At Hand

The term ‘at hand’ means, literally, within reach. It never means ‘close, but still some way off’. We can say in June, that Christmas is getting closer. In September, that it is pretty close. But when would we say that Christmas is ‘at hand’?

Therefore, what would James and Peter have meant, when writing to the believers somewhere between 44 and 68 AD?

James 5:8 – You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

1 Peter 4:7 – The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.

The term ‘at hand’ is the Greek eggizo, meaning near, imminent. It can be used for time, place, and situations such as relationships.

The following references show all of the occurrences of the word in the New Testament. Eggizo has been translated into different English words, of course, but the meaning is clear. The English translation is shown in bold type, but the Greek uses eggizo.

Look carefully at the references, then go back to the two verses quoted above and ask yourself, “What did James and Peter mean? What was their expectation of the coming (‘parousia’) of the Lord and the end of the age’?”

The Kingdom of God, or of Heaven

Matthew 3:2 – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17 – (also Mark 1:15) From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 10:7 – (also Luke 10:9) “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”

Luke 10:11 – ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’

Time

Matthew 21:34 – “And when the harvest time approached , he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce.

Matthew 26:45 – Then He came to the disciples, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Luke 21:8 – And He said, “See to it that you be not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is at hand’; do not go after them.

Luke 21:20 – “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand.

Luke 21:28 – “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Luke 22:1 – Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching.

Acts 7:17 – “But as the time of the promise was approaching which God had assured to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt,

Romans 13:12 – The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.

Hebrews 10:25 – not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.

James 5:8 – You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

1Peter 4:7 – The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.

Place

Matthew 21:1 – (also Mark 11:1; Luke 19:29) And when they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,

Matthew 26:46 – (also Mark 14:42) “Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

Luke 7:12 – Now as He approached the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her.

Luke 12:33 – “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys.

Luke 15:1 – Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.

Luke 15:25 – “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.

Luke 18:35 – And it came about that as He was approaching Jericho, a certain blind man was sitting by the road, begging.

Luke 18:40 – And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he had come near, He questioned him,

Luke 19:37 – And as He was now approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen,

Luke 19:41 – And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it,

Luke 22:47 – While He was still speaking, behold, a multitude came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him.

Luke 24:15 – And it came about that while they were conversing and discussing, Jesus Himself approached, and began travelling with them.

Luke 24:28 – And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He would go farther.

Acts 9:3 – And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;

Acts 10:9 – And on the next day, as they were on their way, and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.

Acts 21:33 – Then the commander came up and took hold of him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; and he began asking who he was and what he had done.

Acts 22:6 – “And it came about that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me,

Acts 23:15 – “Now, therefore, you and the Council notify the commander to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case by a more thorough investigation; and we for our part are ready to slay him before he comes near the place.”

Situation

Hebrews 7:19 – (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

James 4:8Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Philippians 2:30 – because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.

Conclusion

When referring to place, the word eggizo suggests a drawing near or being near, in close proximity.

When referring to time, the word implies that the time has all but, or in fact, arrived.

The word never suggests vague, indeterminate, far off distance. We believe that James and Peter believed the parousia (the coming of the Lord) and “the end of all things” was imminent, just as Jesus had promised: “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28)

We also believe that these men were divinely inspired, and that their words were not subject to error.

What should be questioned, however, is the meaning of ‘the end of all things’, and ‘the coming of the Lord’.

 

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