The Daas Zekeinim says that it is Bilam that says “not now, it is not close”, but Moshe says “chash asidos lamo – the future is soon to come”. By a Goy, a gap in time is like ancient history. If you talk to a Goy about George Washington they don’t feel any connection to him or his time period at all. By a Yid, though, a gap in time does not really all that much. For us, Rabi Akiva Eiger, the Ketzos and the Nesivos, the Nefesh Ha’Chaim…we feel close to them. Yidden are very clear about the past and the future. Time does not separate a Yid from the past and the future. We live with both the past and the future. Just look at how all the Rishonim speak about bi’as ha’Mashiach. They were living in a time that was the lowest of the low for Klal Yisrael, with constant persecution both religious and physical, and yet their words reflect an unmistakable emunah b’chush that Mashiach is just around the corner; as if they are just sitting and waiting for him to come.
(Audio recording available here)