Bible prophecy

Overview

Hebrew Bible prophets often warn the Israelites to repent of their sins and idolatries, with the threat of punishment or reward. Blessings and ruinations are attributed to the deity. According to believers in Bible prophecy,[3] many of these prophecies are viewed as having been fulfilled within later passages.

A second prophetic theme is the coming of a Messiah: Christians believe that these Messianic prophecies are fulfilled by Christ Jesus, while followers of Rabbinic Judaism still await the arrival of the Jewish Messiah and other signs of Jewish eschatology. Most Christians believe many messianic prophecies will be fulfilled with theSecond Coming of Christ, though some Christians (Full Preterism) believe that all Messianic prophecies have already been fulfilled. Rabbinic Judaism does not separate the original coming of the Messiah and the advent of the Messianic Age. For details of the differences, see Christianity and Judaism.

Another major theme concerns the “end times“, or “last days”, particularly according to the Revelation of John.

Hebrew Bible

Genesis

Genesis 15:18 promises Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates and Genesis 17:8 states:

The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.[4]

Verses such as Acts 7:4–5 and Hebrews 11:13 indicate this was not accomplished during Abraham’s time. F. F. Bruce argues this was accomplished duringDavid‘s reign. He writes:

David’s sphere of influence now extended from the Egyptian frontier on the Wadi el-Arish (the “brook of Egypt”) to the Euphrates; and these limits remained the ideal boundaries of Israel’s dominion long after David’s empire had disappeared.[5]

Christian apologists point to corporate personality here to connect Abraham with the Jewish nation. H. Wheeler Robinson writes:

Corporate personality is the important Semitic complex of thought in which there is a constant oscillation between the individual and the group – family, tribe, or nation – to which he belongs, so that the king or some other representative figure may be said to embody the group, or the group may be said to sum up the host of individuals.[6]

Hebrews 11:15–16 says that the patriarchs longed for the heavenly country which explains that Hebrews 11:13 speaks about the promise of the heavenly home.[citation needed]

Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges

God is represented as guaranteeing that the Israelites would drive out the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites from their lands, which the Israelites wanted to appropriate (Exodus 34:10–11). The same applies to the Girgashites (Deuteronomy 7:1–2). In Exodus 34:10–27 this is referred to as a covenant, commandments being given. In Judges, the Israelites are described as disobeying the commandment to worship no other gods (Judges 3:6) and as a result not being able to drive out the Jebusites (Joshua 15:63). The Israelites did not drive all of the Canaanite tribes out in the lifetime of Joshua. The books of Joshua and Judges (Chapters 1) mention towns that could not be defeated. According to 2 Samuel, the Israelites occupied Canaan but the complete seizure took place only when David defeated the Jebusites in Jerusalem and made it the capital of the Kingdom of Israel. (2 Sam 5:6–7)[7]

Davidic dynasty

God states that the house, throne and kingdom of David and his offspring (called “the one who will build a house for my Name” in the verse) will last forever.(2 Samuel 7:12–16, 2 Chronicles 13:5, Psalm 89:20–37) 1 Kings 9:4–7 as well as 1 Chronicles 28:5 and 2 Chronicle 7:17 state that Solomon’s establishment is conditional on Solomon obeying God’s commandments.

Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 2:1; 6:7–10) and did not obey God’s commandments (1 Kings 11:1–14).

The destruction of the Kingdom of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 BC brought an end to the rule of the royal house of David.[8]

Some scholars including Saul of Cyrene state that God has promised an eternal dynasty to David unconditionally.(1 Kings 11:36, 15:4, 2 Kings 8:19) They feel the conditional promise of 1 Kings 9:4–7 seems to undercut this unconditional covenant. Most interpreters have taken the expression “throne of Israel” as a reference to the throne of the United Monarchy. They see this as a conditionalization of the unconditional dynastic promise to David’s house expressed in 1 Kings 11:36, 15:4 and 2 Kings 8:19. They argue the presence of both unconditional and conditional promises to the house of David would create intense theological dissonance in the Book of Kings.[9][10][11][12]

Christians believe that the promise is of surviving descendants that could fulfill the role of king rather than a permanent earthly kingship.[13][14][15][16]

Kings

  • According to The Book of Kings God told Zedekiah:

I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down. You will not escape from his grasp but will surely be captured and handed over to him. You will see the king of Babylon with your own eyes, and he will speak with you face to face. And you will go to Babylon… You will not die by the sword; you will die peacefully. (Jeremiah 34:2–5)

The Books of Kings and Jeremiah relate that Zedekiah’s eyes were put out after he was taken to the King of Babylon and that he remained a prisoner in Babylon until his death (2 Kings 25:6–7 and Jeremiah 52:10–11). There is no other historical record of what happened with Zedekiah in Babylon.[17]

  • God is also represented as promising Josiah that because he humbled himself before God, he would be “buried in peace” and the book goes on to say he shall not see the disaster to come on Judah (2 Kings 22:19–20).

Josiah fought against the Egyptians although the pharaoh, Necho II, prophesied that God would destroy him if he did (2 Chronicles 35:21–22)—possibly Josiah was “opposing the faithful prophetic party”.[18] Josiah was killed in battle against the Egyptians (2 Kings 23:29–30). However, Judah was in a time of peace when Josiah died, thus fulfilling the prophecy.

Isaiah

For more details on this topic, see Isaiah 7:14.
  • When the Jews heard that “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim” God is said to have told them:

It will not take place, it will not happen… Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. (Isaiah 7:1–9)

According to 2 Chronicles 28:5–6 “God delivered the King of the Jews, Ahaz, into the hands of the King of Syria, who carried away a great multitude of them captives to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the King of Israel, who smote him with a great slaughter”.
In Isaiah 7:9 the prophet says clearly that a prerequisite for the fulfillment of the prophecy is that Ahaz stands firm in his faith. This means that he should trust God and not seek military help in the Assyrians which Ahaz nevertheless did.[19]

The Book of Isaiah also foretold;

Christian apologists state that the prophecy in Isaiah chapters 13 and 21 could possibly have been directed originally against Assyria whose capital Nineveh was defeated in 612 BC by a combined onslaught of the Medes and Babylonians. According to this explanation the prophecy was later updated and referred to Babylon[20] not recognizing the rising power of Persia. On the other hand, it can be mentioned that the Persian King Cyrus after overthrowing Media in 550 BC did not treat the Medes as a subject nation.

Instead of treating the Medes as a beaten foe and a subject nation, he had himself installed as king of Media and governed Media and Persia as a dual monarchy, each part of which enjoyed equal rights.[21]

  • Damascus will become a “heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted and left to flocks”. (Isaiah 17:1–2)

The prophecy may date from 735 BC when Damascus and Israel were allied against Judah.[22] Tiglath-Pileser took Damascus in 732,[22] which some apologists point to as a fulfillment of this prophecy, but this campaign never reduced the city to rubble.[citation needed] The depiction of Damascus as a “heap of ruins” has been understood as figurative language to describe the despoiling of the city, the leading of its people as captives to Kir (an unidentified city), and the way that the city lost much of its wealth and political influence in the years following Tiglath-Pileser’s attack.[23] The prophecy is also believed by some to have a future fulfilment relating to end-time developments concerning Israel. Many terrorist groups have their bases in Damascus, and in 2007 Israel vowed to destroy Syria if Syria attacked using chemical weapons.[24]

The passage is consistent with 2 Kings 16:9, which states that Assyria defeated the city and exiled the civilians to Kir.

  • The river of Ancient Egypt (identified as the Nile in RSV) shall dry up. (19:5).
  • “The land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt.” (Isaiah 19:17)
  • “There shall be five cities in Ancient Egypt that speak the Canaanite language.” (Isaiah 19:18)
  • “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. 24 In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. 25 The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.'” (Isaiah 19:23–25)

Some theologians argue the statement that the “land of Judah” will terrify the Egyptians is not a reference to a large army from Judah attacking Egypt but a circumlocution for the place where God lives. They argue it is God and his plans that will cause Egypt to be terrified. They go on to argue the second “in that day” message from verse 18 announces the beginning of a deeper relationship between God and Egypt which leads to Egypt’s conversion and worshiping God (verses 19–21). They say the last “in that day” prophecy (verses 23–25) speaks about Israel, Assyria and Egypt as God’s special people, thus, describing eschatological events.[25][26]

There are many scholars, however, who point out that the prophet himself spoke of Cyrus arguing that Deutero-Isaiah interpreted Cyrus’ victorious entry into Babylon in 539 BC as evidence of divine commission to benefit Israel. The main argument against the idols in these chapters is that they cannot declare the future, whereas God does tell future events like the Cyrus predictions.[29][30][31][32][33]

Jeremiah

Jeremiah prophesied that;

  • “…all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honour the name of the Lord.” (3:17 (NIV))
  • Hazor will be desolated. (49:33)
  • The Babylonian captivity would end when the “70 years” ended. (Jeremiah 29:10)

It lasted 68 years (605 BC–537 BC) from the capture of the land of Israel by Babylon[34] and the exile of a small number of hostages including Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael (Daniel 1:1–4).[35] It lasted 60 years (597–537 BC) from the deportation of the 10,000 elite (2 Kings 24:14) including Jehoiachin and Ezekiel[36] though there is a discrepancy with Jeremiah’s numbers of exiles (Jeremiah 52:28–30).[37] It lasted 49 years (586–537 BC) from the exile of the majority of Judah (2 Kings 25:11) including Jeremiah who was taken to Egypt and leaving behind a poor remnant (2 Kings 25:12).[36]
However, some Christian scholars try to explain the figure in a different way stating that Jeremiah gave a round number.[38]

Christian commentaries have considered the conquering Persian force an alliance between the Persians and the Medes.[39][40] One suggests the use of the term “Medes” is due to earlier recognition among the Jews and because the generals of Cyrus were apparently Medes.[41]

US Marines in front of Babylon as it stood in 2003

  • Jeremiah prophesied that Babylon would be destroyed at the end of the seventy years. (25:12) (Babylon fell to the Persians under Cyrus in 539 BC (66, 58 or 47 years after the beginning of the Babylonian exile depending on how you count). According to Daniel 5:31, it was the currently unidentified “Darius the Mede” who captured Babylon.)
  • Babylon would never again be inhabited.(50:39) (Saddam Hussein began to reconstruct it in 1985,[42][43] but was abruptly halted by the invasion of Iraq. Iraqi leaders and UN officials now plan to restore Babylon.)[42]
  • “The Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn cereal offerings, and to make sacrifices for ever”.

The destruction of temple by the Romans in 70 brought an end to the Jewish sacrificial system.(33:18) (See Korban) Christians have stated this refers to the millennium in which Christ reigns for a thousand years, since Jeremiah 33:18 goes along with the eternal reign of the line of David in verses 21–22.[44]

  • God will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals; and will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there.(9:11)
  • God will have compassion on Israel and cause them to return to the land after scattering them among the nations (12:14, 15; 31:8–10; 33:7).

Daniel

Ezekiel

  • Ezekiel prophesied the permanent destruction of Tyre. (Ezekiel 26:3–14)

Tyre was an island fortress-city with mainland villages along the shore.[45] These mainland settlements were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II, but after a 13-year siege from 585–573 BC, the King of Tyre made peace with Nebuchadnezzar, going into exile and leaving the island city itself intact.[46] Alexander the Great used debris from the mainland to build a causeway to the island, entered the city, and plundered the city, sacking it without mercy.[47] Most of the residents were either killed in the battle or sold into slavery.[47][48] It was quickly repopulated by colonists and escaped citizens,[49] and later regained its independence.[50] Tyre did eventually enter a period of decline, being reduced to a small remnant. Echoing Ezekiel’s words, historian Philip Myers writes in 1889:

The city never recovered from this blow. The site of the once brilliant maritime capital is now “bare as the top of a rock,” a place where the few fishermen that still frequent the spot spread their nets to dry.[51]

Older sources often refer to the locations as a “fishing village”. However, the nearby area grew rapidly in the 20th century. The ruins of a part of ancient Tyre (a protected site) can still be seen on the southern half of the island[52] whereas modern Tyre occupies the northern half and also sprawls across Alexander’s causeway and onto the mainland.[53] It is now the fourth largest city in Lebanon[54] with a population of 14,000 people[55]

  • Ezekiel then prophesies the conquest of Egypt, the scattering of its entire population (it was to be uninhabited for 40 years), and Nebuchadnezzar plundering Egypt (Ezekiel 29:3 – Ezekiel 30:26).

This includes the claim that God will make Egypt so weak that it will never again rule over other nations.[56] Pharaoh Amasis II (who drove off Nebuchadnezzar) also conquered Cyprus,[57] ruling it until 545 BC.[58] Despite being a powerful nation in ancient times, Egypt has since been ruled by the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantine Empire, Ottomans, British and the French,[59] and has also enjoyed periods of independence from external rule. During the Hellenistic period, the break-up of the empire of Alexander the Great left the Ptolemaic Dynasty (of Macedonian/Greek origin) as rulers of Egypt: the Ptolemies then conquered and ruled Cyrenaica (now northeastern Libya), Palestine, and Cyprus at various times.[60] (see also History of Ptolemaic Egyptand Ptolemaic kingdom).

There is some uncertainty among modern scholars regarding when (and by whom) various portions of the Book of Ezekiel were written,[61] making the timing of prophecies difficult to unravel (see Book of Ezekiel).

Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt around 568 BC. However, the armies of Pharaoh Amasis II defeated the Babylonians (though the author did not elaborate and there are no known detailed accounts of this invasion).[62] Herodotus reports that this Pharaoh had a long and prosperous reign.[63] The Egyptians were conquered by the Persians in 525 BC.[64]

Minor prophets

  • Amos prophesied that when Israel is restored they will possess the remnant of Edom. (Amos 9:12)
  • Obadiah prophesied that Israel will destroy the house of Esau in the day of the Lord. (Obadiah18)
  • Zechariah prophesied; “Never again will an oppressor overrun my people, for now I am keeping watch.” (Zechariah 9:8)
  • The river of Ancient Egypt (identified as the Nile in NIV, NASB, and RSV) shall dry up. (Zechariah 10:11)
  • Haggai prophesied; “In a little while God will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land.” (Haggai 2:6)
  • Malachi prophesied that God would send Elijah before “the great and dreadful day of the LORD” in which the world will be consumed by fire. (Malachi3:1, 4:1, 5) (In Mark 9:13 and Matthew 17:11–13, Jesus states that John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy as the spiritual successor to Elijah.)

New Testament

Gospels

For more details on this topic, see Abomination of desolation, Olivet Discourse, Second Coming.
  • In Matthew 10, when Jesus sent forth the twelve disciples, he told them:

“When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:23)

The Christian response is varied:

Moffatt puts it “before the Son of man arrives” as if Jesus referred to this special tour of Galilee. Jesus could overtake them. Possibly so, but it is by no means clear. Some refer it to the Transfiguration, others to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, others to theSecond Coming. Some hold that Matthew has put the saying in the wrong context. Others bluntly say that Jesus was mistaken, a very serious charge to make in his instructions to these preachers. The use of ἑως [heōs] with aorist subjunctive for a future event is a good Greek idiom.[65]

Preterist scholars explain this verse as referring to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD with the phrase “before the Son of Man comes” meaning before judgment comes upon the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem for rejecting Jesus Christ as The Messiah. They reject to refer Matthew 10:23 to the second coming of Jesus because Jesus speaks to his disciples about the towns of Israel:

Such a view completely divorces the passage from its immediate and localized context, such as the fact that this was an admonition to the apostles – and not directed to a generation several millennia removed from the first century.[66]

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary disagrees with this view:

In the similar context of Mt 24:8–31 the great tribulation and the second advent are in view. Hence, the “coming of the Son of man” is probably eschatological here also. This would have been more readily understood by the disciples, who would hardly have thought to equate this “coming” with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.[67]

  • In Matthew 12:40 Jesus says:

“as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (See also Matthew 16:21, 20:19, Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, Luke 11:29–30 and John 2:19) According to Mark 15:42–46, Jesus was buried in Friday night and according to Matthew 28:1–6 and John 20:1, Jesus’ tomb was found empty on Sunday dawn.

It is customary for eastern nations to count part of a day as a whole 24-hour day.[68]

  • Jesus prophesies in Matthew 16:27–28:

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

Christian responses have been varied:

Some of them that stand here (τινες των ὁδε ἑστωτων [tines tōn hode hestōtōn]). A crux interpretum in reality. Does Jesus refer to the transfiguration, the resurrection of Jesus, the great day of Pentecost, the destruction of Jerusalem, the second coming and judgment? We do not know, only that Jesus was certain of his final victory which would be typified and symbolized in various ways.[69]

Preterists respond that Jesus did not mean His second coming but a demonstration of His might when He says “coming in his kingdom”. In this view, this was accomplished by the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD when some of the Apostles were still living and thus fulfilling the word of Jesus that only some will not have died.[70] Others argue it refers to the Transfiguration.[71][72] The Wycliffe Bible Commentary states:

This coming of the Son of Man in his kingdom is explained by some as the destruction of Jerusalem and by others as the beginning of the Church. But referring it to the Transfiguration meets the requirements of the context (all Synoptists follow this statement with the Transfiguration, Mk 9:1; Lk 9:27). Furthermore, Peter, who was one of those standing here, referred to the Transfiguration in the same words (II Pet 1:16–18). Chafer calls the Transfiguration a “preview of the coming kingdom on earth” (L. S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, V, 85).[73]

  • He also prophesies to Caiaphas (Matthew 26:64, KJV):

Hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.

The word “you will see” is in Greek “ὄψεσθε” [opheste, from the infinitive optomai][74] which is plural. Jesus meant that the Jews, and not just the high priest, will see his coming.

  • Jesus declared in Gospel accounts of Matthew, Luke and John that Peter would deny him three times before cock-crow. Mark states that the cockcrowed after the first denial as well as after the third denial. (First crow is not found in the NIV version)

Christians argue that the first cock-crow is simply missing from Matthew, Luke, and John. In Matthew (Matthew 26:34), Luke (Luke 22:34), and John (John 13:38), Jesus foretells three denials of Peter before cock-crow. Matthew 26:69–75, Luke 22:54–62, John 18:15–27 report the fulfillment of this prophecy. In Mark 14:30, Jesus speaks of two cock-crows, which is mentioned in Mark 14:66–72 as having taken place. Christians argue that Matthew, Luke, and John removed the first cock-crow and diminished (Luke even eliminated) the partial exit by Peter after the first denial (which Mark reports).[75] If Mark was the “interpreter of Peter”,[76] he would have gotten his information directly and thus would be considered the more reliable source.

  • Matthew 24:1,2 states (cf Luke 21:6):

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Preterists claim these verses are metaphorical.[77] Others claim that the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70[78] fulfilled this despite the existence of thewailing wall.[79][80] The IVP Bible Background Commentary states:

Some stones were left on others (e.g., part of one wall still stands), but this fact does not weaken the force of the hyperbole: the temple was almost entirely demolished in A.D. 70.[81]

The parts of the wall Jesus refers to in the verse may not have included the wailing wall. Recent archaeological evidence suggest that the wailing wall part of the temple complex was not completed until an uncertain date in or after 16 A.D.[82]

  • Matthew 24:7–8 is part of Jesus response to the disciples in verse 5 asking, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” It states:

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

The famines part of this verse has often been associated with the third seal of Revelation (Rev. 6:5–6), and the pestilences and earthquakes aspect has often been associated with the fourth seal of Revelation (Rev. 6:7–8).[83][84] The presence of the term birthpains could be representative of better times ahead.[83] Scholars point out that these events have always been on earth, so the verse must refer to a significant increase in the intensity of them.[84]

There are also instances of erroneous, or untraceable, quotations from the prophets cited by the early Christians:

  • Matthew 27:9 paraphrases Zechariah 11:12 and 13 in relation to buying a field for 30 pieces of silver, but attributes it as a saying of Jeremiah. Jeremiah is described as buying a field (Jeremiah 32:6–9) but for seventeen shekels of silver rather than 30.

Christian writers have given several responses. First is that the use of Jeremiah is meant to refer to all the books of prophecy. Second is that although Jeremiah said this, any record has not survived. Third is this was the result of a scribal error because of the single letter difference in the abridged versions of the names.[85]

  • Matthew 2:23 refers to a prophecy being fulfilled by Jesus living in Nazareth which is not found in the Old Testament.

Christians have given several responses. First is that this prophecy has not survived to the present day. Second is the Greek word nazaret does not mean Nazarene but is related to the Hebrew word netzer which can be translated as ‘branch’. Third is that the verse is not a prophetic saying but simply reflects an Old Testament requirement for the Messiah to be held in contempt, (Psalm 22:6–8; 69:9–11, 19–21; Isaiah 53:2–4, 7–9) which they argue Nazarenes were (John 1:46; John 7:52).[86]

Some scholars respond that this is because the Malachi reference was just an introduction,[87] which made it significantly less important than Isaiah 40:3, leading to the whole being attributed to the prophet Isaiah. Other reasons given are Isaiah’s authority was considered higher than Malachi and the Isaiah text was better known.[88][89]

Letters of Paul

…we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:15–17)

Christians argue that Paul speaks about his own presence at the last day only hypothetically.[90] They point out Paul later states the Day of the Lord comes like a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:1–2) which is a word Jesus uses himself (Matthew 24:43–44) expressing the impossibility of predicting His second coming (Matthew 24:36).[91]

  • Paul prophesied in 1 Thessalonians 5:2–11: “For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, Peace and safety, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”
  • In 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4, Paul prophesied that the Man of sin would sit in the temple of God declaring himself as God. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD.

There are different attempts to explain the term “to take his seat in the temple of God”. Some understand it as a divine attribute which the man of lawlessness arrogates to himself and hence no conclusion can be drawn for time and place.[92] Many in the early Church, such as Irenaeus, Hippolytus of Rome, Origen and Cyril of Jerusalem, believed a literal Temple would be rebuilt by the Antichrist before the Lord’s Second Coming whereas Jerome and John Chrysostom referred the Temple to the Church.[93] Also some today’s scholars refer the phrase “God’s temple” to the Church pointing out that Paul used this term five other times outside 2 Thessalonians and does not refer it to a literal temple.[94]

  • 1 Timothy 4:1–3 says “in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth”.

The Church fathers such as John Chrysostom who lived at the time of Gnostics, the Marcionites, the Encratites, the Manicheans—who rejected Christian marriage and the eating of because they believed that all flesh was from an evil principle—asserted this text referred to such sects and that they were therefore “in the latter times”.[95][96] The Protestant theologian John Gill[97] believed that this refers to the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, particularlypriestly celibacy and Lent as promulgated by the medieval church. (see Great Apostasy)

  • Paul wrote in Romans 13:11,12: “…our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.”

Some Christian scholars believe the verses 11–14 refer to the era of salvation beginning with Christ’s resurrection[98] and its coming fulfillment on the last day.[99] Thus, they think that the claim Paul makes here about salvation is a claim every Christian and not only Paul in his time can affirm.[100] Some see this verse as indicating that there are no prophesied or salvation events before the Lord comes.[101] Those holding the belief that Paul has a longer time span in view point to its context after Romans 11, which describes the repentance of all of Israel in future.[101] They also point to Paul’s plan to visit Rome and more wester places in Romans 15 as indicating that he did not believe Christ’s return would be soon enough to simply wait for it.[101]

Other New Testament books

Revelation

The word “soon” (other translations use “shortly” or “quickly”) does not have to be understood in the sense of close future. The Norwegian scholar Thorleif Boman explained that the Israelites, unlike Europeans or people in the West, did not understand time as something measurable or calculable according to Hebrew thinking but as something qualitative:

We have examined the ideas underlying the expression of calculable time and more than once have found that the Israelites understood time as something qualitative, because for them time is determined by its content. [105]

…the Semitic concept of time is closely coincident with that of its content without which time would be quite impossible. The quantity of duration completely recedes behind the characteristic feature that enters with time or advances in it. Johannes Pedersen comes to the same conclusion when he distinguishes sharply between the Semitic understanding of time and ours. According to him, time is for us an abstraction since we distinguish time from the events that occur in time. The ancient Semites did not do this; for them time is determined by its content.[106]

In this way, the use of “soon” may mean this will be the next significant event which will take place with certainty.[107]