CLAIM: In 1 Peter 4:7, Peter writes, “The end of all things is near.” Does this mean that Peter believed Jesus would return soon? If so, then doesn’t this mean that this was a false prediction?
RESPONSE: While Peter writes that the end is near, this could be a relative term. In his second letter, Peter explains that the second coming could be far away—even thousands of years in the future. He writes, “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). The NT never specifies how quickly Christ will return; in fact, Jesus himself didn’t claim to know when this would occur (Mt. 24:36). While some passages like this seem to indicate that Christ will return quickly, others indicate that this will be a long time.
For instance, in one of Jesus’ parables about his second coming, he states that the Master might return to the slaves in the “second watch, or even in the third” (Lk. 12:38). After his Olivet Discourse, Jesus tells the parable about how the “bridegroom was delaying” in his return (Mt. 25:5). He concludes this teaching by reminding his disciples: “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Mt. 25:13). Later, he explains that the Master came “after a long time” (Mt. 25:19). In Luke, Jesus “told a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away” (Lk. 19:11 NLT). Based on these passages, it’s clear that the Bible never explicitly teaches when Jesus would return. Therefore, the early church lived in the expectation that Jesus could return at any time, but they weren’t committed that he would return at any specific time.