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The Book of Revelation has variously been described as so mysterious that it simply cannot be understood. But this has not stopped some from speculating about what its symbolims means. Such speculation is based on the assumption that the Book of Revelation is uniquely symbolic. But what are the implications of the idea that Revelation is written with consistent Biblical symbolism in how we understand its message?

In fact, it can be shown that the Book of Revelation is saturated in Old Testament imagery and symbolism. Understanding this should help us to avoid abusing this profound Book with ridiculous speculation that forces such contemporary events as the European Union, the United States, modern Iran, and computer technology into the text.

The United States of America is not mentioned or even referred to in the Book of Revelation!

Speculating about USA in the Book o RevelationTo suggest that contemporary events or nations are referred to in Revelation is to disregard the plain statements of the Book itself. No amount of symbolic appeal can be reasonably or (Biblically) used to make the USA foretold in the Book of Revelation. The opening verses of Revelation plainly state when its message is for.

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
Revelation 1:1

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
Revelation 1:3 

The opening verses also plainly state whothe intended (original) audience is and therefore who the message affects-

¶ John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Revelation 1:4 

The Book of Revelation then unfolds along these two parameters: its events were immediate and somewhat local. But it becomes immediately obvious within the first chapter that the language of the Book of Revelation is the language of the Old Testament. For the First Century (original) readers it would have been like taking an exam and experiencing that most unusual emotion of relief that only comes from when you actually know the answers to every question on the exam! The opening verses take some of the most obvious Old Covenant language and symbolism and immediately apply it to its Christian audience. For example-

and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 1:6

Is a citation and adaptation of-

and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
Exodus 19:6 

Then the next verse of Revelation 1 is often eisegetically made to mean that Jesus is a pseudo-space-traveller-

Behold, he is coming with the clouds
Revelation 1:7

Unlike the way this expression has generally come to be understood, the various expressions of the Lord coming with clouds in the Old Covenant indicates God ending something. In Exodus, the expression is used to mark an end to Israel’s slavery and the beginning of something else (the ‘Mosaic’ Covenant) –

And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud…”
Exodus 19:9

In Isaiah 19 the expression is used to mark an end to the Egyptian Empire –

¶ An oracle concerning Egypt.
Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
Isaiah 19:1

Sometimes the Old Covenant conveys the same idea of Lord ending something by judging without referring to clouds –

Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
First Chronicles 16:33

before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
Psalm 96:13

before the LORD, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.
Psalm 98:9

The original audience who would have been familiar with the Old Covenant language and symbolism would most probably have realised what this expression meant in Revelation 1:7 – God was about to judge and bring something to an end. Rather than assume we know what this expression points to (most speculation claims this expression foretells the return of Christ), our goal should be to understand what the original audience understood- or more aptly, to understand what the author intended the expression to mean. This expression seems to be also used by the prophet Daniel-

I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before Him.
Daniel 7:13 

Daniel 7 seems to foretell the close of the Old Covenant, the destruction of Jerusalem for rejecting the Christ, and the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ. One like the Son of Man coming on the clouds of Heaven(Daniel 7:13) describes Christ being presented to His Father to establish His New Covenant Kingdom –

And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
Daniel 7:14

Revelation 1:5 describes Jesus Christ as the King and in Revelation 1:6 it says He has a kingdom. Interestingly, it seems that Jesus Himself refers to Daniel 7:13 in Matthew 24:30 –

Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Matthew 24:30

Jesus goes on to tell His disciples that this prophecy and every other one He makes in Matthew 24 will be fulfilled within their lifetime –

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
Matthew 24:34 

If we force the expression coming on the clouds to mean the return of Christ, this text and the texts in the Book of Revelation become nonsensical and make, as many atheists claim, Christ to be a liar (since He did not return within the generation of His original audience). But if we accept that the expression means what it meant in the Old Covenant then this text and the time-frame references within the Book of Revelation make perfect sense and can be historically demonstrated as having been fulfilled exactly within the forecasted range of fulfilment (before 70AD).

The Book of Revelation Describes The Close of the Old Covenant and the Impending Destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD!

Some of the other symbolism in the Book of Revelation also becomes clearer when we follow the same path of understanding into how the language is established in the Old Covenant. For example, the term “beast”. In Daniel 7 this expression is used to describe “rulers”. In Daniel 8 the ruler from across the sea (not from “the Land”) is identified as the Emperor of Rome. This is how Revelation 13 uses the same expression. Further in Revelation 13 another beast is described as being the beast from the Land (or, of the earth, Greek word= “ge” also translated as “land”). The ruler of the Land was the Jewish High Priest. In Revelation 13 it is the beast from the Land who orders that allegiance be given to the beast from the across the sea. That is, Jerusalem forms an alliance like iron and clay against Christ –

They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”
John 19:15 

Rather than foretelling the coming of a yet-to-be Antichrist, Revelation 13 was describing events right on the door-step of the original audience. Interestingly, it was Nero who was the Roman Emperor at the time of Revelation being written and his name in gemetria adds to six hundred and sixty and six.

The pace of the Book of Revelation slows dramatically with chapter 20. While chapters 1-19 use immediate language (“now”, “at hand”, “near”) chapter 20 introduces the concept of a thousand years. Within the Book of Revelation it is chapter 20 which forms a natural division between imminent and distant. It can be shown that chapters 1-19 have already been fulfilled and while principles and devotional applications can be drawn from their contents for today, it is the closing chapters that are future for us. Any speculation that Revelation 1-19 must be fulfilled again when we can demonstrate that it has already been fulfilled demands the question: Why?

I have written a fuller explanation of the book of Revelation in my eBook- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (click here to read a preview).

Amen.

Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, June 8th 2009

THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE by Dr Andrew CorbettI have written a fuller explanation of the book of Revelation in my eBook- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (click here to read a preview). The application from the Book of Revelation is that despite what appears to be an impotent Church struggling to serve an apparently impotent Christ, the Church is in reality made up of overcomers who lay down their lives gladly to promote Christ and His Gospel. In so doing, the Kingdom of Christ is extended, prayers are offered and heard, miracles are graced, and the believer can die with infinite hope that their Lord will keep them for eternity and clothe them with a new body which can not be subject to pain, injury, sorrow, or sin. With this knowledge we can endure momentary hardship during the brevity of this life on earth. We can be assured that our greatest delights and deepest moments of fulfilment are yet to come in the life to come.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
John 5:25

DOES BIBLE PROPHECY MATTER ANYMORE?

Does Bible Prophecy matter anymore? With so many Bible Prophecy teachers making so many wild interpretations of what the Bible supposedly teaches will happen in our near future, who have time and time again been proven wrong, the believer could be forgiven for simply abandoning the Bible as being prophetically credible. But being convinced in the inerrancy of Scripture and aware that much of what is taught in Dispensational churches inadvertantly attempts to undermine the inerrancy of Scripture by its false prophetic interpretations, I set about to study the subject of Bible Prophecy and learn for myself what the Bible really says and predicts.

About The Book of Revelation

Much damage to the credibility of the Bible has nearly been done by those who twist the contents of the Book of Revelation to force it to sound like it refers to the events of our present day. Time and time again, so called Bible-Prophecy teachers have been left with egg on their faces as their ridiculous speculations have proved to be completely wrong. Our Administrator forwarded onto me a copy of an email we were sent claiming that our understanding of the Book of Revelation was wrong and that we would be humiliated by the Lord when the Rapture took place on October 17th 2009.

You’ll notice that I am writing this brief article after this ‘day of humiliation’. But still the sillyness continues to be rolled out by many TBN preachers who (even inadvertently) misrepresent the Book of Revelation by claiming that it is written to us about our day. (I have compiled a small list of such of failed interpretations.) In the unlikely event that you are a now cynical believer reading this article, or even in the more unlikely event that you are a complete skeptic about Christianity and the Bible reading this article, I hope to take just a few minutes of your time to offer an alternate understanding of the Book of Revelation that will actually present a credible case for Christianity and the Bible.

What’s The Deal With The Millennium?

Where is human history going? Many people believe that the Bible has not only accurately predicted human history to this point, but that it predicts a coming ‘Golden Age’. This possibly impending event is called: “The Millennium”. But there are very devout Bible readers who think this kind of reading of Scripture is actually a gross misreading of the Bible, and that what the Bible really says about the future may surprise – and even shock people today.

The “Millennium” is the touchstone for how people label themselves when it comes to interpretting Bible prophecy. Depending on how they regard the Millennium, they will classify themselves either as, (i) Premillennial; (ii) Amillennial; or, (iii) Post-Millennial. Within these Millennial categories there are people who take a “fundamentalist” view, generally known as “Dispensationalists” and there are others who take a “Reformed” view, generally known as “Historicists”, or the position I will argue for- “Preterist”.

The Tide Is Turning When It Comes To How We Understand Bible Prophecy

I remember as a young boy going to church on a Sunday evening and hearing the Bible Prophecy teacher give his end-times-chart-on-the-bedsheet-on-the-wall talk and feeling both excited and scared.”Excited” because it was reassuring to hear how accurate the Bible was in matching prophecy with history. “Scared” because the Bible apparently said that the ‘last days’ were going to be hell-on-earth! I was taught that the USSR was the bear of Ezekiel and also described as Gog and Magog. I was told that the Anti-christ was alive today in America and already plotting his world take-over. I heard that a time of Great Tribulation was coming on the earth to punish Israel for rejecting their Messiah and forming an alliance with the Anti-christ who will eventually rebuild Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. This would all lead to the battle of Armaggeddon where millions of people would be killed in the mother of all battles. But most evangelistically I was told that I could escape this coming doom by committing my life ot Christ and therefore qualify for being “raptured” just before this final seven year period began.

Like my interstate pastor friend, I just thought this was the traditional, orthodox doctrine. I mostly ignored the inconsistencies this understanding presented. I just let the questions mount. Then one day when I was still young, I heard another pastor teaching about end times who seemed to suggest that not only wasn’t this the traditional way of understanding Bible Prophecy, it was also not orthodox! That is, he said that the Bible couldn’t teach this. He called it “Dispensationalism”. Back then, Hal Lindsay was the paperback champion of Dispensationalism while Dr John F. Walvoord (of Dallas Theological Seminary) was the hardback champion. In my boyhood church no-one questioned these Bible authorities. Dozens of Bible Prophecy teachers were spawned by these authors. Each one reiterated the Dispensational interpretation of the Bible and too few of us realised that we weren’t just being told how to interpret Bible prophecy…

Finally, How To Understand The New Testament

Professors Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart state that the entire framework of the New Testament is eschatological (How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth, 2003:145). “Eschatology”, they write, “has to do with the end, when God brings this age to its close.” Hence my double entendre heading – Understanding what the Bible teaches about “finally” (Eschatology) is necessary in order to understand what the New Testament teaches… 

Determining The Date Revelation’s Authorship

It would be remiss of any serious student of Revelation not to at least do a cursory examination of the historical context to which Revelation is back-dropped. The first point of reference would have to be to determine when Revelation was written. Most scholars regard there being only two possible dates. Dr. Leon Morris explores this adequately in his Tyndale Commentary series volume on Revelation, and I recommend that this widely available commentary be read. In the case of most books of the Bible, determining the date of its authorship, while certainly important, is not necessarily crucial to its interpretation. But this is absolutely not the case with the Book of Revelation. Some tradition has up until recent times regarded the date Revelation’s authorship to be around 95AD. This has been based almost entirely on a misunderstanding of one vague statement by the second century Church Father, Irenaeus.

The Symbolism of The Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation has variously been described as so mysterious that it simply cannot be understood. But this has not stopped some from speculating about what its symbolims means. Such speculation is based on the assumption that the Book of Revelation is uniquely symbolic. But what are the implications of the idea that Revelation is written with consistent Biblical symbolism in how we understand its message?

In fact, it can be shown that the Book of Revelation is saturated in Old Testament imagery and symbolism. Understanding this should help us to avoid abusing this profound Book with ridiculous speculation that forces such contemporary events as the European Union, the United States, modern Iran, and computer technology into the text.

The Disappointment of Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism comes in various forms. A “dispensation” is a period of time. An era. In its most extreme form it regards God as having multiple plans of salvation depending on the particular dispensation. These dispensations generally commence with the Dispensation of Innocence and include other Dispensations such as the Dispensations of Works, Law, and Grace. This is contrasted by the orthodox Christian view of regarding God only ever having one means of salvation: the work of Jesus of Nazareth, especially His suffering, death and resurrection. But Dispensationalism is most notably distinguished from orthodox Christianity in the way it regards Israel. Dispensationalism says that God has a distinct plan and salvation for Israel. The roof of Dispensationalism is then supported by the walls of a novel form of end-times teaching. This includes such things as a rapture of the Church, a two-part Tribulation period, the global rule of an Anti-Christ, the reconstruction of a Temple in Jerusalem, the Battle of Armageddon, and then the Return of Christ. Dispensationalist Bible Prophecy teachers have gone to great lengths in their predictions of what the future holds based on their interpretation of the Bible. I have written a separate article on some of these predictions. But there’s a problem. A big problem!

The Trinity Examined and Explained

There is no greater mystery than God. And perhaps there is no greater quest than to answer the question who is God? as truthfully as possible. When the identity of God is discussed there are a wide range of ideas put forward. Some have gained acceptance and formed the basis for the world’s religions. For those who have realised that God must have an identity they conclude that He must be a person. This is called theism- or more precisely, monotheism. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are three great monotheistic religions of the world. But Christianity is further distinguished from these other monotheistic religions by identifying God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Is Preterism Over-Realised Eschatology?

Even preachers who claim to have no view on “End-Times” actually do – and usually make it known even if only subtlely. Thus, there are many great Gospel preachers who have built huge churches but who have a lousy eschatology! Then there are some preachers who have dangerous eschatology (such as John Hagee). When those who have some proficiency in the field of eschatology dare to disagree with any of these mega-church “big guns” about eschatology (even in a constructive manner), it is not surprising (but still disappointing) to be called “heretical” by them. To these pop-preachers, Preterism is merely “over-realised” eschatology. Here’s why it isn’t…

Perhaps these preachers have this view because they have accepted a caricaturisation of Preterism and not a well informed understanding of it. This is understandable from those preachers who are generally not careful in their in the research and tend to be more inspirational than exegetical. But when this criticism comes from one of the most popular preachers in the world (and a mega-church pastor) many Preterists are left bewildered for good reasons.

There are some preachers who deserve to be regarded as among the best in the world. Yet, many of these preachers have a false idea about what “Preterism”. More and more of them have been decrying Preterism and denouncing it as it has grown in its appeal. For example, one popular preacher alluded to Preterism as “over-realised eschatology”.  Since this preacher has such a huge following, his ill-informed comments about Preterism were even more disappointing. I wish to respond to his claim that Preterism is “over-realised eschatology”.

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