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

PMW 2020-062 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is a third installment in my series presenting the various scholarly approaches to John’s all-important opening verses to Revelation. These verses are too easily overlooked by the average Christian trying to get to “the good stuff” about the Beast and the Harlot. But to jump over these is to miss John’s point.

How are we to understand Revelation 1:1 and 3? What else have the scholars attempted with these verses?

These verses 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.

We are now ready for the fourth and fifth approaches.

4. The events will occur rapidly

The events will unfold rapidly whenever they begin to occur. Dispensationalist scholar John Walvoord (Revelation, 35) understands Rev’s opening comment thus: “That which Daniel declared would occur ‘in the latter days’ is here described as ‘soon’ (Gr. en tachei), that is, ‘quickly or suddenly coming to pass,’ indicating a rapidity of execution after the beginning takes place. The idea is not that the event may occur soon, but that when it does, it will be sudden (cf. Luke f18:8; Acts 12:7; 22:18; 25:4; Rom. 16:20). A similar word, tackus, is translated ‘quickly’ seven times in Rev.” Charles Ryrie (Revelation, 13) also holds this view.

This interpretation does not offer any encouragement whatsoever. If the Church must wait hundreds and hundreds of years before the events occur, what is the significance of their finally arriving rapidly? Besides the soon-ness embodied in this phrase occurs again in other expressions in 1:3, 19, and elsewhere. F. D. Mazzaferri well argues: “Though tachos may connote speed rather than imminence, the former makes little sense in terms of 22:10, or in context with engus. Likewise, Jesus’ promise erchomai tachu, is scarcely intelligible, let alone a motivation for perseverance, except in the sense of imminence.” He even notes that in 1:7 “the pres. tense eloquently speaks of imminence in its own right” (Genre of the Book of Revelation, Mazzaferri, 237).


The Early Date of Revelation and the End Times: An Amillennial Partial Preterist Perspective
By Robert Hillegonds

This book presents a strong, contemporary case in support of the early dating of Revelation. He builds on Before Jerusalem Fell and brings additional arguments to bear.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


5. John is speaking of God’s time

The events will occur soon according to the eternal God’s measure of time. Dispensationalist Robert L. Thomas (Revelation, 1:55) recognizes the weakness of Walvoord’s position noting that “to say that relief will come ‘suddenly’ offers no encouragement but to say that it will come ‘soon’ does.” He argues that “when measuring time, Scripture has a different standard from ours. . . . It must be kept in mind that God is not limited by considerations of time in the same way man is (cf. 2 Pet. 3:8).”

Leon Morris (Revelation, 46–47) holds a similar view: “We must bear in mind that in the prophetic perspective the future is sometimes foreshortened. In other words the term may refer to the certainty of the events in question. The Lord God has determined them and he will speedily bring them to pass. But this refers to his time, not ours, to the quality of the time rather than the quantity. With him one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day (2 Pet. 3:8).”

In fact, Henry Alford (Alford’s Greek Testament, 4:545–46) warns that this statement “must not be urged to signify the events of apocalyptic prophecy were to be close at hand.” According to Craig Keener (61) “Revelation functions, therefore, as a “summons to readiness.” Grant Osborne (797) agrees: “to God the period between John’s time and ours still connotes ‘soon.’” See also Ocemenius (22), H. B. Swete (2), Henry Alford (4:535), Marvin Vincent (2:407), A. T. Robertson (283), Robert Mulholland (9), David Hall (11), and Ranko Stefanovic (57).


An Eschatology of Victory
by J. Marcellus Kik
This book presents a strong, succinct case for both optimistic postmillennialism and for orthodox preterism. An early proponent in the late Twentieth-century revival of postmillennialism. One of the better non-technical studies of Matt. 24. It even includes a strong argument for a division between AD 70 and the Second Advent beginning at Matt. 24:36.

For more Christian educational materials: www.KennethGentry.com


Problems

How this offers any more encouragement to a severely persecuted Church than Walvoord’s view is not clear. After all, on this view John would be stating: “The events within are imminent, but may in fact take 2000 years before they occur.” In addition I would make a three-fold rebuttal to the possibility that John is speaking of time as does Peter in 2 Peter 3:8:

In the first place, Peter expressly states the fact that God views time differently from man. John does not. We cannot go about interpreting all temporal indicators by God’s estimation of time. Secondly, Peter is talking about God, whereas John is giving directives to men. Peter makes a theological statement regarding God and his perception of time; John provides an historical directive to men regarding their unfolding hardships. We must not confuse theological truth about God with historical directives to men.

Thirdly, Peter is expressly dealing with the objection that certain prophecies have failed because they have yet to occur: “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation’” (2 Pe 3:3–4). Peter is facing the slowness of God’s judgment. John, however, is warning suffering Christians (among which he numbers himself, Revelation 1:9) about what they must expect. He dogmatically declares repeatedly and in various ways that his prophecies “must soon take place” because “the time is near.”

To be continued! I hope you will join me.

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

  1. Jason Elliott August 7, 2020 at 5:31 am

    I have a couple of questions about Revelation 1:1-3 and interpreting Revelation 6 as a direct parallel with Matthew 24.

    1) If Jesus said the events that will occur in Matthew 24:4-15 indicate that the end (ad 70) is NOT yet, and the BEGINNING of sorrows, how would the supposedly same events in Revelation 6 indicate that the end is near (ad 70)? In other words, would Jesus be speaking the Olivet Discourse in the 30s knowing that none of these signs would begin until the late 60s, which according to Revelation 1:1-3 would declare that the signs indicate the end is near?

    2) Does the mid-late 60s writing of Revelation give ample time for false Christs, wars, famines, martyrdom, etc. to both begin AND come to pass before 70, or could we believe that the signs given in both Matthew 24 and Revelation 6 are normal conditions of the world as the gospel and Great Commission goes forth reversing these conditions (Isa 2:2-4, for example)?

    Heaven and earth passing away seems to be a gradual process leading up to the second coming of Christ through regeneration of man through preaching rather than a clear demarcation of wars/no wars, apostasy/truth, etc. according to Matthew 5:17-18.

    Thanks for these thought provoking posts!

  2. Fred V. Squillante August 7, 2020 at 9:09 am

    Scholars disagree because they don’t understand. They don’t understand because they have preconceived ideas. They they go to a seminary that reinforces what they believe going in. Just looking at the hermeneutical gymnastics they employ to make their case confirms that. On the subject of “encouragement” I have to scratch my head. I go to Peter when he said to always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). That is the verse used by apologists, of which you just did a series (I shared the last one with my apologetics group, and cited your name).

    But in the field of eschatology, where everyone is looking to the future the apologist is short-circuited because most people believe the premillennial view and therefore believe we’re going to hell in a handbasket and please come back Jesus and rescue us. Where is the hope in that? How do you encourage someone who believes that way when you (generically) believe that way?

    I do believe in the preterist view. I do not classify myself as a hyper or partial preterist. I’ve read many books by scholars and frankly, they don’t definitively know either where the dividing line is between fulfilled and yet-to-be-fulfilled, so I take it all with a grain of salt. But I will say this: To me, much of prophecy is best looked at as fulfilled with the notion that God has not given us His Word as a means to debate what will happen at the end of all things. That isn’t what the apostles talked about. They talked about the resurrection, for without that our faith is in vain.

    Having said that, speaking for myself, because the Scriptures are complete they are our handbook for life. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ and has raised us up with Him in the heavenly places. That is an encouragement. A Christian has eternal life so when he dies he will be in the presence of God and he will see Jesus in all His glory in heaven. Therein lies the hope. With that, I can give a defense to anyone who asks me to give an account for the hope that is in me.

    Thank you, Dr. Gentry and keep up the good work.

  3. Kenneth Gentry August 12, 2020 at 7:14 am

    The “partial” preterist view differs from the “full” preterist view in a significant foundation element which should reduce you reluctance to declare one way or the other. “Full” preterism is a wholly new, lock-stepped, and aberrant theological system. Whereas, “partial” preterism is a hermeneutical tool which requires skills and allows internal debate in deciding which verses speak of AD 70 and which speak of the Second Advent. “Partial” preterism is not a package deal.

  4. Kenneth Gentry August 12, 2020 at 7:24 am

    First, in AD 30 Jesus warned his disciples that they would see the events of vv. 4-15, but that they should not think that the conclusion to those events (the destruction of the temple) is just yet. They must, as it were, wait a little longer (cp. Rev. 6:11). But almost 40 years later (AD 65) John can say the events are “near” and “shortly.” In the Discourse Jesus was warning his original disciples not to be deceived by false Christs and false prophets. John is encouraging the persecuted church about when their primary persecutors (the Jews) will be judged, thereby ending the Israel-centric kingdom.

    Second, yes, I believe it does allow ample time because of the different function and purpose of the Olivet Discourse when compared to Revelation. Olivet is warning the original disciples to not be deceived by false Christs and false prophets, which is the tone with which the Discourse opens (Matt. 24:4; cp. vv. 5, 11). Whereas Revelation is comforting those who are persecuted (Rev. 6:11; 14:13).

  5. Jason Elliott August 12, 2020 at 9:11 am

    Thank you for that explanation, Dr. Gentry. I have a follow up question regarding Revelation 6:11 and the little season. I know full preterists try to say this verse is parallel with Revelation 20:3 because of the use of “little season” in the same book. I think Amillennialists may do this as well, but I’m not sure about that.. How does the partial preterist distinguish between the two “little seasons” in Revelation? Thanks, as always, for your work in these areas.

  6. Fred V. Squillante August 12, 2020 at 9:15 am

    While agreeing that full preterism is aberrant and, at the same time concurring with the Westminster Confession of Faith, any reluctance to declare how much of Olivet (and other prophecies) pertains to A.D. 70 vs. the end shows that learned people disagree. And while that’s neither right nor wrong, ultimately, we don’t know. Debating is good, but there is no benefit to argue – that’s why we have so many denominations 😦 Also, while preterism is the superior hermeneutic and postmillennialism (in theory) is optimistic, the facts on the ground are anything but victorious. Again, JMHO.

  7. Kenneth Gentry August 12, 2020 at 9:26 am

    Actually, I believe there is sufficient evidence for a division in Matt. 24, as I have argued. Debates are good, and important. We had the doctrine of the Trinity hammered out through debates. In fact, all of our ecumenical creeds arose through debatses.

  8. Kenneth Gentry August 12, 2020 at 9:27 am

    By noting that the “little season” occurs after 1000 years, which is not “near.”

  9. Jason Elliott August 12, 2020 at 9:35 am

    Well, that makes sense! I forget that the full preterists ignore the 1,000 years as a lengthy time period and instead make it a time period of “quality, not quantity”, which I never understood. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize this when asking the question….=)

  10. Fred V. Squillante August 12, 2020 at 9:53 am

    That’s my point. You make a good argument, but that doesn’t mean it is so. I can argue that much of Olivet points to the Temple destruction, but that doesn’t mean that is so either.

  11. Kenneth Gentry August 12, 2020 at 11:57 am

    You must have a lot of fun with every doctrine of Scripture, since are all debate!

  12. Fred V. Squillante August 12, 2020 at 1:28 pm

    No. Just these. Like you, this is what I write about. Unlike you, I don’t have a degree. I regret that but that’s life. I do have fun reading others’ opinions and I can’t help but see the areas of dispute. It gives me insight and makes my writing more fun. I’m almost finished with my 2nd draft of my manuscript on Daniel.

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