By Kenneth L. Gentry Jr
Revelation is as fascinating a book as it is a confusing one. However, 99% of the confusion is dispelled if we take seriously its own statements about when its judgments are expected to occur. These judgments are not destructive of the postmillennial hope for the historical long-run because these judgments are expected in the historical short-run — in John’s own day.
In the last two articles I highlighted the specific near-term terms (no pun intended) and their strategic placement in Revelation. In this article I consider a command by an angel to John which shows that Revelation’s events were to occur soon.
Scholars recognize a literary relationship between Revelation and Daniel, with Daniel being one of the leading sources of John’s imagery and thought. In each book an angel appears to the writer. Interestingly, though using very similar language, the angel instructs John to take action exactly opposite that to Daniel. These contrary directives arise from the widely separated places in history where John and Daniel find themselves.
Note the literary similarity of the commands to Daniel and to John. But also note their opposite historical expectation and results:
Daniel 12:4: “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time.”
Revelation 22:10: “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.”
Daniel lives several hundred years before John, and the angel directs him to “seal up the book.” But much later in history a similar angel instructs John (writing a similar, apocalyptic work) not to seal up the book — “for the time is near” (Rev. 22:10). What could be clearer? Daniel’s expectations are long term; John’s are short term.
As I have shown in these three articles is that when all is said and done, John writes Revelation while anticipating events looming in his own day. He is not writing about events two or three thousand years distant. He would be mercilessly taunting his original first century audience, who is suffering grievous tribulation and who is being told the divine judgments upon the evildoers are “shortly to come to pass” or “near,” if he had to confess to them that he was just kidding.
Our understanding of the main thrust of Revelation, then, must be “preteristic” rather than “futuristic.” “Preterism” is based on the Latin word praeteritus, which means “gone by.” The preterist approach to Revelation teaches that John was prophesying events future to his own day, but which are now in our past. Futurism teaches that all the events of Revelation (from ch. 4 on) are still in our future.