Is it possible that God may delay or accelerate end-time prophecies?


This possibility exists. In fact, several Scriptures suggest this to be the case.

For instance, we read in 2 Peter 3:12 that we are to be “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” — the return of Christ. The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (“Strong’s”) defines the Greek word, “speudo,” (under #4692), translated as “hastening,” as “to ‘speed’…, urge on…; by impl. to await eagerly; (make, with) haste unto.”

Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible (“Young’s”) defines the word as, “to hasten,” or, “urge on.” The same Greek word is used, for instance, in Luke 19:5-6 and Acts 22:18 (translated as, “make haste”). In Acts 20:16, it is translated as “(he) hasted” and in Luke 2:16, it is translated as, “(they came) with haste.” Of course, to await or to anticipate eagerly Christ’s return has been the role of every Christian in all ages. Jesus instructed all Christians concerning prayer to ask: “‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven'” (Matthew 6:10). Paul stated about the return of Christ that we should be even more diligent concerning our fellowship as a Church, “…and so much the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). These statements affect all Christians in the Church leading up to Christ’s return.

At the same time, it cannot be denied that passages such as 2 Peter 3:12 or Hebrews 10:25 gain an additional strong meaning for the end-time generation of the Church. In fact, Paul says that all has been written for us, as an example, “upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (compare 1 Corinthians 10:11).

2 Peter 3:12 talks especially to end-time Christians. The literal Greek translation of 2 Peter 3:12 reads, according to The Englishman’s Greek New Testament…, An Interlinear Literal Translation: “…expecting and hastening the coming of the day of God by reason of which [the] heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and [the] elements burning with heat shall melt…” The term “hastening” (as used in the New King James Bible) is therefore a correct rendition. The New English Bible says: “look eagerly for the coming of the day of God and work to hasten it on.” The New Testament in Modern Speech, by Richard Francis Weymouth (“Weymouth”), says: “expecting and helping to hasten the coming of…”

The German Elberfelder Bible says, “beschleunigen.” This German word can mean, “hastening,” and it can also mean, “accelerate.” In this context, we might consider Isaiah 62:7, which says, in the Authorized Version: “And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.”

How we could possibly hasten (or delay) Christ’s return — to an extent — can be seen in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Although the time frame here encompasses the entire plan of God, it is apparent from the context that the end-time generation is especially addressed here. The context is Christ’s coming, as verses 3-4 make very clear: “…scoffers will come IN THE LAST DAYS… and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’…”

According to 2 Peter 3:9, God may delay Christ’s coming, if Church members, whom God wants to be in His Kingdom, are not ready, due to a lack of serious repentance, . The Ryrie Study Bible points out: “To believers, Peter now says that the seeming delay of Christ’s return is for the purpose of allowing more people to repent.”

Some feel that the precise moment of Christ’s return has been fixed for thousands of years — as the Father “knows” the exact moment of Christ’s Second Coming. They say that according to Christ’s words, the Father knew at least 2,000 years ago, when exactly He would send back His Son: “But of that day and hour no one KNOWS, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only (Matthew 24:36).” (Mark 13:32 adds that not even the Son of God — Jesus Christ — knows that exact time.)

However, in light of the fact that Christ’s return can be delayed or accelerated, it is very doubtful that God the Father “knew” the exact day and hour of Christ’s return for thousands of years. As we will explain, what Christ is actually saying in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 is that it is within the Father’s authority to decide when the moment of Christ’s return has come, but that moment is indeed conditioned upon certain events.

We need to read Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 together with Acts 1:6-7, which says: “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time [return to] restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”

Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 do not say, in connection with Acts 1:7, that the exact time of Christ’s return and the restoration of the Kingdom of God was already fixed more than 2,000 years ago. Rather, it is within God the Father’s authority to decide when to send Christ. Has He already made that decision? Had He decided already 2,000 years ago, when Christ spoke those words, when exactly He would send Christ back to this earth? One might say, God knows everything, but there are certain things that God does not want to know. For instance, God does not want to know whether we will sin tomorrow — He did not want to know, when He called us into His truth, whether we will make it into His Kingdom, or whether we will commit the unpardonable sin. In the same way, it is doubtful, that God had already decided 2,000 or 6,000 years ago, when exactly (up to the second!!!) He would send Christ back, as His decision when to do so depends on some factors.

Both Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 only SEEM to say, at first sight, that the Father “knows,” but that no one else, including Christ Himself, “knows.” However, the Greek word for “knows” is, according to Strong’s, No. 1492, a primary verb, used only in certain past tenses; it is a proposition for “see” (lit. or fig.), and it can mean, by implication, but only when used in the perfect, to “know.” It can also mean, “be aware, behold, CONSIDER, BE SURE, TELL, UNDERSTAND, WISH.”

We should also note that, according to the two passages in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32, man, angels and Christ do not know, but only My Father. There is NO VERB here, following “My Father,” so it must be added.

In Acts 1:7, the word for “know” is a DIFFERENT Greek word, see Strong’s #1097. In any event, that passage in Acts 1:7 does not say that God “knows.” It only says that it is not for Christ’s disciples to “know.” In regard to the Father, it is stated that He has “put this” in His own power or authority. Reading Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 together with Acts 1:7, it is apparent that the words which need to be supplied in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 would have to be those showing God’s AUTHORITY to set the date.

Therefore, a possible rendering of Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 would be:

“But of that day and hour no one knows [“understands,” “can be sure”], not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father [“is sure,” “understands,” in the sense of: “decides”].”

The Bible does not say that the Father already decided thousands of years ago, when exactly to send back the Son. If He had, HOW COULD Christ NOT have known? Some claim that Christ knows now — while He did not know 2,000 years ago — but Christ’s statements refer to the time of His return. Christ’s whole point was that He does not know or is sure of it (as He does not make the decision); hence, it is useless for man to try to figure it out.

We do not find anywhere in the Bible that the time of Christ’s return has been fixed thousands of years ago. Some have pointed to 2 Peter 3:8, claiming that God allotted man exactly 6,000 years to rule this earth, and that exactly after 6,000 years, Christ will return. However, that is not what 2 Peter 3:8 conveys. The Scripture reads: “… with the Lord one day is AS a thousand years, and a thousand years AS one day.”

This Scripture does not provide us with a fixed date. The Greek word for “as” is “hos,” and it can also be translated as “about.” (Compare Young’s, under “about.”) In fact, the Authorized Version translates this word 14 times as “about.” For instance, the word “hos” is correctly translated as “about” in passages such as Mark 8:9; Luke 2:37; 8:42; and John 1:39.

Strong’s points out, under #5613, that the Greek word “hos” is “… very variously used, as follows: about, … (according) as (it had been, it were)…, even as (like)…”

2 Peter 3:8 seems to convey that in the eyes of God one day is ABOUT 1,000 years — not necessarily exactly so.

We might also notice Revelation 10:6. The Authorized Version says that there should be “time no longer.” The New King James Bible says, “… there should be delay no longer.” The Ryrie Study Bible comments: “Lit. there will be no more delay.” So say the Nelson Study Bible, the American Standard Version, Weymouth, as well as the Elberfelder Bible (“Frist, Aufschub”) and the Menge Bible (“Verzug”).

The Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W.E. Vine, states, on page 333, under “season,” that the Greek word for “time” or “delay,” i.e., “chronos,” must be translated in Revelation 10:6 as “delay.” Vine continues to point out that this is “an important rendering for the understanding of the passage (the word being akin to chronizo, to take time, to linger, delay, Matt 24:48; Luke 12:45).”

Under “delay,” Vine states, regarding “chronizo”: “from chronos, time, lit. means to while away time, i.e. by way of lingering, tarrying, delaying; ‘delayeth,’ Matt. 24:48; Luke 12:45; ‘tarried,’ Matt 25:5; ‘tarried so long,’ Luke 1:21; ‘will (not) tarry,’ Heb. 10:37.”

Since Revelation 10:6 says that there will be no more delay, it shows that there HAD BEEN delay before.

Ezekiel 12:25, 28 is another Scripture which supports the concept of a delay prior to Christ’s return. It reads: “For I am the LORD. I speak, and the word which I speak will come to pass; it will NO MORE be postponed… None of My words will be postponed ANY MORE…” This passage seems to say that at one point, God’s words or prophecies were postponed or delayed; but that the time will come, when they won’t be postponed or delayed any longer. This would be similar to the passage in Revelation 10:6, which says that there won’t be any longer “time” or “delay.”

The Church of God has felt, based on this passage and other Scriptures, that God had held back or delayed certain events to take place in the 1970’s and early 80’s. Also, from what we are seeing now in the world, it APPEARS that God is speeding up events to reach their climax soon (compare Matthew 24: 32-35) — BUT NOBODY CAN BE CERTAIN OF THIS, OR KNOW FOR SURE.

Some claim that the day and hour of Christ’s return have been fixed for thousands of years, by referring to Revelation 9:15: “So the four angels, who had been prepared for the HOUR and the DAY and MONTH and YEAR, were released to kill a third of mankind.” However, Revelation 9:15 talks about the time when the angels will be released to kill a third of mankind — it does not talk about the exact time of Christ’s return. This passage does not even say that the exact time of the angels’ actions had been predetermined thousands of years ago — it only says that when the exact time has come for God to intervene, He will command the angels to act.

Some prophecies are conditional — they are conditioned upon whether man repents. Although it is not very likely that the USA or Great Britain will repent, it IS possible. If they do — or if enough people repent — God may hold back the destruction of the USA and Great Britain. It appears that God would not have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, if He would have found ten righteous, although He said to Abraham earlier that He would destroy it. Something similar COULD BE possible for modern America and Great Britain, as well as other nations. The Scripture in Jeremiah 18:7-11 supports this conclusion. It says that God will relent of the evil which He intended to bring on a nation, if that nation repents. God had Jonah proclaim that in forty days, Nineveh would be destroyed. This SOUNDED like an unconditional prophecy, but it was not, as God did not do it, when Nineveh repented. However, as the book of Nahum shows, Nineveh was destroyed later. The book of Jonah contains a classic case of a DELAYED prophecy. There are also passages in the book of Joel which leave it open as to whether or not God will start the Day of the Lord at a certain time, depending on man’s reaction and repentance (compare Joel 2:12-14). Although unconditional prophecy will not “fail,” time given for certain events to take their full course may. It says that God will CUT SHORT His work (Romans 9:28).

One thing IS certain, however: God’s patience is not limitless, as the parable in Luke 13:6-9 shows. Christ had just warned His audience that they would perish, if they did not repent (verses 1-5). He continued to present a parable about a tree that had not shown fruits for three years. The tree is granted a fourth and last year, to either produce fruit, or to be cut down after that time. This parable implies that God does set a time limit for a Church member to repent and produce fruit. Christ warned in John 15:2, 5: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away… If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” God has allotted to His Church — and mankind as a whole — a certain amount of time to repent. But there will come the moment when God WILL decide to send Christ back. God will not wait forever for everyone in the Church — and in the world — to repent. As in the times of Jeremiah, the time will come when God will not hear anymore prayers for the people of the world; when He will not tolerate any further delay; and when He will cut short His work (compare Jeremiah 7:16; 11:14; 14:11). That is the reason why we read in Isaiah 46:13 (Authorized Version): “I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.”

While the fulfillment of God’s prophecies may tarry for a while, the time will come when there will be no more delay or postponement. We read in Habakkuk 2:2-3: “… Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. THOUGH IT TARRIES [for a while, due to God’s longsuffering and patience toward us in the Church], wait for it; Because it will surely come, IT WILL NOT TARRY [once God has decreed the exact time when to send His Son back and to end man’s rule on earth].”

In conclusion, a word of caution and warning: There is a great danger involved with the concept of trying to figure out, exactly, when Christ returns. The one problem is that if people think that God delays Christ’s coming, believing He is still afar off, they may begin to become slack in their Christian lives (compare Matthew 24:48-50). On the other hand, the belief that Christ’s coming is just around the corner can create a sense of fatalism, especially in younger people, who may say, “Why should I think of getting a career, as everything will be over soon?” As we have said before, we must live as if we still had a whole lifetime ahead of us, with long-term goals. At the same time, we need to always be ready spiritually for Christ’s return, and we must continue to watch world events, leading to the establishment of the Kingdom of God here on earth.

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