PRETERISM JUSTIFICATIONS (1)

Near timePMT-2015-054 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

I often receive questions asking how modern postmillennialism differs from, say, Puritan postmillennialism. As is the case with all eschatological positions, postmillennialism has experienced some changes over time.

Two of the most significant changes in modern postmillennialism are:

(1) The “millennium” is no longer deemed distinct era that will arise toward the end of the Church age. Rather, modern postmillennialism understands John’s “millennium” to be another way of speaking of Christ’s kingdom, which extends from the first century until the end of history. (2) Older postmillennialism tended to be governed by either historicism or futurism, whereas the modern postmillennial school is largely (though not universally) associated with preterism.

In this brief series I will be focusing on the preterist element in modern postmillennialism. I will be providing the justification for preterism in an evangelical world largely committed to futurism. Why would anyone adopt a preterist approach to biblical prophecy?

In this brief study I will present a four-fold exegetical justification for preterism in Revelation. These justifications are rooted in interpretive demands derived from the text itself, not from theological predispositions (e.g., anti-premillennialism) or from traditional predilections (e.g., John Lightfoot emulation). In this article I will focus on the Temporal Indicators

The leading preterist evidence derives from John’s temporal delimitations, which he emphasizes by strategic placement, didactic assertion, frequent repetition, and careful variation.

He strategically places them twice in his introduction (1:1, 3) and five times in his conclusion (22:6, 7, 10, 12, 20), thereby bracketing the highly wrought drama within (4:1–22:6). In these didactic passages John employs two terms demanding preterism: tachos / tachu (1:1, cp. 22:7, 12, 20) and eggus (1:3; cp. 22:10). For example:

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly [tachos] take place. . . . 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 [eggus].” (Rev 1:1a, 3)


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Here we see that John immediately impresses upon his reader the nearness of his prophetic events. Opening Revelation to its first page should settle the matter of preterism v. futurism. Unfortunately, prophecy enthusiasts (who often call themselves and their back-patting friends, “prophecy experts”) tend to pole-vault over the first chapter into the exciting parts that speak of nuclear weapons, China’s population, computer warfare, and so forth.

Lexicographers agree on the temporal significance of tachos in Revelation: The Baur-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker Lexicon (BAGD) notes that en tachei means: “soon, in a short time Lk 18:8; Ro 16:20; 1 Ti 3:14 v.1; Rv 1:1; 22:6; 1 Cl 65:1; shortly Ac 25:4.” Thayer offers the following range of meanings: “quickness, speed and quickly, shortly, speedily, soon,” listing Revelation 1:1 and 22:6 with the “speedily, soon” entries. Abbott-Smith concurs: 1:1 and 22:6 mean “quickly, speedily, soon.”

Greek text editors F. J. A. Hort, Kurt Aland, and Howard Marshall agree. Hort translates it “shortly, soon.” Aland comments: “In the original text, the Greek work used is tachu, and this does not mean ‘soon,’ in the sense of ‘sometime,’ but rather ‘now,’ immediately.” Marshall cites Revelation 1:1 and 22:6 as evidence that the normal use of the phrase en tachei “suggest[s] that soon is the meaning.”

In fact, all English versions translate it either as: “soon” (NIV, RSV, Beck, NRSV, NAB, CEV, ESV, NET), “shortly” (KJV, ASV, Weymouth, NEB, NASB, NKJV), or “very soon” (Moffatt, Phillips, Williams, TEV). Tachos obviously indicates temporal brevity elsewhere (e.g., Lk 18:8; Ac 12:7; Ro 16:20). The same is true of its related form tachus (Mt 5:25; Mk 9:39; Lk 15:22; cp. Rev 2:16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20).

This evidence is reinforced by John’s linking tachos with eggus in the same contexts, as if to provide a two-fold witness (1:1, 3; 22:6, 10). BAGD provides the following entry for eggus: “of time near a. of the future: kairos Mt 26:18; Rv 1:3; 22:10.” The other lexicons cited above concur. TDNT notes that the term means “temporally near at hand” and observes that “like the Synpt., Rev. uses eggus only as a term for the near coming of the kingdom of God. Thus we have ho gar kairos eggus in 1:3; cf. 22:10″ (3:330, 331). The various samples of eggus in the NT all agree: some relating spatial, others temporal nearness (Mt 24:32, 33; 26:18; 13:28, 29; Lk 19:11; 21:30, 31). And again, all translations of Revelation agree; all versions cited above have either “near” or “at hand.”


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Perhaps the most interesting proof of the meaning of these terms is the various competing, innovative, counter-intuitive attempts to get around their obvious significance! Indeed, if these terms do not express temporal nearness, what terms could John have used to do so? I am firmly convinced John prophesies the fast approaching destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70.

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2 thoughts on “PRETERISM JUSTIFICATIONS (1)

  1. Barry Will May 5, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    Without having done an exhaustive study of all the verses using the Greek words for nearness and shortly, nevertheless, as a former pre-millenialist, I still cannot conceive how anyone, except those with a strong bias, would fail to see the clear meaning in those passages of the nearness of events being prophesied. This is truly an exercise in accurate exegesis, but I also believe it involves a heart that approaches the sacred texts in sincere honesty and humility.

  2. Greg Harvey January 3, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    I agree with Barry. When I led a 10 week study of eschatology, I asked why was Revelation written? It says so in the first verse, and many other places on top of that. Too many people read Revelation with a magnifying glass to exaggerate the importance of many verses, like those about Armageddon, and totally not see most of the rest. I found it very helpful to listen to an audio version of the book several times, only about an hour long, and it helps you see the forest and the paths through the forest, and not just focus on a few trees under a microscope.

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