G. K. Beale, who holds an idealist position claims that the term “soon” “appears to denote fulfillment in the near future, which perhaps has already begun in the present” (Beale 1999: 153). Peter Leithart, who holds a preterist position, insists that “soon” should be read in a straightforward manner and not trimmed or reinterpreted (Leithart 2018: 70-71).
However, there are good reasons for understanding the things which “must soon take place” to be the events of the Second Coming.
a. Revelation 1:1, 3 are paralleled in 22:6-7, 10, 12, 20. The ambiguous expressions “soon take place” and “the time is near” are clarified by the words of Jesus in 22:7, 12, 20: “I am coming soon.”
b. Other Scriptures speak of the Second Coming or its accompanying events as coming “soon,” “near,” “at hand,” etc. (Charles 1920: 6; Ladd 1972: 22; Osborne 2002: 55; Schreiner 2018: 549-50; Fanning 2020: 75).
Deuteronomy 32:35: “for the day of their calamity is at hand, And their doom comes swiftly.’” If this “doom” refers to an eschatological judgment (Jonathan Edwards 2006: 390-10; Jamison, Faussett, and Brown, 1:706; cf. Block 2012: 764.), the swiftness would have to be reckoned from God’s point of view.
Obadiah 15: “For the day of Yhwh is near upon all the nations.” Though Obadiah is focused on the judgment of Edom, this verse, encompassing as it does all the nations, is eschatological in scope (Raabe 1996: 191; Busenitz 2003: 270; Block 2013: 81; Rogland 2018: 383). There are two possible scriptural explanations for the use of this terminology. First, “what human beings consider ‘near’ need not be the same for God, for whom a ‘thousand years’ are ‘as a watch in the night’ (Ps. 90:4; cf. 2 Pet. 3:8–9)” (Rogland 2018: 383). Second, the Hebrew term translated “near” often “often expresses physical rather than temporal proximity” (Rogland 2018: 383). Thus the image would be of a threat that is always close by (See Raabe 1996: 192; Block 2013: 84).
Joel 3:14: “For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” Joel 1:15 and 2:1 also refer to the day of the Lord as “near,” but those verses likely refer to a historical day of the Lord (Finley 1990: 35, 40-42; Seitz 2016: 149-50; cf. Garret 1997: 328). This verse refers to the eschatological day of the Lord, but the statement of nearness should be considered as interior to the prophecy, not as measured from Joel’s time. Thus, this verse is not relevant to the question at hand.
Isaiah 13:6: “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near.” The day of the Lord in this chapter likely refers both to a historical judgment against Babylon and to the ultimate eschatological day of the Lord (Young, 1:419; Grogan, EBC, 101; Webb 1996: 81; Raabe 2002: 652-74; Adams 2007: 43-44; cf. Wolf 1985: 110; Oswalt 1986: 299.). It may be that the statement about nearness is “not from the standpoint of Isaiah’s own day,” but from the standpoint of those who experience the fulfillment of the prophecy (Young, 1:419). Or it may speak to “the total preparedness of that day to dawn whenever the Lord declares that the time has come” (Motyer, 138).
Zephaniah 1:7, 14: “Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near…. The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast.” While verse 7 could refer to a historical day of the Lord, verse 14 clearly refers to the eschatological day (Motyer 1998: 922). Motyer notes, “”Imminence is part of the prophetic definition of the day of the Lord (Ezek. 7:2, 10; 30:2-3; Joel 1:15; Hag. 2:6), as it is in the New Testament, which expects the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Motyer 1998: 917). It is challenging, however, to see how the eschatological day of the Lord could be imminent prior to the first advent. Patterson suggests a linkage between the historical and eschatological days: “However much the events detailed here may have full reference only to the final phase of the Day of the Lord, they were an integral part of the prophecy and could occur anywhere along the series” (Patterson 1991: 320). Robertson notes that this idea of the nearness of the day of the Lord is picked up by the New Testament (Robertson 1990: 281).
Luke 18:7-8: “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily [ἐν τάχει]. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Bock notes that though Luke recognizes that there is “a concern about the return’s delay,” he can still affirm the speedy return to give justice (Bock 1996: 1453; Bock does note that this may be partially explained by the inaugurated last days). Marshall observes, “To the elect it may seem to be a long time until he answers, but afterwards they will realise that it was in fact short” (Marshall 1978: 676; cf. Plummer 1922: 414; Stein 1992: 446.).
Romans 13:11-12: “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand.” The use of night and day imagery references the day of the Lord concept, with the night representing “the present evil age” and the day the day of the Lord (Moo 1996: 820-21; cf. Murray 1965: 167, 169; Schreiner 2017: 677-78). The “salvation” that has drawn near is culmination of God’s saving work at the return of Christ (Murray 1965: 165-66; Moo 1996: 822; Schreiner 2018: 677). Cranfield explains, “the primitive Church was convinced that the ministry of Jesus had ushered in the last days, the End-time…. As the interval provided by God’s patience in order to give men time to hear the gospel and to make the decision of faith, it could hardly be properly characterized otherwise than as ‘short time’” (Cranfield 1979: 683; cf. esp. Moo 1996: 822; Schreiner 2018: 678).
Romans 16:20: “The God of peace will soon [ἐν τάχει] crush Satan under your feet.” Cranfield observes, “That the promise refers to the eschatological consummation, and not to some special divine deliverance in the course of their lives, seems to us virtually certain” (Cranfield 1979: 803). Cranfield holds that verse 20 speaks of eschatological victory without reference to the opponents of 16:17-19 (Cranfield 1979: 803). Schreiner grants that a connection to the false teachers mentioned in 16:17-19 exists, but he believes the victory over those opponents is eschatological (Schreiner 2018: 799). Murray and Moo teach that the ultimate victory is eschatological, though they think there may be realizations of the victory throughout the history of the church (Murray 1965: 237; Moo 1996: 933). All three views are possible. Moo notes, “Paul’s prediction that the victory over Satan will come ‘quickly (ἐν τάχει) is no problem for the eschatological view once we appreciate rightly the NT concept of imminence” (Moo 1996: 933, n. 41; cf. Schreiner 2018: 799).
1 Corinthians 7:29, 31: “This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short…. For the present form of this world is passing away.” The form of this world is expressed by Paul in 7:30: “marriage, sadness, joy, possessing, and making use of the things of the world” (Taylor 2014: 191; cf. Ciampa and Rosner 2010: 348-49; Schreiner 2018: 157). At the day of the Lord, these will be replaced by life in the new creation (Lockwood 2000: 257). Fee and Garland claim that the present tense of παράγω (“is passing away”) indicates that that the process has already begun (Fee 1987: 342; Garland 2003: 331). Thus, the present time “has grown very short.” Christians live in the last days expecting the coming of Christ (See esp. Lockwood 200: 255-56 and Schreiner 2018: 156; cf. Ciampa and Rosner 2010: 344).
Philippians 4:5: “The Lord is at hand.” While some understand the nearness of the Lord to be spatial (Bockmuehl 1997: 245-46 is ambivalent), it is best to understand this in reference to the temporal nearness of the coming of the Lord (O’Brien 1991: 489; Fee 1995: 408; Silva 2005: 198; Hansen 2009: 289). On this understanding, “the eschatological dimension of this text may reflect Old Testament texts that speak of the coming ‘day of the Lord’ as ‘near’ (engus): these include Isa. 13:6; Ezek. 30:3; Joel 1:15; 3:14” (Bockmuehl 1997: 246).
Hebrews 10:25: “… all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Philip Edgcumbe Hughes observes, “When spoken of in this absolute manner, ‘the Day’ can mean only the last day, that ultimate eschatological day, which is the day of reckoning and judgment, known as the Day of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 3:13; Acts 2:20; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:10, 12; Mt. 7:22; 10:15; 11:22, 24; 24:36; Mk. 13:32; Lk. 10:12; 17:26, 30, 31; 21:34; Jn. 6:39; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; 1 Cor. 1:8; 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14; Jude 6; Rev. 6:17)” (Hughes 1977: 416; cf. Attridge 1989: 291; Lane 1991: 290; Guthrie 1998: 346; Koester 2008: 446; O’Brien 2010: 371; Cockerill 2012: 481; Johnson 2018: 147, 150). Though some have suggested that the reference was to AD 70 (Owen 1991: 526), there is nothing contextually that connects to AD 70 and the unqualified usage best links this verse with the eschatological day of the Lord passages (Hughes 1977: 416; Cockerill 2012: 481, n. 70).
James 5:8, 9: “For the coming of the Lord is at hand… the Judge is standing at the door.” Scot McKnight argues that the term “at hand” cannot simply refer to the imminence of the Second Coming. He claims it must be “understood as referring to something about to happen,” namely the judgment of Jerusalem in AD 70 (McKnight 2011: 411-12). However this requires McKnight to conclude that the Olivet Discourse should be read in a preterist manner and that Paul, in allusions to the Olivet Discourse, understood Parousia differently from Jesus (and James) (McKnight 2011: 406-7). Not only are these positions unlikely, it is also unlikely that James is warning Christian Jews in the dispersion (see McKnight 2011: 67-68) about their being judged by the Lord in the AD 70 judgment on Jerusalem. More likely is the view that Christians are in the last days and that the return of Christ is imminent; the Judge could pass through the doors at any moment (Hiebert 1992: 272-74; Moo 2000: 223-24; Blomberg and Kamell 2008: 227-28; McCartney 2009: 241-42). As McCartney notes, “Three other NT authors use this verb (ἐγγίζω, engizo) to speak of the day of judgment or the arrival of the Lord (Rom. 10 13:12; Heb. 10:25; 1 Pet. 4:7)” (McCartney 2009: 241).
First Peter 4:7: “The end of all things is at hand.” When Peter exhorts his readers to live righteously because “the end of all things is at hand,” je is reminding them that they live in the last days. The next major event of redemptive history is the Second Coming (Lille 1868: 274-75; Grudem 1988: 180; Hiebert 1992: 269; Schreiner 2003: 210; Storms 2018: 347; cf. Achtemeier 1996: 293-94). Though some have argued that this is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, Sam Storms observes, “it seems strange to speak of it as ‘the end of all things.’” In addition, he questions the relevance of that event as a motivating factor for Christians living in Asia Minor (Storms 2018: 347).
c. A common explanation for this language with reference to events yet future is that “soon” should be understood from God’s perspective: “[T]o the eyes of the eternal and endless God all ages are regarded as nothing, for, as the prophet says, ‘A thousand years in your sight, O Lord, are as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night’” (Oecumenius 2011: 3; cf. Perkins 2017: 313? 314?; Thomas 1992: 55-56; Hamilton 2012: 32; Schreiner 2018: 549-50; Fanning 2020: 75). See 1 Cor. 10:11; 1 Pet. 4:7; 1 John 2:18; James 5:8; Rev. 22:10 (Andrew of Caesarea 2011: 114; Gerhard, 11).
d. Another explanation: “These events could happen at any moment” (Hamilton 2012: 32; cf. Mounce 1998:41). Schreiner notes, “the last days have arrived with the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:16–17; Heb. 1:2). The last hour has now come (1 John 2:18), and thus the end is imminent, and has been for two thousand years. Every generation has rightly said Jesus is coming soon, because all the great redemptive events needed for him to return have been accomplished” (Schreiner 2018: 549-50; cf. Fanning 2020: 75; cf. Osborne 2002: 55).