Has Bible Prophecy Already Been Fulfilled?-Part 7

By: Dr. Thomas Ice; ©1999
This article focuses on the translation of the Greek word “tachos” and its related family of words. Do they mean “soon” or “quickly”? The answer helps explain the beliefs of those who hold the preterist view.

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Has Bible Prophecy Already Been Fulfilled? Part VII

We are beginning to see in this series of articles that the current error known as preterism is based upon the misinterpretations of a few key passages. While Matthew 24:34 and the phrase “this generation” is their central passage, their dependence upon the so-called “time text” of Revelation become important in their attempts to “preterize” most of end-time Bible prophecy. Thus, the terms “quickly” and “near” become the basis for their insistence that the Book of Revelation was fulfilled in the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem. In this article, I will deal with “quickly,” while the next issue will deal with “near.”

“Quickly”–How or When?

What Bible verses do preterists appeal to in an effort to support their understanding of Revelation? “One of the most helpful interpretive clues in Revelation is . . . the contempo­rary expectation of the author regarding the fulfillment of the prophecies. John clearly expects the soon fulfillment of his prophecy,”[1] says Dr. Ken Gentry. I hope to show that these terms are more properly interpreted as qualitative indicators describing how Christ will return. How will He return? It will be “quickly” or “suddenly.”

A form of the Greek word for “quickly” (tachos) is used eight times in Revelation(1:1; 2:16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:6, 7, 12, 20). Tachos and its family of related words can be used to mean “soon” or “shortly” as preterists believe (re-lating to time), or it can be used to mean “quickly” or “suddenly” as many futurists contend (manner in which action occurs). The tachos family is attested in the Bible as referring to both possibilities. On the one hand, 1 Timothy 3:14 is a timing passage, “I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long.” On the other hand, Acts 22:18 is descriptive of the manner in which the action takes place, “and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.”’

The “timing interpretation” of the preterists teaches that the tachos word family used in Revelation (1:1; 2:16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:6, 7, 12, 20) means that Christ came in judgment upon Israel through the Roman army in events surrounding the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem. But how would the “manner interpretation” of the futurist understand the use of the tachos family in Revelation? Futurist John Walvoord explains:

That which Daniel declared would occur ‘’in the latter days” is here described as “shortly” (Gr., en tachei), that is, “quickly or suddenly coming to pass,” indicating rapidity of execution after the beginning takes place. The idea is not that the event may occur soon, but that when it does, it will be sudden (cf. Luke 18:8; Acts 12:7; 22:18; 25:4; Rom. 16:20). A similar word, tachys, is translated “quickly” seven times in Revelation (2:5, 16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20)[2]

Dr. Gentry is correct to note universal agreement among lexicons as to the general meaning of the tachos word family,[3] but these lexicographers generally do not support the preterist interpretation. Dr. Gentry’s presentation of the lexical evidence is skewed and thus his conclusions are faulty in his effort to support a preterist interpretation of the tachos word family. We now turn to an examination of how the tachos word family is used in Revelation.

Support for the Futurist Interpretation

1. The lexical use.

The leading Greek Lexicon in our day is Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich(BAG),[4] which lists the following definitions for tachos: “speed, quickness, swiftness, haste” (p. 814). The two times that this noun appears in Revelation (1:1; 22:6), it is coupled with the preposition en, causing this phrase to function grammatically as an adverb revealing to us the “sudden” manner in which these events will take place.[5] They will occur “swiftly.” The other word in the tachos family used in Revelation as an adverb is tachus, which all six times occurs with the verb erchomai, “to come” (2:16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20). BAG gives as its meaning “quick, swift, speedy” (p. 814) and specifically classifies all six uses in Rev­elation as meaning “without delay, quickly, at once” (p. 815). Thus, contrary to the timing assumption of preterists like Gary DeMar and Dr. Gentry, who take every occurrence as a reference to timing, BAG (the other lexicons also agree) recommends a translation descrip­tive of the manner in which things will happen (Rev. 2:16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20).

A descriptive use of tachos is also supported by the more than 60 times it is cited as the prefix making up a compound word according to the mother of all Greek Lexicons, Liddell and Scott (p. 1762). G. H. Lang gives the following example:

Tachy does not mean soon but swiftly. It indicates rapidity of action, as is well seen in its accurate use in the medical compound tachycardia (tachy and kardia—the heart), which does not mean that the heart will beat soon, but that it is beating rapidly. Of course, the swift action may take place at the very same time, as in Matt. 28:7-8: “Go quickly and tell His disciples… and they departed quickly from the tomb” but the thought is not that they did not loiter but that their movement was swift. Thus here also. If the Lord be regarded as speaking in the day when John lived, then He did not mean that He was returning soon, but swiftly and suddenly whenever the time should have arrived… it is the swiftness of His move­ment that the word emphasizes.[6]

2. The grammatical use.

Just as BAG is the leading lexicon in our day, the most authorita­tive Greek grammar is one produced by Blass, Debrunner, and Funk (Blass-Debrunner).[7] Blass-Debrunner, in their section on adverbs, divides them into four categories: 1) adverbs of manner, 2) adverbs of place, 3) adverbs of time, 4) correlative adverbs (pp. 55-57). The tachos family is used as the major example under the classification of “adverbs of manner.” No ex­ample from the tachos family is listed under “adverbs of time.” In a related citation, Blass­-Debrunner classify en tachei as an example of “manner,” Luke 18:8 (p. 118). Greek scholar Nigel Turner also supports this adverbial sense as meaning “quickly.”[8]

Not only is there a preponderance of lexical support for understanding the tachos family as including the notion of “quickly” or “suddenly,” there is the further support that all the occurrences in Revelation are adverbs of manner. These terms are not descriptive of when the events will occur and our Lord will come, but rather, descriptive of the manner in which they will take place when they do occur. These adverbial phrases in Revelation can more accurately be translated “with swiftness, quickly, all at once, in a rapid pace [when it takes place].”[9]

3. The Old Testament (LXX) use.

It is significant to note that the Septuagint uses tachos in passages which even by the most conservative estimations could not have oc­curred for hundreds, even thousands of years. For example, Isaiah 13:22 says, “. . . Her (Israel) fateful time also will soon come. . .” This was written around 700 B.C. foretelling the destruction of Babylon which occurred in 539 B.C. Similarly, Isaiah 5:26 speaks of the manner, not the time frame, by which the Assyrian invasion of lsrael “will come with speed swiftly.” Isaiah 51:5 says, “My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, and My arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands will wait for Me, and for My arm they will wait expectantly.” This passage probably will be fulfilled in the millennium, but no interpreter would place it sooner than Christ’s first coming, at least 700 years after it was given. Isaiah 58:8 speaks of Israel’s recovery as “speedily spring(ing) forth.” If it is a “timing passage,” then the earliest it could have happened is 700 years later, but most likely it has yet to occur. Many other citations in the Septuagint from the tachos family can be noted in sup­port of the futurist interpretation of the usage in Revelation.

4. The date of Revelation.

Dr. Gentry, followed by almost all preterists, have to date the writing of Revelation before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. I think this is a very weak view that I will deal with in a future article.

5. A “timing” interpretation would require an A.D. 70 fulfillment of the entire book of Revelation.

Revelation 22:6, “And he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true’; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-ser­vants the things which must shortly (tachos) take place.” This is passage #6 from Gary DeMar’s list of “time indicators” for Revelation as noted above. However, Dr. Gentry cites Revelation 20:7-9 as a reference to the yet future second coming.[10] This creates a contra­diction within Gentry’s brand of preterism. Since Revelation 22:6 is a statement referring to the whole book of Revelation, it would be impossible to take tachos as a reference to A.D. 70 (as Dr. Gentry does) and at the same time hold that Revelation 20:7-9 teaches the Second Coming. Gentry must either adopt a view similar to futurism or shift to the extreme preterist view that understands the entire book of Revelation as past history and thus eliminating any future second coming and resurrection.

Conclusion

Like many of the arguments presented by preterists, they appear to have some initial merit when looked at by the biblically uneducated, but upon closer examination prove to be without merit. In my next article, I will deal with their equally errant argument that the use of “near” in Revelation argues for a first century fulfillment.

Notes

  1. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), p. 133.
  2. John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), p. 35.
  3. Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 38.
  4. WaIter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Litera­ture, a translation and adaptation by William F. Arndt & F. Wilbur Gingrich (Chicago: The Univer­sity of Chicago Press, 1957).
  5. Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament (Chattanooga, Tenn.: AMG Publishers, 1992), s.v. 5034, p. 1369.
  6. G. H. Lang, The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Selected Studies (Miami Springs, Fl.: Conley & Schoettle Publishing Co., 1945,1985), pp. 387-88.
  7. F. Blass & A. Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, translated and revised by Robert W. Funk (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961).
  8. Nigel Turner, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, ed. by James H. Moulton, Vol.111, Syntax (Edinburgh: T. &T. Clark, 1963), p. 252.
  9. Mal Couch, Unpublished notes on Revelation, n.d., s.v. Rev. 1:1.
  10. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), pp. 254; 276; 418.

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