Ancient Mis-readings of The Book of Revelation

Ancient Mis-readings of The Book of Revelation

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ANCIENT MIS-READINGS OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION

John Calvin wrote a commentary on every book of the Bible, except the Book of Revelation. Eighteenth century Bible Commentator, Matthew Henry, perhaps the most read and accessible commentary available today, did not write a commentary on the Book of Revelation before he died (it was written posthumously by someone else). Since such great minds as Calvin and Henry were reluctant to tackle the Book of Revelation, any new contender offering an explanation of the Bible’s concluding book would be well advised to do so with great caution. Added to this is the poor record of other great minds of history who have dared to claim to understand the details of Revelation enough to make bold declarations of when Christ would return and the end of the world would be! Consider these people and their interpretations… 

Matthew Henry's 6 Volume Commentary Set, which Matthew Henry did not himself complete.

Matthew Henry’s 6 Volume Commentary Set, which Matthew Henry did not himself complete.

FROM THE SECOND AND THIRD CENTURIES

Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon, France (140 – 202AD)

Irenaeus (140 – 202) was the disciple of Polycarp who himself was the disciple of the Apostle John. He proposed a method of interpreting the Book of Revelation that including the measurements of Noah’s ark. His views were particularly promoted by two third century church leaders, Hippolytus of Rome and Sextus Julius Africanus. Their conclusion was that Christ would return and that the end of the world would occur in 500A.D. But their method for interpreting the Book of Revelation soon became demonstrably wrong. Yet, for many church leaders, it seems to have sown the idea that the goal of interpreting the Book of Revelation was to determine how it predicted events for our lifetimes – to the extent of seeing the end of world coincide with the return of Jesus.

It’s worth noting that shortly after this speculation about the Book of Revelation, the Church Council at Nicea Turkey formulated a creed, The Nicene Creed, which was, and is, universally accepted by Christians.

THE NICENE CREED

WE BELIEVE in one God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things 
visible and invisible;

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
begotten of the Father before 
all worlds, God of God, Light of Light,
Very God of Very God, begotten, not made,
being of one 
substance with the Father, by whom all things were made;
who for us men, and for our salvation, 
came down from heaven,
and, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary,
and was made 
man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
He suffered and was buried, and the third 
day he rose again according to the Scriptures,
and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right 
hand of the Father.
And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose 
kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life,
who proceedeth from the 
Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.
And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge 
one baptism for the remission of sins.
And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of 
the world to come.
Amen.

The reason understanding this creed is important if we are seeking to properly interpret the Book of Revelation is that it makes a very clear and important statement about what the early Church believed about the return of Christ. “He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick (living) and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.” This statement declares –

1. Christ shall return.

2. When Christ returns it will coincide with His judgment of all the living and the dead.

3. Subsequent to Christ’s judgment of all people, He shall rule in a world where evil, injustice, and sin are banished.

It is worth noting how simple this primitive eschatology (doctrine of last things) was. 

 

FROM THE EIGHTH CENTURY

An exact copy of Beatus of Liébana's 460 page commentary on Revelation originally copied in 970AD.

An exact copy of Beatus of Liébana’s 460 page commentary on Revelation originally copied in 970AD.

A Spanish theologian, Beatus of Liébana, wrote a commentary on the Book of Revelation in 776 A.D. which was revised in 784 and then again in 786 (as it became obvious that his earlier calculations for the return of Christ had come and gone). He landed on the date, April 6th 793 as what he believed the Book of Revelation revealed was the date of Christ’s return and the end of the world. He perpetuated the idea that it was possible to calculate the date of the return of Christ from the Book of Revelation – and that this was one of the book’s intentions.

 

FROM THE ELEVENTH CENTURY

Shortly after the failed interpretations of Beatus of Liébana, Pope Sylvester II (999 – 1003) declared that the Book of Revelation revealed that the return of Christ and the end of the world would take place on January 1st 1000 A.D. When this came and went, his interpretation was changed to January 1st 1033 (to allow for the date of Christ’s crucifixion). While it may be immediately obvious that Pope Sylvester the Second’s predicted date for the return of Christ and the end of the world was wrong, what may not be as obvious is that date-setting for the return of Christ was never the purpose of the Book of Revelation! Yet, such an assumption continued even by Biblical scholars who should have known better. For example, John Wesley somehow interpreted Revelation 12:14 to mean that the return of Christ and the millennium would commence in 1836!

Jesuit Priest, Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra

Before Wesley’s curious interpretation of Revelation 12:14, the preceding Reformers had virtually in unison interpreted the Book of Revelation as predicting the rise and fall of the Roman Catholic Church. Their view of Revelation became known as Historicism because they saw history unfolding through the pages of Revelation to their present day. In response to this, Roman Catholic authors such as Jesuit Priest, Emmanuel Lacunza (who used the pseudonym Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra), wrote a book, “The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty” which promoted a counter-view to Historicism called Futurism. This book heavily influenced a Protestant minister, Edward Irving (1792 – 1834), a Church of Scotland Minister, who translated it from Spanish into English. By 1832, Irving’s public lectures on the Book of Revelation were attracting large crowds and laid the groundwork for the rise of Dispensational Millennialism.

 

IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

The 19th Century seemed to be a time when speculation about the Book of Revelation abounded. Two very influential views began in the 19th century. For example, In 1831 both Edward Irving and John Nelson Darby began to postulate a two-staged return of Christ. Some believe that Irving was influenced by a young girl, Margaret McDonald, who apparently received this ‘revelation’ from the Lord of a “rapture” of the Church before a time of Great Tribulation at the end of the age. The view that Edward Irving and John Nelson Darby helped to birth is known as ‘Dispensationalism’. It’s interesting to note that the concept of the ‘rapture’ had never been heard of before this time.

Other preachers also became fascinated with how the Book of Revelation should be understood. In America, William Miller (1782 – 1849) interpretted the ‘mark of the beast’ as the observance by the mainstream church of Sunday as the day of worship. His followers, the Millerites, became the precurser to the founding of the Seventh Day Adventists. William Miller’s understanding of the Book of Revelation led him to predict the end of the world and Christ’s return would be October 22nd, 1844.

In a revival of another ancient heresy called Arianism, Charles Taze Russell began teaching that Jesus was the eternal Son of God. He also predicted that the Millennium would be an opportunity for everyone who has died without Christ, to receive a second chance to do so. He predicted Christ would return to establish this kingdom in October 1874  (See Watch Tower, 1906 July 15 for a detailed account).

In Russell’s doctrinal chronology the most important dates were 1874 and 1914:
“The chapter in SCRIPTURE STUDIES, Vol. II, showing the parallels between the Jewish and Christian Dispensations, makes prominent four dates, viz., (1) October, 1874; (2) April, 1878; (3) October, 1881, and (4) October, 1914;” Watch Tower 1911 June 15 p.190
“The careful student will have observed that the period designated ‘The Time of the End’ is very appropriately named, since not only does the Gospel age close in it, but in it, also, all prophesies relating to the close of this age terminate, reaching their fulfillments. The same class of readers will have noticed, too, the special importance of the last 40 of these 115 years (1874-1914), called ‘The End’ or ‘Harvest.'” Studies in the Scriptures Series III – Thy Kingdom Comep.121
FACTS ABOUT JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES – Failed Prophecies

Charles Taze Russell's prophetic-timetable

Charles Taze Russell’s prophetic-timetable

IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

If Biblical Prophecy theories and guesses abounded in the nineteenth century, they exploded in the twentieth (just as they seemed to approaching the end of the first Millennium A.D.). Nearly every decade of the 20th century witnessed some new Prophetic Time-Line explanation of the Book of Revelation. Then there were the novelised series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, which sold in the millions, called Left Behind, which fictionalised the 1835 invention of the ‘rapture’. As the twentieth century drew closer to the turn of the new millennium, increasingly bizarre speculations increased which presumed that Dispensational Futurism was the correct interpretation of Revelation. As the introduction of credit cards became more popular from the 1970s, “End-Times” preachers widened their speculation about interpreting the Book of Revelation and interpreted the ‘mark of the beast’ as a computerised system of monitoring all people on planet earth. In Australia this speculation was also fuelled by the 1974 introduction of the ‘bankcard’ with its symbol which bore a striking resemblance to Revelation 13’s “666”. 

In the early 1980s, these End-Times preachers attempted to leverage the nationalising of Israel in 1948 to claim that the end of the world and Christ’s return would be forty years (the duration of a Biblical generation) after this event. This led to many of these preachers declaring that Christ would definitely return in 1988! Edgar C. Whisenant published a book along this line, “88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will be In 1988“. In 1988 Hal Lindsay published the first edition of his Late Great Planet Earth.

The rise of the ‘Televangelist’ in the 1980s was almost the perfect storm for speculative Bible prophecy prediction preachers. It seemed as if every televangelist had some ‘revelation’ about the Book of Revelation that enabled them to know something about the future that no other televangelist knew. Apart from Hal Lindsay, other high profile televangelists began to make their predictions on when the ‘rapture’ would be, including Lester Sumrall who in 1994 declared that the millennium would begin in 2000. Three years later, not to be outdone, Kenneth Hagin predicted that the rapture would take place in 1997. Then in 1999, Jerry Falwell declared that the return of Christ would certainly happen within ten years and that the Anti-Christ was alive now and “was a male Jew”. 

As happened after the turn of the Millennium in 1,000 A.D., speculative eschatology is becoming far less common. This is a good thing because it might cause us to examine the Book of Revelation by using the same hermeneutical principles that we use to interpret any other book of the Bible. These principles include – 

  1. Understand a Book/passage/verse of the Bible in its context (literary genre, historical background, audience, author, flow of thought)

  2. Use Scripture to interpret Scripture – always use a clear passage to interpret an obscure one.

  3. Seek the original intention of the passage by ‘looking over the shoulder’ of the original audience.

  4. Never interpret a Scripture in a way that contradicts the overall message of Scripture.

I talk more about this in my eBook, The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, which you might find helpful if you would like to understand the Book of Revelation.

Andrew Corbett

Dr. Andrew Corbett teaching on the Book of Revelation at 'OURchurch - Burleigh, Queensland'

Dr. Andrew Corbett teaching on the Book of Revelation at ‘OURchurch – Burleigh, Queensland’ November 2018

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Are We On The Brink of Armageddon

Are We On The Brink of Armageddon

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Armageddon? Some say it’s just about to happen. But what does the Bible say about it? 

Whenever things flare up in the Middle East, especially involving Israel, there are always people who speculate that Armageddon is about to happen. The word “Armageddon” has now become synonymous with “the final battle that ends the world”. So ubiquitous has the word become for the end of the world that Hollywood have titled blockbuster films with it, fictional books have been written about it, and media commentators now refer to it as the catch-all word to describe the level potential fall-out from a Middle Eastern battle. 

This is all very staggering considering that it occurs only once in Scripture, in the Book of Revelation, and is not alluded to anywhere else. Added to this is the clear and consistent message of Revelation to its original audience that this particular battle (which takes place in the middle section of the Book of Revelation—not the end!) was about to happen within their lifetime. 

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

And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.
Revelation 22:10

To argue that the expression “the time is near” actually means that the time is not for another two thousand years or so is ludicrous. Therefore, before anyone assumes that Armageddon is still yet to happen, we would be better advised to investigate whether it has already been fulfilled since this is what Revelation told its original audience would happen.

Some people regard the book of Revelation as repeating the same vision of the end of the world told in several different apacalyptic visions. But this is an assumption that when scrutinised is found to be faulty. The visions of Revelation actually unfold in a very sequential order. I encourage readers to revisit the Book of Revelation and notice that within it there is an urgency and imminency up until chapter 20 when it then introduces a much greater time-frame: a thousand years. Biblically, the expression 1,000 means large number, not meant to be counted. For example-

If one wished to contend with him,
one could not answer him once in a thousand times.
Job 9:3

For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
Psalm 50:10 

For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Psalm 84:10

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
Second Peter 3:8  

Therefore the reference in Revelation 20 to a thousand years is meant to correlate to a “long time” and the references prior to that which plainly state that the events of Revelation 1-19 were “near”, “at hand”, “now” obviously includes the one reference to Armageddon (Revelation 16:14). 

 

ALL OF REVELATION 1 – 19 WAS FULFILLED IN THE FIRST CENTURY – AND HAD TO BE! 

The case for all of Revelation 1 – 19 being fulfilled is made in my ebook on the Book of Revelation. An examination of first century shows that the events described in Revelation 16 were described by contemporary historians of the era, including Josephus. He describes the Roman catapaults of a “talent weight” (100 pounds or 25 kilos) which rained down on the seiged city of Jerusalem during the 1260 day (42 month) seige against the Romans. 

Josephus also makes references to the skirmishes and battles that took place during this time, which the expression “Armageddon” refers to. Far from this being an apocalyptic battle to end the world (something not stated in the Book of Revelation), it predicted events which we about to take place within months of its authorship.

 

THE PROBLEM OF HISTORICAL AND BIBLICAL ILLITERACY

In my eBook, The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible (about the Book of Revelation) I make the case that most modern readers are unfamiliar with the events of the first century and how they fit into the Biblical message.  It’s worth noting that Christ also gave some clear time-frame references as to when His prophecies would be fulfilled- which fit with my prior statements about Revelation 1-19 being fulfilled.

Consider-

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
Matthew 10:23

Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Matthew 16:28 

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

In one of my other ebooks – The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible, I make the case for all of Matthew 24 being fulfilled- especially since this is what Christ plainly said would happen in Matthew 24:34. Matthew 24 corresponds to Revelation 1-19, while Matthew 25 corresponds to Revelation 20-22. I discuss this in my ebook on Matthew 24.  This and other issues are discussed in my eBooks, The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible (about the Book of Revelation), and The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible (about the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24) . Readers will profit in their understanding of these matters by reading both of these eBooks. 

Dr. Andrew Corbett
15/8/2006

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About The Book of Revelation

About The Book of Revelation

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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.

Understanding the Book of RevelationWHO WAS REVELATION FOR?

Firstly, it can be shown that the Book of Revelation was written to a Turkish audience around 65AD who had the immediate potential of actually understanding it! The contents of the Book bore immediate relevance to them and their situation.

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

History verifies this claim (that the contents of the Book of Revelation were written to an audience around 65AD who most likely recognised its message and meaning). This is because the first 19 chapters deal with the impending judgment upon Jerusalem and the end of the Temple Age. The Jewish historian, Josephus, records the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple which took place in 70AD.

 

THE RAPTURE

Why the Rapture Has RupturedSecondly, nearly all Bible prophecy teachers make certain assumptions about the Book of Revelation which can be shown to be either inaccurate or even false. For example, most of these Bible Prophecy “Experts” claim that the Book of Revelation describes the Rapture of the Church. The problem with this assumption is that it is false. The term: Rapture, no where occurs in the Book of Revelation! Neither is it described or even alluded to in the Book of Revelation. For example, it is claimed that the following verse predicts the Rapture. You decide-

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.
Revelation 4:1-2

 

ANTICHRIST IN REVELATION APPEARS TO BE MISSING

The AntichristAnother huge assumption made by many Bible Prophecy “Experts” is that the Antichrist is described and foretold in the Book of Revelation. The problem with this assumption is that term “Anti-Christ” does not even occur in the Book of Revelation! Revelation 13 describes 2 beasts which these ‘experts’ often fail to distinguish and then erroneously label: The Anti-Christ. The Book of Revelation does refer to “the Beast and the false prophet”, and it would be my assertion that it is the ‘false prophet’ and ‘beast from the earth’ who are more likely the person referred to as The Antichrist in John’s epistles (and was most likely the Office of the High Priest). Notice that John states that the Antichrist was “now is” (1Jn 4:3) and was “coming” (‘to be revealed’) –

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.
First John 2:18

and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
First John 4:3

 

REVELATION IS NOT ABOUT THE “END OF THE WORLD”!

New Heavens and EarthBut perhaps the Mother of Assumptions that these “Bible Prophecy Experts” make is their claim that the Book of Revelation is all about the end of the world. The New Testament’s usage of such terms as “last days” (Acts 2:17; 2Tim 3:1; Heb. 1:2; James 5:3; 2Peter 3:3) or “end of the age/s” (Matt. 24:14; 1Cor. 10:11; Heb. 9:26) does not refer to the end of the world, but the end of the Temple-Age. While the Book of Revelation does indeed give a glimpse of the ultimate fulfilment of God’s plan of redemption in which paints a picture of a “New Heaven and Earth” where the futility of this present world (pain, suffering, sickness, death, sorrow) will be done away with, its message is about living in the present world in the reassuring knowledge that Christ is Lord of Lords and the King of Kings (Rev. 17:14).

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

¶ And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:4-5

 

A “ONE-WORLD GOVERNMENT” FORETOLD IN REVELATION?

Climate Change And Biblical End TimesAs I write, we are on the verge of the Copenhagen Conference which will bring world leaders together to discuss Climate Change/Global Warming and Carbon Emission Trading Schemes. I have received many emails from people warning me that this is the beginning of Revelation 13 about to be fulfilled. This is the particular chapter of the Book of Revelation, they claim, which talks about the coming of an evil one-world government. But I simply invite you to read Revelation 13. Where does it mention a One-World Government in Revelation 13? There is no hint of such a thing in this chapter. The further suggestion is made from Revelation 17, where it talks about a seeming coalition of “ten kings”, that this passage also talks about a looming One World Government –

And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind and hand over their power and authority to the beast.
Revelation 17:12-13

Copenhagen- The beginning of a one world governmentIn the early days of the European Union, many of these Bible Prophecy Experts pointed to the initial coalition of 10 European nations as the fulfilment of this alleged prediction of a One World Government. But then as the European Union grew to encompass much more than its initial 10 nations, these same Bible Prophecy Experts retreated into more nonsensical speculation. The bottom-line is that there is absolutely no mention, let alone a prediction, of a One World Government in the Book of Revelation!

 

MOST OF REVELATION HAS ALREADY BEEN FULFILLED

In my eBook, THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE, I present the case for the Book of Revelation being written to an audience around 65AD where its contents were immediately relevant. I am convinced that this is how the Book of Revelation is meant to be understood. That is, we should understand the Book of Revelation in the same way that we understand any other New Testament epistle. For example, when we read First Corinthians we know that it was written to an actual church in Corinth around 55AD. This epistle was written to them – not to us. But because of God’s canonical inspiration we know that First Corinthians was indeed written for us. When we realise that the Book of Revelation contained very-near-future predictions which would impact its original audience, and this can now be substantiated from the historical records, it actually increases our confidence in the reliability and credibility of God’s Word.

Consider that within the Book of Revelation it asserts that the original readers were living during the reign of “sixth king”. It then predicts that this current king was about to die a seemingly prematurely death and that other kings would follow in quick succession until “an” eighth king would be installed.

they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.
Revelation 17:10-11

The 6th king of the Roman Empire was Caesar Nero. It was Nero who was reigning at the time of the writing of the Book of Revelation (see my article on Dating the Authorship of the Book of Revelation). After Nero’s death, Rome went into civil war. A quick succession of would-be emperors claimed the throne but none was able to consolidate the Empire until Caesar Vespasian, a military general, returned from Spain. Interestingly, Revelation 17 almost sounds confusing because it appears to be very inconsistent when it numbers just how many kings are involved. It says that there are “seven kings” which includes “an eighth”, but then goes on to state there is actually “ten kings”.

And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.
Revelation 17:12 

But upon a little examination, the apparent confusion over numbers because amazingly deliberate. After Nero died, he was succeeded by Galba who reigned for 6 months and a week until he was murdered by the Praetorian Guard. Unable to stabilise the Empire, he was succeeded by Otho who reigned just 3 months until he committed suicide after losing a battle to another Roman General, Vitellius. Caesar Vitellius reigned a mere 8 months until he was murdered by General Vespasian’s troops. Revelation 13 prophetically described this period as a time when the Beast from Across the Sea (the Office of the Roman Emperor) would receive “a mortal wound”.

One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.
Revelation 13:3

During this period of civil unrest in the Roman Empire, it probably did seem that the Empire was going to die. When Revelation 17 foretells of Caesar Vespasian arising to make the city (of Jerusalem) desolate by fire-

And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire,
Revelation 17:16

The Kings of RomeCaesar Vespasian is described as one of the “seven kings” in the sense that he completes mission for Rome in His purposes for Jerusalem (“seven” is used Biblically to speak of completion). But Vespasian is also described as “an eighth king” (note that he is not referred to as “the eighth king”). The number eight in Scripture speaks of “new” or “resurrection” (new life). Vespasian did indeed bring newness to the Roman Empire. In many ways he was able to “resurrect” it. So in this sense, Vespasian is both the seventhand also the eighth king referred to in Revelation 17. But in a literal sense, Vespasian was the tenth king since after Nero (the 6th) came Galba (7th), then Otho (8th), then Vitellius (9th), then Vespasian (10th). Thus, far from being muddled, Revelation’s predictions of its audience’s immediate future was amazingly accurate! (See my video interview with Dr Kenneth Gentry Jnr regarding this issue.)

Some have acknowledged what I and other Preterists are saying. But being unprepared to relinquish the idea that the Book of Revelation is written to us about our near future, they invent a new way of reading Scripture called Parallelism or Double Referencing. This is the idea that the Book of Revelation has two fulfilments: the first – during the lifetime of its original audience, and the second – to be fulfilled during the lifetime of the last generation (which they claim is ours). But there is no reason for twisting Scripture like this. We should keep to the principles of Bible interpretation that the Bible itself seems to provide which includes the idea that discovering the intended meaning of a passage should guide our interpretation of that passage.

as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
Second Peter 3:16

Preterist Timeline

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). 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

Amen.

Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, November 9th 2009

What’s The Deal With The Millennium?

What’s The Deal With The Millennium?

home  >  articles  >  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 term “Millennium” doesn’t actually occur in the Scriptures. But like many things that the Bible teaches, we shouldn’t be hung up on terms because there are many Biblical truths which do not employ the terms we have identified them with. That is, there are things that the Bible teaches which it doesn’t say with the terms we have given them. For example, the Bible does not say that God loves you, but it does teach it. The expression, The Millennium, means 1,000 years. It is based on a reference in Revelation 20.

And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. ¶ Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
Revelation 20:2-4

Most commentators agree that this is a reference to “the Kingdom” which Christ repeatedly referred to. For those who think that this Kingdom will be an earthly, physical Kingdom, it is yet to come. This view is called Premillennialism. Most proponents of Premillennialism take the view that the Bible should be taken quite literally when it refers to Christ reigning “for a thousand years.” Premillennialists are critical of any other views regarding the reference to the one thousand year reign of Christ. Added to this, they state, there are Old Testament prophecies which speak of God ruling on earth in a Kingdom for a long time.

¶ In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
Isaiah 11:10

This idea that Christ will return and establish a literal one thousand year reign from Jerusalem also incorporates the notion that God will re-establish Israel as a nation with reclamation of its Biblical boundaries in preparation for this impending earthly reign of Christ. Appeals are made to Old Testament prophecies which speak of the restoration of Israel to a glorious national state with Jewish people being drawn back to the Land of Israel to repopulate the Promised Land. This view has been by far the most popular view over the last century or so. It has been the seedbed of the rise of modern Zionism and for this reason has been very supportive of the State of Israel.

 

POST-MILLENNIALISM

During the Reformation, the subject of the Millennium was made to fit into a different viewpoint. Many of the Reformers read their current events into the Book of Revelation and developed a system which became known as Historicism. This view considered that the prophecies of the Book of Revelation were written about the rise of the Roman Catholic Church, and that it predicted the rise of the Reformation and its eventual overthrow of the Papacy. The Reformers hope that they would indeed accomplish this goal was buoyed by their Historicist reading of the Book of Revelation. Out of this came a new way of looking at the Millennium. Most of the Reformers considered that the Biblical prophecies found in the Book of Revelation were yet to be fulfilled. But as the idea of a Rapture hadn’t been invented yet – and therefore a “two-stage” return of Christ was unheard of – these Reformers considered that the Millennium was a future event, and that the Book of Revelation depicts Christ returning just before the Great White Throne Judgment event. Therefore, Christ could only return after the Millennium. That’s why this view is called Post-Millennialism.

In this scheme, the Millennium would be a Golden Age for the Church where Christians would govern the earth through its various institutions and instrumentalities on behalf of Christ. Christ will only return after there has been a great harvest of the world’s souls and His Church has been made glorious in the earth. Because Christians will assume responsibility for the running of society, the laws of God will have to implemented at all levels of society (the Parliament, the Judiciary and the Head of State). This will require that Biblical justice will also need to be introduced including corporeal and capital punishment (the abolition of prisons as institutions of punishment would also be necessary).

Not all Historicists have adopted Post-Millennialism. Some Historicists hold to a form of Futurism. But for those Historicists who do subscribe to Post-Millennialism, they have an honest expectation that the Church is yet reach its Zenith on earth. Not all Post-Millennialists agree that the precise period for the Millennium will be a literal 1,000 years, but they do regard it as a definite and long period of time.

 

PRE-MILLENNIALISM

I’ve already alluded to Pre-Millennialism. This is a ‘Futurist’ concept of Bible Prophecy. It regards the Millennium as a literal 1,000 year period in which Christ will physically rule the earth from a restored, reclaimed, Jewish Jerusalem. Pre-Millennialists are almost invariably Dispensationalists of one kind or another. They consider that Christ will return in two stages: firstly, to “rapture” the New Covenant Church, and then secondly, to establish His earthly rule (either 3 1/2 or 7 years later). The primary idea behind Pre-Millennialism is that Christ must return to fulfil the promises made to Israel, and in particular, to King David. This idea demands that Scripture is read with God as currently having two Covenants and therefore two Covenant people-

Applying these principles of biblical interpretation, it must be seen that Israel (Abraham’s physical descendants) and the church (all New Testament believers) are two distinct groups. It is crucial to recognize that Israel and the church are distinct because, if this is misunderstood, Scripture will be misinterpreted. Especially prone to misinterpretation are passages that deal with promises made to Israel (both fulfilled and unfulfilled). Such promises should not be applied to the church. Remember, the context of the passage will determine to whom it is addressed and will point to the most correct interpretation.
WHAT IS PREMILLENNIALISM?

Great emphasis is placed on the “Literal” reading of Scripture by Pre-Millennialists. But critics of Pre-Millennialism claim that this is based not on a literal reading of Scripture, but rather a wooden literal reading of Scripture. It did have a brief time in the sun around the third century under the name Chiliasm (pronounced “Killyasm”) but roundly condemned by church leaders and eventually a Church Council.

Chiliasm was, however, according to the interpretation of non-chilliasts, condemned as a heresy in the 4th century by the Church, which included the phrase whose Kingdom shall have no end in the Nicene Creed in order to rule out the idea of a Kingdom of God which would last for only 1000 literal years.[7] Despite some writers’ belief in millennialism, it was a decided minority view, as expressed in the nearly universal condemnation of the doctrine over a gradual period of time, beginning with Augustine of Hippo. It is vigorously disputed whether or not caesaropapism had a role in the virtual annihilation of millennialism from the 4th Century onwards.

Millennialism is strongly rejected as a heresy by the Orthodox Church. In AD 230, the Synod of Iconium declared that baptisms performed by the Montanist sect were invalid. The Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in AD 381 supported the Synod of Iconium and further declared millennialism to be a heresy.
Wikipedia

But, this view has become by far the most popular view among Christians over the past 150 years thanks to the embracing of mass publishing and the use of media by Pre-Millennialist preachers. So ingrained in Evangelical (Bible-believing) Christian thinking that it could be easily argued that it has affected US Public Policy when Evangelicals have resided in the Whitehouse or Capitol Hill. It’s therefore not too difficult to imagine that the US Government’s attack on Iraq was justified by some as “putting down the rise of rebuilt Babylon” – based on a Pre-Millennial reading of the Book of Revelation.

SPECULATIVE MILLENNIALISM

What might this “Golden Age” look like to a Pre-Millennialist? Do people die in the Millennium? Do people marry in the Millennium? Since Pre-Millennialists teach that the Righteous are resurrected at the beginning of the Millennium, and therefore dwell on the earth during the Millennium with those who have not yet died and been resurrected, what happens to those resurrected saints who die in the Millennium? Pre-Millennialists speculate about how to resolve these questions. Vague references are cited from Isaiah about a child living to a hundred and still being considered a child. References to wolves and lambs both eating grass are taken to be a literal prophecy of global dietary transformation among animals previously considered predators. All of this conjecture about the Millennium by Pre-Millennialists is mere speculation and considered to be largely implausible by many theologians.

But Post-Millennial Historicism is guilty of the same speculative conjecturing. One common and obvious criticism of Pre-Millennialism is that today’s newspapers are read into the text of Revelation. In this practice, current events are forced into the imagery of Revelation’s apocalyptic language. For example, when 9/11 happened, some Pre-Millennialists saw this foretold in Revelation 18. New York, they speculated, was described as Babylon, the centre for commerce, which had become arrogant and apostate and thus would incur judgment.

And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out,

“Alas, alas, for the great city
where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth!
For in a single hour she has been laid waste.
Revelation 18:19

However, if you read the entire chapter of Revelation 18 it becomes apparent that what was foretold doesn’t fit the events of 9/11. This interpretation of the passage is being clumsily forced into the text and fails to be convincing.

Historicism can be indicted with the same charge as Futurist Pre-Millennialism. During the Reformation, many (if not all) of the Reformers interpreted the events of Revelation 18 as depicting the fall of the Roman Catholic Church and the Rise of the Protestant movement. This chapter of Church history is still read back into the message of Revelation which has given rise to the label, Historicism.

Some Historicists even see the rise and fall of Napoleon foretold in the pages of Revelation! It seems that the Reformers’ ideological and theological struggle with the Papacy, however veritable, coloured the way they interpreted the Book of Revelation. The predictions this Historicist model makes, based on its interpretation of the Book of Revelation, have largely failed. This is yet another thing that it shares in common with Futurist Pre-Millennialism!

 

HYPER-PRETERISM’S MILLENNIUM

Hyper-Preterists (as distinct from Classical-Preterists) regard the 1,000 years referred to Revelation 20 as being literal and commencing with King Solomon’s reign in 930BC. One ardent promoter of this view explained it to me this way-

The 1000 year ‘anomaly’ fits into a wider pattern of Old Testament usage –like the wider context of the solar system- that began in 930BC and was completed en toto in 70AD.

…A brief synopsis of the Davidic covenant and the 1000 year reign shows the logical and typo-logical parallels. …

1. The Davidic covenant factually entailed:
Solomon’s reign as King 1 Kgs 2
Solomon reigned 40 years in Jerusalem 1 Kgs 11:42
Solomon to sit on his throne in Jerusalem 1 Kgs 2
Solomon to rule over his people from Jerusalem 1 Kgs 2
Solomon built the Jerusalem temple 1 Kgs 7
JHWH dwell in the Jerusalem temple. 1 Kgs 8
Solomon lost his kingdom from disobedience. 1 Kgs 11:12-13

Jesus was a part of the Davidic covenant in Jerusalem temple which started c.930BC.
Jesus reigned as the Messiah – Davidic descendant- in the C.1st –

Statement Evidence
Jesus greater than Solomon Mt 12:42, Lk 11:31
Jesus reigned as King; ‘another Solomon.’ Acts 2; Eph 2:20ff, Mt27
Jesus reigned 40 years in Jerusalem 1 Cor 15:24-25;
Jesus to sit on his throne in Jerusalem 1 Cor 15:24-25
Jesus to rule over his people from Jerusalem Acts 2:33-35
Jesus superior to the Jerusalem temple “type” Heb 9:8-11
Jesus to destroy and build the temple. Mt 27:40, Acts 7:35-49
Jesus kept His kingdom from obedience. Rom 14:17, Col 4:11,Thess 2:12

Argument from facts –
Jesus began to reign from Acts 2 in AD 30 (+ or – 3)
Solomon reigned 40 years
Therefore Jesus reigned from 30-70AD = 40 years. (40 numerical symbol as period of trial. Ex).

Jesus began to reign from 30 AD as a descendant of the Davidic covenant
The Davidic covenant reigned from 930BC to its end in AD 70
Therefore Jesus typologically/covenantally reigned –
. as descendant for 1000 years from 930BC
. as David’s Father for 40 years to complete the 1000.

(1000 as numerical symbol for totality. Never literal but a symbol of totality or completion: eg. OT usage is symbolic. These cannot be literal.
. God owns ONLY 1000 hills? – Ps 50:10
. Happiness is ONLY 1000 days? – Ps 84:10
. Only 1000 flee at God’s rebuke? – Is 30:17

Also, further integration of a single typo-logial them that is logical, coherent, and
factual.

The Davidic covenant began with Solomon in 930BC to His descendant
Jesus was a descendant who ruled over the Jerusalem temple till 70AD
Therefore Jesus reigned:
i. In typology Jesus ruled thru Solomon for 1000 years
ii. In typology Solomon reigned thru Jesus till 70AD (1000)
iii. In prophecy Solomon predicted temples end1 Kgs 9:6-9
iv. In prophecy Jesus fulfilled it.Mt 24:1-3 cf. Rev 18-19.

 

There are several serious problems with this intricate attempt to make the data fit Revelation 20. Firstly, if the 1,000 year reign of Christ began with King Solomon, in what way was Satan bound then? Clearly he was not bound then. He was still active in tempting Christ, motivating the crucifixion of Christ and the persecution of the Church (especially refer to Christ’s own words in Luke 22:31), and was known to be active by the apostles who wrote to the churhces warning them to be guard against him (Eph. 6:12ff; 1Peter 5:1ff). Secondly, the references given citing Solomon are not at all convincing that they are meant to indicate the starting point for the 1,000 year reign of Christ. In fact, this kind of interpretation makes a mockery of the Doctrine of Perspicuity (the clarity of Scripture – the Bible does not contain mysterious / hidden / vague, messages). Thirdly, Revelation 20 indicates that the kingdom, or one thousand year reign of Christ, was just about to commence (not end). Revelation 20 says that this was to coincide with the binding of Satan. The New Testament teaches that Satan’s doomed was sealed by Christ’s Cross (Heb. 2:14; 1Jn. 3:8) and Christ also taught that the “kingdom was at hand”. The apostles wrote of the kingdom of God being a present reality (eg. 2Thess. 1:5) but it was yet to “appear” (2Tim. 4:1). The context of these passages fits well with the interpretation of Revelation 20 that the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70AD was the realising or “appearing” of Christ’s Kingdom and the binding of Satan because it is from this point that the only Covenant God offers mankind (the New Covenant) means that the redeemed are also “regenerated” (Titus 3:5) which Revelation describes as “the first resurrection”. Clearly, this did not commence with the reign of Solomon!

 

BIBLICAL MILLENNIALISM

Regarding the Millennium as a yet future event creates unnecessary and avoidable difficulties. Certain events which Scripture seems to make clear are singular events have to be artificially made to double up. For example, the return of Christ. The Pre-Millennialist has at least two returns of Christ and possibly three: (i) A Pre-Tribulation Rapture Return of Christ; (ii) A Post-Tribulation Return of Christ and (iii) a return of Christ to rescue the ‘Camp of the Saints’ and vanquish His enemies in order to set up the Great White Throne Judgment. Added to this is a double-up of the Physical Resurrection: (i) For those who had previously died prior to the Millennium who will be resurrected at the start of the Millennium; and (ii) For everyone else, at the end of the Millennium. We could go on and mention that many Pre-Millennialists believe that the Bible predicts that the Jerusalem Temple will be rebuilt just prior to the commencement of the Millennium, then destroyed just prior to the commencement of the Millennium, then rebuilt for the Millennium!

Hopefully it becomes apparent that what we are really dealing with is not just “Eschatology” (what the Bible predicts about the end) but we are actually engaged in a discussion about how we understand the Bible itself! If we tolerate such wild speculating when it comes to interpretting the Bible’s prophecies we are prone to error. By using the same sound principles that we would use for any other Biblical passage-

(i) Read a passage in its entirety and appreciate its full context (textual-type, geopolitical backdrop, occasion for it being written);

(ii) Use Scripture to Interpret Scripture (appreciate not just the words of Scripture but the language and manner of speaking of Scripture);

(iii) Discover the understanding of the original audience (appreciate that the Bible was not written to us, but for us); and

(iv) do not interpret a text in a way that contradicts the overall message of Scripture,

-then we will go a long way further down the road of correctly interpreting the Book of Revelation and other prophecies in Scripture.

By doing this we would soon discover that the Bible’s usage of the term “one thousand” frequently and consistently means “too big to count”, or not meant to be counted. For example, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. God’s love and faithfulness lasts for a thousandgenerations. One day in your court is better than a thousand elsewhere.

One wonders who owns that cow on the thousand and first hill, or who the poor soul is who was born in the one thousand and first generation, or whether dwelling in the house of a pagan for a thousand and one days might just be better than one day in God’s house?

In this light we ask, When the Bible says that Christ shall reign for a thousand years, is it saying that His reign will one day end?

and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Luke 1:33

When did Christ tell His disciples that His Kingdom, established at the Cross, would be inaugurated? It seems that He gave them pretty clear statements that His Kingdom, what the Book of Revelation describes as “a thousand years” would commence within their lifetimes.

Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Matthew 16:28

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

In predicting the fall and destruction of Jerusalem (described in Revelation as “Babylon”, “Egypt”, “Sodom”, “the city where they crucified the Lord”)-

and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.
Revelation 11:8

  • Christ is clearly telling His disciples that He would “come” (note, not “return”) in judgment to close the Old Covenant and commence His Kingdom- one covenant between God and Man, forming one people, under one Saviour and King. In this “Preterist” scheme, the ‘Millennium’ commenced when the Old Covenant’s elements (the Temple, the Priesthood, the Sacrifices) was brought to an end in AD70. People enter into this Kingdom spiritually.

nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
Luke 17:21

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
John 18:36

In this sense, the first resurrection is salvation. Paul wrote to the Ephesians that they were dead in trespasses and sins but have now been made alive through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5). Without Christ, a person is spiritually dead. In Revelation 20 it states that for those who have partaken of the first resurrection the second death will not touch them-

Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
Revelation 20:6

In coming to Christ a person enters into the Kingdom of Christ (the “Millennium”) and begins to exercise Christ’s influence in the earth today. The offer of salvation will one day come to an end. As this happens, the forces of anti-Christ(ian) influences muster to wage spiritual war against the Church (“the camp of the saints”) and it is at this point that Christ will return like flaming fire from heaven-

And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them,
Revelation 20:9

Proceeding the return of Christ will be the final judgment, “the Great White Throne”, where all will be physically resurrected and judged.

11 ¶ Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:11-15

This interpretation is the most Biblically consistent. It is also the most conservative as it avoids speculating, appeals to verifiable historical events (such as the fall and destruction of Jerusalem), and fosters a realistic worldview for how Christians should engage with culture today. If this view is wrong, nothing is lost. If Post-Millennialism is wrong much ground is lost by waiting for Christ to promote His Church to a position of worldly power. If Pre-Millennialism is wrong, vast ground is lost by discrediting Christ, the Scriptures and Christians’ generally. There is one other major treatment of the Millennium promoted by Hyper-Preterists who regard the Millennium as the time between the Cross and the Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD70. But this view is discredited for so many other reasons all of which become apparent when we read Scripture with the four sound principles of Biblical interpretation.

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice
John 5:28

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 6:40

– – –

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). 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.

Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, Australia August 26th 2010

The Rapture Examined
About Apostles
A Non-Futurist Vision of The Future
Is Preterism Biblical?
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Determining The Date Revelation’s Authorship

Determining The Date Revelation’s Authorship

home  >  articles  >  Dating the authorship of the Book of Revelation

DATING THE AUTHORSHIP OF REVELATION

Tearing up Revelation in frustration

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.

But the doctoral work by Kenneth L. Gentry on dating Revelation has concluded that it must have been written in the “mid to late 60s” rather than in 95AD-

There are suggestive evidences within the book to date it in the mid – to late 60s of the first century. In fact, the evidence is persuasive enough that it convinced such notable scholars Moses Stuart, F. J. A. Hort, B. F. Westcott, and F. W. Farrar in the 19th century, and J. A. T. Robinson, R. A. Torrey, Albert A. Bell, C. F. D. Moule, and R.C. Sproul, in the 20th century.

Two leading indicators of the early date are: (1) The “temple” in the “holy city” is still standing as John writes, though it is being threatened with devastation (Rev. 11: 1-2). We know as a matter of historical fact that the Jewish temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, and has never been rebuilt. (2) The sixth “king” is presently ruling from the “seven mountains” and will do so until a king comes who will reign a “short time” (Rev. 17:9-10). The Preterist takes this to be a clear enough allusion to Nero Caesar. According to the enumeration found in Josephus’ Antiquities (18:2:2,6, 10) and Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Nero is Rome’s sixth King, following Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, and Claudius. The next reigning emperor, Galba, reigned just six months, the shortest reigning emperor until that time.

Sourced from- http://www.kennethgentry.com/Merchant2/apocalypse.htm
by Dr. Kenneth Gentry Jr.

Full-Preterist, Don Preston, makes a similar point-

What is it Iranaeus [supposedly] said about the date of Revelation? Actually, Iranaeus did not discuss the dating of the book at all. The relevant quote is about the identity of the beast of Revelation and is found in the work of Eusebius, 4th century church historian, Book 5, chapter 8. Eusebius says Iranaeus speaks about John :”We, therefore, do not venture to affirm anything with certainty respecting the name of antichrist. For were it necessary that his name should be clearly announced to the present age, it would have been declared by him who saw the revelation. For it has not been long since it was seen, but almost in our own generation, about the end of Domitian’s reign.”
Don K. Preston

The evidence for Revelation actually being written before 70AD includes-

  • A quote from Clement of Alexandria (150-220 AD) who plainly states that it was Nero who banished John to Patmos, not Emperor Domitian

And to give you confidence, when you have thus truly repented, that there remains for you a trustworthy hope of salvation, hear a story that is no mere story, but a true account of John the apostle that has been handed down and preserved in memory. When after the death of the tyrant (previously identified as Nero) he removed from the island of Patmos to Ephesus, he used to journey by request to the neighboring districts of the Gentiles, in some places to appoint bishops, in others to regulate whole churches, in others to set among the clergy some one man, it may be, of those indicated by the Spirit.
(“Who is the Rich Man that shall be Saved?”, Section 42)

  • Cerinthus was a first century AD author who wrote The Pseudo-Apocalypse. He died well before John, that is well before 95AD, but his Pseudo-Apocalypse contains many references to John’s Apocalypse (the Book of Revelation).

  • The internal evidence supports a pre-64AD authorship. This includes-
    1. Rev. 11- John is told to measure the Temple (which was destroyed in 70AD)
    2. Rev. 17- There are “seven kings, five have fallen, one now is.” Nero was the 6th Roman King. He reigned until 68AD.

The expressions of nearness of the Lord’s coming within Revelation indicate that something was about to immediately happen. The notion that “imminent” doesn’t mean soon but rather anytime- and then quickly is somewhat ridiculous and a discredit to the several lexicons which have succumbed to this faulty reasoning. If Revelation was written in 95AD, what event happened within months or few years of its publication that could be seen as fulfilling the great sense of imminence contained within its pages? None. But if Revelation was written around 64AD the question is easily answered by pointing to the great persecution which commenced in 64AD and the campaign against Jerusalem which began in 68AD.

It is therefore my contention that Revelation 1-19 concerns events which were all fulfilled by 70AD when Jerusalem was destroyed. There are good reasons to believe that these passages parallel Matthew 24. Revelation 20 then introduces a greater time period- “1,000” years, which simply means a long period of time. This parallels Matthew 25 where we find several long-time references (the Bridegroom was “delayed”, vs. 5; the Master went away “a long time”, vs 19). At the end of Revelation 20 a fire appears from heaven which delivers the godly. This is the physical return of Christ, which is also described in Second Thessalonians 1:7-8 as being “fire from heaven”.

Therefore, the entire concept promoted by the Left Behind series is built upon a ridiculous method of Biblical interpretation which places nearly all of the contents of Revelation into the yet-to-be-fulfilled category.

The implications of course for rightly determining the date of Revelation’s authorship and which method of Biblical interpretation we employ are related. If Revelation was written in 95AD, then I am wrong. If Revelation was written around 65AD then I am more likely correct. If I am right then we need to overhaul how we regard the future and our involvement in it.

 

THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF REVELATION

It was a dark time for the Church. Since the death of Stephen in Acts 7, the Jewish Temple authorities had been waging a violent war against the Church. This continued up until the time of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70AD. Empire sanctioned persecution against the Church was being intensified since 64AD when Nero had ordered Christians to be put to death (usually by beheading). He declared that everyone in the Empire must acknowledge that he was Lord and King. Christians were publicly humiliated, ostracized and martyred throughout the Empire by both Jews and the Romans as they refused to declare that Caesar was either their Lord or their King (titles they exclusively reserved for Christ) or that the Old Covenant had any hold on them. Added to this was the rise in false doctrine, an increase in spiritual routine and therefore a decline in authentic passionate love for Jesus.

The Lord reveals through John that the wave of persecution against the Church was driven by the Dragon, no longer would his initial readers be lulled into thinking that they were engaged in some mere politico-ideological war – but a life-and-death spiritual war.

Andrew Corbett, 7th February 2005

The Symbolism of The Book of Revelation

The Symbolism of The Book of Revelation

home  >  articles  >  The Symbolism 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 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

Eschatology In The First Century

I’ve just finished teaching on a four-part series on the Apostle Paul. I’m now doing a four-part series on his protégé, Timothy. From a research point of view, Paul is a goldmine. He is one of the most written about people in history. But Timothy isn’t. We don’t know nearly as much about Timothy as we do for Paul. Some of the reasons for this are obvious. These include: (i) the nature of Timothy’s ministry (as the messenger and representative of Paul) meant that he was conveying what Paul wrote to the churches he visited and thus there was no cause for him to write anything (because he was physically present); (ii) Timothy succeeded Paul when the Neronic persecution had commenced in which the Apostle Paul was martyred in early 65 A.D. and tens of thousands of Christians were also martyred as it began; (iii) therefore, many of those who knew Timothy directly were unable to record their memories of him because of this violent period of martyrdom. But in my research I came across one of the most novel explanations I’d ever seen.

Ancient Mis-readings of The Book of Revelation

Beginning from the late Second Century, prominent Christian thinkers and preachers have got the interpretation of the Book of Revelation wildly wrong.

Environmental Theology

A world without trees would be a world without bees which would become a world without birds which would become a world without natural pest control made worst by the desperately high rates of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the dangerously low levels of oxygen available which would cause a rise in the rate of global warming and an even bigger hole in the ozone layer thus increasing the rapid demise of the few remaining forms of human life within an estimated period of about 5 years. Should we be concerned?

It’s claimed that the Amazon rain forest is apparently being cut down at an equivalent rate of several football stadiums every hour! In Indonesia there are thousands of acres of old-growth forests being cut down and burned at an alarming rate. Many parts of Australia have now been turned into dust-bowls and salinity-danger-zones due to the belligerent destruction of bushland…

HOW OLD IS THE UNIVERSE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE?

One of the most contentious issues among Christians today is the age of the universe. Is it 6000 years old like 17th century Bishop Ussher calculated, or is it around 14,200,000,000 years old as qualified scientists say? How we determine the answer determines how we interpret the Bible and understand the world around us…

The opening verse of Genesis is perhaps the most famous, and probably the most read, verse in the Bible. It is so plain, so clear, so unambiguous, that nearly every English translation of the Scriptures for the past 400 years has rendered it identically. Of all the statements that God could have chosen to utter first in His revelation to mankind, He gave us this one. Little wonder. If this statement is proven to be false then the entire credibility of the Bible is undermined. But if this statement is found to be true its ramifications are infinite!

Are We On The Brink of Armageddon

Armageddon? Some say it’s just about to happen. But what does the Bible say about it? 

Whenever things flare up in the Middle East, especially involving Israel, there are always people who speculate that Armageddon is about to happen. The word “Armageddon” has now become synonymous with “the final battle that ends the world”. So ubiquitous has the word become for the end of the world that Hollywood have titled blockbuster films with it, fictional books have been written about it, and media commentators now refer to it as the catch-all word to describe the level potential fall-out from a Middle Eastern battle. 

This is all very staggering considering that it occurs only once in Scripture, in the Book of Revelation, and is not alluded to anywhere else. Added to this is…

Start With Christianity

For those unacquainted with religions, it is often thought by them that all religions are basically the same. After all, every religion offers peace of mind, moral teaching, a connection with the divine, and a means for prayer, ritual, and worship, leading to meaning, fulfilment, and happiness.

To the unacquainted, religion sounds like one of life’s optional extras. It is particularly suited to those who are not scientific, easily intellectually satisfied with mystical answers, and probably already familiar with religion due to their upbringing.

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…

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