When is the Past the Future?

In Hebraic prophecies, a Jewish grammatical idiom known as the “prophetic perfect” is sometimes used that substitutes a “past tense” for what obviously should be “future tense.” This makes us ask, “When is the Past the future?”

One of the most challenging aspects of prophecy interpretation is the “prophetic perfect” idiom. Hebraic prophets often spoken of important prophetic events as if they had already occurred in the past. And they wrote these things in the PAST TENSE linguistically.

Here is an example:

But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark(lit. “you have entered the ark”)—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. (Gen. 6:18 NASB)

Prior to Noah building the Ark, God promised him that he would enter it. The New American Standard Bible renders Genesis 6:18 in a readable form so readers are not confused. However that is not the way the Hebrew reads. It reads “you have entered” the Ark; as if it was already completed!

There are many, many examples of this use of the past tense to imply obvious future prophecies. Some English translations keep the past tense and others change it to future tense.

To your descendants I have given this landFrom the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates (Gen. 15:18)

So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare (literally “have spared”) the whole place on their account. (Gen. 18:26)

After them seven years of famine will come (literally “have arisen”), and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. (Gen. 41:30)

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth (literally “has come forth”) from Jacob, A scepter shall rise (literally “has arisen”) from Israel.  (Num. 24:17)

There are many more examples. What makes this challenging is that the English translations are not consistent in the use of this “prophetic perfect” idiom. I think in all these examples we can see that we need to be very careful about how we handle the tenses of prophecies and not assume it is as written in our translations.

Let’s look at another example:

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness (this is correct) and hated (literally “hate”) wickednessTherefore God, Your God, has anointed You. (Psalm 45:6-7)

Now this is a very interesting example. The text is from Psalm 45 which is a picture of Jesus receiving the throne, crown, and authority from God the Father at the 7th Trumpet. As interesting as this Psalm is (purchase Revelation Deciphered for more information on this Psalm and the 7th Trumpet), the use of verb tenses is just as revealing. In the Hebrew, the first verb “have loved” uses the “prophetic perfect” idiom, while the second verb is in the imperfect “hate.” This usage-prophetic perfect in the first usage and imperfect or even “future tense” in the second is also a very, very common Hebraic device.

When is the Past the Future?

This is all very interesting, but let’s apply it to a very hot debate in prophecy circles.

Jesus was obviously a Hebraic prophet in addition to being the Son of God. Is it likely that he used the “prophetic perfect” device in his prophecies? Yes, of course, it is likely; and in fact he did use it. In the following example, I’m sure you will recognize this usage immediately:

Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (Matt. 24:22)

Now that you understand the “prophetic perfect” idiom, this usage is easy to spot. the first two verbs use the “prophetic perfect” and the final verb uses another tense, in this case the “future” (just like Psalm 45 used two verb tenses).

The Controversy

But because the “prophetic perfect” idiom is not well known or recognized, Matt. 24:22 has created controversy. Let’s look at a proper interpretation of the verse and then move on to the controversy.

The first question to ask is what “days” was Jesus speaking of?  The verse right before it makes it clear, it’s the Great Tribulation that will be cut short for the sake of the elect (the bond-servants of Jesus). In Matt. 24:29, Jesus even further clarifies this by referring to the “tribulation of THOSE DAYS.”

But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Matt. 24:29)

This is completely consistent with the Pre-Wrath Rapture view in which the Days of the Great Tribulation will be cut short for Christians who will be Raptured after the Sixth Seal of Revelation (when the sun and moon are darkened.)

Why is it referred to as “days?” In Daniel and Revelation we are given the prophecy about the days of the Great Tribulation:

He (the little horn or Antichrist) will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. (Dan. 7:25)

He (Satan) persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. (Rev. 13:13-14)

Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. (Rev. 12:6)

From these three verses it is obvious that the time the saints are given into the Antichrist’s hand are 1260 days.  These are the number of days that Jesus was referring to that will be cut short. This is consistent with the Pre-Wrath Rapture. That the bond-servants of Jesus are Raptured out of the midst of the Great Tribulation and the days are cut short for them (they won’t endure all 1260 days.)

But the Great Tribulation is only cut short for the elect. The Jewish remnant will endure all 1260 days. In this way, Daniel’s prophecy will be fulfilled AND the days will be cut short. This is a very important prophecy insight that few understand.

Now on to the controversy. If the days of the Great Tribulation are cut short for the elect (and only the elect), then neither the Pre-Tribulation Rapture nor the Post-Tribulation Rapture are correct. For this reason, persons in these camps have created a “work-around” to try and explain away the clear teaching of Scripture.

Dr. Renald Showers (Pre-Trib. expert) explains his position based on the past tense of the verb “had been cut short” in Matt. 24:22. His thinking is that an indefinitely long Great Tribulation (maybe five years, maybe more) was cut short by God to only 1260 days in the past by means of God’s sovereign will.  In this way, Jesus’s physical return to fight Armageddon at the physical Second Coming will one day cut short the Great Tribulation and allow some saints to still be alive at that time.

This logic is believed by most Post-Tribulation Rapture experts as well, and it sounds good until you closely examine it.

The first reason that this logic fails is because “the Great Tribulation” was 1260 days via God’s sovereign Will once He decreed it 500 years before Jesus’s birth.  It could never be more than 1260 days from that date on because that is what God decreed and it could never be less from that date on. Jesus, in an act of progressive revelation, told us an additional fact about the 1260 days. They will be cut short for the elect. By Jesus saying they “will be cut short” (future) in the second half of the verse, he is telling us that they couldn’t have been cut short initially because from 500 BC on, the number of days was set in stone.

The second reason utilizes the “prophetic perfect” idiom. This idiom explains why the action of “cutting short” is given as both past and future in the same verse. Well, which one is it Jesus? It is “future only” because Jesus was using the time-honored “prophetic perfect” idiom in giving this super important prophecy; where the first half of the verse is given in the past tense and the second half in the future (to clarify the true meaning just as with Psalm 45.)

A third reason is more subtle. Notice two verbs are in the “prophetic perfect;” both “had been cut short” and “had been saved” are using this idiom. Dr. Showers avoids discussion of the word “saved” in his analysis. This is not the salvation that comes at the moment we first believe, but the physical salvation that will come when Jesus Raptures his Church. He obviously didn’t physically save the elect back back in the days of Daniel. That will happen at the Rapture.


When discussing the Pre-Wrath Rapture, you may often encounter this argument by Pre-Trib. and Post-Trib. believers. The answer is an important one to remember.

Second, many prophecies (especially in the Old Testament) utilize this idiom. It is an important interpretation tool.

Third, this rapture proof is one of 147 separate proofs in the “Mystery Project.” If you have signed up to receive emails from this ministry, you already know about his project. If you haven’t, now may be the time to sign up! Do so below.

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11 thoughts on “When is the Past the Future?”

  1. God surely does give future prophecy in a past or present tense form at times. It is as if these things have already happened. When God speaks, He already knows His words will never return void. It is more certain that the past itself. What an awesome God we serve!

    I do have a question. Is it your position that Matt 24:29-31 is describing the rapture of the church? And, that Matt 24:27-28 is one and the same thing, or something different? Just curious. Matthew’s account of the OD is certainly all out of sequence compared to Luke 17 and 21. Of vice versa, we could say.

    1. Excellent questions Harvos. Yes, absolutely I believe Matt. 24:30-31 is describing the Rapture of the Church. I also believe Matt. 24:27-28 are describing the same events with v. 28 in parable form. I have done an article on this parable before but will do another. Jesus gave this parable on at least two occasions that you mention. I don’t believe they are out of sequence at all, but rather are a parable Jesus may have commonly given at various times during his ministry to describe the Rapture. There are subtle differences in the Greek. The word for “body” is a living body in Luke and a dead body in Matthew. In Matthew the word for “gather” is SUNAGO which means “gather together” and in Luke it is EPISUNAGO meaning “gather together in an upward direction.”

  2. Hmm. I thought you had recently ‘discovered’ that the Church and Israel were not the same.

    Obviously from your continued misuse of the term “elect”, you need now to ‘discover’ this refers only to Israel.

  3. I’m not preterism but historical. Historical views many prophecy already fulfilled and some still waiting fulfillment while preterism assume all fulfilled. I gave you calculations of futuristic even but you censor it….that’s my prove i’m not preterist

    Tribulation is persecution. Tribulation occurs in long term period while great tribulation is short term (and cut short). Timeline is below:

    Tribulation–great tribulation–tribulation.

    Tribulation will continue and end when Jesus come.

  4. Jesus mentions about great tribulation (Mat 24:21) and tribulation (Mat 24:29). Tribulation is long time period while great tribulation is short time. Tribulation will end at “2nd coming” of Jesus. Days that cut short is for great tribulation not tribulation.

    1260 days is not total time of tribulation but only part of tribulation. Dan 7 3.5 times/years is same with 42 months Revelation 13 and this is the lifetime of 2nd beast Rev 13 aka little horn Dan 7.

    As i said many times Dan 7 little horn refers to muawiya when he rebels against 3 horns: ali (4th caliph), hasan (5th caliph) and husein (3rd imam of shia). Muawiya rebellion rise new kind of islam known as the sunni (8th kingdom), 90% muslim were sunni that’s why Rev 17 states 8th is the beast (the beast is islam).

    1. donal, we have discussed this Preterism theory many times previously. In the next series on Amillennialism, you will have a chance to discuss this further, but this article is about the Prophetic Perfect idiom and its right application in Matt. 24:22.

      Read this older article donal on the Great Tribulation. It explains that “Great” (MEGAS) means widespread. So the tribulation (persecution) of the Great Tribulation will be widespread persecution. Tribulation is not a technical term for a certain period of time. It is a word the Bible uses for persecution of the righteous. You misinterpret Matt. 24:29. This verse is specific as to the “tribulation of THOSE DAYS.” What days? Why the days that are cut short of course, the days just mentioned which are the Great Tribulation.

  5. This short article of insight must have been burdensome to write so that the reader would understand, easily. So much information of enlightenment here. But absolutely correct. I have read translations that state the tribulation will be cut short, as in severed, amputated, or no flesh would be saved. Those are very strong words as to how terrible the tribulation of the AC will be on all of mankind, not just christians and jews. It is difficult to face the fact that the elect will have to endure this time until the rapture. Very good study, Nelson.

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