Zephaniah was God’s prophet in the days of the reforming king, Josiah of Judah — 640-609 B.C. (Zephaniah 1:1). The main emphasis of Zephaniah’s message was the coming “day of Jehovah,” which can be none other than the final judgment day heralded by the second coming of Christ.

The prophet begins with the general proposition that the entire earthly creation will be devastated by the coming judgment (1:1,2). From there, representatives are selected as examples of all upon whom God will pour forth His wrath.

Judah and Jerusalem are mentioned (1:4,5), and certain cases of neighboring nations are highlighted (e.g., Philistia, Moab, Ethiopia — 2:4,8,12). The temporal judgments inflicted upon these nations would be a token of the universal judgment at the end of time.

One of the significant things to notice is that this awesome day of judgment is described as being “at hand,” i.e., near (1:7,14). This is a clear illustration of the fact that time, in biblical prophecy, is relative.

Nearness is employed to emphasize the urgency of being always ready. Underline “at hand” in Zephaniah 1:7, and in your margin observe: Emphasizes urgency, not chronological proximity.

Similarly, when the New Testament speaks of Christ’s return as being “at hand” (cf. James 5:8), it need not demand chronological imminence. See Joel 1:15; 2:1.