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New Testament Use Of The Word "mello"


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#1 Adanac

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Posted 26 April 2003 - 12:17 PM

The word “mello” (Greek Strong’s # 3195) is used 110 times in the New Testament, variously translated in the King James Version as “shall”, “should”, “would”, “to come”, “will”, “things to come” etc. The word means “about to” so where it is translated “shall” a better rendering would be “is about to”.

“Mello” is used in several places that describe the return of Christ and things normally associated with it. For example (note in these examples taken from the KJV I have substituted “about to” for every occurrence of “mello” to show the force of the argument):

Matthew 12:32 – “neither in this world, neither in the world about to come”.
Matthew 16:27 – “for the son of Man is about to come in the glory of his father”.
Matthew 24:6 – “and ye are about to hear of wars”.
Mark 13:4 – “when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign when all these things are about to be fulfilled?”
Luke 21:7 – “and what sign will there be when these things are about to come to pass?”
Luke 21:36 – “that are about to come to pass”.
Acts 17:31 – “in the which he is about to judge the world”.
Acts 24:15 – “that there is about to be a resurrection”.
Acts 24:25 – “and judgment about to come”.
Romans 8:18 – “the glory which is about to be revealed in us”.
Ephesians 1:21 – “not only in this world, but also in that which is about to come”.
I Timothy 4:8 – “that life that now is, and that which is about to come”.
I Timothy 6:19 – “the time about to come”.
II Timothy 4:1 – “who is about to judge the quick and the dead”.
Hebrews 2:5 – “put in subjection the world about to come”.
Hebrews 6:5 – “the powers of the world about to come”.
I Peter 5:1 – “that glory which is about to be revealed”.
Revelation 1:19 – “the things which are about to be hereafter”.

In this sample of verses we learn that the following things are about to happen in the day of Christ and the apostles:

A new age.
Second coming of Christ.
Judgment on the world.
The Resurrection.
Glorification of the saints.
Events in Revelation.

The argument that the preterist puts forward is that Christ and the apostles were living in the first century and speaking to first century individuals. It would be unreasonable for them to say all these things were “about to come” when really they would not come to pass for another two thousand or so years.

#2 Adanac

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Posted 26 April 2003 - 12:17 PM

There are three initial arguments that can be put forward to counter this:

1. The word is not actually translated “about to” very often in the common versions of the Bible. Good Bible study involves looking at how words are used in Scripture and not what the Lexicon says they mean. In other words we are to look at how the word is used by God and not by men.

2. If we do accept the Lexicon definition there is in fact another rendering for the word – “certainly”. I.e. “mello” is a word that emphasizes the surety of something happening. “It shall certainly come” is a way we could look at some of the above passages. This does have a good Scriptural precedent since one of the themes of Scripture deals with the surety of God’s word, especially His promises that deal with the return of Christ etc.

3. How much certainty can we put on the phrase “about to”, which is rather open ended. Somebody about to do something may do it right then, or in a minute, or much later. When the preterist says that Jesus told the disciples the judgment of the world was “about to come” it didn’t actually happen for another forty years. Even forty years does not sound like something was to happen imminently!

None of these arguments are convincing to the preterist. He will continue to argue that the generation who heard the announcements of “about to” would reasonably expect the things prophesied would happen in their lifetime. Also “mello” really does mean “about to” as the following verses emphasize (in these examples the KJV translations have been left intact):

John 4:47 – “for he was at the point of death”.
Acts 3:3 – “Peter and John about to go”.
Acts 18:14 – “Paul was about to open”.
Acts 20:3 – “he was about to sail”.
Hebrews 8:5 – “when he was about to make the tabernacle”.

In the above examples the choice of “mello” by the writer of the record is a good one. A quick look at the context shows that each of these people were “about to” do something. They weren’t planning on doing something in the future – they were just about to do it!

The preterist would therefore seem to have a watertight argument for the word “mello” describing imminence (at least relatively speaking, i.e. within the lifetime of the hearers). And since various things connected with the second coming are described as arriving imminently the conclusion is made that Christ’s second coming, the judgment and resurrection, all occurred in the first century.

#3 Adanac

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Posted 26 April 2003 - 12:19 PM

With these things in mind let us now turn to a further Scriptural analysis of the use of “mello” in the New Testament and see whether imminence really is what we are being told. The following analysis looks at a sample of passages that use “mello” and established a principle for its use that is governed by the Old Testament. This would seem to be a far more healthy way of looking at things than the rather subjective determination of how imminent “about to” is.

#4 Adanac

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Posted 26 April 2003 - 12:19 PM

1. Matthew 11:14 – “And if ye will receive it, this is Elijah, which was for to come”.

Jesus is hear talking about John the Baptist who came in the spirit and power of Elijah. John had already come so Jesus is not saying he is “about to come”. Using the word “mello” in this past tense manner is rather confusing. Here is how one modern paraphrase puts it:

“And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come” (NLT).

While the New Living Translation is not the best authority, within the context of Matthew 11 it does capture the spirit of what Jesus was saying. Jesus refers to the prophecy regarding John in verse 10:

“For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee”.

These words were penned by Malachi several hundred years before John actually appeared on the scene. If Jesus is saying “this is Elijah, which (the prophet Malachi said) was (about to) come” then how does “mello” stress imminence? John wasn’t “about to come” and certainly not in the generation of the ones who first heard the prophecy.

Whether that argument holds or not another interesting point comes out of what Jesus is saying in verse 14. He said “if ye will receive it, this is Elijah”. Of course the people in Jesus’ day did not receive it and they rejected the Word of God. Does this mean that John wasn’t Elijah and there was a yet future fulfillment of the Malachi’s prophecy? This also begs the question of a number of other pronouncements concerning the Kingdom of God. What if the Jews had accepted the teaching of Christ? Would the Kingdom have come there are then? Would Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem herald his rise to the throne of David?

The answer may be hypothetical but the very fact that Jesus said John was only going to fulfil the role of Elijah if the people received it opens up the possibility that the Kingdom would be put on hold, as it were. So when Jesus talked using imminent language – “the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” – was this only if the Jews accepted him? The New Testament then goes on to speak of the blindness of the Jews but their future salvation (see Romans 11). The events of AD 70 were a judgment against the Jews for the rejection of the Messiah, and certainly not their salvation. If the Scriptures are correct and Israel is to be graft into the olive tree once more then what happened to them after AD 70 that brought this about?

#5 Adanac

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Posted 26 April 2003 - 12:19 PM

2. I Timothy 1:16 – “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting”.

The question that has to be asked from this verse is, if Paul’s receipt of mercy and longsuffering was a pattern for others who came after him, does it refer to all believers? Literally Paul is saying “for a pattern to them which are about to hereafter believe”. So does the exhortation only apply to those in Paul’s generation, those “about to believe”?

This is something that the preterist should really wonder about. Just how much of the Bible is relevant for them? If all prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70 then what about all exhortation like in the above verse? Is there any part of the Word of God that the preterist can apply to his daily life and future?

#6 Adanac

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Posted 26 April 2003 - 12:20 PM

3. II Peter 2:6 – “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly”.

Just like in the previous passage this is a call to heed the exhortation of something that has gone before. Literally Sodom and Gomorrha are an example unto those “about to live ungodly”. So does this warning apply only to those who immediately lived after the overthrow? Or can we, living thousands of years after the event, still take heed?

#7 Adanac

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Posted 26 April 2003 - 12:20 PM

4. Romans 5:14 – “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come”.

This is one of several passages that tells us Adam is a type of Christ. Literally Paul tells us he is “the figure of him about to come”. Christ had already come and performed the work of the “second Adam” so Paul is not thinking of the future coming of the Lord Jesus. Instead he is telling us that Adam was a figure of him (Christ) that was about to come in the days of Adam. This is a significant point since Christ did not come for another four thousand years! If the use of “mello” denotes immediacy then this example contradicts it.

Having said that an analysis of Genesis 3 and the fall of man (the way in which, in contrast, Adam is a figure of Christ) shows that Adam and Eve could well have expected the seed of the woman there are then. In Genesis 3:15, the classic verse that deals with the atonement, we are told that the serpent would be bruised on the head by the seed of the woman. One would expect that this would happen in the serpent’s own lifetime, and it is probable that Eve thought Cain was the promised seed. However, with hindsight we know differently and the bruising of the serpent would not take place for many centuries. The whole episode with the mistaken identity of Cain bears upon New Testament events a great deal, but that is beyond the scope of this short study.

#8 Adanac

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Posted 26 April 2003 - 12:21 PM

5. Hebrews 11:8 - “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went”.

This verse is a double blow for the preterist. We are told Abraham went to the place literally “he was about to receive”. We know from Scripture that he did not receive it in his lifetime and still had not received it in New Testament times, two thousand years later. There is therefore nothing immediate in the use of the word “mello” here.

Secondly we are told that Abraham actually went to the place which he would receive. The writer is talking about the physical land of Canaan that Abraham walked on with his feet and saw with his eyes. The preterist would have us believe that the physical land was only promised to the fleshly seed of Abraham and he was in fact looking for a heavenly country (verse 16). He will tell you that this refers to the location (i.e. heaven) rather than the nature of the Kingdom of God. However, if Abraham went to the place hewas promised for an inheritance then he would have had to have gone to heaven! (Another issue that arises from this is the insistence some preterists place on the words “earth” and “heaven” referring to the land of Israel rather than the globe and universe. If this is correct then the “heavenly country” must still be referring to the land of Israel!).

Language suggesting immediacy is something we find in Romans 4:17 where Paul, speaking about God’s promise to Abraham, says “(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were”.

#9 Adanac

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Posted 26 April 2003 - 12:21 PM

6. Hebrews 11:20 – “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come”.

Isaac did not bless Jacob and Esau with things “about to come”. So the use of the word “mello” here cannot denote immediacy.

#10 Adanac

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Posted 26 April 2003 - 12:22 PM

7. Acts 26:22-23 – “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles”.

These two occurrences of the word “mello” surely lay to rest the notion that the word is always used to describe that which is to immediately happen. The phrase “the prophets and Moses” refers to the whole of the Old Testament in which we read of prophecies and types of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Old Testament said he was “about to come” they did not mean there and then in their own generation, unless the writers are counted as liars.

#11 Adanac

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Posted 26 April 2003 - 12:22 PM

Conclusion

Preterists put emphasis on the use of the word “mello”, which literally means “about to”, in contexts where it refers to the coming of the Lord Jesus in judgment to raise the dead and set up the Kingdom of God. By only looking at these particular occurrences, out of context of the rest of Scripture, we might be led to believe the word describes immediacy. However, a careful analysis of other passages that use the word not only show that immediacy is not necessarily the case but that a precedent set up in the Old Testament is followed; namely that when the prophets spoke of something “about to come” they were speaking, more often than not, of things in the far future.

We can conclude one of two things. Either the word is being used in Scripture, when referring to prophetic events, by its secondary meaning of “certainly” (fitting in with the general theme of Scripture of the surety of God’s promises); or the prophets are speaking in God’s timeline, in which a long period of time is to Him but the twinkling of an eye.

#12 Fortigurn

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Posted 04 May 2003 - 04:23 AM

Lovely bit of work this! Could you email it to me? Thanks! ^_^




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