PMW 2020-063 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
I am continuing a survey of the various interpretations of the first three verses of Revelation. These are crucial for understanding what John’s mysterious book involves. Those 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 two more interpretations that are found among scholars. And dispensationalists.
6. The events are always imminent
The events are imminent in that they could theoretically occur at any minute. Premillennialist Robert Mounce (Revelation, 41) takes this approach: “John writes that the events that constitute the revelation must ‘soon take place.’ That almost 2,000 year of church history have passed and the end has not yet come poses a problem for some. . . . The most satisfying solution is to take the expression ‘must soon take place’ in a straightforward sense, remembering that in the prophetic outlook the end is always imminent. Time as a chronological sequence is of secondary concern in prophecy. This perspective is common to the entire NT.”
Later (p. 404) Mounce writes: “One answer to the problem of this as-yet-unfulfilled expectation is to hold that God is more concerned with the fulfillment of his redemptive purposes than he is with satisfying our ideas of appropriate timing.” Metzger (105) adds: “In the Christian doctrine of the last things, the imminence of the end is moral rather than chronological: each successive generation, so far as can be known to the contrary, may be the last generation. In that sense the time is always near (22:10).” This views is held by G. E. Ladd (22) and Alan F. Johnson (Revelation in Gaebelein, 1981: 417).
Four Views on the Book of Revelation
(ed. by Marvin Pate)
Helpful presentation of four approaches to Revelation. Ken Gentry writes the chapter on the preterist approach to Revelation, which provides a 50 page survey of Revelation .
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
But against this view we must wonder why John would use time-laden words to express his view of prophecy rather than simply saying these events “must” come about. Indeed, in 22:10 John’s revelatory angel seems intentionally to be reversing Daniel’s heavenly directive which stated: “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time” (Dan 12:4). John’s directive is “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Revelation 22:10). Thus, we have the odd situation that around 600 years before John’s day, Daniel was commanded to seal up his prophecy until the end, but John is commanded not to seal up his prophecy for the end is near — though we have now gone over 1900 years into the future.
Besides this understanding of imminency in the futurist scheme is an abuse of the term: Webster’s New Twentieth Century Unabridged Dictionary defines “imminent”: “appearing as if about to happen; likely to happen without delay; impending.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines “imminent”: “Impending threateningly, hanging over one’s head; ready to befall or overtake one; close at hand in its incidence; coming on shortly.” Imminency has no meaning if that which is “imminent” stretches out for 2000 years — or more.
7. The events are certain
The events are certain irrespective of when they occur. Stephen B. Smalley (Revelation, 27) states that “this phrase indicates the sure accomplishment of God’s purposes, rather than a ‘hasty consummation’ of history.” Louis Brighton (Revelation, 642–43) concurs: “The events described will certainly take place: human evil and the resulting sufferings under God’s judgment, and the church of Christ completing her mission. It is necessary that these events take place.”
Have We Missed the Second Coming:
A Critique of the Hyper-preterist Error
by Ken Gentry
This book offers a brief introduction, summary, and critique of Hyper-preterism. Don’t let your church and Christian friends be blindfolded to this new error. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
For more Christian educational materials: www.KennethGentry.com
But again, John could have better expressed this view by simply stating that he was referring to “the things which must take place.” The word “soon” simply confuses the matter. Or he could have used the simple future: “the things which will take place.” Or he could have used amēn to affirm its certainty, especially since John is fond of amēn both in Revelation (1:6,7; 3:14; 5:14; 7:12; 19:4; 22:20, 21), as well as in his Gospel where he always doubles it (25 x): “the things which must take place. Amen.”
These views cannot overthrow the surface meaning and regular usage of these words. So we are back to accepting redemptive-historical preterism. But there are more to come! See you next time.