In 1 Corinthians 7:29, Paul states, "What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short." It seems possibly to be related to the "present crisis" mentioned in verse 26, but I'm not sure. Others seem to think that Paul is anticipating the end of the world within his lifetime even, which seems to rely on 31b.

So what did Paul mean when he says "the time is short?" Is this an eschatological statement? Or does is merely reflect some kind of local crisis in Corinth? Something else?


5 Answers 5


The Greek verb συστέλλω occurs in 1 Cor 7:29 and in only one other verse of the New Testament.

Acts 5:5-6 (NASB)
5 And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. 6 The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.

The verb means "to wrap up." The meaning also occurs in colloquial English, such as when we say, "it is time to wrap up." The idea in this context carries more of an idea of general closure than of specific imminency. So if we borrow from Acts 5:5-6 (cited, above) then we can read 1 Cor 7:9 as follows -

1 Cor 7:9 (Suggested Translation)
29 But this I say, brethren, the time is wrapping up, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none.

The verb form is the perfect passive participle, which in Koine Greek may be translated into the present tense. (Please click here in Google Chrome for best results.) Additionally, the word for "time" here is not χρόνος (time in terms of specific hours, minutes, and/or seconds), but καιρός (time in terms of general occasions, periods, and/or seasons). We see the differences of the nuance of meaning in Luke: Satan showed Jesus the glory of the world at a specific snapshot of time (Luke 4:5 = χρόνος), but when he left Jesus, he was awaiting for another unspecified time to tempt him again (Luke 4:19 = καιρός). So when Paul says that "time is wrapping up" in the context of this verse, he is not implying that hours, minutes, and/or seconds are running out (χρόνος), but that we are in the last occasion, period, and/or season of our time on earth (καιρός). In other words, we are living in what the New Testament calls the "Last Times."


"The time is short" (or, "the time has been shortened"--NASB updated version) because Jesus Christ set in motion with His death, burial, and glorious resurrection a movement toward a telos: the completion of the universal Church of God, the bride of Christ, and her glorification with Him in new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13).

Had Jesus not come to earth, and had He not in His own body bear away the sins of the world, the world would have gone on and on, under the control of prince of the power of the air and eventually have self-destructed.

Praise God, however, Jesus did come to earth, and as a helpless baby. When He did make His appearance, the clock started ticking. Just as we set a timer when baking a pie, so also Jesus set a timer, even though the Father only knows when the buzzer will sound, and time shall be no more, "and the morning breaks eternal, bright and fair. Then the saints of earth shall gather over on the other shore, when the roll is called up yonder I'll be there." The old will pass away; the new will come; and God's will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In conclusion, to us today, almost 2000 years after Jesus promised to return to earth in the same way he ascended from earth and into heaven, the time seems anything but short vis a vis His second coming in the air.

To God, however, who views time completely differently from the way we view it, the time is very short indeed. For with God, a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day (2 Peter 3:8). We are therefore not to lose heart, not only because His return is imminent, but also because each and every Christian has but a few short years in which to

"'. . . Occupy till [Jesus comes]" (Luke 19:13 KJV).

That's why Paul encourages those who have the gift of singleness to remain single and be found faithful in that which has been committed to them, in time, talent, and treasure. For those of do not have that gift and choose to marry, they need to order their priorities in such a way that they "redeem the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5 KJV). There is nothing wrong, per se, with pleasing one's spouse, but pleasing the Lord should be uppermost in the minds of married couples. It should be job one, in every area of life, including the marriage bond.


This is the classic "tension" in New Testament Scripture-that Christ would come back soon:(Rev. 22:12)

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be

The apostles seemed to be convinced that He would return during their lifetime, when they asked Him:(Acts 1:6)

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

This was not an unfounded question: remember, the words of the angel Gabriel, when he announced to Mary:(Luke 1:32-33)

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

This was followed up by Zacharias's declaration:(Luke 1:74-75)

That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

Jesus Himself didn't seem to dispel the notion; for instance:(Matt. 10:23)

But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.

and in Matt. 16:28:

Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

What is further bewildering for His disciples is when they asked,(Matt. 24:1)

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

He lists a series of events, culminating with(Matt. 24:30-31)

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other

Then He says an amazing thing:(vs 34)

Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled

The only word of caution we seem to have from Jesus is Acts 1:7,

And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

Based on this, the church throughout the ages has had the mindset that "It could happen at any time". The Ante-Nicene fathers(Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hyppolytus had all expressed that the Lord could return during their day; Irenaeus and Hyppolytus even conjectured how Daniel's 70 week prophecy and the Antichrist would be fulfilled during their lifetimes.

So it is with this same vein that we are to understand 1 Cor. 7:29. Why? Because Our Lord said so! The "Normal Christian Life" is consumed by the mind set that (Matt. 25:13)

Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

This doesn't mean that we aren't to marry, be given in marriage, raise our children, or plan for our retirement. What it does mean is that we live each day being ready to meet Him, and any time of the day-either 24 hour(3rd or 4th watch-Mark 13:35) or era. This is the lesson of the Wise and Foolish Virgins of Matt. 25:1-13.

The context of 1 Cor. 7:29 is in vs. 31,

"for the fashion of this world passeth away."

Clearly, this is what Jesus taught, and Paul re-enforces what the mindset of a believer should be.


"The time is short". Paul knew that the Jew state was going to be destroyed for the rejection of Jesus. See Ma.24: Jerusalem during the 70's became a desert as Josephus said in his book The War of the Jews Book VII Chapter 1: "that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited." Paul is not against marriage, he advises the jews not to marry due to the iminent danger, though he didn't know when he knew it would be soon. They would run to save their lives. If Paul was against marriage he would be against God's command! For more information read the War of the Jews Books IV to VIII. God Bless you.

  • How did Paul know that Jerusalem would be destroyed? Although Jerusalem was destroyed, the coastal areas and much of the Galilee were spared the destruction and a very sizable Jewish population remained in Palestine, enough to cause a serious revolt fifty years later. Josephus's account of the events is hardly scholarly and his Flavian bias is clear. There wasn't any "Jewish state" at the time. There was a Jewish insurgency but not an independent Jewish government.
    – user17080
    Jul 16, 2017 at 16:00
  • 1
    Welcome to BH.SE! Please take the tour to get a feel for how the site functions. Jewish sacrifice ended with the destruction of the Temple in 70AD, which Paul clearly understood was imminent.
    – enegue
    Jul 17, 2017 at 11:26

The context has to do with what a person focuses their attention on in their life. The authors himself states the purpose of his instructions in 1 Corinthians 7:35.

35 This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.

An individual's undistracted devotion during their earthly lifetime specifially seems to be the definition of "The short time" phrase in 1 Corinthians 7:29.

  • 1
    This is a reasonable surmise as to the meaning of the phrase in question, but without references to similar phrases in Greek, Aramaic or cognate languages in other documents, or supporting material from linguistics or history, it is no more than a surmise.
    – user17080
    Jul 16, 2017 at 16:06

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