Revelation 1:1b: The Time is at Hand

[96 AD]  Verse 1:[1]  The Revelation of Jesus Christ, (John 3:32; 8:26; 12:49) which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which (Rev. 4:1; 1:3) must shortly come to pass; and (Rev. 22:16) he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John…

[What things, etc., ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει] What things it is necessary (namely, upon the supposition of the Divine decree and counsel [Pareus]) to be done (which I preferred to to happen: For God does not only explain what things are Future, but what things He Himself is going to do [Cotterius]: Therefore, he does not treat of past things, but of those things which either were happening at that time, or were going to be afterwards [Cluverus]; not concerning things ambiguous, uncertain [Ribera], confused, or doubtful, nor concerning future prognostications, what sort are of Devils, Astrologers, etc., but concerning the infallible and immutable decrees and judgments of God [Cluverus]) soon (Piscator, Beza, Pagnine,[1] Erasmus, Tigurinus, etc.), or, in, or with, speed (Montanus, Piscator). Question: How shall they be done quickly, since most things in the Apocalypse pertain unto the consummation of the world (Ribera, similarly Pererius, Lapide)? Response 1: To me these words appear to be a key, as it were, to this entire Prophecy, especially when they are repeated in Revelation 22:6, and the same is soon inculcated in verse 3, the time is near. And from those things I gather and confidently determine that the Apocalyptic Visions pertained to the times most nearly following, and that in them they had their fulfillment (Hammond). All things in the Apocalypse pertain, either, 1. to the destruction of Jerusalem; or, 2. to Pagan Rome (Grotius in More). But many things stand in the way of this opinion: 1. Concerning the first, Christ had already prophesied with consummate clarity previously. It is a vain fancy, therefore, that here so many Visions are spent on this event, and those so obscure that they are not even now able to be applied to known Events. Concerning the second, the Visions are sufficiently clear and distinct, that the six Seals pertain to Pagan Rome. And why, I ask, would not the vision be concerning the Empire after it was made Christian, and again was paganized under Christianity, and in this Apostasy most cruelly oppressed the members of Christ? Why might not also this state of things be predicted just as the prior (More’s Synchronistic Rationale of the Apocalyptic Visions 195)?  Certainly the scope of this book demonstrates that here it is treated concerning events about to happen, and specifically regarding the Church and servants of Christ, concerning the internal ills of the Church and its enemies, and especially concerning the coming great defection of the Church, concerning the state of the Church under those unto the end of the world; also concerning the last judgment and eternal rewards of the pious and punishments of the impious, as it is evident out of the most express words (Durham’s Commentary upon the Book of Revelation 786).  2.  Those matters were not able to be of the number of those things that were necessarily quickly to be done, for these were already passed; inasmuch as they were done before the time of Domitian, under which it is evident that the Apocalypse was communicated to John (More’s Works 764).  3.  This opinion is harsh and forced (More’s Works 764), novel and singular, and contrary to the judgment of all writers ancient and more recent, even of the Pontifical writers, who nevertheless heartily wish it to be true (Durham’s Commentary upon the Book of Revelation 786).  4.  It is also incompatible with the nature of certain events predicted, like the Reign of the Saints, and the Binding of Satan, which events are predicted to last through a thousand years (More’s Works 764).  5.  It is also inconsistent with their own Hypothesis (Durham).  For they are compelled to interpret certain things of the events as happening after the thousand years, like the loosing of Satan, the army of Gog and Magog, the siege of the beloved City, the fire sent down from heaven upon the besiegers, the Day of universal Judgment, and similar things (More’s Works 764).  They [Grotius and Hammond] take Gog and Magog concerning the Turks, who rise three hundred years after those things; and they say that the destruction of them, yet future, is there predicted (Durham).  [6.  That ἐν τάχει, quickly, they clear in a variey of ways:  He speaks thus:]  Either, 1.  so that he might snatch from us the depraved sense of the flesh, which imagines that the promises of the other life are always going to be giving ground before the former things, etc. (Cotterius):  or, 2. quickly, that is, in the present time (Ribera out of Haymo[2]); or, in the time of the New Testament (certain interpreters in Pareus, Ambrosius[3] in Pererius), which, compared with former times (Ambrose), with the future life (Gagnæus), with eternity, is most brief (Ribera, Pareus, etc.), Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8, whence it is also called the last hour, 1 John 2:18[4] (Pareus).  Now, thus the Holy Spirit speaks to shake off from men, both security, 1 Thessalonians 5:1, etc., and curiosity for seaching out the days and times, Acts 1:7, etc. (Glassius’[5] “Grammar” 3:5:9:444).  And this formula of speech is used both in the Old and New Testaments concerning the last day, which we yet await (Beza).  Or, 3.  that is to say, what things will begin quickly to be done, although they will not be finished quickly (Lapide, Menochius, Tirinus,[6] similarly Beza, Pererius, Pareus, More out of Alcasar, Glassius), for the entire series of events begins at that time (More’s Works 764). Although many things were very distant, nevertheless many things were near at hand (Pererius).  Those things are also said to be done which begin to be done (Pareus).  If I should say that such a Comedy is to be performed after the eighth part of the hour, who would thence infer that all its acts and scenes are not going to go beyond the fourth part of the hour (More’s Works 196)? What things will quickly be done, other things more quickly; the very latest things, with one or the other place excepted, within above five hundred years.  For this is exceedingly little in comparison with the amount of time in which the world has stood.  Thus in Haggai 2:6, we said that the yet a little time was five hundred years, ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι, things which must shortly come to pass, מָ֛ה דִּ֥י לֶהֱוֵ֖א, Daniel 2:29[7] (Grotius).  7.  These words are not to be extended to all the Prophecies of this book, but are to be restricted to chapters 1-3, whether unto the Epistles to the seven Churches, or unto the events contained in them, which he warns are going to happen quickly.  An Antithesis is also manifest between these words, ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει, things which must shortly come to pass, which are a preface to the things said in chapters 1-3, and those words in Revelation 4:1, ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι μετὰ ταῦτα, things which must come to pass after these things, which are in the place of a preface to the Prophecies exhibited in the following chapters (Anonymous 35).

Things which must shortly come to pass; ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει. This phrase puts us out of doubt, that this book is not a relation or narrative of things past, but a revelation or prediction of things to come: see also Revelation 22:6, 16. Which makes me wonder at the confidence of a learned annotator of our own, that all things here relate, either to the siege of Jerusalem (which was past more than twenty years before this Revelation to St. John,) or to pagan Rome, which, indeed, continued two hundred and odd years after this. But his notion is contrary to the general sense of all interpreters, whether the ancient fathers or modern writers. The phrase, indeed, signifies shortly, but never what was past, nor always what shall in a few days come to pass; see Luke 18:8;[8] Romans 16:20;[9] though indeed sometimes it signifies the time immediately following a command, as Acts 12:7;[10] 22:18:[11] and considering it is God’s phrase, to whom a thousand years are but as yesterday, Psalm 90:4, and who calls the things that are not as if they were, and who manifestly calls all those years betwixt Christ’s coming and the end of the world (almost one thousand seven hundred of which are past already) the last days, we may allow him to say, those things should be shortly, which soon after should begin to be effected, though not finished till Christ’s second coming. Though therefore we may allow this verse the key to open the whole Apocalypse, yet we must judge the learned author hath turned it the wrong way. Christ had foretold the ruin of Jerusalem, Matthew 24, nor was it now the matter of a prophecy, but history. The first six seals plainly show the state of the Christian church under Rome pagan; what shall we say to all things represented under the seventh seal, etc.?

[1] Pagnine (1466-1541) was an Italian Dominican.  He was gifted as a Hebraist, exegete, and preacher.  He was commissioned by Pope Leo X to produce a new Latin translation of the Scripture.

[2] Haymo of Auxerre (died c. 855) was a Benedictine monk.  Little is known about his life.  He wrote a commentary on Revelation in the Historicist tradition.

[3] This is likely a reference to Ambrosius Autpertus (died c. 778), the Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery of St. Vincent on the river Voltorno.  He wrote In Apocalypsim Libri Novem, Decem.

[4] 1 John 2:18:  “Little children, it is the last hour (ἐσχάτη ὥρα): and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour (ἐσχάτη ὥρα).”

[5] Solomon Glassius (1593-1656) was a German Lutheran divine and critic.  He was Professor of Divinity at the University of Jena.  His Philologia Sacra was a groundbreaking work in Biblical Hebrew.

[6] James Tirinus (1580-1636) was a Flemish Jesuit priest.  His abilities as a commentator are displayed in his Commentaria in Sacram Scripturam.

[7] Daniel 2:29:  “As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter (מָ֛ה דִּ֥י לֶהֱוֵ֖א אַחֲרֵ֣י דְנָ֑ה; πάντα ὅσα δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐπ᾽ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν, however many things it was necessary to come to pass in the last days, in the Septuagint; τί δεῖ γενέσθαι μετὰ ταῦτα, what it was necessary to come to pass hereafter, in Theodotion):  and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass (מָה־דִ֥י לֶהֱוֵֽא׃; ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι, in the Septuagint and Theodotion).”

[8] Luke 18:8:  “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily (ἐν τάχει).  Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

[9] Romans 16:20:  “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly (ἐν τάχει).  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  Amen.”

[10] Acts 12:7:  “And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison:  and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly (ἐν τάχει).  And his chains fell off from his hands.”

[11] Acts 22:18:  “And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly (ἐν τάχει) out of Jerusalem:  for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.”

[1] Greek: Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἣν ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ ὁ Θεὸς δεῖξαι τοῖς δούλοις αὐτοῦ, ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει, καὶ ἐσήμανεν ἀποστείλας διὰ τοῦ ἀγγέλου αὐτοῦ τῷ δούλῳ αὐτοῦ Ἰωάννῃ…

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