If you think SOON means thousands of years later, you don’t need a Bible, you need a dictionary.
The “soon” return of Jesus, of course, is the statement made by Jesus himself as quoted in Revelation chapters 1 and 22. Gee whiz. Does language have any meaning at all? Can soon mean far distant? Can love mean hate? Can happy mean sad? Jesus said He was coming SOON in the first century, and I for one, believe Him.
How do we know that “soon” in Revelation really means close in time, as the word is defined in the dictionary? Answer: Because there are over 100 passages in the New Testament that confirm this time-line. Jesus said his return (Greek “Parousia,” meaning “effectual divine presence”) would be while some of those living in the first century were still alive. That’s what “soon” means. Examples: Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28; 24:29-34; 26:64. That’s what soon means.
There are over 30 such passages in Revelation alone that directly or indirectly place its fulfillment as imminent:
Revelation 1:1; 1:3; 1:7; 1:9-10; 1:19; 2:10; 2:16; 2:25; 3:10; 3:11; 4:1; 6:12-17; 8:13; 10:6-7; 11:2; 11:8; 11:15-19; 12:5; 14:7; 14:14-20; 15:5-8; 16:6; 16:19; 17:6; 18:19, 24; 20:7-10; 20:11-15; 22:6; 22:7; 22:10; 22:12; 22:20.
The passages in bold specifically say that the events in view, including the Second
Coming, were to happen soon or were near or were going to take place without delay (“must shortly take place.”). In addition, certain of these passages (1:19; 3:10; 8:13; 10:7; 12:5; 17:8) contain the Greek word mello, which is translated in Young’s Literal Translation (and the Literal Standard Version) as “about to” (happen). Other passages in this list tie to passages outside Revelation that have imminence statements, such as Matthew 23-24. For example, several of these passages refer to avenging the blood of the martyrs (16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:2) which Jesus said would befall the first-century Jews (Matthew 23:29-24:2, 34).
These time-texts are definitive, and they are noteworthy by being consistent with the imminency passages in the rest of the New Testament. I strongly suggest that any eschatology that denies a plain literal interpretation of the New Testament time-texts, has adopted an overly elastic and, frankly, unscriptural position that damages the Bible’s integrity.
You just cannot twist Scripture to make “soon” mean thousands of years later.
When Paul told the Philippians that he wanted to send Timothy to them SOON (Philippians 2:19), did he mean thousands of years later? Of course not.
There are two similar Greek words in Revelation translated as “soon” or “quickly”— tachos (Revelation 1:1; 22:6) and tachy (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20). These words have the same root word and mean the same thing: “shortly come to pass, without delay.” These words mean the same thing elsewhere in Scripture as Revelation! For example, we see tachos in Luke 18:8; Acts 12:7; 22:18; 25:4. Consider this example:
“And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, say ‘Get up quickly [tachos].’ And the chains fell off his hands.” (Acts 12:7)
We find tachy in Matthew 5:25; 28:7, 8; Mark 16:6, and John 11:29. Here is one of these:
“Then go quickly [tachy] and tell his disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him.” (Matthew 28:7)
The usage of these words is consistent throughout the New Testament. You cannot impose a long period of time till fulfillment in any instance of their occurrence.
It boils down to this: Was Jesus a true prophet or not? I’m going with Jesus as true prophet. Either Jesus was wrong, or else most Christians have simply misunderstood what He meant by his “return.” The preterist view is the only way that affirms Jesus as a true prophet.
So, did Jesus really return while some living in the first century were still alive? The preterist view of eschatology is that Jesus “came” IN JUDGMENT in AD 70 to punish the Jews for their sins, failure to accept Him as savior (Matthew 23:29-24:2), and participating with the Romans in his conviction and crucifixion (Matthew 27:25). This is how God “came” in the Old Testament—IN JUDGMENT. No one saw God, but did see the results of his judgments numerous times against his enemies. In John 5:19-22, Jesus was given authority to judge like the Father. God used opposing armies to judge nations throughout biblical history. Similarly, in AD 70, Jesus, with his divine authority used the Roman army to destroy Jerusalem and temple.
There are two types of preterists. Partial preterists hold that most, if not all, of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) and Revelation were fulfilled in AD 70, but other passages (such as Acts 1:9-11) still predict a future bodily return. Full preterists see that all prophecy was fulfilled in the first century, consistent with Luke 21:22, 32; etc.
To sort all of this out, see my website, where I discuss all of the major prophecy themes including the rapture, the last days, the Second Coming, the New Heaven and New Earth, etc.