It is used by the authors in an argument that can be summarized as:
- Yes many have said that we were in the end times, and they all have been wrong.
- This time, however, we are right.
"Christians have more reason than any generation before us to believe that Christ will return to take us [this generation] to His Father’s house." (pp. ix)
All the past generations failed, the authors tell us, for Daniel was instructed to hide the knowledge until the tribulation:
"But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." (Dan. 12:4, NKJV)Here is a critical piece of their exegesis:
"Hardly anyone doubts that ours is a day when people are running to and from and knowledge has increased." (pp. x)
They go on to write
"That others before us were wrong about the nearness of the Lord’s return should not deter us from searching, now that some of the end-time prophecies are being unsealed." (pp. xi emphasis mine)
They have snuck in a presupposition that "end time prophesies are being unsealed." Then, ipso facto, from Dan. 12:4, given the astute observation that we are running to and fro and knowledge is increasing, it follows that we have entered "the time of the end", which they take to mean not the tribulation but an unspecified extremely short time preceding it.
They give lip service to passages that suggest we cannot know the timing of His return. Very minor lip service:
"…we wish to state categorically that we refuse to predict that Christ will come in our lifetime, for He may delay His coming another fifty years or more. Still, we believe the evidence is to the contrary. We will quote secular scientists and others who see no possibility for the continued existence of the world." (pp. 23-24, emphasis mine)
A cynic will note that they have in effect put an upper limit (fifty years) on Christ's return that extends just slightly beyond their life expectancy. They will not live to see the day where someone can tell them that they were wrong. This at least means they are cleverer than some of their predecessors who set a date they lived to regret.
I also wonder if they defer to those same secular scientists when they tell them the earth is billions of years old, or is it only when they tell them something that fits, namely that the earth can’t last much longer (a far less sound conclusion, scientifically).