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Explore the significance of the ingressive aorist in Biblical Greek and its prophetic assurance in “Future Glimpses: Unveiling the Ingressive Aorist of Divine Reign.” Understand how a single verb form in the New Testament encapsulates the anticipation and fulfillment of God’s eternal kingdom. There will be a tiny bit of reiteration in this brief article. This approach not only explains the technical aspects of the Greek language but also provides a deeper understanding of the theological implications within the text, creating a bridge between scholarly insight and the anticipation of the believer.
Revelation 11:16-17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying,
“We give thanks to you, Lord God, the Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
It’s important to break down complex concepts into more digestible pieces for clarity. In the New Testament, there’s a verb form, ἐβασίλευσας (ebasileusas), which translates to “have begun to reign.” This verb is in the aorist tense, which, in this context, has a special flavor—it’s what we call ingressive, and it’s also used proleptically.
In the tapestry of biblical language, every thread, every tense, and every verb form is a crucial part of the larger picture. Today, we’re drawing back the curtain on one particularly fascinating Greek verb form found in the New Testament: ἐβασίλευσας (ebasileusas), or “have begun to reign.” This verb carries with it not just action but a sense of time and anticipation that bridges the past, present, and future in a remarkable way.
The Ingress of a Divine Dynasty
Let’s unpack these terms. Ingressive means that the action is just beginning. It’s like saying, “The show has started,” where the focus is on the kickoff of the event. Now, when we say it’s used proleptically, we’re talking about a neat storytelling technique where the writer speaks of an event as if it has already happened, even though it’s still future. It’s like a flash-forward in a movie where you see a glimpse of something that’s going to happen before the story gets there.
In this scenario, the “singers” (presumably in a biblical vision or prophecy) are looking forward to a time when God’s reign has started and casting their perspective back to the beginning of that reign from the future. This moment of beginning to reign is marked by God showing His power over all opposing forces.
At first glance, ἐβασίλευσας seems straightforward—it marks the beginning of a reign. But, like the opening act of a play, it sets the stage for a story that’s about to unfold in its full splendor. This isn’t just any commencement; it’s the ingress of God’s kingdom—a momentous event that the biblical narrative points toward with eager expectation.
Time Traveling in Text: Proleptic Aorist
But the narrative doesn’t just stay in the moment. Instead, it takes a leap forward, employing what we call a “proleptic aorist.” This is where the story gets thrilling, as the narrative voice jumps ahead in time, looking back at the start of the reign from a future standpoint. It’s as though the biblical authors are employing a flash-forward technique, allowing us to witness the dawn of God’s rule as a ‘done deal,’ even before history catches up.
A Kingdom Established, Not Just Expected
There’s a scholarly debate about when this reigning starts. Some suggest it’s symbolic of the church’s age after the year 70 C.E., linking it to the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem. However, this interpretation is said to be too allegorical, meaning it takes the text and applies a symbolic meaning that the original writer may not have intended. In other words, this view stretches the text to fit an idea, which is a bit like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole—it doesn’t naturally fit without forcing it.
Scholars like Ladd, Kiddle, Thomas, and Beasley-Murray argue against this allegorical reading, insisting that the text should be understood more straightforwardly. They suggest that it’s not about the church age but about a literal, future establishment of God’s reign, one that visibly overthrows all opposition, not just a symbolic or spiritual victory tied to a historical event like the fall of Jerusalem.
Beyond Allegory: The Case for a Literal Interpretation
These scholars argue for a more literal interpretation—a tangible establishment of God’s kingdom, complete with a visible triumph over opposing powers. It’s not a hidden spiritual metaphor but a real, concrete future event that the verb anticipates with certainty. It’s the difference between reading between the lines and reading the lines themselves.
ON THIS VERSE, Dr. Robert L. Thomas writes in his two-volume exegetical commentary on Revelation.
The aorist of ἐβασίλευσας (ebasileusas, “[have] begun to reign”) is ingressive as well as proleptic. From a future vantage point when the reign will have begun, the singers look back to the reign’s starting point. This is none other than the visible establishment of God’s reign over hostile powers through the vanquishing of all hostile powers (Ladd, Kiddle, Beasley-Murray). The effort to equate this reign with the church age following A.D. 70 and to say that the events of 11:18 are those leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in that year rests on an extremely allegorical treatment which finds no justification in the text itself. — Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1995), 109.
In the realm of biblical exegesis, the aorist tense of ἐβασίλευσας is more than a grammatical curiosity; it’s a portal to understanding the narrative hope and eschatological promise that permeates the New Testament. As we dissect these ancient words, we catch a glimpse of the eternal, where time bends at the will of the divine narrative, and God’s ultimate reign is not just foretold but foreseen.