Revelation 1:19: An Eschatologically Escalated Prophetic Convention -- By: Christopher R. Smith

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 33:4 (Dec 1990)
Article: Revelation 1:19: An Eschatologically Escalated Prophetic Convention
Author: Christopher R. Smith

Revelation 1:19: An Eschatologically Escalated Prophetic Convention

Christopher R. Smith*

Many commentators consider Rev 1:19—”Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later”—to provide a structural summary for the book. R. H. Charles, for example, believes that

these words summarize roughly the contents of the Book. The ha eides is the vision of the Son of Man just vouchsafed to the Seer; ha eisin refers directly to the present condition of the Church as shown in chaps. ii-iii., and indirectly to that of the world in general; ha rnellei ginesthai meta tauta to the visions from chap. iv. onwards.1

If Revelation is indeed assumed to have such a three-part structure, this interpretation is certainly plausible, especially in light of the parallel between 1:19c and 4:1. The latter verse, which marks the opening of the book’s apocalyptic section, reads: “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” There is only a minor variation between “what will take place” (ha mellei genesthai, 1:19) and “what must take place” (ha dei genesthai, 4:1), and the same phrase, meta tauta (“after this”), is used at the end of each verse.

All of this notwithstanding, however, it must be questioned whether this is how Revelation’s original audience would have interpreted 1:19. The parallel to 4:1 is only one of several with other verses in the book. An examination of each of these suggests that while 1:19 may function effectively as an outline of John’s Apocalypse, the author’s original concern in this verse was to assert the divine inspiration of his work and specifically its superiority to contemporary pagan prophecies, customarily attested with similar formulae as a guide to the future and the will of God.

I. Danielic Allusions And The Eschatological
Insight Of The True Prophet

As Gregory K. Beale has demonstrated,2 Rev 1:19 is actually one of a group of verses providing structure to the book by echoing the themes and

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