How Should We View Shortly?

Ron wrote:
>Dear brothers. Quite a point is being frequently made in your exchanges
>regarding “en-tachos” (“shortly”) in Rev. 1:8, which seemingly indicates
>the events described in Revelation had to either all be fulfilled within a
>limited number of years from the date they received the message from John,
>or at least begin to be fulfilled. In my opinion, the language has more to
>do with the events being fulfilled within a short period of time, whenever
>they begin.

James replies:

I think that “shortly” has the problem of perspective whether you take it
from the amount of time that elapsed from the writing of Revelation to when
the events began to be fulfilled (e.g. the generation of the apostles is
“quickly” to the preterist) or to onset and duration of the event
(e.g. an explosion is “quickly”, as Ron would have it). I say
that, because the events began to be fulfilled even before the
writing of Revelation. The 144,000, for example, were raised
with Christ (Mt 27:52-53), but Revelation was not written until about AD 96.

The fulfillment of the prophecies continues until after the new earth
begins (cp. Rev 22:5). Likewise the dispersion of Israel referred to in Rev
12:14 began in AD 70 with a further and more serious dispersal occurring in
AD 135. If events began to be fulfilled from the time of writing, then
“shortly” is 2000 years and you have to consider perspective, because 2000
years is not short from man’s perspective. Most of Revelation 8-22 deals
with events yet future, but the fulfillment of some of Revelation began in
AD 30 (e.g. Rev 5) with the coronation of Christ.

The strict futurist/historist, like Larkin, takes the entire book to be
prophetic and sees future prophecy even in the 7 churches. While I would
freely agree that the seven churches, though actual congregations, are
typical of any congregation of Christ that might be found today, I do not
believe they are prophecies, but rather they are types. We can learn from
the behavior of the churches and compare our congregation to the seven to
figure out which one we are, but the letters to the seven churches were just
that–letters to seven literal churches. The promises made to the seven
churches are by reference (Rev 2:7, et al.) applicable to anyone who cares
to hear what Jesus promises. The promises to the seven churches extend to
all Christians from Pentecost till the coming of the Lord.

I believe that you are quite right about some events happening suddenly.
The events of the coming of Christ are spoken of in several places as being
sudden and unexpected (Mt 24:37-39, Lk 17:26, I Thes 5:2, II Pet 3:10). It
will happen suddenly and will be apparent like lightning shining in the
heavens (Mt 24:27, Lk 17:24). The coming of the Son of Man, however, is the
culminating event of a long series of disasters upon the earth. A long
running series of plagues has gone on for several years prior to the coming
of the Lord (e.g. Rev 8:7, 8, 10, 12, 9:1, 13, 11:15). These plagues have
destroyed the earth’s industrial economy and men have reverted to manual and
horse powered devices before the end of the world (Rev 19:21, 18:13). The
Man of Sin will reign over the earth for 3 1/2 years before the coming of
Christ (Rev 13:5).

A years’ long run of plagues can be considered from one perspective to be
“quickly”, since it is less than a man’s lifetime, but it is certainly on a
different scale than the coming of Christ where the living Christians are
changed in the blink of an eye. However, these events at the end of the
world, though years’ long, follow a number of other prophecies that have
already been fulfilled by then. These events at the end of the world are
subsequent to the millennium of Rev 20:4, so there has to be a substantial
amount of time elapsed from man’s perspective from the time of writing of
Rev until the times revealed in Rev 22. My view of Revelation, though
including things that happen suddenly, such as the coming of Christ,
includes several events, such as the Millennium and the dispersion of
Israel, that happen over a long period of history from man’s perspective.
In my view the only really satisfactory solution to the “quickly” “suddenly”
issue is to view these words from the perspective of the Father who is
looking at this portion of His plan from the perspective of His eternal
purpose (Eph 3:11). From His perspective of viewing it from the perspective
of what He plans for eternity, it is indeed quickly.

About James Johnson

Bible student for 60 years. Preacher of the gospel for over 40 years. Author of commentary on Revelation, All Power to the Lamb. Married with children. Worked in aerospace and computer engineering for over 40 years.
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