"Prolepsis" Used in Revelation

Lewis Willis
Amarillo, Texas

For some reason I suspect "prolepsis" is a new term to many. Some might wonder if they had "prolepsis" for breakfast. Hardly! I was introduced to "prolepsis" as a means of revelation in Sermon Outlines On Acts, by C. C. Crawford, published in 1919. Webster defines "prolepsis" as "anticipation." A failure to recognize this approach to revelation is the , explanation for the existence of a modern denomination we know as the Seventh Day Adventists. In this article I am seeking to show the presence of prolepsis in revelation, so that specific application of its force might be realized.

Some Examples

When Eve was created, "Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living" (Gen. 3:20). However, at that moment in time only Adam and Eve comprised the race. It would be some time before she mothered the first person in perpetuation of man upon the earth. So, in anticipation (prolepsis) of that fact, Moses reveals her relation to future descendants. There was a time differential involved.

Matthew 10:2-4 is another case of prolepsis. "And Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him . . . ." Matthew wrote his record of the Gospel over thirty years after the calling of the twelve apostles. In this passage, he connects the sending out of Judas and the betrayal of Christ by Judas in one passage, as if the two events happened at the same time. In reality, they happened three years apart. In anticipation (prolepsis) of his betrayal of Christ, Matthew tells us of the ultimate end of Judas' acts (Crawford, p. 208).


Now, here is the point I wish to make. In Gen. 2:2-3, Moses reveals that God ended His work of creation and rested on the seventh day. "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it . . ." The conclusion of the modern Sabbatarian is that the resting and the sanctifying occurred at the same time. This simply is not so! From the time of God's rest day, to the sanctification of the Sabbath, centuries passed. If this were all we knew about the consecration of the Sabbath, people in 1976 would be bound by the Scriptures to faithfully observe that day, instead of the first day of the week. However, Moses, who gave us the Genesis 2 revelation (many years after the event, incidentally), also reveals to us when the Sabbath was sanctified and for whom.

Nehemiah, the prophet, said that God came down to Mt. Sinai and inadest known unto them thy holy Sabbath" (Neh. 9:13-14). It was on this occasion that the Ten Commandments were given, one of which is "Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy." When He said remember the Sabbath, it is apparent that they had some knowledge of the day. Where did that knowledge come from? Why would the Jews in Exodus 20 have occasion to remember this day? Is that remembrance traceable to Genesis 2?

The first introduction the Jews had to the Sabbath was only a few weeks earlier (Exod. 16). When they murmured for food, God sent manna from Heaven to provide their need. At that time, He also gave exact instructions concerning gathering of the manna in anticipation of "the holy sabbath" (Exod. 16:23). In this context, we see at a glance that they knew nothing about the Sabbath, for with the explanation Moses gave them, some still did not understand how God intended it as a Jewish day of rest. When finally reaching Mt. Sinai, God gave them the law of the Sabbath, written on tables of stone. This positive, written law was their guide throughout their generations. It was needed because they knew nothing about the day till then!

In Deuteronomy, the restatement of the Law, Moses pointed out that this law was not given to their fathers, but to those to whom he was then speaking (Deut. 5:13). The purpose of the Sabbath was that they might remember their Egyptian bondage and their deliverance therefrom "through the mighty hand and stretched out arm" of God. Hence, as it was to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from bondage, it has no meaning whatsoever to those of us who are Gentiles (Dent. 5:15). Thus, Moses assures them that the Sabbath was a sign between the Lord and one nation-the Jews (Exod. 31:12-17).

In Hosea 2:11, God said that He would cause Israel's Sabbath to cease. There would come a time when men would not be bound by the Sabbath Law. But when was this done? Quite simply, the Sabbath and all the rest of the Jewish law came to its conclusion when Jesus Christ died and nailed the law to the cross (Col. 2:13-17).


Therefore, when Moses revealed that the creation ended, and that God rested on the seventh day, and sanctified it, he referred to the time lapse between creation and the events of Mt. Sinai. He anticipated the conclusion of the matter. This is an example of prolepsis. It is precisely the same as when God announced, in driving man from the Garden of Eden, that the seed of woman would bruise the serpent's head. It was four thousand years later before Christ overthrew the power of Satan in His resurrection from the dead (Gen. 3:15; Matt. 28:lff). "Prolepsis" has been used by the Divine Writers throughout the giving of the Biblical record.

Truth Magazine XXI; 29, p. 461
July 28, 1977