A Layman and Scholar’s Guide To Interpreting
The purpose of this commentary
My purpose writing this article/commentary is to glorify Christ in demonstrating what the story of redemption is all about from Genesis 1-3 to Revelation 20-22. In Adam and the story of Israel’s covenantal history, man realizes he is spiritually dead and separated from God and in need of Him to save and clothe him with His righteousness. Adam never partook of the Tree of Life but rather died spiritually the very day he sinned against God. Man’s hopeless condition under spiritual death with its awareness of guilt and shame, was painfully realized and magnified through the giving of the Mosaic old-covenant law which could only condemn man and point typologically to the redemptive work of God’s Son.
The truly good news is that our Lord as the Last Adam has overcome “the [spiritual] death” which came through Adam and was magnified through the old-covenant Torah given through Israel. Christ has removed the curse of spiritual death, guilt and shame for those who through faith, enter the Gates of the City of the Living God and partake of the Tree of Life and its living waters Revelation 22:17. The Book of Revelation is not about the end of time but rather “the time of the end” – that is, the end of the old-covenant temple and system which Christ promised to destroy within His contemporary generation at His return in A.D. 70 (cf. Mt. 23:36-24:34). The Book of Revelation is not about the end of the new-covenant age (which the Bible says has no end Eph. 3:20-21), but rather is about the end of the old-covenant age and the brining in, maturing, glorification and consummation of the new-covenant age. The Church being God’s new creation. The goal of all of the promises of God and Bible prophecy has always been about showing how all the promises of God are fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ and then lived out through the church 2 Corinthians 1:20. Those who are more interested in following wars in the Middle East, or trying to figure out who the new candidate of the Anti-Christ is, have missed completely the message of the Book of Revelation for day and time.
My purpose is to produce a chapter by chapter concise commentary or study guide to the Book of Revelation which is faithful to the message of Revelation while at the same time demonstrates the “House Divided” approach that exists between the Reformed and Evangelical world in the area of producing a consistent view of eschatology for the Church. A good commentary on the the Book of Revelation need not be so difficult and scholarly as to take 1,245 pages to explain and wade through such as what G.K. Beale has produced. Neither should it be so one sided (non-scholarly) and turned into a sensationalistic science fiction novel for our generation which have been the approaches of men like Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, and Chuck Smith of the Calvary Chapel movement. My goal and prayer is to produce something that interacts with a wide range of views while at the same time can be comfortably read. My goal is to produce something that can be read by the average layman and scholar alike.
Authorship of Revelation
Some liberal scholars have suggested that because the grammar and the Greek between the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation are so different, that this suggests two different authors wrote these New Testament documents. The solution to these textual differences, is that John spoke and wrote in Aramaic and not Greek. Therefore, John had two different translators helping him – one translating the Gospel of John and the other helping him with the Book of Revelation. Church history and the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church records that John’s translator and scribe for the Book of Revelation was a man named Prochorus. Church tradition believes he’s the same Prochorus in Acts 6:5.
Revelation and the Olivet Discourse
Although the gospel of John contains some eschatology, it has been understood by the majority of commentators that the Book of Revelation is John’s version of the Olivet discourse as recorded by Matthew in chapter 24, Mark in chapter 13 and Luke in chapter 21. The Book of Revelation is also a covenantal curse upon old-covenant Jerusalem following the pattern of Deuteronomy 28-32. Therefore, the following parallels should be noted:
1) The time of wars and rumors of wars had arrived (Mt. 24:6, 7; Rev. 6).
2) The time of famine had come (Deut. 28; Mt. 24:7; Rev. 6).
3) The time of earthquakes had come (Deut. 28; Mt.24:7; Rev. 6).
4) The time for the passing of heaven and earth or the metaphorical de-creation of Israel’s old-covenant world had come (Deut. 32:22; Mt. 24:29-31; Rev. 6 & Rev. 21).
5) The time of persecution, blood guilt, false Prophets, and deceptions had arrived (Deut. 32:43; Mt. 24:9-11; Rev.16 – 18).
6) Apostasy was taking place (Deut. 32:5, 20; Mt. 24:11-12; Rev. 16).
7) The time for the Great Tribulation was present and about to increase (Deut. 28; Mt. 24:21; Rev. 14)
8) The Great Commission had come to an end and therefore there would be no more delay to the fulfillment of the prophecy (Deut. 32:21; Mt. 24:14; Rev. 10:6-7, 14:6-7; cf. Cols. 1:5-6, 23; Rom. 10:18, 16:25-26).
9) The time for the abomination of desolation had arrived (Mt. 24:15; Rev. 13).
10) The Judgment of the “Great City” or old-covenant apostate Jerusalem – “where the Lord was slain” (described as Babylon Sodom and Egypt) marked the time of the judgment and resurrection of “the dead” to take place (Dan. 9:24 & 12:7à, Mt. 24, Deut. 32:32; Rev. 11:8-18-19; Rev. 14).
11) The flight and salvation of the faithful remnant from the land of Judah for the “elect” was about to take place (Deut. 32:21, 43; Mt. 24:15-22; Rev. 18:4).
12) The coming of Jesus on the clouds to save, redeem, gather, and harvest the dead among Israel and Hades had arrived (Deut. 32:21, 43; Mt. 24:30-31; Rev. 6, 11, 14, 20).
13) The judgment for breaking the old-covenant law in committing the sin of blood guilt of Israel as she persecuted and killed her Messiah and all the martyrs had arrived (Deut. 32:43; Mt. 23:31-36-Mt. 24:9; Rev. 6; Rev. 6:10-11, 17-18; 20).
14) The time of the “Great Supper” & “Wedding Supper” which consisted of feasting upon Christ and the carcass of their enemies had come (Deut. 28/Jer. 34; Mt. 24:28 – Mt. 25/Mt. 22:7/Rev. 19).
15) And of course the same time frame of fulfillment are depicted in both prophesies! The old-covenant law had not all been fulfilled at the cross but was rather still in the process of passing away and would “soon” disappear (2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8:13). All the covenantal signs and wrath against Israel are still in effect after the cross and during this time period all of God’s promises to Israel are still in the process of being fulfilled (Mt. 5:17-19). These promises contained in the law and the prophets included the Second Coming, judgment and resurrection, which Jesus predicted would take place within His contemporary generation and of which John, who was writing toward the end of that generation, wrote the time of fulfillment was therefore genuinely “soon,” “shortly,” “quickly,” and “at hand” to take place (Deut. 32:20; Mt. 24:34/Lk. 21:22; Rev. 1:1; 3:2-3, 11; 22:6-7, 10-12, 20).
The Book of Revelation isn’t really that difficult to understand
Many have despaired in interpreting the book of Revelation especially within Reformed and Evangelical circles. However, I would agree with most of what Warfield has said,
John’s Apocalypse need not be other than easy: all its symbols are either obvious natural ones, or else have their roots planted in the Old Testament poets and prophets and the figurative language of Jesus and his apostles. No one who knows his Bible need despair of reading this book with profit. Above all, he who can understand our Lord’s great discourse concerning the last things (Matt. 24), cannot fail to understand the Apocalypse, which is founded on that discourse and scarcely advances beyond it.
Since it is admitted that Revelation concerns the same eschatological events as that of the Olivet discourse, then it should also be admitted that the Second Coming, de-creation, the great commission, tribulation, and judgment, are the “all these things” that were to be fulfilled within Jesus’ contemporary “this generation” (Mt. 24:34). Jesus was not coming up with an entirely different set of eschatological promises separated from the predictions of the Old Testament prophets (Lk. 21: 20-22; cf. 1 Pet. 1:4-12 & 1 Cor. 10:11). Therefore, the Book of Revelation is the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecy and unless its “heaven and earth” have passed away the Church today remains under every jot and tittle of “the law” or old-covenant Mosaic Torah (Rev. 10:7; 22:6-7; 21:1/Mt. 5:17-19). These are serious implications for all futurist paradigms even the “orthodox” “partial preterist” view.
Revelation’s recapitulation and parallel structure
Simon Kistemaker understands that Revelation is not written in a purely chronological order but rather is structured in the Hebraic and prophetic style of recapitulation and parallelism. In other words the book of Revelation is concerned with only one Second Coming in judgment and yet this same event is described in various ways throughout.
“I have chosen the cyclical method, which evinces progressive parallelism in each successive cycle and reveals new perspectives on God’s unfolding message to the church.” “…parallel sections do not necessarily follow one another sequentially; instead they give the reader different perspectives of the same teaching that finally results in a definitive climax. In other words, progress in successive parallels relates not to temporal sequence but to intensity and emphasis. “The parallelism depicted in the three sets (seals, trumpets, and bowls) suggests that the writer is not presenting a chronological sequence but rather different aspects of the same events. This is even more pronounced when we notice the frequent indirect and direct references to the final judgment.
• Christ is coming with the clouds (1:7).
• Judgment for sinners is imminent, while the saints surround the throne (6:16; 7:17).
• The time for judging the dead has come (11:18).
• The coming judgment is symbolized as the Judge harvesting the earth (14:15–16).
• God’s wrath is poured out as a description of the final judgment (16:17–21).
• This description is even more vivid with respect to the rider on the white horse coming to judge with justice and to make war on his enemies (19:11–21).
• The judgment comes to its climax when the books are opened and each person is judged (20:11–15).”
Kistemaker quotes G.B. Caird’s eloquent comments on the issue,
“The unity of John’s book, then, is neither choronological nor arithmetical, but artistic, like that of a musical theme with variations, each variation adding something new to the significance of the whole composition. This is the only view which does adequate justice to the double fact that each new series of visions both recapitulates and develops the themes already stated in what has gone before.”
We agree with Kistemaker that Revelation is concerned with only one coming of Christ in judgment and that it is laid out in the familiar Hebraic and prophetic style of parallelism and recapitulation from beginning to end.
As noted earlier, the Book of Revelation is simply the same prophetic prediction as made by our Lord in the Olivet discourse. Popular Reformed and Evangelical authors such as J. Marcellus Kik, Greg Bahnsen, Keith Mathison, Kenneth Gentry, James Jordan, R.C. Sproul and Hank Hanegraaff have suggested that Jesus was teaching not one but two different comings within Matthew 24-25. One is alleged to have ocurred in A.D. 70 (Mt. 24:27-34), while it is alleged that the discourse also addresses another return of Jesus at the end of time (Mt. 24:36ff). Mathison has attempted to argue that one the reasons for these alleged two sections or two comings of Christ, is that if Jesus wanted to say all of the discourse would be fulfilled in Jesus’ “this generation,” it would have made more sense for Him to say this at the end of Matthew 25 and not in the midst of Matthew 24 at verse 34. But when we honor the recapitulation structure of the prophecy itself, it makes more than enough sense to have “this generation” as being the time frame for both Matthew 24 and 25 to be fulfilled in.
Reformed theologian John Murray pointed out that the structure of Matthew 24-25 involves “to some extent recapitulation” similar to how the Book of Revelation is laid out. He writes,
“1. The discourse, as to structure, is recapitulatory to a considerable extent. It is not, therefore, continuously progressive. We are repeatedly brought to the advent and informed of its various features, concomitants, and consequences (vss. 14, 29-31, 37-41, 25:31-46). We should expect, for this reason, that revelation respecting the future would in other cases follow this pattern.”
Murray identified 4 consumations or conclusions within the discourse while at the same time maintaining that the discourse is addressing one Second Coming and judgment throughout. Murray for example was more correct than patial preterists, in understanding verses 4-14 as describing the “interadventual history” in which the great commission of verse 14 would bring about the “consumation” to the “end of the age” the disciples asked about in verse 3. This section forms its own “conclusion” in that one of the main signs which will function as an imminent precursor to His return is the fulfillment of the great commission. Now in verses 15-34, more recapitulation is involved in that the sign of the abomination of desolation will mark an imminent end or consumation to Christ’s return in “this generation.” Mathison’s outline of the discourse and theory of Jesus teaching only two “conclusions” or sections with two totally different comings of Christ and judgments is erroneous. It is his view that “doesn’t make sense.” Jesus’ statements and His recapitulation in the Olivet discourse and in the Book of Revelation “make sense” as they are. Jesus placing “this generation” at verse 34 instead of at the end of Matthew 25 “doesn’t make sense” to Mathison because of his biased partial preterist presupositions he reads into the discourse and his failure to see recapitulation being used. Mathison and these other Reformed and Evangelical partial preterists maintain that Christ’s return in Jesus’ “this generation” and His imminent return throughout Revelation occurred in A.D. 70. But because they refuse to see what other futurists and preterists have noted as far as a consistent recapitulation structure being used, they are forced to promote a two Second Coming theory of which the New Testament knows nothing of. My position is a combination of the two orthodox positions covered thus far:
1) Mattew 24-25, the Book of Revelation and the New Testament only teaches one Second Coming and
2) The imminent time texts of “this generation” and terms such as “near,” “at hand,” “soon,” “quickly,” and “shortly” all point to Christ’s Second Coming happening during the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants––things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Rev. 1:1-3)
Everything we need to know in order to understand the Book of Revelation is contained within the first three verses and first three chapters of the Book itself.
I should point out once again that this is not a book about nuclear war, computer chips being implanted on our foreheads and hands, decomposed bodies coming out of the ground at the end of time, people giving flight into the air and clouds, or the world catching on fire someday while a new one takes its place! This is a book about how all of Scripture finds its fulfillment in or “reveals” God – in the person of Jesus Christ and that this revelation is then manifested through the Church. Or as Paul so clearly states, “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Cor. 1:20). This is a Revelation of how Jesus Christ “through us” (the Church as God’s new creation], is to function as light and life to the nations of the world post A.D. 70 in the new-covenant age. Unfortunately the true meaning of Revelation is not exciting enough for those who have placed their hopes on things which must be seen. Thus the plethora of futuristic commentaries on the Book of Revelation and there attended sensationalistic prophetic novels of our day, are in essence a sad commentary on the state of the church.
“…things which must shortly take place…”
The first verse of Revelation is probably the most ignored today because we all tend to think the world revolves around us and our generation when it comes to the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. The concept that the book of Revelation is a prophecy about “…things which must shortly take place” (Rev. 1:1) during the time of John and these seven historical churches he is writing to, doesn’t at first compute with us because of what we have been taught by popular T.V. preachers and best selling contemporary newspaper “prophecy expert” authors. These books must be the truth (we reason), because after all they are on the shelves of the big contemporary Christian book stores right? And yet there it is as clear as a bell for anyone willing to accept it with humility and study honestly and diligently allowing the Bible to interpret itself. Let’s briefly analyze the various approaches in trying to deal with the Book of Revelation’s imminent time texts and that of the entire New Testament for that matter.
Kistemaker unfortunately, is among those who do not approach the Book of Revelation with humility and diligent study, but would rather simply regurgitate the views of his particular eschatological party line. He decides the time texts in Revelation should be understood as an “ideal” and “symbolically” interpreted as,
“…the meaning of eschatological time, expressed not in chronological periods, but in terms of principle”
Kistemaker is clearly trying his best to hide behind a very vague and pathetic “scholarly” vocabulary because he knows he has no lexical support for these kinds of comments! John uses a very strong word here to indicate the prophecy most assuredly will be fulfilled “shortly” when he says it “must” (Greek dei) shortly take place. This word means, “necessity established by the counsel and decree of God, especially by that purpose of his which relates to the salvation of men by the intervention of Christ and which is disclosed in the Old Testament prophecies.” There is no “maybe” or He “might” come “shortly” to the message of Revelation!
Others have sought to interpret the time texts as meaning, “When Jesus decides to come then He will come quickly.” This is like me calling the police or fire department in an emergency and they tell me, “Don’t worry, we will be there “shortly” “quickly” and are already very “near;” and when they pull up a week later after my house has burnt down I say, “I thought you were coming “quickly” and they reply, “Well, what we meant was when we decided to come, our mode of transportation would begin to come quickly at that point.” This is how Dispensationalist Thomas Ice has sought to interpret the tachos word family. None of the translations I have consulted give this meaning let alone comparing the other Greek words used throughout Revelation and the rest of the New Testament to communicate imminence. The Book of Revelation is filled with a contemporary first century group of Christians experiencing persecution and martyrdom in which Jesus comforts them by explaining He will return “soon” and in a “little while” to vindicate them from their first century persecutors and give them “relief” at His appearing from these Jewish persecutors – their “countrymen” the Pharisees, or the “synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 6:10-11; Mt. 23:30-36, Mt. 24; 1Thess. 2:14-16/2Thess. 1:6-7). Jesus was either faithful to return and gave them relief from these first century persecutors or He didn’t. It’s really that simple.
3) “Jesus was just saying His coming was a certain event to occur” – view.
Another cleverly imposed meaning of the imminent time texts claims Jesus was only communicating that He would “certainly” come someday without having any temporal time frame in mind. This is a spin off of the “eschatological time” kind of thinking Kistemaker is following.
If this is what Jesus was trying to communicate, there were Greek words He could have used instead of the taxos, engus, and mello word groups! Not only this, but it makes Jesus’ words nonsensical and redundant, “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly” (Rev. 22:20) to allegedly mean, Jesus was trying to communicate, something like, “Surely I am coming surely (in ‘symbolic’ or ‘eschatological time’).” If this is what Jesus was trying to communicate all He would have had to say is, “Surely I am coming someday.” But no, He assures His first century persecuted audience that “Surely” He was coming “quickly” to vindicate, give relief, and reward them with the new creation. We have already addressed the surety of Christ coming “shortly” in discussing the Greek word for “must.” This effective refutes Reformed writer Richard Pratt’s theory as well, which postulates that the Second Coming was genuinely near in the first century but God decided to postpone it.
4) “Revelation is teaching that the beginning of fulfillment was near not the consummation of fulfillment” – view
Perhaps the latest trend and inventive “scholarly” approach from some futurists to avoid the obvious, is to claim the “inauguration” of fulfilled prophecy was geneuinely “at hand” but not the consumation of the prophecy. G.K. Beale states,
“The focus of “quickness” and “nearness” in vv 1-3 is primarily on inauguration of prophetic fulfillment and its ongoing aspect, not on nearness of consummated fulfillment…” “…Indeed, what follows shows that the beginning of fulfillment and not final fulfillment is the focus.”
This is so blantanly wrong, its disturbing that a publisher even paid for these kind of comments to go into print for the Christian public to read! Practically everyone agrees that Jesus’ Second Coming is described as being “at hand” and will “shortly” come to pass from the beginning of Revelation to the end and no one should doubt that His return is the “consummated fulfillment” of prophecy not the “inauguration” of prophecy (Rev. 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20)!
5) “Our generation will be the generation that sees the Lord’s return” – view.
Hal Lindsey popularized the idea that Christ had promised to return in our generation in His book The Late Great Planet Earth,
“The most important sign in Matthew has to be the restoration of the Jews to the land in the rebirth of Israel. Even the figure of speech ‘fig tree’ has been a historic symbol of national Israel. When the Jewish people, after nearly 2,000 years of exile, under relentless persecution, became a nation again on 14 May 1948 the ‘fig tree’ put forth its first leaves. Jesus said that this would indicate that He was ‘at the door,’ ready to return. Then He said, ‘Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place’ (Matthew 24:34, NASB). What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs—chief among them the rebirth of Israel. A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. Many scholars who have studied Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so.”
One of my former Pastors as a new believer (Chuck Smith of the Calvary Chapel movement), followed Lindsey’s sensationalistic prophetic calculations and thus gained a large following for himself preaching and writing,
“If I understand Scripture correctly, Jesus taught us that the generation which sees the ‘budding of the fig tree,’ the birth of the nation of Israel, will be the generation that sees the Lord’s return. I believe that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981. (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981).”
Smith has joined Hal Lindsey in making a career and gaining a large following from this kind of sensationalistic manipulation. Gary DeMar would agree with me in addressing Smith’s fundamental flaw,
“In Chuck Smith’s Revelation commentary Dateline Earth he informed his readers in 1989 that “the rapture is at hand.” Earlier he wrote, “Very soon there are going to be some strange and terrible things happening on this planet of ours.” These “very soon” happenings are based on his reading of Revelation. He reinforces this claim when he argues emphatically, “Jesus is coming back, and He’s coming back soon.” In his book The Final Curtain, he writes, “It is later than you think. It is time to wake up from your lethargy and realize that the coming of the Lord is at hand!” Notice the use of “soon” and “at hand,” a phrase that is most often translated as “near” (Matt. 24:32–33; 26:18; James 5:8; 1 Pet. 4:7; Rev. 1:3; 22:10)
As a reader, what do you think Smith wants to convey when he uses “soon” and “at hand”? He sees them as time indicators. By his use of them, Smith is conveying his belief that the prophetic events he has been describing in all his prophecy books since 1976 is that the “rapture” is on the horizon not thousands of years in the future. So why is it when the Bible uses “at hand” (lit., “near”) that it does not mean soon to take place? Skirting the implications of the time references in the Bible is a major problem with dispensationalism.”
For “prophecy experts” or “teachers” like Chuck Smith and Hal Lindsey, the rapture or Second Coming is only really imminent for our generation whom allegedly witnessed the “super sign” of the Jews returning to their land in 1948 as allegedly being the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. When Smith says Jesus is coming “soon” he means it literally, but somehow when the New Testament authors claim this, we apparently shouldn’t interpret their inspired comments so literally! In 1997, Lindsey wanted to keep a good thing going for his book sales so once again he started claiming that through his prayers, the Holy Spirit was giving him special insights into the Book of Revelation in order “to crack the Apocalypse Code.” Apparently, these were insights only recently given to the Church through him of course. Lindsey claims God had not given previous generations the insights he had been given that related to the issue of imminence because the time of fulfillment was only now drawing near for us.
Jon Courson is another very influential Pastor within the Calvary Chapel movement who instead of exposing Lindsey’s and Smith’s false predictions, decided he wanted to get into the prophetic game too and see if he could salvage the system. He admits,
“1981 came. So did 1982, ’83, ’84, ’85, and ’86. And then something began to happen. A whole bunch of radical Christians began to cool off, saying, “Maybe we’re here for a while after all. Maybe we shouldn’t be so committed to this kingdom thing.” Oh, they didn’t say it in those exact words, but that’s what they were thinking. And a dulling of expectancy swept over our generation.”
Courson decided Jesus’ “this generation” prediction was actually a period of 51 years and not 40, so 1999 became the new target date, “…Thus, scripturally, there is validity for a Biblical generation to be 51.4 years.”
6) “God’s week of human history is rapidly coming to completion” – view.
Grant Jeffrey, another self acclaimed “prophecy expert” writes,
“We could look for the beginning of the seventh day (the Millennium—a thousand years of peace, Revelation 20:2-6) to commence in the fall of the year 2000 on the fifteenth of Tishri, the first day of the Geast of Tabernacles—exactly two thousand years from Christ’s birth.”
Chuck Smith jumped on this prophetic band wagon as well in the pulpit and indirectly in his commentary on Revelation where he completely avoids the time texts in the beginning of Revelation and finally at Revelation 22:6-7, gives a one sentence comment,
“…the Bible says, “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). So, it’s been a couple of days—almost!”
This view teaches that a day is equal to a literal 1,000 years and thus the following prophetic equation emerges: 4,000 years (the earths alleged age) + 2,000 years (since the time of Christ) = the earths age nearing 6,000. Therefore, many prophecy pundints speculated and continue to speculate that sometime around A.D. 2000 Christ would or still will return and propel the earth into a literal sabbath rest. This rest is allegedly accomplished with Christ’s return and He establishes his reign in literal Jerusalem for another literal 1,000 years (Rev. 20). One would think Chuck had learned his lesson, but he even went on to write a forward to Jon Courson’s Application Commentary where Courson continues the tradition of Lindsey and Smith and not only predicts the year 1999 as Christ’s return, but also adds the day=1,000 years calculation as well. Here are some selective quotes,
“When is the seven thousandth year? When will Christ return? Thus, the calculation is complete:
Adam is created
The coming of Jesus Christ
Israel goes through hard times
Israel revived during millennium
I am not alone in this interpretation.” “God’s week of human history is rapidly coming to completion. The return of Christ is nigh. I believe you who are in your teens and early twenties are very possibly the last generation. Set your heart on things above. Live for heaven. Seek first the kingdom, and you will be happy presently, rewarded eternally, and grateful constantly. You who are older, continue setting an example for us who are younger. Continue to make the Lord top priority in your life. We’re looking to you in a very real sense. Please keep the fire hot. Fellow baby boomers, we need to realize that Jesus Christ is coming soon. We don’t have time to play around. We don’t have time to chase worldly pursuits any longer. We need to return to ministry and service, worship and prayer, Bible study and street witnessing. Whatever it was you used to do when you were fired up about Jesus in the ’70s, do it again. Maranatha!”
In Smith’s foreward to Courson’s work, he likens these kind of statements to being “Holy Spirit led” teachings. He actually parallels Jon Courson’s teaching methods with the sound teaching methods of Nehemiah who’s instruction,
“brought great conviction upon the people and a genuine turning to God. The ultimate result was that the people went their way rejoicing because they understood the words that were declared unto them.” “…I am convinced that you also will go your way rejoicing after reading the insights that the Holy Spirit has given to Jon on the scriptures.”
But Christians don’t go away “rejoicing” after listening to these false and proven to be failed “Holy Spirit led” prophets, but rather go away in total disillusionment and their faith “dulled” and on ice—as admitted by Courson himself! Instead of repenting, these “prophecy experts” just reformulate their prophetic calculations and continue to stretch out the meaning of “this generation” just like the last days cults of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is the main “distinctive” of the “growth” and “success” of these cults, and is the same and main “distinctive” to the “growth” of the Calvary Chapel movement – selah.
7) “We are living in the last days of the age of church history – view.
Hal Lindsey and Chuck Smith continue their quest of trying to predict that Christ is coming sometime “soon” in our lifetime and generation by speculating on the seven churches in Revelation,
“The “seven churches” symbolically speak of completeness. I believe that in these messages we have a picture of the complete church history.”
It is interesting that Smith insists on a “literal” dispensational hermeneutic and normally rejects a “spiritual interpretation,” stating,
“When you spiritualize the scriptures you remove any authority or teaching from them, because every man is free to interpret the spiritual allegory as he desires.”
I guess its okay to spiritualize these seven literal first century churches to mean they represent church history – when you want to continue selling the “scheme” (Smith’s term) that we are living in the final generation and thus living in the final age of church history. Let’s briefly examine Smith’s “scheme” which is Hal Lindsey’s as well. What follows is a combination of Smith and Lindsey’s position taken from Smith’s commentary on Revelation and Lindsey’s book There’s a New World Coming: An In-Depth Analysis of the Book of Revelation, p. 38:
1) Ephesus – Is “symbolic” of “…the early church, the apostolic church that existed up until the time of the death of John (c.99 A.D.).” (ibid., p.32, emphasis added). Lindsey sees this as the apostolic church.
2) Smyrna – Is “symbolic” of the church in the “second to fourth centuries” and allegedly follows the church of Ephesus historically (ibid., p.32). Lindsey sees this as the church persecuted by the Roman emperors.
3) Pergamos – Is “symbolic” of the church “the development of the church-state system under Constantine in 316 A.D. It was the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church.” (ibid., p.38). Lindsey sees this as the church during 312-590 A.D.
4) Thyatira – Is “symbolic” apparently of “part of the church” that “will be going through the Great Tribulation.” (ibid., p.39). Lindsey sees this the church during 590-1517 A.D.
5) Sardis – Is “symbolic” of the Protestant church which didn’t reform enough (ibid. p. 41). Lindsey sees this as the church during 1517-1750 A.D.
6) Philadelphia– Is “symbolic” of “…God’s faithful church in the last days. God help us that we would be the church of Philadelphia.” (ibid., p.42). Apparently this church escapes the coming tribulation. Lindsey sees this as the church during 1750-1925 A.D. .
7) Laodicia – Is “symbolic” of “…the apostate church of the last days.” (ibid., p.44). Lindsey sees this as the church of 1900 A.D. until the tribulation.
Pastor Chuck Smith is convinced that his futuristic interpretation of the Book of Revelation is superior to others because,
“You don’t have to start twisting things to make them fit here and there, and changing them to fit some scheme.”
Sounds to us that Smith’s interpretation of Revelation isn’t so “literal” and in fact he has no problem spiritualizing texts when it fits his “twisted scheme” to convince our generation that it will see the rapture of the church. Of course, the adherents of this view do not always agree. Since time and history moves on, it becomes necessary for the proponents of this view to make up new divisions of the seven ages, thus the disagreements will continue. Isn’t it amazing how these people are all too often unable to think of themselves as living at any other time than during the climax of history?
It’s not Smith noticing that there were other churches to whom John could have written to or that 7 represents the number for completion that I object to. Indeed others such as Ammillennialists and Postmillennialists have claimed these seven churches spiritually represent the entire church age, or even the Old Testament history of Israel leading up to A.D. 70. It’s Smith’s and Lindsey’s charismatic and dispensational arrogance which postulates their Spirit filled ability to interpret the Book of Revelation literally and applying its time of fulfillment has come upon our generation which is exegetically troubling. For example Lindsey writes,
“The Spirit of God gave me a special insight, not only into how John described what he actually experienced, but also into how this whole phenomenon encoded the prophecies so that they could be fully understood only when their fulfillment drew near.”
However, the icing on the cake is when their predictions don’t come true and there is no genuine humility and repentance but simply a heading back to the drawing board in hopes of generating another prophetic scenario that applies to Christ’s imminent coming in our generation. And when one seeks to confront Smith and others within Calvary Chapel in love on the doctrines of grace or eschatology, they cannot be challenged because their movement is “spirit led” while other churches emphasize “dry doctrine” and “theology” and thus allegedly “quench the Holy Spirit.” Yet we need to persist in holding these men accountable for their “Spirit filled” Bible teachings. The “Spirits movement” and sensationalistic and prophetic speculations of fulfillment for our contemporary generation are again, key elements of the growth of the Last Days cults! Having grown up in this church for years and studied to be a Pastor within this system, I can honestly say this is the main distinctive of the growth of Calvary Chapel’s across the United States. This is not to say there aren’t some good elements of the movement, but they are few and far in-between.
We have looked at how futurists twist 1 Peter 3:8 to allegedly teaching a prophetic scenario in which, “God’s week of human history is rapidly coming to completion. The return of Christ is nigh.” But now we will take a look at how some twist this text to the opposite extreme–“Christ could delay His return another 2,000 years.” We go from this text teaching imminence in our generation, to it allegedly teaching the imminent time texts in the New Testament simply mean nothing at all.
8) “One day with the Lord is as a thousand years…” “Jesus could delay His return another 2,000 years” – view
Peter begins 2 Peter 3 by stating that what follows is a “reminder” to what he had written in 1 Peter! Therefore, the Second Coming, reception and inheritance of the kingdom and glory, the judgment of the living and the dead, and the “end of all things” being “at hand” (1 Peter 1:4-12, 4:5, 7, 17) are now subjects Peter is going to continue to discuss in this chapter in the form of inheriting the new creation at His return.
It is alleged that this is the only text in the New Testament that turns the plethora of clear time texts to total and compete irrelevance,
“There is no doubt that in the New Testament the nearness of the end is limited to one generation. But this error of perspective (“Perspektivenirrtum”), which is corrected in only one place of the New Testament (2Pet. 3:8)…”
Any student of hermeneutics knows one is never to build a doctrine off of one verse of the Bible especially when it contradicts an overwhelming amount of very clear passages! And if Peter is here trying to change the meaning of “at hand” (1Peter 4:7) to possibly mean thousands of years, then why don’t we find Paul or any of the other New Testament writers under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit giving such contradictory qualifiers as Ridderbos falsely accused Peter of doing? Since Richard Pratt wants to do some parallels with 2Pet.3:8-9 to that of some Old Testament texts (WSTTB, 151-154) I welcome the challenge.
In the Old Testament, God was very angry when mockers would come denying and twisting His imminent time texts and change “near” predictions to become “far off” ones! Any good cross reference or commentary will reference Ezekiel 7:5-10; 12:22-28 to ironically interpret 2 Peter 3:8. I say “ironically,” because this Old Testament passage ends up refuting and condemning their futuristic interpretation of the 2 Peter 3:8 text! Even futurist commentaries acknowledge that one of the sins of the false prophets and apostates of Eziekel’s day was not that they denied a coming judgment, but that they sought to change the meaning of “at hand” to “far off.”
“…here formalists do not go so far as to deny that a day of evil is coming, but assert it is still far off (Am 6:3).”
The application of God’s Word here is firm and clear to the futurist who seeks to twist His imminent time texts into fitting their futurist interpretations and agendas. Even Reformed futurist Gary DeMar comments on the parallels of Ezekiel’s prophecy with that of Jesus,’
“Ezekiel’s description of the imminent destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem parallels what happened to Israel after the ascension and enthronement of Jesus. A warning of impending doom had been given to the nation. Many ignored the warning and died in the conflagration that came upon the city in A.D.70, on generation after Jesus pronounced His judgment (Matthew 24:14, 34; 1 Peter 4:7; Revelation 1:1, 3).” And , “Based on the way “quickly,” “near,” and “shortly” are used in Genesis through Revelation, any student of the Bible who does not interpret these time texts to mean anything other than close at hand is in jeopardy of denying the integrity of the Bible.”
Isaiah prophesied that Babylon’s judgment was “at hand” and would not be delayed (Isa.13:6, 9, 22). Indeed God’s judgment of Babylon occurred through the means of the Medes and Persians and was not “prolonged” let alone delayed thousands of years because God is said to be “out side of time” and man is bound by time. The de-creation language of verses 9-10 refer to the civil and religious powers of Babylon falling in this in time historical judgment. However one wants to understand the army of the locusts in Joel’s prophecy, it was described as the “Day of the Lord” and was “at hand,” and therefore the people were facing an imminent judgment in which they needed to repent (Joel 1:2-3, 11, 13, 15, 2:15). Zephaniah prophesied that the “Day of the Lord” was “at hand” against Judah by means of the Babylonian armies and it also was not delayed thousands of years. Nor was “at hand,” here understood to mean thousands of years because God was “out side of time.”
Men such as Richard Pratt and John MacArthur have attempted to refute us by arguing from verse 9 that God has postponed or delayed His Second Coming because of His attribute of being “longsuffering” towards sinners. It is also argued by these men that the Great Commission hasn’t been fulfilled and is thus another reason God has “delayed” some 2,000+ years and counting. God indeed was longsuffering and merciful towards the last days “this generation” of (A.D. 30-70) and the commandment of the Great Commission had already been fulfilled before A.D.70:
|“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world (Greek oikumene) for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14)||“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:|
‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Greek oikumene)” (Romans 10:18)“And the gospel must first be published among all nations (Greek ethnos)” “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, (Greek ethnos)…” “…I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” (Mark 13:10; Mt.28:19-20)“…My gospel… has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations (Greek ethnos)…” (Romans 16:25-26)“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world(Greek kosmos) and preach the gospel to every creature” “…And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues (Greek glossa) (Mark 16:15, 17)
“…of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world(Greek kosmos), as is bringing forth fruit…,” (Colossians 1:5-6).And he said unto them ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Greek kitisis) “ (Mark 16:15)“…from the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature (Greek kitisis) under heaven, of which I, Paul became a minister” (Colossians 1:23)“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth/land (Greek ge)” (Acts 1:8).
Prophecy had begun to be fulfilled: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues (Greek glossa), as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation (Greek ethnos) under heaven. “But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: ‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth/land (Greek ge), and their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10:18)
Prophecy would be fulfilled “shortly” : “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth/land (Greek ge), and to every nation (Geek ethnos), and kindred (Greek phule) and tongue (Greek glossa), and people, (Greek laos)” (Rev.1:1; Rev.14:6). See also Revelation 10:6-7; 20:3; 22:10-11 in regards to the Great Commission success to the “nations” and imminent fulfillment of the Great Commission motif.
The concept of God’s “longsuffering” does not necessitate a 2,000+ year “delay” of Christ’s return! The text clearly says God would not be slow or delay as stated in Hebrews 10:37! Allowing Scripture to interpret itself, His “longsuffering” was directed towards sinners living in and coming to repentance within a very specific time frame—their–“this generation” and no other!
Our text is very clear that God was not willing (Greek Boulomai) that His elect “any and “all” of His “beloved” Jewish and Gentile sheep should perish. This is the strongest word in the Greek language to communicate the determinative will of God. Peter’s theology is consistent–God would not delay or be slow and His decretive will to save and judge sinners in an “at hand” “ready” “be saved from this crooked and perverse generation” time frame–occured as planned (1 Pet. 1:4-12; 4:5, 7, 17; Acts 2:40)! To argue any other way is to align oneself with the mockers of Peter’s day, deny inspiration, adopt a liberal view of interpreting Scripture, and deny ones own Calvinism—of which Pratt and MacArthur claim to teach–selah. Peter goes on to say that God’s longsuffering was “salvation.” None of God’s elect that He had sovereignly foreordained unto eternal life “perished” or were “appointed to wrath” in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 66-70.
Although one of our opponents Keith Mathison seeks to portray Daniel’s prophecy as shrouded in mystery and very difficult to understand, it is admitted by virtually everyone that Daniel 2, 7, 9, and 12 are chapters addressing Israel’s last days and refer to the reception of the Messianic Kingdom inseparably connected with the general resurrection and judgment at Christ’s Second Coming. Therefore, we need to ask the straightforward question of, “Why was Daniel given a literal time frame of fulfillment while it is alleged that John is given the same prophecy with a non-literal time frame”?
Did God change His method of telling time
Between Daniel & John concerning the same subject matter?
DANIEL WAS TOLD: 1· “Seal up the vision”
JOHN WAS TOLD: 1· “Don’t seal up…”
2· Why? “the appointed time was long…” and 3· “…the vision refers to many days yet to come.” (Dan. 10:1;14)
2· Why? “…for the time is at hand.” 3· “…for the time is near (Rev. 22:10 & 1:3)
4· Daniel was told that he would not live to see this prophecy fulfilled. (Dan. 12:13)
4· John was told that he could live to see the prophecy fulfilled. (Mat. 16:27-28, Mat. 10:22-23; Mat. 24:34; Jn. 21:18-22)
God who rules over time apparently had no problem communicating to Daniel who was bound by time that this prophecy wouldn’t be fulfilled until a “long time” either in referring to a typological fulfillment prior to A.D. 70, or referring to A.D. 70 specifically. Indeed the time of the fulfillment didn’t come until some hundreds of years from the time Daniel received the visions. God’s time phrase of a “long time” was related to Daniel in the terms of his physical life span. Since some 300+ years was well beyond his life span, it was a “long time” away.
In Revelation, John is told the opposite of Daniel, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Rev. 22:10). God’s time phrases of “near,” “shortly,” “quickly,” and “at hand,” to John and the seven churches which were in Asia were promises also related to their life spans. John and the other disciples were promised that some of them would live to see these things come to pass in their generation (Mt. 16:28; 24:34, Jn. 21:18-22). Both visions of Daniel and John (and the prophecies in Peter’s epistles) deal with the kingdom, the Second Coming of Christ in judgment, the tribulation, and the resurrection of the dead. According to the futurist, the time is still “near” for John’s vision to take place even though it has been some 2000+ years since John had his vision. Why would God now change His way of communicating the time of the fulfillment of Daniel’s and John’s visions concerning the same subject matter? The answer is that He didn’t. At the time when Daniel had his visions which included the Second Coming of Christ and His kingdom, the time of its designated fulfillment—A.D. 70, really referred to a “far off” and “many days yet to come” time frame. When John had His vision concerning the Second Coming of Christ and His kingdom, it was only seven or fewer years away. Therefore, “a long time” meant a long time and “near” really did mean NEAR! Although Reformed theologians such as John Lightfoot and Gary DeMar are very inconsistent in trying to harmonize their preterism, with their creedal confessions, I would agree with such statements as this,
“John Lightfoot, in a sermon on Revelation 20:1-2, concludes that ‘where Daniel ends John begins, and goes no farther back, and where John begins Daniel ends, and goes no farther forward. For Daniel sheweth the state and persecutors of the Church of the Jews, from the building of Jerusalem by Cyrus, to the destruction of it by Titus, and he goes no farther.’”
9) The imminent time texts in the New Testament “demand” a Preterist interpretation except when the general judgment and resurrection are the topics – view.
In Kenneth Gentry’s debate with other futurists on the Book of Revelation he accurately states that
“Revelation promises there will no longer be “delay” (10:6). The ad hoc nature of the book demands a preterist approach.” And “Similar notes of the temporal proximity of divinely governed cries abound in the New Testament (see Matt. 26:64; Acts 2:16-20; Rom. 13:11-12; 16:20; 1Cor.7:26, 29-31; Col. 3:6; 1Thess.2:16; Heb. 10:25, 37; James 5:8-9; 1Pet.4:5, 7; 1John 2:17-18). How else could the New Testament express nearness more clearly?
And another Reformed Mathison also concedes to our position on the imminence within the Book of Revelation pointing to an A.D. 70 fulfillment,
“John writes a number times in Revelation that his prophecy will be fulfilled very soon: see 1:1, 3, 19; 2:16; 3:10-11; 22:6-7, 10, 12, 20. Nothing in these verse indicates that the coming of Christ referred to in 1:7 is to occur thousands of years later. Everything in them points to an impending “coming.” There was only one event that occurred within a generation of the ascension of Christ that carried so much redemptive and covenantal significance that it could be called a “coming of Christ,” and that was the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70 by the armies of Rome.”
Please note the surety in this work cited above in defending Postmillennialism against other futurist views, but there is an overwhelming “constant state of flux” and un-certainty when it comes to developing the imminent time texts in Revelation and the rest of the New Testament when Mathison debates us in his book WSTTB!
The problem for Sproul, Gentry and Mathison in conceding the time texts in Revelation points to an A.D. 70 fulfillment, has been pointed out by Vern Poythress who although not a preterist, correctly understands the struggle that all (not some) of Revelation is to be fulfilled imminently,
“But 1:3 and 22:10 are like bookends enclosing the whole prophecy of Revelation. The fulfillment of everything, not just a part, is near.”
Apparently Gentry’s co-authors in When Shall These Things Be do not know how to answer his question here and all of them together can’t answer it when the resurrection and judgment of “the dead” is said to be something that is “at hand” or “about to” take place in the New Testament. Hank Hanegraaff has the same problem and yet claims that we need to interpret the Bible using “synergy” or simply put “let the Bible interpret itself” through using the analogy of Scripture. He writes,
“Scriptural synergy demands that individual Bible passages may never be interpreted in such a way as to conflict with the whole of Scripture. Nor may we assign arbitrary meanings to words or phrases that have their referent in bible history.”
It almost sounds as if Hanegraaff wants to follow the rules of hermeneutics and the analogy of Scripture principal of interpretation, but when the imminent time texts are connected to resurrection texts or they are inseparably connected thematically with resurrection texts using “synergy,” these men do not “demand” a preterist interpretation, they demand a creedal interpretation and become exegetical cowards seeking to hang on to their financial contributors and career positions within their ministries!
In Romans 8:18 Paul says, “For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory about to be revealed in us” (Rms.8:18YLT; cf. NSRV, AV, & WEY: “soon to be manifested”). The Greek word corresponding to “about to be” in Rom.8:18 is mello. Reformed partial preterists such as R.C. Sproul and Kenneth Gentry understand the word mello in the book of Revelation to refer to Christ’s return in A.D.70. Sproul also says that it is not unreasonable to apply the imminence indicators in Roms.13:11-12 (“…for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness…”) to earlier chapters in Romans that do not explicitly have time texts. (Sproul, Last Days, pp. 99, 138-140). If mello is a time-indicator that needs to be honored, and we can apply the time texts in Rom. 13:11-12 to earlier chapters, then why ignore this approach in Romans eight? The claim that the teaching of “the” judgment and resurrection of the living and the dead was not given with imminence indicators directly tied to them is simply not true: “Having hope toward God, which they themselves also wait for, that there is about to be a rising again of the dead, both of righteous and unrighteous” and “But when he dealt with the subjects of justice, self-control, and the judgment which was soon to come, Felix became alarmed…” (Acts 24:15, YLT/WEY; 24:25, WEY/YLT, cf. Acts 17:31, YLT/WEY; WUESTNT).
Gary DeMar correctly points out that anyone denying the time texts is in jeopardy of denying the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture itself,
“…any student of the Bible who does not interpret these time texts to mean anything other than close at hand is in jeopardy of denying the integrity of the Bible.”
And as R. C. Sproul has suggested, any eschatology that denies the New Testament time texts has adopted a liberal or neo-orthodox view of God and time,
“When F.F. Bruce speaks of faith making the time be ‘at hand,’ this sounds all too much like Rudolf Bultmann’s famous theology of timelessness, which removes the object of faith from the realm of real history and consigns it to a supertemporal realm of the always present hic et nunc.”
The first verse of Revelation does not say that some or most of the “things” of the prophecy will be fulfilled “shortly” it is just referring to the “things” contained in the prophecy itself of which John is about to unfold. There has been a valiant attempt to honor the time texts of Revelation from the Reformed and Evangelical partial preterist community, but this system as well does not honor the fact that all of the “things” in the prophecy would “shortly” be fulfilled from beginning to end.
We believe that any eschatological system that denies the imminent time texts of the Book of Revelation and the rest of the New Testament concerning the Second Coming, the judgment, and the resurrection of the dead, have adopted a liberal view of God and time which does in fact end up denying (out of ignorance or not) the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures. These views portray Christ not as the “Faithful and True Witness,” but as one who failed to keep His promise. I pray for my former Pastor’s Chuck Smith and John MacArthur that they will abandon their prophetic “schemes” and bow before the teaching of Scripture. The Reformed community also needs to stop talking about the abuses from these dispensationalists and admit they have invented “scholarly” “schemes” that have been weighed in the balances of Scripture and have been found to be wanting. The futurist approach to the imminent time texts of the New Testament is a “House Divided” which cannot, nor will continue to stand against our view in public debate.
This study was imperitive in order to establish a genuine grammatical and historical hermeneutic as we venture to interpret the Book of Revelation. Having established the literal time frame of fulfillment, we can now take a look at some of the more spiritual interpretations of the prophecy concerning the kingdom of God of which Jesus taught was not of this world and would not be seen with the literal eyes when it came because it would be realized “within” the person (Luke 17:20-21-37). We are now prepared to examine the spiritual nature of fulfillment.
“He sent and signified it…” – Spiritual and Figurative fulfillment
Kistemaker in his commentary admits Revelation should be viewed through a symbolic and figurative lens,
“The conclusion we must draw is that the numbers, images, and expressions of greatness must be interpreted as symbols that present the idea of totality, fullness, and perfection. Much of John’s symbolism derives from the Old Testament Scriptures and from the ecclesiastical context in which he spent his time. Let us note that the Jewish mind of the first century received and presented information by means of pictures, illustrations, and symbols.”
After quoting Herman Bavinck, David Chilton in his section on The Primacy of Symbolism in his commentary on Revelation correctly concludes,
“all creation is primarily symbolic” and “All creatures reflect the glory of God, and are images of some aspect or other of His nature. God’s personality is imprinted on everything He has made. The central value of anything is that it is a symbol of God. All other values and relationships are secondary.”
“Now St. John says that these things regarding the future were signified, or “sign-ified,” to him by the angel. The use of this word tells us that the prophecy is not simply to be taken as “history written in advance.” It is a book of signs, symbolic representations of the approaching events. The symbols are not to be understood in a literal manner. We can see this by St. John’s use of the same term in his Gospel (12:33; 18:32; 21:19). In each case, it is used of Christ “signifying” a future event by a more or less symbolic indication, rather than by a prosaic, literal description. And this is generally the form of the prophecies in the Revelation. It is a book of symbols from beginning to end.”
“Behold, he comes with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they which have pierced him, and all the tribes of the land shall wail because of him. Yea. Amen.” (Rev. 1:7 DARBY, cf. YLT)
This contemporary audience who would “see” and “mourn” at Christ’s imminent return is even further identified in verse 7 as “those who pierced him.” Reformed futurists such as Marcellous Kik, Jay Adams, Greg Bahnsen, David Chilton, Kenneth Gentry, Keith Mathison, and Gary DeMar, all interpret verse 7 as Christ coming in judgment within the contemporary generation of “the tribes of the land” of Israel whom crucified Christ, and not the whole planet “earth.” “Every eye” is qualified by those who pierced Christ and were therefore the “tribes of the land” of Israel.
The Greek word in our text for “see” is horao and has the meaning, “of mental and spiritual perception perceive, take note, recognize, find out (AC 8.23); to see with the mind, to perceive, know. 3 to see, i.e. become acquainted with by experience, to experience.  Chilton correctly saw this passage accurately when he wrote,
“The crucifiers would see Him coming in judgment—that is, they would experience and understand that His Coming would mean wrath on the Land (cf. the use of the world see in Mark 1:44; Luke 17:22; John 3:36; Rom. 15:21).”
“In various places in Revelation “seeing” does not demand a physical beholding, but sensing or realizing, just as we say, “I see,” when a teacher shows us a math solution.” “…Yet this is a type of “seeing.”
We agree with the majority of commentators and cross reference systems which parallel this passage with Jesus being seen coming on or in the clouds at His return in (Mt.16:27-28, 24:30-31, 26:64-68; & Acts 1:11). Milton Terry actually sought to be more consistent than most partial preterists and applied Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:7; and Mt. 24:30-31, 34 together being fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem,
“To press the literal import of the words “every eye shall see him,” and insist that at the parousia Christ must literally appear on a cloud, and be visible to every person on the habitable globe, involves manifest absurdities. The statement of the angels in Acts 1:11, is that the Lord would come again in like manner as the disciples beheld him going into heaven; but that ascension, like the appearance of the angels, was visible to only a chosen few. That he personally came again in that generation, and was seen by multitudes, and by those who were guilty of his blood, we accept upon the testimony of the Scriptures. But no person or phenomenon in the clouds of heaven could be visible, at one and the same time, to all the inhabitants of the earth; and no one pretends that the Son of man is to pass through the clouds and make the circuit of the globe so as to appear literally to every eye. The words of Rev. 1:7, are, therefore, to be understood in general harmony with both the temporal and geographical limitations of the prophecy.”
Since most Evangelicals and Reformed theologians correctly parallel Revelation 1:7 with Acts 1:11, I will briefly turn my attention to this passage. After the command to take possession of the kingdom through the Great Commission (Acts 1:8/Cols. 1:5-6, 23; Rom. 10:18), Jesus in verse 9 ascends in a cloud out of the disciple’s sight. Mathison concedes, “According to BDAG lexicon, the verb is used in Acts 1:9 in the sense of “to cause to ascend, take up.” The passage could very easily be translated, “And saying these things, as they looked, He was taken up; (even-indeed-namely), a cloud took Him up from their eyes.” In other words the second half of the verse is describing how Jesus was taken up and that it was the cloud itself which was the vehicle that caused Jesus to ascend. Futurists note that from the Greek text itself it is a valid interpretation that Jesus’ literal body was not seen once the cloud came and hid Him,
“…one may prefer to employ “he was hidden by a cloud” or “he was no longer visible because of a cloud.” If the verb hid suggests some intentionality on the part of the cloud, one may employ “because of the cloud he could not be seen” or “…they could not see him.”
Jason Brandfield gives a helpful illustration at this point,
“I remember one time at the airport a little girl with her dad was looking out the window, watching her mom board the plane, and then as it took off, she pointed at it and said, “Look, there goes the airplane that contains the body of my mom!” – is that what she said? No! Pointing to the plane, she said, “Look, there goes mom!””
It is exegetically sound to understand from this text that Christ came into the glory cloud or began receiving or received the glory He had with His Father before the incarnation (cf. John 17:5) at this point as the glory cloud engulfed Him before the disciples and hid Him from their sight. Upon this happening, His physical body was not seen as the cloud caused Him to ascend up and out of their sight. What was physically seen that ascended was the glory cloud as it was visible on certain occasions in the Old Testament and not Jesus’ physical body.
In verse 11, the disciples are told Jesus will come “in like manner.” The continuity of Him coming back as He had gone, is that He would appear in the glory of His Father (Mt.16:27) on the clouds of heaven to judge as the Father had in the Old Testament. He was not physically seen after going into the glory cloud and He would not be seen coming into or “dwelling” “within” the Church at His revealing (Lk.17:20-37; Jn.14:2-3, 23). God in the Old Testament was never bodily or literally seen coming in or on the clouds when He judged Israel and the nations and that is why Jesus is “hid” and not seen once He enters the glory cloud. They saw with their literal eyes and understood in their minds that Christ was God and the angels declared to them that He will come back in a similar way – that is, He will come back in glory as God.
Through the incarnation, God became “flesh.” Therefore, John bore testimony that looking and touching Jesus was to look and touch God Himself (Jn.1:14; 1Jn.1:1). God was now physically seen in the “flesh” but this was only a transitionary period for the second person of the Godhead. Christ was also born into and under the old-covenant “fleshly” system with its physical transitionary types and shadows (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 5-8; 2Cor.3; Heb.8:13). This fleshly system would give way to the spiritual and eternal new-covenant creation by A.D.70. Therefore, after Jesus’ ascension we are told, “…though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2Cor.5:16). This was the point of the angel’s question, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” Because Jesus was no longer in His physical fleshly body but had returned to His glory, the disciples should not be expecting Him to return to them in this form.
The immediate context linking this return to: 1) the teachings of John the Baptist (verse 5/Mt.3:2-12), 2) the kingdom’s arrival in their generation with no one knowing the exact time (verse 7/Mt. 24:30-36; Lk. 21:27, 31-32), along with 3) the necessity of the Great Commission being fulfilled first (verse 8/Mt.24:14, 27, 30/Rms.10:18), all point to Christ’s return in A.D.70. The analogy of Scripture confirms our interpretation and not the futurist view which rips the passage from its immediate context and the broader New Testament context.
Another passage futurists accurately parallel Revelation 1:7 with is Matthew 24:30 where Christ is said to be seen coming on the clouds within the contemporary generation that would see Christ come and destroy the temple and judge apostate Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Futurist concede that this is not a physical seeing of Jesus in this passage,
“…the Bible, especially the Old Testament, will be our guide. What is the association of clouds and God? First, God showed Himself by the physical presence of clouds although no one ever saw Him (eg., Exodus 13:21; 14:24; 19:9; 20:21; 24:15; 33:9; 34:5; 1 Kings 8:12). Second, God’s abode is described as a canopy of clouds (Psalm 97:2). Third, God’s mode of transportation is figuratively described as a cloud chariot (Psalm 104:3). Fourth, when God speaks “He causes the clouds to ascend from the ead of the earth” (Jeremiah 10:13; 51:16). Fifth, the “day of the LORD… will be a day of clouds” (Ezekiel 30:3; Joel 2:2). Sixth, God’s judgment of the wicked is described as the upheaval of the created order: “In whirlwind and storm is His way, and clouds are the dust beneath His feet” (Nahum 1:3). In each of the above examples, clouds are symbols of God’s presence, judgment, and salvation. In not one instance is God ever seen. Only the effects of His works are seen.
In addition, there are verses which describe God “coming on the clouds”: “Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud, and is about to come to Egypt” (Isaiah 19:1; cf. Psalm 104:3). This is no more “literal” than God riding a cloud chariot, abiding in a cloud canopy, or clouds moving when God speaks. The image of God riding on a swift cloud depicts His sovereignty over the nations as their judge.”
“…God does not physically appear on clouds, using them as “chariots.” Neither does He literally walk upon “wings of the wind” or make “the winds His messengers.” The language describes judgment and retribution. Why should anyone think it unusual to find similar language in the New Testament being interpreted in the same way?”
The other connection that is made between Revelation 1:7 with that of Matthew 24:30 is the phrase “…all the tribes of the land will mourn.” Again futurists concede that this is not a global event but a local one affecting the local land of Israel,
“The “tribes of the earth” who mourn are either the Jewish tribes in the “land” (ge in Greek) or the Jewish tribes scattered throughout the Empire. The “coming of the Son of Man is His coming in judgment upon Jerusalem (see vv. 23-28)…”
“…most translations do not capture the true meaning of the Greek. A better translation is “tribes of the land,” indicating that the event is restricted to Israel since Israel is the topic of discussion.” “Since “tribes” is used in conjunction with land in Matthew 24:30, “land [of Judea]” is the best translation.”
“The warning to all the tribes of the land that their city and sanctuary were about to be reduced to rubble caused great mourning because they understood that judgment was near. They must either repent and embrace the Messiah or perish in the conflagration. The Jewish Christians left when they saw “Jerusalem surrounded by armies.”
Again, coming back to Milton Terry’s comments of the three passages taken together (Rev.1:7; Acts 1:11; Mt. 24:30-31, 34), “we accept upon the testimony of the Scriptures” that Christ returned on/in the clouds in that generation. Our futurist opponents have admitted that the “seeing” of Revelation 1:7 is not a physical seeing of Jesus, but a spiritual sight of “understanding” and “perceiving” that Christ had come through the Roman armies in judgment upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70. They have admitted that seeing Him come on the clouds is apocalyptic language and that He was not literally seen coming on literal clouds in A.D. 70. We concur with the observations of futurists that Revelation involves a local judgment upon the local land of Palestine (the tribes of the land) and the Coming of Jesus in Revelation was not a literal coming on literal clouds. It is very true that the judgment and great tribulation associated with the Greek word ge “earth” or “land” throughout the Olivet discourse and the Book of Revelation is involving the local “land” of Palestine and is not describing a literal global catastrophe!
As I quoted Poythress previously noting that the time texts form two book ends encapsulating the fulfillment of the entire prophecy as something to take place imminently, the same “book ends” concept is communicated in the receiving of the rewards at this near coming of Christ at the beginning and end (Rev. 1-3—Rev. 22:6-7, 10-12, 20). Because futurist eschatological systems understand the inheriting of these rewards are to take place at the end of time, they understand the nature of these realities to be literal and not spiritual or symbolic of the churches union with Christ at His return. So they end up spiritualize the literal time texts away instead of analyzing how these rewards are spiritually fulfilled and applied in the New Testament. Here is a list of the rewards promised to be received in an “at hand” time frame at the beginning of Revelation and then at the end – again inseparably tied to the imminent return of Christ forming the two book ends:
b). Will not be hurt by the Second Death 2:11.
c). Receive a New Name 2:17.
b). Not be Blotted Out of the Book of Life 3:5.
b). Receive a Crown 3:11,
c). Christ would Make them a Pillar In His Temple 3:12,
d). Christ would cause them To Never Leave 3:12
b). Not be ashamed and unclothed but Clothed in White 3:18),
d). Receive the Right to Sit on His Throne 3:18,
e). Receive the Right to Eat With Christ 3:20
f). Receive the Right to Sit Down on Christ’s Throne 3:21.
All of these “rewards” speak of Christ “in” and working “through” His Church (2 Cor.1:20) restoring God’s fellowship and presence to His people when He would come “in a very little while” and a “second time” to take away their sin and the curse of spiritual death identified in Adam (cf. Heb. 9:26-28; Rom. 8:18YLT; 11:26-27; 13:11-12; 1 Cor. 15:22, 26-28, 51-57). Let’s take a look at the spiritual nature of these rewards and the time frame of them being received at the end of the millennium in Revelation 20-22:12.
1) Tree of Life Revelation 2:7 / 22:2-4.
Most commentators agree that this is describing Christ Himself restoring what was lost or better yet, never achieved or accessed by Adam in the Garden. Adam died spiritually the very “day” he ate and was thus cast out of God’s presence and not allowed back in. Through Christ’s first and Second Appearing at the end of the old-covenant age (Heb. 9:26-27) “sin” has been dealt with and now God’s people can enter into God’s Most Holy Place “Tree of Life” presence. This description of the Tree of Life, Living Waters, seeing God’s Face, the healing of the Nations, and the like, are describing Christ’s union with His glorified Body – the Church, preaching the Gospel and sinners coming through faith into the City or presence of God. The Tree and the living waters of eternal life that bring healing to the Nations can be further seen in Ezekiel’s end time prophecy of the New Temple and the healing waters that would flow from it (Ezk. 40 – 48 – especially 47; cf. Isa.35:6-9 – “highway” “I am the Way…”). Paul clearly understands the millennium temple to not be a literal rebuilt physical temple during a literal thousand years, but the church itself since he quotes Ezekiel 37:27 when he says, “…we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16).
None of the constituent elements of Revelation 22:1-4 surrounding the Tree of Life can be seen to be taken literally in the New Testament, but rather spiritual and eternal:
a). Water of Life John.4:13-24; 7:37-38.
b). The City Hebrews 12-13:14; Galatians 4.
c). Beholding God’s light, life, glory, and face John.1, 3, 8; Jn.14:6; 1 John 1-2; 2 Cor.3-4; 1 Corinthians 13:8-12.
d). No more “curse” Galatians 3.
These rewards were already in the process of being realized spiritually through faith in Christ and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. For example Jesus tells His disciples that “as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within” the believer beginning at Pentecost (John 7:37-38). What “Scripture” is Jesus referring to if not Ezekiel 47? The spiritual experience of these new creation rewards of God’s presence would be further realized at His return when He established His Kingdom in the hearts of men and women within that generation (cf. Luke 17:20-21-37/Luke 21:30-32). For those who twist the EXEGETICAL FACT that Christ promised to return “shortly” and reward the Church at Ephesus (and His Body throughout the ages) of partaking of the Tree of Life we shall only rebuke their “sick” doctrine with the words of the Proverb: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Prov.13:12).
2) Crown of Life True Riches “Gold” Revelation 2:10, 3:11; cf. 1Peter 5:4.
The “crown of life” is synonymous with “eternal life” in which the early church was in the process of possessing through faith in the work of Christ upon the cross and the outpouring and sealing of the Holy Spirit. But they would soon “lay hold of” of “eternal life” at His return (Romans 2:7; 1Timothy 6:19; Titus 3:7; Jude 1:21). In the James the crown of life would be received no doubt at Christ’s “at hand” coming (James 1:12, 5:7-9).
Eden was filled with gold and precious stones Genesis 2:11-12. In the Old Testament the tabernacle and temple were glorified with the wealth of the various nations she would conquer such as taking gold from the Egyptians. God says in Haggai 2:9, that the silver and gold belongs to Him and that the glory of the Messianic Temple will exceed anything that has gone before it. Solomon’s wealth in decorating the temple with gold to the extreme, were types of Christ and the Church. But how? Jesus taught that He was greater than the temple and Solomon Matthew 12 and yet He had no place to lay His head. Jesus was deliberately poor monetarily to communicate that the true kingdom riches resided in the spiritual realm of the heart where neither rust, moths, nor thieves could get to Isaiah 51:3-8/Matthew 6. There are some redemptive elements in Scripture that are more precious than gold and silver:
1) Christ’s blood, righteousness, and wisdom is the only means by which a man can be redeemed and his soul saved from death Psalm 49; 1 Peter 1:9, 18-19; Proverbs/1 Corinthians 1:24, 30 and
2) The riches of our faith in the sight of God procures this 1 Peter 1:7-12.
The gold and precious stones (Christ being the corner Daniel 2; Isaiah 28), in describing the Most Holy Place City (Revelation 21:16- chapter 22) and refers to Christ’s righteousness and Him clothing it upon His Bride as it descends from heaven to earth. At times our feelings may communicate to us that we are no more than a dirty old rock but, but the reality is, that we are a glorious precious gem and treasure in the sight of God because He has placed Christ’s fire/glory/light/and righteousness within us.
I believe the exchange between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba is a type of the exchange taking place with the believers exercising faith in Christ and Christ bestowing His righteousness and wisdom to the believer (1Kings 10:1-10). This is how the Gentile nations of the world were building up the Messianic Temple with their riches and glory in Isaiah 60. The expression of these spiritual riches can be seen in the giving of material wealth from the Gentile church to the Jewish brethren struck by a famine in the book of Acts. This was demonstrating what the building, glorifying, and raising of the new-covenant Temple was all about – faith in action through love in the building of ONE Body/Temple Jew and Gentile (cf. Psalm 112:3-10; Ephesians 2, 5:14/Isaiah 60; Acts 11:28/Acts 15/1Corinthians 16:1-4/Romans 15).
3) Will not be hurt at all by the Second Death and will cause them to never leave the gates of the city (Revelation 2:11, 3:12, 20:6, 21:8, 22:6, 14).
The first death came through Adam and it was a spiritual death that resulted in separation. Adam rejected the Tree of Life and partook of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The “Second Death” and “sin unto death” 1John 5:16-17 would be the result of rejecting God’s Son – THE TREE OF LIFE within the transitionary stage and within the new-covenant age about to come. Rejecting Christ’s completed salvation through His redemptive work on the cross and parousia, and seeking to be justified or accepted by God due to ones own performance or “righteousness,” is the sin of final apostasy. Jesus said this would occur in the old-covenant age in which He was ministering and in the new-covenant age or the “age about to come” (Mt. 12:32) in which we are currently living. Unbelievers do commit this sin but believers “cannot” “nor will they” because of the new birth 1 John 3:9/1 John 5:16-17. Experiencing the “second death” is a reality for those who reject Christ in this life and throughout all eternity. Christians have been preserved, protected, and thus persevere from going to or crossing over to such a place. It is impossible for a Christian to leave the Cities gates (Rev.3:12) for Christ alone has the words of eternal life (John 6:60-69).
4) I will give some of the Hidden Manna, “I will eat with him,” give a “new Name” (Revelation 2:17, 3:20, 19, 22:1-14; Isaiah 25:6-9; Isaiah 55:1-2; Isaiah 62; Matthew 22:1-14, 25:1-13; cf. John 6:27f.).
The “Hidden Manna” is Christ Himself, the “bread from heaven” (John 6:33) in which the early church began feasting upon through faith in His words. However, this intimacy would be more realized in the Kingdom when Christ would come to dwell within His people and dine with them at the wedding supper – both Jew and Gentile Matthew 8:11-12, 26:29; Luke 17:20-21; cf. also John 14:2-3, 23. Those Christian’s whom overcame in the first century did experience this reward of intimacy of feasting upon the faithfulness of their Lord and we do today as well! To confirm the “at hand” time frame of this reward of partaking of Christ at the wedding feast in Revelation 19-22, we should note that it is predicted to occur when the old-covenant city was destroyed as taught by or our Lord in Matthew 22:7 and since Matthew 25 is a continuation and recapitulation of Matthew 24 as we noted earlier, the wedding feast would occur at Christ’s return in “this generation.” Jesus coming to reward “some standing here who shall not taste of death,” “this generation,” and “Behold I am coming soon with My reward…” all answer to the same time frame Matthew 16:27-28, 24:34; Revelation 22:12! There’s only one new-covenant wedding and feast folks and Mt.22-25 and Revelation posits it within the imminent time frame of Israel’s old-covenant “the last days” period ending in A.D. 70.
The old-covenant people who once bore the name “the holy people” would be rejected for they had rejected their Messiah. A new name was now given to those who followed Jesus as their Messiah, for they were now of “the way” and the true members of the New Jerusalem and Mount Zion. In A.D. 70 the old-covenant kingdom and the names associated with that people, would be taken from them and be given in their restored form to the followers of Christ.
5) Reigning With Christ and Ruling over the Nations Revelation 2:26-27, 3:21, 20:4.
Jesus posits the millennial period with the symbolic number of a 1000 as the period of His pre-parousia in Revelation 20 indicating the period of time until He returns. In Matthew 24:34 He identifies this time period literally as a “this generation” time period. During that time frame, the first century Christians were “made alive” as “firstfruits” and “seated in heavenly places” (Ephsians 2:4-6; James.1:18; 1 Corinthians 15-16; Revelation 14). The 12 were promised that in the regeneration or resurrection they would sit on 12 thrones ruling over the tribes of Israel (Luke 22:30). At this point we need to address what the “nations” are and how exactly the Christians were ruling over them with that rule being established at the Lord’s return in A.D. 70. Since most agree that Revelation is John’s version of the Olivet discourse, perhaps J. Stuart Russell’s comments on the “nations” in (Mt. 25:31-33) being equivalent to the tribes of the land of Israel in (Mt. 24:30) have some validity.
However, at the same time we cannot miss that the Church was ruling over the Gentiles and their inclusion in the Kingdom as the gospel was being extended throughout the Roman world Matthew 24:14/Colossians 1:23). They carried and wielded the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephs. 6:17) which was the gospel slaying the unbelievers (brining an “aroma of death”). This same gospel was being used to bring to life those who were ordained unto eternal life as a sweet smelling aroma of life (cf. Matthew 10:34-42; Acts 2:5–20–40 “all nations” “this generation;” 13:48; 2 Corinthians 2:14-17; Hebrews 4:12; Colossians 1:5-27; Revelation 2:12, 16). The Church functioned as God’s Priests and Kings. Under the old covenant the Levitical Priests were in charge of “guarding” the Temple making sure no unclean thing or person entered in a similar way the flaming cherubim guarded the Garden in Genesis. The gospel and the Church served and continues to serve as God’s sword making sure no unclean thing enters the City (Revelation 21-22). God alone knows those that are His within or without the City, but it is our job to preach the word allowing it to have its aroma of life and death, and to “continue in doctrine.” Through the imprecatory prayers of the persecuted Christians in A.D. 70 the debate over who were the true children of God was once and for all decided and their persecutors/enemies were forced to bow the knee before Christ as the Son of God and before His beloved (cf. Rev. 6:10-11/Mt. 23:32-39; Phil. 2:10; Rev.3:9) whom now alone bore and bear the True name as the New Jerusalem and God’s Holy People.
Concluding thoughts on the timing of inheriting the rewards of the new creation:
The fact that all the new creation promises given at the beginning of the book will be imminently given and then received at the end of the prophecy in a “symbolic” fulfillment associated with a “soon” and “at hand” coming of Christ in A.D.70, refutes both Kistemaker’s position that Revelation was written after A.D.70 and Mathison and Gentry’s claims that we are still in the millennial period awaiting the final literal stage of fulfillment. Revelation definitely teaches a postmillennial coming of Christ in which she inherits the new creation, but it climaxes and ends “shortly” at Christ’s imminent return and no other return is mentioned!
In verse 1 John is given his second vision of which he sees God on His throne and twenty four Elders on their thrones surrounding Him. These twenty four elders are dressed in white and possess crowns. The number twenty-four signifies the union and relationship between the redeemed from the old covenant ruling twelve tribes of Israel, and the ruling of God’s new covenant Israel depicted by the appointing of the twelve disciples. The new-covenant Israel being built upon their authority and revelation given through them. To this Kistemaker agrees,
“The traditional interpretation of the twenty-four elders is that this number is the total of twelve times two, namely, twelve Old Testament patriarchs and twelve New Testament apostles, the representatives of those redeemed by Christ.”
All of these elders need not completely be a depiction of disembodied spirits in the afterlife, but representative of the Church on earth seated in the heavenly places before God pours out His wrath upon old-covenant Jerusalem. The Church during A.D. 30 – 70 were being raised form the dead. They were seated in the heavenly places. They had come to the Old Testament spirits of just men made perfect. And in the arrival of the new covenant age, were promised to commune with Christ and rule over Israel (Ephs. 1:20, 2:6; Heb. 11:39-40/12:22-24; Lk. 22:16, 29-30). This is what we are seeing here in our text with the anticipation of Christ about to pour out His wrath upon old-covenant Jerusalem and the Christians through praise and prayer playing a role in this “soon” to come drama.
In this chapter we see Christ alone being worthy to open the scroll and He alone having the authority and divine right to judge because of His perfection, righteousness, and His sacrifice which procured a blood bought people and Kingdom. We are told here that Jesus is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah in verse 5. Jesus is the Lion and the Messiah of whom in A.D. 70 would cause the covenantal authority and scepter to depart from Judah and the Church would be gathered, raised, and glorified to behold His very face (Gen. 49:9-12; Mt. 24:30-31, 34; 1Cor. 13:12; Rev. 22:4, 12). Of these new-covenant priests and kings making up this kingdom of whom Christ has redeemed, it is said that “…they will reign on the earth” in verse 10. This is another indicator that Revelation is not completely concerned with disembodied spirits, as much as it is God’s reign on earth through His people whom are “on the earth.” This reigning on the earth continues into the new-covenant age which was “about to come” during the transition period. Post A.D.70 the Church continues Her mission as priests and kings in bringing healing to the nations as we preach the everlasting gospel.
Christ didn’t come to potential save the human race, but to actually redeem and establish a kingdom of priests and kings 5:9-10. Arminians such as Chuck Smith believe Christ died for the entire race of all mankind. Yet phrases in the new testament such as the “world” or the “whole world” need to be understood as teaching God’s elect redeemed being gathered out from among the nations – Jew and Gentile. Smith and others teaching that God intending to save all of mankind but continues to get frustrated because of man’s “free will” is no where taught in Scripture. Even Arminian preterists such as Don Preston need to submit to the teaching of God’s Word here on the intent of Christ’s redemptive purposes.
In this chapter Jesus begins pouring out His wrath upon old-covenant Jerusalem by opening the first six seals. Judgment here is depicted by various riders and horses representing the covenantal curses upon old-covenant Israel (Deut. 28) being blood shed through war, famine, and death. Jesus described all of these events and judgments in Matthew 24 when Jerusalem would be surrounded by the Romans during A.D. 66-70 in His “this generation.” There is overwhelming evidence in this chapter alone which points to a pre A.D. 70 date and fulfillment of Revelation. Of course Kistemaker does not want to go into any depth on the parallels of this chapter with that of the Olivet discourse so let’s allow another futurist to establish the parallels and a first century fulfillment of them. Mathison writes,
1. War (6:1-2; cf. Matt. 24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9)
3. Famine (6:5-6; cf. Matt. 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11)
6. Earthquakes, cosmic upheaval (6:12-17; cf. Matt.24:15-31; Mark 13:14-27; Luke 21:20-27)
John is clearly speaking of the very events prophesied by Christ in the Olivet discourse, events which were to fall upon the generation of Jews who rejected and crucified their Messiah.
The parallels and themes of Revelation 6 run throughout the Book of Revelation from beginning to end. The reason why Kistemaker does not want to acknowledge the parallels of Revelation 6 with that of the Olivet discourse, is because it is very easy to demonstrate how all of these covenant curses and signs were fulfilled in Jesus’ “this generation.” Mathison and Gentry on the other hand correctly make the “clear” A.D. 70 fulfillment parallels but then fail to see the same events being carried throughout Revelation. Particularly, when these same themes and events are carried through Revelation 11-20 where the judgment and resurrection of “the dead” are in view. Futurists such as Kistemaker, Mathison, and Gentry have inconsistent and incoherent interpretive problems which we consistently and exegetically solve using the very hermeneutics that they themselves use to interpret the Book of Revelation. I am simply stepping into their futurist paradigm and using their own hermeneutics to build my case.
1) Vindication of martyrs in “a little while” and time for the Resurrection
When the fifth seal is opened in verses 9-11 we get a prophetic picture of the first century persecuted church, through the eyes of the martyrs crying out under the altar wanting to know from the Lord “how long” until their prayers of vengeance upon their enemies will be answered. They are told in “a little while.” Kistemaker asks the question of this verse,
“How long is “a little while”? Jesus referred to his imminent departure when he said, “Yet a little while am I with you” (John 7:33 KJV) and “Yet a little while is the light with you” (John 12:35 KJV). By contrast, the souls under the altar must wait as they call for judgment to take place at the consummation. No one, not even the Son of Man, knows when the culmination comes, for it is God the Father who sets the times and the seasons (Matt. 24:36; Acts 1:7).
Since allowing Scripture to interpret itself here on the meaning of “a little while” would destroy Kistemaker’s futurism, he claims the “a little while” of 6:11 is different or a 2,000 + years and counting “contrast” to how Jesus has used it elsewhere. Thus he feels he can arbitrarily give it the meaning of “eschatological time” or “symbolic time”! There is no contradiction between Jesus knowing that He would return within his own imminent generation and yet declare it was given to the Father to know the exact day and hour (within His generation) it would occur!
According to Jesus, the vindication of the martyrs would take place at His return, when the temple would become desolate, and specifically within His “this generation” (Mt. 23:30-36, 38; 24:1-34). So when we examine the teachings of Jesus, a “little while” means what it says and there is no reason to make up ones own definition of “eschatological time” to force it into the futurist paradigm! It is more than consistent to have one writing towards the end of Jesus’ “this generation” to address the time of His return and vindication to arrive in “a little while.” The “Synagouge of Satan” and the Jewish “countrymen” were the ones responsible for killing these first century Christians. Although Kistemaker does parallel this martyr scene with Matthew 23, he fails to exegetically parallel Jesus’ phrase of “this generation” (Mt. 23:26) with His “in a little while” period as being the divine time frame for the cup of God’s wrath to be full. He states,
“But when God’s endurance has come to an end and the cup of his wrath is full, the time for judgment is near (Matt. 23:32; 1 Thess. 2:16).
But notice how he selectively referenced (Mt. 23:32) without mentioning the “this generation” of verse 36 and references (1Thess. 2:16) without pointing out that this persecution and martyrdom is coming from their contemporary Jewish “countrymen” in verses 14-15 and that Christ would come and give them “relief” from while at the same time giving these first century persecutors “tribulation” at His return (2Thess. 1:5-7)! This is very poor exegesis coming from Kistemaker in comparing Scripture with Scripture.
Keith Mathison does connect some of these exegetical dots between the Thessalonian epistles with that of Revelation and Mathews gospel. He correctly applies their coming “relief” from the “hour of trial” and the fiery vindication upon their first century Jewish enemies as Christ coming from heaven in the judgment of A.D. 70. Likewise Kenneth Gentry states,
“He would be taunting them mercilessly if he were discussing events two thousand years distant. God answers the anxious cry “How long?” by urging their patience only a “little while longer” (6:10-11).
Unfortunately for Mr. Gentry, he does not use this same logic and hermeneutic when it comes to Christ returning from heaven to give his first century Christians relief and burn up their enemies in 1 & 2 Thessalonians! Gentry is not as preteristly progressive as Mathison is in the Thessalonian epistles. But neither Mathison nor Gentry can exegetically address:
1) How Abel was vindicated without the consummative judgment and resurrection having taken place in Jesus’ “this generation,” and
2) Deal with the parallel and recapitulation structure of the same group of martyrs throughout Revelation as receiving vindication and relief at the time of the judgment and resurrection of the living and the dead (Rev. 2:10-13; 6:9; 11:7; 13:15; 17:6; 18:24; 20:4).
It is at this point the partial preterits views of Mathison and Gentry fall apart when the issues involving the judgment and resurrection of “the dead” are brought up, they avoid the parallel and recapitulation structure of Revelation and start quoting creeds, run to “Mother church” and completely abandon the internal message of Revelation let alone the rest of Scripture! Scripture affirms Israel’s sin of violating her old covenant law in shedding the blood of the righteous would be judged in a very specific generation within Israel’s “last days.” The prophets also affirmed this would be the time of receiving the kingdom and attaining the resurrection (Deut. 31:29; 32:5, 20, 43; Isa. 1-5; Isa. 24-27; Dan. 7, 9, 12). Jesus said all this would be fulfilled in His generation, which included the resurrection (Mt. 23-24:30-31, 34; Luke 21:22-32). Jesus and John in Revelation are consistent with Jesus’ teaching in the gospels as to the time frame of the vindication of the martyrs on this matter.
2) Apocalyptic language of judgment and the de-creation of Revelation 6:12-14
The Bible is its own best interpreter. In (Isaiah 13:9-10), the contextual setting is God about to judge Babylon through the Medes and Persians. Babylon’s fall is described as, “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.” In Scripture the sun, moon, and stars represented men holding civil and religious authorities and who governed and ruled a particular nation. When God would judge a particular nation, He would describe it as Him turning out their lights or casting their stars to the ground. Later in (Isaiah 34:4-5) the fall of Edom is described, “All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree. “For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; Indeed it shall come down on Edom, And on the people of My curse, for judgment.” Obviously, the literal heavens did not roll back like a scroll and literal stars (which are much bigger than the earth) did not fall to the earth when God judged Edom. This is figurative language describing–in time–historical judgments of nations (see also Amos 5:18; 8:9 describing the judgments upon Israel and Judah through the Assyrians and Babylonians).
Kistemaker in his commentary on Revelation while acknowledging some figurative language is being used, without examining the contexts of Isaiah 13 and 34, believes these passages are dealing with the destruction of the planet at the end of time as he assumes Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:12-14 are. However, Reformed theologians and even dispensational one have acknowledged these passages in Isaiah to be using figurative language describing historical judgments of nations and not the destruction of the planet earth. The context to the de-creation language in Matthew 24:29 as Gentry and Mathison agree, is addressing the casting down of the civil and religious rulers of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and has nothing to do with the destruction of the planet earth. Kistemaker even believes Joel 2:10, 31 is describing the end of the planet. Because Kistemaker believes the coming of the Lord in Acts 2:19-20 is still future and refers to the de-creation of the planet earth, this logically forces him into embracing charismatic theology. He claims Luke is allegedly not really interested in developing any kind of imminent time frame for the Second Coming in Acts and Luke is,
“…equally noncommittal in respect to the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy on signs and wonders. Joel predicts that all these things will take place “before the great and glorious day of the Lord will come.”
Most Reformed theologians such as Gentry disagree, and believe “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” and de-creation language in Acts 2 is referring to Christ coming in judgment upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
3) “Hid in the caves” and “They called to the mountains and rocks, ‘fall on us…’”
Verses 15-16 completely destroys Kistemaker’s case! John is quoting from the “last days” “Day of the Lord” judgment of (Isa. 2:10, 19, 21). Jesus in Luke 23:30 applies this passage and judgment in Isaiah 2 to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as virtually every commentator agrees! The burden of proof rests upon Kistemaker to prove John and Jesus are using the Isaiah 2 passage to refer to a different judgment than Jesus referenced it in Luke 23:30! Obviously if the coming of Christ in judgment in Revelation 6 is referring to the destruction of the planet, men would not be able to go and hide in caves! Gentry, citing Josephus, points out that the Roman armies went throughout the land and slew the Jews who sought to hide and seek shelter in the caves. Not only that but Isaiah tells us that there is a righteous remnant or “survivors” of this “Day of the Lord” and they continue well on into the new creation (new covenant age) preaching the gospel to sinful nations as does Revelation depict (Isaiah 1-5, 24-28, 65-66; Revelation 21-22:17). Indeed the Christians fled to Pella and were safe and continued to preach the gospel as the Church does today in the new creation or age which was “about to come” in John’s day. Kistemaker does not exegetically deal with the time texts, conveniently does not address the survivors of Day of the Lord in Isaiah or Revelation, nor addresses the historical fulfillment of the Romans slaying those that sought refuge in the caves within the local land of Palestine at this time.
In verses 1-17 of Chapter 7 we have a parenthesis separating the seventh seal from the preceding six. The Church is described as those on the “land,” “sea,” and “trees” in verses 1-3. Chilton citing Jordan, correctly identifies the “trees” in our text as referring to people and specifically to the people of God citing (Jud. 9:8-15; Ex. 15:17; Ps. 1:3; 92:12-14; Isa. 61:3; Jer. 17:5-8). I would add Ezekiel 31 to these passages as trees representing people and nations which is referring back to the trees in the Garden of Genesis 1-3. Kistemaker understands trees (plural) here to be literal trees in order to be consistent in his understanding that Revelation is dealing with a literal and global judgment and transformation of the planet,
“When the angel uses the word trees in the plural, he indicates that God’s eye is on everything in his creation.”
A fifth angel comes “from the east” as the sun and Christ’s parousia would come from the east and shine its light to the west (cf. Mt. 24:27) burning up the wicked tares and giving life to the new covenant Garden of God. No harm was to come upon those the angels were to put a seal of ownership and protection on their foreheads. Jesus had promised prior to Him coming in wrath upon Jerusalem that some Christians would experience persecution and death, but not a hair of their head would be lost when it came time for Him to pour out His wrath upon the City—Luke 21:18-20. Paul says the same thing in that Christians were not destined to partake in this “wrath” (1 Thess. 5:9). We know from history the Christians fled the city when they saw the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem and fled to Pella and were safe from experiencing this covenantal wrath. It of course does not surprise me that Kistemaker in his commentary does not want to address the parallel of Luke 21:18-20 here with the sealing and safety for the saints of Revelation 7! To do so would be to admit that the wrath and protection here of the church is not involving the destruction of the planet earth, but is referring to the local land of Palestine.
The number 144,000 thousand is symbolic of the new and perfected Israel of God (12 tribes of Israel times the 12 Apostles, times a thousand = 144, 000) and is describing the first century “first fruits” Christians who came out of the tribulation period in verse 14. These will be further described and associated with the harvest/resurrection in chapter 14. From Pentecost and on, there were a great many Jews who became Christians and John is using Old Testament symbolic language and numerology to describe them being preserved from the wrath about to be poured out upon Jerusalem in the opening of the seventh seal. Some believe the 144,000 is the same group as the “great multitude” described as being redeemed “from every nation, tribe, people and language,” standing before the throne in verses 9-13 and others perhaps the addition of the Gentiles being saved during this period.
Kistemaker correctly identifies the 144,000 and the great multitude with those having heard the message of the great commission before Christ’s return and the “end” comes in (Mt. 24:14),
“Here is a picture of the universal church in its fullest sense fulfilling Jesus’ word: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).
This of course is contradictory to Gentry, Mathison and Sproul who correctly understand this great commission having been fulfilled by A.D. 70 as we do. Kistemaker also errors on the great tribulation claiming,
“The expression the great tribulation includes all Christians who have experienced oppression and persecution everywhere throughout history.”
This also contradicts John Lightfoot, Gentry, Mathison, Sproul, and the Reformed partial preterist community, who correctly identify this period as Christians being persecuted just prior to God’s wrath and tribulation being rendered upon Jerusalem in the years A.D. 62-70. The great commission and great tribulation were specific eschatological events to occur in Jesus’ “this generation” and the text mentions nothing of the great tribulation or any of the signs being extended “throughout history.”
However, we give Kistemaker credit for correctly identifying that the promises of verses 15-17 associated with the saints coming out of this great tribulation to be the time of the glorification (resurrection) of these saints and reception of the new creation,
“The last line in this verse is a picture of joy and happiness, of deliverance from sin and guilt, of salvation full and free. It is a scene of life in the fullest sense of the word—to be forever in the presence of our covenant God, who dwells in the midst of the glorified saints. It is Paradise restored.”
This is where Gentry and Mathison drop the ball with their partial preterism. One cannot separate the time of the judgment and the great tribulation, from the resurrection, as occurring when the power of the Holy People (of Jerusalem and her temples law) would be completely shattered in A.D. 70—Daniel 12:1-7. I have consistently built my case and paradigm from the admissions of futurists and the hermeneutics they have used in interpreting the Book of Revelation. I will continue to prove that Revelation teaches that the Second Coming, judgment and resurrection of “the dead” took place by A.D. 70.
 Keith A. Mathison, Acts 1:9-11 and the Hyper-Preterism Debate, p. 28, Ligonier Ministries, 2004 http://www.knoxseminary.org/Prospective/Faculty/KnoxPulpit/rreymond_trinitarianism.html