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REVELATION’S OPENING EXPECTATION

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  June 5, 2012 — 9 Comments

Contrary to popular opinion, Revelation does not undermine the postmillennial hope — despite its enormous judgments. And this is mainly because it is prophesying events to occur soon.

John uses two terms when he speaks of his temporal expectation: “shortly” (Gk., en tachei) and “near” (Gk., engus). If for some reason his original audience could not understand one term, they had another nearby to elucidate it.

The word translated “shortly” appears as an explanation for his writing to them: “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). I urge you: Check any modern English translation. Consult your own favorite version. You will discover that they all speak of temporal nearness. This term also appears later in Revelation 2:16; 3:11; and 22:6.

The word translated “near” follows quickly upon the other term, just two verses later. And once again John expresses the approaching nearness of the events as the very reason for his writing to them: “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). This word commonly speaks of events near in time, such as an approaching Passover (Matt. 26:18), the coming of summer (Matt. 24:32), and a soon occurring festival (John 2:13). Again, check any modern version; the results will be the same.

If you are not sure about one of the terms, then you have another! These terms are mutually supportive: that something is “shortly” to come to pass means that it is “near.” And only one verse separates them. They clearly demand that the events of Revelation are impending when John writes. Think of it: How else could John have declared that the events were near? He uses two of the most common, familiar, clear words expressing temporal proximity.

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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 80 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.

9 responses to REVELATION’S OPENING EXPECTATION

  1. John’s words are for his time only in the beginning but then he speaks of the things hereafter. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see this. Let the Holy Spirit direct you.

    • Kathy,

      The Holy Spirit is the One Who inspired all the writers of the Bible. Under His inspiration, John wrote, “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). John is including all the words of the prophecy and does not break it up into different time periods. He says the time is near, not the times are near. He also does not indicate that some things are near, but other things are far away. And this is just the beginning of the book… there are many other indications in the rest of the prophecy that point to the nearness of the time. May God grant us all the grace to understand His Word more clearly…

      • So what are you saying or implying? All the events prophesied in The Revelation of John have already occurred?

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

        You will need to read on. But basically I believe that John says (Rev 1:1, 3; 22:6, 10) that the bulk of Revelation was to occur soon because the time (for its fulfillment) was near. Only two passages break the soon expectation: (1) In Rev 12 he looks back to the ascension of Christ; (2) in Rev 20 he looks ahead to a period of “1000 years,” which cannot end “soon.” In the case of the 1000 years he is breaking his temporal indications to show their long range results. Basically Revelation is prophesying the destruction of the temple in AD 70 (e.g., Rev 11:1-2), the permanent closing of the old covenant era with all of its sacrifices, and the coming of the new covenant (under the image of a new Jerusalem).

  2. Samuel K. Stalnaker June 5, 2012 at 6:30

    What is near to the Lord? Jesus said when he was still here, “This is the last time.”
    Read the signs of the times. Remember the army of the East? Revelation says that
    army will have 200,000,000 soldiers. China is the only nation in the world who can
    field 200,000,000 soldiers. They boasted of that several years ago. That’s only one of
    the many signs mentioned in the Bible of the end times. Of course we have no way of
    knowing how long the end time will last, since it has been since Christ was here. Yes,
    we know the time is near, but not how near. Near to you and me, and near to God,
    can be vastly different.

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

      Samuel: Revelation does not say: “the things which must soon take place from the Lord’s perspective.” You are importing that concept. In writing to persecuted churches Revelation opens with a clear statement that the events it prophesies “must soon take place.” Period. And immediately adds two verses later: “for the time is near.”

      Regarding the “signs of the times,” you are letting your reading of nebulous signs override your reading of clear Scriptures. You look to the newspaper rather than to the New Testament for understanding prophecy. I like to read the newspaper at breakfast also. But when I do devotions, I prefer the Bible.

      And what shall we say about Revelation’s prophecy of the 200,000,000 army? You surely do not believe it is a literal Chinese army, do you? Read the text in its context: Revelation 9:16-17 “The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. 17 And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. 18 A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.”

  3. I like the word signified rather-than communicated

  4. Revelation 1:1-3
    Chapter 1

    Prologue
    1 This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, 2 who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
    3 God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.
    The NLT is very clear .

  5. Hermeneutics 101: Any interpretation of Scripture which renders the text unintelligible/inapplicable to the original hearers/readers must be rejected.

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