REVELATION’S PROPHECIES WERE NEAR (2)

clearl visionPMT 2015-036 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

In my last blog article I began a two-part series showing that the text of Revelation clearly expects that the prophecies were coming soon in John’s own first-century time-frame. I will conclude this study in this article.

5. Didactic placement

John places his two leading terms in his introduction and conclusion (1:1, 3; 22:6, 10): (1) He places these expressions early (1:1, 3) to alert the readers and hearers in advance that the following prophecies are near at hand. Before anyone could form any opinion about when they think these things might occur, he informs them right up front. Thus, the audience hears these statement upon entering the book and are reminded of them upon exiting it. Furthermore, (2) these statements appear in the more didactic portions of the book before and after the dramatic symbolism confronts — and confounds — the reader/hearer.

We must recognize that the first-century recipients of Revelation were not privy to Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Roman Empire. Nor to Tim LaHaye’s, Left Behind a Rock. They were stuck only with John’s own words.

6. Frequent appearance

John’s concern with the near-term prospects of his prophecy do not serve as a quick sidebar comment. He frequently reiterates his temporal expectations, using the words/phrases thirteen times in Rev. Eggus  (“near”) appears at 1:3 and 22:10. Tachos (“soon”) and tachus (“quickly”) appear eight times: 1:1; 2:16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:6, 7, 12, 20. Chronon mikron (“short time”) appears in 6:11; chronos ouketis estai (“time [delay] no longer”) in 10:6; and oligon kairon  (“little time”) in 12:12.


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7. Prophetic contrast

Later in John’s conclusion one of his time-frame indicators which occurs also in 1:3 reappears in 22:10. Here it comes in a particular way that expressly demands its near-term emphasis. The angel commands John as his book is concluding: “‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” Most commentators recognize that this statement is reversing a command given to Daniel in Da 12:4: “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time.” So then, Daniel must seal up his book because the time is not near, whereas John must not seal up his because “the time is near.”

8. Literary parallel

Rev clearly parallels the Olivet Discourse in many respects (e.g., Rev 1:7 = Mt 24:30; Rev 11:2 = Lk 21:24; Rev 18:24 = Mt 23:35). In Rev 1:7 we find a unique merging of Da 7:13 and Zec 12:10 that only occurs elsewhere in Scripture at Mt 24:30 (see discussion at 1:7 below). Both prophecies speak of Christ’s coming with clouds, the tribes of the earth, and their mourning. Interestingly, both are also set in near-term contexts. As I have been arguing John expects Rev’s events to “soon take place” (1:1) because “the time is near” (1:3); likewise Mt 24:34 states that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

9. Audience circumstances

John is writing to Christians under severe duress and tribulation. In fact, he is enduring tribulation with them as he is banished to Patmos: “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation” (1:9). He shows concern for their cries for vindication (6:9–11) and highlights the deadly assaults they are enduring (11:7; 13:7; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24). He warns his audience that through it all they must persevere (1:3, 9; 2:2–3, 10, 17, 19, 25–26; 3:3, 5, 8, 10, 12, 21; 12:11; 13:10; 14:4–5; 16:16; 17:14; 21:7) for there are severe consequences for failure (2:4–5; 14–16, 20; 3:3, 16, 19). He offers them a special blessing if they should die for the faith (14:13) and shows them God will vindicate them (18:20; 19:1–5).

In such a foreboding work as this, how could John write to his beleaguered audience about events thousands of years off in the future? This is especially problematic in that he early and repeatedly uses language that suggests Rev’s near-term fulfillment, though in fact its judgments will not ultimately fall for thousands of years.


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10. Redemptive-historical significance

Rev is focusing on a dramatically significant redemptive-historical event: the destruction of God’s temple in AD 70. This finally and forever closes the old covenant’s typological, sacrificial economy so that the final “new covenant” economy may be established (Jn 4:21; Heb 8:13). This event is so significant that Jesus prophesies it in one of his longest recorded discourses, the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24-25, the first portion of which covers the events leading up to and including AD 70 (Mt 24:4-34).

In fact, many of his actions and much of his teaching warns of the approach of AD 70, as we may discover by a quick survey of the Gospels. We can see that John’s dramatic-symbolic imagery easily applies to this enormously significant episode.

Even dispensationalist Robert Thomas (Revelation 1:55), who opposes preterism, admits: “A major thrust of Revelation is its emphasis upon the shortness of time before the fulfillment.” Thus, we must understand John’s near-term language in Rev exactly for what it says. The events of Rev “must soon take place” (1:1) because “the time is near” (1:3).

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