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Here are the passages in question (NKJV):

You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (James 5:8).

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers (1 Peter 4:7).

In both verses, the term "at hand" is translated from eggizo (1448 ἐγγίζω, "to make near, to come near"), which is from eggus (1451 ἐγγύς, "near [in place or time]"). Therefore, does eggizo/eggus inherently require that the events described in the passages above would take place chronologically soon? If so, what about Deuteronomy 32:35, Isaiah 13:6, and Obadiah 1:15, which use eggus in the Septuagint (LXX), and Acts 7:17, which uses eggizo? Since these passages apparently were fulfilled centuries after the time their predictions were made, could the same be said of James 5:8 and 1 Peter 4:7? Thank you!

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This is a personal matter, not a matter about 'history' as such, or about chronological situation. It is an exhortation to individuals or to a close group of individuals who share an outlook.

The exhortation is to watchfulness, patience, sobriety, stability and prayerfulness.

Because something will imminently happen.


To myself, the coming of the Lord is always imminent. It may be this hour.

Or, my own death may be 'this hour'. And the next important step in my existence would then be the coming of the Lord, the resurrection of all humanity and the judgment.

To myself, as an individual, there is always an imminency.

Prophetic passages 'see' consequences. The seer sees what will be, based on what now is. And sometimes the seer 'sees through' one coming event into another, further, coming event. But at a point of time, those two events merge, as they are both future.

Thus my own death and the coming of the Lord. One might occur first, followed by the other. Or they coincide. Or the first may never happen, if the Lord comes before nature (or tragedy) takes its course.

Thus the Lord's coming is always 'at hand'.

It is never distant.

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  • Thanks for the reply! Are there any lexicons for the words that could allow a non-chronological understanding? From what I've read, eggus means "near (in place or time)" and eggizó means "properly, has drawn close (come near)".
    – The Editor
    Jan 21 at 15:54
  • I don't understand what you mean by a 'non-chronological understanding'. The 'end of all things' is an event. The only way that that event can be 'at hand' is a matter of timing. I have explained in my answer why the event is always 'at hand' to we who are mortal.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 21 at 16:37
  • Thank you. Full preterists would use passages like James 5:8 to say the Second Coming was "at hand" not in a relative sense, relative to our death, but rather that it really was about to happen (fulfilled in AD 70, they'd say). How would you reply, if you don't mind me asking? Thanks!
    – The Editor
    Jan 22 at 15:41
  • @TheEditor I have no reply to such a theory. I look for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I look for new heavens and new earth.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 22 at 20:48
  • I've been using the OT prophecies above to prove that something can be "at hand" without being fulfilled for many centuries. However, would you say that while you agree with the futurist position I'm defending, my specific argument would go against the lexicons and is thus invalid?
    – The Editor
    Jan 24 at 14:03
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In both verses, the term "at hand" (1448 ἐγγίζω) is meant to convey a sense of urgency and imminence. We are to get ready for it no matter exactly when it will come.

Let's look at another related verse.

Revelation 22:12

"Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.

That's two thousand years ago.

Since these passages apparently were fulfilled centuries after the time their predictions were made, could the same be said of James 5:8 and 1 Peter 4:7?

Yes, the point of James and Peter is to get believers to be ready for the Lord's coming at any time, in any generation.

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  • Thanks for the reply! I've been told that the words translated "at hand" require a chronological understanding in James 5:8 and 1 Peter 4:7 and that no lexicon allows for any other understanding. I've been told that using the OT prophecies I referenced above is subjective. From what I've read, eggus means "near (in place or time)" and eggizó means "properly, has drawn close (come near)". Are there any lexicons for the words that could allow a non-chronological understanding (besides just closeness)?
    – The Editor
    Jan 21 at 16:00
  • The word is used figuratively, not literally, regardless of its lexical meaning.
    – Tony Chan
    Jan 21 at 16:08
  • Some (i.e., preterists) say the events themselves are figurative (or perhaps they'd say "spiritual") and that the "at hand" statements are literal. I talked to one who said we can't change the definition of "at hand," so that in the OT prophecies, they must have been using the prophetic present, which speaks of future events as though they were already present. Therefore, they say, I can't use the OT prophecies to override what lexicons say "at hand" means, so James 5:8 and 1 Peter 4:7 must be said to have chronological imminence, fulfilled in AD 70. How might you reply, if I may ask? Thanks!
    – The Editor
    Jan 22 at 15:37
  • I can accept a spiritual-literal interpretation. Just because it was fulfilled in AD 70, it does not preclude a second fulfillment in the future. I'm trying to accommodate all reasonable interpretations.
    – Tony Chan
    Jan 22 at 15:56
  • I see. I've been using the OT prophecies above to prove that something can be "at hand" without being fulfilled for many centuries. However, would you say my specific argument go against the lexicons?
    – The Editor
    Jan 24 at 13:57
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At first blush, the NT writers appear confused about the timing of the second Advent of Jesus. Many say that the time was "near" or "at hand" such as:

  • James 5:8 - You also be patient; strengthen your hearts, because the coming of the Lord has drawn near.
  • 1 Peter 4:7 - Now the end of all has drawn near. Therefore be clear-minded and be sober for the purpose of prayers,
  • Heb 10:37 – He who is coming will come and not delay
  • 1 Thess 4:15 – Paul talks about the second coming and “we who are still alive”; thus he believed he would live to see the Lord return
  • 1 Cor 7:29 – time is short
  • Rom 13:11, 12 – salvation is nearer than when we believed.
  • Rev 3:11 - I am coming soon.d Hold fast to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
  • Rev 22:7 - Behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of prophecy in this book
  • Rev 22:12 - Behold, I am coming soon, and My reward is with Me, to give to each one according to what he has done.
  • Rev 22:20 - He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

There is much more to this story - see the appendix below about the last days.

However, (and this is a significant BUT!) Paul says this in 2 Thess 2:1-3 -

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to Him, we ask you, brothers, not to be easily disconcerted or alarmed by any spirit or message or letter seeming to be from us, alleging that the Day of the Lord has already come. Let no one deceive you in any way, for it will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness—the son of destruction—is revealed.

Thus, Paul is very clear that a series of important events concerning the "man of lawlessness" being revealed, etc, must occur before the Lord returned which he then describes in the chapter of 2 Thess 2 known as Paul's apocalypse.

Now, all this is rather theoretical, but we must recall that all of us are only one heartbeat away from death - any of us could expire at any moment! When that occurs, we must be ready to meet out Maker and Savior. Thus we must be ready at every moment of every day.

This is why the NT writers constantly stressed the nearness of Jesus' return.

APPENDIX - Last Days began at Jesus Resurrection

The New Testament calls the time after Jesus’ resurrection, the “last days”, or “last hour”, or similar. Note the following:

  • Acts 2:17 – Peter calls the day of Pentecost the “last day” in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. Compare v29-32.
  • 2 Tim 3:1 – perilous times in the “last day” which Paul discusses as already at his time.
  • Heb 1:2 – “These last days” God is revealed in Jesus.
  • James 5:3 – warning against rampant materialism and worship of money in the “last day”, that is, the time of James himself.
  • 1 Peter 1:5 – Christians reveal God and are miraculously preserved in the “last time”.
  • 1 Peter 1:20 – Jesus revealed in these “last times”.
  • 2 Peter 3:3 – Peter writes about his time as the fulfillment of that spoken by the ancient prophets about the “last days”.
  • 1 John 2:18 – Twice, John calls his time the “last hour”.
  • Jude 18 – Jude describes his time as the fulfillment of ancient prophecies about the “last time”.
  • Rev 2:16, 3:11, 22:7, 12, 20 – Jesus says, “I am coming soon/quickly”.
  • Even in a passage like John 6:39, 40, 54 where Jesus refers to the resurrection at the “last day” (see below) that time began with His death, Matt 27:50-53.

It should not be surprising that eschatology is defined in terms of Jesus – four times in the book of Revelation (1:11, 17, 2:8, 22:13) Jesus is called “the first and the last”. Thus, Bible eschatology, is the study of the time after Jesus inaugurated His Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 3:2, 4:17, 23, 5:3, 10, 19, etc).

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  • I like this approach to giving context to the question. "This is why the NT writers constantly stressed the nearness of Jesus' return." I am confused by this, though. Are you saying the NT writers thought the 2nd coming was = a person dying? Jan 18 at 21:29
  • 1
    @AnthonyBurg - not at all - the second coming is the arrival of Jesus the second time. However, if a person dies then their probation is ended and we must at that point be ready to meet God and be part of one of the two resurrections of either the righteous or the wicked, Acts 24:15, John 5:28, 29.
    – Dottard
    Jan 18 at 21:39
  • Do you think there's a reason this isn't more clear in the NT? For everyone at least up to this point, it is their own death that has happened, not a 2nd coming. Jan 18 at 21:46
  • 1
    @AnthonyBurg -Agreed - and that is the more important thing - we must be ready at all times. The NT stresses that we do not know when Jesus will return and we do not know when we each will die.
    – Dottard
    Jan 18 at 21:49
  • Thanks for the answer, @Dottard! How would you reply to the argument that the Second Coming itself is what's said to be "at hand"? While I feel the OT prophecies I mentioned allow a non-chronological sense, I've been told that using them without lexical support is subjective. From what I've read, eggus means "near (in place or time)" and eggizó means "properly, has drawn close (come near)". Are there any lexicons for the words that could allow a non-chronological understanding (besides just closeness)?
    – The Editor
    Jan 21 at 16:09

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