Why I Embrace Christian Zionism


There was a time when I was a stranger to Christian Zionism. I was on the outside, I was in the darkness, and I was very much missing out on the blessings found in Christian Zionism. Then God, in His mercy, added me to the family, and to the number of those who have embraced Christian Zionism for the last 2000 years. I haven’t been the same since!

The author of Hebrews described this great transformation about 1950 years ago to his audience at the time, members of the early church:

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).

I am a Christian Zionist because I am a Christian who has been brought to the heavenly Mount Zion, the one that is connected to the heavenly Jerusalem, to Jesus as our Mediator, to the body of Christ, and to the new covenant. This Zionism is glorious, and it’s all about the blessings and promises found in Jesus.

At the same time, I’m not a Christian Zionist. It all depends upon the definition, and one’s covenant perspective. I’m not a Christian Zionist if one goes by the following definitions:

[1] Zionists seek to support, facilitate and advance the return of the Jewish people and sovereignty to their native homeland–the land of Israel. Christians who see the regathering of the Jewish people in their land, as well as the establishment of the sovereign nation of Israel in 1948, as the literal fulfillment of biblical prophecy are known as “Christian Zionists”. Christian Zionists see the Jewish people as the “apple of God’s eye”–His Chosen people, and hold firm that God’s promises, established in the Abrahamic Covenant, remain in effect today.

Christian Zionists are “Biblical advocates” for the Jewish people and the state of Israel. Furthermore, they stand in firm, diametrical opposition to land concessions of any sort which involve the forfeiture of the holy land of Israel as it is a sacred manifestation of the promises of God to the people He calls the “apple of His eye”. Christian Zionists also seek to stand with Israel, showing her unconditional support, solidarity and love whilst praying for her spiritual return to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who “foreknew” her.

Mikael Knighton, Christians Standing With Israel, 2007 (Source)

[2] “Zionism [is] the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel… Jews of all persuasions, left and right, religious and secular, joined to form the Zionist movement and worked together toward these goals. Disagreements led to rifts, but ultimately, the common goal of a Jewish state in its ancient homeland was attained. The term “Zionism” was coined in 1890 by Nathan Birnbaum.” (Jewish Virtual Library).

If Zionism is the belief in the Jewish people’s right to return to their homeland, then a Christian Zionist should simply be defined as a Christian who supports the Jewish people’s right to return to their homeland… The actual theology of Christian Zionism, also known as Biblical Zionism, supports the right of the Jewish people to return to their homeland on scriptural grounds… Christian Zionism is confirmed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures… Christian Zionism differs with Replacement Theology which teaches that the special relationship that Israel had with her God in terms of her national destiny and her national homeland has been lost because of her rejection of Jesus as Messiah, and therefore the Church has become the new Israel.

Rev. Malcolm Hedding, Vice-chairman of the Board, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, “Christian Zionism 101 – Giving Definition to the Movement.” (Source)

[3] “Christian Zionism is a belief among some Christians that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is in accordance with Biblical prophecy.”

Wikipedia, March 2014 (Source)

John Hagee, the founder of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), is recognized as a well-known leader in this movement known as Christian Zionism. CUFI’s theme verse is Isaiah 62:1. “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, til her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.” (Source) It doesn’t take much digging around to understand how Hagee interprets this verse and applies it to the present day. Shhh – don’t tell him that righteousness and salvation have been shining out from Jesus and His church like a blazing torch for the last 2000 years!

Earthly or Heavenly Zion?

You may have already noticed how incredibly preoccupied the Christian Zionist movement is with earthly Zion (Israel). This movement is heavily invested in political/earthly Israel, political/earthly Jerusalem, and the old covenant. This is essentially where this movement goes off track.

Did you notice the very first word in the passage from Hebrews early in this post? It’s a mere conjunction, but it’s very important. It’s the word “but.”

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…”

Through a basic language rule, we know that the author of Hebrews is contrasting something he said earlier. Let’s take a look at the previous few verses:

For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling” (Hebrews 12:18-21).

What did he describe here? He described the scene at Mount Sinai where the law code and the old covenant was given to the people of Israel through Moses. The following contrast is shown:

Mount Sinai = physical (able to be touched), earthly, old covenant… Mount Zion = spiritual (not able to be touched), heavenly, new covenant…

In light of this passage, how does the Christian Zionist movement align itself? Where does it stand in light of what Paul says in Galatians 4:21-31?

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: “Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband.” Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

The Christian Zionist movement has hijacked both terms that it carries, “Christian” and “Zionism.” For decades it has tried to tell the world that Christians are obsessed with a certain land, a certain country, a certain city, a certain race of people, and a Zion that is of this world. It has suppressed new covenant truths, such as God not showing favoritism to one race over others (e.g. Romans 10:12), and has promoted and financially supported injustice and ethnic cleansing, all in the name of Christianity and before the eyes of a watching world.

Biblical Zionism, according to Galatians 4 and Hebrews 12, is aligned with heavenly Jerusalem, Jesus as our Mediator, His church, His shed blood, transformed hearts, freedom, God’s promises, and the new covenant.

This is the Christian Zionism that I embrace.

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The Avenging of Righteous Blood (Deuteronomy, Matthew and Revelation)


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

Recently my friend, Jerry William Bowers Jr., posted the following status on Facebook:

Revelation simplified:

Revelation 6:10, 16:6, 17:6, 18:24, 19:2, 20:4 speaks to the avenging of righteous blood.

This was prophesied in Deuteronomy 32:43, and would occur in Israel’s “END” (Deuteronomy 32:20) in their “Latter end” (Deuteronomy 32:29).

Matthew 23:34-36 very clearly says this would be fulfilled in their own generation.

It just doesn’t get any simpler than that!

I agree with Jerry’s summary, and would like to develop it further. During the last several years of studying eschatology, one thing I’ve enjoyed immensely is allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. It’s an enlightening exercise. To give one example, I was taught for a long time that Isaiah’s imagery of a wolf lying down with a lamb is both unfulfilled and a literal reference to the animal kingdom. However, I’ve now come to understand, by allowing Romans 15 to interpret Isaiah 11, that this is presently fulfilled in Christ, who broke down the wall of division between Jews and Gentiles so that all may find their hope in Him (see “Romans 15 Shows That Isaiah 11 Is Fulfilled“).

Deuteronomy 32: Prediction of Israel’s End and Judgment for Murdering God’s People

Jerry’s status is also an appeal to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, in this case concerning the theme of the blood of the martyrs. Let’s take a look at the passages he referenced in Deuteronomy 32, plus one more (verse 5). There Moses is speaking to Israel (Deut. 31:30), which he very interestingly addresses as “heaven” and “earth” (Deut. 32:1).

“They have corrupted themselves; They are not His children, because of their blemish: a perverse and crooked generation” (Deut. 32:5).

And He said: ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith‘” (Deut. 32:20).

For they are a nation void of counsel, nor is there any understanding in them. Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! (Deut. 32:28-29).

Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people” (Deut. 32:43).

Does anything jump out when noting Moses’ language in verse 20? Recall what Jesus said to His Israelite audience in Matthew 17:

Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me” (Matthew 17:17).

Moses predicted that at the time of Israel’s end, they would be a perverse and faithless generation. Jesus ministered in Israel to the same generation that was overthrown by the Romans in 70 AD, and He called that generation “faithless and perverse.” It would seem that Jesus intentionally invoked Moses’ words in Deut. 32:20. The apostle Paul did the same thing when addressing the Philippian church, as he used the exact same phrase Moses used in Deut. 32:5.

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:14-15).

Matthew 23: Jesus’ Own Generation Responsible for The Blood of God’s Servants

We turn now to Jesus’ prediction in His woes upon the Scribes and Pharisees. He declared that they “build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous” (Matt. 23:29), and that they “are sons of those who murdered the prophets” (verse 31). Jesus went on to say:

Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matt. 23:34-36).

Moses, in Deuteronomy 32, predicted that God would “avenge the blood of His servants” at the time of Israel’s end. Jesus told the religious leaders of Israel that they would be held responsible for “all the righteous blood shed on earth” (or land, that is, Israel’s land). He made it clear that their generation would experience that judgment.

Revelation: The Avenging of the Blood of God’s Saints, Prophets, and Apostles

In the book of Revelation, as John is shown a series of judgments being poured out, we see this scene in heaven:

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:9-10)

Many believe or teach that the judgments of Revelation will be poured out in our own future and upon the entire globe, but who did Jesus say would be held responsible for all the bloodshed of God’s servants? What generation did He say would experience that vengeance? Without a doubt, it was His own people (Israel) and His own generation. As the outpouring of judgment progresses in the book of Revelation, we see how God answers the cries of the martyrs:

Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying: “You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due” (Rev. 16:4-6).

So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement” (Rev. 17:3-6).

They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’ “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!” …And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth” (Rev. 18:19-24).

For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her” (Rev. 19:2).

In our series on the book of Revelation, we noted that “the great city” was first identified in Rev. 11:8 as the place “where our Lord was crucified.” This is a positive identification of Jerusalem as “the great city” spoken of in the book of Revelation. It’s no wonder that “in her was found the blood of prophets and saints…” This is the very thing that Jesus said in Matthew 23 would be true of first century Jerusalem. This is also the time when the apostles lived and ministered (Rev. 18:20).

The great city, Babylon the Great, was called “the mother of harlots.” Did Jesus not refer to His own generation in Israel as “a wicked and adulterous generation” (e.g. Matthew 12:39, 16:4)? Did Jeremiah not use similar language to describe ancient Israel during times of apostasy? Was it not legitimate for God to use the language of adultery against an unfaithful nation that was in covenant with Him? Had first century Israel not become as awful and wicked as their ancient enemy and conqueror, Babylon?

See our study on Revelation 17:1-6 for the significance of the harlot imagery that John used, the garments that the harlot wore, the words on her forehead, the rich Old Testament background for all these things, and the harlot’s close partnership with first-century Rome.

The Apostle Paul Prophesies Judgment and Tribulation Against the Israel of His Day

In light of everything we’ve discussed above, it’s also good to take note of what the apostle Paul said to the believers in Thessalonica who were suffering and enduring persecution at the time of his letters (52-54 AD):

For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost” (I Thessalonians 2:14-16)

“…[We] ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thessalonians 1:4-8).

Paul affirmed that the time had nearly come for the inhabitants of Judea to experience God’s wrath “to the uttermost” for killing Jesus and the prophets. Their opposition to the gospel was “contrary to all men” and was a great hindrance in the quest to spread the gospel among the Gentiles. It would be “a righteous thing with God” when they were repaid with tribulation, and it would result in them receiving rest. Jesus had promised to come with His angels in judgment and in His kingdom while some of His disciples were still alive (Matthew 16:27-28).

To Review

1. Moses prophesied that God would “avenge the blood of His servants” upon a faithless, perverse, and crooked generation at the time of Israel’s “latter end” (Deuteronomy 32:5, 20, 29, 43).

2. Jesus repeatedly denounced His own generation as “perverse”, “faithless”, and “adulterous.” Paul told the Philippian church that they were shining as lights in the midst of “a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:14-15).

3. Jesus told the religious leaders of Israel that their generation would be held responsible and judged for all the righteous blood shed on earth (Matthew 23:29-36).

4. John was shown a scene of martyrs crying out for their blood to soon be avenged “on those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 6:10).

5. John then sees seven bowls poured out “on the earth” (Rev. 16:1), and one of them causes the rivers and springs to become blood in order to judge those who had “shed the blood of saints and prophets” (Rev. 16:4-6).

6. John also sees a harlot dressed like a high priest of Israel and “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev. 17:3-6).

7. In Revelation 18:19-24, John sees the great city, earlier identified as Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8), overthrown and made desolate (see Matthew 23:38). The holy prophets and apostles, and all of heaven, were told to rejoice over this scene because God had avenged them on her, and because “in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.

8. In Revelation 19, John sees a heavenly scene in which there is much rejoicing over God’s righteous and true judgments, because He had judged the great harlot and “avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her” (verse 2). With the harlot judged and put away, John sees that “the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready” (verse 7).

Leviticus Required the Temple in Jerusalem to be Torn Down


Today I learned something very interesting from a portion of Gary DeMar’s book, “Last Days Madness.” Gary demonstrates from the book of Leviticus why Jesus, as our great High Priest, was qualified to pronounce the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. This is a fascinating connection, and brings added covenantal meaning to the words Jesus used in Matthew 23 and 24:

The Jews of Jesus’ day had turned the temple into a “house of merchandise” (John 2:16) and a “robbers’ den” (Matt. 21:13). When a priest inspected a house and found it leprous, the house was to be torn down (Lev. 14:33–47). Jesus, as the High Priest, after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:6), inspected the temple twice, found it leprous, and issued His priestly evaluation: “And Jesus came out from the temple” (Matt. 24:1), as the priest “shall come out from the house” (Lev. 14:38), and declared it “desolate” (Matt. 23:38), as the priest declared a leprous house to be “unclean” (Lev. 14:44).

A leprous house could be cleansed in only one way: “He shall therefore tear down the house, its stones, and its timbers, and all the plaster of the house, and he shall take them outside the city to an unclean place” (Lev. 14:45). When Jesus’ disciples pointed to the temple buildings after hearing of its desolation, Jesus answered: “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (Matt. 24:2).

-Gary Demar, Last Days Madness, 1999, page 108

Second Temple

SOURCE

The collapse of the temple was most devastating to the Jews of that day who didn’t believe in Jesus. The Jerusalem temple was not only considered one of the great wonders of the world, but it was seen to be God’s central dwelling place. For the people of God, thankfully, God’s temple was already established in His Son, Jesus, and those who belong to Him:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (I Corinthians 6:19)

For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'” (II Corinthians 6:16)

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)

Revelation Chapter 17 (Part 1: Verses 1-6)


REVELATION 17

Adam Maarschalk: December 3, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 17

UPDATE: This post was written when I understood the scarlet beast of Revelation 17 to be the same as the sea beast of Revelation 13:1-10, the seven kings of Revelation 17:10 to be the first seven Roman emperors, and the 10 horns of Revelation 17:12-14 to be the rulers of Rome’s 10 Senatorial Provinces. I now understand the seven kings to Revelation 17:10 to be seven Zealot leaders belonging to the family dynasty of Hezekiah the Zealot, and the 10 horns to be 10 Jewish generals (named by Josephus) who were appointed around January AD 67 to oversee specific territories and to prepare for war with Rome. This post will be updated accordingly when time allows.

A. The Scarlet Woman and the Scarlet Beast (Rev. 17:1-6)

Verse 1: At this point, the seven bowl judgments have been poured out on Babylon the Great (Rev. 16:19) by seven angels. One of these angels now takes John to see her judgment. Babylon, whose identity we will soon discuss, is referred to as “the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.” Steve Gregg, in his book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” reminds us that the fall of Babylon was first announced in Rev. 14:8 (p. 400). He then adds,

Chapters 17-19 reveal the destruction of Babylon in greater detail, the precursor to the marriage of the Lamb to a new bride. Appropriately, the chaste bride is contrasted with the wicked city depicted as a great harlot (v. 1). In order to gain this insight, John is transported in vision into the wilderness (v. 3). David S. Clark points out that “sometimes he was carried away into heaven to see visions; but the thing he was about to see now had no affinity with heaven, and he could not see such a scene as this in heaven, so he was taken to a wilderness as a more appropriate place, and one more in congruity with what he was about to see.”

Verse 2: Babylon is indicted for its sexual immorality, by which “the dwellers on earth” and “the kings of the earth” were made guilty. 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. Notice that the reference to “the kings of the earth” here is distinct from the reference to “the kings of the whole world” in Revelation 16:14, where that reference was to the provincial kings of the entire Roman Empire.

We have also noted a couple of times that at this point in John’s narrative, there is division in the preterist camp regarding who judgment is being poured out upon. Some say it’s the Roman Empire, and others say it’s Jerusalem (this is my view). Steve Gregg (pp. 402-406) summarizes J. Stuart Russell’s arguments on why Babylon is to be identified with Jerusalem, and not with Rome. He lists 13 such reasons[1], which are reproduced here:

#1: The fall of Rome [in 476 AD] does not fall within the things “which must shortly take place,” which is the stated subject matter of the Apocalypse (cf. 1:1). [The fall of Jerusalem does, as it occurred in 70 AD, in John’s own day];

#2: The Olivet Discourse, which Russell conceives as a shorter treatment of the same subject matter as Revelation, does not include a discussion of the fate of Rome (see Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21);

#3: As Revelation presents a series of contrasts—a Lamb vs. a dragon; the Father’s name vs. the beast’s name on people’s foreheads; the bride vs. the harlot—so also the Apocalypse contrasts two cities, Babylon and the New Jerusalem. The latter is the church. The earthly Jerusalem is clearly in view in earlier chapters. To bring Rome into the picture at this point would introduce a third city and destroy the symmetry of the book;

#4: As a symbolic name for Jerusalem, Babylon would be as fitting as Sodom and Egypt, which were applied to Jerusalem earlier (11:8);

#5: The phrase “that great city” was used of Jerusalem earlier (11:8), as it is used repeatedly in these chapters regarding Babylon;

#6: In chapter 14, the winepress was trodden “outside the city” (14:20), which almost all understand to refer to Jerusalem, yet the only “city” named earlier in that chapter is Babylon (14:8), hence, Babylon equals Jerusalem;

#7: The division of Babylon into “three parts” in 16:19 best fits Jerusalem… (cf. Ezek. 5:1-12). [By this, Steve Gregg is also referring to the historical fact of three warring factions in Jerusalem during the siege leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, which literally carved up the city into three parts. See previous post on chapter 16.];

#8: The appellation “the harlot” is an established label for Jerusalem from the Old Testament (cf. Isa. 1:21; 57:8; Jer. 2:2, 20); it could never be applied to Rome or any Gentile city, since they have never been in a covenant relationship with God. As Chilton writes: “The metaphor of harlotry is exclusively used in the Old Testament for a city or nation that has abandoned the Covenant and turned toward false gods; and with only two exceptions…[2] the term is always used for faithless Israel;

#9: Jerusalem sat upon seven hills as truly as did Rome [SEE FINAL NOTE at the end of this post];

#10: If “the kings of the earth” [verse 2] be understood to mean “the rulers of the land (Israel),” then Jerusalem, as appropriately as Rome, could be said to be “that great city” in 17:18 [more on this later];

#11: The expression “that great city which reigns over the rulers of the land” (v. 18) is fully equivalent to that which is said of Jerusalem in Lamentations 1:1—“Who was great among the nations! The princess among the provinces”;

#12: The Jews of Jerusalem were idolatrous, as was Rome;

#13: No city other than Jerusalem could be charged with the blood of the prophets and saints and apostles (see 17:6; 18:20, 24).

Verse 3: John then sees a woman sitting on a scarlet (red) beast with seven heads and ten horns. We already discussed the identity of this beast at length in Revelation 13 (See Post #1 here and Post #5 here), seeing a compelling case for its identity as Nero in the specific sense and the Roman Empire in the general sense. The woman here in verse 3 is seen as a prostitute (verse 1), and the fact that she is sitting on the beast does not mean that she is one and the same with the beast. Rather it suggests a very close relationship between the woman and the beast, who are both distinct in their identity. In my term paper on the events of 70 AD, I wrote the following regarding the significance of the woman (Jerusalem, as representing Israel) riding the beast (Rome):

In what sense might Jerusalem have sat on the beast with seven heads (mountains), the beast that would ultimately turn on her and destroy her (Rev. 17:3, 9, 16-18)? Israel had enjoyed a good relationship with Rome until the Jewish revolt began in 66 AD, and Judaism was recognized as a valid religion within the Roman Empire. Josephus wrote of this relationship, “It seems to me to be necessary here to give an account of all the honors that the Romans and their emperors paid to our nation [Israel], and of the leagues of mutual assistance they have made with it” (Antiquities, 14.10.1-2). The Jews frequently took advantage of this relationship to induce persecution against Jesus and His followers (Luke 23:2; John 18:28-31, 19:15; Acts 4:27, 16:20, 17:7, 18:12, 21:11, 24:1-9, 25:1-2). W.H.C. Frend even writes that “the promptings of orthodox Jews in the capitol had something to do with” Nero’s decision to begin persecuting Christians in 64 AD (The Rise of Christianity [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984], 109; quoted in Kenneth Gentry, 2002, p. 63).

Kenneth Gentry suggests that the beast is seen as scarlet for any (or all) of the following reasons: [1] The robes worn by Roman emperors were red in color [2] Rome, led by Nero, was responsible for shedding much blood among God’s people [3] Nero was famous for his red beard. Regarding this last point, Gentry says, “It would seem most appropriate to expect the red color of the beast to also correspond to the person designated as the beast whose number is 666” (Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 217). In other words, this is likely one more means by which John made known to his first-century readers exactly who the beast was (in the singular sense) without saying so explicitly.

Verses 4-5: The woman is seen to be wearing purple and scarlet, and gold, jewels, and pearls. She has in her hand a golden cup “full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.” Her forehead proclaimed that she was “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” In my term paper on the events of 70 AD, I noted some observations made by Todd Dennis, the founder of the Preterist Archive:

…the description of the harlot’s attire (purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls) was nearly identical to the ephod worn by the high priest (Revelation 17:4; cf. Exodus 28:5-21). The golden cup she held was likely symbolic of the temple vessels, the greatest part of which were gold and silver, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (Wars 5.4.4). On Aaron’s forehead was the inscription “Holy to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36). The harlot’s forehead, on the other hand, bore the title “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (Rev. 17:5).

The attire of the harlot was also similar to what Josephus said was discovered “in the midst [of the inmost court], that most sacred part of the temple” when Jerusalem was captured by the Romans in 70 AD:

“The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls” (Revelation 17:4).

“But then this house, as it was divided into two parts, the inner part was lower than the appearance of the outer, and had golden doors of fifty-five cubits altitude, and sixteen in breadth; but before these doors there was a veil of equal largeness with the doors. It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful” (Wars 5.5.4).

In Jeremiah’s day, Judah (with its capital of Jerusalem) was indicted because it had “played the whore with many lovers” and “polluted the land with…vile whoredom” (Jeremiah 3:1-2). Like Israel in John’s day, Judah prior to its fall in 586 BC had “the forehead of a whore” (verse 3).

Duncan McKenzie’s article has helped me to understand that “Babylon the Great” here was more than just a physical city in its identity. It was also a religious system full of abominations. That system, I believe, was Old Covenant temple-based Judaism. In the next chapter, we will see a command from God regarding Babylon, saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). We know from chapter 1 that John’s immediate audience did not live in Jerusalem (or Rome), but in Asia Minor. The believers in Jerusalem did flee, as we noted in chapter 7, but what did this message mean to believers already living outside of Jerusalem and Judea?

God’s message was about breaking completely free from Old Covenant temple-based Judaism. Babylon represented not only Jerusalem, but also the unfaithful community which had rejected Jesus in order to maintain corrupted Old Covenant practices. Both physical Jerusalem and temple-based Judaism were judged and destroyed in 70 AD. In Daniel 9:26-27 we see that it is on “the wing of abominations” that one comes “who makes desolate” (cf. Rev. 17:16, Matt. 23:38). This is in reference to the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary” (as related to Daniel’s own people and his holy city—Dan. 9:24). What are the abominations spoken of in both Daniel and Revelation? Regarding Daniel 9, John Calvin several centuries ago remarked:

I have no hesitation in referring this language of the angel to that profanation of the Temple which happened after the manifestation of Christ, when sacrifices ceased, and the shadows of the law were abolished. From the time, therefore, at which the sacrifice really ceased to be offered; this refers to the period at which Christ by his advent should abolish the shadows of the law, thus making all offering of sacrifices to God totally valueless… God’s wrath followed the profanation of the Temple. The Jews never anticipated the final cessation of their ceremonies, and always boasted in their peculiar external worship, and unless God had openly demonstrated it before their eyes, they would never have renounced their sacrifices and rites as mere shadowy representations. Hence Jerusalem and their Temple were exposed to the vengeance of the Gentiles.

As Russell pointed out earlier, John is being shown a contrasting picture of two women: the harlot of chapters 17 and 18, and the bride in chapter 19 clothed with “fine linen, bright and pure…the righteous deeds of the saints” (see verses 1-8). One (the harlot, representing Judaism) persecuted the other (the bride, Christ’s Church), as we will see again in the next verse. What is most fascinating is Paul’s own contrasting of two women in his epistle to the Galatians:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons,one by a slave woman andone by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, whilethe son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are twocovenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia;she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor. For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” Now you, brothers,like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say?”Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave butof the free woman (Galatians 4:21-31, emphasis added).

Note how the following passages contrast each other:

A. Revelation 17:1: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.’”

A. Revelation 21:9: “Then came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’”

B. Revelation 17:3: “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names.”

B. Revelation 21:10: “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.”

On these matters, Duncan McKenzie concludes:

Revelation is talking about the same subject as Galatians; both books are contrasting two “cities” (physical Jerusalem and heavenly Jerusalem in Galatians, Babylon and the New or heavenly Jerusalem in Revelation) that are two “wives” (Hagar and Sarah in Galatians, the widowed harlot and the bride in Revelation).  These two women of Galatians and Revelation represent two communities, those of the old and new covenants…  In the book of Revelation, as in Galatians (4:29), one woman persecutes the other (i.e. the harlot persecutes the bride, Rev. 17:6).  Similarly in Revelation, as in Galatians, one of the two women is cast out (and destroyed—Rev. 18:21) while the other woman receives her inheritance (i.e. the Lord takes her as His bride).  This explains why the very next subject in Revelation after Babylon is destroyed is the wedding of the bride (Rev. 19:1-10).  God deposes of His unfaithful old covenant wife (who irrevocably broke her covenant of marriage with God and became a widow when she had Jesus killed) and then marries His faithful new covenant bride…

Just as the New Jerusalem is not a literal city but a community of people (the bride, the new covenant community) so Babylon was not a literal city but a community of people (the harlot, the unfaithful old covenant community)… While Babylon was centered in Jerusalem, its citizens were all those of unfaithful Israel that were rejecting Jesus for the temple system.

When the earthly Jerusalem fell, God’s true people were in possession of “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:18-28). Upon the removal of that which could be shaken (vs. 27; cf. Hebrews 9:8-10), there remained “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (vs. 28; cf. Daniel 7:21-22, Matthew 21:43).

Verse 6: The woman is said to be “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” This same charge was laid upon those of “the earth” (Rev. 16:1) in the previous chapter, where it was said that “they have shed the blood of saints and prophets (16:4-7).” In chapter 18 we will see that “in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on the earth” (18:24), and that the “saints and apostles and prophets” were told to rejoice over her destruction (18:20). Who was responsible for shedding all the blood of the prophets and the saints, according to Jesus, and who would receive judgment as a result? David Lowman, a Presbyterian pastor, aptly points out that the answer can be found in Matthew 23:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets’” Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate (Matthew 23:29-38, emphasis added).

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In Part 2 of our study on Revelation 17 we will see how the angel unveils to John the meaning of the prostitute (Babylon) and the beast…

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


[1] Kenneth Gentry, in his book Before Jerusalem Fell, lists his own set of reasons (pp. 240-241): “Briefly, the evidence for the identifying of Jerusalem as the Harlot is based on the following: (1) Both are called ‘the great city’ (Rev. 14:8; 11:8). (2) The Harlot is filled with the blood of the saints (cp. Rev. 16:6; 17:6, 18:21, 24; with Matt. 23:34-38; Luke 13:33; Acts 7:51-52). Jerusalem had previously been called by pagan names quite compatible with the designation ‘Babylon’ (cp. Rev. 14:8 and 17:5 with 11:8). (4) Rome could not fornicate against God, for only Jerusalem was God’s wife (Rev. 17:2-5, cp. Isa. 1:20; Jer. 31:31). (5) There is an obvious contrast between the Harlot and the chaste bride (cp. Rev. 17:2-5 with Rev. 21:1ff.) that suggests a contrast with the Jerusalem below and the Jerusalem above (Rev. 21:2; cp. Gal. 4:24ff.; Heb. 12:18ff.). The fact that the Harlot is seated on the seven-headed Beast (obviously representative of Rome) indicates not identity with Rome, but alliance with Rome against Christianity (cp. Matt. 23:37ff.; John 19:6-16; Acts 17:7).” SEE ALSO QUESTION #9 HERE: http://www.forerunner.com/beast/beastfaq.html.

[2] Note from Steve Gregg: “The two exceptions are Tyre (Isaiah 23:15-17) and Nineveh (Nahum 3:4). It is notable that both of these pagan cities, Tyre (See I Kings 5:1-12; 9:13; Amos 1:9) and Nineveh (Jonah 3:5-10), had at one time been in covenant with God.”

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FINAL NOTE: Regarding J. Stuart Russell’s 13 arguments for identifying Babylon with Jerusalem, there was one that I wasn’t quite on board with earlier (i.e. I thought it shouldn’t belong to his list). That was #9, which stated, “Jerusalem sat upon seven hills as truly as did Rome.” Then today I came across this information at the site of Australian Pastor Andrew Corbett:

The City of Jerusalem as it existed in the time of Christ Jesus was widely reckoned to be the “City of Seven Hills.” This fact was well recognized in Jewish circles. In the Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, an eighth century midrashic narrative (section 10), the writer mentioned without commentary (showing that the understanding was well known and required no defense) that “Jerusalem is situated on seven hills” (recorded in The Book of Legends, edited by Bialik and Ravnitzky, p. 371, paragraph 111). And, so it was. Those “seven hills” are easy to identify. If one starts with the Mount of Olives just to the east of the main City of Jerusalem (but still reckoned to be located within the environs of Jerusalem), there are three summits to that Mount of Olives. The northern summit (hill) is called Scopus [Hill One], the middle summit (hill) was called Nob [Hill Two], the highest point of Olivet itself, and the southern summit (hill) was called in the Holy Scriptures the “Mount of Corruption” or “Mount of Offence” [Hill Three] (II Kings 23:13). On the middle ridge between the Kedron and the Tyropoeon Valleys there was (formerly) in the south “Mount Zion” [Hill Four] (the original “Mount Zion” and not the later southwest hill that was later called by that name), then the “Ophel Mount” [Hill Five] and then to the north of that the “Rock” around which “Fort Antonia” was built [Hill Six]. And finally, there was thesouthwest hill itself [Hill Seven] that finally became known in the time of Simon the Hasmonean as the new “Mount Zion.” This makes “Seven Hills” in all.

So, indeed, J. Stuart Russell was correct. Still, as we will see in the following post, there is another sense also in which the woman (apostate Israel) can be seen as seated on the seven mountains of Rome (if Rome is in view in Revelation 17:9).

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 1


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

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REVELATION 1

Adam Maarschalk: June 25, 2009

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

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

A. Prologue (1:1-3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seven Churches 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

PP4: Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Revelation)-Part 1


This is now the fourth segment in our series on “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.” This is the same title as a term paper I recently submitted to Northwestern College. The first segment included the Title Page, Outline, Introduction, and a brief introduction to Partial-Preterism. The second segment consisted of the References page, and the third segment was a discussion of the external evidence for an early date for the writing of the book of Revelation. These segments can be found here, and again it’s recommended that they be read in order before reading this current post:

[1] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/brief-explanation-of-partial-preterism/
[2] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp2-references/
[3] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp3-external-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation/

We will now turn to some of the internal evidence for an early date. This was a rather long section in my paper, so I’m going to break it up into several parts. Among other things, this first part will deal with references to Jerusalem, a temple, Babylon the Great, and a great city in the book of Revelation.

Adam Maarschalk

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II. Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Part 1)

The reality is that if an early date for the book of Revelation is valid, this leaves room for the possibility that many of the events in this book were also fulfilled during the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, and the Roman/Jewish War of 66-73 AD. Even more telling than the external evidence (e.g. quotes from early church fathers and historians), though, is the internal evidence from the text when it is compared with other passages of Scripture and also with what historically happened during the Roman/Jewish War.

Kenneth Gentry (1998), a former Dispensationalist, discovered in his reading of “The Jewish War” by Josephus a number of accounts which seem to reflect the descriptions of the plagues and judgments in Revelation. For example:

Regarding the blood flow to the “horses’ bridles” [Revelation 14:20], Josephus’ comments on the battle scenes during the Jewish War are enlightening. At one point a naval battle produced a “lake all bloody and full of dead bodies” (Wars 3:10:9). Later he reported that “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 was also full of dead bodies” (Wars 4-7:6). Surely such carnage and bloodshed are suggested by John’s imagery (p. 245).

John also refers to a time period of 42 months in Revelation 11:2-3, which is significant in light of history. John is told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months…” During the Roman/Jewish War, as will be seen, it did take Rome 3.5 years, or 42 months, to overcome Jerusalem and trample it. This occurred from the time Nero dispatched his general Vespasian to advance on Jerusalem in early spring 67 AD until Jerusalem and the temple were demolished and laid level by the end of September 70 AD.

John’s words echoed the words of Jesus given earlier. In Luke 21:24, Jesus, clearly speaking about Jerusalem’s pending destruction (Luke 21:5-7), said, “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Dispensationalists interpret the phrase “times of the Gentiles” to be the entire Church Age. However, is it not possible that the “times of the Gentiles” is what John wrote about in Rev. 11:2-3?

In this Revelation 11 passage, John is told to measure a temple which apparently still existed. If he wrote this in 95-96 AD, the temple would have met its destruction 25 years before, and one could wonder why John did not raise a question when given this command or even mention the recent destruction of the temple at all in his book. Its absence  after 70 AD was no small thing, not only because of its most central significance to Judaism, but also because of its magnificence and physical stature. After a grand renovation project at the hands of Herod around 20 BC, it was widely acknowledged as one of the most beautiful structures in the world [The use of the phrase “temple of God” quite possibly indicates that the Church is also being referred to here (cf. Eph. 2:11-22; II Cor. 6:16; I Cor. 3:16, 6:19). Therefore it may be that John was (symbolically) measuring the Church which would be trampled (persecuted) for 42 months (see Rev. 13:5-7; this passage will be discussed later). Given the similarity between this passage and Luke 21:24, the physical temple was also probably being alluded to. It may be that both ideas were being spoken of in this case.]

On the other hand, if the temple John measured is still future, as Dispensationalists teach, on what grounds could a future physical temple be referred to as “the temple of God”? Such a temple would be blasphemous in light of Christ’s work on the cross which has created a new, non-physical temple (e.g. Ephesians 2:13-20). The reinstitution of sacrifices would be an even greater insult (See Hebrews 7:11-10:18).

The description of the woman in Revelation 17 offers further internal evidence for an early date. This woman, who rode the beast, was said to be “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (verse 6). She is a great city (verse 18), and is hated by the beast and the 10 kings who desolate her and burn her with fire (verses 16-17). More specifically, it is said that “in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on the earth” (18:24), and the “saints and apostles and prophets” were told to rejoice over her destruction (18:20).

Who was responsible for shedding all the blood of the prophets and the saints, according to Jesus, and who would receive judgment as a result? The answer can be found in Matthew 23, as David Lowman (2009 [3]) so aptly points out:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets’” Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate (Matthew 23:29-38, emphasis added).

Is it a coincidence that the word “desolate” is used here, just as it is used in Revelation 17:16; 18:17, 19, not to mention Daniel 9:27 and Luke 21:20? No, Jerusalem was the prophetic “Babylon the Great” in the book of Revelation. The generation which heard Jesus speak these things also saw them happen, just as He said they would, in 70 AD. The third bowl judgment, rivers and springs of water becoming blood (Revelation 16:4), also is directly linked to those who had shed righteous blood (verses 5-6): “And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, ‘Just are You, O Holy One, who is and who was, for You brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!’” As we will see later, Josephus and others recorded that the rivers and springs of Jerusalem and its surroundings were filled with blood during the Roman/Jewish War. Again, Jesus said that it was the generation that would crucify Him that would be held responsible for the blood of saints and prophets (cf. Matthew 21:33-45), not a generation in the 21st century or beyond, and that Jerusalem would experience this wrath.

Jerusalem receives specific mention in Revelation 11:8, where she is clearly identified by the description “the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where [the] Lord was crucified.” It’s worth noting that “Revelation 11:8 suggests that Jerusalem’s streets were intact at the time of John’s writing” (Kenneth Gentry, 1998, p. 236) because the dead bodies of the two witnesses were to lie there for several days. If John wrote this in 95 or 96 AD, Jerusalem would have been a wasteland. As Kathleen M. Kenyon remarked, “It was two centuries or more [after 70 AD] before human activity began once more to make its mark in the whole area of ancient Jerusalem.”[1] It’s also significant in Revelation 11:8 that Jerusalem is called “the great city.” This is the same title given to Babylon the Great on at least six occasions (17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21).

To be called “Sodom,” of course, is not a compliment. When Isaiah was instructed to prophesy against Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:1), he called the Israelites by the same name because of their apostasy. It would make sense for John to speak of apostate Jerusalem, once known as the holy city, as Sodom, Babylon, and a harlot. Todd Dennis writes, “The image of the unfaithful wife, the harlot, was often used of Israel in the OT. Israel is repeatedly called the wife of God (Jer. 2:2, 3:14, Is. 54:5). But she was an unfaithful wife (Jer. 3:20, Hos. 1:2, Ez. 6:9, Ez. 16, Is. 50:1) behaving as a prostitute (Jer. 3:1-2). In the context of Jerusalem’s designation as a prostitute, Is. 1:21 is especially noteworthy: ‘See how the faithful city has become a harlot’” (Todd Dennis [25], 2009). Rome in John’s day or a secular city/state in our day could not be said to fornicate against God in the way that Jerusalem was able to. Kenneth Gentry (1998, p. 241) also writes that there “is an obvious contrast between the Harlot and the chaste bride (cp. Rev. 17:2-5 with Rev. 21:1ff.) that suggests a contrast with the Jerusalem below and the Jerusalem above (Rev. 21:2; cp. Gal. 4:24ff; Heb. 12:18ff.).”

Dennis adds that the description of the harlot’s attire (purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls) was nearly identical to the ephod worn by the high priest (Revelation 17:4; cf. Exodus 28:5-21). The golden cup she held was likely symbolic of the temple vessels, the greatest part of which were gold and silver, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (Wars 5.4.4). On Aaron’s forehead was the inscription “Holy to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36). The harlot’s forehead, on the other hand, bore the title “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (Rev. 17:5).


[1] Kathleen M. Kenyon, Jerusalem: Excavating 3000 Years of History, 1967, p. 185.

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The Bible study group I belong to has posted fairly comprehensive chapter-by-chapter studies on the book of Revelation. They can all be found here.