The Book of Revelation is perhaps the best known prophetic work in the Bible. It is filled with war and judgment, which many use to show that Revelation undermines the optimistic postmillennial hope.
Yet Revelation can only be employed against postmillennialism if it is misinterpreted. And the usual misinterpretation arises the moment one opens Revelation, for it meanders off track from John’s opening statements. In yesterday’s post I noted that the opening verses of Revelation show that John expected the judgments to begin occurring “soon” (1:) because “the time is near” (1:3). In this article I will continue showing that John expected the judgments in his lifetime at the beginning of Christianity’s life rather than at the end of history.
We see how John emphasizes the nearness of the events by his strategic placement of the near-term statements. Not only does he employ two very common and clear terms expressing temporal nearness, but he places them in both his opening and closing comments. Thus, they appear in his introduction and his conclusion. He states his expectation to his audience as they enter the book and as they exit it. He literally gets them coming and going
His opening states: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.” (Rev. 1:1)
His closing re-states this: “And he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true’; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place.” (Rev. 22:6)
His opening states: “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.” (Rev. 1:3)
His closing once again re-states this: “And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.’” (Rev. 22:10)
This becomes all the more relevant when we realize that these temporal indicators appear before and after the difficult visions. They are not in the symbolic sections where we might wonder if they require special interpretive rules. Rather, they are in the clear, straightforward, didactic portions of Revelation.
John’s emphasis in his opening and closing show that Revelation is no problem for postmillennialism. In fact, it is more of a problem for the pessimistic eschatologies, especially dispensationalism and premillennialism, but also amillennialism.