Revelation 1:1 – The Things to Come Shortly

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The opening statement of the book of Revelation indicates that it deals with certain things that “must shortly come to pass.”

Some have misunderstood this language and concluded that the entire book of prophecy was soon to be fulfilled – including events like the Second Coming of Christ (19:11-16), and the Day of judgment (20:11-15). Such a theory is grossly erroneous.

The Greek expression for “shortly” (en tachei) has at least two possible meanings.

First, it can denote chronological nearness (cf. Acts 25:4). Even when it has reference to time, though, in prophetic literature it can be used in an extremely relative sense. Leon Morris observes that “in the prophetic perspective the future is sometimes foreshortened. In other words the word may refer primarily to the certainty of the events in question” (The Revelation of St. John, p. 45).

It is possible that the reference may simply denote that the things foretold in this book would commence (though not complete) their unfolding in the near future.

Second, en tachei can mean “quickly, speedily” (cf. Luke 18:8; Acts 12:7). This would suggest that the events – whenever they transpire, near or distant – would occur without delay, suddenly.

It is thus a serious mistake to make the prophetic time frame of the book of Revelation hinge on this solitary expression.

Underline “shortly,” and note: Term can refer to speed, rather than time; see Acts 12:7; Luke 18:8.