The Ambiguous ‘Soon’ and What It Really Means
Have you ever had to wait on God? Did you feel like eternity was passing by?
Well, in some respects, that is exactly what is happening.
This topic is one the LORD placed upon my heart several weeks ago, which is the opening blog post for 2016. I find this amusing, because we’re all waiting on God. Every one of us – not just in our personal lives, but as a global Body of believers. That is primarily in reference to His second coming. However, each one of us have things we’re waiting on God to perform individually.
Let me guess… When He spoke to you, did He by any chance use the word “soon”? If you’re nodding in affirmation, I raise my glass to you. Cheers! Welcome to the club. Because when it comes to God’s perspective, His reference point is one entirely outside our realm – and we get stuck with what I call the ‘grass root view’ of it all.
I discovered years ago that God’s definition of “soon” and my own were worlds apart. Literally. His timetable is without limits. As the One who created time, who refers to Himself by the name ‘Beginning’ and ‘End’, consequently there is no magic number when it comes to “soon”. So when He says “soon”, He could be marking the proverbial calendar in any measurable increment of time: two minutes, two decades, or better yet — two-thousand years. After all, He promised to come back for us… and we’re still waiting.
For those of you who want to throw your hands akimbo with exasperation, I’ve been there.
So let’s talk about this ambiguous “soon” and find out what it really means, shall we?
God and His Relationship to Time
First, we must understand who God really is if we’re going to understand how time works. Again, God dwells within eternity. That reference point is something we cannot adequately comprehend or truly grasp. It’s forever and ever without end. That’s a long, long time. And if I dwell on it — my head spins.
In the Word of God we see a defined beginning and end. Christ says of Himself, “I am the Alpha and Omega; the Beginning and the End.” So we need to understand that He is the author and creator of time. There is a limited quantity of time allotted to us for which He has predestined all things. There is an appointed time when life as we know it will all wrap, and we will finally be ushered into eternity with Him.
God’s reference point is eternity. Therefore, He does not view time as we do.
“But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day, (2 Peter 4:7-8, KJV).
When He created the world He also created celestial bodies fixed in the heavens by which man could measure time. The entire universe is literally one big clock, being mathematically precise.
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so, (Genesis 1:14-15, KJV).
God has clearly marked physical time. But the spiritual timeline of predestined events can remain a mystery. Despite all God has prophetically revealed, it’s often framed in obscurity through words such as “soon”, hence this post. Although we many times want to know His appointed times and seasons, they are veiled from us:
It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power, (Acts 1:7, KJV).
These are undisclosed. Even Christ said that He, nor the holy angels, know the day or hour of His return. Only the Father knows. That is worth pondering. There are deep secrets in the Kingdom of God with regard to those things God has appointed and predestined, which are absolute. They cannot be altered. God protects those things in clandestine secrecy from any human understanding or intervention. If He wants our cooperation, He tells us. He can indeed reveal when things will transpire. However, when He does, He often uses these ambiguous terms that leave us scratching our heads, which require our unwavering trust. They don’t give us a measurement of time at all. In fact the original Hebrew and Greek show these terms to convey a sense of absolution rather than a determined date.
Man and His Relationship to Time
In contrast, what is man’s relationship to time? That is a question worth answering. We find that our lives are compared to a vapor which passes. Although we are eternal, we are incredibly transient and temporal beings. As eternal beings who are having a human experience, made in the image of God, the Bible tells us that our allotted time here on earth is extraordinarily brief with respect to God’s infinity and eternity.
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away, (James 4:14, KJV).
Our human reference point is defined by a date within our era of time. We know when we were born. We watch our lives pass by, measured in minutes, hours, days and years. And we know when we die. It is no surprise therefore, that our life is likened to a vapor, being that we were born by the breath of God. In fact, everything God created came into being by by His word – the very breath of His mouth.
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth, (Psalm 33:6, KJV).
The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life, (Job 33:4, KJV).
Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth, (Psalm 104:29, 30, KJV).
As we can see, there is a huge gap between God’s reference point and ours. So how are we to respond when God says “soon”? Before we can answer that question, we need to find out what God is really saying.
The Definition of “Soon”
The word “soon” appears 66 times in the entire Bible. In many of those instances the word is not referenced in the Hebrew or Greek. It’s entirely silent. Therefore, it is very obscure. Go figure, right? This word is literally shrouded in mystery. I don’t think that’s a mistake. There are also 66 canonized books in the Bible, which are marked by the Beginning and End with this ambivalent “soon” dotting the timeline in-between. Other words such as “quickly” and “tarry not” are also used to define those things appointed and promised by God.
If you have ever felt like God was being vague, you’re not alone in that opinion. He is vague. Absolutely. And He’s vague on purpose. He wants us to trust Him for those things He has planned for us. If it’s any consolation to you, Christ is in just as much suspense for the promise of His return as we are. He has to wait on His Father’s word for His “soon” to come to pass also.
Again, there are many instances where the word “soon” is not referenced in the Hebrew or Greek. For those that are, let’s have a look at a few examples:
Hebrew: Ash’er’ – Relative Pronoun
Most of the instances where the word “soon” is used in the Bible is in this format:
“as soon as ___________” and you fill in the blank. This is a common expression which is used to define a reference point. And that reference point is both conditional and relational to whatever fills in that blank. The Hebrew word for “soon” in these instances is ash-er’ which means it’s a relative participle in reference to which, who, and that which is in conjunction with an objective clause such as when, since, as, conditional, etc.
And the LORD went His way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place, (Genesis 18:33, KJV).
This is by far the most common expression of the word “soon” found in scripture, both in the Hebrew as well as the Greek.
This is excellent information. But this is not what we’re looking for, right? Let’s find a scripture that is applicable to this topic.
Greek: takh-oo’ – Adverb
And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be, (Revelation 22:12, KJV).
The NIV (New International Version) uses the word “soon” instead of “quickly”, which is more familiar to most people. The key here is in the Greek word, which is takh-oo’. It literally means “quickly”, “speedily”, and “without delay”. It can also mean “suddenly” or “readily”. As we can see, the word used in the KJV is actually more accurate.
Again, the word “quickly”, much like the word “soon”, is very vague. It gives no reference point for time at all. Therefore, our reference point here can only be found within the perspective of the One who spoke it. Again, that reference point is eternity. The implication is this: you better be ready, because He’s coming, and there’s no stopping Him.
Christ is going to come at the appointed time of His Father, which neither He nor the angels in Heaven know. It will be suddenly and without delay. All of creation is literally in a perpetual state of suspense. And that is precisely what He wants. This suspense is what creates a positive tension in us – the holy anticipation by which we wait for Him, long for Him, and prepare for Him diligently. It keeps us awake!
Hebrew: Aw-khar’ – Verb
I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry, (Habakkuk 2:1-3, KJV).
The word tarry in this passage is used twice. Please look at verse 3. The first instance is different than the last, which I’ve highlighted for you. The first word “tarry” is maw-hah’ and it means to “delay”, “linger”, and “wait”. We can wait a long, long time for the promises of God. He can test our patience, and years can go by without any sign of something happening – and then it comes to pass suddenly and without delay. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s all about the appointed time.
Now, the second word “tarry” is the one I’ve highlighted for you. This word means to literally make something late, delayed, to keep it back, to withhold, or to hinder. The interpretation is this: though the promise of God lingers and we must wait (maw-hah’), it will NOT (aw-khar’) be hindered or delayed.
The Meaning of “Soon”
This whole “soon” thing is very vague. Regardless of the terminology, God is very good at choosing ambivalent words. These all have one thing in common: they remain under this heavy blanket of unveiled suspense and mystery.
Abraham waited 25 years.
Joseph waited 13 years.
David waited 13 years.
We’re now waiting more than 2000.
Seriously. It’s worth asking: What is the purpose of this vague ambiguity?
What is up with this “soon” thing?
God protects His monuments with mystery.
There are certain things in life He just will not reveal. He doesn’t squeal. He will not give it up for anything. He is clandestine. He is extraordinarily protective. Words are powerful. When God doesn’t want something circulated through us, He remains quiet about it, because His word cannot be altered. He simply will not reveal more than what we need to know. Period. Like a loving Father, He keeps the choicest gifts well-hidden.
I have heard the LORD personally tell me “soon” on more than one occasion, and each time it’s been an entirely different measurement of time. The first time it was 2 years. The second time it was eighteen. The third time… well, I’m still waiting. So I’ve learned that when He tells me something is “soon” or I see Him say “soon” (or a similar word) in the Bible, I’m like, “Okay God, whatever.” All I know is that it will happen, and I have an obligation to believe Him, wait for it, and be ready for it to come to pass by living a life of obedience toward that promise.
Has God given you a promise framed by the obscurity of “soon”? Has He slipped you a vague pronoun, adverb or conjunction?
With all personal promises aside, the global Body of Christ has a collective promise upon which all of eternity hinges: the return of Jesus Christ. His second coming is drawing ever nigh. For those who have their heads out of the sand, we all know the spiritual time is indeed ripe. However, He made it very clear that we will not know the day or hour. That undisclosed information is meant to keep us awake, alert and on our spiritual toes! God forbid that we should know when He is actually coming back. We would either live in a constant state of unrest and anxiety, or we would squander our lives. God’s will is that we should live every day as if He were returning at any given moment. He wants to find us ready.
In the very same way, when you have a promise from God that was given within the ambiguous term of “soon” you should live your life in a consistent state of preparedness, because you do not know when it’s going to come to pass, and you must be found ready.
On the flip side, God has many times given me exact dates. Obviously, He had a purpose for telling me the day, year, or precise time. He can and does certainly do that when He determines the need to do so. When He did, He never failed me in fulfilling that appointment on the calendar. It has always come to pass exactly as He declared it would. So we can see that the manner in which He reveals a matter is entirely at His discretion. He may give you a date. He may not.
But if He tells you “soon” the implied message is this:
It’s going to happen.
So be ready.
Regardless of when it comes.
Being Ready and Prepared
God is very generous in giving us ample time to prepare and be ready for those things in life which He’s appointed for us. If He schedules something on our personal timeline then we need to make the most of every moment, because…
The word “soon” has nothing to do with time.
It has everything to do with readiness.
What God is saying is this: He is the author of time and He’s never late. As the Beginning and End, He’s also the “soon” who is in-between. He’s the Master of it all. Our lives are so very temporal. If He’s spoken something to you twenty years ago that is only now coming to pass — then He knew you needed twenty years to prepare and be ready. It’s really that simple.
I believe that with respect to His “soon” He will always be faithful to fulfill His word at the appointed time. God is not into premature. He wants full-term. You must be willing to trust, wait, linger, hope, believe, and prepare.
Like Christ, you are waiting for your word from the Father. When He’s ready, it will come suddenly and without delay. So, you must be ready.
Embrace the mystery and suspense. Let it prepare your heart. That is what God truly wants. And that is what “soon” is all about.
Cheers & Shalom,