Daniel 2: Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece/Macedonia


This post continues the series, “The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel.” The introduction and outline to this series can be seen here.

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“The beast” is a major topic in the book of Revelation, but it’s a subject which is first introduced in the book of Daniel. In Daniel 2 Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had a troubling dream which no one in his kingdom could discern, much less interpret. Then both the dream and the interpretation were given to Daniel, and he shared them with the king.

Daniel 2:31-45 (Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream)

31 “You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. 32 This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

36 “This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. 37 You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; 38 and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold. 39 But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. 41 Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. 43 As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. 45 Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”

In this post we will begin to look at the four parts of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and the four kingdoms that they represent. As most students of prophecy agree, the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 is both the fourth beast of Daniel 7 and the beast of Revelation.

Daniel 2 Daniel 7 Rev. 11, 13-17, 19-20
1st kingdom/gold/head 1st beast/lion with eagle’s wings N/A
2nd kingdom/silver/chest & arms 2nd beast/bear raised up on one side with three ribs in its mouth N/A
3rd kingdom/bronze/belly & thighs 3rd beast/leopard with four heads and four wings of a bird N/A
4th kingdom/legs/iron feet/iron & clay 4th beast/huge iron teeth & 10 horns “the beast”

In the passage quoted above, we can see that the fourth kingdom (which is “the beast” of Revelation) is pictured in the following ways:

[1] In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the fourth kingdom took the form of “legs of iron” and “feet partly of iron and partly of clay.” It was the final stage of a great image which transitioned [a] from gold [b] to silver [c] to bronze [d] and to iron and then an iron/clay mix; and which consisted of [a] a head [b] a chest and arms [c] a belly and thighs [d] and legs and feet. As time progressed, the focus moved from the head of the image toward its feet. That image was to endure until its feet were struck by a stone which would become a great mountain and fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:31-35).

[2] In Daniel’s interpretation, the fourth kingdom would be as strong as iron at first but later would be partly strong and partly fragile. The kingdom of God would be set up during the time of those four kingdoms, and, specifically, it would take the place of the fourth kingdom and stand forever (Daniel 2:37-45).

So now let’s look at the first transition:

From Kingdom #1 (Gold / Head) to Kingdom #2 (Silver / Chest and Arms)

In Daniel’s interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar was identified as the head of gold (Daniel 2:38). After Nebuchadnezzar, there were four more kings before the Babylonian Empire lost its power. Daniel doesn’t say this, but we know this from history:

babylon

Source: Mark Mountjoy, New Testament Open University (August 13, 2015)

The transfer of the kingdom from Babylon to Medo-Persia is seen very clearly in Daniel 5:30-31:

That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old” (Daniel 5:30-31).

History tells us that this happened in 539 BC. In these two verses we see the transition:

*from gold to silver
*from the head to the chest and arms          
*from the first kingdom to the second kingdom

persian-empire

Source: JesusWalk

the-second-empire

Source: Mark Mountjoy, New Testament Open University (August 13, 2015)

Kingdom #2 (Silver/Chest & Arms) to Kingdom #3 (Bronze/Belly & Thighs)

The transfer of the kingdom from Medo-Persia to Greece is also easy enough to see in Daniel 8, where Daniel records a vision he received during “the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar” (verse 1). In this vision he was by a river and saw a ram with two horns “pushing westward, northward, and southward” with no resistance (verse 4). Suddenly a male goat with one horn came charging from the west “with furious power” (verses 5-6), broke his two horns, and “cast him down to the ground and trampled him” (verse 7). This was the transition:

*from silver to bronze
*from the chest and arms to the belly and thighs
*from the second kingdom to the third kingdom

Then Daniel was further shown that the male goat would grow “very great” and “strong,” but that four notable horns would take the place of the one horn (verse 8). Then a little horn would come out of one of the four horns and would grow “exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land” (verse 9). This little horn would challenge the host of heaven (verse 10), take away the daily sacrifices and cast down the place of God’s sanctuary (verse 11), and “cast truth down to the ground” (verse 12).

Gabriel let Daniel know that the ram with the two horns represented the kings of Media and Persia (verse 20) and that the male goat was the kingdom of Greece (verse 21). The large horn was the first king (whom we know to be Alexander the Great), and we know from history that the four horns that later came up in its place (verse 22) were four generals of Alexander the Great (Cassander, Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Lysimachus) who ruled over separate territories in that kingdom.

Verses 23-26 go into detail about the little horn that “grew exceedingly,” who we know to be Antiochus Epiphanes. It’s important to notice the key time markers that Gabriel used as he described the rise and fall of Antiochus, the Hellenistic Greek king of the Seleucid Empire from 175-164 BC:

“And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes… But he shall be broken without human means” (verses 23, 26).

The breaking of Antiochus Epiphanes was to take place at the end of the rule of the third kingdom, Greece/Macedonia. This is confirmed by what Daniel was told in verses 17 and 19:

“Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end… Look, I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be.”

Daniel’s vision of the third kingdom, Greece/Macedonia, did not go beyond the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. The downfall of Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 BC would apparently mark the transition from the third kingdom to the fourth kingdom. Before taking a look at that transition, I’d like to share a historical excerpt about the rule of Greece/Macedonia, the third kingdom, over Israel.

The Jewish Virtual Library gives the following historical overview of Greece/Macedonia’s rule over Israel from the time of Alexander the Great’s death in 323 BC until the downfall of Antiochus Epipanes IV in 164 BC:

Greece’s Rule over Israel from 323 BC to 164 BC

The death of Alexander the Great of Greece in 323 BCE led to the breakup of the Greek empire… The Land of Israel was thus sandwiched between two of the rivals and, for the next 125 years, Seleucids and Ptolemies battled for this prize.

[See Daniel 11:5-31 for a description of the battles between the Seleucid/Syrian kings of the north and the Ptolemaic/Egyptian kings of the south, and see here for a list of the rulers of the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties. These were the bronze thighs of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, after Greece transitioned from one territory (i.e. the belly) to four territories and then to two territories.]

The [Seleucids] finally won in 198 B.C. when Antiochus III defeated the Egyptians and incorporated Judea into his empire. Initially, he continued to allow the Jews autonomy, but after a stinging defeat at the hands of the Romans he began a program of Hellenization that threatened to force the Jews to abandon their monotheism for the Greeks’ paganism.

Antiochus backed down in the face of Jewish opposition to his effort to introduce idols in their temples, but his son, Antiochus IV, who inherited the throne in 176 B.C. resumed his father’s original policy without excepting the Jews. A brief Jewish rebellion only hardened his views and led him to outlaw central tenets of Judaism such as the Sabbath and circumcision, and defile the holy Temple by erecting an altar to the god Zeus, allowing the sacrifice of pigs, and opening the shrine to non-Jews.

The Jewish Hammer

Though many Jews had been seduced by the virtues of Hellenism, the extreme measures adopted by Antiochus helped unite the people. When a Greek official tried to force a priest named Mattathias to make a sacrifice to a pagan god, the Jew murdered the man. Predictably, Antiochus began reprisals, but in 167 BCE the Jews rose up behind Mattathias and his five sons and fought for their liberation.

The family of Mattathias became known as the Maccabees, from the Hebrew word for “hammer,” because they were said to strike hammer blows against their enemies. Jews refer to the Maccabees, but the family is more commonly known as the Hasmoneans.

Like other rulers before him, Antiochus underestimated the will and strength of his Jewish adversaries and sent a small force to put down the rebellion. When that was annihilated, he led a more powerful army into battle only to be defeated. In 164 BCE, Jerusalem was recaptured by the Maccabees and the Temple purified, an event that gave birth to the holiday of Chanukah [See Antiquities 12.7.7].

At this point, many Bible teachers say that dominance over Israel was transferred from Greece to Rome. Therefore, Greece was the third kingdom/beast and Rome was the fourth kingdom/beast in the visions of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel. Here’s a typical example of this model:

futurist-idea-of-nebuchadnezzars-image

Source: Facebook (Eschatological Escapades, September 1, 2016)

But is that really what happened? It’s not at all what happened. No such transfer took place. Dominion over Israel did not pass from Greece/Macedonia to Rome, which at the time was a republic. Something very different happened. Someone else obtained that dominion.

In the next post, we’ll examine the transition from the third kingdom to the fourth kingdom.

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All of the posts in this series can be found at this page.

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“The Great City Babylon…Shall Not Be Found Anymore” (Revelation 18)


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

The following study was published yesterday in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine, and is adapted from our study of Revelation 18:

Revelation 18 concerns the final and irreversible overthrow of Babylon. My two previous articles in this series reveal much about Babylon and her identity: [1] The Harlot of Revelation 17 and Its Relationship to Old Covenant Israel and [2] The Seven-Headed, Ten-Horned Beast of Revelation 17This article will build on those posts.

Verses 1-2: This chapter begins with a glorious angel announcing to John that Babylon is fallen, and that she is a “dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.” Steve Gregg, in his book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” states (p. 424):

[This] is known to be true of Jerusalem, which became overrun by demons, as Christ predicted (Matt. 12:38-45), and which, being reduced to ground level, again as Christ predicted (Matt. 24:2), became the haunt of the desert creatures considered unclean in the Jews’ religion.

Verse 3:For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” Just as the 144,000 of Revelation 14 were called “virgins” because of their faithfulness, Babylon was found guilty of spiritual unfaithfulness. Steve Gregg notes how similar language was used of Jerusalem before falling to Babylon in 586 BC, and deduces what this means for first century Jerusalem as she takes on the name of her old conqueror (pp. 424, 426):

Jerusalem was charged with committing fornication with the kings of the earth (v. 3) in Old Testament times (Ezek. 16:14-15, 26, 28-30; 23:12-21). The prophet used this imagery to explain God’s reason for bringing judgment upon Jerusalem by the hands of the Babylonians in 586 B.C. It would seem appropriate that the New Testament apostle/prophet would employ the same language in describing a near-identical event, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

As I noted in my previous article, first century historians spoke of Jerusalem’s political greatness, magnificent structures, and wealth. Jerusalem made the merchants of Israel/Palestine wealthy (“ge” in Greek can be translated as “earth” or “land”).

Verse 4: And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.’” It’s important to realize that Babylon was not just a city (Jerusalem). John wrote to seven churches in Asia Minor, to people who didn’t live in Jerusalem or even in Israel. So this was not a call to flee from a city, but to part ways with old covenant Judaism once and for all. Babylon represented the unfaithful community which had rejected Jesus and was clinging to the old covenant. Both Jerusalem and temple-based Judaism were judged and destroyed in 70 AD. The Lord’s admonition to “come out of her” is similar to Peter’s words in Acts 2:40: “And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’” Steve Gregg (p. 428) remarks,

The call to Come out of her, my people (v. 4)…echoes similar exhortations concerning ancient Babylon (cf. Isa. 48:20; Jer. 50:8; 51:6)… The epistle to the Hebrews as a whole (and especially passages like Heb. 12:25-29; 13:13-14) constitutes just such a call as that found here.

Verses 5-6: In these verses Steve Gregg (p. 430) draws three more parallels to Old Covenant Jerusalem:

[1] The statement that her sins have reached to heaven (v. 5) is an apparent allusion to God’s assessment of Sodom in Genesis 18:21, and Sodom has already been used as a symbolic name for Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8).

[2] One of the provisions of the New Covenant was God’s promise that “I will remember no more” the sins and iniquities of His people (Jer. 31:34). This is one of the “better promises” (Heb. 8:6) by which the New Covenant outshines the first. Contrarily, it can be said of her who related to God on the basis of the Old Covenant, and violated it, that God has remembered her iniquities (v. 5). This was Jerusalem.

[3] That God has determined to repay her double (v. 6) for her sins is another link to Jerusalem and Judah, of whom the prophet said, “I will repay double for their iniquity and their sin” (Jer. 16:18) and, “Bring on them the day of doom, and destroy them with double destruction!” (Jer. 17:18).

Verse 7: Here we read of Babylon’s pride, as she says in her heart, “I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.” Compare this to what is written of Babylon in Isaiah’s day: “Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely, who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me, I shall not sit as a widow or know the loss of children’” (Isaiah 47:8). Interestingly, Lamentations 1:1 says this about Jerusalem shortly after she fell the first time in 586 BC: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.”

Verse 8: Just like Babylon in Isaiah’s day (Is. 47:9), “Babylon” in John’s day was to receive her plagues “in a single day”: death, mourning, famine, and burning with fire. It’s well documented that these very things took place in Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, and I previously wrote in detail about these events herehere, and here.

Verses 9-10: “And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. Then they will stand afar off, in fear of her torment, and say, ‘Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.’” George Peter Holford, basing his 1805 account on the writings of Josephus, wrote the following about the burning of Jerusalem’s temple in 70 AD:

The Romans, exasperated to the highest pitch against the Jews, seized every person whom they could find, and, without the least regard to sex, age or quality, first plundered and then slew them. The old and the young, the common people and the priests, those who surrendered and those who resisted, were equally involved in this horrible and indiscriminate carnage. Meanwhile the Temple continued burning, until at length, vast as was its size, the flames completely enveloped the whole building; which, from the extent of the conflagration, impressed the distant spectator with an idea that the whole city was now on fire.

Verses 11-14: Verse 11 is the first of five verses which speak of the permanency of Babylon’s fall (cf. verses 14, 21, 22, and 23). Indeed, no one has been able to practice old covenant Judaism since the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.

These verses list 28 different types of cargo which would no longer be found in Babylon, including “human souls” (verse 13). Steve Gregg remarks about this list (p. 436): “The demands of the passage do not require that the city in question be the greatest commercial center in the world—only that it was a wealthy, cosmopolitan trading city, by whose business international merchants were made rich.” These things were certainly true of Jerusalem. In The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim writes:

“In these streets and lanes everything might be purchased: the production of Palestine, or imported from foreign lands—nay, the rarest articles from the remotest parts. Exquisitely shaped, curiously designed and jeweled cups, rings, and other workmanship of precious metals; glass, silks, fine linen, woolen stuffs, purple, and costly hangings; essences, ointments, and perfumes, as precious as gold; articles of food and drink from foreign lands—in short, what India, Persia, Arabia, Media, Egypt, Italy, Greece, and even the far-off lands of the Gentiles yielded, might be had in these bazaars. Ancient Jewish writings enable us to identify no fewer than 118 different articles of import from foreign lands, covering more than even modern luxury has devised.”

Duncan McKenzie has much to say about these verses in his 2006 article titled “The Merchandise of the Temple.” The following is an excerpt from that article:

Babylon was not a literal city (not Jerusalem and certainly not Rome). It was a symbol of a community of people, a symbol of God’s unfaithful old covenant community. This community is being represented by images associated with the Temple and the priesthood… Of the items which are listed in Rev 18, gold and silver, precious stones, fine linen, purple, silk (for vestments) scarlet, precious wood, bronze, iron (cf. Deut 8:9), marble cinnamon (as an ingredient of the sacred anointing oil), spices, incense, ointment, frankincense, wine, oil fine meal (Gr. Semidalis, used frequently in Leviticus for fine flour offering), corn, beasts, sheep are all found in use in the temple. Ivory and probably pearls were found in Herod’s temple…

The listing of merchandise in Revelation 18 is similar to the listing of the merchandise of Tyre in Ezekiel 27:12-24, as is the lamenting by those who got wealthy off the respective cities (Ezekiel 27:28-36). In Ezekiel 27 the city of Tyre is pictured as a ship (vv. 5-9) that sinks at sea (vv. 26, 32, 34). In Revelation 18 the Temple system of unfaithful Israel is pictured as a city that is overthrown… Only 15 of the 27 items in Revelation 18:12-13 are the same as the 38 items listed in Ezekiel 27:12-24… There is, however, a connection between the commerce of the Temple and that of Tyre. The currency of Tyre was the only currency allowed in the Temple. Thus Revelation 18’s allusion to the commerce of Tyre may contain an allusion to the commerce of the Temple.

McKenzie also points out that “Revelation 18:13 consists mostly of items that were used in the sacrifices and offerings of the Temple: cinnamon, incense, fragrant oil, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep.” He has some interesting thoughts on why “bodies and souls of men” are among the merchandise in verse 13:

The leaders of the Jewish temple system were enslaving men’s souls by turning them away from Jesus and attempting to keep them under the old covenant. The Temple hierarchy had been in bed with Rome (so much so that Rome even appointed the high priest)…

Jesus had accused the Jewish leadership of enslaving men’s souls by preventing them from entering the kingdom of God: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in… Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matt. 23:13, 15).

In Galatians 4:24-25 Paul tells how those under the old covenant were enslaved, as opposed to those under New Covenant who were free (Gal. 4:26-27). This gets back to the parallel between the two women/cities of Galatians 4:21-31 and the two women/cities of Revelation. Just as the “other woman” in Galatians had children who were enslaved (those staying under the old covenant, Gal. 4:24-25), so harlot Babylon had her slaves.

Verses 15-19: In verse 16 we see that the great city “was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls.” In our study of Rev. 17:4, we saw this same description given to the harlot, Babylon the great (17:1, 5). There we noted that the description of the harlot’s attire was nearly identical to the ephod worn by the high priest (Exodus 28:5-21).

Babylon is referred to again as “the great city” (Rev. 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21). This title was first given to Jerusalem in Rev. 11:8, where it’s said that two witnesses would “lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.” In Rev. 18:17-19 we see the “merchants of wares” and the sea traders weeping and wailing as they watch Babylon burn.

Verse 20:Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” This same indictment was given in Rev. 16:4-6 and 17:6, and is repeated again in 18:24. This time “apostles” are included as well as prophets and saints. James, the brother of Jesus, was just one of the apostles martyred in the first century. In 62 AD he was thrown off the temple by the Pharisees and religious leaders, and was then stoned to death. Peter and Paul were martyred by Nero, at the instigation of the Jews.

Jesus clearly prophesied that the martyrdom of the saints and prophets would be held to the account of His first-century audience in Israel: “…that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth… Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation…” (Matt. 23:35-36; cf. Acts 7:52).

Verses 21-23: Once again it is said of Babylon that she “will be found no more.” Here this is demonstrated by a mighty angel throwing a great millstone into the sea. Duncan McKenzie comments, “Seeing the harlot as the old covenant temple system helps to explain Revelation 18:21… The city of Jerusalem has risen again; the old covenant temple system has not risen again (and won’t).”

Verse 24: “And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.” These words are so similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 23:35 that the connection should be unmistakable. Babylon was judged in 70 AD, just as Jesus said would happen. The one who said she was a queen and would never see sorrow was irreversibly put to death, but God’s dwelling place was found with His new covenant bride.

Guest Post: The Biblical Heavens and Earth (Part 2 of 3)


This post continues Steve’s 3-part series on the Biblical heavens and earth, exploring comparisons between Genesis 1, Jeremiah 4:23-27, and Matthew 24:35. Part 1 can be seen here.

The first part of this series showed what the biblical heavens & earth is not: it is not a scientific universe. This second part will look at what the biblical heavens & earth actually is. When we stop trying to understand Genesis 1 in harmony with modern science, it frees us to understand it in harmony with the rest of Scripture. It is then that we learn the creation of the heavens & earth isn’t so much about the creation of the universe, but the creation of the Jewish universe.

A question of biblical context

Genesis is not about the history of the world or of all humanity. Genesis does not tell us where the Eskimoes or the Aborigines come from. Instead, Genesis only tells us about the people and lands in the vicinity of the Holy Land. The creation account is the introduction to the book of Genesis, and Genesis is the introduction to the rest of the books of Moses, the Law of Moses. So the context is not the world, but the Jewish world.

The structure of the six-day creation account

As mentioned in the previous post, the order of creation does not make scientific sense. But this doesn’t mean the creation account is illogical or was written half-hazardly. In fact, Genesis 1 and the order of creation were written with great care and has a logic of its own, even if that logic isn’t scientific.

The creation account is written in a stylized six-day format. The first three days are parallel with and correspond to the last three days. On day one, there is darkness and God creates the domain of light. On day four, God fills the domains of dark and light with the sun, moon, and stars. On day two, God separates the waters above from the waters below, creating the domains of sea and sky. On day five, God populates the sea and sky with fish and birds. On day three, God creates land and plants. On day six, God populates the land with land animals and man, giving them plants to eat.

The six-day creation and the Ten Commandments

The heavens & earth were created over a period of six days, leading to something strange, God’s day of rest. Since God is not flesh, why would He need a day of rest? The obvious answer is that He didn’t need rest. He “rested” in order to establish the Sabbath commandment.

What is interesting about the teaching of the Sabbath in Gen. 2:1-3 is that this is the only passage that speaks of the Sabbath until we get to the time of Moses (Exo. 16:22ff). There is no indication of people observing the Sabbath until this time. The Sabbath is, of course, one of the Ten Commandments. This brings up the question of when the six-day creation account was written. As written, there were no human eye-witnesses, so it must have been revealed. But to whom was it first revealed? It seems likely to have first been revealed to Moses, around the time the Ten Commandments were revealed.

Gen. 1 itself ties the six-day creation to the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments is sometimes known as the Decalogue, literally the “Ten Words,” or sayings of God. God is recorded as speaking on ten different occasions in Gen. 1: v.3, v. 6, v. 9, v. 11, v. 14-15, v. 20, v. 22, v. 24, v. 26, and v. 28-30. So Gen. 1 was written in clear view of the Ten Commandments, which had not been revealed prior to Moses (Deut. 5:1-3).

The significance of the six-day creation and the Sabbath

There are two rationales given for the Sabbath commandment: #1. because the heavens & earth were created in six days (Exo. 20:8-11) and #2. because the Hebrews had been slaves in Egypt (Deut. 5:12-15). While YECs cite Exo. 20:8-11 as a major proof of their interpretation, it is actually a major disproof of the YEC view.

The Sabbath not only applied to the Jews and all peoples in the Jewish land, but also to the Jews’ work animals. Furthermore, the Sabbath applied to the Jewish land itself (Lev. 25:1-4). Notice the specificity and limits of this commandment: it doesn’t apply to all people, but only this people; it doesn’t apply to all animals, but only to their animals; and it doesn’t apply to all lands, but only to this land. But using the logic of Exo. 20:8-11, if the entire universe and all living things were created in those six days, then the Sabbath law should apply to everything: to all peoples, to all animals, and to all lands.

But of course, the Sabbath commandment was never a universal commandment (Deut. 5:1-3). Christians are not under the Sabbath law (Col. 2:16) because we are not under the Ten Commandments (2 Cor. 3:7-18) because we are not under the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:24-25). Whatever was created in six days is subject to the Sabbath commandment. If the six-day creation is about the actual universe and all of mankind, then it is bigger than just the Law of Moses and is still applicable to us. But since it is not applicable, it is not speaking of the material universe.

Genesis 2, the parallel creation account

Whereas Gen. 1 appears to describe the creation of our universe, the parallel passage in Gen. 2 interestingly suggests merely the creation of a garden, the Garden of Eden. The Garden’s location is discussed in conjunction with four rivers: the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. The Gihon is located in Cush, which is in Africa. The Tigris and Euphrates are in Mesopotamia. Which land lies between Africa and Mesopotamia? The Holy Land. Throughout Scripture, the Holy Land is referred to as the field and the vineyard of God – in other words, God’s garden. So we see that the creation of the heavens & earth is the creation of the Garden, and the creation of the Garden is the creation of the Holy Land.

The parallels between Adam and Israel

Hosea 6:7 explicitly compares Adam and his sin with Israel breaking the Mosaic Covenant. As we shall see, there are many parallels between the two.

Adam is not created in the Garden, but rather to the west of the Garden (Gen. 2:7-8). In the same way, the Hebrews became a numerous people in the land of Egypt, which is west of the Holy Land. God then places Adam in the Garden and gives him a law to keep. Likewise, God places the Hebrew nation in the Holy Land and gives them the Law of Moses. Adam breaks God’s law and is driven out of the Garden to the east (Gen. 3:24). Likewise, the Jews broke God’s Law and were driven into exile in Babylon, which is to the east. (This is significant, because it will tie in with Revelation and the new heavens & earth, which we will see in part three.)

The destruction of the heavens & earth

Jeremiah 4:23-26 is key to understanding the creation in Genesis 1, as it speaks of it directly, but in a way we may not expect. “I looked on the earth, and behold, it was formless and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light” (Jer. 4:23). Jeremiah has a vision, and it is the undoing of Genesis 1. The words here are unmistakably the words used in the beginning of the Genesis creation account.

What is destroyed when the heavens & earth are destroyed? Jeremiah tells us, “I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a wilderness, and all its cities were pulled down before the LORD, before His fierce anger” (Jer. 4:26). The destruction of the heavens & earth is the destruction of the Holy Land and the Jewish cities. Let that sink in. It is not the destruction of planets or stars or continents, it is the destruction of a small piece of land. But to the Jews, it is the destruction of their whole world. (Also see Jer. 27:5, where God speaks of the earth He created, and yet in context, it appears to only refer to the vicinity of the Holy Land.)

For the sake of brevity, I will not take up the space here to prove the context, since the evidence is abundant and not generally disputed. The headlines in my Bible for the surrounding text are “Judah Threatened with Invasion” Jer. 4:1-18, “Lament over Judah’s Devastation” Jer. 4:19-31, “Jerusalem’s Godlessness” Jer. 5:1-13, “Judgment Proclaimed” Jer. 5:14-31, “Destruction of Jerusalem Impending” Jer. 6:1-21, and “The Enemy from the North” Jer. 6:22-30.  My point in quoting the uninspired sub-titles isn’t to prove I am correct, but to prove the mainstream understanding of Jer. 4:23-26 is that this refers to how the Babylonians would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. (Babylon is to the east of Judah, but due to geography, it would approach Judah from the north, hence “The Enemy from the North.”)

At this point, some will conclude that Jeremiah was merely being dramatic and poetic in describing the destruction of Jerusalem, but he doesn’t actually mean Jerusalem is the heavens & earth of Gen. 1. That is in fact how many people take it. But that is not how Jesus took it…

Jesus on the heavens & the earth

Jesus predicted in Matt. 24:34-35 that the heavens & earth would pass away during His generation. This has led many skeptics to mock Jesus for being wrong, and it has led many Christians to develop confused interpretations. But Jesus got it exactly right, and there is a very simple explanation.

The context of this prophecy is clear, Jesus was predicting the doom of Jerusalem and the Temple, and it would be fulfilled in that generation (Matt. 23:34-24:3). Just as Jeremiah prophesied Jerusalem’s doom in his generation, Jesus describes Jerusalem’s coming destruction as the destruction of the very heavens & earth. History testifies that Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed approximately forty years later (perhaps even exactly forty years later – as we do not know the precise year of Jesus’ crucifixion).

Since Jeremiah and Jesus equate Jerusalem with the heavens & earth, it is not surprising then that the Apostle John in Revelation equates the New Jerusalem with the new heavens & earth (Rev. 21:1-2). The New Jerusalem is identified as the bride of Christ in Rev. 21:9-10. This bride arrived back in Rev. 19:7-9, upon the destruction of “the great city” (Rev. 18:1-19:6). The great city was identified as the place where “their Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8), which is Jerusalem.

So the destruction of the heavens & earth is the destruction of Jerusalem. And when Jerusalem is destroyed, the New Jerusalem arrives. And when New Jerusalem arrives, so also arrives the new heavens & earth.

The sun, moon, and stars

Some will try to avoid the implication that Jesus was saying the heavens & earth would be destroyed in His generation. One of the ways people try to avoid this is by claiming Matt. 24:35 is a transition away from Jerusalem to the end of the world. But in Matt. 24:34, when Jesus said “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place,” “all these things” includes the destruction of the sun, moon, and stars described in a few verses prior (Matt. 24:29). This corresponds to Mark 13:24-25 and Luke 21:25, which also speaks of the removal of the powers of the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars.

In context, the sun, moon, and stars of the heavens & earth cannot refer to the literal sun, moon, and stars. Then what are they? Let’s go back to Genesis for additional context. In Gen. 1:16, the sun and moon “govern” over the day and the night. In Joseph’s dream, the sun, moon, and stars are symbols for authority (Gen. 37:9-11). So the sun, moon, and stars are symbols for the authorities in the land because they are over the land, giving light to all of those in the land. So when Jesus predicts the end of the sun, moon, and stars, He is speaking of the overthrow of the Jewish leaders when their nation is destroyed, which is precisely what the Jewish leaders feared (John 11:48).

This same symbolism is used in regard to New Jerusalem. In this city, there is no need for a sun or moon, since the Father and Son provide all the light that is needed (Rev. 21:23). The ruler of New Jerusalem is God the Father, and His crowned prince, Jesus Christ, the Son. Therefore there is no need for a mere human king or crowned prince, the “sun and moon.”

Noah’s flood in the New Testament

Although many Christians (especially YECs) believe Noah’s flood was global in scope, the NT suggests it was not a global judgment, but merely a local flood. One of the YEC arguments for a global flood is based upon references to Noah in the NT. They believe Noah’s flood is compared to the future Second Coming, which is the final judgment of all nations and all generations at the resurrection. The problem is, the NT never compares Noah’s flood to the Second Coming. When the NT speaks of Noah in reference to a coming day of judgment, it is always in reference to 70 AD, which was a local judgment. So the YEC argument actually ends up disproving the YEC interpretation.

It is undeniable that in Luke 17:26-29, Jesus compares Noah’s flood to the local judgment against Sodom. In this passage, both Noah’s flood and Sodom’s doom are compared with a third judgment, when “the Son of Man is revealed.” Does this speak of 70 AD, or the Second Coming? The disciples did not understand this to be the global, universal judgment at the Second Coming, because they ask “Where, Lord?” (Luke 17:37). The Second Coming is universal, so there is no “where?”  because it will be everywhere! This is speaking of a local judgment “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.” This passage lines up with Matt. 24:28, 37-41, and Luke 21:20-24, all of which speak of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD.

In 2 Peter 2:4-8, the Apostle Peter likewise compares Noah’s flood with Sodom’s destruction, as well as to the coming of the day of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:3-13). This day of the Lord is linked with the arrival of the new heavens & earth, which as we’ve seen, is linked to the destruction of Jerusalem and the old heavens & earth. This fits the time frame of the letters of Peter, which were written at the end of his life in the 60s AD, when he said “The end of all things is near” (1 Pet. 4:7). If Peter was speaking of the end of our material universe, then he was wrong. But Scripture is not wrong, and like Jesus, Peter got it exactly right. Peter didn’t predict the end of the universe; he predicted the end of the Jewish universe, which is the heavens & earth.

If the Genesis creation is not universal, why does it sound universal?

At this point you may be wondering, “If the creation is only about the Jewish land and people, and if Noah’s flood was merely local, then why does the Bible use language that sounds like it is speaking about the entire planet/universe?” This is an excellent question, and the answer, as always, is to be found in the context of the Bible.

Although the Bible was inspired by God, remember that Genesis was written by and to the ancient Hebrew. The ancient Hebrew, like all of those who lived at that time, had a scientifically naïve view of the world, similar to how we thought of things as a child before we grew up and became educated about our world. The key, then, is to think as a child.

When I was a child, I had a jigsaw puzzle of the 48 contiguous United States of America. In this puzzle, America was surrounded by blue (there was no Mexico or Canada indicated in the puzzle). Being a child, this puzzle became my view of the entire world – there was only America. I grew up in the height of the Cold War, so the first non-American country I became aware of was the Soviet Union. When I learned of this other country, I assumed it fit somewhere in the puzzle map, and obviously it must’ve been rather small and insignificant(!).

From this example, it is easy to see that we naturally tend to think of our country, our land as the biggest, or at least the center of the world. There may be other lands out there, but they are on the fringe and not nearly as important as our own. Thus our land equates to the whole world, or at least much of the world, and certainly the most important part.

This can be seen in several places throughout the Bible. Both Daniel 4:1 and 4:22 describes Nebuchadnezzar as being king of all the earth. Obviously, both Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel had to be aware there were lands and peoples beyond the borders of ancient Babylon, but in their thinking, Babylon constituted the bulk of the world, or at least the important parts.

The same thinking can be seen in Col. 1:23, where Paul claims the Gospel has been “proclaimed in all creation under heaven.” Paul said this even as he had plans to take the Gospel to places it had not yet been taken! Clearly, then, Paul is only speaking of much of the Roman empire, and equates the Roman empire with being the bulk of the world.

Let’s look at one more example, this time from within the book of Genesis. When God destroys Sodom, which was a local judgment, nevertheless, Lot’s daughters saw it as the end of the world. This is why they hatch a scheme to get their father drunk, that they may have children and preserve their family, and presumably, mankind (Gen. 19:30-36).

So when Genesis describes the creation of the Jewish people and land as if it were the creation of the universe, or the flood as if it was the end of the planet, this is because this is how it was perceived. The earth wasn’t some small speck wandering through the vastness of space, the earth was the universe. The Jewish land wasn’t just a small land in the midst of a large planet, it was the earth. When the flood wiped out their cities, it wiped out their whole world. So when we get to the time of Peter, the destruction of Jerusalem isn’t just the end of a city, it is “the end of all things” (1 Pet. 4:7).

Summary

There are many more points to be made concerning the creation, Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, the sons of God & the daughters of men, Noah’s flood, and the like, but this is to provide an introduction to a different way of thinking: using the Bible to interpret creation, rather than modern science. In short, the creation of the heavens & earth is actually the creation of the Jewish universe. In the third and final part of this series, we will look at what this means for the new heavens & earth.

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Steve is a teacher and a preacher in the Churches of Christ.

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.