PMW 2020-061 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is the second in a short series that is presenting the various views of commentators in their understanding of the opening verses of Revelation, specifically Revelation 1:1, 3. These verses introduce the book and are therefore crucial for its understanding. However, commentators disagree on how these verses are to be interpreted.

So now I will be presenting two more view of these verses.

2. John was ambiguous

The events were prophesied to be soon, but as was customary with Israel’s prophets, the special prophetic language is intentionally “ambiguous.” Prophetic ambiguity is intentional and designed to heighten the hearers’ expectations for moral purposes of readiness. Though not applying his discussion to Revelation, we may easily see how Scot McKnight’s understanding of Hebrew prophecy would explain John’s nearness imagery.

In discussing Jesus’ Gospel statements regarding the nearness of the kingdom and the apocalyptic judgments associated with it, McKnight (A New Vision for Israel, 1999: 129) writes: “I will argue that Jesus had an imminent expectation and that this view is consistent with the prophetic movement in Israel. His perception was not erroneous. In its limitation, ignorance, and ambiguity, prophetic knowledge is not erroneous knowledge, but it is different from everyday, empirical knowledge.”

Blessed Is He SMALL (Larry Ball)

Blessed Is He Who Reads: A Primer on the Book of Revelation
By Larry E. Ball

A basic survey of Revelation from the preterist perspective.
It sees John as focusing on the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.

For more Christian studies see: www.KennethGentry.com

Though McKnight (129) argues against employing “exegetical gymnastics” to evade the import of prophetic near-term pronouncements, his approach seems to encourage just that. John’s statements are quite clear, repeated, and balanced with one another. He opens (1;1, 3) and closes (22:6, 10) with these nearness statements. He never declares that he does not know the time; he does not use ambiguous language in making his statements. Any prophetic-ambiguity argument will not suffice to discount the approaching judgments.

3. Revelation is motivational

The events are declared to be soon, but only for dramatic, motivational purposes. J. Ramsey Michaels (Revelation, 48) argues that

“Christians tend to get nervous about any implication that the Bible might be mistaken. yet a great deal is lost when the striking words soon and the time is near are not given their proper force. The conviction that the end of the world is near is what makes the book of Revelation larger than life. . . . The intense awareness of the end of all things infuses the book’s imagery with sharpness and rich color. The announcement that ‘the time is near’ provokes not resignation or a feeling that nothing matters, but on the contrary a kind of jubilation at the preciousness of life and at the world God created and will create anew in the events that must soon take place.”

James L. Resseguie (Revelation, 63) holds a similar view when he states that John is building a sense of “tension” in his dramatic work. Harry O. Maier (Apocalypse Recalled, 124) comments that “Jesus, like Godot, is just around a corner that is never turned.”

The Book of Revelation Made Easy
(by Ken Gentry)

Helpful introduction to Revelation presenting keys for interpreting. Also provides studies of basic issues in Revelation’s story-line.|

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Perhaps we may suppose that this approach would have infused the book with sharpness and color for its original recipients. But now nineteen hundred years of delay would surely dull that cutting edge and wash out the color considerably. This simply will not do.

Thus, I hope you will return for my next presentation, the third in this series.

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

  1. Fred V. Squillante August 4, 2020 at 6:56 am

    It never ceases to amaze how a student of Scripture can believe that the foibles of man can somehow thwart God’s will. I don’t believe for one second God is purposely being ambiguous of is giving us a motivational pep talk, any more than God “sprinkles” eschatological utterances throughout, as some believe. That would relegate the Bible to nothing more than one more human-authored book. JMHO.

  2. Jason Elliott August 4, 2020 at 9:14 am

    Once Christians will submit to and believe these time indicators, there then must necessarily be a shift in eschatological views to at least a partial preterist understanding. I believe I can confidently say, as a partial preterist, that the end of the 1,000 year period cannot be understood to be at hand, etc. So, there really is a way to divide the near events from the distant events in the book itself. Also, futurists are dishonest when they read Revelation 1:1-3 inconsistently with other passages such as 1 Timothy 3:14-15. Would Timothy be expecting Paul to be arriving “shortly” (v. 14) but when reading the next sentence (v. 15) believe that Paul would not arrive for almost 2,000 years in the future? The near indicators, along with the readers being told that these things are “signified” or symbolic in the opening verses, are tremendous tools in interpreting this letter that is actually addressed to first century Christians. We must read this New Testament letter as we do all of the epistles: for doctrine for all believers but with a specific audience to whom it was written and to whom it was relevant.

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