Let’s Talk Revelation (Part 1)


Most Evangelical commentators tend to assert that Revelation was written with three periods of time in mind: 1) things John saw in chapter one, 2) those that were in chapters two and three, and 3) those that would take place afterward, beginning with chapters four or six. Charles Ryrie—in his study, Bible notes—advocates the former while John MacArthur—in his Bible handbook—advocates the latter. A key passage to their supposition is 1:19, where it is written:

Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.

What Evangelicals argue for is that chapters six through twenty-two are end-time (eschatological) material that hinges upon a thousand-year reign. However, internal terminology would refute this claim.

  • “The time is near” (1:3; 22:10; cf. Matt. 3:2; 4:17)
  • These things “must soon take place” (22:6)
  • Jesus said he was “coming soon” (22:12, 20; cf. 1:1)

The terms in English and Greek speak to a swift course of action and certainly not one that would be delayed over two millennia. Granted: the judgment scene in chapters twenty and onward appears to be the true end-time material that may be exempt from the interpretation. However, at what point does the contextual divide speak to the original audience and all thereafter come somewhere in chapter twenty and onward unless one holds to a more symbolic interpretation of the final three chapters? A case for understanding the time frame in which John’s original audience may have understood this prophecy is found when comparing his work to other prophetic literature.

Daniel was told to seal up his vision because it referred to many days from his time (Dan. 8:26). He was also told that the book was to remain sealed “until the time of the end” (12:4). As time went on knowledge would increase as to the culmination of these prophecies. He was urged to go his way because the words of his prophecy were “sealed till the time of the end” (12:9). Studying history along with Daniel’s prophecy reveals that it was not for another four hundred years that those kingdoms came which he had been told of (cf. Dan. 2). Therefore, Daniel would not live to see the fulfillment of the prophecies; hence his being instructed to seal the book. So the sealing of a prophecy book looked ahead to a distant period.

When John wrote Revelation, the angel told him not to seal the words of his book (Rev. 22:10). Why? Because “the time [was] at hand.” If Daniel’s prophecy saw fulfillment some four hundred years later, and he was told to seal the book, would not John’s prophecy have been fulfilled long before the same span of time since he was told not to seal his book?

Author: Steven

Minister at Glendale Road Church of Christ (Murray, KY)

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