Revelation 20: Premillennial Viewpoint


Revelation 20: An Introduction to the Premillennial View 

Rod: January 27, 2010

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 20:1-15

Introduction (by Adam)

On January 27th, our Bible study group met as we usually do on a weekly basis, and studied Revelation 20, the classic text on “the Millennium.” That night three of us took a limited amount of time to present three different views of the Millennium: [1] premillennialism (Rod), [2] postmillennialism (Dave), and amillennialism (myself). This subject of the Millennium requires more coverage than we were able to give it in just one meeting, so we have turned this into a project of sorts, as I wrote in our Introduction and Outline of Revelation 20. That outline provides links to all of our posts on the subject of the Millennium and Revelation 20. Neither Rod (the author of this post) nor I hold to the premillennial position, but this material is being presented in order to give coverage to multiple viewpoints. Both Rod and I lean toward the amillennial viewpoint.

Adam

Primary sources for this post:

[1] Steve Gregg, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” pp. 457-483.
[2] Sam Storms, the founder of “Enjoying God Ministries”:

[a] http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/the-kingdom-of-god-already-but-not-yet-part-i/
[b] http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/the-kingdom-of-god-already-but-not-yet-part-ii/

Premillenialism, which is usually associated with a futurist viewpoint on the book of Revelation, teaches that Christ will return bodily in power and glory before the “thousand years” (millennium) to defeat and destroy the beast and the false prophet in the battle on the “great day of God the Almighty” at Armageddon (16: 14-16; 19:11-21). This battle will result in the binding (but not destruction) of Satan, which will keep him from deceiving the nations for one thousand years (Gregg, pp. 458-459). This period is interpreted by most premillennialists to be a literal one thousand years.

During that time Christ’s saints, having received their immortal bodies either by being resurrected from the dead (or, if they were still alive, being instantly transformed–1 Thess 4:13-18), will reign with Christ on the present earth, still surrounded to some degree by sin and sorrow but relieved to a significant degree of sin’s societal and physical consequences. According to this viewpoint, sin, sorrow, and death will not be eliminated until the new heaven and earth displace the first heaven and earth (Rev 21:1-4). The descendants of those who survive the battle of Armageddon will remain on the earth, ruled by resurrected saints and living to extraordinary ages (Isaiah 65:20-25).

The following is a brief summary of variations within the premillennialist camp:

Dispensational premillenialists believe that Old Testament prophecies of Israel’s restoration to political and material blessedness will happen during this millennial kingdom reign. At the end of the one thousand years, a second rebellion against Jesus’ reign will provoke another war, at which time the dragon (Satan) will be defeated and finally destroyed. The wicked at this time will be raised bodily to face God’s last judgment and eternal wrath. They will be thrown into the lake of fire, which is the “second death” (20:6, 11-14). The old heaven and earth will be replaced by a new heaven and earth where curses, sin, sorrow, suffering and death will no longer exist for those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 21, 22).  Dispensational premillenialism expects that the millennium will witness a virtual restoration of the OT economy: temple, worship, priesthood, sacrificial system, etc.

Classic Premillenialism expects a future one thousand year reign of Christ on earth with believers and non-believers, prior to the final judgment. Therefore, it expects Christ will return before the one thousand years, but after a great tribulation before Christ returns (this is the post-trib rapture view). Classical premillenialists differ over whether the renewed earth will begin the millennium or the eternal state.

Pretribulational Premillenialism also expects a future one thousand year reign of Christ on earth, but it expects that Christ will first come secretly to take believers from the earth before a “great tribulation” of seven years. After this tribulation period, it expects that Christ will come back publicly to reign on the earth and that He will bring back believers at that time. There is often much overlap between pretribulation premillennialism and dispensational premillennialism.

A quick overview (Gregg, pp. 460-482):

1. Premillenialists (PMs) see chapter 20 as happening directly after the events of chapter 19, which is interpreted to be a description of the second coming of Christ.
2. The unnamed angel in Revelation 20 is most likely Michael (as in Rev. 12 and Jude 9).
3. The bottomless pit is thought to be a location on earth, and the star mentioned in chapter 9 was given the key to this pit.
4. The dragon is bound for one thousand years, and this disabling is very thorough. Satan is thrust into the pit and sealed away for one thousand years (although it is said that sin will still exist during this time). Because of Satan’s continued influence in the world today, this vision is yet future for premillennialists.
5. Satan will be released after the one thousand years of Christ’s peaceful reign for one final rebellion before the new eternal creation will come.
6. The identity of those who sit on the throne is unknown–perhaps God, Christ and the angels, 24 elders, the martyrs who did not worship the beast, or saints from the Old Testament and New Testament.
7. Verses 4-6 point to the resurrection of the saints who will reign on earth with Christ during the one thousand years. The PM would see this resurrection as a physical one, not a spiritual resurrection as  the postmillennialist or amillennialist sees it [This is a key difference, because only the premillennialist sees two general resurrections, separated by 1000 years, the first one for the righteous and the second one for the wicked. The premillennialist also only sees this 1000-year separation taught here in Revelation 20, and nowhere else in Scripture where the doctrine of the resurrection is taught].
8. One is particularly blessed who takes part in the first resurrection, as they will live in the millennium and escape the second death to live in the New Jerusalem in the new creation, becoming priests of God.
9. Satan will rise up in rebellion, and raise up the nations not under Christ’s rule (designated as Gog and Magog) to go to war (see also Ezekiel 38-39, and our post on the subject of Gog and Magog). This attack is said by premillennialists to target the literal city of Jerusalem.
10. God rescues the city with a great hail of fire and brimstone. The final judgment occurs and Satan is then tossed into the lake of fire.
11. The throne is thought to be the same throne as in Rev. 4:2. The one seated could be God or Christ, but the speaker is Christ.
12. The old heavens and earth “flee away” to make way for the new heavens and the new earth.
13. The dead are seen as those who did not experience the first resurrection.
14. There are two books: one containing the judgments for the dead and the other the book of life. It is interesting to note that there are books (plural) with judgments for the dead.
15. No one escapes the final judgment as in accordance with the prophecy in Isaiah 26:21.
16. Death and Hades were found riding a pale horse and slaying a fourth of mankind in Rev 6:8. Here they are personified as having held the dead captive, but now releasing their prey, as predicted by Paul in I Corinthians 15:26.

According to Steve Gregg, who summarized the premillenialist viewpoint:

“In the view of premillennialists, the golden age of peace and righteousness will not and cannot be realized until Jesus personally returns. He will then bind Satan for 1,000 years and reign over the earth with a rod of iron. The saints who rule with Him will be the righteous who have experienced resurrection earlier at his coming. Satan will be given one last chance at the end of this time and will deceive many people, but his rebellion will be supernaturally crushed and he will be eternally judged” (Gregg, p. 483).

According to non-dispensational premillenialists:

One purpose of the millennial kingdom would be to serve as the time and place (at least initially) wherein the OT promises of God’s earthly rule over His people will be fulfilled, and another purpose of the millennium would be that Christ’s kingdom will be disclosed in history.

To note some key differences between premillennialism and amillenialism (the viewpoint which held sway through most of Church history), compare this post with some of the following resources:

[A] Our posts on amillennialism:

Part 1 (a verse-by-verse study),
Part 2 (a verse-by-verse study continued),
Part 3 (two articles: [1] “Why the Early Church Finally Rejected Premillennialism” [2] “A Return to Types and Shadows in the Millennial Age?”,
Part 4 (two articles: [1] “Has the New Covenant Arrived Yet?” [2] “Problems with Premillennialism” by Sam Storms

[B] http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/the-amillennial-view-of-the-kingdom-of-god/ (Sam Storms; some of the material in this article is also referenced in our posts on amillennialism)

Sam Storms is an amillennialist (as well as a Historicist), and has the following to say in his summary of some of the tenets of premillennialism:

1. PMs insist that the relationship between the events of Rev. 19:11-21 and the events of 20:1-3 is one of chronological and historical sequence – which means the binding of Satan for a thousand years comes directly after the second coming of Christ.
2. PMs insist that the NT evidence concerning the activity of Satan in this present age does not line up with the description of the restrictions placed on Satan’s power by the angel in 20:1-3. Since Satan is not bound, then the events of verses 1-3 must be future, they say.

**Sam Storms lays out an argument against these claims, saying that the phrase “I saw” does not necessarily indicate the order in which the visions were to play out in history, but is only an indication of the order in which he received them. A second objection follows with Sam pointing out that in 16:13-16 the nations were deceived, and then were destroyed in 19:19-21.

PMs believe there will be two age-transitioning wars: one before the millennium (Armageddon: Rev. 16:17-21; Matt 24:29) and one after the millennium (Gog-Magog, Rev. 20:9-11). However, a reading of Hebrews 12:26-27 would seem to indicate that there was to be only one such war.

Sam Storms believes that there is evidence from Ezekiel 39:17-20 that the battle of Armageddon (Rev 19) and the battle of Gog-Magog (Rev 20) are one and the same…and NOT two battles separated by one thousand years. PMs point to the fact that according to Rev 20:10 Satan is cast into the lake of fire where the Beast and False Prophet already are. So these two entities must have been cast into the lake of fire before the millennium started (19:20). [Again, for a thorough discussion regarding Gog and Magog, and the relationship between Ezekiel 38-39, Revelation 19 & 20, please see our own post on this subject.]

**Sam Storms argues that a better understanding of the verbs used would tell of the devil being cast into the lake of fire along with the Beast and False Prophet…which would be at the conclusion of the war (Armageddon/Gog Magog). So historically these events happen at the same time, but John received two different visions subsequently offering two different vantage points.

PMs insist that the binding of Satan as stated in Rev 20:1-3 is not compatible with the dimensions of Satan’s present activity as portrayed throughout the NT. PMs insist that Satan must be bound from being able to carry out ANY activity.

However, verse 3 states that Satan was bound so that he could no longer deceive the nations. Then in verse 8 he is released so that he can deceive the nations which are the four corners of the earth. John does not say that Satan cannot persecute Christians or prowl about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, disrupt church unity, disguise himself as an angel of the light, etc. He was bound only to the extent that he could not rally the nations to war in unity against the city of God (the Church, the New Jerusalem–e.g. Hebrews 12:22, Gal. 4:24-26) until the millennium comes to an end. See our first post on amillennialism for a more thorough treatment of this subject.

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In the following post, we will examine several minority viewpoints on the millennium, views which fall outside of the traditional “big 3” (a-, post-, and pre-millennialism).

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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Revelation Chapter 16


REVELATION CHAPTER 16

Rod Opferkew: November 26, 2009

Scripture text for this study:  Revelation 16

[Primary source: Revelation: Four Views – A Parallel Commentary, edited by Steve Gregg (1997); pages 352-397. Contained in this post is a consideration of the preterist viewpoint. Notes from Adam are in red font.]

First and foremost, who is the recipient of the judgments in this chapter?  The first fifteen chapters present a lot of evidence that the target of God’s wrath was Israel, or more specifically, the capital city of Jerusalem.  However, some Preterists say there may be evidence that Rome was the target.  One expositor in particular, Jay Adams, breaks up Revelation into essentially two sections. He then points out that the bowl judgments seem to parallel the trumpet judgments. He states that the trumpet judgments are meant for Israel, and the bowl judgments are meant for the Roman Empire. David Chilton, Kenneth Gentry, and others believe that first-century Israel is designated for judgment throughout the entire book, with the exception of judgment upon the beast in Rev. 13:10, 16:10, and 19:20.

Here in verse 1 we see that the seven angels are told to “pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested 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.

The trumpets and bowls do have distinct differences.  The effects of the trumpet judgments are often only partial (affecting one-third of the earth, trees, green grass, sea, ships, springs of water, the sun, moon, and stars–see Revelation 8:6-12), whereas the effects of the bowl judgments are total. The bowls are associated with the seven last plagues, as seen in Revelation 15:1.  A likely scenario is that “the trumpets depict preliminary calamities that fall upon Israel during the Jewish War, while the bowls present plagues associated with the final and utter devastation of Jerusalem” (Steve Gregg, p. 360).

First bowl (verse 2): This plague was likely symbolic, though there is evidence that literal boils and rashes were present due to the lack of proper sanitation in the besieged city (Jerusalem, especially during the final five-month siege from April-September 70 AD). Remember, there were thousands of dead bodies and streets were filled with blood and sewage, making disease rampant.  It can be seen that in verse 11, the people were still afflicted as they remained unrepentant of their sin and rejection of Christ.

It should be noted that the plagues in this first bowl judgment parallel the plagues that Moses brought down on Egypt in Exodus 9:8-12 (See Appendix 1 below for more such parallels).  Also a striking coincidence is that this is the same warning that Moses gave to the people of Israel if they were to become disobedient and unfaithful to His covenant (Deuteronomy 28:27, 35).

Second bowl (verse 3): Notice the parallel with the first plague in Egypt, i.e. the Nile turning to blood in Exodus 7: 17-21.  However, the blood is not free-flowing, it is like the blood of a corpse, “clotted, coagulated and putrefying” (Gregg, p. 360).  Judea was being compared to the sea, which has been seen elsewhere in Revelation to represent the Gentile nations (e.g. Revelation 13:1-10).  Josephus writes of a battle that took place on the Sea of Galilee in which the Romans overtook the fleeing Jews in boats and massacred them in the water (Wars, III: 10:9). I wrote the following in my term paper on Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD:

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.

Third bowl (verses 4-7): Literal “streams of blood” are well documented during the siege of Jerusalem, as blood flowed freely in the streets and polluted the water sources. Also in my term paper I wrote the following regarding the bloody slaughter which occurred immediately following the burning of the Second Temple in Jerusalem:

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.”

We also have this account from Josephus:

Now, this destruction that fell upon the Jews, as it was not inferior to any of the rest in itself, so did it still appear greater than it really was; and this, because not only the whole of the country through which they had fled was filled with slaughter, and [the] Jordan [River] could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the Lake Asphaltitis [the modern Dead Sea] was also full of dead bodies, that were carried down into it by the river. And now, Placidus…slew such as had fled to the lake, insomuch that all Perea had either surrendered themselves, or were taken by the Romans, as far as Macherus (Josephus, “Account of the Lake Asphaltitis,” War of the Jews 4:7:6).

Verse 6 seems to point to Jerusalem in A.D. 70 instead of Rome.  The killing of the prophets was among the great sins of Israel (This can be seen, for example, in 2 Chronicles 36:15-16, Luke 13:33-34 and Acts 7:52).  Jesus named this fact as the very reason that the symbolized blood of the righteous would be poured out in judgment upon that generation which heard Him speak (Matt 23:31-36) (Gregg, p. 366). More is said on this in our study of Revelation 17:6 and also Rev. 18:20, 24.

Fourth bowl (verses 8-9): These verses probably need to be taken symbolically, as there is no record of increasing heat that was both dangerous and scorching to the people during this time.  The sun in this instance is seen “as a symbol of mighty political and religious leaders…or refers to the oppression and tyranny exercised by the leaders of the Zealot sects that terrorized the citizens inside the besieged city of Jerusalem,” assuming Jerusalem was the intended target for this judgment.  If Rome is the target, then this judgment “may represent the tyranny of Roman leaders or the ruthlessness of the gothic and Vandal kings that attacked Rome and brought about her downfall [in 476 AD]” (Gregg, p. 368). God declared that He would judge an unfaithful Israel in this way (with scorching), as seen in Deuteronomy 28:22.

** Note that this is the opposite of the blessing the Israelites received in the Exodus, when Israel was shielded from the heat of the sun by the Glory-Cloud (Exodus 13:21-22, also Psalm 91:1-6). Also it was pointed out in our study of chapter 8 that judgment references to the sun in the Old Testament were clearly not meant to be seen as literal. David Chilton wrote regarding Revelation 8:12:

The imagery here was long used in the prophets to depict the fall of nations and national rulers (cf. Isa. 13:9-11, 19; 24:19-23; 34:4-5; Ezek. 32:7-8, 11-12; Joel 2:10, 28-32; Acts 2:16-21. [He quotes F.W. Farrar (1831-1903), who wrote that] “ruler after ruler, chieftain after chieftain of the Roman Empire and the Jewish nation was assassinated and ruined. Gaius, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, all died by murder or suicide; Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa, and most of the Herodian Princes, together with not a few of the leading High Priests of Jerusalem, perished in disgrace, or in exile, or by violent hands. All these were quenched suns and darkened stars” (Gregg, pp. 166, 168).

Fifth bowl (verses 10-11): This verse clearly seems to be pointed at the Roman Empire. The throne of the beast is well thought to be the city of Rome itself (See our study on Revelation 13). David Chilton is referenced here, and he writes,

“Although most of the judgments throughout Revelation are aimed specifically at apostate Israel, the heathen who join Israel against the Church come under condemnation as well. Indeed the Great Tribulation itself would prove to be “the hour of testing, that hour which is to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the Land” (372).

The darkness referenced here which comes upon the throne of the beast (i.e. Rome) is symbolically taken to be the political turmoil and overthrow of its leaders, in particular when Nero (the beast in the singular sense) committed suicide in 68 A.D.  Upon his death, the Roman Empire quickly began to crumble, and the following year (69 A.D.) became known as the “Year of the Four Emperors” because of the rise and fall of four more leaders in Rome – Galba, Otho and Vitellius, all of whom reigned for eight months or less.

Those expositors who see the second half of Revelation as pointing to the fall of the Roman Empire refer to these verses as pertaining to the invasions which led to the ultimate fall of Rome in the fifth century.

Sixth bowl (verses 12-16): The great river Euphrates is represented in this bowl judgment just like it was in the sixth trumpet judgment. (The drying up the river was the strategy of Cyrus the Persian, the conqueror of historical Babylon in 536 B.C. The river was diverted away from the walls of Babylon, and this allowed his army to march under the wall and overtake the city and its king, Belshazzar, without much resistance.)  Here, the Babylon of Revelation is seen by some to be Rome and this bowl judgment to be the downfall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D. (Gregg, p. 378).

Other writers see the Babylon of Revelation again pointing to Jerusalem and its related destruction in 70 A.D. God helped his people Israel through the drying up of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-22) and the River Jordan (Joshua 3:9-17; 4:22-24).  It is ironic that God is now using this same type of judgment against Israel, the new Babylon which is invaded by a new Cyrus (all the while miraculously saving the true Covenant people). History tells us that this vision mirrors the return of Vespasian’s armies (now led by his son, Titus) bringing in reinforcements, and Josephus writes that these reinforcements came from the region of the Euphrates in the east (Gregg, p. 380).

Coming from the mouth of the devil (the dragon) were three unclean spirits like frogs, a parallel to the second Egyptian plague (Ex. 8:1-15). “Natural Egypt was judged with natural frogs, and spiritual Egypt (Israel) was judged with spiritual frogs” (p. 380).

Neither preterist camp believes that Armageddon is a literal place in northern Israel, but that it instead refers to the “mountain of Megiddo”, the nearest hill to the plain of Megiddo where many Old Testament battles were fought (Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 9:27; 2 Chron. 35:20-25). There is debate over whether this refers to the siege on Jerusalem in 70 A.D. or whether it foreshadowed the destruction of Rome. The Historicist view is that the term “Armageddon” simply refers to any great nation suffering a great disaster (pp. 382, 384). Earlier we saw that John Wesley tied this passage to Rev. 19:11-21, and rightly so. We noted the following in our study of Revelation 14:

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, 1.1 million Jews were killed.

In verse 15, Jesus tells us that He is coming like a thief.  This parallels His words to the Laodiceans, stating that they should buy white garments (see Rev. 3:18), and also His similar words to the people of Sardis (see 3:5).

Steve Gregg writes,

Jesus told His disciples that some of them standing with him “shall not taste death” before they “see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:28).  This could not have been fulfilled much later than A.D. 70, since most of the generation of disciples would have died by that time.  This “coming” of the Son Man could refer to the judgment upon Jerusalem (384).

If interested in a more detailed discussion of whether or not Christ came in judgment upon Jerusalem in 70 AD, please see this post here and also this post here.

Seventh bowl (verses 17-21): Again, which city is this judgment falling on, Jerusalem or Rome?  Steve Gregg notes that some Preterists see Revelation 11:13 and 16:19 as concrete evidence that Revelation chapters 4-11 refer to the judgments on Jerusalem (Israel) and that chapters 13-19 refer to the fall of Rome. If referring to Rome, this bowl judgment would have been consummated in 476 A.D, the year pagan Rome fell. There is more evidence, however, to support the idea that the great city is referring to Jerusalem, and its fall in 70 A.D. The following post on Revelation 17 will get into this evidence in much more detail.

Verse 18: We are told that there was a great earthquake, greater than any other in history. The writer of Hebrews notes that a great earthquake in both heaven and earth would take place with the dissolution of the Old Covenant (Heb. 12:26-28, also see Heb. 8:13). As we saw in Rev. 4:5, 8:5, and 11:19, the cosmic phenomena here (“flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder“) mirrors the phenomena that occurred when Moses delivered the Law to the Israelites on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16). The significance of this parallel is that Jerusalem’s destruction (along with the temple) completed the transition from Judaism (the Old Covenant) to the New Covenant.

Verse 19: It should be noted that the city was broken up into three parts. This can only mean Jerusalem.  This is a reference to Ezekiel 5:1-12, when the prophet was required to shave his head and divide it into three parts, and was told by God: “This is Jerusalem” (Ezek 5:5).  One third was burned, one third was chopped up by the sword, and the last third was scattered into the wind.  This happened in 586 B.C. (some were burned inside the city, some were slain by swords by the Babylonians, and the remaining were scattered among the nations). The city was again divided like this in 70 A.D. Josephus, and also the early church writer Eusebius, tell us that at least 1.1 million Jews were killed in the burning of the Second Temple and Jerusalem, some due to the fire, and some due to the sword (see quotes from the section on the Third Bowl Judgment above). Just as in 586 BC, those who survived were sold into slavery:

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.

Philip Carrington (in 1931) noted an additional means of fulfillment for this vision,

This refers to the division into three factions, which became acute after the return of Titus. While Titus was besieging it from without, the three leaders of rival factions were fighting fiercely within: but for this the city might have staved off defeat for a long time, even perhaps indefinitely, for no great army could support itself for the long in those days in the neighborhood of Jerusalem; there was no water and no supplies. The fighting within the city delivered it quickly into the hands of Titus (Gregg, p. 393-94).

The three factions were led by [1] Eleazar, who was over the Zealots [2] John of Gischala, who was over the Galileans, and [3] Simon, who was over the Idumeans. It remained this way until the city was destroyed. The conditions were awful. In one night 8500 people were killed, and their bodies were cast outside of Jerusalem without being buried. The outer temple was “overflowing with blood” (says Josephus) and the inner court even had large pools of blood in it. Homes and gravesites were looted.

Verse 21: Josephus gives us great insight into the “hailstones, weighting about one hundred pounds.”  He wrote of large stones being shot from catapults by the Roman armies, which the watchmen in the city reported as appearing white in the sky (Gregg, p. 395-96). I wrote the following in my term paper on Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD:

The 10th Legion of the Romans begins to launch white boulders as heavy as 100 pounds over the city walls into Jerusalem. They are cast by catapults from Roman engines from a distance of up to two furlongs (a quarter mile) away. Josephus records that the watchmen on the wall, if they saw them coming, would shout, “The Son cometh!” (Wars 5.6.3). After a while the Romans learned to blacken the stones so that they couldn’t as easily be detected, and thus many were crushed by these stones.

J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book titled The Parousia, offers this explanation [for the words of the watchmen] (p. 482): “It could not but be well known to the Jews that the great hope and faith of the Christians was the speedy coming of the Son. It was about this very time, according to Hegesippus [110-180 AD], that St. James, the brother of our Lord, publicly testified in the temple that ‘the Son of man was about to come in the clouds of heaven,’ and then sealed his testimony with his blood [in 62 AD]. It seems highly probable that the Jews, in their defiant and desperate blasphemy, when they saw the white mass hurtling though the air, raised the ribald cry, ‘The Son is coming,’ in mockery of the Christian hope of the Parousia.”

Stones used by Roman catapults

Boulders believed to be used in Roman catapults (Photo Source)

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APPENDIX 1:Comparison of the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments of Revelation with the Plagues upon Egypt

David Chilton saw many parallels between the seven Trumpet Judgments (Revelation 8:6-9:21, 11:15-19), the seven Bowl Judgments (Revelation 16:1-21), and the ten plagues upon Egypt (Exodus 7:14-11:32). Many of these parallels are demonstrated in the chart below. Just as God’s people, Israel, came out of Egypt during the days of Moses, God’s people (the Church) came out of apostate Israel/Judaism during the generation following Christ’s death and resurrection, at which time He inaugurated the New Covenant. Before drawing this comparison, Chilton gives a brief summary of how this imagery has played out since the blowing of the Seventh Trumpet:

The Seventh Trumpet was the sign that ‘there shall be no more delay’ (cf. 10:6-7). Time has run out; wrath to the utmost has now come upon Israel. From this point on, St. John abandons the language and imagery of warning, concentrating wholly on the message of Jerusalem’s impending destruction. As he describes the City’s doom, he extends and intensifies the Exodus imagery that has already been so pervasive throughout the prophecy… St. John’s more usual metaphors for the Great City are taken from the Exodus pattern: Jerusalem is not only Egypt [Rev. 11:8], but also the other enemies of Israel. He has shown us the Egyptian Dragon chasing the Woman into the wilderness (Chapter 12); a revived Balak and Balaam seeking to destroy God’s people by war and by seduction to idolatry (chapter 13); the sealed armies of the New Israel gathered on Mount Zion to celebrate the feasts (Chapter 14); and the saints standing in triumph at the ‘Red Sea,’ singing the Song of Moses (chapter 15). Now, in Chapter 16, seven judgments corresponding to the ten Egyptian Plagues are to be poured out on the Great City. There is also a marked correspondence between these Chalice [Bowl]—judgments and the Trumpet—judgments of Chapters 8-11. Because the Trumpets were essentially warnings, they took only a third of the Land; with the Chalices, the destruction is total.

TRUMPET JUDGMENTS BOWL JUDGMENTS CORRESPONDING PLAGUES ON EGYPT
1.  On the LAND; 1/3 earth, trees, grass burned (Revelation 8:7) 1. On the LAND, becoming sores (Revelation 16:2) 1. Boils (6th Plague: Exodus 9:8-12)
2. On the sea; 1/3 sea becomes blood, 1/3 sea creatures die, 1/3 ships destroyed (8:8-9) 2.  On the sea, becoming blood (16:3) 2.  Waters become blood (1st Plague: Ex. 7:17-21)
3. On the rivers and springs; 1/3 waters become wormwood (8:10-11) 3. On rivers and springs, becoming blood (16:4-7) 3. Waters become blood (1st Plague: Ex. 7:17-21)
4. 1/4 of sun, moon, and stars darkened (8:12) 4. On the sun, causing it to scorch (16:8-9) 4. Darkness (9th Plague: Ex. 10:21-23)
5.  Demonic locusts tormenting men (9:1-12) 5. On the throne of the Beast, causing darkness (16:10-11) 5. Locusts (8th Plague: Ex. 10:4-20)
6. Army from Euphrates kills 1/3 mankind (9:13-21) 6.  On Euphrates, drying it up to make way for kings of the East; invasion of frog-demons; Armageddon (16:12-16) 6. Invasion of frogs from river (2nd Plague: Ex. 8:2-4)
7.  Voices, storm, earthquake, hail (11:15-19) 7.  On the air, causing storm, earthquake, and hail (16:17-21) 7. Hail (7th Plague: Ex. 9:18-26)

Source: http://www.preteristarchive.com/StudyArchive/c/chilton-david.html

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APPENDIX 2: WAS FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS FAMILIAR WITH THE APOCALYPSE OF JOHN?

A couple weeks ago, PJ Miller highlighted a most interesting comparison of three prophecies in Revelation 16 and three similar accounts from Josephus, the famous Jewish historian who was an eyewitness to the Roman-Jewish War of 67-73 AD. They are as follows:

1. John’s Revelation – “And there were noises and thundering and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.” (16:18)

1. Josephus – “for there broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continued lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake. These things were a manifest indication that some destruction was coming upon men, when the system of the world was put into this disorder; and any one would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming” (“Wars of the Jews” 4:4:5)

2. John’s Revelation – “Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.” (16:19)

2. Josephus – “it so happened that the sedition at Jerusalem was revived, and parted into three factions, and that one faction fought against the other; which partition in such evil cases may be said to be a good thing, and the effect of divine justice.” (5:1:1)

3. John’s Revelation – “And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent.” (16:21)

3. Josephus –  “Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness;” (5:6:3)

Source: http://pjmiller.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/flavius-josephus-and-the-apocalypse-of-john/
Original Source: http://www.preteristarchive.com/JewishWars/credibility-and-importance.html

Regarding #1 above, we noted in the body of this post that verse 18 actually appears to parallel the phenomena which occurred when Moses delivered the Law to the Israelites on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16). It’s possible that the “great earthquake” spoken of here was not a physical one, but was rather a spiritual earthquake signifying the overthrow of the Old Covenant in favor of the New Covenant existing exclusively and universally (Hebrews 12:26-28, Matthew 21:33-45). Personally, I view Josephus’ account of that earthquake as a fulfillment not of Revelation 16:18, but of Rev. 11:13, which reads, “And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”

The reason for this is that a few short sections later after Josephus’ words quoted above, still speaking of this same event, he adds, “[Taking advantage of the noise of the storm, some of the Jewish zealots cut the bars of the temple gates with temple saws, allowing the Idumaeans to come in and join them in slaughtering some of the people]. The din from all quarters was rendered more terrific by the howling of the storm. And by daybreak they saw 8,500 dead bodies there” (Wars of the Jews 4:5:1). This occurred in 68 AD.

Josephus does not attribute a certain number of deaths to the earthquake, and a certain number of deaths to the warfare which took place, but only notes that a total of 8500 dead bodies were discovered the morning after this earthquake. This is remarkably close to the Biblical account (i.e. it’s entirely possible that 7000 were killed due to the earthquake, and 1500 due to the warfare). These things were discussed here.

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Our study of Revelation 17 (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 12


REVELATION 12

Rod: October 15, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 12

In this post, three views will be presented:

[A] The Preterist view, which holds that these events were fulfilled in the first century
[B] The Futurist view, which says that these events are yet to be fulfilled during a future great tribulation

[C] The Historicist view, which sees many of these events as ongoing in Church history, including this present time.

(Notes and updated changes from Adam are in maroon-colored font.)

A. Preterist View:

[Much of the following material is taken from Steve Gregg’s book, Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary). Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, 1997. Pp. 252-276]

Glossary of Terms:

Woman = [1] Old Testament Israel (i.e. the faithful remnant among the Israelites); and [2] later God’s people, the remnant among the nations, after Christ’s death and resurrection
Dragon = Rome, under the influence of Satan

Male Child = Jesus Christ

Verse 1: Preterists agree with Futurists that the woman here refers to the nation of Israel, with the imagery being reminiscent of Joseph’s dream as recorded in Genesis 37:9.

Verse 2: The birth pangs and agony of giving birth symbolize the suffering of the Jewish people during the time of Roman rule before the birth of Christ. Steve Gregg (p. 256) writes that the “travailing of the woman is understood to refer to the centuries of affliction suffered by the faithful Jews as they awaited the coming of their Messiah.”

Verse 3: The dragon had seven heads, ten horns and seven diadems. As we will see, this is very similar to the description of the beast (Revelation 13:1) who received authority from the dragon (Rev. 13:2).

Verse 4: In the first half of verse 4, speaking of the dragon with seven heads and 10 horns, we read:

“His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.”

There is reason to believe that these “stars” are angels. In Revelation 1:20, stars are seen as angels: “…The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches…” Here in verse 4, the dragon is able to throw stars to the earth, but in verses 9-12 we see that “the great dragon…that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan” would himself be cast out of heaven to the earth, along with his angels.

Some believe that verse 4a is parallel to Jude 6:

And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”

Others see a parallel to Daniel 8:10, which speaks of “a little horn” (Antiochus Ephiphanes, a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire from 175 – 164 BC):

And out of one of [the four horns] came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land. And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them…” (Daniel 8:10-11).

Albert Barnes, in his 1834 commentary on Revelation 12, took note of this parallel and wrote the following:

“The main idea here undoubtedly is that of power, and the object of John is to show that the power of the dragon was as if it extended to the stars, and as if it dragged down a third part of them to the earth, or swept them away with its tail, leaving two-thirds unaffected. A power that would sweep them all away would be universal; a power that would sweep away one-third only would represent a dominion of that extent only… Suppose, then, that the dragon here was designed to represent the Roman pagan power; suppose that it referred to that power about to engage in the work of persecution, and at a time when the church was about to be greatly enlarged, and to fill the world; …the conditions here referred to would be fulfilled…

The second half of verse 4 may be a reference to Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus by enforcing the death of all Hebrew children below age 2:

“And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.”

In Matthew 2:1-18 we read about the wise men from the east who came to Jerusalem asking about the birth of the King of the Jews (verses 1-2). This troubled Herod, who quizzed the chief priests and scribes and found out that, according to Micah 5:2, the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (verses 3-6). He instructed the wise men to find the Child, Jesus, and to let him know where he was (verses 7-8). However, the wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod (verse 12), and Herod, when he discovered that they had deceived him, put to death all children below the age of two throughout Bethlehem and its districts (verses 16-18). Joseph and Mary had already been warned in a dream to take Jesus and flee to Egypt (verses 13-15).

Duncan McKenzie, on the other hand, believes this is a reference to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead:

In Revelation 12 we are being shown this “birthing” of the Messiah. The male Child, after being born, is caught up to God’s throne. Once again what is being shown here is not Jesus being born on earth, but His being “born” when God the Father raised Him from the dead (Acts 13:33).* Thus, as soon as the male Child is delivered He is caught up to God’s throne. Jesus referred to the birthing analogy in talking about His death and resurrection in John 16:20-22. Notice how the dragon (Satan, Rev. 12:9) was expecting to devour the male Child. Satan thought he would be destroying Jesus at the cross. Instead the Child is caught up to the throne of God. Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God the Father at the resurrection (Acts 2:31-36). Satan, instead of devouring the Child as he had planned, ends up being cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:9).

*Acts 13:33 reads this way: “God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’”

Verse 5: The first half of verse 5 refers to the birth of Jesus, either by Mary (specifically) or through the seed of Abraham (generally). The second understanding is to be preferred when we note the progression of what happens to this woman – [1] birthing Jesus and [2] later being protected in the wilderness for 3.5 years (verses 6, 13-17). The first part of verse 5 is also parallel to Psalm 2:9 and Revelation 19:15.

“She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron…”

Psalm 2 is a Messianic prophecy about the coming reign of Jesus, of whom the Father would say, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (verse 7). Jesus would be set on God’s “holy hill of Zion” as King (verse 6), would receive the nations as His inheritance (verse 8), and would “break them with a rod of iron” and “dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (verse 9).

This prophecy is repeated in John’s vision of Christ sitting on a white horse, judging and making war (Revelation 19:11). The armies in heaven would also follow Him riding on white horses (verse 14), and a sharp sword would come out of His mouth, which He would use to “strike the nations” and “rule them with a rod of iron” (verse 15).

The second half of verse 5 refers to Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:9-11).

“And her Child was caught up to God and to His throne.”

Acts 1:9 records Jesus being “taken up” and received by a cloud out of the disciples’ sight. Two angels confirm that He was taken “into heaven” (verse 11). Daniel 7:13-14 reveals that He then appeared before the throne of His Father and was given the everlasting kingdom:

“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”

As Daniel reveals, this kingdom was then promised to “the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:18). The “time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” when the horn and the fourth beast was making war against them and prevailing “until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints” (verses 21-22; see also Revelation 13:5-7 and Matthew 21:43). The fourth beast and the persecuting horn would prevail over the saints for 3.5 years (“a time and times and half a time”) before his dominion would be taken away and the saints would receive the kingdom (Daniel 7:25-27).

Revelation 12:6-17 goes on to record a Satanic battle leveled against God’s people, which would precede the giving of the kingdom into the hands of the saints (Daniel 7; Revelation 11:15).

Verse 6: God used an attack on Jerusalem for the purpose of judging a rebellious people, says Jay Adams, after God preserved His own, “rescuing them from the fierce attack upon Jerusalem… It may be viewed, therefore, either from the side of Satan’s persecution or God’s wrath.” The woman remains safe in the wilderness during the time of tribulation in Israel for 3½ years (or “42 months”; See Rev. 11:2, 3). This reference to 1,260 days, says David S. Clark, is a term borrowed from Daniel, where it was a period of persecution.”

As I wrote in my term paper on Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, the early Church writer Eusebius (263-339 AD) 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, New Testament History, 1983, p. 375). Pella was a community on the other side of the Jordan River in modern day Jordan… Pella is indicated by the number “2” on the map.

holyjordanmap[1]

The timing of this event is based on the testimonies of Eusebius and Remigius (437-533 AD), who said that the Christians dwelling in Jerusalem and the surrounding regions fled to Pella “on the approach of the Roman army.” The first Roman army, led by Cestius Gallus, came in November 66 AD, but was defeated by the Jews. In April 70 AD Titus led the Roman army that burned Jerusalem and the temple. 

Verses 7-9: Here we see a scene in heaven of a war between the dragon and the archangel Michael, and also between their two respective armies of angels. Michael and his armies win the war, and the dragon and his angels are cast down to the earth. Steve Gregg writes (p. 262), “The war in heaven (vs. 7) is not chronologically sequential to the flight of the woman into the wilderness.” He quotes David Chilton, whose view is that verses 7-12 explain why the woman needed to flee into the wilderness. Verse 13 returns to the scene of the flight of the woman.

Interestingly, the Roman historian Tacitus records that the following took place in the skies in 66 AD:

“Prodigies had indeed occurred, but to avert them either by victims or by vows is held unlawful by a people which, though prone to superstition, is opposed to all propitiatory rites. Contending hosts were seen meeting in the skies, arms flashed, and suddenly the temple was illumined with fire from the clouds. Of a sudden the doors of the shrine opened and a superhuman voice cried: ‘The gods are departing.’ At the same moment the mighty stir of their going was heard. Few interpreted these omens as fearful. The majority firmly believed that their ancient priestly writings contained the prophecy that this was the very time when the east should grow strong and that men starting from Judea should possess the world” (Tacitus’ Histories 5.8.13-14).

Josephus also wrote similar words:

“Such prodigies had happened, as this nation, which is superstitious enough in its own way, would not agree to expiate by the ceremonies of the Roman religion, nor would they atone the gods by sacrifices and vows, as these used to do on the like occasions. Armies were seen to fight in the sky, and their armor looked of a bright light color, and the Temple shone with sudden flashes of fire out of the clouds. The doors of the Temple were opened on a sudden, and a voice greater than human was heard, that the gods were retiring, and at the same time there was a great motion perceived, as if they were going out of it, which some esteemed to be causes of terror. The greater part had a firm belief that it was contained in the old sacerdotal books, that at this very time the east would prevail, and that some that came out of Judea should obtain the empire of the world” (Wars 6.5.3).

Verses 10-11: We see that Satan is referred to as “the accuser of the brethren.” We can certainly see him playing this role in Old Testament times, and before Jesus went to the cross. We see this in the case of Job (Job 1:6-7), where Satan stands before God accusing Job of being incapable of serving God if he is left unprotected. We see this again in Zechariah 3:1, where Satan is pictured standing before the angel of the Lord to accuse Joshua the high priest. In Luke 22:31 we are told that Satan has put in a specific request to sift Peter as wheat. A not-as-clear reference to this type of activity also appears in Jude 9, where we learn that Satan entered into contention with the archangel Michael over the body of Moses. Steve Gregg also writes,

Because the great dragon was cast out (v. 9) as a consequence of the battle, we can pinpoint the heavenly battle as being at the same time as the accomplishment of the atonement at the death and resurrection of Christ.”  One of several evidences of this is found in Jesus’ statement (recorded by the same author): “now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out”  (John 12:31). Another evidence appears in the announcement that Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ has come (v. 10). This also coincides with the atonement. In addition, other New Testament authors confirm that a victory of this sort over Satan was accomplished by Christ in His death (cf. Col. 2:15, Heb. 2:14-15).

The death of Christ did not put Satan entirely out of business, but it ended his career as the accuser of our brethren (v. 10), his principle role in pre-Christian times (cf. Job 1-2; Zechariah 3). The blood of Christ has undermined the grounds of every charge that Satan might bring against the brethren [Romans 8:33-34]. Satan is cast to the earth. He cannot accuse the saints before God any longer, as they overcame his accusations by appeal to the atoning blood of the Lamb (vs. 11). They also take territory from the satanic kingdom by the word of their testimony (that is, preaching the gospel), and by their willingness to die rather than be intimidated by persecution (vs. 11).

Interesting in this light is a statement that Jesus made to His disciples in response to a question from Judas: “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on Me…” (John 14:30).

Verse 12: Again quoting Steve Gregg (p. 268), “A woe is pronounced upon the inhabitants of the earth [or land] (v. 12) since the thwarted dragon is now limited in his range of activity and will vent his wrath both upon the saints and upon the apostate Jews. His intention is to stamp out the church before it can extend itself as a globally entity. Since Jesus indicated [Matt. 24:14] that this would be accomplished within a single generation (Matt. 16:28; 24:34), the dragon has only a short time (vs. 12) to stamp out the infant movement. Thus, he goes to war with the remaining seed of the woman.”

Heaven rejoices, along with the citizens of heaven, but a woe is pronounced upon those who dwell on the earth and the sea, i.e. in Israel and in the Gentile nations. [In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested 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.]

Verses 13-16: This is the time, says David Chilton (Gregg, p. 270), when “in obedience to Christ’s commands (Matt. 24:15-28), the Christians escaped to shelter in the caves of the desert.” Steve Gregg continues, “The wings of a great eagle (v. 14) which carry the woman to safety are an echo of the Exodus, in which God told Israel that He had carried them out of Egypt on eagles’ wings (Exodus 19:14). Like the woman in this vision, Israel had been delivered from the dragon (cf. Psalm 74:13-14; Ezek. 32:2) and sustained by God in the wilderness.” Steve Gregg then quotes from Steve Farrer, who adds,

The woman is treated as the congregation of Israel, saved from Egypt, lifted by the Lord on eagles’ pinions and brought to Sinai. The dragon’s pursuit of her by throwing a waterflood after her is a generalized image for the action of Pharaoh, who [1] commands Israelite children and especially Moses to be washed down the Nile, [2] comes out after escaping Israel with a host, and [3] counts on the Red Sea to shut Israel in.

However, “Satan’s attempt to destroy the Church” in the first century was no more successful than Pharaoh’s attempt to wipe out the Israelites in his day, because “the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth” (verse 16). David Chilton (Gregg, p. 274) sees this verse as suggesting that, with the woman (God’s faithful remnant) gone from Jerusalem/Judea/Galilee, “the land of Israel swallows up the river of wrath, absorbing the blow in her place.” This principle of God looking out for His people was to be true not only in the first century, but also throughout the centuries even up to our own time, as God sustains His people in the midst of persecutions of all kinds. This is not to say that believers will be spared from suffering and death–and we do know that a tremendous number of believers have been martyred during the last century–but this is to say that God walks with His people through the fiercest of trials and sustains His people even when the enemy strikes his hardest.

Verse 17: “The dragon became furious with the woman” and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring.” Instead of admitting defeat, writes Steve Gregg (p. 276), he “continued his attack against not only the woman (the Jewish church), but also the rest of her offspring (v. 17). This must refer to the Gentiles brought into God’s family through the Jewish remnant church.” Concludes Steve Gregg (p. 276), “The next attack upon the saints will be seen as conducted through Satan’s agents, the two beasts who arise in the next chapter.”

B. Futurist View:

[Many of the details expressed in this viewpoint are taken from The John MacArthur Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2005. Pp. 2015-2017].

Verses 1 and 2: The woman depicted here is one of four mentioned in the book of Revelation. She is thought to be the mother of Jesus by Roman Catholic expositors. However, most of those in Protestant circles don’t believe this – they believe the woman to represent Israel, and the child is Jesus Christ. Dispensationalists also hold this view.

Verse 1: “…clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of 12 stars” correlates with Genesis 37:9, in which this same description represents the family of Jacob.

Being clothed with the sun likely speaks of glory, dignity and the exalted status of Israel. The moon under her feet possibly describes God’s covenant relationship with Israel, since new moons were associated with worship (1 Chr. 23:31; 2 Chr. 2:4; 8:13, Ezra 3:5; Ps. 81:3). The twelve stars represent the twelve tribes of Israel.

Verse 3: The red dragon is thought to represent Satan. The seven heads and the ten horns are tied to the first beast of chapter 13. Futurists generally hold the view that the third of the stars swept down by his tail (verse 4) can refer to angelic beings (see Rev 1:20, 9:1 and Job 38:7). This event would likely describe when Satan revolted against heaven and took with him a third of the angels (Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4). Unable to prevent the virgin birth, Satan tried to kill the child in a general massacre of male children commanded by Herod (Matt 2:13-18, cf. Luke 4:28-29).

Red speaks of bloodshed (John 8:44). Seven heads…ten horns…seven diadems = figurative language depicting Satan’s domination of seven past worldly kingdoms and ten future kingdoms (Daniel 7:7, 20, 24). Satan has and will rule the world until the seventh trumpet blows (11:15) and has inflicted relentless pain on Israel (Daniel 8:24), desiring to kill the woman before she could inflict pain on him.

Verse 5: “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron…” correlates to a promise made to Christ in Psalm 2 and repeated again in Revelation 19:15.

Verse 6: …and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she to be nourished for 1,260 days.”

God will protect Israel from Satan by hiding her in the wilderness, perhaps in the regions of Moab, Ammon, and Edom, east of Palestine. These countries are spared from the Antichrist’s attack against the Holy Land (Daniel 11:41). The 1,260 days represents the first half of the tribulation, at which point the Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel, stops temple worship, and sets up the abomination of desolation (Daniel 9:27; Matt. 24:15). Many Jews will flee for their lives, but God will preserve them for the final 42 months (3½ years) of the Great Tribulation.

Verses 7-13: A state of war has broken out in heaven and has existed since the fall of Satan (Daniel 10:13, Jude 9). The war will intensify, possibly due to the raptured saints passing through the realm of the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). Satan will continue to deceive people during the Great Tribulation (cf. 13-14, 20:3, John 8:44). After his release from the bottomless pit at the end of the Millennium, he will briefly resume his deceitful ways (20:8, 10).

Verse 14: “the wings of a great eagle…” This doesn’t refer to actual birds’ wings, but is a graphic depiction of God’s providential protection over Israel. “A time and times and half a time” refer to the 3½ years, or the second half, of the Great Tribulation (cf. 11:2-3; 13:5).

Verse 16: “the earth opened its mouth…” A great army will come against Israel like a flood (v. 15; cf. Jer. 46:8, 47:2), only to be swallowed up by a great earthquake (6:12; 8:5; 11:13; 19; 16:18; Matt 24:7). Satan will then take a position in the midst of the nations of the world, represented by the sand of the sea.

C. Historicist View:

[Source: Sam Storms, War in Heaven, War on Earth: A Study in Revelation 12, November 7, 2006]
[a] http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/war-in-heaven-war-on-earth-a-study-in-revelation-12-part-i/
[b] http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/war-in-heaven-war-on-earth-a-study-in-revelation-12-part-ii/

  • Sam Storms sees Revelation 12-14 as a parenthesis between the seven trumpet judgments and the seven bowl judgments
  • What is shown in chapter 12 is a picture of the spiritual conflict between the world and the Church
  • The heart of John’s message in this chapter is that “although Satan is the principal source of the persecution of God’s people, he has been decisively defeated by Christ, a victory in which we now share even in the midst of suffering and martyrdom.”

Verse 1: Storms notes various interpretations for the woman throughout history:

[1] Eve
[2] Mary, the mother of Jesus
[3] Mary Baker Eddy and other female cult leaders
[4] “the bride, the heavenly Jerusalem of Rev. 19:7-8; 21:9-10”
[5] exclusively OT Israel (John Walvoord)
[6] exclusively the NT church

  • Here is Sam’s personal viewpoint (which I would agree with): “The most probable interpretation is that the woman symbolizes what we might call the believing messianic community: both OT Israel and NT Church. Later in the chapter we read that when the woman is persecuted she flees into the wilderness and has other children who are described as faithful Christians. In other words, the woman is both the community of faith that produced the Messiah and the community of faith that subsequently follows and obeys him. John clearly envisioned an organic and spiritual continuity between OT Israel and the Church. They are one body of believers.”
  • Storms also notes the following: “In the OT a woman often represents Israel (see Isa. 52:2; 54:1-6; 61:10; 62:1-5,11; 66:7-13). This imagery is also used of the Church in the NT (see 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:31-32; 2 John 1; cf. Rev. 21:2,9; 22:17). The imagery of a woman in the pains of childbirth is also a common one in the Bible, and is used often of Israel in distress. See Isa. 21:3; 26:17-18; 37:3; 51:2-3; 54:1-3; 65:9,23; cf. 66:10 and 22; Jer. 4:31; 6:24; 13:21; 22:23; 30:6; Micah 4:9). Isa. 66:7 is especially vivid, for there we find the metaphor of Israel bearing a child to indicate the arrival of the period of salvation and restoration.”
  • Regarding the 12 stars: “At minimum, the 12 stars would seem to stand both for the 12 tribes of Israel and the reconstitution and continuation of true Israel in the 12 apostles of the church.”

Verse 2: “The woman is pregnant and suffering birth pangs. On the one hand, this represents the longing expectation and anticipation of the Messiah’s birth on the part of those in the OT community of faith (cf. Luke 2:25-38). But it is also a symbolic reference to the persecution of the covenant community and the messianic line during the period of the OT leading up to Christ’s coming. That persecution is in view is evident from the word translated “in pain” ( basanizo). This term is used in the NT of suffering, punishment, trial, and persecution (Matthew 8:6,29; 14:24; Mark 5:7; 6:48; Luke 8:28; 2 Peter 2:8) and in Revelation of torment inflicted by demons (9:5) or by God (11:10; 14:10; 20:10).”

Verse 3: “The word “dragon” (drakon) is used in the OT (LXX) for the evil sea monster that symbolizes kingdoms that oppose and oppress Israel (especially Egypt and Pharaoh). See especially Pss. 74:13-14; 89:10; Isa. 30:7; 51:9; Ezek. 29:3 (where Pharaoh is called “the great dragon”); 32:2-3; Hab. 3:8-15. But the “dragon” in Rev. 12 is more than an evil kingdom(s). It also stands for Satan, the one who both represents and energizes all individual and corporate opposition to the kingdom and persecution of the people of God (see 12:9; 20:2, 10).”

Verse 4: “The picture of the dragon sweeping away one-third of the stars of heaven is probably taken from Daniel 8:10. There we read of a ‘little horn’ that ‘grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down.’ The ‘little horn’ is clearly a reference to Antiochus Epiphanes IV, eighth ruler in the Seleucid line, 175-164 b.c. (he died in 163).”

  • Storms does not see this verse then as the angelic hosts which fell from heaven with Lucifer, and who now function as demons. Rather, just as Antiochus Epiphanes was a persecutor of God’s people in the OT, “Rev. 12:4 is probably describing the persecution by Satan of God’s people [in the NT], perhaps even their martyrdom.”
  • Storms further notes that this event is seen to take place “immediately before the birth of Jesus, whereas most believe that the angelic rebellion occurred prior to creation, or at least no later than the events of Genesis 6.”
  • Storms cites another interpretation of this verse: “Some have suggested the ‘falling’ of these ‘stars’ refers to the deceived in Israel who apostatize from the faith and were therefore never fully identified with the 12 stars of v. 1.”

Verse 5: Storms says, “The deliverance in v. 5b is not protection from death but resurrection and ascension. The allusion to the prophecy of Ps. 2:7-9 indicates that whereas this will be consummated at the end of the age (see Rev. 19:15), an inaugurated fulfillment has already begun (see Rev. 2:26-28). Jesus has ‘already’ received the authority spoken of in the Psalm but has ‘not yet’ manifested that authority in its fullness. In the ancient near east, the birthday of a king was not the beginning of his physical existence but the day of his accession to the throne and the taking of regal power. Thus the day on which the “Son” is “begotten” is the resurrection, the day of his glorification and subsequent exaltation to the right hand of the majesty on high (see Acts 13:33).”

Verse 6: “Whereas the woman in v. 1 was primarily the covenant community of believers prior to the incarnation of Jesus, the woman in v. 6 is the covenant community of believers subsequent to his resurrection. But it is the same, one people of God, the one olive tree, predominantly Jewish in v. 1 (in its OT manifestation) and a glorious, universal mixture in v. 2 (in its NT manifestation).”

  • Some, mostly preterists, have taken this as a literal, physical escape of Christians to Pella (modern Tabaqat Fahil, 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee) as they fled the Roman seige of Jerusalem in 66 a.d., a view that is obviously only as good as the argument for a pre-70 a.d. authorship of the book.”
  • Dispensational pretribulational premillennialists, i.e., those who hold to an exclusively futurist interpretation of the book, contend that whereas v. 5 speaks of events in the first century, v. 6 speaks of events at the end of the age. I agree with Beale that ‘such a temporal hiatus can be read into the text only by a prior end-time scheme that an interpreter brings to the text’ (642; emphasis mine).“
  • “Steven Gregg mentions Hal Lindsey’s futuristic interpretation of v. 14 and ‘the two wings of the great eagle.’ Says Lindsey: ‘Some kind of massive airlift will rapidly transport these fleeing Jews across the rugged terrain to their place of protection. Since the eagle is the national symbol of the United States, it’s possible that the airlift will be made available by aircraft from the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean’ (179; !!!).”
  • Storms believes that the 1260 days represents “the entire inter-advent age, and not some chronologically precise 3 ½ year period at the end of history.”

Verses 7-9: Storms says, “I believe it is because of the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that this defeat of the Devil occurs, indeed, has already occurred. Michael and his angels are given the task of expelling Satan consequent to the victory of Jesus at the time of His first coming (Lk. 10:18).”

  • “Satan’s accusations no longer have any legal or moral force following his defeat at the cross. This, I believe, is the meaning of his being ‘thrown down’ and there no longer being a ‘place found for them in heaven.’ In other words, this is not a description of a literal or spatial or geographical change in the devil’s dwelling place.”

Verse 10: “The fact that Satan has been defeated, that the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus have stripped him of his legal right to accuse the brethren is evidence that the ‘kingdom’ of God and the ‘authority’ of Christ have been inaugurated. Thus 12:10 does not merely anticipate the final and consummate coming of God’s kingdom but celebrates the presence of the kingdom in the here and now. See Mt. 12:28.

  • “There is also a correspondence or parallel between Satan’s fall in Rev. 12:10 and what we read in John 12:31-33. In this latter passage Jesus relates his impending work on the cross and his triumph over death in the resurrection to the demise of the devil: ‘”Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.’”

Verse 11: “Satan wins whenever we treasure anything more than Jesus… When you prioritize your life so that nothing means more to you than Jesus, you deprive Satan of any legal right to your heart or mind; you undermine and shortcircuit his power to influence your soul.”

Verse 12: “Note the description of saints in heaven as, literally, “tabernacling” there. The point is that they abide in a heavenly temple, i.e., in the very presence of God himself.”

  • Storms adds, “’he [the devil] has only a short time.’ This ‘short time’ = the 3 ½, 1,260 days, 42 months of 11:2-3; 12:6, 14 and 13:5.” As already noted, Storms sees this as a non-literal period of time, representing the Church age.

Verses 13-14: “These verses pick up where vv. 6 and 12 leave off. Failing to destroy the ‘child’ (Jesus), Satan turns his destructive attention to the ‘woman’, i.e., the people of God = the church.”

Verses 15-16: “Here the devil’s persecution of the church is described in the vivid imagery of water pouring forth from the serpent’s mouth in an effort to drown the woman. Again, some preterists want to find the fulfillment of this statement in the flooding of the Jordan river in 68 a.d. which prevented many Jews from escaping their Roman enemies, the result of which was their slaughter.”

  • “Historically speaking, one cannot help but recall the persecution of the church by Nero (late 60’s), Domitian (90’s), Marcus Aurelius (late 2nd century), Decius (@ 250 a.d.), Diocletian and Galerius (303-311 a.d.), and the almost unimaginable persecutions that we witnessed in the 20th century.”
  • “In addition to the above, vv. 15-16 also allude to the barrier of the Red Sea during Israel’s exodus from Egypt which God overcame and even turned against their enemies. In the Song of Moses we read: ‘Thou didst stretch out Thy right hand, the earth swallowed them’ (Exod. 15:12). This was done so that Israel could then proceed to God’s ‘holy habitation’ (Exod. 15:13; ‘holy resting place’ in LXX) which God had ‘prepared’ (Exod. 15:17; LXX) for them. Later in the wilderness ‘the earth opened its mouth and swallowed’ the families of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram because of their resistance to Moses’ leadership (Num. 16:12-14; Deut. 11:5-6; Ps. 106:17).”

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PJ Miller was so kind to reproduce a section from Steve Gregg’s book, Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary), regarding the period designated as 1260 days in Revelation 12:6 (cf. verse 14). This reproduced section (below) can be found here, posted as a comment:

http://pjmiller.wordpress.com/2009/11/07/revelation-12-future-or-fulfilled/

THE 1260 DAYS: INTRODUCTION

In chapters 11-13 of Revelation are repeated references to a period of time alternately designated as “forty-two months”, “twelve hundred sixty days” or “a time, and times, and half a time”.

These are probably three different ways of saying “three and a-half years.”

It is said that the Gentiles will trample the outer court and the holy city for this period (11:2). It is also the duration of the testimony of the two witnesses (11:3), of the preservation of the woman pursued by the dragon (12:6, 14), and of the continuing blasphemies of the beast (13:5).

Some believe the references are to the same three and a half year period.

Among Preterists, some identify the period as that of the Jewish war in rebellion against Rome (AD 66-70). Others think it corresponds to the length of Nero’s persecution of the Church, which began in November of AD 64 and ended with Nero’s death, June 9, AD 68.

Perhaps most futurists see here two such periods, totaling seven years. Some would suggest that all the events from Revelation 4:1 through chapter 19 transpire during this period, referring to it as “the Great Tribulation”.

Historicists understand the 1260 days as symbolic, for the same number of years, citing “the year for a day principle” from Ezekiel 4:6 as their basis.

According to this view, the synonymous periods ( “forty-two months”, “twelve hundred sixty days” or “a time, and times, and half a time”) should all be recalculated as 1260 days, and the days then interpreted as years. While Historicists are agreed upon this general rule, there is no consensus whatever regarding the beginning and ending of the period thus designated. One suggestion is that the period is the 1260 years from AD 538, when Ostrogoths abandoned their siege of Rome, until 1798 when the Pope was taken prisoner by the French General under Napoleon.

Another is that the 1260 years began at 606AD, when Phocas decreed himself to be the supreme head of the Church. Other opinions place the beginning of the period in AD 1 (Joachin), 455 (Mede), 533 (Cuninghame), 576 (Bengel), 608 (Elliot), 660 (Melancthon), 672 (Guinness), and 727 (Fysh).

Matthew Henry endorses the year for a day principle, and suggests that the 1260 years represents the reign of the antichrist (the Papal church) until the end of the world, but says the beginning of the period is unknown.

A common assumption among those who espouse a spiritual interpretation is to see the forty two months as symbolic of a period of indefinite length, the whole period of the suffering of the people of God in this dispensation, corresponding to the entire church age. Using three and a half years to describe the church age may be chosen to recall the “three and a half years of terror under Antiochus Epiphanes when the temple was desecrated (June 168 to December 165 BC)

Alternately, it may be intended to correspond to the actual length of Jesus’ earthly ministry, comparing the character of the church’s ministry to that of Christ.

Some commentators studiously avoid specificity on this point. Homer Haley simply says that the forty two months “indicates a broken period of time, a period of trial, persecution and oppression…the period of Roman persecution”

Leon Morris, after likening the period to that of Antiochus Epiphanes, concludes “So John will mean his readers to discern that the trial of the people of God will be of measurable duration and that they will be delivered out of it”

Ladd sees value in both the futurist and the spiritual explanations, thus “the three and a half years appear to represent the entire period of the domination of evil, but with special reference to the last days of this age”

The decision about which of these opinions is most correct, will be inseparably tied to the identification of the two witnesses (chapter 11), of the beast (chapter 13) and of the events described in chapter 12.

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Our study of Revelation 13 (Part 1 of 5) begins 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 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 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.