What About the Time Texts, Part 4

By Samuel M. Frost, Th. M.

The Greek verb, mello (μέλλω) has been conveyed in a variety of ways when it comes to translating it into English.  We will explore several of these examples.  We will also explore the many syntactical forms in which the verb is used (as it occurs in action with the Subjunctive, Indicative, Participle, etc.).  Following on this, the context will be noted in which it occurs also noting the variety of syntactical forms.  No word can be considered apart from its contextual aspect (Aspekt) Finally, we will conclude the following thesis: mello is emphatic of future contingencies in terms of giving absolute assurance that the subject matter will most certainly occur.  It does not say anything concerning ‘when’ (Zeitpunkt der Aktion) the subject will occur.  Whether the action (Aktionsart) is ‘about to’ happen, or simply ‘will’ or is ‘going to’ happen is supplied solely by the context (Kontext) in which the verb occurs. 

Mello means that an action is certainly going to happen in the future.  That is its basal meaning.  As such, it is found in the Future Active Indicative (FAI).  Mt 24.6 has “you will hear of wars…” (RSV); “you will begin to hear of wars…” (YLT); the majority of translations follow the RSV and use the simply future, “will.”  This is followed by the Infinite in the Present Active form, to hearMello is often followed by an Infinitive form of a verb.  “You are going to hear” or “you will hear” are both acceptable.  For our point, mello is found in the Future Active Indicative form which, one would think, already state the fact that something is to happen in the future.  Why, then, would mello be used if it, too, is a verb rooted in a future aspect?  Because it adds emphasis to the certainty.  Jesus is not saying that at any moment they are ‘about to’ hear rumors, as if after he was done speaking someone would be overheard saying, “Hey, did you hear that Rome is going to invade Gaul?” That may have in fact happened!  Or, it may be that in a few years they would hear such things.  Either way, they were definitely going to hear it!

The Future Active Indicative by itself as a form is what grammarians call ‘vague’ or ‘ambiguous’ in terms of whether or not something will take place.  It does not deny that it will, or will not, or maybe it will or will not.  The focus is on the type of action that is said to occur in the future.  This will happen.  With mello, the sense is this will definitely happen.  The Future Indicative has that meaning as well, but mello sharpens it.  Hence, it is emphatic. 2 Pe 1.12 is another occurrence of mello in the FAI.  “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things…” (RSV); “So I will always remind you of these things…” (NIV); “remind” is in the Present Infinitive, to remind.  This is an emphatic statement.  Peter could have simply written, “I will remind you” using the FAI for the verb remind.  It would have meant the same thing to the author. But, to add emphasis to the fact that he is going to constantly (“always” which is supplied in the text) remind them; doggedly remind them, is conveyed.  Bank on it.

It is pertinent at this point to work within the Grammars and Lexicons of Koine Greek and what they have to say about mello.  First off, we will consider Liddell and Scott, the classical Greek Lexicon.  There, the verb is shown to have a great multitude of usages in Pindar, Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, etc.  It is used poetically and in prose.  What is also noted is that mello “differs from the simple future just as Latin facturus sum from faciam” (A Greek-English Lexicon, Liddell and Scott, American Book Company, 1882).  The translations are, to intend doing, think or mean to do, to be about to do.  Several examples are given.  Also, ‘to denote a foregone conclusion’; Strong probability; destined.  It also simply means, by itself, the future; I have found this to be the case in my recent readings in Pindar’s Odes, where it is simply used of the “future” time, whether or not “in the coming moments” or in the far away time.  That is supplied by the context, not the verb.  For example, “He soon overtook his brother, noble Hector, about to leave the place where he’d talked with his wife” (Iliad 6.515) where “about to” is followed by a Future Infinitive.  The action of Hector dictates the translation “about to” or “on the verge of”.  “As he spoke, Dolon raised his large hand, though about to touch Diomedes’ chin to beg for mercy” (Iliad 10.454).  The action is obviously taking place at the moment.  Several examples in Classical Greek can be shown.

A Greek professor pointed out to me that in Lexical entries for Greek words, the English translations are English idioms in the way that English use the term.  Hence, the English definitions of a particular term are just that, English!  It may seem obvious to us, but it is important to realize this often missed point.  In English, the idiom “about to” carries with it that something is on the verge of happening then and there.

Friberg’s, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (2000, Trafford Publishing), by Barbara and Timothy Friberg, offers us more or less the same definition: will certainly take place, will come to pass.  It lists in entry (b) that with the Aorist Infinitive it may mean, be on the point of, be about to, be destined to, be inevitable.  In entry (c) with the Present Infinitive, be about to, be going to, begin to; or as a future or as a periphrasis for settled futurity, will, be going to.  The Participle in the Present Indicative is simply, what is coming in the future with an ‘absolute’ sense.  Why all of these choices?  What would decide for the translator the choices listed above?  Context.  There is nothing in these Lexicons, including the Bauer, Ardnt, Gingrich and Danker (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2000) that states that mello means, in and of itself, ‘about to’.  These various interpretative translations are based on context – which tells us whether or not the subject in question is on the verge of happening –as the English idiom is used – or not.

Louw and Nida (LN) place mello under the semantic range of ‘time’.  Mello can be used for action which occurs ‘at the same time’ (67.62, from Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, 1988).  Again, under no listing is any verbal form given.  “About to” can occur as a translation with the Present Infinitive, the Future Infinitive, or the Participle.  An example give by LN is Mt 20.22, “the cup I am about to drink” – with the action being ‘closely related’ in terms of time.  Here the Present Active form with the Present Infinitive follows.  However, in the majority of the major Bible translations, “the cup I will drink”; “I am to drink”; “I am going to drink” – are given.  Jesus was fated to drink the cup.  It was of absolute necessity, and certainty that he drink it.  In the parallel Mk 10.38 the Present Active Indicative is used instead of mello showing that the action of his drinking is something that was upon them (the cup being in reference to the suffering he was to undertake within the week of his uttering these words).  Some refer to this as the Futuristic Present because it was “regarded as so certain that in thought it may be contemplated as already coming to pass” (Dana and Mantey, p. 185, see below).

The Grammar Dana and Mantey (A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, Macmillan, 1957) notes that the verb mello “is  more emphatic in force, and contemplates the action as more imminent” (p.191).  They add a further citation from A.T. Robertson’s A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in Light of Historical Research (Hodder and Stoughton, 1914), page 870.  There, to compliment the idea of Dana and Mantey, Robertson pointed out an example by way of harmonizing Mk 9.31 with Mt 17.22.  In the former, “the son of man is being delivered” using the verb in the Present Passive Indicative.  Of course, the time of this being handed over to the authority was some weeks away.  In the latter, “the son of man is about to be delivered” where the verb (“delivered”) is used periphrastically with mello in the PAI and the main verb in the Present Infinitive.  Robertson then adds that the Futuristic Present “gives the sense of certainty” (p.870).  Hence, it can be used for mello, or in place of, because of the fact of something to happen with certainty.  It is fated.  To bring out this idea in translation, scholars will use the English idiom “about to” in the same force of that idiom.  Note that the construction here is the verb mello in the Present Active Indicative with the Present Infinitive following.

Let me illustrate this point by way of an example in my own life.  The date of this paper is February 5th.  My niece, Taylor, has asked me to preside over her wedding which is February 28th.  This wedding is going to occur.  It is about to occur.  It is a few weeks away.  In fact, the other day I used this very statement to a friend saying that “I am marrying my niece” using a Present Tense.  The event is certain.  However, I have known about this for over a year, and I would not have said a year ago, “the wedding is about to occur.”  Rather, feeling quite at ease, I had plenty of time to prepare.  Now, presently, I don’t!  It is the context of the situation that a translator would use “about to” for something that is seen as occurring within a very short period of time.  However, the verb mello itself does not mean ‘about to’ – it means that an event is certainly going to happen.  Like the Futuristic Present, it “gives the sense of certainty.” When mello does give this sense within a context that we know upon reading was to happen within a few weeks, a week, a day or even right at that moment, “about to” is a perfectly good conveyance of the way in which “about to” expresses the certainty of the event.  And, when this is done, the verb is usually – but not always – in the Present forms of Infinitive or Indicative with a Present Infinitive following.  We now can turn to several other examples.

In Acts 11.28 the Prophet named Agabus predicted a famine throughout the world.  Luke adds that this happened during the reign of Claudius Caesar.  Claudius ruled from 41-54 CE, and this places Agabus’ prediction, therefore, during that time.  According to the historians (Cassius, Suetonius, Josephus), four famines happened during his reign in 42 or 43 in Rome, another in Greece in 50, and yet another in Rome in 51.  Josephus mentions a famine in Judea in 45 CE.  However, this famine was after the death of Herod Agrippa, and the context of Acts 11-ff makes it clear that Herod was still alive when Paul and Barnabas arrived in Judea.  Either way, the form of mello here is in the Present Infinitive followed by the Future Infinitive of eimi: “there is going to be famine.”  None of the major translations reflect the idea of “about to”, thus resolving any issues with what exact famine Agabus had in mind.  It may be that Agabus’ prophecy concerned several and spoke generally – without any sense of when other than in the future – that famine(s) were coming, not specifying any provinces within the Empire.  Acts 24.15 and 27.10 contain the last of the three occurrences of mello in the Present Infinitive with the Future Infinitive following.  Robertson noted that with these three examples, the Future Infinitive in regards to “time relation is only relative, as with all infinitives, not absolute as in the indicative” (p. 877, op. cit.).

Robertson continues to note that mello expressed either in the Present Indicative or the Present Infinitive is meant to convey that which the Future Indicative lacks.  It is meant to firmly express the “durative” nature of a future event (p. 889). It is not so much when an event happens, but that it will happen.  Mello occurs in the Imperfect (past) Tense several times and denotes the present condition upon which certain things are to take place before the event in question.  A good example here is mello in the Imperfect Indicative followed by a Present Infinitive: “When the seven days were almost completed…” (Acts 21.27).  The context of a week of days coming to a close is obvious.  ‘About to’ would be appropriate.  Again, of the three uses of mello with the Future Infinitive to follow, we find in Acts 27.10, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury.”  The great majority translate this verse with the verb “will” or “going to”.  The action is obviously something going to happen within the immediate time of the voyage they are about to embark on.  In the example of Acts 24.15 Paul mentioned that he has the same hope of resurrection that “will be” (as attested by the vast majority of the translations) – the certainty of resurrection without any regard as to when other than in the relative future.  Again, context determines, not the verb itself, whether or not the English idiom ‘about to’ can be utilized.  However, in every example where mello occurs (109 times in the NT) it is not necessary to translate it with ‘about to’ at all.  The several examples of where translations vary, some using ‘about to’ where others use ‘going to’ or ‘will’ highlight our point.  These are translational values that are expressed as such in the context.  When the action of the verb is seen within the context as occurring within the contextual time, the idea of its certain performance in the relative future is guaranteed.  If the action is something clearly happening ‘right then and there’, the English translation, ‘about to’, captures the force of the certainty of the action occurring in the future.

Herod was “about to” seek the child (Mt2.13); Festus was about to go to Paul (Acts 25.4); they expected that Paul was about to swell up (Acts 28.6); Paul was about to be killed (Acts 23.27); and several other examples show us action that is ‘on the verge of’ happening, not years away.  And, in each of these example, ‘about to’ is not necessary, either.  We know of the action from the context.  “Paul was going to be killed” (the Jews were going to definitely kill him); Festus was going to visit Paul; they expected that Paul was going to swell up, etc.  The sheer variety of ways in which this verb has been translated demonstrates the point that ‘about to’ is not the meaning of the term, but may be the equivalent of the English idiom, ‘about to’, depending on the context of the action, and not the verb itself.  The verb itself denotes certainty, definiteness, fate, destiny, it’s going to happen, bank on it.  Mello does not express that something might happen, but that something is going to happen; that the speaker or writer using the term is expressing certainty.  As such, knowing that I am going to preside over my niece’s wedding in a couple of weeks, I am within the contextual permits to say that I am about to marry my niece to her husband to be.  If the wedding was years away, such a comment would be entirely out of keeping with the English expression.  The same is true for translators of this verb in our English Bibles.


Author: Samuel M. Frost, Th.D.

Samuel M. Frost has gained the recognition of his family, peers, colleagues, church members, and local community as a teacher and leader.  Samuel was raised in the Foursquare Gospel tradition and continued in the rising Charismatic Movement of the early 1980’s.  While serving in local congregations he was admitted to Liberty Christian College in Pensacola, Florida where he lived on campus for four years earning his Bachelor’s of Theology degree.  It was there under the tutelage of Dr. Dow Robinson (Summer Institutes of Linguistics), and Dr. Frank Longino (Dallas Theological Seminary) that he was motivated to pursue a career in Theology.  Dr. Robinson wrote two books on Linguistics, Workbook on Phonological Analysis (SIL, 1970) and Manuel for Bilingual Dictionaries: Textbook (SIL, 1969).  It was under these teachers’ guidance that Frost entered into his Master’s studies, being granted a scholarship for Greek I and II at Pentecostal Theological Seminary, accredited, in Cleveland, Tennessee (adjunct of Lee University).  Frost completed his study under Dr. French Arrington (The Ministry of Reconciliation, Baker Books, 1980), who used the text of J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners. Frost studied Hebrew for two years under Dr. Mark Futato (author, Beginning Biblical Hebrew, Eisenbrauns, 2003) and Dr. Bruce K. Waltke (author, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Eisenbrauns, 1990) at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida. With combined credits from PTS and RTS, Samuel completed his Master of Arts in Christian Studies and Master of Arts in Religion from Whitefield Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Florida under the direct tutelage of Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, co-author of the well reviewed work, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism (Whitefield Media, 2005) with Dr. Gary Crampton (and Foreword by the late, Dr. D. James Kennedy).  Dr. Talbot also oversaw Samuel’s Dissertation, From the First Adam to the Second and Last Adam (2012) earning him the Magister Theologiae (Th.M.) degree.  He also helped put together A Student’s Hebrew Primer for WTS, designed and graded exams for their Hebrew Languages course. Samuel’s studies lead him into an issue in the field of Eschatology where his scholarship and unique approach in Hermeneutics garnered him recognition.  Because of the controversial nature of some of his conclusions, scholars were sharp in their disagreement with him.  Frost’s initial work, Misplaced Hope: The Origins of First and Second Century Eschatology (2002, Second Edition, 2006 Bi-Millennial Publishing), sold over four thousand units.  While arguing for the Reformation understanding of sola Scriptura as defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith, Frost’s book launched a heavily footnoted argument for a total reassessment of the doctrine known as the Second Coming of Christ.  The conclusion was that the events of the war of the Jewish nation against their Roman overlords in 66-70 C.E. formed the New Testament authors’ eschatological outlook, and went no further than their own first century generation; a view otherwise known as “full” or "hyper" Preterism.  Internationally recognized Evangelical author and speaker, Steve Wohlberg remarked, ‘On the “preterist” side today…we have such influential leaders as Gary DeMar, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., David Chilton, R.C. Sproul, Max King, James Stuart Russell, Samuel M. Frost, and John Noe.  To these scholars…the beast is not on the horizon, he’s dead” (Italics, his)” (End Time Delusions, Destiny Image Publishers, 2004, page 133).  It should be noted that only Noe, King and Frost supported the “full” Preterist position. Thomas Ice and co-author of the best selling Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye, quote Frost’s work, Misplaced Hope, as well in their book, The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming under Attack (Harvest House Publishers, 2003, page 40).  Dr. Jay E. Adams, who single handedly launched “a revolution” in Christian Counseling with his work, Competent to Counsel: An Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling, (1970, Zondervan), also wrote an analysis of Frost’s work in Preterism: Orthodox or Unorthodox? (Ministry Monographs for Modern Times, INS Publishing, 2004).  Adams wrote of Misplaced Hope as a "useful, scholarly work" (p.6 - though he disagreed with the overall thesis).  Dr. Charles E. Hill, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, wrote of Misplaced Hope that Frost, “attacks the problem of the early church in a much more thoroughgoing way than I have seen” (When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper Preterism, Ed. Keith Mathison, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2003, ‘Eschatology in the Wake of Jerusalem’s Fall’ p. 110-ff.).  There were several other works as well that took the scholarship of Frost seriously, like Ergun Caner in The Return of Christ: A Premillennial Perspective, Eds., Steve W. Lemke and David L. Allen (B&H Publishing, 2011). Because of the controversial nature of Frost’s conclusions on these matters, it was difficult to find a denomination within the Church-at-Large to work in terms of pastoral ministry.  That situation changed when Samuel was called by a Bible study group in Saint Petersburg, Florida to found a congregation.  Christ Covenant Church was established in 2002 operating under the principles outlined by Presbyterian historian James Bannerman’s work, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, original, 1869).  By-Laws and a Constitution were drawn up in the strictest manner for what was considered an “Independent” establishment of a Presbyterian Church, granted that a “call” was received and recognized by Presiding Elders duly ordained from existing and recognized denominations.  Two Elders, one ordained in the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Mike Delores), and another ordained in the Presbyterian Church of America (Dr. Kelly N. Birks, now deceased) tested and reviewed the call, ordaining Samuel on October 20th, 2002, the Twenty Second Sunday after Trinity.  Proper forms were submitted to Tallahassee, Florida with the stamp of a Notary Public Witness.  Christ Covenant Church (CCC) functioned as a local church for five years with a congregation as large as 30 members.  Frost was gaining recognition after Misplaced Hope had been published in January of that year, and conferences were hosted that included debates with another prominent "full" Preterist educator, Don K. Preston.  CCC hosted best-selling authors, Thomas Ice, and Mark Hitchcock from Dallas Theological Seminary; and Dr. James B. Jordan (Westminster Theological Seminary), well-known author/pastor in Reformed theological circles.  Frost was invited for the next several years to speak at over 25 conferences nation-wide, was featured in articles and an appearance on local news in Tampa for one of CCC’s conferences.  The Evangelical Theological Society also invited Samuel to speak at the Philadelphia conference (Frost is currently a Member of ETS as well as Society of Biblical Literature). During this time Samuel had submitted one more book, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection of the Dead (TruthVoice, 2008; repr. JaDon Publishing, 2010); and co-wrote, House Divided: A Reformed Response to When Shall These Things Be? (Vision International, 2010).  Frost also wrote several Forewords for up and coming authors who were influenced by his teaching materials, as well as cited many times in books, lectures and academic papers.  However, because of certain aspects of Hermeneutics and Frost’s undaunted commitment to scholarship (with always a strong emphasis on the personal nature of devotional living to Christ), several challenges to the "hyper" Preterist view he espoused finally gave way, largely due to the unwavering commitment to Samuel by the Dean of Whitefield Theological Seminary, Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, who continually challenged him.  In what shocked the "hyper" Preterist world, Samuel announced after the Summer of 2010 that he was in serious error, and departed the movement as a whole, along with Jason Bradfield, now Assistant Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, Florida .  Christ Covenant Church had dissolved after 2007 while Samuel continued as a public speaker and writer, largely due to reasons that would unravel Frost’s commitment to "hyper" Preterism as a whole. The documentation of Frost’s departure was published by American Vision’s Founder, Gary DeMar, with a Foreword by Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry.  Why I Left Full Preterism (AV Publishing, 2012) quickly ran through its first run.  The book was later republished under the arm of Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry and is sold today (GoodBirth Ministries Publishing, 2019; though still available in Kindle form from American Vision).  Dr. Gentry also gave mention to Frost in his book, Have We Missed the Second Coming: A Critique of Hyper Preterism (Victorious Hope Publishing, 2016), noting him as "one of the most prominent" teachers within Full Preterism (135).  Dr. Keith Mathison, Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida, endorsed the book as well.  Samuel has gone on to write, Daniel: Unplugged (McGahan Publishing House, 2021); The Parousia of the Son of Man (Lulu Publishing, 2019); God: As Bill Wilson Understood Him, A Theological Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous (Lulu Publishing, 2017).  He is also active as a certified Chaplain with the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana, and enrolled with ICAADA (Indiana Counselor’s Association on Alcohol and Drug Abuse), and worked directly under Dr. Dennis Greene, Founder of Christian Counseling and Addictions Services, Inc., for a year.  Frost’s passion is in the education of the local church on various issues and occasionally works with Pastor Alan McCraine with the First Presbyterian Church in Lewisville, Indiana, and Bethel Presbyterian Church, Knightstown, Indiana, where he periodically is called upon to give the sermon. Samuel, with his wife, Kimberly, helped to establish Heaven’s Bread Basket food pantry that donates food items to local families in need once a month – a ministry of the Session of First Presbyterian Church, Lewisville, Indiana. Samuel also works part time at Ace Hardware in New Castle, Indiana for several years.  He has a solid, family reputation in the community, and has performed local marriages and funerals.  He also sits on the Board of the Historical Preservation Committee in New Castle. Recently, he has completed his two year quest for a Th.D from Christian Life School of Theology Global, Georgia.

12 thoughts on “What About the Time Texts, Part 4”

  1. Scott Russell, in an unrelated post, collected the following information:

    1. D.B. Monro – He observes that mello with the infinitive often means “to be likely” and cites a number of examples from both the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer (Homeric Grammar, London, UK: Bristol Classical Press, p. 203, rpt.).
    2. Richard John Cunliffe – He notes that among the meanings/uses of mello the word with the present infinitive frequently in Homer means “to be likely to be or to be doing, to be presumably so and so or doing so and so” (A Lexicon of the Homeric Dialect, Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963, p. 261, rpt.).
    3. James Turney Allen – In his glossary, he defines mello as “intend (be about, be certain, be destined) to do” (Classical/Ancient Greek, Piscataway, NJ: Research & Education Association, 2001, p. 359, rpt.).
    4. Ernest DeWitt Burton – “72. Mello with the Infinitive is also used with a force akin to that of the Future Indicative. It is usually employed of an action which one intends to do, or that which is certain, destined to take place” (Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1893, p. 36).
    5. Daniel B. Wallace – In discussing “the semantic nuance of the completely futuristic present,” Prof. Wallace compares it to the use of mello, saying it is “akin to the ambiguity of the lexical nuance of mello (which usually means either ‘I am about to’ [immediacy] or ‘I will inevitably’ [certainty])” (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics,Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996, p. 536). In a footnote, Wallace notes that “thelo + inf. or mello + inf. makes a conative or tendential notion more explicit” (p. 598). These two words – conative and tendential – are often used interchangeably or of the same kind of action, that which entails some form ofconation. Conative, strictly speaking, concerns the attempt to do an act, while tendential expresses the intent to do it. Both concern a conation process regarding the act. Thus, Wallace is referring to the idea of intent being involved in such uses of mello + an infinitive complement.
    6. Stanley E. Porter, Jeffrey T. Reed, & Matthew Brook O’Donnell – In their vocabulary section they give the following concerning the meaning of mello: “intend (be about to)” (Fundamentals of New Testament Greek, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Erdmans Publishing Co., 2010, p. 449). It will be observed that they give “to intend” as the principal meaning with “be about to” as a derivative of that meaning and not as the principal meaning itself. Furthermore, they clearly indicate that “to be about to” is not the exclusive meaning of mello, as proponents of RE assert.
    7. James Allen Hewett, C. Michael Robbins, & Steven R. Johnson – In their Greek vocabulary, they give the following on the meaning of mello: “I am about to, am on the point of; must, am destined; intend, propose [to occur at a future point in time subsequent to another event; to be inevitable or destined; denoting an intended action]” (New Testament Greek, revised, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009, p. 288).
    8. Herbert Weir Smyth – In the appendix to his grammar, he gives the basic meaning of mello simply as to “intend” (Greek Grammar, revised by Gordon M. Messing, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984, p. 706, rpt.). He also gives the same meaning in the text discussing the augment (p. 145).

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  2. more….” Dr. Buist Fanning, who is a professor of Greek and the author of VERBAL ASPECT IN NEW TESTAMENT GREEK, noted that there are multiple definitions possible based on context for mello + the infinitive, and he cited BAGD as providing an accurate breakdown of those uses.

    According to the exhaustive research of Dr. Markopoulos the actual primary use of mello + the infinitive construction indicates a deontic necessity — something that will certainly occur because it “must” occur — many times due to a divine decree or predetermination. While in some texts, it can mean “to be about to, to be on the point of,” he maintains that context must determine that shift in meaning.
    What began as a means of expressing “intention” relative to animate subjects and developed as a way of expressing a weakened form of the simple future, along with the idea of imminence of action in certain contexts in inanimate subjects, eventually came to acquire the idea of a deontic-modality. A person or persons will do the action. It is certain to occur, because it has been destined or decreed that he or they do it. There is a necessity that compels the fulfillment of the prediction.
    The application of Dr. Markopoulos’ work to the study of the Greek New Testament ought to then be obvious. In Matthew 16:27, for example, “The Son of man will come in the glory of His Father…” He not only intends to come, but He is certain to come: for it has been determined that He does so! When Paul declares that God “will judge the world in righteousness…” in Acts 17:31 he is affirming both the deontic necessity of that judgment and its absolute certainty. God not only intends to judge accordingly, but will certainly do so, as sin demands the accountability that Paul had just delineated (cf. Acts 17:28-30).

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  3. Hi Samuel,

    I enjoyed reading your post on the Greek word “mello”, but I still don’t understand it especially with regards to how it is translated in Revelation 10:7. I teach Bible studies at my local church, but this verse is very difficult for me to make sense of. For quite some time now, I have been trying to understand exactly what the author of the book of Revelation meant to say in Revelation 10:7, but it’s difficult to understand it because different Bible translations render this verse differently. Many translations render it as “When he [the seventh angel] is ABOUT TO sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be finished.” But some others render it as “When he shall BEGIN TO sound, the mystery of God will be finished.” These two translations carry different meanings! The former says “when he is about to sound”, which implies that the mystery of God is finished BEFORE the seventh angel sounds. The latter says “when he shall begin to sound” which implies that the mystery of God is finished at the time the angel begins to sound rather than before he begins to sound. So, which of these two translations is correct? They can’t both be correct. If I say I’m about to do something, it is NOT the same as saying I will begin to do that thing. “When he is about to sound” is NOT the same thing as “When he will begin to sound”.

    I’d like you to clarify this for me. I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts on this. Also, could you recommend a good resource where I could read more about the proper interpretation of “mello” in Revelation 10:7? I mean, a readily accessible online resource on the interpretation of “mello” in this verse.

    Many blessings,


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    1. Carl,

      The ESV has “to be sounded”; MRD has “when he shall sound”; NRV has “is to blow”; Young’s has “when he may be about to sound” – I would drop “about to” and “begin”. What the translators are doing is interpreting the phrase ‘when he is going to sound’ – In Greek, ὅταν μέλλῃ σαλπίζειν – hotan (ὅταν ) is followed by the verb, mello, and here it is Present Subjunctive (may, might – the action is contingent). It is not at all giving us “the time” (the answer to the “when”). Here, the diectic marker (time marker) would be “in the days of the voice of the seventh angel” – whenever that is….What is he ‘going to’ do? He is going to blow the seventh trumpet, bringing about the fulfillment of God’s mystery (the actions coincide). Thus, the idea is that “time will end” (10.6); and this end of time will be whenever the angel blows the seventh trumpet (which has not happened). What unfolds is a description of the end (11:15-19). The focus shifts to “in the meantime” John is to prophecy “again”, like the prophets of old, who foretold of the end. If the Prophets have foretold of the end, and Messiah has been exalted to the right hand (Revelation 5), then one would “expect the end”, would they not? Well, here the angel is telling John “the end is not yet” – instead, “you must continue prophesying to the nations, AGAIN”.

      Hope that helps.


      1. Thank you. Very interesting! It’s clearer now. Just a few questions for clarification purposes:

        1. You mentioned that you would drop “about to”. But when I looked up “mello” in the Greek lexicon, it says “mello” means “to be about to do/be”. If this meaning is correct, why would you drop “about to” in Revelation 10:7? Or does the meaning of this verb vary depending on the particular scriptural context?

        2. You mentioned that “mello” is Present Subjunctive (may, might – the action is contingent). Therefore, would it be correct to translate Revelation 10:7 as “When he may/might sound”? Instead of “When he may sound”, why not “When he will sound” in which case it becomes Present Indicative?

        3. Regarding the sense of the verb “mello” that means “about to”, does it really mean “about to” or it simply means “he is about”? When I looked up this word in an interlinear Greek-English Bible, I notice that the “to” is not a part of the verb “mello”. What we have in the interlinear dictionary is “mellē” (μέλλῃ) which means “he is about”. The “to” is not part of the “mellē”. Instead, the “to” goes with “salpizein” (to sound the trumpet). Could you help me make sense of this? What is the difference between “mello” and “mellē”?

        Thanks for your time.

        Many blessings,


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      2. Carl,

        The Greek reads, ἀλλ’ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς φωνῆς τοῦ ἑβδόμου ἀγγέλου, ὅταν μέλλῃ σαλπίζειν. You’ll notice that the ending of σαλπίζειν has ‘ein’, which is the Infinitive form (Present Active Infinitive – ‘to sound’). Thus, the ‘to’ is connected with the verb, ‘salpizo’. The verb, μέλλῃ (melle) is from the verb, mello – and here it is in the Subjunctive Active 3rd Person Singular form. ὅταν, or hotan, is ‘when’ – and it usually occurs with the Subjunctive. It is ‘conditional’ as in ‘when X happens, then Y will happen.’ It is not stating ‘when’ in terms of any ‘specific’ time (hence, some translations have, ‘whenever’). BUT, WHEN(ever) the voice of the seventh angel may sound (and it will sound), then….

        The standard lexicons do have ‘about to’, and I have a lengthy article on this verb https://vigil.blog/2020/02/05/what-about-the-time-texts-part-4/

        Let me back this up a bit, because there is also considerable issues with verse 6b, ‘for time shall be no more.’ If I may, the Greek reads, ‘ καὶ ὤμοσεν τῷ ζῶντι εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, ὃς ἔκτισεν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ τὴν γῆν καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ καὶ τὴν θάλασσαν καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ (verse 6a); ‘and he swore by the one that lives….and all the things in it, ὅτι χρόνος οὐκέτι ἔσται, ‘that, “Time will be no more!”. What the mighty angel swore, is that ‘Time will be no more’. But, he is not done talking here: ‘Time will be no more! Much more so in the days of the sound of the Seventh Angel, that is whenever he may sound (and he certainly will sound)! And the mystery of God shall be accomplished.”

        The parallel of ‘time shall be no more’ and ‘the mystery of God accomplished’ should be noted. When the mystery is accomplished, time shall be no more (see Revelation 21-22). When is THIS going to happen? 1. In the days of the Seventh Angel. 2. Whenever he (may, might, will) sounds his trumpet (and he certainly will sound it). The mighty angel here ‘does not know the day or the hour’ (hence, the Subjunctive), but it will most certainly sound (hence, the verb, mello).

        Let me add two more things here, and thanks for being patient. The mighty angel finishes his sentence with, “the mystery of God…as He (God) announced in the Prophets.” What Prophets? The Prophets of the Scriptures, that have long proclaimed the Day, when this mystery (hidden-ness) of God’s dealings with mankind is laid bare and made plain to see. Judgement Day (Revelation 20.11-15). Now, watch this: A voice from heaven speaks, and tells John to take the ‘little scroll’ (a revelation) and eat it, because ‘you must prophesy AGAIN….’ Why ‘again’? Because, the Prophets have, in the past, already prophesied about The Day, but ‘the end is not yet’, and with Jesus in heaven as King, shouldn’t the ‘end’ come, and time be no more, and the mystery accomplished? ‘Not yet….continue to prophesy to the nations….until….the days of the seventh angel.’ When are those days? No man knows that.

        What John is effectively doing here is introducing the same idea in Matthew 24, wherein famines, earthquakes, the fall of Jerusalem, wars, persecutions and travails and tribulations come upon those who, in their time, begain to preach the Good News of the Kingdom, ‘but the end is not yet.’ Heaven and earth will end, says Jesus, but of THAT DAY no man knows… This is what John is ‘picturing’ for us, here. There are seven seals opened by the Lamb (we do not hear them read to us, but He reads them), and seven trumpets, and seven last plagues (the coming end, whenever that is), BUT John also hears ‘seven thunders’ – and these are CONCEALED (hidden, mystery). When do the things associated with them happen? What are they? How long do they happen? We are not told. BUT, assurance is given: time shall be no more! God’s mystery will be fulfilled! IT MOST CERTAINLY WILL HAPPEN!

        Hope that helps….


  4. Hello, I just read your response to Carl’s question. I wanted to ask a follow-up question. If we drop “about to sound” or “begin to sound” in Rev. 10:7 and, instead, replace these with “when he is going/destined to sound”, wouldn’t that be a redundant statement? That is, the statement becomes “In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is going to sound, the mystery of God is finished.” The first phase “In the days of the voice of the seventh angel” already refers to the time/period when the 7th angel is going to sound. Why does this have to be repeated in the second phrase as “when he is going/destined to sound”? It sounds like a redundant statement. What do you think?


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    1. Sorry, just saw your response. It may appear ‘redundant’ to our English stylings, but it is something of a feature in John. Secondly, I would add that ‘mello’ strengthens (emphatic) the certainty of the event. Hope that helps.


  5. Hi Samuel,

    I have a quick question about the “to” of the infinitive associated with méllō. You mentioned that the “to” of the infinitive is connected with the verb ‘salpizo’ in Revelation 10:7. If that is the case, why is it that the word “to” is usually attached to the definition of méllō? If the “to” is not part of méllō in Revelation 10:7 but, instead, is connected to “salpizo”, why does the definition of méllō in this verse include a “to”?

    For example, the meaning of méllō is usually given as as “about to” or “destined/certain to” rather than “destined” or “certain” or “about” without an accompanying “to”? Why does “to” usually accompany the definition of méllō? By defining méllō as “about to” or “certain to”, we seem to be saying that the “to” goes with méllō instead of going with “salpizo”.

    I’d appreciate it if you could clarify this, please.

    Thank you.



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