Revelation Study Resources


The following is a list of online resources that we used as we studied the book of Revelation in 2009-2010. (At the bottom of this page are two books that we also used.)

[A] Preterist viewpoint:

[1] http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/rev.htm
-“Revelation: A Study Guide” by Mark Copeland
-Includes all 22 chapters of Revelation
-Also available here: http://executableoutlines.com/rev.htm

[2] http://www.preteristarchive.com/StudyArchive/index.html
-Limited Scripture Study Archive
-Only has commentary on the following texts: Revelation 1:7, 6:16-17, 9:11, 11:1, 13:18, 17:10, 20:1-10

[3] http://www.preteristarchive.com/
-Type a Scripture text into the search box, and you may or may not find some valuable commentary on that particular text, both modern and ancient commentary.

[B] Neutral viewpoint:

[4] http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/17/
-John Piper’s sermons on Revelation over the years
-Generally non-eschatological
-Sermons available only for chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 19, 21, 22

[C] Futurist and/or Dispensationalist viewpoint:

[5] http://www.gcfweb.org/institute/general/revelation.pdf
-From the Grace Institute for Biblical Leadership
-In outline form, and covers all 22 chapters of Revelation
-In PDF format, so they can be saved and read offline

[6] http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/revelation.pdf
-Notes on Revelation from Dr. Thomas Constable, Department Chairman and Senior Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary
-In outline form, and covers all 22 chapters of Revelation
-In PDF format

[7] http://www.studylight.org/com/guz/view.cgi?book=re
-Commentary on the book of Revelation from David Guzik, director of Calvary Chapel Bible College in Siegen, Germany.
-In outline form, and covers all 22 chapters of Revelation

[D] Dr. Sam Storms/Historicist viewpoint

[8] http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/studies/eschatology/
-Sam Storms is an Amillennialist, and the best I can tell he is also a Historicist. His writings on the various Millennial views came in handy in our study of Revelation 20.
-His commentary at the above site covers Revelation 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21
-He also writes about the seven seals (chapters 6, 8); the seven trumpets (chapters 8, 9, 11); and the seven bowls (chapter 16).
-His meditations on Revelation 2-3 (letters to the seven churches) are here: http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/biblical-studies/ (scroll down the page 1/3 of the way)

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The following are offline sources (books) that we used in our study of Revelation:

[1] Gentry, Kenneth L. Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (An Exegetical and Historical Argument for a Pre-A.D. 70 Composition). American Vision: Powder Springs, Georgia, 1988.

[2] Gregg, Steve. Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary). Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, 1997.

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Revelation Chapter 5


Revelation Chapter 5

Rod: August 27, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 5:1-14

Notes are based in part on a sermon preached by Pastor John Piper, at Desiring God Ministries. [Notes from Adam were added on October 14th, and are in blue font. They are based mostly on Steve Gregg’s book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).”]

1. Verse 1:  A scroll with seven seals.  What is this scroll?
John Piper: The scroll represents the decrees of God of what will happen in the future.  In chapter 6, we can see that the seals are opened up one by one revealing the coming judgements upon the earth.  The opening of the seals is the course of history leading up to the end, and the rest of the scroll is the story of the end of the world and God’s final triumph. (Keep in mind that John Piper writes these things as a futurist who sees most of the book of Revelation as yet unfulfilled. The preterist view sees here the announcing of a series of judgments which were soon, in John’s day, to come upon apostate Israel as the end of the Old Covenant age drew near at that time.)

2. Verse 1:  What else do you see that is significant about this scroll?
John Piper: The scroll is being held in God’s right hand.  All of earth’s history is in the right hand of God, and nothing can change that.  The scroll is also complete, full both front and back.  Nothing can be added to it – it is full, complete and safe in the right hand of God.

Steve Gregg (p. 93) quotes Henry Morris and John Walvoord who are Futurists in regard to the judgments spoken of in Revelation:

Henry Morris, in agreement with many dispensational interpreters (e.g. Ironside, Criswell, Lindsey), wrote, ‘But what is this remarkable scroll? It is nothing less than the title deed to the earth itself.’ Walvoord notes, ‘Roman law required a will to be sealed seven times as illustrated in the wills left by Augustus and Vespasian for their successors.’ The mighty judgments of the Tribulation period that are unleashed by the opening of the document all are part of God’s reclaiming for Himself the control of the earth, which was forfeited to Satan by the fall of Adam and Eve long ago. The ‘redemption of the purchased possession’ (Eph. 1:14) is accompanied by long-overdue punishments upon the usurpers who have ‘destroyed the earth’ (Rev. 11:18).

I find these statements a bit odd. Walvoord sounds like he is speaking on behalf of radical environmentalists who are deeply concerned about mankind’s misuse of the planet’s resources (not to say this isn’t a valid concern). It’s the final generation which will experience God’s full wrath for the injustice of altering the environment, he implies. Furthermore, he suggests that their punishment has a lot to do with “our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14, ESV) being granted to us one day yet to come.

On the other hand, Steve Gregg also references Jay Adams, who advocates the Preterist view and goes back to the courtroom theme alluded to in the previous chapter (p. 92): “In Jay Adams’ view, the scroll with the seven seals is the sentence handed down by the judge against Jerusalem for its part in shedding ‘all the righteous blood’ of the martyrs (Matt. 23:35).” I’m personally much more comfortable with this explanation for why God is shown here preparing to release the seal judgments. See also Revelation 16:6, 17:6, and 18:24 in this regard; these passages serve to demonstrate that Jerusalem is one and the same with Babylon the Great here in this book (cf. Rev. 11:8, where Jerusalem is identified as “the great city” just as Babylon the Great is in Rev. 16:19, 17:18; 18:9, 16, 18-21.

Verses 2-5: A strong angel loudly asks for someone who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals. No one in heaven or on earth was found who was worthy to do so, causing John to weep. He had to be told by one of the 24 elders that One had been found, that is, Jesus.

How is Christ recognized in verses 5 and 6?
John Piper: As a Lion, of the tribe of Judah (an animal that is strong, majestic and dangerous). See Genesis 49:9-10.

In verse 6, John is allowed to see the Lion.  He now appears before the throne as a Lamb (an animal that is weak, harmless and lowly). Jesus is also referred to as “the Root of David,” a title borrowed from Isaiah 11:1, 10 and Romans 15:12, where the point is that He rises to rule the Gentiles and “in Him will the Gentiles hope.” This is not something awaiting a 21st century fulfillment so that it can become a reality. It was very much a reality in the 1st century AD.

4.  In verse 5, the elder says that the Lion of Judah has conquered.  What does this conquering refer to, as mentioned later in the text?
In verse 9, the four living creatures and twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb and sang a song exclaiming that He conquered by being slain and His blood ransomed people for God.

Steve Gregg remarks (p. 94): “Comparing Christ with a lamb is not a reference to His gentleness, since He is portrayed in the following chapters as anything but gentle (cf. 6:16)! His role as the Sacrificed One explains His being likened to a lamb (cf. John 1:29).”

5.  Jesus is symbolized as a Lamb standing before the throne.  What are some characteristics of this lamb and what do they mean?
John Piper: The Lamb (who was once slain) is now standing.  He has seven horns, which is a sign of strength and power throughout Revelation (12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 12) and also in the OT (Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalm 18:2; 112:7).  The number seven signifies completeness and fullness. John Piper concludes that Jesus is shown here as “a Lion-like Lamb and a Lamb-like Lion.”

Verses 8-10: Steve Gregg comments on the heavenly scene pictured here in these verses, along with the significance of the song sung by the four living creatures and the 24 elders (pp. 96, 98):

The taking of the scroll by the Lamb provokes an outburst of worship and praise in heaven, and a new song (v. 9) is introduced. In Revelation 4:11, they had sung an “old song” of praise to God for His older work of creating all things. The new song praises Him for His new work of redemption in Christ. This worship is accompanied by the priestly worship form of the offering up of incense (v. 8), which here represents the prayers of the saints—most likely the Christians who are being persecuted and are pleading for deliverance (cf. 6:10). This deliverance comes when their persecutors in Jerusalem are judged, after the seven seals of the scroll are broken. Making the redeemed kings and priests (v. 10), or, as some manuscripts have it, “a kingdom of priests,” implies that the original kingdom of priests, Israel (Ex. 19:5-6), has been done away with and replaced by the Church (cf. Heb. 7:12; 8:13).

The Futurist view of verse 10 is expressed this way in Gregg’s book (p. 99):

The reign of the saints on the earth (v. 10)—as opposed to “in heaven”—is a reference to the millennial reign of the saints with Christ after He has returned to earth to establish His kingdom. Henry Morris writes: “Three times in the book of Revelation it is said that believers are to be made kings and priests (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). These functions apply particularly in the millennial kingdom, when there is still need for them.” According to dispensational expectations, many unsaved people will live on earth during the Millennium, and the saints will reign over these people from their headquarters in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 19:17).

I highlighted part of Morris’ quote above because I find it rather astonishing. To be fair, he didn’t say the functions of believers as kings and priests apply exclusively to a future Millennium, so I suppose he leaves room for them to apply now. I certainly hope so. Revelation 1:6 was written beyond the shadow of a doubt to a group of first-century churches, and they were very much a kingdom of priests then just as believers are now: “John to the seven churches that are in Asia…Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:4-6). This has been a present reality for all believers ever since Jesus died and rose again. Peter, writing to a different first-century audience, concurs: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9).

It seems that Morris made his statement based on the common Premillennialist idea that sacrifices will be carried out in a physical temple in Jerusalem during a future Millennium period. Thus, for Morris, there would be a need for believers to function as priests, apparently just as there was once such a need under the Old Covenant. This would suggest a regression back to the types and shadows that have been fulfilled by Christ’s first coming. Whether or not this is the idea intended by Morris’ statement, let it be clear that followers of Jesus are, in this present age, that kingdom of priests which John and Peter wrote about.

Verses 11-14: “The song of 4:11 was sung by the 24 elders alone. In the song of 5:9-10, they were joined by the four living creatures. Now many angels (v. 11), numbering into millions, add their voices in attributing glory to the Lamb” (Steve Gregg, p. 100). They cry out:

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! …To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!

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Our study of Revelation 6 (Part 1) can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

Revelation Chapter 4


REVELATION 4

Adam/Dave: August 20, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 4

BRIEF PRETERIST SUMMARY OF CHAPTERS 1-3

“The preterists consider the letters to apply to little else than the contemporary situation of the seven churches as they existed in John’s time. As with all biblical epistles, however, application to similar churches of any time is acknowledged” (Steve Gregg, Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary), p. 81).

Verse 1: John’s eyes are opened to see a door standing open in heaven. A voice like a trumpet invites him upward, and he is told that he will be shown “what must take place after this.” As Steve Gregg states, “Since John was told (in the first century) that these things were ‘about to take place,’ a first-century fulfillment is to be looked for” (p. 84). This is what John’s original audience would have understood and expected. “To the dispensational view,” though, says Gregg (p. 85),

after this…means after ‘the things of the church,’ or after the church age. Thus the material in Revelation after this point will be fulfilled after the church is gone. Some believe that John’s transportation to heaven may be viewed as a type of the Rapture of the church, and the mention of a voice…like a trumpet (v. 1) here may recall the language of the Rapture passages in I Corinthians 15:51-54 (which refers to ‘the last trumpet’) and I Thessalonians 4:16-18 (which refers to the ‘voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God’). Dispensational futurists note that the church is not seen hereafter on the earth—only in heaven (7:9-17).

Others, however, would “note that the terms saints (5:8; 8:3-4; 11:18; 13:7-10; 14:12; 15:3; 16:6; 17;6) and redeemed (5:9; 14:3-4) are indeed ‘terms which are characteristic of the church, the Body of Christ,’ when found elsewhere throughout the New Testament” (p. 87). Therefore, the church IS seen throughout the book of Revelation.

Verse 2: John, now “in the Spirit,” beholds Christ seated on His throne. Steve Gregg, speaking for the Preterist position, writes, “We are introduced, most probably, to a heavenly courtroom scene. The Judge sits on the throne (v. 2) where, as we shall see in chapter 5, He is about to hand down sentence upon the accused. The plaintiffs are the martyrs of Christ, whose complaint against their persecutors is recorded later in the vision (6:9). The accused (Jerusalem) is about to be condemned” (p. 84). This is not stated explicitly in the text, but would have to be deduced from the overall context as a possible explanation.

Verse 3: The One on the throne appears as “jasper and carnelian” (fiery red and sparkling white), and His throne is surrounded by an emerald (green)-colored rainbow.

Verse 4: How are the 24 elders to be identified? There is a difference of opinion as to who these elders are. Steve Gregg writes (p. 89), “The majority opinion among dispensationalists (e.g. Gaebelein, Ryrie, Walvoord, Lindsey, and others) identifies the 24 elders as the New Testament saints, who were raptured into heaven (in v. 1).” Henry Morris, another Futurist, suggests that they are “the first 24 ancestors of Christ (Adam through Pharez) listed in Genesis 5 and 11,” while George Eldon Ladd and Robert H. Mounce believe them to be angels. Jay Adams, a Preterist, however, believes this is not possible because “they are distinguished from angels throughout chapters 5 and 7. David Clark sees them as representing the church, and David Chilton suggests that they are “the representative assembly of the Royal Priesthood, the Church” (pp. 86, 88).

I personally favor this explanation from Mark A. Copeland, a Preterist: “Summers and Hailey suggest that they depict the twelve patriarchs of Israel and the twelve apostles, who represent the redeemed of both covenants now united in Christ.  Note that in 5:8-9 they do seem to speak [on] behalf of the redeemed.”[2] Further support for the idea that the 24 elders depict the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles can be seen by the fact that the names of both groups are displayed on the gates and foundations of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:12, 14).

The elders are pictured clothed in white garments (which generally denotes the righteousness of God’s people; cf. Rev. 19:8), and with golden crowns on their heads. They are later (verse 10) shown casting their crowns before the throne in worship to God. We know elsewhere in Scripture that there are crowns laid up for believers, a crown of rejoicing (I Thess. 2:19), a crown of righteousness (II Timothy 4:8), a crown of life (James 1:12; cf. Rev. 2:10, 3:11), and a crown of glory (I Peter 5:4).

Verse 5: Steve Gregg remarks (p. 88),

The lightnings, thundering and voices (v. 5) recall Mount Sinai, where God first established His covenant with Israel [Exodus 19:16; cf. Rev. 8:5, 11:19]. Similar phenomena are mentioned here to suggest the end of that covenant and its replacement with another. The writer of Hebrews (citing Hag. 2) likened the overthrow of the first covenant (publicly demonstrated by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70) to the time of its establishment at Sinai, but the latter would be accompanied by even more fearful phenomena (Heb. 12:18-29).

We will see these same phenomena (thunder, lighting, and rumblings) two more times in this book, in response to the cumulative prayers of the saints (Rev. 8:5) and at the sight of the ark of the covenant and God’s temple in heaven (Rev. 11:19). The final occurrence of these phenomena serves to validate what Steve Gregg has suggested, that the reader is to understand that what is being pictured is the overthrow of the Old Covenant in favor of the New Covenant. One purpose, then, of the judgments which are to follow is to establish the New Covenant within the Church in the exclusive sense. The total destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 AD facilitated this purpose (in the remaining chapters, we will see many examples of how the events during the Roman-Jewish War of 66-70 AD fulfilled what was written in Revelation). Ever since 70 AD, the New Covenant has been unencumbered by the vestiges of the Old Covenant and Judaism, which never has recovered as an intact system. The Judaic age was brought to an end, and the Kingdom of God from that point on has fully belonged to the Church (cf. Matthew 21:33-46, Hebrews 8:13). God came in judgment to take away the Kingdom from the Jewish nation, just as Jesus said He would (Matthew 21:33-46), and it was given to the Church (cf. Daniel 7:13-28).

Q: How are the four living creatures described in verses 6-8?
A:
They are full of eyes in front and behind, and also “around and within,” and each has six wings. One is like a lion, one like an ox, one has the face of a man, and the last one is like a flying eagle. They constantly cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and is to come!”

Verses 6-8: See Ezekiel 1:5-14 and 10:14, where the four creatures that Ezekiel saw were very similar. In Ezekiel’s vision, each creature had all of the four faces mentioned above (human, lion, ox, eagle). If John saw the same creatures Ezekiel saw, perhaps they were turned in four different directions since John describes them as if each had only one of the four features. See also Isaiah 6:2, where Isaiah beheld the seraphim which also had six wings.  According to Jay Adams,

the creatures, like the 24 elders, are neither angels nor men, ‘since they…are distinguished from both in chapters 5 and 7. They are rather to be identified with the Cherubim of Ezekiel, to which they most closely conform. Their function is to guard and bear the throne of God. In this passage, they serve the purpose of emphasizing the majesty of the vision. Like the elders, they are to help the revelation unfold’ (p. 90).

Q: What happens whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the One seated on the throne?
A:
The 24 elders fall down in worship before Him, and they cast their crowns before His throne.

Verses 9-11: If we are to receive literal crowns one day, I’m pretty sure that we won’t be holding onto them as emblems of our achievements on earth. We will know (as we ought to know now) that we could do nothing without Him. We will be extolling His worthiness, as the 24 elders did in John’s vision. The 24 elders proclaimed that God is worthy of glory, honor, and power because He “created all things, and by [His] will they existed and were created.”

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Our study of Revelation 5 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

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[2] Source: Mark A. Copeland, Revelation: A Study Guide, http://www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/rev/rev_04.htm.

Revelation Chapter 3


Revelation Chapter 3

Rod: July 23, 2009

(This post cites material  from Dr. Sam Storms and Dr. John MacArthur:
[NASB MacArthur Study Bible. World Publishing, 2006.])

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 3:1-22

[Notes from Adam were added on October 14th, and are in blue font. Some are based on Steve Gregg’s book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).”]

Sardis

Sardis is a city of past glory. It was a capital in the ancient Lydian kingdom (1200 B.C.) and flourished under Croesus in approximately 600 B.C. It was famous for its red dye and woolen goods, and was also known for its excessive immorality. It was twice conquered by the Persians before eventually succumbing to decline. It was struck by a major earthquake in 17 A.D. and, despite being given aid to rebuild by emperor Tiberias, suffered great decline.

Sardis was built on a mountain (about 1500 feet up) to help protect it from enemy attack. Ironically, the city twice was taken by surprise and captured (by Cyrus in 549 BC and by Antiochus the Great in 218 BC). Jesus addresses this church’s lack of faithfulness (verse 2), and tells them to wake up before He comes against them in judgment.

Verse 3: Here Jesus says, “If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”

Notice that Jesus says the same in Matthew’s version of the Olivet Discourse, concerning His own first century generation (Matthew 24:34):

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him” (Matthew 24:42-44).

We see the following identical elements in these warnings:

1. Jesus would come in judgment.
2. He would come like a thief.
3. They would not know the hour.
4. They were told to wake up or be ready.

1. What is one aspect of the Church in Sardis that we notice is different from the previous four churches?

Jesus has no words of commendation for this church. The previous four churches were greeted and given encouragement and praise. All the churches mentioned so far have mixed membership, but the people in Sardis have a majority of faulty members.

2. Why might both the Jews and Romans have persecuted this church much less with respect to the other churches?

It is likely because they were not faithfully and passionately following Christ. The church in Sardis was buried in mediocrity, entertained heresy and lacked conviction.

3. In verse 3, Jesus gives Sardis three commands in a specific order. What are they?

Remember – recall the blessings of grace and be strengthened
Keep it – hold firmly to the gospel which you have received
Repent – stop sinning, seek forgiveness and walk in righteousness

Philadelphia

Philadelphia is located about thirty miles southeast of Sardis and was founded in 190 B.C. by Attalus II, the king of Pergamos. It was because of this king’s devotion to his brother that the city adopted its name “brotherly love”. The city was located on a major trade route and an important commercial stop. Though never mentioned in the New Testament, it is likely the  church here was the fruit of Paul’s work in Ephesus.

Steve Gregg writes (p. 75) that Philadelphia was a city plagued by earthquakes, and for that reason was not well populated in John’s day. “Historically,” he says, the inhabitants had frequently been forced to move out of the city due to its instability.” Philadelphia was also destroyed by a major earthquake in 17 AD, but was then rebuilt. A significant church existed there until at least the 12th century, and a small congregation is said to be there to this day.

Verse 7: Jesus has the undisputed authority to admit into, or exclude from, the New Jerusalem (the Davidic kingdom–see Isaiah 22:22). Steve Gregg adds, “Jesus identifies himself as the One who is holy and true (v. 7). This is the first of the letters not to take its introductory description from features found in chapter one” (p. 75). He says further (pp. 75-76),

The reference to Jesus having the key of David (v. 7), so that he opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens is an allusion to Isaiah 22:22, in which the same privilege and prerogative is assigned to a man named Eliakim, who was steward over the house of King Hezekiah. This man had the power either to admit persons or to deny entry into the king’s house. Jesus is claiming to have a corresponding right with reference to admitting people into heaven. As a matter of fact, He tells the church that He has chosen to admit them: I have set before you an open door (v. 8). The mention that no one can shut it may imply that the Jews in Philadelphia (mentioned in v. 9) sought to exclude the Gentiles from God (cf. Matt. 23:13; I Thess. 2:15f), but Jesus had made access available to them through himself.

1. Note that Jesus does not have a bad word to say about Philadelphia. Because of their faithful adherence to him and persistent endurance, what three things does Jesus assure them of?

-They have an open door to the eternal kingdom that no one can shut
-They will be vindicated before their fellow “false” Jews and see Jesus’ love for his church
-They will be protected at the hour of trial that is coming to the whole world

Verses 9-10: Take note of the way that Revelation 3:9 looks back to Isaiah 60:14, where those who persecuted the people of Israel would bow to them, and reverses this image:

Also the sons of those who afflicted you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet; and they shall call you The City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 60:14).

Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie – indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you” (Revelation 3:9).

Steve Gregg comments on the false Jews that Jesus spoke of in verse 9 (pp. 75-76):

As was the case in Smyrna (2:9), the present troublers of the church in Philadelphia appear to have been the local Jews (3:9)… Jesus again refers to the persecuting Jews as the synagogue of Satan. They say they are Jews and are not, but lie (v.9)—they are not real Jews in Christ’s sight because “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39), and “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly…but he is a Jew who is one inwardly” (Rom. 2:28f). Although, prior to A.D. 70, the principal systematic persecution of Christians came from the Sanhedrin and synagogues of the Jews, both Christians and Jews later became the targets of Roman persecution—a development that would bring an end to biblical Judaism, but which would not be able to extinguish Christianity.

That the persecuting Jews would one day be forced to come and worship before your feet (v. 9) does not mean that the latter will be worshiped as deities, but they will be sitting enthroned with Christ (3:21), before whom, someday, every knee shall bow (Phil. 2:10). Though they are presently seeking to exclude the Gentiles from the love and favor of God, the day will come when these Jews will be forced to acknowledge that I have loved you (v. 9). Jesus had previously expressed a concern that “the world might know” that God loves His disciples (John 17:23). That day will come in which His desire will be fulfilled.

2. What is the hour of trial that Jesus is referring to in verse 10?

It may have pertained to the trials or “tribulations” that the Christians of Asia Minor were experiencing during that time or it may refer to one particular season of intense persecution that was imminent to the other believers of Asia Minor. [Note: The preterist position sees the great tribulation as having been fulfilled in the Roman-Jewish War beginning in early 67 AD and leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction 3.5 years later in August 70 AD. This is likely the “hour of trial” that they were to be spared from.]

According to John MacArthur, Jesus is referring to the seven-year period before Christ’s earthly kingdom is consummated, featuring the unleashing of divine wrath in judgments expressed in seals, trumpets and bowls. This is described in great detail in Chapters 6-19. Indeed this is a key Rapture text for Dispensational Futurists, seeming to them to indicate that believers will be taken to heaven so that they will not experience a future period of global tribulation. This is despite the fact that this statement was addressed to a specific church in the 1st century AD, as Sam Storms noted. However, as Steve Gregg points out (pp. 76-77),

…removal of Christians from the earth [need not be] the only possible way in which Jesus could keep His people from the wars and plagues anticipated to occur at that time. For example, Jesus prayed thus for His disciples: ‘I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one’ (John 17:15)… Preterists argue that an empire-wide crisis would satisfy the normal use of the terminology in Revelation 3:10. The whole world is a term used to designate the Roman Empire in Luke 2:1 and elsewhere. That it is to test those who dwell on the earth (or “land,” i.e. Israel) may suggest that there is a crisis that will shake the whole empire and put the Jews, in particular, into special peril. In A.D. 68, the death of Nero, and the civil wars that followed, greatly threatened the stability of the Roman Empire, until Vespasian was made emperor in A.D. 70. During this same period (A.D. 66-70), the Jews were embroiled in a fight for the survival of their nation against the Romans…which they lost. Preterism suggests that this judgment on Jerusalem is what is implied in the promise, I am coming quickly! (v. 11).

[As we continue in our study of Revelation, we will be suggesting that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subject beginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.]

3. What is the three-fold promise of Jesus in verses 12 and 13?

-I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God – a metaphor for eternal salvation?
-Never shall he go out of it – promise of permanence within the New Jerusalem
-I will write on him the name of my God, the city of God and my own new name – metaphor of divine ownership, being identified with the city New Jerusalem (see Isaiah 56:5 and Ezekiel 48:35).

Steve Gregg comments on verse 12 (p. 77):

The overcomer will be made a pillar in the temple of My God (v. 12). Assuming a familiarity with the concept of the church being the temple of God (I Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:20-22; I Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6; I Pet. 2:5), faithful confessors will possess positions of stability and support. Such pillars are earthquake-proof, so that, unlike the citizens of Philadelphia, who had frequently been driven out of their city by quakes, the overcomer shall go out no more.

Gregg goes on to suggest that Jesus’ promise to write on those who overcome “the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem” is connected to God’s actions in Revelation 7:3 and 14:1. There God sealed His servants on their foreheads with His name, and this was in contrast to those who had the name and the mark of the beast on their foreheads. Gregg adds, “Such a mark on the believer is not a visible tattoo, but the seal of God’s ownership, a concept Paul equates with the believer’s possession of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). The writing of the New Jerusalem upon the believer suggests citizenship there (cf. Ps. 87:5-6). This Jerusalem is described in symbolic detail in chapter 21.”

Laodicea

Laodicea was a wealthy city, perhaps the wealthiest in all Phrygia. Struck by a horrible earthquake in 60 A.D., the city rebuilt itself without the aid of Rome. It was a banking center, and linen and wool were the main commerce for clothing manufacturing. It also had a medical school and was famous for its eye doctors and ointments.

Paul likely never visited Laodicea. But he mentions the city five times in Colossians: 2:1, 4:13, 15, 16 (2). It was likely that Epaphras, who was a servant of the Lord in Colossae, initiated the church here. It should be noted that there is no praise given to this church from Jesus.

1. What two things does Jesus discern about the people in Laodicea?

-They are lukewarm in their faith – rebuked for the barren nature of their works and their stagnant spiritual condition.
-They are comfortable in their own financial self-sufficiency. As Steve Gregg comments (p. 79), “Wealth has a way of imparting a false sense of self-sufficiency—the very antithesis of the beggarliness of spirit commended in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3).”

Nearby Heirapolis was famous for its hot springs and Colossae for its cold mountain streams. Laodicea had an underground aqueduct to provide for its water supply that was dirty and tepid. Visitors would often spit this water out. The church there was neither hot, filled with spiritual zeal, nor cold, openly rejecting Christ. The members were lukewarm hypocrites professing to know Christ but not truly belonging to Him. Steve Gregg adds, “The city’s water supply originated from hot springs six miles away at Denizli. In the process of traveling through the aqueduct to Laodicea, the water became tepid—neither hot nor cold” (p. 78).

2. In verse 18, Jesus asks the church to come trade with Him. What three things* does Jesus say come and trade for, and what do they mean?

Gold – spiritual wealth, refined by the fires of suffering
White garments – works of righteousness that were lacking in this church
Eye salve – restoration of their spiritual vision

*Note that these are counterparts to the three major industries (banking, clothing and medicine)!

3. In verse 19, Jesus says “to whom I love, I will reprove and discipline.” What does He mean by this?

According to MacArthur: “It can be seen by verses 18 and 20 that Jesus is addressing unbelievers. God certainly loves the unconverted, but disciplining (or chastening) is referring to God’s convicting and punishing of the unregenerate.”

According to Storms: “The appeal of v. 20 is not to unbelievers so that they might be saved. Rather it is an appeal to individuals (“anyone”) within the church to repent and forsake their spiritual half-heartedness. As a result one may experience now the intimate communion and fellowship of which the feast in the messianic kingdom is the consummation. All present fellowship with Jesus is a foretaste of that eternal felicity which will be consummated in the age to come.”

Verse 21: Jesus promises that those who overcome will be able to sit with Him on His throne, as He has already done. Steve Gregg comments (p. 80),

Reigning with Christ also is promised to the overcomers in Thyatira (2:26f), and additional references to the co-regency of the saints are found in 5:10 and 20:4. Opinions concerning the exact time of this fulfillment depend upon one’s eschatological system—it could be in the millennium; or after death, reigning in heaven prior to the Second Advent. It could be a spiritual reign of saints in this life or a literal reign over the new earth. Theories abound. The present and accomplished enthronement of Christ is stated clearly enough: as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

BRIEF PRETERIST SUMMARY OF CHAPTERS 1-3

“The preterists consider the letters to apply to little else than the contemporary situation of the seven churches as they existed in John’s time. As with all biblical epistles, however, application to similar churches of any time is acknowledged” (Steve Gregg, Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary), p. 81).

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Our study of Revelation 4 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

Revelation Chapter 2 (Pergamum & Thyatira)


REVELATION 2:12-29 (Pergamum & Thyatira)

Dave: July 16, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 2:12-29

[Notes from Adam were added on October 14th, and are in blue font. They are based mostly on Steve Gregg’s book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).”]

Pergamum

  • 190,000 people
  • 65 miles north of Smyrna
  • Capital city of the northern province of Asia
  • Known as a religious hub –
    • Worship of Zeus
    • Worship of Athene & Dionysus
    • Worship of Asclepios
    • Worship of Caesar

Steve Gregg notes that Pergamum (Pergamos) was the oldest city in Asia. It had the second largest library in the world (after Alexandria, Egypt), with 200,000 volumes of books (Steve Gregg, p. 68).

–What was the church praised for?
–Who was Antipas?  (See 1:5)
–What was the church rebuked for?  (See Num 31:16 for more on Balaam)

Sam Storms:

We read of Balaam in Numbers 22-24. Balak, King of Moab, had solicited Balaam to curse the children of Israel who were preparing to cross over into the promised land. But God intervened. Every time Balaam spoke, words of blessing came forth. Moved by greed for the reward Balak offered him, Balaam advised Balak that Moabite women should seduce the men of Israel by inviting them to partake in their idolatrous feasts (which invariably led to sexual immorality). Balaam knew that this would provoke the judgment of God against his people (which is precisely what happened).

What Balaam was to the children of Israel in the Old Testament, the Nicolaitans were to the church of Jesus Christ in the New. Balaam is a prototype of those who promote compromise with the world in idolatry and immorality (see also Jude 11 and 2 Peter 2:15). The Nicolaitans had dared to insinuate that freedom in Christ granted them a blank check to sin. The fault of the Pergamemes was not so much that they had followed this pernicious teaching but that they had allowed it be vocalized in the congregation. This matter of indifference to the licentiousness of the Nicolaitans was of grave concern to the risen Lord.

Steve Gregg views the teaching of the Nicolaitans as a forerunner to second-century gnosticism:

Whether those in Pergamos were teaching false doctrine for pay [as Balaam did], or simply teaching false doctrine, we do not know. What is evident is that sexual immorality and compromise with idolatry were being tolerated and even advocated by some in the church. In the second century, these same issues would be principal features of the Gnostic heretics (p. 69).

–Who are the Nicolaitans? (See note on Rev 2:6 – antinomians?)
–Why does Jesus say “I know where you dwell?”  (Encouragement that He understands our difficulties.)
–To whom does Jesus say He will come?  (to the church, but He will wage war against those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.)
–Practically speaking, what should the elders of Pergamum have done about the false teaching?
–What application is there for our churches?  And for us?

The Christians in Pergamum had sacrificed the ethical purity of their congregation on the altar of “love” and for the sake of some nebulous “peace” they feared to lose. Purity often comes at an extremely high price. But we must be prepared to pay it. Confrontation is never pleasant, but it often reaps a bountiful harvest. By all means, pursue love, but not at the expense of truth or in such a way that overt sin is left to fester and spread in the body of Christ (Source: Sam Storms).

Verses 16-17: Jesus tells the church in Pergamos what will take place in they do not repent for allowing the teaching of the Nicolaitans to remain in their midst. Steve Gregg remarks (p. 69),

Though the whole church is called upon to repent, it is only the offenders against whom Jesus threatens to fight…with the sword of My mouth (v. 16). What form this judgment will take is not specified, though it probably does not refer to the Second Coming, since this church no longer exists.

The same language Jesus uses here will be used again in Revelation 19:15. Jesus then gives several promises to those who conquer, including that He will give them a new name which no one else knows. A similar promise is given to the church in Philadelphia (3:12), where a second name is also promised (the name of God’s city, the New Jerusalem). Another promise given by Jesus here is that He will give to those who conquer a white stone. Steve Gregg remarks,

Much speculation has attended the interpretation of a white stone (v. 17). In one view, it is a token of vindication or acquittal, referring to the [first-century] practice of a judge handing an accused criminal either a black stone signifying condemnation or a white stone indicating acquittal. The message then would be that, though the Christians may stand condemned in the Roman courts, they will be justified at the bar of eternal justice. Another view is that the white stone was a token given to contestants in the Greek games as they completed their race, to be traded in later for their actual awards.

–The white stone . . . sometimes given to victors at games for entrance to banquets
–Where does Satan dwell these days?

Thyatira

–Economically strong, but culturally and politically ostracized.
–What is the church commended for?  (opposite of church in Ephesus)
–What is it rebuked for?  (tolerated heresy and immorality)

Steve Gregg (pp. 70-71) reminds us that one prominent believer from the book of Acts hailed from Thyatira:

Lydia, Paul’s first convert in Philippi, was from the city of Thyatira (Acts 16:14). The purple cloth she sold was a major product of that city… It is known that the city had many trade guilds, and it would have been difficult to make a living without participating in one of them. Yet the guilds practiced idolatrous rites at their gatherings, which Christians could not countenance. Therefore, the Christians in Thyatira may have been hard pressed to support themselves and their families without resorting to some measure of compromise with idolatry.

–Who is Jezebel?  (real person, but name was symbolic – like the symbolism of Balaam)

“Thus, what is meant is that this disreputable, so-called “prophetess” was as wicked and dangerous an influence in Thyatira as ‘Jezebel’ had been to Israel in the OT”  (Sam Storms).

–What was Jezebel doing to oppose the Lord and lead others astray?
–Didn’t Paul say it was OK to eat food sacrificed to idols as long as a brother’s conscience is not harmed?  What is the difference here?
–What will become of her and those she has influenced?
–What assurance does Jesus give to believers in Thyatira?  (He “searches the mind and the heart.”)
–Is the prophetess a believer?  And what about those who have followed her?  (Acts 5, 1 Cor 11:30-32)
–What are the deep things of Satan?
–What admonition does the Lord give to the believers?  (hold fast what you have until I come; conquer; keep my works until the end)
–What does “I will give authority over the nations” mean?  What are these nations?  (See Ps 2:7-9)

Steve Gregg addresses this question by presenting the various ways this statement in verse 26 is interpreted (p. 72):

Here the overcomer is described as the one who keeps My works until the end, with whom Christ will share His own power over the nations (v. 26). The fulfillment of this promise has been variously applied: (a) to reigning with Christ over the unsaved nations during a future millennium (20:4), (b) to participating in the reign of the saints with Christ after death in heaven (another way of understanding 20:4), or (c) to reigning over Christians of lower rank in the new earth, assuming there will be varying degrees of authority awarded to various saints (see Matt. 25:21-23; Luke 19:17, 19; I Cor. 15:41f).

The paraphrase of Psalm 2:9…appears, in context and without punctuation, to apply to the overcoming believer. In the psalm itself, it is clearly Christ who wields the rod of iron (as also in Rev. 19:15), which no doubt accounts for the translators in this case using quotation marks. Citation of the psalm points out that the authority of the exalted believer is not his own, but derived from the authority of Christ.

–Who is the Morning Star?  (See Rev 22:16)
–Do your latter works exceed your first?  Which direction are you going?

Thank you, Jesus, for giving us time to repent!

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Our study of Revelation 3 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

Revelation Chapter 2 (Ephesus and Smyrna)


REVELATION 2:1-11 (Ephesus and Smyrna)

Mike: July 9, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 2:1-11

Some of the following notes are taken from commentaries by John MacArthur and David Guzik, director of Calvary Chapel Bible College in Siegen, Germany. Both MacArthur and Guzik are Dispensational Futurists (None of us in this Bible study group hold to this position, however). The following is the source information for their materials:

[1] MacArthur, Dr. John. NASB MacArthur Study Bible. World Publishing, 2006, pp. 1963-1965.
[2] Guzik, David. David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible: Revelation 2.

[Notes from Adam are in blue font, and represent the preterist position.]

Introduction: According to David Guzik, the letters to the 7 churches share a similar structure, and these two are no exception:

[1] An address to a particular congregation
[2] An introduction of Jesus
[3] A statement and a verdict from Jesus regarding the condition of the church
[4] A command from Jesus to the church
[5] A general exhortation to all Christians
[6] A promise of reward

A. Letter to the Church in Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7)

In the second half of the first century, Ephesus had a population of about 250,000. It was the largest and most important city in the Roman province of Asia. It was also devoted to the cult of Artemis (Diana), and its temple to the goddess Diana was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (Steve Gregg, Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary, p. 64). David Guzik writes,

Ephesus was a famous city in the ancient world, with an equally famous church. Ephesus was the city where Paul ministered for three years (Acts 19:1, Acts 10, Acts 20:31). It was the city where Aquilla and Priscilla, with Apollos ministered (Acts 18:24-28). It was the city where Paul’s close associate Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3) ministered. And according to strong and consistent church historical traditions, the Apostle John himself ministered there.

Verse 1: David Guzik suggests that “this angel may be the pastor of the church at Ephesus, or an angelic being ‘looking in’ on the workings of the church at Ephesus.” In any case, says Guzik, “the letter isn’t written just to the representative, but to the whole church.”

According to John MacArthur, the 7 stars are the messengers who represent the 7 churches. Christ holds them in his hand, which means that He controls the church and its leaders. The seven lampstands, says MacArthur, were portable, gold, and “held small oil lamps. Each lampstand represented a church from which the light of life shone. Throughout scripture 7 is the number of completeness, so these 7 lampstands are representative of all the churches.”

Verses 2-3: The text says, “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance…” Jesus lets them know He knows what’s going on in their church, and it’s not a mystery to him. “There may be sin or corruption hidden in a congregation, but it’s not hidden to Jesus.” He also knows what the church is doing right. They work hard for the Lord and have patient endurance.

Jesus commended the believers in Ephesus for testing and exposing false apostles. Unfortunately, those who test in this way today are often accused of “touching the Lord’s anointed” (as if some are anointed, and others are not), having a critical/religious spirit, being negative, etc. Guzik adds, “The Ephesian church also pursued doctrinal purity.” In Acts chapter 20:29-31 Paul warned them about those who would try to draw them away from the faith. The Ephesians took this warning seriously. Guzik quotes from Charles Spurgeon:

This was grand of them: it showed a backbone of truth. I wish some of the churches of this age had a little of this holy decision about them ; for nowadays, if a man be clever, he may preach the vilest lie that was ever vomited from the mouth of hell, and it may go down with some.

Verse 4: David Guzik remarks, “Despite all the good in the Ephesian church, there is something seriously wrong. They have left- not lost– their first love. They once had a love that they don’t have anymore.” Again Guzik quotes from Spurgeon, who says,

The distinction between leaving and losing is important. Something can be lost quite by accident, but leaving is a deliberate act, though it may not happen suddenly. As well, when we lose something we don’t know where to find it, but when we leave something, we know where to find it.

Verse 5: Jesus’ command to the believers in Ephesus is three-fold: [1] Remember [2] Repent [2] Do (“the works you did at first”). David Guzik remarks, “When the Prodigal Son was in the pigpen, the first step in restoration was remembering what life was like back in his father’s home (Luke 16:17-19). This is always the first step in getting back to where we should be with the Lord.” Jesus then tells them in no uncertain terms what will take place if they fail to respond: “If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” Steve Gregg remarks (p. 65),

The warning that Christ will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place (v. 5) can hardly refer to His Second Coming and almost certainly speaks of the total extinction of the church in that location. Indeed, today there is no city or church in the Turkish location that was once Ephesus. Islam has been established in this region which Paul had once thoroughly evangelized (Acts 19:10). How different might the history of that region have been had the church continued to practice its first love (Eph. 1:15)?

Steve Gregg notes that at least their faithfulness to doctrinal truth continued for some time: “In the second century, Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, commended this church for its loyalty to the truth that had effectively prevented any false sect from gaining a hearing among its members” (p. 64). David Guzik notes how the removal of a congregation’s lampstand can apply today: “When their lampstand is removed, they may continue as an organization, but no longer as a true church of Jesus Christ. It will be the church of Ichabod, where the glory has departed (1 Samuel 4:21).”

Verse 6: Jesus commended the Ephesian believers for hating the works of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus also hated. David Guzik adds these details:

But who are the Nicolaitans and what were their deeds? The doctrine of the Nicolaitans is also condemned in Revelation 2:15, and in that passage is related to immorality and idolatry. Irenaeus (writing in the late second century) described what he knew of the Nicolaitans: “The Nicolaitans are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles [Acts 6:5]. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrifice to idols.” (Against Heresies, book 1, chapter 26. From the Ante Nicean Fathers Volume 1, page 352)

Steve Gregg (pp. 64-65) adds that “some modern commentators (e.g. F.F. Bruce) suggest that Nicolas was a disciple of the Gnostic heretic Cerinthus,” and that “their teaching is compared, in verse 15, with that of Balaam, who advocated sinful license in idolatrous practices and sexual immorality.” Guzik also points out that meaning can be derived from the root words which make up the word “Nicolaitans”:

Nikao-laos means literally “to conquer the people.” Based on this, some point to presumptuous claims of apostolic authority and to the heart that sets up hierarchies and separates the “clergy” from the “laity.” Perhaps the Nicolaitans fulfilled all these aspects, being both an idolatrous immorality and a presumptuous, hierarchical, “hidden mysteries” system typical of Gnosticism. The Nicolaitans, like all deceivers which come from the body of Christ, claimed “not that they were destroying Christianity, but that they were presenting an improved and modernized version of it” (Barclay).

B. Letter to the Church in Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11)

David Guzik notes, “The name Smyrna comes from the word myrrh, a sweet smelling perfume used in embalming dead bodies.” He adds that Smyrna was a large, beautiful city. It was a center of learning and culture, and claimed to be the “glory of Asia.” It was a rich city and a great trade city. “We also know from history that it was a city deeply committed to idolatry and the worship of the Roman Emperor,” adds Guzik.

Smyrna was the second largest city in Provincial Asia during the second half of the first century. According to Steve Gregg (p. 66), it’s the only city among the seven cities John wrote to which still exists today. It’s known today as Izmir. In the second century, Polycarp was the bishop of this church.

Verse 8: Jesus calls Himself “the first and the last, who died and came to life.” Guzik comments,

Jesus chose this title from His initial appearance to John (Revelation 1:11, 1:17) to speak of His eternal character. The First and the Last are titles that belong only to the LORD, Yahweh, according to Isaiah 41:4, 44:6, and 48:12… Jesus chose this title from His initial appearance to John (Revelation 1:18) to remind the Christians in Smyrna that they serve the risen Lord, victorious over death. Death could not hold Jesus, and it cannot hold His people.

Verse 9: Jesus assures the believers in Smyrna that He knows their tribulation and poverty. Guzik says,

According to history, Smyrna was a prosperous city. Yet the Christians there were poor. “The word used for ‘poverty’ is the word for abject poverty. They were not just poor” (Walvoord). The Christians of Smyrna knew poverty because they were robbed and fired from jobs in persecution for the gospel. Early Christians joyfully accepted the plundering of [their] goods, knowing that [they] have an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven (Hebrews 10:34).

Jesus says something very interesting to the believers in Smyrna: “I know…the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” This seems to be further evidence that Revelation was written prior to 70 AD, when Jerusalem was destroyed and Jewish persecution of Christians was effectively stunted. Steve Gregg remarks (p. 67):

As in the case of the Philadelphian church (3:9), the troublers of the church in Smyrna were those who say they are Jews and are not (v. 9)—in other words, unbelieving Jews, whom Jesus here considers to be a synagogue of Satan (c.f. John 8:44). Smyrna had the largest Jewish population of any Asian city. If this was written prior to A.D. 70, then it was a period in which the main adversaries of Christianity were the Jews. The church there was understandably harassed more than most.

Verse 10: Does the slander of the Jews in verse 9 provide the context for the “ten days” of testing, suffering, and tribulation the believers there were about to suffer? Steve Gregg believes so (p. 67):

Since the persecution is said to be instigated by the devil, and since the Jews of Smyrna were a synagogue of Satan (v. 9), it is probable that the persecution here, as elsewhere, was brought about by the local Jewish community (cf. Matt. 23:34; Acts 13:45; 14:19; 17:5, 13; I Thess. 2:14-16).

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Our study of Revelation 2 continues at this next post.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

Revelation Chapter 1


The following study on Revelation 1 was prepared for our group’s weekly Bible study. This post can also be found here, where all of our chapter-by-chapter studies on Revelation will be posted in the coming months: https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/revelation/.

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REVELATION 1

Adam Maarschalk: June 25, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 1:1-20

[New notes were added on October 14th, and are in blue font. They are based in part on Steve Gregg’s book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).”]

A. Prologue (1:1-3)

Verse 1: The purpose for the giving of the “revelation of Jesus Christ” is stated in the first verse. His servants were to be shown “the things that must soon take place.” This revelation was delivered to John, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, through an angel. A good exegetical question is this: How would John’s first century readers have understood and interpreted the phrase “things that must soon take place“? This will be discussed shortly.

Steve Gregg (p. 52) notes that the Greek language behind the expression “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” could either indicate that Jesus is [1] the subject being revealed or [2] the One doing the revealing. The first option certainly resonates with the reader when John vividly describes Jesus in chapters 1, 5, 14, and 19. Gregg says the second alternative “seems to agree with the rest of the verse, which suggests that the material of the visions was revealed first to Christ by God (the Father), then by Christ to an angel, who passed it along to John [who then bore witness to the visions].”

Verses 2-3: “Forty-four times in this book John wrote ‘I saw’ (1:12-13; 4:1, 4; 5:1, 2, 6, 11; 6:1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12; 7:1, 2, 9; 8:2, 13; 9:1, 17; 10:1; 13:1, 3, 11; 14:1, 6, 14; 15:1, 2, 5; 16:13; 17:3; 18:1; 19:11, 17, 19; 20:1, 4, 11, 12; 21:1, 2, 8).” [Source: Dr. Thomas Constable]

Q: When verse 2 says that John bore witness to the testimony of Jesus Christ, is this referring to the vision He received as recorded in this book, or does it refer to the things Jesus taught during His incarnation? Or both?

John states that what he is about to record are “things that must soon take place” (verse 1), and that “the time is near” (verse 3). There are two ways this is commonly interpreted: [1] that these things were going to take place soon after they were written, i.e. during the first century [2] that once these events would commence all would be finished quickly. Interestingly, Daniel, who received some similar revelations, was told to seal his book (Daniel 12:4, 12:9) because what he saw was still far off (Daniel 8:26, 10:14), but John was told that what he saw was about to take place  and thus he should not seal his book (cf. Revelation 22:10). This makes a case for the first interpretation being the correct one. If the fulfillment of these visions has still not come in our day, how do we account for these different instructions, when one set of prophecies was given about 2550 years ago (to Daniel) and the other set about 1950 years ago (to John)? As Kenneth Gentry likes to ask, “If these phrases [‘soon’ and ‘near’] don’t truly indicate nearness in time, because they are spoken from God’s perspective and not ours, what other words would God possibly use to communicate such concepts to us?” As I wrote elsewhere,

John wrote the book of Revelation in such a way that the subject matter of the entire book, not just his letters to the churches, was urgent for and relevant for those churches. At the end of the book, Jesus said, “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7). God, speaking in terms that man would understand, spoke through John saying, “The Revelation of Jesus, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place…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 1:1-4). We see that the seven churches who received this writing were encouraged to read the entire book aloud in their assemblies, and to keep what was written in it. We can also note that the Greek word used for “soon” here is the same one Jesus used when He said His time to be crucified was “at hand” (Matthew 26:18), and when John said “the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand” (John 7:2), events that no doubt were literally near. Four times Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming quickly” (Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20). In some translations, “soon” is used instead of “quickly.”

John’s words in verse 3 seem to express urgency. The original recipients of this book (the seven churches in Asia) were to receive a blessing if they read the words of this prophecy aloud as they assembled together, and also if they would hear and keep what was written.

B. Greeting to the Seven Churches (1:4-8)

Verse 4: Steve Gregg reminds us that Asia in John’s time “was not, as now, the name of a continent, but of a Roman province, identified with modern Turkey” (p. 54). Dr. Thomas Constable remarks, “The phrase ‘seven Spirits’ may refer to seven principle angelic messengers (cf. v. 20; 8:2, 6; 15:1; 1 Kings 22:19-21; Heb. 1:14). Another possible view is that the phrase refers to the Holy Spirit in His fullness (cf. Isa. 11:2-3; Zech. 4:2-7).”

Verses 5-6: Jesus is called [a] the faithful witness [b] the firstborn of the dead (cf. Colossians 1:18) [c] the ruler of kings on earth. He [a] loves us [b] freed us [c] made us a kingdom (corporately) [d] made us priests (individually), and all glory and dominion belongs to Him forever. Steve Gregg adds (p. 56), “The reference to Christ’s God and Father (v. 6) calls to mind the words of Christ recorded elsewhere by the same apostle: ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God’ (John 20:17).” Regarding the expression “kings and priests,” also found in Rev. 5:10 (and echoed in Rev. 20:6), Gregg comments (pp. 55-56), “This is one of the many New Testament verses that give to the church titles originally applied to Israel (cf. I Peter 2:9-10), suggesting that God’s kingdom is now to be associated with the church rather than Israel.”

Verse 7: This verse begins with the phrase, “Behold He is coming with clouds…” Steve Gregg writes, “The comfort that this promise contains for the suffering believers, and the warning for the obstinate, will be elaborated upon throughout the remainder of the book” (p. 56). Constable (a Dispensationalist) believes that the phrase “every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him” either refers to Jews living in the final generation (based on Zechariah 12:10-14), or that this imagery could stand for all of Jesus’ enemies up until the Second Coming (the event which he believes is in view here). Personally, I believe that it refers to the very individuals who pierced Christ at the cross (and those who, looking on, approved), meaning that some of them would have still been alive to see this prophecy fulfilled in 70 AD.[1] The following two quotes reflect this same position:

QUOTE: “Another theme that permeates the book is the concept of Jesus’ soon coming. But note in the passages below what ‘kind’ of coming is in view [i.e. Is it a reference to Christ’s Second Coming, or to His coming in judgment (cf. Rev. 2:5, 2:16, 3:3)?]. Again, note the similarity in the first and last chapter of the book.

Rev 1:7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

22:12 Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.

Note that this [coming is] directed at ‘those who pierced’ him and that it involves his recompense, his retribution. One can stretch the meaning of those who pierced Him to be any one sinner in history metaphorically, but the most obvious and ‘literal’ rendering would be of those who physically put Him to death, which would be the Jews and Rome… There is no mistaking the ‘soon’ nature of the passages. Some have tried to argue that the phrase ‘quickly’ is in reference to when the events do start to happen, that they will happen quickly. This does nothing to answer the immediacy of the expectation and those expected to be still alive when these events take place.”

[Source: David Lowman, http://low5point.wordpress.com/2009/02/17/revealing-revelation-the-early-date-theory-part-1/]

QUOTE: “Most writers consider the theme of the book to be Revelation 1:7. This verse is very similar in context to Matthew 24:30.

Revelation 1:7, ‘Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds [Greek word #5443] of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

Matthew 24:30, ‘And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes [Greek word #5443] of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

…Zechariah 12:10-14, ‘And I will pour upon the…inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only sonIn that day shall there be a great mourning in JerusalemAnd the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.’

Obviously, this is the foundation for John’s statement that ‘every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth (or land) shall wail because of him.’ So, in essence, Zechariah was saying that the ‘tribes of the land’ would mourn for Him whom they had pierced. Who were those tribes? ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem.’ This also helps us identify the ‘earth’ in Revelation 1:7. According to Zechariah, the ‘earth’ is the land of Palestine, specifically, Jerusalem. Also, it is those tribes, i.e., the nation of Israel, who would ‘look upon Me whom they have pierced.’ And because of that, ‘the mourning in Jerusalem’ would be great. With all of this information, we can see that the ‘tribes of the earth’ in Revelation 1:7 are the nation of Israel. The ‘earth’ is Palestine. The land that would mourn is Jerusalem.

So, the main purpose of Revelation would be to reveal Jesus to the nation of Israel. The place of this revealing would be Jerusalem. Lastly, this revealing would be to those who pierced Him, i.e., the Jews.”

(Source: Richard Anthony, http://ecclesia.org/truth/revelation.html)

Steve Gregg (p. 57) articulates the position of some preterist commentators:

[They]  suggest that the passage does not predict the literal Second Coming, but is a figurative description of Christ’s coming in vengeance to destroy Jerusalem, not in person, but using the Roman armies in A.D. 70… Such interpreters note the following considerations: The principal features of the prediction are (a) Christ coming, (b) His coming with clouds; (c) every eye will see Him, even they who pierced him; and (d) all the tribes of the earth [or land] mourning at His coming.
(a) The expression coming of the Lord is used in many contexts that do not appear to be referring to the Second Coming (e.g., Rev. 2:5; 3:20; cf. Deut. 33:2; Isa. 19:1; Zech. 1:16; Mal. 3:1-2; Matt. 10:23), thus leaving open the possibility of another meaning here;
(b) The specific language of the Lord coming with clouds is used in the Old Testament with reference to historic judgments not associated with the end of the world (Isa. 19:1; Ps. 104:3) and may be so understood here as well;
(c) Jesus placed the time of His “coming with the clouds” within the lifetime of some of His contemporaries (Matt. 16:28; 24:30, 34; 26:64). This would allow one to understand they who pierced Him as the actual generation that crucified Christ, which would be the natural understanding to the literalist…
(d) The judgment of Jerusalem is implied by the expression all the tribes of the earth (which can be translated, “all the tribes of the land [Israel]”) will mourn. The Old Testament passage which is alluded to is a prophecy concerning “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Zech. 12:10). This view finds further support in the fact that Israel is divisible into tribes, whereas the earth is generally divided into nations.

[As we continue in our study of Revelation, we will suggest that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subject beginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.]

Verse 8: For the second time, God is referred to as the One “who is and who was and who is to come.” The speaker here appears to be Jesus.

C. Vision of the Son of Man (1:9-20)

Verse 9: John was in Patmos, a Roman prison island off the coast of modern Turkey. It was located in the Aegean Sea southwest of Ephesus. Steve Gregg notes (p. 57) that “Patmos is a rocky, crescent-shaped island about 37 miles southwest of the mainland of Asia Minor (modern Turkey), where the seven recipient churches were located.” Only the Romans could banish their subjects to Patmos, so in what sense was John a “partner in the tribulation” with the seven churches? Until Nero’s campaign of persecution from November 64 AD – June 68 AD, the Church experienced persecution primarily from the Jews. When John wrote Revelation, though, they were apparently also under a significant Roman persecution. No Roman Imperial persecution was as intense as the one under Nero.[2] As I wrote here,

John wrote to seven historical churches in Asia Minor (Rev. 1:4, 11) which were going through a time of great trouble and tribulation, just as he was (Rev. 1:9, 2:3, 2:9-10, 2:13, 3:10). What better candidate was there for such an intense time of trouble than the first and greatest imperial persecution of Christianity initiated by Nero from late November 64 AD until his death in early June 68 AD?

Verse 11: John was instructed to get these writings into the hands of the believers in seven locations. Each of the seven churches received not only the statements that were directed to them, but the entire book of Revelation. This means that the subject matter of the entire book of Revelation was urgent for and relevant to these churches. The same tribulation and persecution spoken of in chapter 1 is alluded to time and time again throughout the book. As Kenneth Gentry says, “Put yourself in first century sandals: Would you think John might be speaking of events occurring untold centuries after the collapse of the Empire which was presently persecuting you? Would you surmise that he was not really relating a message about Imperial Rome?”[3] Steve Gregg notes how the seven churches are listed and then remarks:

The cities are listed in the logical order in which they would likely receive the letter. Assuming Ephesus would receive the letter first, it would travel northward then east and southward again in a horseshoe-shaped route.

Seven Churches 1

Verse 12: Steve Gregg writes (p. 59),

The first thing that caught [John’s] attention was the seven lampstands of gold, recalling the seven-branched lamp, by whose light the priests offered their incense in the tabernacle. As verse 20 informs us, these lampstands represent the seven churches addressed in the letter. The church is the light of the world (Matt. 5:14; Phil. 2:15; Eph. 5:8-13). It may be significant that John’s vision of Christ was set in the midst of the churches (v. 13), suggesting that it is in the gathered assemblies of Christians that the presence of Christ resides on earth today (Matt. 18:20).

Verse 13: John Piper notes, “The word translated ‘robe reaching to the feet’ is not used anywhere else in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament it almost always refers to the robe of the high priest. And the gold band across his chest shows two things: the fact that it is high—not around the waist but around the chest—and the fact that it is gold, show that the priesthood that he holds is very great” (Source: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/17/822_A_YearEnd_Look_at_Jesus_Christ/).

Verse 14: “His head, even His hair, was very white, as Daniel described the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9 (i.e., God the Father). White hair often represents wisdom and the dignity of age in Scripture. John referred the images of God the Father in the Old Testament to Jesus Christ, thus granting to Jesus the attributes and titles previously reserved for the Father (cf. v. 18; 2:8; 5:12; 22:13). This is one way of stressing the equality of Jesus with the Father, here specifically His eternal pre-existence.” (Source: Dr. Thomas Constable, ibid.)

Verse 15: Steve Gregg asserts (p. 60) that the description of Jesus’ feet being “like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace” is given to “suggest the irresistibility of His judgment as He will later tread the ‘great winepress of the wrath of God’ (Rev. 14:19).”

Verse 16: The image of Jesus having a “sharp two-edged sword” coming out of His mouth is depicted again in Revelation 19:15 when He goes out to war against the nations. Steve Gregg (p. 60) is of the opinion that this image “can hardly refer to anything other than His word (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17).” John sees the face of Jesus as “the sun shining in full strength.” Steve Gregg remarks (p. 60) that His shining face is “reminiscent of that which John had seen on the Mount of Transfiguration decades earlier (Matt. 17:2). As for the seven stars Jesus held in His right hand, verse 20 tells us that they were “the angels of the seven churches.”

Verse 17: John fell “as though dead” at Jesus’ feet when he saw Him. This is similar to Daniel’s experience in which he “retained no strength” and “was in a deep sleep” on His face (Dan. 10:8-9).

Verse 18: Jesus identifies Himself as “the first and the last, the living One.” He spoke of His death and resurrection, and His victory over death and the grave.

Verse 19: John is told to write about [1] things he had already seen [2] things which were presently taking place, and [3] things which had not yet taken place.

Verse 20: Steve Gregg comments (pp. 61-62):

Whether the “angel” of each church refers to a heavenly being, like a guardian angel, or to an earthly messenger (Gr. angelos simply means messenger), like a pastor or bishop, has been disputed. In each of the letters that follow, the angel of each church is addressed as the recipient. Since these angels are expected to pass along to the churches the information communicated to them by Christ, many commentators feel that they must be visible, human messengers in contact with the congregations. We may justly conceive of the communication between God and His heavenly angels as being somewhat more direct than to require letters posted by apostles.

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Our study of Revelation 2 (Part 1) can be found here: https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/revelation-chapter-2-ephesus-and-smyrna/.


[1] Regarding the topic of Jesus’ coming in judgment in 70 AD, when Jerusalem and apostate Israel were destroyed as Jesus had predicted, please see the following posts: [1] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp11-did-jesus-come-in-70-ad-part-1/ [2] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp12-did-jesus-come-in-70-ad-part-2/.

[2] See this post for further details: https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp6-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-3/.

[3] See here for further details: https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp7-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-4/.

PP20: The Spiritual Significance of 70 AD (Conclusion)


This is now the twentieth and final* post in our series on “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.” This is the same title as a term paper I recently submitted to Northwestern College. All previous posts can be found below and, together with this present post, make up the entire contents of my term paper. It’s recommended that all previous posts be read in order before reading this post:

[1] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/brief-explanation-of-partial-preterism/
[2] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp2-references/
[3] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp3-external-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation/
[4] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp4-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-1/
[5] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp5-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-2/
[6] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp6-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-3/
[7] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp7-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-4/
[8] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp8-daniels-70-week-prophecy-part-1/
[9] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp9-daniels-70-week-prophecy-part-2/
[10] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp10-jerusalems-destruction-foretold-in-the-olivet-discourse/
[11] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp11-did-jesus-come-in-70-ad-part-1/
[12] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp12-did-jesus-come-in-70-ad-part-2/
[13] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp13-signs-of-the-close-of-the-age/
[14] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp14-abomination-of-desolation/
[15] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp15-the-man-of-lawlessness-ii-thess-2-part-1/
[16] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp16-the-man-of-lawlessness-ii-thess-2-part-2/
[17] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp17-the-historical-events-leading-up-to-70-ad-part-1/
[18] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/pp18-the-historical-events-leading-up-to-70-ad-part-2/
[19] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/pp19-the-historical-events-leading-up-to-70-ad-part-3/

In the previous three posts we discussed the historical events which led up to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 AD. In this final* post we will see statements from 20 different persons of influence in Church history, spanning from the 2nd century until the present, regarding the spiritual significance of what took place in 70 AD.

*(This is the final post in the sense that it brings to completion the contents of my 48-page term paper as it was submitted to Northwestern College in July 2009. There may be future posts which function as appendixes to what has been included here so far.)

Adam Maarschalk

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H. The Spiritual Significance of 70 AD

It seems clear that the knowledge of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, and the significance of this event, once held a prominent place in Christian theology, and that this understanding has been supplanted in direct proportion to the rise of Dispensationalism within the last 180 years. As R.C. Sproul says in his book, The Last Days according to Jesus (p. 26), “No matter what view of eschatology we embrace, we must take seriously the redemptive-historical importance of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD.” The following are quotes from early church writers, reformers, and other leaders regarding the spiritual significance of 70 AD (Todd Dennis [19], 2009):

[1] Irenaeus (174 AD): “CHAP. IV.–ANSWER TO ANOTHER OBJECTION, SHOWING THAT THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM, WHICH WAS THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING, DIMINISHED NOTHING FROM THE SUPREME MAJESTY’ AND POWER OF GOD, FOR THAT THIS DESTRUCTION WAS PUT IN EXECUTION BY THE MOST WISE COUNSEL OF THE SAME GOD. (1) Further, also, concerning Jerusalem and the Lord, they venture to assert that, if it had been ‘the city of the great King,’ it would not have been deserted. This is just as if anyone should say, that if straw were a creation of God, it would never part company with the wheat; and that the vine twigs, if made by God, never would be lopped away and deprived of the clusters… Even as Esaias saith, ‘The children of Jacob shall strike root, and Israel shall flourish, and the whole world shall be filled with his fruit.’ The fruit, therefore, having been sown throughout all the world, she (Jerusalem) was deservedly forsaken, and those things which had formerly brought forth fruit abundantly were taken away; for from these, according to the flesh, were Christ and the apostles enabled to bring forth fruit. But now these are no longer useful for bringing forth fruit. For all things which have a beginning in time must of course have an end in time also. (2) Since, then, the law originated with Moses, it terminated with John as a necessary consequence. Christ had come to fulfil it: wherefore ‘the law and the prophets were’ with them ‘until John.’ And therefore Jerusalem, taking its commencement from David, and fulfilling its own times, must have an end of legislation when the new covenant was revealed.”

[2] Tertullian (160-220 AD): “Therefore, when these times also were completed, and the Jews subdued, there afterwards ceased in that place [Jerusalem] ‘libations and sacrifices,’ which thenceforward have not been able to be in that place celebrated; for ‘the unction,’ too, was ‘exterminated’ in that place after the passion of Christ. For it had been predicted that the unction should be exterminated in that place; as in the Psalms it is prophesied, ‘They exterminated my hands and feet.’ … Accordingly, all the synagogue of Israel did slay Him, saying to Pilate, when he was desirous to dismiss Him, ‘His blood be upon us, and upon our children;’ and, ‘If thou dismiss him, thou art not a friend of Caesar;’ in order that all things might be fulfilled which had been written of Him” (An Answer to the Jews, Chapter VII—Of Jerusalem’s Destruction).

[3] Hyppolytus of Rome, disciple of Irenaeus (170-236 AD): “Come, then, O blessed Isaiah; arise, tell us clearly what thou didst prophesy with respect to the mighty Babylon [Isaiah 13]. For thou didst speak also of Jerusalem, and thy word is accomplished. For thou didst speak boldly and openly: ‘Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate as overthrown by many strangers. The daughter of Sion shall be left as a cottage in a vineyard, and as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city’ [Isaiah 1:8]. What then? Are not these things come to pass? Are not the things announced by thee fulfilled? Is not their country, Judea, desolate? Is not the holy place burned with fire? Are not their walls cast down? Are not their cities destroyed? Their land, do not strangers devour it? Do not the Romans rule the country? And indeed these impious people hated thee, and did saw thee asunder, and they crucified Christ. Thou art dead in the world, but thou livest in Christ” (Fragments of Dogmatic and Historical Works).

[4] Origen (185-254 AD): “Therefore He [God], also, having separated from her [Israel], married, so to speak, another [the Church], having given into the hands of the former the bill of divorcement; wherefore they can no longer do the things enjoined on them by the law, because of the bill of divorcement. And a sign that she has received the bill of divorcement is this, that Jerusalem was destroyed along with what they called the sanctuary of the things in it which were believed to be holy, and with the altar of burnt offerings, and all the worship associated with it… And what was more unseemly than the fact, that they all said in His case, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him,’ and ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth’? And can this be freed from the charge of unseemliness, ‘His blood be upon us, and upon our children’? Wherefore, when He was avenged, Jerusalem was compassed with armies, and its desolation was near, and their house was taken away from it, and ‘the daughter of Zion was left as a booth in a vineyard, and as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, and as a besieged city.’ And, about the same time, I think, the husband wrote out a bill of divorcement to his former wife, and gave it into her hands, and sent her away from His own house, and the bond of her who came from the Gentiles has been cancelled about which the Apostle says, ‘Having blotted out the bond written in ordinances, which was contrary to us, and He hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross;’ for Paul also and others became proselytes of Israel for her who came from the Gentiles” (Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, Book 2, Section 19).

[5] Lactantius (240-320 AD): “Also Zechariah says: ‘And they shall look on me whom they pierced.’ Amos thus speaks of the obscuring of the sun: ‘In that day, saith the Lord, the sun shall go down at noon, and the clear day shall be dark; and I will turn your feasts into mourning, and your songs into lamentation.’ Jeremiah also speaks of the city of Jerusalem, in which He suffered: ‘Her sun is gone down while it was yet day; she hath been confounded and reviled, and the residue of them will I deliver to the sword.’ Nor were these things spoken in vain. For after a short time the Emperor Vespasian subdued the Jews, and laid waste their lands with the sword and fire, besieged and reduced them by famine, overthrew Jerusalem, led the captives in triumph, and prohibited the others who were left from ever returning to their native land. And these things were done by God on account of that crucifixion of Christ, as He before declared this to Solomon in their Scriptures, saying, ‘And Israel shall be for perdition and a reproach to the people, and this house shall be desolate; and every one that shall pass by shall be astonished, and shall say, “Why hath God done these evils to this land, and to this house? And they shall say, Because they forsook the Lord their God, and persecuted their King, who was dearly beloved by God, and crucified Him with great degradation, therefore hath God brought upon them these evils.”’ For what would they not deserve who put to death their Lord, who had come for their salvation?” (Epitome of the Divine Institutes, Chapter 46).

[6] Eusebius (314 AD): “If any one compares the words of our Saviour with the other accounts of the historian (Josephus) concerning the whole war, how can one fail to wonder, and to admit that the foreknowledge and the prophecy of our Saviour were truly divine and marvelously strange” (Proof of the Gospel, Book III, Ch. VII).

[7] Athanasius (345 AD): “When did prophet and vision cease from Israel? Was it not when Christ came, the Holy One of holies? It is, in fact, a sign and notable proof of the coming of the Word that Jerusalem no longer stands, neither is prophet raised up nor vision revealed among them. And it is natural that it should be so, for when He that was signified had come, what need was there any longer of any to signify Him? And when the Truth had come, what further need was there of the shadow? On His account only they prophesied continually, until such time as Essential Righteousness has come, Who was made the Ransom for the sins of all. For the same reason Jerusalem stood until the same time, in order that there men might premeditate the types before the Truth was known. So, of course, once the Holy One of holies had come, both vision and prophecy were sealed” (Incarnation, Chapter VI).

[8] John Calvin (1509-1564): “So in this passage [Daniel 9], without doubt, he treats of the period after the destruction of the Temple; there could be no hope of restoration, as the law with all its ceremonies would then arrive at its termination… That devastation happened as soon as the gospel began to be promulgated. God then deserted his Temple, because it was only founded for a time, and was but a shadow, until the Jews so completely violated the whole covenant that no sanctity remained in either the Temple, the nation, or the land itself. Some restrict this [the abomination of desolation] to those standards which Tiberius erected on the very highest pinnacle of the Temple, and others to the statue of Caligula, but I have already stated my view of these opinions as too forced. I have no hesitation in referring this language of the angel to that profanation of the Temple which happened after the manifestation of Christ, when sacrifices ceased, and the shadows of the law were abolished. From the time, therefore, at which the sacrifice really ceased to be offered; this refers to the period at which Christ by his advent should abolish the shadows of the law, thus making all offering of sacrifices to God totally valueless… The Jews never anticipated the final cessation of their ceremonies, and always boasted in their peculiar external worship, and unless God had openly demonstrated it before their eyes, they would never have renounced their sacrifices and rites as mere shadowy representations. Hence Jerusalem and their Temple were exposed to the vengeance of the Gentiles. This, therefore, was the setting up of this stupefying abomination; it was a clear testimony to the wrath of God, exhorting the Jews in their confusion to boast no longer in their Temple and its holiness.”

[9] Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758): “Thus there was a final end to the Old Testament world: all was finished with a kind of day of judgment, in which the people of God were saved, and His enemies terribly destroyed” (1736).

[10] William Whiston (1667-1752): “Josephus speaks so, that it is most evident he was fully satisfied that God was on the Romans’ side, and made use of them now for the destruction of the Jews, which was for certain the true state of this matter, as the prophet Daniel first, and our Saviour himself afterwards had clearly foretold” (Literature Accomplished of Prophecy, p. 64, 1737).

[11] John Wesley (1703-1791): “Josephus’ History of the Jewish War is the best commentary on this chapter (Matt. 24). It is a wonderful instance of God’s providence, that he, an eyewitness, and one who lived and died a Jew, should, especially in so extraordinary a manner, be preserved, to transmit to us a collection of important facts, which so exactly illustrate this glorious prophecy, in almost every circumstance” (Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, 1754).

[12] Dom Toutee (1790): “St. Chrysostom shows that the destruction of Jerusalem is to be ascribed, not to the power of the Romans, for God had often delivered it from no less dangers; but to a special providence which was pleased to put it out of the power of human perversity to delay or respite the extinction of those ceremonial observances.”

[13] William Dool Killen (1859): “Nero died A.D. 68, and the war which involved the destruction of Jerusalem and of upwards of a million of the Jews, was already in progress. The holy city fell A.D. 70; and the Mosaic economy, which had been virtually abolished by the death of Christ, now reached its practical termination. At the same period the prophecy of Daniel was literally fulfilled; for “the sacrifice and the oblation” were made to cease, [168:5] as the demolition of the temple and the dispersion of the priests put an end to the celebration of the Levitical worship. The overthrow of the metropolis of Palestine contributed in various ways to the advancement of the Christian cause. Judaism, no longer able to provide for the maintenance of its ritual, was exhibited to the world as a defunct system; its institutions, now more narrowly examined by the spiritual eye, were discovered to be but types of the blessings of a more glorious dispensation; and many believers, who had hitherto adhered to the ceremonial law, discontinued its observances. Christ, forty years before, had predicted the siege and desolation of Jerusalem; [169:1] and the remarkable verification of a prophecy, delivered at a time when the catastrophe was exceedingly improbable, appears to have induced not a few to think more favourably of the credentials of the gospel. In another point of view the ruin of the ancient capital of Judea proved advantageous to the Church. In the subversion of their chief city the power of the Jews sustained a shock from which it has never since recovered; and the disciples were partially delivered from the attacks of their most restless and implacable persecutors” (The Ancient Church: Its History, Doctrine, Worship, and Constitution, Project Gutenberg, available at http://www2.cddc.vt.edu/gutenberg/1/6/7/0/16700/16700-8.txt).

[14] C.H. (Charles) Spurgeon (1834-1892): “The destruction of Jerusalem was more terrible than anything that the world has ever witnessed, either before or since. Even Titus seemed to see in his cruel work the hand of an avenging God… Truly, the blood of the martyrs slain in Jerusalem was amply avenged when the whole city became veritable Aceldama, or field of blood… There was a sufficient interval for the full proclamation of the gospel by the apostles and evangelists of the early Christian Church, and for the gathering out of those who recognized the crucified Christ as their true Messiah. Then came the awful end, which the Saviour foresaw and foretold, and the prospect of which wrung from his lips and heart the sorrowful lament that followed his prophecy of the doom awaiting this guilty capital…Nothing remained for the King but to pronounce the solemn sentence of death upon those who would not come unto him that they might have life: ‘Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.’ The whole ‘house’ of the Jews was left desolate when Jesus departed from them; and the temple, the holy and beautiful ‘house’ became a spiritual desolation when Christ finally left it. Jerusalem was too far gone to be rescued from its self-sought doom (Commentary on Matthew, 1868, pp. 412-413).

[15] Philip Schaff (1819-1893): “A few years afterwards followed the destruction of Jerusalem, which must have made an overpowering impression and broken the last ties which bound Jewish Christianity to the old theocracy…The awfiul catastrophe of the destruction of the Jewish theocracy must have produced the profoundest sensation among the Christians… It was the greatest calamity of Judaism and a great benefit to Christianity; a refutation of the one, a vindication…of the other. It separated them forever” (History of the Christian Church, Vol. 1, 1877, pp. 403-404).

[16] F.W. Farrar (1831-1903): “The Fall of Jerusalem and all the events which accompanied and followed it in the Roman world and in the Christian world, had a significance which it is hardly possible to overestimate. They were the final end of the Old Dispensation. They were the full inauguration of the New Covenant. They were God’s own overwhelming judgment on that form of Judaic Christianity which threatened to crush the work of St. Paul, to lay on the Gentiles the yoke of abrogated Mosaism, to establish itself by threats and anathemas as the only orthodoxy… No event less awful than the desolation of Judea, the destruction of Judaism, the annihilation of all possibility of observing the precepts of Moses, could have opened the eyes of the Judaisers from their dream of imagined infallibility. Nothing but God’s own unmistakable interposition – nothing but the manifest coming of Christ – could have persuaded Jewish Christians that the Law of the Wilderness was annulled” (The Early Days of Christianity, 1882, pp. 489-490).

[17] Philip Mauro (1859-1952): “It is greatly to be regretted that those who, in our day, give themselves to the study and exposition of prophecy, seem not to be aware of the immense significance of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which was accompanied by the extinction of Jewish national existence, and the dispersion of the Jewish people among all the nations. The failure to recognize the significance of that event, and the vast amount of prophecy which it fulfilled, has been the cause of great confusion, for the necessary consequence of missing the past fulfillment of predicted events is to leave on our hands a mass of prophecies for which we must needs contrive fulfillments in the future. The harmful results are twofold; for first, we are thus deprived of the evidential value, and the support to the faith, of those remarkable fulfillments of prophecy which are so clearly presented to us in authentic contemporary histories; and second, our vision of things to come is greatly obscured and confused by the transference to the future of predicted events which, in fact, have already happened, and whereof complete records have been preserved for our information.

“Yet, in the face of all this, we have today a widely held scheme of prophetic interpretation, which has for its very cornerstone the idea that, when God’s time to remember His promised mercies to Israel shall at last have come, He will gather them into their ancient land again, only to pour upon them calamities and distresses far exceeding even the horrors which attended the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This is, we are convinced, an error of such magnitude as to derange the whole program of unfulfilled prophecy” (Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation, 1921, emphasis added).

[18] Tony Campolo (1988): “Jesus told his disciples that their generation would not pass away before everything that needed to be fulfilled for His return would take place. I do not believe the Lord was wrong. I am convinced that by A.D. 70 everything was in place for the [physical] return of Christ, and that it has been right for Christians to expect His return ever since that time… I must point out that for centuries Christians did not see any need for the restoration of the state of Israel or the rebuilding of the temple…for the return of Christ” (20 Hot Potatoes Christians are Afraid to Touch, p.233).

[19] John Piper (1996): “It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of what happened in A.D. 70 in Jerusalem. It was an event that, for Jews and Christians, was critical in defining their faith for the next 2000 years.”

[20] R.C. Sproul (1997-98): “The coming of Christ in A.D.70 was a coming in judgment on the Jewish nation, indicating the end of the Jewish age and the fulfillment of a day of the Lord. Jesus really did come in judgment at this time, fulfilling his prophecy in the Olivet Discourse” (The Last Days According to Jesus, p. 158, 1998). “The most significant, redemptive, historical action that takes place outside the New Testament, is the judgment that falls on Jerusalem, and by which judgment the Christian Church now [clearly] emerges as The Body of Christ” (R.C. Sproul, Dust to Glory video series, 1997).

Kevin Daly (2009) states, “In much the same way as a person might unwittingly wait for a bus that has already departed, our ignorance of the history of the interval between Jesus’ ascension and the Roman siege of AD70 has contributed much to our expectation that events mentioned in Matthew 24 must still come to pass.” However, these events were designed to achieve several purposes, and this has already been accomplished.

One of these purposes was to demonstrate once and for all that the very means by which forgiveness and mercy were administered under the Old Covenant, i.e. the temple, the sacrificial system, and the priesthood, were done away with (Hebrews 8:13). Those things ceased to exist so that one could no longer look to them for redemption or atonement, even if one were to try. Forgiveness and mercy are found solely through Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. Just as we rejoice in seeing prophecy fulfilled in Christ’s first coming as our Savior to take away sin, we can also rejoice in seeing how many of the words of Christ and the prophets were fulfilled in 70 AD.

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Sources can be found here: https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp2-references/

PP19: The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD (Part 3)


This is now the nineteenth post in our series on “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.” This is the same title as a term paper I recently submitted to Northwestern College. All the previous posts can be found here, and it’s recommended that they be read in order before reading this post:

[1] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/brief-explanation-of-partial-preterism/
[2] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp2-references/
[3] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp3-external-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation/
[4] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp4-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-1/
[5] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp5-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-2/
[6] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp6-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-3/
[7] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp7-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-4/
[8] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp8-daniels-70-week-prophecy-part-1/
[9] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp9-daniels-70-week-prophecy-part-2/
[10] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp10-jerusalems-destruction-foretold-in-the-olivet-discourse/
[11] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp11-did-jesus-come-in-70-ad-part-1/
[12] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp12-did-jesus-come-in-70-ad-part-2/
[13] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp13-signs-of-the-close-of-the-age/
[14] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp14-abomination-of-desolation/
[15] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp15-the-man-of-lawlessness-ii-thess-2-part-1/
[16] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp16-the-man-of-lawlessness-ii-thess-2-part-2/
[17] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp17-the-historical-events-leading-up-to-70-ad-part-1/
[18] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/pp18-the-historical-events-leading-up-to-70-ad-part-2/

In the previous two posts we have been discussing the historical events which led up to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. In the first post we saw a timeline of these events, and in the last post we examined some of these historical events in more detail. In this present post we will speak of Rome’s burning of the temple and the city of Jerusalem.

For further details regarding the final five-month siege on Jerusalem (April-September 70 AD), and the crushing of all remaining Jewish resistance in the nation of Israel (Sept. 70 – May 73 AD), please refer back to the timeline which is laid out in part 1 (PP17).

Adam Maarschalk

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G. The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD (Part 3)

Titus, the son of Vespasian, had determined to spare the temple as an ornament to the Roman Empire. In a speech to the Jews defending the city, he had said, “I appeal to my own army, and the Jews that are now with me, and even to you yourselves, that I do not force you to defile this sanctuary; and if you will but change the place whereon you will fight, no Roman shall either come near your sanctuary, or offer any affront to it; nay, I will endeavor to preserve you your holy house, whether you will or not” (The Wars of The Jews, 6:2:4).

However, a Roman soldier, ignoring his words because he was urged on by a “divine impulse,” threw a flaming stick into a window of the temple, setting it on fire. The Jews instantly rushed in and tried in vain to extinguish the flames. Titus also shouted for help in stopping the fire, but his own men helped only to spread them wider. Writes Holford,

They rushed furiously upon [the Jews], slaying some with the sword, trampling others under their feet, or crushing them to death against the walls. Many, falling amongst the smoking ruins of the porches and galleries, were suffocated. The unarmed poor, and even sick persons, were slaughtered without mercy. Of these unhappy people numbers were left weltering in their gore. Multitudes of the dead and dying were heaped round about the altar, to which they had formerly fled for protection, while the steps that led from it into the outer court were literally deluged with their blood… The Romans, exasperated to the highest pitch against the Jews, seized every person whom they could find, and, without the least regard to sex, age or quality, first plundered and then slew them. The old and the young, the common people and the priests, those who surrendered and those who resisted, were equally involved in this horrible and indiscriminate carnage. Meanwhile the Temple continued burning, until at length, vast as was its size, the flames completely enveloped the whole building; which, from the extent of the conflagration, impressed the distant spectator with an idea that the whole city was now on fire. The tumult and disorder which ensued upon this event, it is impossible (says Josephus) for language to describe. The Roman legions made the most horrid outcries; the rebels, finding themselves exposed to the fury of both fire and sword, screamed dreadfully; while the unhappy people who were pent up between the enemy and the flames, deplored their situation in the most pitiable complaints. Those on the hill and those in the city seemed mutually to return the groans of each other. Such as were expiring through famine, were revived by this hideous scene, and seemed to acquire new spirits to deplore their misfortunes. The lamentations from the city were re-echoed from the adjacent mountains, and places beyond Jordan. The flames which enveloped the Temple were so violent and impetuous, that the lofty hill on which it stood appeared, even from its deep foundations, as one large body of fire. The blood of the sufferers flowed in proportion to the rage of this destructive element; and the number of the slain exceeded all calculation. The ground could not be seen for the dead bodies, over which the Romans trampled in pursuit of the fugitives; while the crackling noise of the devouring flames mingled with the clamor of arms, the groans of the dying and the shrieks of despair, augmented the tremendous horror of a scene, to which the pages of history can furnish no parallel.

The smoke of Jerusalem’s burning was indeed seen by those who stood afar off and who were out at sea (Revelation 18:17-18). Ivan Lewis writes (Todd Dennis [24], 2009), “No one believed that God would permit His Temple to be destroyed, and when this finally did happen, everyone within the city, men and women, young and old, were crazed with despair. Thousands cast themselves into the fire while others fell on their own swords.”

The Romans then hoisted their own idol-covered banners at every key point of the temple area, and plundered and burned the houses in the city. They murdered by the sword every Jew they could find, man, woman, and child. Their only compassion was for the dead, whom they encountered in mass numbers in many of the houses, mostly victims of the famine. Josephus writes, “But although they had this commiseration for such as were destroyed in that manner, yet had they not the same for those that were still alive, but they ran every one through whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many houses was quenched with these men’s blood” (The Wars Of The Jews, 6:8:5).

The amount of blood that flowed, not only in Jerusalem but also throughout the surrounding region, could possibly bring to mind a passage like Revelation 14:19-20, which says, “So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia [about 184 miles].” This was the understanding of John Wesley (1703-1791) who, in his commentary on this passage, wrote:

And the winepress was trodden – By the Son of God, Rev 19:15. Without [outside] the city – Jerusalem. They to whom St. John writes, when a man said, ‘the city,’ immediately understood this. And blood came out of the winepress, even to the horses’ bridles – So deep at its first flowing from the winepress! One thousand six hundred furlongs – So far! At least two hundred miles, through the whole land of Palestine.

Wesley, like many today, tied this passage (Revelation 14:19-20) to Rev. 19:11-21, and rightly so. This is often referred to as the “Battle of Armageddon,” which Tim Lahaye and other Futurist authors generally say will happen in the plain of Megiddo. Author John Noe, on the other hand, notes that what the Bible refers to as a “battle on the great day of God the Almighty” (Rev. 16:14) would transpire “at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16). In Hebrew it’s actually “Har-Magedon,” as “har” means mountain in Hebrew (“Armageddon” is based on the Greek rendering, since “h” is silent in Hebrew). Therefore, this battle was to take place primarily on a mountain, not in a valley. Noe adds,

The most likely case is that Revelation’s “Har” is Jerusalem. Geographically, Jerusalem sits on top of a mountain. To get there from any direction one must go “up to Jerusalem” (2 Sam. 19:34; 1 Ki. 12:28; 2 Ki. 18:17; 2 Chron. 2:16; Ezra 1:3; 7:7; Zech. 14:17; Matt. 20:17, 18; Mark 10:32, 33; Luke 18:31; 19:28; John 2:13; 5:1; Acts 11:2; 15:2; 21:12, 15; 24:11; 25:9; Gal. 1:17, 18). Jerusalem is also called God’s “holy mountain” (Psa. 43:3) and the “chief among the mountains” (Isa. 2:2-3; also 14:13; Exod. 15:17; Joel 2:32; 3:16-17)… “Magedon/Megiddo” may also be comparative imagery. A great slaughter once took place in the valley of Megiddo (2 Ki. 9:27; Zech. 12:11). Throughout ancient history, this valley was also a favorite corridor for invading armies and the scene of numerous famous battles (Jud. 4-7; 1 Sam. 29-31; 2 Sam. 4; 1 Ki. 9:15; 2 Ki. 9-10; 22; 2 Chron. 35). So much blood was shed in this valley of Jezreel or Megiddo that it became a synonym for slaughter, violence, bloodshed, and battlefield, as well as a symbol for God’s judgment (Hos. 1:4-5). In our day, Armageddon has also become synonymous with and a symbol for the ultimate in warfare and conflict.

In a similar fashion, the word “Waterloo” has garnered a symbolic use. Back in 1815, this town in Belgium was the battleground and scene of Napoleon’s final defeat. Today, we have a saying that some one or some thing has met their “Waterloo.” We don’t mean they have met that city in Europe. We mean, by way of comparative imagery, that they have met a decisive or crushing defeat, or their demise. I suggest Revelation employs the word Magedon/Megiddo in this same manner. History records that a great slaughter took place on a mountain in Palestine within the lifetime of the original recipients of the book of Revelation. In A.D. 70 the Roman armies of Titus totally destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. According to Eusebius, 1.1million Jews were killed (Todd Dennis [15], 2009).

Josephus goes on to say, “Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury, Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited” (The Wars Of The Jews, 7:1:1).

First Jewish Revolt (66-73 AD)

The final siege ended on September 26, 70 AD after a duration of five months. The destruction of Jerusalem, though, was not the end of Rome’s fury. Jews outside of Jerusalem also became victims. Holford continues,

All above the age of seventeen were sent in chains into Egypt, to be employed there as slaves, or distributed throughout the empire to be sacrificed as gladiators in the amphitheatres ; whilst those who were under this age, were exposed to sale. During the time that these things were transacted, eleven thousand Jews, guarded by one of the generals, named Fronto, were literally starved to death. This melancholy occurrence happened partly through the scarcity of provisions, and partly through their own obstinacy, and the negligence of the Romans. Of the Jews destroyed during the siege, Josephus reckons not less than one million and one hundred thousand [1.1 million], to which must be added, above two-hundred and thirty-seven thousand [237,000] who perished in other places, and innumerable multitudes who were swept away by famine, and pestilence, and of which no calculation could be made. Not less than two thousand [2000] laid violent hands upon themselves. Of the captives the whole was about ninety-seven thousand [97,000]… After the destruction of Jerusalem seventeen hundred [1700] Jews who surrendered at Macherus were slain, and of fugitives not less than three thousand [3000] in the wood of Jardes. Titus, having marched his army to Caesarea, he there, with great splendour, celebrated the birthday of his brother Domitian; and according to the barbarous manner of those times, punished many Jews in honour of it. The number who were burnt, and who fell by fighting with wild beasts, and in mutual combats, exceeded two thousand five hundred [2500]. At the siege of Massada [73 AD], Eleazer, the commander, instigated the garrison [of Jews] to burn their stores, and to destroy first the women and children, and then themselves.

In summary, says Josephus, “neither did any other city ever allow such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world” (Josephus, The Jewish War, Book 5, Chapter 10, Paragraph 5).

PP18: The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD (Part 2)


This is now the eighteenth post in our series on “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.” This is the same title as a term paper I recently submitted to Northwestern College. All the previous posts can be found here, and it’s recommended that they be read in order before reading this post:

[1] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/brief-explanation-of-partial-preterism/
[2] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp2-references/
[3] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp3-external-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation/
[4] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp4-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-1/
[5] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp5-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-2/
[6] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp6-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-3/
[7] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp7-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-4/
[8] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp8-daniels-70-week-prophecy-part-1/
[9] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp9-daniels-70-week-prophecy-part-2/
[10] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp10-jerusalems-destruction-foretold-in-the-olivet-discourse/
[11] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp11-did-jesus-come-in-70-ad-part-1/
[12] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp12-did-jesus-come-in-70-ad-part-2/
[13] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp13-signs-of-the-close-of-the-age/
[14] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp14-abomination-of-desolation/
[15] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp15-the-man-of-lawlessness-ii-thess-2-part-1/
[16] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp16-the-man-of-lawlessness-ii-thess-2-part-2/
[17] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp17-the-historical-events-leading-up-to-70-ad-part-1/

In the previous post we turned to a discussion of the historical events which led up to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. In the first post we saw a timeline of these events, beginning with the martyrdom of James, the brother of Jesus, in 62 AD. In this post we will first briefly consider some of the predictions of Daniel, before moving on to examine some of these historical events in more detail.

Adam Maarschalk

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G. The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD (Part 2)

Before enumerating some of the above events in more detail, it should be pointed out that some Preterists believe that the time references in Daniel of 1290, 1335, and 2300 days (Daniel 8:13-14; 12:11-12) found their fulfillment in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of all Israel. This is not least because Daniel was told that “when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end” all the wonders he had seen would be finished (Daniel 12:6-7). Even though a large portion of chapter 11 speaks in detail of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (215-164 BC), ruler of the Seleucid realm, and his attacks on Egypt about 240 years earlier,[1] it was the events of the Roman/Jewish War (67-73 AD) which epitomized “the shattering of the power of the holy people.”[2]

Also, as Ed Meelhuysen (1992), a Futurist, points out, precisely three lunar years transpired between the defiling of the temple (the sacrifice of a pig on the altar and the setting up of a statue of Zeus in the temple) on 25 Chislev 167 BC[3] and the cleansing and restoration of the temple by Judas Maccabees and other zealous Jews on 25 Chislev 164 BC. Therefore, the time range within which these (and other related) events took place falls short of all the time references in Daniel by at least six months.

Preterists and Futurists alike agree that Daniel does foretell Jerusalem’s destruction, if nowhere else, then at least in his pivotal 70-Weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:26b). Preterists would maintain that the “time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Daniel 12:1) also refers to 67-70 AD, as does the reference to “a time, times, and half a time” (verse 7),[4] and the reference to the regular burnt offering being taken away (Daniel 8:11-14, 12:11). Regarding this offering, Philip Mauro quotes the following from Josephus to show that it was taken away at the very end of the final siege on Jerusalem, i.e. late July 70 AD (Todd Dennis [21], 2009):

And now Titus gave orders to his soldiers that were with him to dig up the foundations of the tower of Antonia, and make a ready passage for his army to come up, while he himself had Josephus brought to him; for he had been informed that, on that very day, which was the seventeenth day of Panemus, the sacrifice called ‘the daily sacrifice’ had failed, and had not been offered to God for want of men to offer it; and that the people were grievously troubled at it (Wars, VI. 2.1.).[5]

John Denton, of the UK-based Bible Research and Investigation Company, offers the following chart in an effort to show that these time references played out precisely as stated in the Jewish/Roman War (Todd Dennis [18], 2009):[6]

SN850132

George Peter Holford, in his 1805 book titled “The Destruction of Jerusalem,” wrote that Nero was the one who appointed Vespasian (assisted by his son, Titus) to prosecute the war against the Jews (Todd Dennis [8], 2009). In early spring 67 AD, which was 3.5 years before Jerusalem’s final downfall, Vespasian first entered Judea with a 60,000-member army. In the campaign which was to follow he destroyed at least 150,000 inhabitants of Galilee and Judea, along with many towns. One of the first towns Vespasian crushed was Joppa, because its inhabitants had provoked his men by their frequent piracies at sea. The Jews there tried to flee from Vespasian on their ships, but Vespasian was helped by a tremendous storm that blew in just as they began to flee. Their vessels were crushed against each other and against the rocks, and when this slaughter was complete more than 4,200 bodies were strewn along the coast and a very long stretch of the coast was stained with blood.

Eusebius records that when Vespasian began to close in on Jerusalem, believers living there received a sign, “given by revelation to those in Jerusalem who were ‘approved,’ bidding them leave the doomed city and settle in Pella” (F.F. Bruce, 1983, p. 375). Pella was a community on the other side of the Jordan River in modern day Jordan. This perhaps calls to mind the sign of the woman and the dragon in Revelation 12: “…and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days; And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time” (Rev. 12:6, 13-14). Pella is indicated by the number “2” on the map.

HolyJordanMap

Vespasian pulled back in his campaign to take over Jerusalem when he was informed of Nero’s death in June 68 AD. Yet the people there did not repent of their wicked ways and instead, as Josephus and Tacitus reported in detail, their evil deeds increased. Civil war among the Jews resulted in thousands being murdered at a time, their bodies often left unburied. Holford writes about one such slaughter:

Athirst for blood, and inflamed by revenge, they spared neither age, sex, nor infancy; and the morning beheld eight thousand five hundred dead bodies lying in the streets of the holy city. They plundered every house, and having found the chief priests Ananius and Jesus, not only slew them, but, insulting their bodies, cast them forth unburied. They slaughtered the common people as unfeelingly as if they had been a herd of the vilest beasts… Such as fled were intercepted and slain: their carcasses lay in heaps on all the public roads: every symptom of pity seemed utterly extinguished, and with it, all respect for authority, both human and divine.

At the same time, there were bands of robbers and murderers plundering towns and homes throughout Judea, also not sparing even women or children. Simon, son of Gioras, the commander of one of these bands, entered Jerusalem and began a third faction in addition to the two who were already engaged in senseless warfare. The city was in anarchy, as it was divided into three sections under the following leaders: [1] Eleazar, the son of Simon, leader of the Zealots [2] John of Gischala, a Galilean partisan and Zealot leader [3] Simon Gioras, leader of the priestly party. Writes Holford:

The three factions, rendered frantic by drunkenness, rage, and desperation, trampling on heaps of slain, fought against each other with brutal savageness and madness. Even such as brought sacrifices to the temple were murdered. The dead bodies of priests and worshippers, both natives and foreigners were heaped together, and a lake of blood stagnated in the sacred courts. John of Gischala, who headed one of the factions, burnt storehouses full of provisions ; and Simon, his great antagonist, who headed another of them, soon afterwards followed his example. Thus they cut the very sinews of their own strength. At this critical and alarming conjuncture, intelligence arrived that the Roman army was approaching the city.

In the absence of believers in Jerusalem, Josephus writes of many rampant and callous evil acts taking place (Todd Dennis [13], 2009). These included sacrilegious activities taking place in the temple, committed by the Jews, things which even the Roman emperors wouldn’t have done:

But as for John [one of the Jewish leaders], when he could no longer plunder the people, he betook himself to sacrilege, and melted down many of the sacred utensils, which had been given to the temple; as also were many of those vessels which were necessary for such as ministered about holy things, – the caldrons, the dishes, and the table; nay, he did not abstain from those pouring-vessels that were sent them by Augustus and his wife; for the Romans emperors did ever both honour and adorn this temple; …on which account he emptied the vessels of that sacred wine and oil which the priests kept to be poured on the burnt-offerings, and which lay in the inner court of the temple, and distributed it among the multitude, who, in their anointing themselves and drinking, used [each of them] above an hin of them; and here I cannot but speak my mind, and what the concerns I am under dictates to me, and it is this: – I suppose that had the Romans made any longer delay in coming against these villains, the city would either have been swallowed up by the ground opening upon them, or been overflowed by water, or else been destroyed by such thunder as the country of Sodom perished by, for it had brought forth a generation of men much more atheistical that were those that suffered such punishments; for by their madness it was that all the people came to be destroyed.

This description by Josephus may perhaps bring to mind the latter part of Revelation 6:6, which says, “…do not harm the oil and wine!” In a way that is reminiscent of this same passage (Rev. 6:5-6), Josephus writes of the dire conditions that came about in Jerusalem due to famine. This escalated when the Romans finally broke through two of the three walls which surrounded the city. Even while under siege, the pitiful situation of the Jews caused them to turn on each other in almost unthinkable ways:

It was now a miserable case, and a sight that would justly bring tears into our eyes, how men stood as to their food, while the more powerful had more than enough, and the weaker were lamenting [for want of it]; …insomuch that children pulled the very morsels that their fathers were eating out of their very mouths, and what was still more to be pitied, so did the mothers do as to their infants; and when those that were most dear were perishing under their hands, they were not ashamed to take from them the very last drops that might preserve their lives: and while they ate after this manner, yet were they not concealed in so doing; but the seditious everywhere came upon them immediately, and snatched away from them what they had gotten from others; for when they saw any house shut up, this was to them a signal that the people within had gotten some food; whereupon they broke open the doors, and ran in, and took pieces of what they were eating almost up out of their very throats, and this by force: the old men, who held their food fast, were beaten; and if the women hid what they had within their hands, their hair was torn for so doing; nor was there any commiseration shown either to the aged or to the infants, but they lifted up children from the ground as they hung upon the morsels they had gotten, and shook them down upon the floor. But still they were more barbarously cruel to those that had prevented their coming in, and had actually swallowed down what they were going to seize upon, as if they had been unjustly defrauded of their right. They also invented terrible methods of torments to discover where any food was, and they were these to stop up the passages of the privy parts of the miserable wretches, and to drive sharp stakes up their fundaments; and a man was forced to bear what it is terrible even to hear, in order to make him confess that he had but one loaf of bread, or that he might discover a handful of barley-meal that was concealed.

Holford remarks that Jesus was just in His words when He said, “And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days” (Matthew 24:19). Josephus also told of one mother who roasted her own infant son and ate half of him, offering the other half to her neighbor. He mentions at one point seeing more than 600,000 dead bodies thrown out of the city gates, due to famine and other causes. It was common for whole families to perish, he said, and tomb-robbing was also rampant. At one point an individual attempted to desert the city, but he was caught with gold that he had swallowed in an attempt to smuggle it out. Suspecting that others were trying to do the same, the Romans killed and ripped open the stomachs of more than 2000 individuals in one night. Josephus (Jewish War 5:13:4) writes that some escaped from Jerusalem during the final siege by jumping from the wall and fleeing to the Romans. However, being extremely ravaged by famine, they failed to restrain their appetites and quickly ate so much that they literally caused their bodies to burst open.

The starvation in Jerusalem was especially severe because so many Jews from the countryside foolishly tried to take refuge there, against the advice of Jesus (Luke 21:21). They also had come up from various nations for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The famine grew so bad that, records Holford, the “Jews, for want of food were at length compelled to eat their belts, their sandals, the skins of their shields, dried grass, and even the ordure [dung] of oxen.” When a woman was discovered to have eaten half of her own child, the Roman soldiers were horrified and “the whole city stood aghast, and poured forth their congratulations on those whom death had hurried away from such heartrending scenes.” Josephus declared that if there had not been many credible witnesses of this event he would not have recorded it because “such a shocking violation, never having been perpetuated by any Greek or barbarian, the insertion of it might have diminished the credibility of his history.” Yet these things fulfilled what was spoken by Moses at the end of giving the Law to the people, when he stated what would happen if they forsook the path of obedience:

The man who is the most tender and refined among you willbegrudge food to his brother, to the wife he embraces,and to the last of the children whom he has left, so that he will not give to any of them any of the flesh of his children whom he is eating, because he has nothing else left,in the siege and in the distress with which your enemy shall distress you in all your towns. The most tender and refined woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because she is so delicate and tender, will begrudge to the husband she embraces, to her son and to her daughter, her afterbirth that comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears, because lacking everything she will eat them secretly, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemy shall distress you in your towns (Deut. 28:54-57).

In the weeks leading up to the final five-month siege on Jerusalem the Romans used engines called “ballistas” equipped with strong catapults which were capable of launching boulders weighing between 75-160 pounds in weight. According to Josephus, when the assault first began these boulders, some a quarter mile wide, could be seen coming because they were white in color. The Romans soon modified them to be black in color, and the slaughter of the Jews in this way became much more effective. These missiles killed many priests and worshippers in the temple and even at the altar itself because, writes Josephus, “despite war, the sacrifices went on.” They came “from all over the earth,” says Josephus, because they deemed the temple and the city to be holy. Revelation 16:19-21 speaks of hailstones falling out of heaven, with each stone weighing about 100 pounds. The Roman boulders, being white in color, would have resembled giant hailstones falling from the sky.[7]

In the end, after months of failed attempts, the Romans at last succeeded in penetrating the final wall surrounding Jerusalem. Records Josephus (William Whiston [2], 2009), “A false prophet was the occasion of the people’s destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city that very day, that God commanded them to get upon the temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance.” Another remarkable event occurred, says Tacitus: “In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour. A sudden lightening flash from the clouds lit up the Temple. The doors of the holy place abruptly opened, a superhuman voice was heard to declare that the gods were leaving it, and in the same instant came the rushing tumult of their departure.”


[1] Philip Mauro, in his 1921 publication, “The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation” (pages 53-63) makes a fascinating and compelling case for Herod being the king spoken of in Daniel 11:36-45, i.e. the same Herod who killed all the male children in Bethlehem and the surrounding region in an effort to destroy Jesus (cf. Daniel 11:37a, 44). This publication can be viewed in its entirety here: http://www.preteristarchive.com/Books/pdf/1921_mauro_seventyweeks.pdf.

[2] In order for this prophecy to remain unfulfilled, i.e. awaiting a future fulfillment as Futurists say, it must be demonstrated that ethnic Jews are still God’s holy people. This is, in fact, a common premise of Dispensationalism. The New Testament, however, identifies the Church as God’s holy people (e.g. I Peter 2:4-10) and unbelieving Jews (and, by implication, unbelieving Gentiles also) by such unsavory titles as the synagogue of Satan (e.g. Revelation 2:9, 3:9).

[3] The abolishing of the daily sacrifices took place only 10 days prior to the sacrifice of the pig, on 15 Chislev 167 BC, according to I Maccabees 1:54-60 and 4:52. See Daniel 8:11 and Daniel 12:11.

[4] Philip Mauro, anticipating the trouble many would have assigning Daniel 12:2 to the past, makes this observation: “The words ‘and many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,’ etc. are commonly taken as referring to the bodily resurrection of the dead, and this is one reason why the entire passage is frequently relegated to the future. But there is nothing said here about either death or resurrection.” He goes on to point out that such language was commonly used in Scripture to denote a spiritual awakening (e.g. Isaiah 9:2, 29:10; Matthew 4:14-16; and especially John 5:25 and Ephesians 5:14). Not all who would be awakened would be saved, reminiscent of Christ speaking of those who would and wouldn’t receive Him (cf. John 3:16, 18, 36). The turning of many to righteousness and the running to and fro (Daniel 12:3-4), says Mauro, speaks of the rapid spread of the gospel in the time of the apostles and the early Church.

[5] In view of the wording in Daniel 12:11, notes Mauro, it could appear that these events happened in the reverse order. That is, Daniel seems to suggest that the offering is taken away at the beginning of the 1290 days, and the abomination of desolation is set up at the end of those days. Historically speaking, and by comparing Luke 21:20 with Matthew 24:15, the desolation of Jerusalem occurred in late 66 AD when the Roman armies first surrounded her, precisely 43 months (or 1290 days) before the daily offering was taken away. That these events appear to be reversed is not an issue, says Mauro, quoting from the 19th century scholar James Farquharson who said regarding this verse that “there is nothing whatever in the verbs of the sentence to indicate which of the events should precede the other; the interval of time between them only is expressed.”

[6] The historical dates used by John Denton are based on The Complete Works of Josephus (Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids (Michigan), 1981).

[7] Preterists have taken some flak for suggesting that this historic event fulfilled the prophecy of one-hundred pound hailstones, because this would mean a non-literal fulfillment. Gary DeMar (2008) responds, “Benware and other dispensationalists claim that the only way Revelation can be interpreted is literally. Let’s put their standard to the test. “The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters” (Rev. 8:10). If one star hits the earth, the earth will be vaporized in an instant. In fact, if a star gets even close to the earth, the earth is going to burn up before it hits. Then there’s Revelation 8:12: “Then the fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were smitten, so that a third of them might be darkened and the day might not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.” How can a “third of the sun” be smitten without catastrophic results on the whole earth and not just a third of it? All of this language is drawn from the Old Testament and only has meaning as it is interpreted in light of its Old Testament context—the judgment and destruction of nations (Isa. 14:12; Jer. 9:12–16). To ignore how a passage is used in the Old Testament is like trying to interpret Egyptian hieroglyphics without the Rosetta Stone.”