Below is my response to Keith Mathison and Simon Kistemaker on the millennium of Revelation 20 that will be added to our book House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be? in our next edition. A condensed version never made it into the first edition and I felt this material needed to be developed and added into my response in the next edition. It has not been edited or condensed yet. My purpose in adding it here is in light of Don Preston’s exciting announcement that he will be engaging Kenneth Gentry and G.K. Strimple on the millennium of Revelation 20. I have posted that exciting announcement following this article – so please try and attend this event! Familiarize yourself with how the classic Amillennial view recapitulates Revelation 20 material with the rest of the book of Revelation and how the Partial Preterist view understands Revelation 1-19, 21-22 as reaching fulfillment by AD 70. These two views need to stop warring against themselves and realize Full Preterism is the organic development of what they are both seeing and be willing to revise the creeds and re-think their traditions in light of a better interpretation.
Kistemaker/Beale (Amillennial Recapitulation of Rev. 20 w/1-19, 21-22) + Mathison/Gentry (Partial Preterism Rev. 1-19, 21-22 fulfilled by AD 70) = Full Preterism or Revelation 20:1-15 Fulfilled by AD 70
Michael J. Sullivan
To further demonstrate that the millennium of Revelation 20 is roughly a forty year “this generation” transition period between the Old and New Covenants and that the judgment and resurrection of the dead in this chapter takes place during the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, I will allow the views and exegesis of Mathison, Gentry and Kistemker to once again make our case. I will also use the rest of the NT to testify and solidify our points as to the inspired time frame of fulfillment.
The Partial Preterist position of Mathison and Gentry instructs the church that Revelation 1-19 is the judgment upon Jerusalem in AD 70. We of course agree. And yet Kistemaker claims that Revelation 20 recapitulates or uses “progressive parallelism” to describe the same time frame and judgment/salvation scene as shown in chapters 1-19 finding their fulfillment at the end of the age (WSTTB?, 242, 246-247, 254). Of Revelation 20:1-15 G.K. Beale writes,
“20:1–15: The Millennium. The millennium is inaugurated during the church age when God limits Satan’s deceptive powers and when deceased Christians are vindicated through their reign in heaven. It is concluded by a resurgence of Satan’s deceptive assault against the church and the final judgment.
Ch. 20 is a part of the larger literary segment extending from 17:1 to 21:8. The first sections of the literary unit have dealt with the announcement of Babylon’s fall at the conclusion of history (ch. 17), elaboration of that fall, especially the responses drawn forth both from unredeemed and redeemed multitudes (18:1–19:10), and Christ’s judgment of wicked world forces at the end of history (19:11–21).
The precise thematic and temporal relationship of ch. 20 to ch. 19 is hotly debated. The exegesis of ch. 20 in this commentary will argue that 20:1–6 refers to the course of the church age and temporally precedes the narration of final judgment in chs. 17–19 and that 20:7–15 recapitulates the description of final judgment in 19:11–21.”
Therefore, the “organic development” of these two “orthodox” interpretations/positions is that the millennium of Revelation 20 recapitulates the AD 30-70 fulfillment already depicted in chapters 1-19. If men such as Kistemaker, Beale and Strimple would stop spiritualizing the imminent time texts away in the book of Revelation and Mathison and Gentry would submit to the exegetical fact that Revelation 20 is recapitulating the same judgment of the dead and consummation depicted in the previous chapters, then there would be no problem reaching a consensus that the thousands years is a symbolic of a “this generation” time period between Christ first and second appearing’s. Selah.
Another point I would like to bring out is that the eschatological events that take place “after” the thousand years are “over” also fall within the AD 70 time period. I agree with Kistemaker’s criticism of Russell’s view of the millennium,
“Indeed, they [Russell & I would add Partial Preterists] claim that everything in the Apocalypse, with the exception of Revelation 20:5-10, has been fulfilled. But it is puzzling why these six verses are excluded, because they are an integrated part of chapter 20.” (WSTTB?, 246-247, brackets MJS).
If I can further demonstrate the first century fulfillment of these events that take place after the millennium, it will not only buttress the forty year millennial view, but at the same time refute some Partial Preterist’s who view the millennium as still taking place or some Premillennial Partial Preterists whom actually think “a” pariousia or “the” one and only parousia took place in AD 70 but the millennium actually began in (not ending by) AD 70.
We concur with our opponents that John was already in the millennium – “what is now” (Rev. 1:19). Thus the “binding” of Satan here began with the earthly ministry of Jesus. Therefore, Christians were already being raised and reigning on thrones, the saints were already a kingdom of priests (Matt. 12:25-29; Eph. 2:5-7; John 5:24; 1 Pet. 2:5). J. Marcellus Kik makes a good case that Revelation 20:4 is describing the lives of the saints while upon the earth (preferring the ARV translation of the text),
In the King James version the verbs sat, was given, lived, reigned, are in one tense; while the verbs had worshipped, had received, are in another. But in the Greek the same tense is used for all—the aorist. Since they are all in the same tense they must refer to the same time. That is, the time of not worshipping the beast and not receiving his mark is the same time as that of sitting on thrones and living and reigning with Christ.
He translates “psuchai” in verse 4 as, “And I beheld the lives of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus”] indicating that they were already reigning and living victorious lives upon the earth through the work of Christ on the cross and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit before they were martyred.
While John is living during the time of the millennium, the inspired time frame for Revelation’s fulfillment demands that he is now standing towards the end or consummation of it–the things which John was told would “shortly” take place “later” (Rev. 1:1, 19). John was told that no part of the vision was to be sealed up, because it was all to be fulfilled shortly and nowhere are we told that the millennium is not a part of that vision. If the millennium was not a part of the vision to be fulfilled shortly, we would expect John to be given instruction to seal at least that portion of the vision since it’s time of fulfillment would be “far off” – as Daniel was instructed. It is the Partial Preterist eisegesis of Mathison and Gentry which separates the imminent fulfillment of the millennium from the rest of the “at hand” prophecy. Although not a Full Preterist, Vern Pothress points out the inconsistency of the Partial Preterist view of Mathison and Gentry as we do,
“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.”
The Fulfillment of the Great Commission
The purpose of the binding of Satan is that he can no longer deceive the nations – so that the commandment of the Great Commission could be fulfilled by the end of the age (Mark 13:10; Matt. 28:18-20). But the NT teaches us that the Great Commission to all the nations was fulfilled by the end of the Old Covenant age:
|“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’s success to the “nations” of Israel and the Roman Empire along with imminent time of fulfillment.|
God’s new Israel – the Church would accomplish the salvation of the remnant within a “short” period and “all nations” of “the world” would hear the gospel and bring forth fruit (Rom. 1:8; 9:28; 10:18; 16:25-26; Col. 1:5-6, 23). Per Kistemaker’s reasoning, if the Great Commission to the nations has been fulfilled, then the Church is no longer in the millennium (WSTTB?, 250). We agree. Partial Preterists have now surrendered “the end of the age” in Matthew 13:39-40 and Matthew 24:2 to be the Old Covenant age. Therefore, it is pure eisegesis to then approach Matthew 28;18-20 and then claim the term means the end of history etc…
The First Resurrection and the Resurrection of the “Rest of the Dead”
Those participating in the “first resurrection” is a subject that has been previously addressed in chapters 7 and 14 – these being the first century Jewish “first fruits” or 144,000 that were the first to believe in Christ and continued enduring through the great tribulation until the end. Therefore, they would partake in the harvest/resurrection at the end of the Old Covenant age. These are those who were coming out of their “graves” through the preaching of the gospel (John 5:24-27) and would soon participate and be joined with the rest of the dead in the consummative resurrection event.
In verse 5 “the rest of the dead” participate in the resurrection “after” the thousand years are over. This refers to the end time “harvest” at “the end of the [Old Covenant] age” encompassing the “all” of (John 5:28-29). This included not only all of the righteous dead pre-AD 70 but also that of unbelievers (Daniel 12:2/Matt. 13:39-43, 49). Therefore, we have the raising of all the dead, the emptying of Hades, the great judgment (along with Satan’s imminent judgment Rom. 16:20) taking place shortly after the millennium (20:10-14). The analogy of Scripture confirms this imminent end to the millennium period by describing the same imminent resurrection of all the dead and the judgment of the world, “…there is about to be a rising again of the dead, both of righteous and unrighteous; (Acts 24:15 YLT WEY). “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;” (Rom. 8:18 YLT, WEY). Contextually the glory “about to be” revealed in them was when the “redemption of the body” in v. 23 and becoming sons of God in the New Creation takes place.
Martyr Vindication, Satan’s Imminent Judgment and THE War
“After” the success of the Great Commission and at the end of the thousand year’s period, Satan is released for a “short” or “little while” (Rev. 20:3). In chapter 6 we are told that the martyrs are to wait a “short” or “little while” until the rest of their fellow brethren have been martyred (Rev. 6:10-11). This would be followed with God avenging and judging those who participated in their persecutions – “For the great day of their wrath has come and who can stand?” (Rev. 6:17). In Revelation 12:5-12 we see the same motifs to what we have seen in Revelation 6 and 20 — previous suffering followed by a “short” or “little while” of more to come, and then an imminent judgment upon their enemies. The “great city” or “Babylon” where Jesus was slain and whom God holds responsible for shedding the blood of the prophets and the saints is none other than Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8, 18:20, 24).
The analogy of Scripture confirms this. This “little while” time frame of Satan’s last persecution (through the Jews and Romans) and thus the martyrs having to wait “a little while” longer before justice is wielded out upon their persecutors is consistent with Jesus’ teaching that all of the blood of the martyrs of the prophets and those Jesus would send to Jerusalem would be avenged in a first century “this generation” with her “house/temple” being left “desolate” (Matt. 23:31-38). Pauline eschatology weighs in as well describing the same first century Jewish persecution and the Thessalonians being promised “relief” from God through Him giving their enemies the same kind of “trouble” they were giving them through Christ coming down from heaven in “blazing fire” “punishing” them with “everlasting destruction” along with the Man of Lawlessness (1 Thess. 2:14-16; 2 Thess. 1:5—2:12). Mathison believes this coming of the Lord and “everlasting destruction” and “punishment” of “fire” in (2 Thess. 1-2) was fulfilled in AD 70 paralleling much of this material with Matthew 24 for exegetical evidence. And yet all of the same elements that are present in Revelation 6, 12, 16 and 20 are present in 1 and 2 Thessalonians! The first century persecuted church wouldn’t have to wait much longer because the Man of Lawlessness (Mathison identifying as Nero) was “already” present through the work of Satan himself – awaiting “the rebellion” and then his judgment (2 Thess. 2:3-10). Once again Mathison is creedally selective in making AD 70 fulfillment “parallels” between 1 Thessalonians 2 and 5 and 2 Thessalonians 1-2 with that of Matthew 24 and neglecting those parallels concerning the resurrection of the dead found in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 and Matthew 24:30-31. The paralleling of 1 and 2 Thessalonians with Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation, gives us the same time frame for the end of the millennium in Revelation 20: 1) The Thessalonians were already in the millennium, 2) They were being persecuted, 3) They were promised relief in their lifetimes, 4) Lord comes to close the millennium by destroying The Beast/Man of Sin with everlasting destruction and punishment and 5) raise the dead.
There are four main enemies of God and His saints in the book of Revelation and they are introduced in chapter 12 and onward in the order of Satan, the sea beast, the land beast and or false prophet and Babylon. As Revelation progresses their defeat in judgment is pictured in reverse order. These are different scenes of the same end time persecution and judgment of God’s enemies. Kistemaker understands the timing of the judgment scene and the casting of Satan into the lake of fire in 20:10 as the “presumed place” where the great harlot is burned with fire in 17:16. And he most definitely affirms that this takes place “at the same time” the beast and false prophet are cast into this fiery lake 19:20. Kistemaker affirms that there is only one final war or end time judgment in Revelation and it is consistently referred to in John’s use of the Greek phrase “to gather them for the war” in (Rev. 16:14; 19:19; 20:8) (244-245).  Strimple in a debate with Gentry over the millennium makes the same point, “In 16:14 kings are called forth to the battle. In 19:19 the beast and the kings of the earth come forth to the battle. In 20:8 Satan leads his host up to the battle. It seems clear that these three texts describe not three battles but one.” And yet Partial Preterists such as Mathison and Gentry understand “the war” of (Rev. 16:14), the burning of the Harlot in (Rev. 17:6) and the judgment of the false prophet and beast being thrown into lake of fire in (Rev. 19:20) as being fulfilled by AD 70. Once again we can readily see how Full Preterism is the organic development of our opponent’s views and effectively “bridges the gap” between them.
Let me briefly give two more texts regarding the judgment and destruction of Satan which further develops my point. Most reformed commentators correctly understand that the timing of Satan being thrown into the lake of fire in Revelation 20:10 is equivalent to him being “crushed” “shortly” in (Romans 16:20/Genesis 3:15). Partial Preterists such as Gentry inform us that this time statement along with all of the other NT imminent time statements refers to AD 70. And yet the majority of reformed commentators understand these passages to be addressing the “not yet” consummation of biblical eschatology (ie. the final defeat of Satan at the end of the millennium – followed with the Adamic curse of death being destroyed for the Church in the New Creation). Likewise, as stated previously, Mathison along with Partial Preterists such as Gary DeMar no longer divide Matthew 24-25 into two comings of Christ with two judgments – separated by thousands or millions of years. This necessitates that the judgment of the dead, with that of Satan and his angels into “everlasting punishment” would take place in Jesus’ “this generation” (Matt. 24:34—25:31-46). Again, most reformed commentators correctly understand Matthew 25:31-46 to be a depiction of the final second coming and the same “not yet” consummation judgment scene as taking place at the end of the millennium in Revelation 20:10. If Mathison and Gentry along with their other futurist colleagues become Full Preterists, then they can truly be said to be in “shoulder to shoulder unity” concerning last things – and not the blatant contradictions we find in their writings.
Earth and Sky Fled
In verse 11 we read, “Earth and sky fled from his presence,..” For Full Preterists and men such as Kistemaker this same de-creation event has already been recapitulated in connection with the Second Coming of Jesus in (Rev. 6:14 and Rev. 16:20) and will re-surface shortly in the next chapter (Rev. 21:1). But for Mathison and Gentry, the de-creation events depicted in (Rev. 6:14; Rev. 16:20 and Rev. 21:21) were “non-literally” fulfilled or are the removal of “Israel’s world” or the Old Covenant world in AD 70 being “parallel” to the AD 70 fulfillments found in Matthew 24:15-31. The question begging to be answered of course is, why can’t Gentry’s comments of an imminent de-creation non-literal fulfillment of Revelation 21:1 be applied to Revelation 20:11,
The description of the new creation and New Jerusalem bride-city extends from Revelation 21:1 to 22:5. Following immediately upon that, we read: “The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, The God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things which must soon take place’” (22:6 italics added). And for good measure, four verses later John adds: “Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near’” (22:10, italics added). A delay of several thousand years would override sound exegesis of these clear temporal statements.
Again, we must ask – How does Revelation 20:1-15 get separated from “the prophecy of this book” of which was said to be fulfilled “soon” and “near”?!? The truth of course once again lies in the middle of the two views – the de-creation of Revelation 6:14; 16:20; 20:11 and 21:1 are all depictions of the same events and were fulfilled “non-literally” and referring to the passing of “Israel’s world” or the Old Covenant world in AD 70 at Christ’s Second Coming.
The Dead Were Judged
In verses 12-15 the dead are judged, Hades gives up the dead and those whose names were not written in the book of life were thrown into the lake of fire. For Kistemaker, such passages as Revelation 2:23; 3:5; 6:17; 11:18; 16:14; 20:5, 12-15; 22:10-12; Daniel 12:1-2; Matthew 25:31-46 all refer to ONE final judgment at the end of the age. We agree, but it is the end of the Old Covenant age that the NT places this judgment and not the New Covenant age or end of world history. Between Mathison and Gentry (and Gary DeMar), all of the above judgment passages were or could have been fulfilled at the end of the Old Covenant age in AD 70 except Revelation 20:5-15 allegedly being the exception. And yet all of the rewards (to be presented at the judgment) for the churches in Revelation 1-3 were to be given when Christ was to come soon and correspond to inheriting the New Creation in Revelation 21 – of which Mathison and Gentry claim arrived in AD 70. If the New Creation follows the millennium (and those events that take place soon after the millennium) in Revelation 20:1-15, then the judgment of the dead had to have taken place imminently at that time as well. To this we need to turn to the rest of Scripture for confirmation.
They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” “…But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.” (1 Pet. 4:5, 7).
And in the same context Peter in verse 17 uses the definite article to emphasize he is referring to “THE time” of “THE judgment,” not just “a” minor one in AD 70,
“For the time has come for the judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17).
“…because He did set a day in which He is about to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom He did ordain, having given assurance to all, having raised him out of the dead” (Acts 17:31 YLT, WEY).
“I solemnly implore you, in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is about to judge the living and the dead, and by His Appearing and His Kingship:” (2 Tim. 4:1 WEY, YLT).
Kistemaker once again confirms the judgment of the dead in Revelation 20:12-13 is one Day of Judgment and has already been addressed in the previous chapters “…sixth seal (6:17), the seventh trumpet (11:18), and the sixth bowl (16:14) all refer to the moment when the great Day of Judgment comes. John presents his Apocalypse in a cyclical manner and looks at God’s revelation from different perspectives. “And the rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years were completed” (20:5a). Here as well as in 20:12–13 the term alludes to all people: some receive rewards and others condemnation.
But in order for Gentry and Mathison to take the time texts literally in the NT and in the book of Revelation, they have to invent two judgments of the dead in order to stay “orthodox” when the analogy of the Scripture truly only affirms one judgment of the dead at the end of the Old Covenant age connected with one Second Coming.
The organic and historical development between the Amillennial and the Partial Preterist views lead us to Full Preterist view of the millennium or that Revelation 20:1-15 was fulfilled by AD 70. It is time to stop ignoring this and accept it and begin re-working the creeds and our traditions to fit the proper exegetical and historical model that has been presented by Full Preterism.
Kistemaker/Beale (Amillennial Recapitulation of Rev. 20 w/chapters 1-19, 21-22)
Mathison/Gentry (Partial Preterism Rev. 1-19, 21-22 fulfilled by AD 70)
= Full Preterism or Revelation 20:1-15 Fulfilled by AD 70
By Don K. Preston
Several months back, I mentioned that if nothing happened, we would be able to make a very, very exciting announcement. Well, things have worked out, as we had hoped, and I am now able to share an exciting announcement with our visitors.
On October 12, 2012, there will be a symposium in Dallas, Texas, on the various views of the millennium. As you can see from the formal announcment sent to each of the invited speakers below, some of the major figures in modern evangelical Christianity will present papers on their respective view of the millennium. And you will note that I have been invited to present the preterist view! This is an incredibly exciting, and I think significant, invitation. Such an invitation would have been all but unthinkable 20 years ago. However, the rapid and widespread growth of the preterist movement has caused the scholarly world to pay attention and to realize that Covenant Eschatology has, to cite Andrew Perriman, “a rightful place at the table” in serious discussions on eschatology.
Make your plans to attend this important event if at all possible. Needless to say, there will be some wornderful and challenging presentations given.
For His Truth, and In His Grace,
Don K. Preston D. Div.
Here now is the letter of confirmation that I received:
<Good Morning Gentlemen,
We are excited about the upcoming Future Kingdom conference at Criswell College! Our first publication ad is going out today. Below is the schedule for the event. Also, you can check out the conference page on our website by visiting www.criswell.edu and clicking on the Future Kingdom banner on the home page.
Once again, thank you for your involvement in the event. We will keep you updated and look forward to seeing you in October.
10:00 AM Welcome – Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President of Criswell College
10:15 AM The Millennium from a Preterist Perspective – Dr. Don Preston, President, Preterist Research Institute.
11:00 AM The Millennium from a Traditional Dispensationalist Perspective – Dr. H. Wayne House, Distinguished Professor of Biblical & Theological Studies, Faith Evangelical Seminary
11:45 AM Lunch
12:30 PM The Millennium from a Postmillennialist Perspective – Dr. Kenneth Gentry, Executive Director of GoodBirth Ministries
1:15 PM The Millennium from a Progressive Dispensationalist Perspective – Dr. Craig Blaising, Executive Vice-President & Provost, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
2:00 PM The Millennium from a Amillennialist Perspective – Dr. Gregory K. Beale, Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary
2:45 PM The Millennium from an Historical Premillennialist Perspective – Dr. Craig Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary
3:30 PM Roundtable Discussion – Moderated by Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President of Criswell College and Professor of Ethics & Philosophy and Dr. Barry Creamer, Vice-President of Academic Affairs and Professor of Humanities, Criswell College
4:00 PM Concluding Remarks – Dr. Jerry A. Johnson
Winston R. Hottman
Assistant to the President
4010 Gaston Avenue │ Dallas, Texas 75246
office 214-818-1300 │ fax 214-370-0874 │ toll free 800-899-0012