“The Time is at Hand” by Jack Kettler
What does the Lord mean by phrases such as “the time is a hand,” “must shortly come to pass,” and “I come quickly” in the book of Revelation? The Greek words used in the texts that will be under consideration in this study. Three of the words, in particular, are tάχει, ταχύ,and ἐγγύς.
Our study will explore how these words are used in the New Testament and what they mean. The study will serve as a brief introduction to preterist eschatology.
Definition of preterism:
Preterism, a Christian eschatological view that interprets some or all prophecies of the Bible as events, which have already happened. – Wikipedia
First New Testament entry:
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly (tάχει) come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” (Revelation 1:1 KJV)
Noun – Dative Neuter Singular
Strong’s Greek 5034: Quickness, speed, hastily, immediately. From the same as tachus, a brief space, i.e. in haste.
Sample of a parallel passage to see how τάχει is used:
Acts 22:18 N-DNS
GREEK: ἔξελθε ἐν τάχει ἐξ Ἰερουσαλήμ
NAS: out of Jerusalem quickly, because
KJV: and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem:
INT: go away with speed out of Jerusalem
Second New Testament entry:
“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand (ἐγγύς).” (Revelation 1:3 KJV)
Strong’s Greek 1451: Near. From a primary verb agcho, near.
“And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand (ἐγγύς).” (Revelation 22:10 KJV)
Sample of a parallel passage to see how ἐγγύς is used:
John 6:4 Adv.
GREEK: ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς τὸ πάσχα
NAS: the feast of the Jews was near.
KJV: of the Jews, was nigh.
INT: was moreover near the Passover
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance:
at hand, near, nigh, ready.
From a primary verb agcho (to squeeze or throttle; akin to the base of agkale); near (literally or figuratively, of place or time) — from, at hand, near, nigh (at hand, unto), ready.
Third New Testament entry:
“Behold, I come quickly (ταχύ): hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Revelation 3:11)
Strong’s Greek 5035: Quickly, speedily. Neuter singular of tachus, shortly, i.e. without delay, soon, or suddenly, or readily.
Sample of a parallel passage to see how tαχύ is used:
Matthew 28:7 Adv.
GRK: καὶ ταχὺ πορευθεῖσαι εἴπατε
NAS: Go quickly and tell His disciples
KJV: And go quickly, and tell his
INT: And quickly having gone say
Additional Scriptures where these Greek words appear:
“And he said unto me, these sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly (τάχει) be done.” (Revelation 22:6)
“Behold, I come quickly (ταχύ): blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7)
“And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand (ἐγγύς).” (Revelation 22:10)
“And, behold, I come quickly (ταχύ); and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Revelation 22:12)
“He which testifieth these things saith, surely I come quickly (ταχύ). Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20) (Underlining emphasis mine)
From the three parallel passages listed, the Greek words tάχει Acts 22:18, ἐγγύς John 6:4, ταχύ Matthew 28:7 convey an imminent, not a distant futuristic meaning.
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers from the 19th century regarding tάχει admits that:
“Shortly. — On this word much controversy has turned. Its force, “speedily,” affords a groundwork, and, it must be admitted, a plausible one, to the preterist school of interpreters, who hold that the whole range of Apocalyptic predictions was fulfilled within a comparatively short time after the Apostle wrote.” (1)
Ellicott is one of the few commentators who favors a futuristic interpretation for the above phrases and Greek words that acknowledges that there is a non-futuristic (preterism) interpretation available.
Now an in-depth survey on how the Greek words in these imminent time texts, plus some additional New Testament variants are used is in order.
From James Glasgow’s The Apocalypse:
Various Intimations of a Speedy Coming of Christ Were Fulfilled in the Beginning of the Gospel Age.
“These are expressed principally by the words ἐγγύς and ταχύ in the Revelation, and ἐγγίζω in the Gospels and Epistles. I shall exhibit a few examples:
Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” — ἤγγικεν.
Matt. 26:45: “The hour is at hand” — ἤγγικεν.
Mark 1:15: Luke 10:9, 11: “The kingdom of God is at hand” — ἤγγικεν.
Mark 14:42: “He that betrayeth me is at hand” — ἤγγικεν.
Luke 16:8: “The time draweth near” — ἤγγικεν
Luke 21:20: “The desolation thereof” (of Jerusalem)” is nigh” — ἤγγικεν.
Rom. 13:12: “The day is at hand”— ἤγγικεν.
Heb. 10:25: “Ye see the day approaching” — ἐγγίζουσαν.
James 5:8: “The coming of the Lord draweth nigh” — ἤγγικεν.
1 Pet. 4:7: “The end of all” (Πάντων — of the spiritually dead in the previous verse) “is at hand” — ἤγγικεν.
Matt. 26:18: “My time is at hand” — ἐγγύς.
Luke 21:31: “The kingdom of God is nigh at hand” — ἐγγύς.
Phil. 4:5: “The Lord is at hand” — ἐγγύς.
Rev. 1:3: 22:10: “The time is at hand” — ἐγγύς.
The examples now given relate principally to time; but the words in more than forty instances refer to place and denote immediate contiguity.
So ταχύ and cognates may be exemplified:
Luke 14:21: “Go out quickly into the streets” — ταχέως.
Luke 16:6: “Sit down quickly” — ταχέως.
John 11:31: “She rose up hastily [quickly]” — ταχέως.
1 Cor. 4:19: “I will come to you shortly.” — ταχέως
2 Thess. 2:2: “That ye be not soon (ταχέως) shaken” — ταχέως.
2 Pet. 1:14: “Shortly (ταχινή) I must put off this tabernacle.”
John 13:27: “That thou doest, do quickly” — τάχιον.
Acts 12:7: “Rise up quickly” — ἐν τάχει.
Rom. 16:20: “God shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” — ἐν τάχει.
Matt. 28:7: “Go quickly (ταχύ) and tell His disciples.” — ἐν τάχει.
John 11:29: “She rose quickly” — ταχύ.
Rev. 1:1; 22:6: “Things which must shortly come to pass” — ἐν τάχει.
Rev. 2:16: “I will come to Pergamos quickly” — ταχύ — in the Neronian persecution.
Rev. 3:11: “I come quickly” — ταχύ: viz. on Jerusalem.
Rev. 11:14: “The third woe cometh quickly” — ταχύ — in three and a half years.
Rev. 22:7, 12, 20: “I come quickly” — ταχύ.
If we are content to be guided by the Scripture usage of the words, the truth of the section will be at once established.
But many are not disposed to acquiesce in this. They prefer their pre-formed theories, — as that the Lord has never yet come again since His ascension, and consequently that the various promises of coming quickly meant that He would not come for at least 1870 years, and perhaps not for an indefinite number more. This applies both to pre-millenarians and post-millenarians, though from different standpoints — so very non-natural is the principle of scriptural interpretation which multitudes dogmatically lay down, and so purblindly do they adopt a position which charges the apostles either with error or with deception. Nothing can be taught more plainly in human vocables, than the apostles (as well as John the Baptist and Jesus Himself), in such places as those cited, taught that His coming after the ascension was to be expected quickly (ταχύ), in the plain meaning of that term.” (2)
If taken at face value, the passages in Revelation are speaking of something that was to take place soon, not the distant future. The imminent return of Christ that we see in the Revelation passages are events that were to happen quickly. The words soon and quickly do not make sense if not taken literally. Consult any thesaurus for synonyms of these words. If quickly, shortly do not mean what they say in their everyday usage, what do they mean? If these words do not mean what they say in everyday usage, what about other words in the Bible? As in this case, a non-literal use of these words is destructive of language. John uses apocalyptic imagery in his Revelation; however, Revelation 1:1, and 1:3 is ordinary language and would not fall under the rules for interpreting the apocalyptic genera of literature.
The only reason not to take these words literally comes down to forcing a different meaning in order to justify an unnatural or, as James Glasgow notes, a pre-formed theory. These texts, if taken literally, support the idea that the book of Revelation is historically fulfilled prophesy, except for the final two chapters, which pictures the new heaven and new earth and literal physical second coming of Christ. See Revelation 1:1, 3 and Revelation 22:6, 10. To echo James Glasgow, do these Greek time text words mean that John’s prophecy in Revelation will not happen for over 2000 years and counting.
Additionally, consider how the Apostle John in 22:10 is told: “…seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.” Compare Revelation 22:10 with Daniel 12:4. Daniel is told to “shut up the words and seal the book.” Daniel’s prophesy deals with the coming of the Messiah. See Daniel 9:24-27. The fulfillment of Daniel’s prophesy would happen in approximately 500 years. Daniel is told to “seal the book,” and John is told, “seal not…the prophecy” of this book. These two commands are exact opposites, proving that John’s Revelation was to be fulfilled shortly in the first century. The biblical conclusion is that the texts of Revelation show quite literally, “The time is at hand” 1:3, and “…which must shortly be done,” and “Behold, I come quickly” 22:6.
The prophecies in Revelation were fulfilled during the “Great Tribulation” of 70 A.D., involving the destruction of Jerusalem. Bluntly stated, these imminent passages are either true or false. The overwhelming evidence from the New Testament usage is that tάχει, ταχύ,and ἐγγύς, and their variations are imminent when understood in their plain literal sense. Moreover, the reading of these fulfilled prophecies in Scripture is most edifying as with other fulfilled prophecies.
If most of the prophecies of John’s Revelation are already fulfilled, does not this make the book useless for Christians of later centuries? This is a bizarre objection. Would not this objection apply to other prophecies in the Old Testament that is fulfilled like the first coming of Christ? Fulfilled prophecies about Christ are faith-building. If John’s Revelation is fulfilled prophecy, how could it not be the same as other fulfilled prophecies like the virgin birth?
In general, modern scholarship places the date of the composition of the Book of Revelation around 90-110 A.D. If so, this would necessarily invalidate a First Century fulfillment of the prophecies of John’s Revelation.
However, the pendulum swings. Today, more scholars are taking a second look and placing the date of the writing of Revelation before 70 A.D., during the persecution of Nero. It should be noted that throughout church history, variations of preterism have always existed. With that said, preterism is not some new innovative doctrine. As the pendulum swings, preterism in its various forms is making a resurgence.
As the pendulum swings, modern scholarship is looking again at the dating of Revelation. For example:
John A. T. Robinson, in his Redating the New Testament, makes the following points:
“It was at this point that I began to ask myself just why any of the books of the New Testament needed to be put after the fall of Jerusalem in 70. As one began to look at them, and in particular the epistle to the Hebrews, Acts and the Apocalypse, was it not strange that this cataclysmic event was never once mentioned or apparently hinted at (as a past fact)?” p. 10.
“One of the oddest facts about the New Testament is that what on any showing would appear to be the single most datable and climactic event of the period as the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is never once mentioned as a past fact. . . . ‘The silence is nevertheless as significant as the silence for Sherlock Holmes of the dog that did not bark’” p. 13.
“It is indeed generally agreed that this passage must bespeak a pre-70 situation. . . . There seems therefore no reason why the oracle should not have been uttered by a Christian prophet as the doom of the city drew nigh.” pp. 240-242. (3)
John A. T. Robinson was a bishop of the Church of England. He was also a lecturer at Trinity College, Cambridge, and later Dean of Trinity College.
An argument from silence generally is invalid, but not always, and in Robison’s example of “Sherlock Holmes and the dog that did not bark.” The silence of the dog in a police investigation can be powerful evidence, much like the silence of an alarm system not working. Likewise, Robison drawing attention to the New Testament documents not referencing the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. is weighty and significant. The fallacy of an argument from silence is really against and argument from ignorance, which Robison’s argument has no part.
Robinson uses evidence from the New Testament itself, and historical information outside of the Scriptures to argue for an early dating of John’s Revelation. Robinson makes the case that the fall of Jerusalem is not mentioned anywhere in the New Testament. He sees this as an indicator that Jerusalem’s destruction happened after the New Testament was completed. Robinson’s argument is monumental and should be considered. With his book, Robinson has brought new respectability to proponents of an early pre-70 A.D. date for the writing of the New Testament.
* See links below for a detailed discussion regarding evidence for arguments for a prior to 70 A.D. date to John’s Revelation. The fact is there have always been advocates for an early date for John’s Revelation in church history are seen in the links below.
- Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Revelation, Vol.8, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 533.
- James Glasgow, The Apocalypse: Translated and Expounded (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1872), p. 59-61.
- John A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament, (Louisville, Kentucky, Westminster John Knox Press, reprinted 1977), pp. 10, 13, 240-242.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more research:
REVELATION’S EARLY DATE (1) https://postmillennialworldview.com/2015/06/10/revelations-early-date-1/
REVELATION’S EARLY DATE (2) https://postmillennialworldview.com/2015/06/12/revelations-early-date-2/
Apocalypse: Early Date Advocates https://www.preteristarchive.com/BibleStudies/ApocalypseCommentaries/Dating/Early/index.html
Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation
Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler, TX
Oswald T. Allis
Prophecy And The Church
Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey
Last Days Madness
American Vision, Powder Springs, Georgia
R. C. Sproul
The Last Days According To Jesus
Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI
Francis X Gumerlock
The Day and the Hour
American Vision, Powder Springs, Georgia
James Stuart Russell
Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan