The “until” Verses

Sometimes the most ordinary words carry a most extraordinary meaning, such as the word until in the Bible. In Matthew 1:25 we see it used concerning Mary, who did not consummate her marriage with Joseph “until” after Jesus was born.

“But he did not consummate their marriage UNTIL she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” Matt 1:25 (NIV)

The Greek word translated “until” in this verse is ἕως which simply means till or until.  It is used to help determine the timing of when a matter occurs.  A perfect example is that of Christ’s command to his three main disciples on the mountain of transfiguration, where he said, “Tell the vision to no one UNTIL the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” Matt 17:17 (NIV)  So even the other nine disciples did not know about that until later.

The point is that ‘until’ is an ordinary word, and should be understood in the ordinary way, and that is what gives it extraordinary meaning in so many places in the New Testament.  

Consider this verse:

“The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand UNTIL I put your enemies under your feet.’” Matthew 22:44 (NIV) Quoting Psalm 110:1

Many Christians think the world is going to get worse and worse and then Jesus will return in person, and after that he will subdue every enemy.  The above verse is the most quoted old testament scripture in the new testament, being referenced (depending on how it is counted) about 24 times.  Rather than agreeing with the idea that the world will get worse, it would appear to be saying that Christ is going to remain in Heaven UNTIL all the enemies are defeated.

1 Corinthians 15:25 (NIV) is another ‘until verse’ that agrees, saying: “For He must reign UNTIL he has put all his enemies under his feet.” 

That idea puts a cat among the pigeons of many end-times theories.  

Or consider this verse:

“Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine UNTIL that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:25 (NIV)  The weird thing about this ‘until,’ is that it was only the very next day that Jesus drank wine-vinegar while dying on the cross.  While I’m not dogmatic about it, I have often pondered the question, “Is that an indicator that Christ’s kingdom began with the atonement?”  

Or consider this set of three verses:

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up UNTIL we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)

The debate about the church having or needing apostles seems to be settled by the ‘until’ here, because Christ gives them to His people to perfect them until they measure up to God’s ultimate standard… which of course hasn’t happened yet.

The ‘until verses’ are among some of the most interesting in the New Testament because they demonstrate that the original apostles thought differently to us on a few points.  So it’s a reason to go to the Bible and get to know it all the more. 

The Number 1000 in Scripture

Source: Aaron Lee on Unsplash

There’s something to know about the interesting number, one thousand in the Bible.

In the Koine Greek language the word used is χιλιάς (kilias) which is where we get the word ‘kilo’ in English, as used in kilometre (a thousand metres) or kilogram. (a thousand grams)  And, in the Hebrew language, which is written mostly using the Aramaic square script, the word for thousand is אֶלֶף (elep).

The word for thousand can be used either literally or figuratively, and is used both ways in both languages in both the Old and the New Testament.  

For example, here is the word a thousand used specifically in the Old Testament, and specifically (that is literally) in the New Testament:

“To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver.” (Gen 20:16)  Literal – Old Testament Hebrew.

“Those who ate were about five thousand men, in addition to women and children.” (Matt 14:21)  Literal – New Testament Greek.

When we read passages like these, the number a ‘thousand’ reads normally.  However at other times the word is non-literal and comes to represent something else, such as in these examples from both the Old and New Testaments.

“For every animal of the forest is mine, and the livestock on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:10)  Non-Literal – Old Testament Hebrew.  


“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” (Psalm 84:10)  Non-Literal – Old Testament Hebrew.

To read the above two Psalms literally would mean that God only owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but the parallelism of the verse shows us that God is using the word “thousand’ to refer to “everything.”  So he owns the cattle not just on a thousand hills, but on all of the hills.  And in the second psalm, a day in the Lord’s courts is better than all of the days of time anywhere else.  

So when we encounter the word ‘thousand’ in scripture, how do we know if it is literal or non-literal in its usage.  The passage is often the clue.  For example the psalms are poetry, and thus we have poetic language, including the use of many non-literal terms.  Other passages in the Bible like the story of Isaac obtaining a wife in Genesis 20 are narrative, so we have a story with the actual price paid for his wife’s dowry, being a thousand pieces of silver.  

How about the millennium passages from Revelation twenty?

“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” (Rev 20:1-2) 

Many people have interpreted the word thousand here literally, but there is a clue that it is in fact non-literal.  Consider the other things in this verse:

  • The Abyss is not a literal abyss.
  • The chain is not a literal chain… 
  • The dragon is not a literal dragon.

If the other elements in these two verses are non-literal, what about the word thousand?  I suggest the word thousand is also non-literal.  

When the book of Revelation says that Christ is going to reign for a thousand years, and the devil is going to be bound for a thousand years, perhaps that is a non-literal expression for a very very long time.  In other words, the Lord will be King of the Earth, not just for a thousand years, but…

Why the Date of the Book of Revelation is Important

It turns out that the dating of Revelation has a HUGE impact on the potential interpretation of it, and the behaviour of its readers, and even entire countries.

If you believe that Revelation was written before 70AD, then it was written before the destruction of the second Jewish temple, and the destruction of Jerusalem. Knowing that, everytime the temple is referred to in the book, it is assumed to be probably talking about that actual temple that was standing at the time. It lends to a more “back then in history at the time of the early readers” type of intepretation. People who intepret it that way are sometimes called “preterists” or “partial preterists. They are not clamoring for a third temple to be rebuilt, and not thinking that Israel in the world today is God’s special country. This interpretation, leads to a less complicated outlook of the future, and they are not constantly watching the nation of Israel for everything it does, believing our future is tied to what happens there.

If however you think the book is written after 70AD when there was no temple, then people will conclude there is going to be a third physical temple built, and the believe that our future is somehow tied up with the present nation of Israel. Some are even donating money to the Temple Institute to build it as soon as the opportunity arises. Hundreds of thousands of people support Israel, and all it does, including the blockade of Palesinians in Gaza, and the clear human rights abuses that happen day after day against Palestinians, some of whom are even Christians or Jews. Christians support many terrible things like this believing it is God’s will to do so, and “whoever blesses Israel, will be blessed.” Then you have things like 9/11 that happen in retaliation against this apparent Christian support of Israel, because Al Qaeda understood it as a type of Christian persecution against Muslims. You can see this in the speeches of Osama Bin Laden. (just google for that)

There are some very real world decisions and actions taken based on assumptions made about Israel and the End Times, but a lot of this would be different, if a different date for Revelation was clear.

The Temple/Israel issue is just one thing that is important, that the dating of Revelation impacts.

Here is something on the date:

In recent times a large group of acaemics, and hence pastors who are taught by them at Seminary, have believed that Revelation was written later than other books in the NT – maybe around 90AD in the time of the Emporer Domitian. (From 81–96 AD). This late date is based on one half-reference by an early church father called Irenaeus.

Here is the quote:

“Had there been any need for his name to be openly announced at the present time, it would have been stated by the one (John) who saw the actual revelation. For it was seen not a long time back, but almost in my own lifetime, at the end of Domitian’s reign.” (Against Heresies, 5.30.3)

It sounds like John saw the Revelation in the time of Domitian’s reign. However if you know a little Greek, the grammar is completely unlike English, and it could equally have been translated something like this.

“Had there been any need for his name to be openly announced at the present time, it would be been stated by the one (John) who saw the actual revelation. He was seen not a long time ago, in my own lifetime, at the end of Domitian’s reign.”

Ireaneus was not clear with his words because they could mean that John saw the revelation later, or that John himself was seen by them later. And apart from that semi-clear reference, there is not much else to suggest a later date, but a LOT that suggests an earlier date.

The book which outlines it all is “Before Jerusalem Fell” by Dr Kenneth Gentry, which is roughly speaking a rehash into his PHD Thesis on the topic.

In recent times more and more experts are concluding that there is strong evidence that John wrote his revelation during the reign of Nero – around about 60AD. Then the events in Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple fit very nicely the things that were “soon to take place.” (Rev 1:1)

Interestingly, a nickname for Nero back then was “the beast.”