miracles that Jesus supposedly said his followers would be capable of-handling poisonous snakes, casting out demons, walking on water, healing the sick, raising the dead, etc.,-or if Jesus returns and says “Bruce, you should have listened to @Harry_Allen”, I’ll take your suggestions under advisement.


Thanks for the question, @bartwillruth.

However, I’ve addressed this already.

I said:

It’s very clear the authors of the New Testament may have thought Christ’s return would happen in their lifetime. They were in error.

It doesn’t limit the meaning of soon in any way, however. It merely reaffirms the word, like any adverb, especially temporally applied ones — e.g., fast — has a comparative definition which may change when it is contextually reapplied.

I addressed this when I gave the example of waten and his daughter. All of those uses of soon are contextually appropriate, but indicate widely varying, non-interchangeable time lengths.

Perhaps I should be more straightforward with my other objection:

People who are occupied with God’s work don’t have this objection re: His long return, any more than people who are busy accomplishing any other lifelong task do.

One very rarely hears a person who has acquired several advanced degrees, taught widely around the world, or, by their efforts, changed the parameters of her chosen field complain how life is long and drawn out. Instead, they remark upon how quickly it has gone by.


Because the more occupied one is with one’s life’s tasks, the faster life moves. (Anyone who has children frequently comments on this, as it pertains to their offspring: “They grew up so fast.”)

Peter called the people who wonder why God has taken so long to return “scoffers.” This is not a compliment. He’s speaking derisively. He’s mocking their objections. These are not people who are engaged in the things of God, doing His gargantuan tasks. They are on the sidelines, sucking soda through a straw, sneering.

You might say, in a way, the conversation about when Christ is returning is not about them. It’s not about them, any more than a question about the airplane departure time for Apple’s corporate Christmas trip to Belize is relevant to people in Attica prison, or even people at Dell: They don’t work for Apple.

Now, in fact, Peter notes, even scoffers benefit from God’s delay: It gives them time for Him to reform their wills into shapes He can use. This only happens, though, if they make use of the available time.


-soon - soon-soon – (I suppose : Rev 3 :11) :We just do not know what Jesus sad, surely not in KJV English, rather not in Koine Greek - -
“erxomai tachy” - do not look into a Bible dictionay ( Bauer !), look in a neutral one : soon, quickly, in a hurry, surprisingly, not expected, suddenly - - (Schenkl),

    • I am qiute awe of “tanslating out of Greek untilit fits into our views” , but sometimes it could really help to a new ( ! ) understanding .!

you’re right, it is a non-starter…we know that recorded time has been going on for thousands of yrs, while the remnant church is only 159 yrs-old (IJ has been going on for only 178 yrs)…even if christ takes a few more hundred yrs to return, i think we can still say it would be “soon”…

Thanks, Bruce.

• You can very credibly attack the veracity of any claims I might make re: possessing or demonstrating “Christian Love.” Even though, in these replies, I have not affirmed I am presenting or representing philia, as one who aspires to the ideals of Christ, I should be more loving in my statements. That is always true. It is a shortcoming of mine, and one I have acknowledged on these very boards.

Well stated. I can only ask your forgiveness for this deficiency, and I do.

• My responses to you, however, are not ad hominem. An ad hominem attack would be one in which I talk about you, personally, or your character.

If you re-read my critiques — and I wish you would do so — I talk about your ideas, as you present them, and/or the quality of your arguments. Since we are arguing, these are fair game, and my responses are not ad hominem.

Thanks, Bruce.

Three thoughts:

a) I also stand corrected re: this aural detail, which was my mistake. Thank you for pointing it out.

b) The 2nd part of my analogy posits a person who resents the turbocharging add-on entirely, deeming any such modification illegitimate; “a good engine should make its own power.”

In professional racing circles, such thinking is, and would be, deemed, again, flawed and anachronistic.

c) My core point: You seem to deem the fact Christ did not write His own biography a historiographical shortcoming, and good reason to doubt the truth of what we claim to know about Him.

No one who deals with such matters on a scholarly level holds such a view.

No one, attempting to recreate the story of, say, Nero, would state:

“Nero had four fairly contemporary biographies written about him, including two by people who closely knew him (Matthew, John), one informed by someone who closely knew him (Mark via Peter), and one written by a medical doctor with a historian’s penchant for detail (Luke).”

“But,” with a sigh, “since Nero didn’t write his own autobiography, we don’t have any reason to trust those books.”

Historiographers would consider what you’ve argued extremely odd, and would probably deem it an amateur’s error; a proposition by a person who does not know or understand the methods by which history, and historical documents, are composed.

By mentioning turbocharging, I was trying, by analogy, to show how peculiar this view is, and remains.


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Having spent a good part of my childhood in the “hollers” of the Virginias, I’m accustomed to being told that I must “take seriously” “true” stories about how hemp ropes left in watering troughs overnight can turn into real, live snakes .

As to the veracity, or lack of same, in regards to Jesus’ resurrection, or any of the other purported miracles attributed to him, I find the question immaterial.

What matters is whether or not what a person espouses is substantiate and meaningful to me personally.

In other words, if a “real” person, or one of the “previously dead” supposedly now walking the earth, tells me I need more fiber in my diet I’m more than happy to judge the merits of that claim using my own intellect and intuition and decide for myself what I should have for breakfast tomorrow!


Thanks for the questions.

a) Why do you say this?

b) Are you saying I appear to accept extraordinary claims uncritically, while pronouncing such actions virtuous?

c) Of which extraordinary claims do you speak?

d) Where did I pronounce accepting such claims uncritically as virtuous?

Well, we’re trying to determine why you’ve said what you’ve said before I can concur.

My standard position is all questions are infinitely re-usable.

So, obviously, I can’t hold the position you seem to ascribe to me, and that one, at the same time.

Every person should seek evidence sufficient to their pursuit.

See above.

Might what explain…as it pertains to which teachings?


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Actually, what I have learned from previous study of the book of Revelation, is that the true translation of what Jesus said did not have to do with something happening in the near term, but rather, when it happens, it will happen ‘quickly’. When you think about it, doesn’t that make much more sense?

This is simply not the case and shows that your research is limited to those who agree with you.

Again, we’re spinning our wheels here as you do not respect the level or mindset of the research I’ve done in this regard and the conversation is pointless.