What About the Time Texts? Part 3

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

The first two parts of this series are found here and here.  To this day they have not been thoroughly rebutted.  It is often assumed by many that John’s Revelation is speaking of things that would happen, all of them, in 70 AD.   They assume this on the basis that John noted “the time is at hand” (1.3; 22.10).  I used to assume the same thing.  In fact, I took it for granted that this is what was meant by the phrase.  The “time” here was assumed to be the time of the coming of Jesus in the near future to John.

Upon, however, an actual investigation – one that is not trying to prove 70 AD – this idea simply falls apart.  First off, let us look at the phrase itself in the Greek text: yar ho kairos enggus.  That is, “for the time near”, literally.  There is no verb.  The verb is supplied by translators.  Second, this is a Purpose Clause, “for” the time is near.  The RSV has “Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near.”  The reason for keeping, reading and hearing is “because” the time is near.  No one would disagree with that.

First, when on consults the “scholars” one will find on this certain phrase a wide variety of interpretations.  I stopped quoting scholars.  I have not stopped reading them (by the tank loads – and since my son lives with me while completing his Bachelor’s, I have access to all kinds of books on campus, Go Ball State Cardinals!).  One of the common things in any Introduction to Revelation is that the author of the book is identified with the same author of John’s Gospel (and letters).  I accept this on the basis of stylistics – that is, there are many, many phrasings in Revelation that are only found in both the Gospel and Revelation.  Scholars have argued, then, that the author is the same (and for various other reasons).  I accept this.

Second, the phrase “ho kairos enggus” is simply two nouns without a verb,  This is unusual.  For, we have this very phrase (in meaning) often repeated in both the OT and NT.  In Mark 1.15 for example, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  Here the verb “fulfilled” is in the Perfect Tense (has come, and is now).  The word “near” is also a verb form of enggus, and in the Perfect Tense as well.  In Luke 21.8 we find an interesting saying, “He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.”  Now, the phrasing here, “the time is come” is ho kairos enggiken where “near” is a verb in the Perfect Tense.  Yet, this is precisely what we find in the NT proclamation: the time has come.  Apparently, then, there would be a false message of announcing “the time is near” and a true message of announcing the “time is near.”  Jesus announced that the time has come.  Paul equally announced that “now is the Day of salvation”.  The Latter Times had indeed come upon them as announced (Acts 2).  Nowhere in the NT is it stated that the time is coming somewhere out in the future.  The NT message is clear from the very first arrival of Jesus on the scene: the time has been fulfilled.  The Kingdom of God has come.  Therefore, anyone expressing the idea that this time had not yet come, but would be saying later on in the future, “the time has come” would mean that Jesus was wrong.  Jesus said at the time he began to minister that the time had come.  If someone else was saying a few decades later “the time has come” they were off.  Therefore, we must conclude that the time that had come was the same time mentioned by Jesus when he began his ministry.  And, not only that, but had come in terms of his Incarnation.  This was the coming of the Righteous One.

Now, what is interesting about John and his phrase, “the time near” is that he does not use the verb enggizo, but prefers (always) to use the noun, enggus.  That is, he uses a Predicate instead of a verb.  “And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (John 2.13).  Here, “at hand” is expressed with a Predicate and Noun, enngus (the same is found in John 3.23; 6.4; 6.19; 7.2; 11.18; 11.55; 19.20; 19.42).  The Predicate is in the Imperfect Tense.  However, in another Gospel, repeating the same phrase, “And the feast of the unleavened food was coming nigh, that is called Passover” (Luke 22.1).  Here, Luke uses “enggizen” (had draw near) with the Perfect Tense.  John used a Predicate, Luke used the verb.  Both express the same idea in Greek.  “He said, “Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples'” (Matthew 26.18).  Here Matthew uses the noun (enggus) with the Predicate in the Present Indicative.  This is clear demonstration of the phrase “the time is at hand” being referenced to something that would happen in two days time.  That is the normal understanding of the term “near” when used in contexts of time.  “Near” does not ever mean something 20, 30 or 40 years from now in any context!

Thus, when Jesus referred to his time being at hand to celebrate the Passover, it was within a couple of days upon his arrival to Jerusalem, using a Present Tense.  When, however, Jesus was expressing the arrival of The Time of his Coming and the Promised Salvation, it is expressed using a Perfect Tense: the time has now come and is now here. The Perfect tense captures both the Present and the Past (in John’s case, using the Imperfect past Tense in predicate form).

In fact, we find the NT authors using the Perfect Tense consistently and constantly.  The time has come upon us.  The Day has come upon us.  The ends of the ages have come upon us.  The arrival of Jesus was the arrival of the Day and the Time: “now is the Day of Salvation”.

Therefore, in keeping with the consistency of this analysis, when John announced in Revelation 1.3 that the “time is near” he is not saying this detached from the time when Jesus first announced it upon the dawn of his ministry.  That would make John one of the false prophets saying, “the time has come!  Here he is!”  Jesus flatly said to avoid such a one.  Rather, in Jesus Christ, John was announcing the same thing: the time has come with the ministry, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of the son of man to the throne of David in heaven.  This is not a future time.  This is a now time.

And, we find this confirmed in our analysis in that John’s first vision in the Revelation is of the Exalted Christ, “who was, is, and now comes” (Present Active Indicative, not Future).  John sees “the son of man” (Revelation 1.13), who is reflecting the image of the Ancient of Days (vv.13-ff), Who is the One the son of man is “before” – where he is in heaven, before the throne of the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7.9-14).  John is not waiting for the time.  The time has come.  Jesus is Lord.  “From him who is and who was and who comes; and from the seven Spirits that are before his throneand from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1.8-ff).

This is why the Revelation is given to us: for the time is come, the Reign of Messiah as prophesied and promised in the Prophets has come.  Salvation is in the right hand of God, and he dispenses it to each according to his deeds.  There is so much more here that can be said, and I suggest the other articles on this site on the Body of Christ and his Parousia.

Nero Revived? Another Look

By Samuel M. Frost, Th. M.

It is not hard to find a commentary on Revelation, liberal or conservative, that mentions the so called Nero Redivivus myth.  This idea, briefly, is that Nero Caesar would be raised from the dead, or would come alive again in the future.  Following a paper by Sigve Tonstad of Loma Linda University, this idea and how it has played in the history of interpreting John’s Revelation  is, however, coming under attack (see Tonstad, “Appraising the Myth of Nero Redivivus in the Interpretation of Revelation” – Andrews University Seminary Studies, Vol. 46, No. 2, pp. 175-199).  Citing Gerhard Maier’s, Die Johannesoffenbarung und die Kirche, WUNT 25 (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr,1981), Tonstad offers several other sources for rejecting this view including, Paul S. Minear, I Saw Heaven Opened (1969).  In my own readings, Alan James Beagley’s The Sitz-im-Leben of the Apocalypse with Particular Reference to the Role of the Churches Enemies (Walter De Gruyter, Berlin, 1987) equally takes aim.  Several others could be quoted (Robert Mounce, G.K. Beale, J.P.M. Sweet, and others).  Mounce’s view is most attractive at this point and although he does not elucidate on the matter in terms of the Greek text, it is brought out, as I will show, that there is no resurrection of the beast or its head mentioned.

The texts in question all come from Revelation 13, and there we find, “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads.”  Now, “beast” in Greek is Neuter (that is, its grammatical designation is Neuter in form).  “Head” is Feminine in form.  “And the dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority” – where “dragon” is Masculine in form.  It is the Beast that has ten horns and seven heads.

Now, in Greek the “forms” of a noun must agree with its pronouns.  That is, if “beast” is Neuter, then any pronoun standing for it (or modifying it) would also be Neuter in form.  This is an iron-clad, standard Greek grammatical fact.  “One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.”  “One” and “heads” are both Feminine (“one” is an adjective of “head” and thus they agree).  But, “its” is Neuter.  It is in agreement with the “beast”.  One of the Beasts heads was as slain (having been slain).  The Beast is not slain, only one of its heads is.  “Its” mortal wound was healed.  Again, the Beast is healed, not the head.  The Beast has seven heads (not including its own head), and when one is slain, another one takes its place.  It is the Beast itself that remains alive.  The Beast itself does not die.  Only one of its many heads does, and this head is not said to recover.  It is the Beast itself that recovers, unphased by the slain head.

“And he maketh the earth and them dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose death-stroke was healed.”  Here we are told again that the Beast is worshipped, who (Neuter) had been healed – not the head.  There is no resurrection of the Beast, and there certainly is no idea here of one of its heads being revised to live again.  “That they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.”  The Beast (Neuter) receives a stroke and one its heads dies as a result, but the Beast itself remains alive.  The word here denotes the contrast of the fact that the Beast itself did not die – “it lives” – and the verb here simply means that, not “lives (again)”, but simply “and it lives.”  The subject of the verb is the Neuter (Beast) not the Feminine (“head”)!  It is the Beast itself that remains alive in spite of the fact that one of its heads was slain.  That’s all that is being said here.

Mounce, then, is entirely correct on this point.  From a purely grammatical analysis, the Beast is not killed.  One of its heads is killed.  But, since it has seven heads, another one crops up and takes its place.  The Beast, therefore, remains alive and recovers from the death of its heads.  Indeed, we find the same idea in Revelation 17.10 that the “seven heads are seven kings. Five are fallen, one is, and the other is not yet come: and when he is come, he must remain a short time.”  Well, if five have “fallen” (they are dead), and one “is” (alive), yet in spite of the fact that five have passed on, the Beast Itself remains alive.  There is no resurrection here.  There is no Antichrist Raised from the Dead, and equally the Nero Redivivus Myth is entirely shot down.

Although I have not offered any “interpretation” of what or who the Beast is, or who the heads are, it matters not.  This consideration – that “one of the heads” of the Beast is raised from the dead, or that the Beast itself is slain and rises again – must be factored into any interpretation one suggests.