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REVELATION’S EMPHASIS ON THE NEAR-TERM

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  June 6, 2012 — 14 Comments

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.

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

14 responses to REVELATION’S EMPHASIS ON THE NEAR-TERM

  1. I’m not sure how this is problematic for amillennialists. I would say I’m an amillennialist that leans toward postmil thinking. Jay Adams’ eschatology books best define my view and I would bet he agrees with you on what you’ve written here. I agree with it. That said, I realize his amillennialism differs somewhat from some of the other well-known amillennialists who have written on the subject. But I’m not sure how amillenialists at large would find it problematic. Perhaps I don’t understand the amillennialism you have in mind.

    I appreciate this blog and your teaching. Thanks.

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. June 6, 2012 at 6:30

      Remember my opening point: “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.” I am referring to “many” who use Revelation to undermine the “optimistic postmillennial hope.” I am not referring to all amillennialists, especially those who are preteristic (such as Adams whose work has been beneficial to me).

      But most amillennialists are not preteristic. And many of those non-preterist amillennialists use Revelation as evidence agains the postmillennial hope. For instance, consider the following two samples.

      Louis Berkhof writes: “There are some very serious objections to the Posmillennial theory…. The fundamental idea of the doctrine, that the whole world will gradually be won for Christ … is not in harmony with the picture of the end of the ages found in Scripture.” And one of the Scriptures he cites is Rev. 13. (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 718)

      Anthony Hoekem writes: “The postmillennial expectation of a future golden age before Christ’s returd does not do justice to the continuing tension in the history of the world between the kingdom of God and the forces of evil…. This antithesis continues until the very end of history — think of the References in the book of Revelation.” (Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 180)

  2. Thank you for that response.

  3. Bill Sizemore June 6, 2012 at 6:30

    Mr. Gentry, I have been exploring postmillennialism for a few years now and have read several books by you, Gary DeMar, Kik, and others. I started with David Chilton’s Paradise Restored and then read “An Eschatology of Hope.”. Your view was entirely foreign to me when I started. I was cruising right along, but got hung up, however, when one author, I can’t remember if it was Chilton or Kik, was explaining Matthew 24. I was very impressed with the effective way he was showing that language, such as the stars falling from the sky and Jesus coming in the clouds, was Old Testament prophetic language describing God’s judgment on nations such as Egypt, Babylon, and Idumea. Then, all of a sudden somewhere between verses 31 and 35, he skipped from 70 A.D. to the Second Coming thousands of years later. I saw no discernable basis in the passage for the lapse or the jump. That threw me off a bit.

    I would like to understand these things better. I have written a just released book called “The Fractured Church,” which proposes that Jesus will not return for a church that is divided into thousands of denominations and has not come to the unity and maturity Jesus speaks of in John 17 and Paul describes in Ephesians 4, both of which I believe to be one and the same thing.

    One of the greatest obstacles standing in the way of real unity amongst genuine believers, besides denominationalism and sectarianism, is the belief in an immident rapture, implicit in which is the notion that the church must be as mature as it is going to get or needs to be, if it is possible for Jesus to come at any minute. (I actually recommend in my book that dispensationalists and others read some of your books and those of other postmillennial writers so they will see that belief in an imminent rapture is not universal and not even the most biblical view of the end times.)

    I would not say that I am a postmillennial guy, at least not yet, but I have been shaken from the eschatological system I was in and now am loitering somewhere in nowhere land regarding end times doctrine and am trying to find my way to a view I can embrace.

    The Matthew 24 “break” left with the impression that there might be holes in your view as well. Would you care to recommend a source where I can learn your take on this passage. BTW, I am currently reading “He Shall Have Dominion,” but have a ways to go.

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. June 6, 2012 at 6:30

      Thanks for your note, and for reading the blog. My book The Olivet Discourse Made Easy provides twelve exegetical arguments for seeing a division between Matt 24:34 annd Matt 24:36. I show the textual indicators that require a shift of his attention from AD 70 to the Second Advent.

  4. I would first like to hear a consise definition from you about what postmillenialists believe, so as not to sound completely unintelligent when I offer up my viewpoint in this dispute between post,a, and premillenialists…For hopefully we are all serving the same True risen Lord Jeshua! If you would be so kind…
    Sincerely,
    Louis Hecht

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. June 7, 2012 at 6:30

      Louis: Thanks for your noted, and your reading the blog. One of my early posts provides exactly what you need. http://postmillennialism.com/2012/03/postmillennialism-a-short-definition/

      • Dear Mr. Gentry,
        Thank you for your reply. I must ask for my understanding is still quite oblivious to this belief…How do you explain the verse in the Bible which states that, they who are dead in Christ will rise first and then us who are alive shall be caught up in the air to be with Christ. This verse to me indicates that we will depart from the earth while Christ performs what is necessary for initially purging the earth of the unrepentant, then to be with him in the millenial reign.
        Sincerely,
        Louis Hecht

      • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. June 7, 2012 at 6:30

        You are correct. At the very end of current history Christ will return, catch up the saints, then judge the wicked. This does not introduce a millennial reign. If you read 1 Thess 4:13-17 you will not see any mention of the “millennium.”

  5. I heard you speak at Philadelphia College of Bible several years ago and I appreciate you help in moving toward an optimistic eschatology. I am firmly in the postmil camp. Reading the comments above, I felt I might ask you if you were familiar with N T Wright. I have read Simply Jesus and am nearly done with Surprised by Hope. While I don’t agree with his ecclesiology, I am very glad to see that he is combating the rampant pessimism in the church and encouraging engagement by believers in every area of life. He does not like to label himself, but it seems to me that he is an optimistic amillenialist. I am asking here because I was greatly encouraged by his work (as well as yours) but have not heard any postmillenialists I have been reading mention him.

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. June 7, 2012 at 6:30

      I enjoyed speaking at PCB. I only regretted that because my plane was delayed in Chicago, that I arrived one hour after I should have started speaking. You must have “endured to the end.” Yes, I am familiar with Wright. He is a very influential theologian. I don’t agree with everything he says (I am especially concerned about his views on justification by faith, for instance). But he is an insightful theologian and compelling writer. I like a lot of what he writes about NT theology as it is impacted by AD 70.

  6. kevin Evans June 7, 2012 at 6:30

    Thanks Dr. Gentry. I am a huge fan of your books Before Jerusalem Fell and House Divided. Before I came across your books, I was a junkie of dispensational theology. I used to teach John Hagee’s Beginning of the End and books by Grant Jeffrey, Dave Hunt and Tim Lahaye. But this eschatological system is too hard to teach. You made prophecy real easy. I am glad that I am able to teach the book of Revelation. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority within the Church in The Bahamas are proponents of dispensationalism.In fact one pastor here in Grand Bahama is now predicting that the war in Ezekiel 38 and 39 will soon begin. He also said that the pre-trib Rapture will soon occur. Thanks for enlightening me,sir. God bless!

  7. In wasn’t the time break in scripture that moved me towards postmillenialism. It was Jesus’s words when he said he would return in this generation. I could never get past that in trying to read the New Testament based on a tributation period. My thinking was, either Jesus has returned already or Jesus is a liar, and I don’t believe Jesus is a liar, so someone else is not giving me the truth. That led me in search of the true interpretation of Revelation. I believe I have found that with American Vision.

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