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The Eschatological Time Texts in James

By:  Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2008


1) “In this manner be speaking and in this manner be doing, namely, as those who are about to be judged by a law of liberty, for the judgment will be without mercy to the person who did not show mercy; mercy exults in triumph over judgment” (Jms. 2:12).

Within the context of that imminent judgment, James wrote that if his first-century audience would persevere they would receive “the crown of life” promised by the Lord (Jms.1:12). The promise of receiving such a reward can be extracted from His words in Mt.16:27-28 and Rev. 2:12. This is just another exegetical argument proving that the book of Revelation was written before A.D.70. This and many other internal arguments Strimple and Kistemaker are unwilling to acknowledge. James would be one of those first-century disciples Jesus said would “taste of death” before His about-to-be coming on the clouds to reward every man.  

According to Josephus, James was martyred around A.D.61-62. Kenneth Gentry uses the testimony of Josephus and what the earlier church fathers had to say of his martyrdom to support an early date for the book of Revelation.  In reference to Hegesippus and then Origen, Gentry’s research indicates the following, 

“We have preserved in the fragments of his Commentaries on the Acts a record of the martyrdom of James the Just by the Jews, in which he says: ‘And so he suffered martyrdom; and they buried him on the spot, and the pillar erected to his memory still remains, close by the Temple. This man was a true witness to both Jews and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ. . . And shortly after that Vespasian besieged Judaea, taking them captive’ He ties in the persecution of Christ’s apostle James to the destruction of Jerusalem.”[1] 


And of Origen’s testimony concerning the death of James and the fall of Jerusalem: 

“Now in these it is recorded, that ‘when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed about with armies, then shall ye know that the desolation thereof is nigh.’ But at that time there were no armies around Jerusalem, encompassing and enclosing and besieging it; for the siege began in the reign of Nero, and lasted till the government of Vespasian, whose son Titus destroyed Jerusalem, on account, as Josephus says, of James the Just, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, but in reality, as the truth makes clear, on account of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”


 Church History confirms James’ confession of an imminent second coming of Jesus in judgment: ”Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History Chapter XXIII) This serves to introduce our next inspired time text.  

2)  “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” (Jms. 5:7-9)

Once again we find Mathison waffling on a clear New-Testament time text (WSTTB?, p. 201). However, Mathison’s co-author Kenneth Gentry, along with another postmillennial partial preterist Gary DeMar, are not so vague and do apply this time text to A.D.70 and not to the end of world history.


 The rich persecuting the poor among Israel in her “last days” can be found in such passages as Deut.32; Isa.1-5; 24-28. It was also a violation of the law to withhold money from your poorer brethren who worked for you Deut.24:15; Jer.22:13; Mal.3:5; Lk.10:7; 1Tim.5:8. Since these poor Christian brethren had been missing out on their labors and since those for whom they worked took advantage of them and profited from them, especially at harvest time, James uses this imagery to describe what is “about to” happen at God’s harvest/judgment. 

The time for the early and later rains of Israel’s harvest had come Deut.11:14; Jer.5:24; Hos.6:3. The poor were going to reap their eternal rewards and the wicked were going to reap death and an eternal, fiery judgment. James was in effect reminding them of Jesus’ teaching concerning the judgment of the wheat and tares that would come at the end of the old-covenant age Mt.13:39-43. As God had dealt with the rich and wicked who had persecuted their poorer brethren in the past in Israel and had giving the land rest for 70 years in the Babylonian captivity, so they could be assured that the “Lord of the Sabbath” would act justly in their defense. This cry for help and the exhortations to be patient in waiting for God’s imminent judgment, vindication and rewarding is identical to the motifs and time frame of Rev.6:9-11; 22:12.    

As stated earlier, the exegete should not miss the parallels both internally in James and between James and other New-Testament texts. We began with the reception of the “crown of life” in James and Revelation Jms.1:12/Rev.2:10; 3:10-12; 22:12. Now let’s develop some more. The imminent coming and judgment included the resurrection/harvest motif – the “firstfruits” (Jms.1:18; Rev.7 & Rev.14). Some other analogy of Scripture parallels can be found in the Olivet Discourse.  

We have identified the “gathering” of Mt.24:30-31 as the resurrection harvest to occur at the end of Israel’s old-covenant age. Another parallel can be seen in Mt.24:27 as Christ the Sun/Son of righteousness comes as one rising from the east to the west (the imagery is the sun, not lightning). James apparently sees the second coming in judgment upon the wicked as the sun rising with a burning heat that will wither and burn up the wicked (Jms.1:11; 5:3).  

James also uses the same Greek word eggizo – “to draw near” or “be at hand” in 5:8 that John the Baptist and Jesus used to describe the “not yet” of the kingdom consummation / harvest / gathering / resurrection / redemption in their generation (Mt.3:2; 10-12; 21:34; Lk.21:28-32).  

The last parallel is James’ declaration, “…the Judge is standing at the door!” (Jms. 5:9) with Jesus’ promise in Mt.24:32-33: “…when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near even at the doors.” 

When we allow the flow and context of James 1–5 to interpret itself and allow the book to be interpreted with the rest of the New Testament, we see that it does not teach “a” minor coming of Christ in A.D.70. The truth that we have discovered is that the about-to-be and at-hand judgment and coming of Christ in this epistle is associated with the receiving of the reward of the new-creation “crown of life.” The harvest and resurrection motif inherent in the “firstfruits” is contextually connected to these themes. James’ imminent time frame for the resurrection of the “firstfruits” in his epistle is no different than Paul’s “firstfruits” in 1Cor.15 and John’s in Rev.7 & 14.  

Before leaving this epistle, I again point out that the realm of redemption and salvation is in the saving of the “soul” (Jms.1:21). We have found this everywhere in the New Testament – “in” “within” “soul” “mind” “conscience” and “heart.” This is the spiritual realm of the new covenant. It is into that realm that the “kingdom of heaven” came, in order to build up, established and transform the Church. Therefore, the timing issue is in perfect harmony with the spiritual nature of fulfillment issue in every New Testament document we have examined thus far.

[1] Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., BEFORE JERUSALEM FELL Dating the Book of Revelation, ibid., p.190.

[2] Genrry, ibid., pp.350-351, bold emphasis added. 

[3] Gentry, FOUR VIEWS ON THE BOOK OF REVELATION, pp. 43, 89, ibid. DeMar, LAST DAYS MADNESS, pp. 30-31, 314, 316, 318, 323, ibid. 

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Mike Sullivan