Author: Ron Graham
Three Time Spans
—Times and seasons in prophecy
Times of Tribulation (Revelation 6-11) >Seven Seals >Excursus on time and suffering (5)
Going back to the benediction (Revelation 1:3), we will now notice its final five words, "because the time is near".
In the first and last chapters of Revelation, we have other similar statements: "These things must shortly take place... Surely I am coming quickly..."
How does this warning make the book of Revelation of immediate importance and revelance to you? Let's take some time to think about that.
1 The Language of Imminence
People sometimes have difficulty with the expressions "things which must shortly take place" and "the time is near" (Revelation 1:1,3).
Some people assume that everything in the book was supposed to happen soon after the visions were given and John wrote them down. Others assume that everything in the book is going to happen shortly after they finish reading it!
However, as we have noted, the book of Revelation is presenting the gospel, encouraging us to believe and obey it, and make ourselves ready for the coming of Christ. This should be done without delay, not in the spirit that we will get around to it someday. That's why the book of Revelation uses the language of soon coming.
2 We Have So Little Time
How much time do we have? Put it this way: Suppose Jesus does not come until the year 20,000. Does that give you nearly twenty thousand years to get ready? Of course not.
To all intents and purposes, the time you have until Jesus comes is the lifetime you have left on this planet. How long is that? Is it fifty years? Is it one day? You don't know, do you?
You very likely know your date of birth, but you very likely don't know your date of death. The actual date of Jesus’s second coming is irrelevant, because if you die before he comes, that's the end of time for you.
So for you and me, the second coming should be regarded as a soon coming. regardless of how distant in the future it may occur.
Related to this concept of time, with its focus on our lifetime, our studies now go aside to examine symbolic time spans in vision and prophecy. We will especially examine the key phrase "a time, times, and half a time".
3 Three Time Spans
Although the Christian age is in the order of 2000 years so far, from your personal standpoint, it may be divided into three periods. Relatively speaking, these three time spans add up to hardly any time at all.
- The first period is the span of history from Christ’s birth to your own birth. Although nearly two thousand years, you may view this period as God does: "With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2Peter 3:8-9).
- Since you have not had to sit for two thousand years waiting, looking at your watch, this period is to you as if it were just a couple of days.
- The second period is your lifespan. This is certainly very short. "For what is your life? It's just a vapour that appears for a short time and then vanishes" (James 4:14).
- The third period is the gap between your death and the second coming of Christ. This period, if you endure it at all, will be waited out where "the dead know nothing... under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 9:5-8).
- In death you shall have no knowledge or share in the passage of time "under the sun". Your transition from this life to the next may seem no more than "a moment in the twinkling of an eye" (1Corinthians 15:52).
When we view the three time spans with a personal and practical relativity, we see that "the time is near" indeed, because "the time" is, for all practical purposes, only as far away as you have days left to live. You know your birthday. But do you know your deathday? It could be any day. Even if it is decades away, that’s still not very long.
I won't labour that point any more, but it is in this relative sense that I understand Jesus to say, "The time is near; I am coming soon". It's very true for me. It is very true for you. The world might wait for centuries, but each individual doesn't really have long to wait at all.