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03 September 2017

Age of Fulfillment - Revelation

SYNOPSIS - The “last days,” the "season of the end" began with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus – Revelation 1:1-4.

Winter Season - Photo by Pigoff PhotographY on Unsplash
Pigoff PhotographY on Unsplash
The book of Revelation opens by declaring that it is a “revelation of Jesus Christ” for his “servants,” initially, the seven churches of Asia. Its contents concern “what things must come to pass soon,” and the unveiling of this information must occur now because the “season is at hand.”

The book is not intended to encode or veil information but, instead, to unveil it – To reveal, NOT to conceal. The information contained in it concerns events about to occur, not ones in some far distant future. And said events are imminent from the perspective of the original audience of the book (“soon”), the churches in the province of Asia in the first century A.D.
  • (Revelation 1:1-3) – “Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to point out unto his servants WHAT THINGS MUST COME TO PASS SOON — and he showed them by signs, sending through his angel, unto his servant John;  who bear witness as to the word of God, and the witness of Jesus Christ — whatsoever things he saw. Blessed is he that reads, and they who hear, the words of the prophecy, and keep the things therein written; FOR THE SEASON IS NEAR.”
The book of Revelation uses Old Testament passages more frequently than any other book in the New Testament, especially from the book of Daniel. But it does so with verbal allusions - It never quotes a verse directly. Instead, John folds phrases from key Old Testament texts into his narrative, often modifying specific words to make a point.

The opening paragraph provides two examples of how John applies language from Old Testament passages to the churches of his day. When he does so, he consistently uses the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Several phrases are used more than once. Note the following application of language from two verses in the book of Daniel:
  • (Daniel 2:28 [Septuagint]) - “There is a God in heaven that reveals mysteries and he has made known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in later days.”
  • (Daniel 12:4 [Septuagint]) - “Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end.”
  • (Revelation 1:1-3) - “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what things must shortly come to pass…Blessed is he that reads and they that hear the words of the prophecy and keep the things that are written therein, for the season is at hand.”
  • (Revelation 22:10) - “And he saith unto me, Seal not the words of the prophecy of this book; for the season is at hand.”
The first example occurs in the opening verse of Revelation. An angel informed John that he was being given a “revelation” (apokalupsis) to show God’s servants “What things must come to pass soon.” In the Greek text, the phrase reads - ha dei genesthai en takei. The clause en tachei denotes “with speed, quickly, soon” (Compare - Luke 18:8, Acts 12:7, 22:18, 25:4, Romans 16:20, 1 Timothy 3:14).

The source of the clause is Daniel 2:28 (Septuagint), which reads - “There is a God in heaven that reveals mysteries (apokaluptōn), and makes known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what things must come to pass in the latter days (ha dei genesthai ep’ eschatōn tōn hémerōn).”  Revelation modifies the original phrase by changing the “latter days” to “soon.” What was expected previously in a remote future was now at hand.

The second example is where John was informed that the “time is at hand.” “Time” translates the Greek noun kairos or “season.” “At hand” represents the Greek term engus, meaning, “near, at hand, imminent, at the door.” It stresses proximity and imminence (Compare - Romans 13:12; 1 Peter 4:7).

The source for the second example is the twelfth chapter of the book of Daniel:
  • (Daniel 12:4) - “Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the season of the end.”
In the Greek Septuagint, the term “season” or kairos is used in the passage from Daniel. The same word occurs in Revelation 1:3 (“The season is at hand”). Daniel was commanded to “seal” the book until the “season of the end.” In contrast, John was informed that the “season is at hand” – Imminent if not already underway.

Antarctica Storm - Photo by lucas huffman on Unsplash
Photo by lucas huffman on Unsplash

This understanding becomes clearer in the closing passage of the 
book of Revelation.  Unlike Daniel, John was explicitly told NOT to “seal up the words of the prophecy of the book,” precisely because the “season is at hand.” This last passage repeats the clause from the opening paragraph of the book, forming an inclusio (Revelation 22:10).
From the perspective of John and his first-century audience, the promised “season” had arrived - In Jesus, in his Death and Resurrection, the long-awaited season of fulfillment had dawned.
Theologically, John was not breaking new ground. Though perhaps counterintuitive, the belief of the early church was that the predicted period known as the “last days” began with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, along with his reign on the messianic throne (Revelation 1:5 – “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth”).

This radical change in the era was evidenced above all by the resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all believers (e.g., Acts 2:16-21, Ephesians 1:10, Hebrews 1:1-3).

The events portrayed in the book of Revelation were set in motion in the first century. What was once expected in a remote future had begun. The warnings and promises of the book were already applicable to John and his first audience in Asia. This does not mean the visions of Revelation were fulfilled completely by the end of the first century. However, it does mean that whatever future events portrayed in the book began in the first century.

The vision that John received on the isle of Patmos concerned far more than the final few years of history just prior to the return of Jesus Christ. The “last days,” the "season of the end" began with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. The season of fulfillment has been underway ever since.

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