Dwight D. Sheets, an expert in the area of Jewish and early Christian apocalyptic literature, says that the book of Revelation, the Apocalypse, “exhibits a strong sense of imminence” that is often ignored or explained metaphorically.
According to Sheets, John believed that Jesus would return soon, and that the nearness of his return was not a peripheral issue in the Apocalypse. Sheets adds, “The warning of Jesus’ return occurs three times in chapter 1 (Rev 1:1, 3, 9) and five times in chapter 22 (Rev 22:6, 7, 10, 12, 20), effectively bracketing the message of the book.”
And more to the background and danger these early believers faced, which were imminent, Sheets continues,
“The lure of the Roman system, the rise, popularity and threat of the emperor cult and the accommodation of believers to the system could easily fit within early Christian traditional eschatological expectations. John may have interpreted these events as fulfillments of prophecy, a phenomenon that has a significant role in the rise of apocalyptic expression. It indicated to John that Jesus’ return was near. If John’s concerns are chiefly eschatological, it becomes more difficult to assume that Revelation is a paradigmatic program of resistance to empires. Revelation becomes primarily a warning to the churches that Jesus was coming soon and that participating with Rome would disqualify them from participating in the kingdom of God.” (Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not, pp. 199-200)
It is precisely because of this imminence of Christ return to the original readers and what such meant to their historical situation why I eventually ditched Dispensationalism for Amillennialism (see this post).
In other words, “The nearness of [Christ] return was not a peripheral issue in the Apocalypse.” It doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room.