This is a very strong statement about the nearness and certainty of Christ’s coming.
The word “little” is the Greek micron, which refers to a very small thing. It is used today for a millionth part of a meter. And micron is modified by a repetition of oson (micron oson oson) which means “so very, so much as.” Thus it is literally “a little while, how very, how very” (Lenski). “He that shall come will come” is literally “the coming One will come.” Christ is called “the coming One.” The Second Coming is so important that it is one of His names! “Tarry” is khronidzo, “from chronos (time), to while away time, linger, delay, defer, tarry” (Complete Word Study Bible). It is translated “delay” (Mt. 24:48; Lu. 12:45).
So the certainty and nearness of Christ’s return is emphasized in four ways in this one verse. His coming is in a little while. It is so little, so little. He will come. And He will not tarry.
This statement that the time until Christ’s coming is little has a two-fold meaning: First, Christ’s coming is so described because it is imminent and therefore always near as a possibility. Compare “the Lord is at hand” (Php. 4:5; 1 Pe. 4:7; Re. 1:3; 22:10). “At hand” means near (Joh. 7:2; 11:55; 19:42). God knows exactly when the Rapture will occur, but from man’s perspective it is always imminent, because it is intended to be a motivator and a purifier.
Second, the time of Christ’s coming is described as “a little while” because in the eyes of the Lord a thousand years is as one day (2 Pe. 3:8-9).
In the context, the imminent coming of Christ is emphasized as the succor for persecution. Paul is saying, remain steadfast in your trials; they will soon be over because Christ is coming in a very little while! By implication, this teaches the pre-tribulational Rapture. Paul would not encourage and comfort persecuted believers with the thought of entering the day of the Lord. He was not saying, “Be patient, be confident in your present troubles, because very soon you will be under the heel of the Antichrist!” How ridiculous.
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