Those who have
been following this series on the errors of preterism have
learned that the heart of their false interpretative
approach to Bible prophecy revolves around what they call
"time texts." Preterists contend that the terms "quickly"
and "near" form the basis for their theory that the Book
of Revelation was primarily fulfilled in the a.d. 70
destruction of Jerusalem. In my previous installment, I
noted that "quickly," is not a "time statement" at all,
but is used in Revelation as a qualitative description of
how these events will unfold when they begin to take place
in the future. This article will attempt to demonstrate
that "near," like "quickly," is used to speak of imminent
events that could commence at any future time.
For the Time is
contend that the twice-used phrase "the time is near" (eggús)
(Rev. 1:3; 22:10) demands a first century fulfillment.
Kenneth Gentry explains:
such events so remotely stretched out into the future be
"at hand"? But if the expected events were to occur
within a period of from one to five years—as in the case
with Revelation if the book were written prior to a.d.
70—then all becomes clear.
In answer to
Gentry, I believe that "near" or "at hand" (eggús)
is used in Revelation to teach imminency and not a first
century return. Philip E. Hughes rightly says, "the
time is near, that is to say, the time of
fulfillment is imminent. This interval between the comings
of Christ is the time of the last days, and the last of
these last days is always impending." William Newell calls
it, "the nearness, the next-ness, the at-hand-ness,
of its time is given by our Lord."
The Meaning of
that eggús "is an adverb of time formed from two
words: en (in, at) and guîon (limb, hand).
Hence the meaning is literally ‘at hand’." The
disagreement between the two views concerns the event
which are said to be at hand. Preterists say it refers to
the Lord coming in judgment through the Roman army in
order to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple in a.d. 70.
Futurists believe it refers to the "time of the end" that
will culminate in Christ’s bodily return.
reason that eggús is a timing indicator. Preterists
believe it must refer to some event near the time in which
the document was written. It is true that eggús can
and often is used to refer to something that takes place
within a short span of time from when it is stated. Yet,
there are other instances when eggús may refer to a
thing as "at hand," or "within reach." This would not mean
that a thing must come soon or even come at all. A thing
may be said to be near, but it does not mean that the
thing must actually arrive in a short period of time.
illustration may help. A team may make it to the
championship game and it could be said that the
championship is "at hand" or "within grasp." This would
not mean that the championship is certain to come within a
short period of time, just because it is at hand. For the
Buffalo Bills the NFL championship has been "near," "at
hand" on four occasions, but thus far it has yet to
The Kingdom of
God is "at hand"
The same issues
that are involved in the preterist vs. futurist discussion
are also seen in the meaning of the phrase "The kingdom .
. . has drawn near" (a form of eggús). We speak of
the Davidic or Messianic kingdom, not God’s spiritual
kingdom that has always been operative. Some think that
"near" must always have the implied sense of "arrival."
Others, including myself, see the sense as "close
proximity." Scripture teaches that Israel could have
obtained their Messianic kingdom by recognizing Jesus as
their Messiah. Yet, they rejected Him. As a result, the
kingdom is no longer near but postponed, awaiting Jewish
belief. However, during the current intervening Church
Age, there is the overhanging possibility that at any
moment God will rapture the Church and resume Israel’s
final week (seven years) of history leading up to their
acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah and the resulting
kingdom which will last 1,000 years.
Toussaint supports this interpretation in the following
hearers were to repent so that they could enter the
kingdom when it arrived. This is clearly the emphasis of
John’s preaching in Matthew 3:7-12 (cf. Luke 3:7-17) . .
. . Those who expected to enter the future kingdom had
to be prepared spiritually by repentance (cf. Ezek.
reason existed for the necessity of repentance: it was
necessary for Israel to repent for the kingdom to come.
. . . It is seen in the Lord’s pronouncements of
judgment on the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and
Capernaum (Matt. 11:20-24; Luke 10:13-15). The reason?
They did not repent. In Matthew 12:41 Jesus said, "The
men of Nineveh shall stand up with this generation at
the judgment, and shall condemn it because they repented
at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater
than Jonah is here" (cf. Luke 11:32). Because Israel did
not repent, the kingdom could not come; instead the
nation was doomed for judgment. Repentance is involved
in and necessary for the coming of the kingdom (cf.
Deut. 28:1-30:20; 2 Chron. 7:14; Ezek. 36:31; Hos.
5:14-15; 6:1-3; Zech. 12:10-14; Mal. 4:5-6).
. . . The
amazing feature in all this is that the Lord predicted
the kingdom of God will once again be near in the future
during that great time of stress known as the
Tribulation. In Luke 21:31a he prophesied, "Even so you,
too, when you see these things happening, recognize that
the kingdom of God is near." This is important because
it indicates the kingdom is not now near. It was near;
then it ceased to be near; in the future it will be near
again. This strongly suggests the kingdom was offered to
Israel, but because the nation rejected its Messiah the
kingdom was and is no longer near.
Dr. Charles C.
Ryrie has given the following definition of New Testament
. . .
"impending, hanging over one’s head, ready to take
place." An imminent event is one that is always ready to
take place. . . . something may happen before an
imminent event occurs, but they do not insist that
anything must take place before if happens; otherwise,
it would not be imminent.
The language of
the "at hand" passages in Revelation teaches the above
notion of imminence. This makes good sense, especially in
light of Revelation 22:10 which says, "Do not seal up the
words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near (eggús)."
To what is John referring? He has in mind a period of time
from the Book of Daniel. The phrase "time of the end"
occurs five times in Daniel (8:17; 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9).
This phrase, "time of the end" refers to Israel’s final
period of history, which Daniel was told to seal up the
meaning until that time. John, however, is told not to
seal it up. Since 22:10 occurs at the end of the book and
must refer to the total message of Revelation, it is
inconsistent to interpret part of the message as having
already been fulfilled while another part is still future.
If one is going to use eggús in 22:10 as an
argument for preterism, as Gentry does, then it must refer
to John’s entire vision. It is better to understand
eggús teaching imminency of a period of time that
could begin to happen without the warning of signs. F. C.
Jennings speaks of imminence in the following:
In the one
case the book is to be left open, "the time is near;" in
the other sealed up, for the time was still afar. . . .
There is nothing to come between in the former—much in
the latter. Nor do the words we are considering at all
necessitate the immediate fulfillment of all the
words. They do, however (what the Lord ever seeks), put
us in the attitude of immediate and constant expectancy
and watchfulness. Oh, look at time with God. "Long" will
not be long then; any more than when we actually look
back at it from eternity.
A survey of the
New Testament enables one to realize that there is an
expectancy regarding the return of Christ and the
consummation of His plan that is not found in the Old
Testament. The passion of the Old Testament is for Israel
to enter into her Kingdom blessing with Messiah. This is
what Daniel was anticipating (Dan. 9) when he "observed in
the books the number of years which was revealed as the
word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the
completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely,
seventy years" (Dan. 9:2). The rest of Daniel 9 conveys
his desire to see the culmination of the Lord’s plan in
His Kingdom reign. Apparently, Daniel thought God would
institute the Messianic Age upon Israel’s return from
their 70-year captivity. However, God had other plans. As
the rest of Daniel 9 reveals through an angel, God was
stretching out Israel’s history. It would not be 70 more
years, but 70 times 7, or 490 years until the culmination
of Israel’s history in the Kingdom.
In the New
Testament we see the rejection of Jesus as Messiah by
Israel, and consequently, the postponement of the Kingdom.
God is prolonging the time until Israel’s Kingdom appears.
However, this time God promises that when the current age
comes to an end, the next period will include the
restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6, 11). The
length of our current Church Age is a mystery, part of the
secret, unrevealed plan of God. God has not revealed the
length of time of this present age. Peter tells us that
the duration of this age is based upon our Lord’s great
patience (2 Pet. 3:9), which has thus far been almost
2,000 years long.
age focuses upon the imminency of our Lord’s Return, which
will at last trigger Daniel’s final week of years. Events
in the book of Revelation are said "to be at hand," that
is, they are to be the next season of events that will
occur. John Walvoord explains:
expression "at hand" indicates nearness from the
standpoint of prophetic revelation, not necessarily that
the event will immediately occur. . . . The time period
in which the tremendous consummation of the ages is to
take place, according to John’s instruction, is near.
The indeterminate period assigned to the church is the
last dispensation before end-time events and, in John’s
day as in ours, the end is always impending because of
the imminent return of Christ at the rapture with the
ordered sequence of events to follow.
to support their view that Revelation has already been
fulfilled by their interpretation of the phrase "at hand."
They confuse the a.d. 70 event for our future hope by
trying to argue that "at hand" must refer to a soon event,
rather than the next event. This interpretation robs
believers of a prominent New Testament motive for
Christian service. Hughes notes that the "Lord is always
coming soon (verses 7, 12, 20; 3:11), but at an unrevealed
hour, and those who are wise will live their lives in the
expectation of his coming. Hence this book with its
promises and warnings and exhortations is to remain
unsealed and open for all to read. Those who impenitently
and obdurately refuse to heed its message will persist in
their ungodly ways, but they do not thereby separate
themselves from the sovereign rule of God."
1. Kenneth L.
Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book
of Revelation (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian
Economics, 1989), p. 141.
Edgcumbe Hughes, The Book of the Revelation
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1990), p. 237.
3. William R.
Newell, Revelation: A Complete Commentary (Grand
Rapids: Baker Book House, 1935, 1987), p. 362.
Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 140.
5. Stanley D.
Toussaint, "The Contingency of the Coming of the
Kingdom" in Charles H. Dyer & Roy B. Zuck, editors,
Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands: Biblical and
Leadership Studies in Honor of Donald K. Campbell
(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1994), pp. 232-33.
6. Charles C.
Ryrie, Come Quickly, Lord Jesus: What You Need To
Know About The Rapture (Eugene, Org.: Harvest House
Publishers, 1996), p. 22.
7. F. C.
Jennings, Studies in Revelation (New York:
Publications Office "Our Hope," n.d.,), p. 22.
8. John F.
Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pp. 37, 334.
9. Hughes, P.