“Sudden Destruction” When Peace Is Declared


“Daniel’s Prayer” (1865) by Sir Edward Poynter

11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

Rev 3:11

Context is everything.  Preterists and skeptics alike try to use the above to discredit the notion that Christ’s Kingdom will come as promised, and that He will physically come and take possession of the earth.  Yet, what is the context of the Book of Revelation?

Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,

Rev 1:7, 10

It should be obvious to anyone with eyes to see that the timeframe is the Day of the LORD that was prophesied in OT times (“Lord’s day” being the possessive form indicating the day “belonging to” or day “of” the Lord, as translated from the Greek).  Furthermore, reading through the Book of Revelation, it quickly becomes obvious that most of what we read has not yet come to pass.

So, what is this “quickly” business?  In general, it means “without delay” or “speedily”.  However, the question should really be: “‘Quickly’ beginning with when?”

Consider a race.  A certain runner will win the race, assuming it is not interrupted somehow.  I might even say that the runner ran “quickly”.  Does that mean he will appear at my doorstep in a few moments?  No, the context means he ran the race quickly once the start gun went off.  Likewise, once events begin to unfold in the Day of the LORD, Christ will come “quickly”!

Scientists attempt to be specific with words, even if they must borrow them from another language, because language itself can be very imprecise.  That is a problem in any language, but when you have to translate from one language to another, the problem is magnified.

If you add in a large time span, such as translating ancient texts, then it becomes even more problematic sometimes.  That doesn’t mean it cannot be done for the majority of texts, but it makes it that more important that we diligently study the word and not allow others’ misinterpretations which follow an agenda color what we read.

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.

1Th 5:3

With the Middle East once again in the news, it is important to review this and remind ourselves of what is true rather than what others want us to believe.

One certain egomaniac desiring a following for himself likes to quote and twist the above passage so much that it gets tiresome.  When confronted with his lies and misrepresentations of what others have said and written, as well as the Bible itself, he ducks, dodges and then goes on the attack.

At the end of the day, Jesus Christ was perfect as a human being.  He lived a sinless life.  More than that, He was perfectly obedient to the Father.  Yet, the Pharisees still managed to engineer a way to accuse Him multiple times, and they eventually prevailed and had Him killed.  What you read over and over again in the Gospels is that He rebuked them sharply for distorting Scripture and His words alike.  The same sorts of distortions and lies have been leveled towards God’s people ever since (and before even).

There are two theories about the end times, but frankly neither are provable by Scripture.  I believe one of them, but I would not tie my salvation to it!

One is the theory that Bob Thiel espouses that there is a 7 year end time period leading up to and including the Day of the LORD and the return of Jesus Christ.  It comes from the 70 week prophecy in Daniel.  It is sufficiently vague in its wording that who does what is a bit confusing.  If the prophecy is dual, then there is good reason for the vagueness.  There is good evidence, I believe, to indicate that this is how the end times will pan out.  However, there is also sufficient reason for doubt, so it is best to keep an open mind about such things.

The other points to 1 Thessalonians 5 to state that since “sudden” destruction comes upon those declaring peace that there absolutely cannot be a 7 year period leading up to the return of Christ.  They insist that Christ will return 3-1/2 years plus 30 days after the daily sacrifice ceases based upon Daniel 12, which is correct, but they state that means that peace must be declared immediately prior to that point (perhaps even that is why there is also a 75 day gap presented in v 12).  However, this interpretation is also as weak as a house of cards.

Mankind has long been interested in knowing the future.  Many have come and gone who declared the date that Christ would return.  None of them have been right so far, and none of them could have known.  If Jesus Christ Himself did not know when He was on the earth, then how can we possibly know?  We have the OT, just as He did, and the NT does not make it much clearer.  We were not given a handy chart or calendar showing exactly what occurs when, but rather we were given mere hints.

Indeed, of this I am certain: Neither theory is a heresy unless the person proclaiming insists that is the correct interpretation!  In short, you can be absolutely right on while being absolutely dead wrong in how you use that information.  Discernment is not just about the words being used but how they are used.

The word for “sudden” in the 1 Thessalonians passage is alphnidios, Strong’s G160.  It can mean sudden, certainly, but we must remember that “sudden” itself has more than one meaning.  It can mean quickly, but it more often means unexpectedly.  And, in fact, that is what alphnidios also means.  It means “unexpected, sudden, unforeseen”.  If I hide behind the sofa and “suddenly” jump out at you, you will likely receive a bit of fright from the unexpectedness of the event.

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.

~ Lk 21:34

Notice what Jesus is saying in this passage.  He is not talking about returning so quickly that the servant is “unawares”, alphnidios, but rather than the servant was too distracted and therefore caught off guard by his master’s returning.  And, in fact, it could not possibly be talking about “sudden” as a time unit, seeing as things like “carousing, drunkenness, and worries of life” (HCSB) take a significant amount of time.  In fact, the footnote in the HCSB for “carousing” says “Or hangovers”, which means this is an ongoing cycle of drinking, partying and hangovers, rather than a short period of time.

The main problem of insisting upon a strict interpretation of prophecy, which is often intentionally filled with vague symbols, is that it causes unnecessary division.  There are a few times when timeframes are clear, but usually only in relation to one another.  There are more often times, though, when we are only given hints.  Is this a very strong ground to stand upon and swing at others?  I think not.

However, there is another danger that I perceive in all of this.  It is complacency.  I’ve seen this before, and it too often seems that most people just plain do not want to learn from the mistakes of others.  Complacency is a disease, and it can be terminal, if you know what I mean.

People love to quote this, but they often take this out of context as well.  Perhaps it is better to read it and ask yourself, “Why would Jesus say this?  If we had all of the answers, then why these instructions?”

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.

~ Lk 21:36

Humility.  It is not about disregarding what you know, but it is acknowledging what you do not know.



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