Future Indicative: The Progressive Future


(1) The Progressive Future affirms that an action will be in progress in future time.

Phil. 1:18; καὶ ἐν τούτῳ χαίρω ἀλλὰ καὶ χαρήσομαι, and therein I rejoice, yea, and will [continue to] rejoice. See also Rom. 6:2; Phil. 1:6; Rev. 9:6.

(2) It may be doubted whether any of the distinctions indicated by the subdivisions of the Predictive Future are justified from the point of view of pure grammar. It is probable, rather, that the tense in all these cases makes precisely the same affirmation respecting the event, viz, that it will take place; and that it is the context only that conveys the distinctions referred to. These distinctions, however, are real distinctions either of fact or of thought, and such, moreover, that the writer must in most cases have had them in mind when speaking of the facts. From the exegetical point of view, therefore, the distinctions are both justified and necessary, since they represent differences of thought in the mind of the writer to be interpreted. The terms employed above are convenient terms to represent these distinctions of thought, and it is to the interpreter a matter of secondary importance whether the distinction in question is by his writer immediately connected with the tense of the verb.

(3) Since the Aoristic Future is less definite respecting progress than the Progressive Future, the latter predicting the act as continuing, the former making no assertion, it is evident that any instance of the Predictive Future not clearly progressive must be accounted as aoristic. If the writer did not conceive the act or event as continuing, he left it in his own mind and for the reader undefined as respects progress, hence aoristic. Whether he left it thus undefined in his mind must of course be determined, if at all, from the context, there being no difference of form between a Progressive and an Aoristic Future. It should be noticed that it is not enough to show that an act will be in fact continued, in order to count the verb which predicts it a Progressive Future; it must appear that the writer thought of it as continuing. Every Future form is therefore by presumption aoristic. It can be accounted progressive only on evidence that the writer thought of the act as continued.

REMARK. There is one exception to this principle. In verbs of effort a Progressive Future is naturally like other Progressive forms, a conative tense. An Aoristic Future of such a verb is like the Aorist, a resultative tense. Since the latter is the larger meaning, the context must give the evidence of this larger meaning, and such evidence failing, it cannot be considered established that the verb is resultative. The verb in John 12:32 furnishes an interesting and important illustration. Since the verb denotes effort, the Future will naturally be accounted conative if it is judged to be progressive, and resultative if it is taken as aoristic. In the latter case the meaning will be, I will by my attraction bring all men to me. In the former case the words will mean, I will exert on all men an attractive influence.

(4) To decide whether a given Aoristic Future merely predicts the fact, or refers to the inception of the action, or has reference to it as a thing accomplished, must again be determined by the context or the meaning of the word. The distinction between the indefinite and the resultative senses will often be very difficult to make, and indeed the difference of thought will be but slight. Here also it results from the nature of the distinction between the indefinite use and the other two, inceptive and resultative, that any instance of the Aoristic Future not clearly inceptive or resultative must be accounted indefinite. In other words, if the writer did not define the action to his own mind as inceptive or resultative, he left it indefinite, a mere fact.

(5) The distinction between momentary, comprehensive, and collective is in respect to the Future tense, as in respect to the Aorist, a distinction which primarily has reference to the facts referred to and only secondarily to the writer’s conception of the facts. There may easily occur instances which will defy classification at this point. A writer may predict an event not only without at the moment thinking whether it is to be a single deed or a series of deeds, a momentary or an extended action, but even without knowing. Thus the sentence, He will destroy his enemies, may be uttered by one who has confidence that the person referred to will in some way destroy his enemies, without at all knowing whether he will destroy them one by one, or all at once, and whether by some long-continued process, or by one exterminating blow. In such cases the verb can only be accounted as an Aoristic Future, incapable of further classification.

(6) From a different point of view from that of the above classification, the instances of the Predictive Future might be classified as (a) assertive, and (b) promissory. The distinction between the assertion that an event will take place and the promise that it shall take place is difficult to make, requiring delicate discrimination, but is often important for purposes of interpretation. It is in general not indicated in Greek, and its representation in English is complicated by the varied uses of the auxiliary verbs shall and will. In general it may be said that in principal clauses shall is in the first person simply assertive, will is promissory; in the second and third person will is assertive, shall is promissory, imperative, or solemnly predictive.

R..V. employs shall almost constantly in the second and third person, in most cases probably intending it as solemnly predictive.

Matt. 10:42; ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ ἀπολέσῃ τὸν μισθὸν αὐτοῦ, verily I say unto you, he shall by no means lose his reward.

Mark 11:31; ἐὰν εἴπωμεν Ἐξ οὐρανοῦ, ἐρεῖ, if we say, From heaven, he will say.

Luke 22:61; Πρὶν ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι σήμερον ἀπαρνήσῃ με τρίς, before the cock crow this day, thou shalt deny me thrice. See also Matt. 11:28, 29; 12:31; John 16:7, 13.

(7) A Predictive Future is sometimes made emphatically negative by the use of the negative οὐ μὴ. Matt. 16:22; 26:35; Mark 14:31 (Tisch. Subjunctive); cf. The Subjunctive in Negative Assertions.


This entry was posted in Grammar and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.