In the New Testament, apokalypsis always has the majestic sense of God’s unveiling of himself to his creatures, an unveiling that we call by its Latin name revelation. . . . It depicts the progressive and immediate unveiling of the otherwise unknown and unknowable God to his church throughout the ages.2The clearness and lucidity (perspicuity) of the Scriptures is their consistent theme (Deu. 29:29; Pr. 13:13; Isa. 5:24; Isa. 45:19; Mat. 11:25; Mat. 24:15; Luke 10:21, 26; 24:25; 2Ti. 3:16; 2Pe. 1:19). Yet if Scripture is meant to be understood, why do we have such a difficult time understanding it, and especially this book? Our problem is not so much the difficulty of understanding, but our own idolatry and rebellion. We are unwilling to study to know God and to submit in obedience to that which may be known. We are more interested in other pursuits than in seeking God through His revealed words of life (John 6:63, 68). As is often the case where Scripture is concerned, our inability to understand is more a reflection of our lack of zeal than the difficulty which attends the interpretation of God’s Word. When the average person in our country spends multiple hours in front of a television set daily, but “just can’t find the time” to read God’s Word, the issue is not one of time management, but idolatry.When we come to this last book of Scripture, our lack of preparation is evidenced all the more because what God intends as revelation, we see as mystery. Yet Paul holds that revelation is the antithesis of mystery (Rom. 16:25). This book is not intended to be a veiled document full of mysterious symbols, but an unveiling and clarification of things which have heretofore not been revealed by God.3 In order to grasp the meaning of this revelation, we need a foundation in the rest of Scriptures, and especially the Old Testament. (See The Importance of the Old Testament.)There are several reasons why we believe that this book is not intended to be enigmatic. First, we believe that a chief purpose of God was the creation of language to communicate with man. If this is so, then the intellect of man and the clarity of language must be sufficient for this task:
If God is the originator of language and if the chief purpose of originating it was to convey His message to humanity, then it must follow that He, being all-wise and all-loving, originated sufficient language to convey all that was in His heart to tell mankind. Furthermore, it must also follow that He would use language and expect people to understand it in its literal, normal, and plain sense.4Second, we have the pattern established by the rest of Scripture. “It is unthinkable to believe that God would speak with precision and clarity from Genesis to Jude, and then when it comes to the end abandon all precision and clarity.”5 It is not God’s intention to train us how to read and understand 65 books of the Bible and then “throw us a curve” in the 66th book by expecting that we adopt an entirely different approach. (See the discussion regarding The Art and Science of Interpretation.)So it is our duty here to make sense of this book, based upon what related passages reveal concerning its central themes, while reading the text in the same way as the rest of Scripture.of Jesus Christ
This is why unbelievers find the book of Revelation incomprehensible; it was not intended for them. It was given by the Father to the Son to show to those who willingly serve Him. Those who refuse to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord cannot expect to comprehend this book. “A natural man,” explains Paul, “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1Cor. 2:14).14For more on the spiritual conditions necessary for an understanding of this book and the Scriptures in general, see Hiding or Revealing?.must
Gentry cites Revelation 22:7-9+ as a reference to the yet future second coming. This creates a contradiction within Gentry’s brand of preterism. Since Revelation 22:6+ refers to the whole book of Revelation, it would be impossible to take tachos as a reference to A.D. 70 (as Gentry does) and at the same time hold that Revelation 22:7-9+ teaches the second coming.15As Mills observes, it is impossible to restrict the sense of en tachei to the lifetime of John’s readers:16
The Greek noun translated ‘shortly’ is used only twice in Revelation, once in Rev. 1:1+ and again in 22:6+, thus effectively bracketing the whole book. The prophecies bracketed by these ‘shortlys’ include letters addressed to churches that existed two millennia ago (chapters 2-3), clear descriptions of Christ’s physical return to this earth (Rev. 1:7+; 19:19-27 [sic]), and a prediction of His reign on earth for one thousand years (Rev. 20:4+). Both uses of this word, then, must be understood as having the same sense and yet embrace, at the absolute minimum, a period of nearly three millennia. Therefore, only two interpretations present themselves: either, when the events start occurring they will proceed rapidly, or that the whole sweep of history is seen from a divine perspective in which one thousand years is as but a day (2Pe. 3:8). [emphasis added]17The use of this same verb within the LXX also provides evidence for a long delay in fulfillment:
It is significant to note that the Septuagint uses tachos in passages which even by the most conservative estimations could not have fulfillments within hundreds or even thousands of years. For example, Isaiah 13:22 . . . was written around 700 B.C. and foretold the destruction of Babylon, which occurred at the earliest in 539 B.C. Similarly, Isaiah 5:26 speaks of the manner, not the time frame, by which the Assyrian invasion of Israel “will come with speed swiftly.”18Since en tachei can span long periods of time, the question then becomes one of whether it denotes the manner in which events will transpire (rapidly) or the certainty and imminency attending the events?
It may be that the stress [in Rev. 22:20+] is on the certainty of the coming or on the immediacy of the coming. But one’s view does not hinge on the futuristic present, but on the adverb ταχύ [tachy] . The force of the sentence may then mean, “Whenever I come, I will come quickly,” in which case the stress is on the certainty of the coming (cf. Matt 28:8). Or, it may mean, “I am on my way and I intend to be there very soon.”19Some understand the primary meaning of en tachei in this passage as denoting the manner in which the events transpire:
tachy does not mean soon but swiftly. It indicates rapidity of action, as is well seen in its accurate use in the medical compound tachycardia (tachy and kardia = the heart), which does not mean that the heart will beat soon, but that it is beating rapidly. Of course, the swift action may take place at the very same time, as in Mat. 28:7-8 . . .—G. H. Lang, The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Selected Studies (Miami Springs, FL: Conley & Schoettle Publishing Co., 1945, 1985), 387-88.20
Not only is there a preponderance of lexical support for understanding the tachos family as including the notion of “quickly” or “suddenly,” there is also the further support that all the occurrences in Revelation are adverbs of manner. These terms are not descriptive of when the events will occur and our Lord will come, but rather, descriptive of the manner in which they will take place when they occur.21
Both futurists and nonfuturists . . . agree that the idea of tachos here has to do with swiftness of execution when the prophetic events begin to take place. . . . Both certainty and rapidity of action are involved here. Whatever seeming delay there is, action is certain and it will be swift.22Although this meaning is possible, it does not seem to be the best understanding of the meaning here because, “To say that the relief will come ‘suddenly’ offers no encouragement, but to say that it will come ‘soon’ does.”23 It seems more likely that en tachei emphasizes the certainty and imminency of the events:24
The presence of en tachei in Rev. 1:1+ shows that for the first time the events predicted by Daniel and foreseen by Christ stood in readiness to be fulfilled. Therefore, John could speak of them as imminent, but earlier prophets could not.25
Either ‘tachus’ means that when the events occur they will be rapid, or the whole sweep of history is seen from a divine perspective where one thousand years is as but a day (2Pe. 3:8). The latter must be preferred as the former leaves unresolved the tension that part of Revelation relates to churches that existed two millennia ago. This understanding readily accepts as completely honest and trustworthy the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ; expressed in human terms, then, ‘tachus’ denotes imminence and not immediacy. The irony of this situation is that those scholars who take ‘tachus’ literally end up allegorizing the text, and those scholars who take the text literally end up seeking an unusual meaning for this word! The only satisfactory position I can see is therefore to regard ‘tachus’ as being used in a technical sense—a sense understood as being within the whole biblical framework of the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ.26See Imminency.signified it
Angels were used for the revelation of the Law of Moses (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 2:2). They were active in the presenting of the prophetic truth to Daniel (Dan. 7:16-27+; 8:16-26+; 9:20-27+; 10:1+-12:13+) and to Zechariah (Zec. 1:9; 2:3; 4:1, 5; 5:5; 6:4, 5). Angels were used to announce the birth of John to Zacharias (Luke 1:11-20) and the birth of Jesus to Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and to Joseph (Mat. 1:20-21).30Some suggest that the angel actively contributed to the train of visionary events which passed before John:
The office of the angel, as I take it, was, to form the connection between John’s senses or imagination and the things which he was to describe, making to pass in review before him what was only afterwards to take place in fact. How this was done, I cannot say: but as the devil could take Jesus to a high mountain and show him at one view “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,” I am sure that it falls sufficiently within the sphere of angelic natures thus to picture things to man; and that when commissioned of the Lord for the purpose, no good angel is wanting in ability to be the instrument in making John see whatever visions he describes in this book.31This seems unlikely given that John was said to be “in the Spirit” (Rev. 1:10+)—the Holy Spirit is elsewhere the agent by which such visionary events are presented.The phrase “And I saw. . .” occurs no less than forty times.32 This indicates John’s primary role as a scribe rather than an author.
1 As teachers, our primary calling is to make the Scriptures known. “The best defense is a strong offense.”
2 Richard Chenevix Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1989), 371.
3 To be sure, many aspects of this revelation are set forth elsewhere in Scripture, but not in the completeness or sequence shown John.
4 Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), 81.
5 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 1:1.
6 In Galatians, apocalypse appears in the genitive whereas in Revelation 1:1+ it is in the nominative.
7 “Some accept the words as if they were meant to express the revealment of the Revelation. This I take to be a mistake . . . It is not the Apocalypse which is the subject of the disclosure. This book is not the Apocalypse of the Apocalypse, but THE APOCALYPSE OF JESUS CHRIST. . . . If ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ’ meant nothing more than certain communications made known by Christ, I can see no significance or propriety in affixing this title to this book, rather than to any other books of holy Scripture. Are they not all alike the revelation of Jesus Christ, in this sense? Does not Peter say of the inspired writers in general, that they were moved by the Spirit of Christ which was in them? Why then single out this particular book as ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ,’ when it is no more the gift of Jesus than any other inspired book?”—J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 16. “These opening words in the book present two major ideas about Christ. First, this book is an unveiling by or from Him, that is, a revelation of the future that God gave Him to give to us through His servant. Second, the book is an unveiling concerning Jesus Christ, an unveiling in which God makes known to us the future and Christ’s role in it. The second of these seems more prominent. Though this book certainly is a revelation by Jesus Christ, it is foremost a revelation or unveiling of Him.”—Harold D. Foos, “Christology in the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 104.
8 So [Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998, 1906)], [M. R. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group, 2002)], and [A. T. Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures in Six Volumes (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group, 2003)].
9 “Is the revelation that which comes from Christ or is it about Christ? In Rev. 22:16+ Jesus tells John that his angel was the one proclaiming the message of the book to John. Thus, the book is certainly a revelation from Christ (hence, we may have a subjective genitive in Rev. 1:1+). But the revelation is supremely and ultimately about Christ. Thus, the genitive in Rev. 1:1+ may also be an objective genitive. The question is whether the author intended both in Rev. 1:1+. Since this is the title of his book—intended to describe the whole of the work—it may well be a plenary genitive.”—Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1999, 2002), 120.
10 “Wallace has fallen into the same pit as have so many others by his neglect of the basics of hermeneutics. One of his glaring errors violates the principle of single meaning. In his consideration of a category he calls the ‘Plenary Genitive,’ he labors the point that a particular passage’s construction may be at the same time both objective genitive and subjective genitive. . . . Wallace consciously rejects the wisdom of past authorities . . . His volume could have been helpful, but this feature makes it extremely dangerous.”—Robert L. Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2002), 158.
11 Foos, Christology in the Book of Revelation, 105.
12 This equality among the persons of the Trinity while fulfilling different roles well-illustrates the principle of equality of value, but difference in role so essential to the biblical family unit. The man and the women are absolutely equal in value before God, yet occupy different roles if the harmony and synergy God intended is to come to fruition in the family unit. The man is to be the leader (1Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18) while demonstrating sacrificial love toward his wife (Eph. 5:25; Col. 3:19). This delicate balance within the family unit requires selflessness. It is selfishness which factors large in divorce.
13 Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 21.
14 MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 1:1.
15 Thomas Ice, “Preterist ‘Time Texts’,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 105.
16 An exception to this statement can be made in the case of full preterism which holds that the entire book of Revelation has already been fulfilled. But this is outside of orthodox Christianity.
17 Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), s.v. “Introduction.”
18 Ice, Preterist “Time Texts”, 105.
19 Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 536.
20 The Conservative Theological Journal, vol. 4 no. 13 (Fort Worth, TX: Tyndale Theological Seminary, December 2000), 304-305.
21 Ice, Preterist “Time Texts”, 104.
22 Mal Couch, “The War Over Words,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 295.
23 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 55.
24 “ ‘Soonness’ means imminency in eschatological terms.”—Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 21.
25 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 56.
26 Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 1:1.
27 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 56.
28 Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1957), 186.
29 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 59.
30 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 12.
31 Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 20.
32 Tenney, Interpreting Revelation, 34.