WHAT DO REVELATION 1:1 AND 1:3 MEAN? (1)

PMW 2020-060 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

All agree that Revelation is a difficult book. Except for televangelist Hal Lindsey. In this regard, one theologian has noted that for every five commentaries on Revelation you can find six different views.

How is this problem to be solved if we are ever to understand Revelation? The answer: exegetically. We must read what John says he expects at the very beginning of his mysterious work. And what does he say in his opening?

In Revelation 1:1and 3 we read:

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, . . . 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

Unfortunately, we will learn that most commentators do not see these words as meaning what they seem to mean. For if they did accept them at face value, they would all be redemptive-historical preterists. In this short series I will be presenting several of the leading interpretations of these verses. I will here present some of the leading options for interpreting John’s declaration. Some of these concepts can be and are blended in some of the writers highlighted.

1. John was mistaken
The events were expected soon, but John was wrong. M. E. Boring (Revelation, 73) asserts that John’s near-term expectation for “all the events his letter envisions” erred: “Does this mean he was wrong? Yes. Christians who reverence the Bible as Scripture, the vehicle of God’s word, ought not to hesitate to acknowledge that its authors made errors. . . . When John adopted apocalyptic as the vehicle of his message, he adopted its errors as well.”


The Beast of RevelationBeast of Revelation
by Ken Gentry

A popularly written antidote to dispensational sensationalism and newspaper exegesis. Convincing biblical and historical evidence showing that the Beast was the Roman Emperor Nero Caesar, the first civil persecutor of the Church. The second half of the book shows Revelation’s date of writing, proving its composition as prior to the Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. A thought-provoking treatment of a fascinating and confusing topic.

For more study materials, go to: KennethGentry.com


W. J. Harrington (Revelation, 44–45) concurs: “When John declares that the time is near, he means that, in his view, the End is soon. Was he, then, mistaken? In one sense, obviously yes. The end did not happen in his day, nor has it occurred nineteen centuries later. What we might learn from him is a sense of urgency.”

Nigel Turner (Peake’s Commentary, 1045) agrees, noting that “conservative scholars try to see in this word the meaning ‘quickly’ (i.e. catastrophically) as well as soon, for the simple truth is that the events did not have an immediate fulfillment. David L. Barr (“The Apocalypse of John,” 1984:39) notes that Revelation “failed rather spectacularly to deliver on its promise that Jesus would come ‘soon.’”

B. Robinson (“The Two Persecuted Prophet Witnesses,” 1988: 16) is more gracious to John but agrees that: “John’s expectation of a speedy winding up of history . . . was premature.” But the meaning really is ‘soon.’”

George Buchanan (Revelation, 35–36) puts the matter boldly: “John thought Christians were then near the end of the tribulation, and it would be only a short time before the predestined period would be over and the nation would be free from foreign rule. . . . John was not expecting to wait a thousand years. Based on Daniel, he expected an end to take place within three and one half years. That did not happen, and John made a mistake. That is all there is to it, and no one should try to claim some infallibly correct interpretation that will absolve John of error.”


Before Jerusalem Fell Lecture
DVD by Ken Gentry

A summary of the evidence for Revelation’s early date. Helpful, succinct introduction to Revelation’s pre-AD 70 composition.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Problem
This approach is unacceptable to those who believe Revelation is divinely revealed (as John claims in 1:1, hopefully truthfully). And it is based on a radical misunderstanding of what Revelation is really teaching, as we shall see.

Furthermore, it certainly would not create a sense of “urgency” but rather a profound sense of disappointment and disgust akin to those who followed William Miller to the mountain top in 1843. Revelation should be nothing more than a Qumran-like specimen of failed expectations.

This series will continue. Stay tuned.

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2 thoughts on “WHAT DO REVELATION 1:1 AND 1:3 MEAN? (1)

  1. apocalypse2blog July 31, 2020 at 6:05 am

    It has been suggested that John the Baptist wrote the first version of the Apocalypse. He was preparing the way for the Lamb, the first coming, and indeed the time was near.

  2. Kenneth Gentry August 12, 2020 at 7:06 am

    This was originally suggested in J. Massyngberde Ford’s Anchor Bible Commentary on Revelation. I believe she has since withdrawn this view. Actually, she argued that disciples of John the Baptist wrote it.

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