PMT 2013-036 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Judgment gavelIn my last article I opened a study of the question regarding the theme of Revelation. I began presenting evidence that John’s theme verse, Rev 1:7, speaks of the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which concludes forever the old covenant. Though it sounds like he is speaking of the second advent, this is not the case. I will continue with my seriatim presentation of the evidence supporting the AD 70 interpretation.

Fourth, the Lord’s Prior Teaching on the Subject

John’s theme is picked up from Jesus’ own teaching. Revelation is, after all, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” which was given to his servant, John (Rev 1:1). Thus, we would expect to find evidence for the AD 70 theme in Jesus’ teaching, and we certainly do. In fact, this looming judgment appears often in Christ’s teaching. But I will only mention a few samples.

In Matthew 21:33-45 Jesus presents the Parable of the Vineyard Owner. That parable pictures God lovingly blessing and caring for Israel over the centuries of her existence (21:33-34). Yet, his loving providence is set against the backdrop of her stubborn rebellion over the years, a rebellion that leads her to kill the prophets whom God sent to her (21:35-36). And even more tragically, God finally sends his own son to court her, in order to win her faithfulness to his covenant. Sadly though, the Jews seize him and kill him (21:37-40).

Using this parable as an introduction to Israel’s plight, Jesus asks her religious leaders:

“Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?” (21:40).

Israel’s leaders unwittingly declare their own doom: “They said to Him, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons’” (21:41).

Then the Lord shocks them, as he often does, by catching them in their own words: “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust” (21:43-44).

They well understand his point: “And when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them” (21:45).

This parable and its consequent discussion look to the AD 70 destruction of the Temple. It even speaks of that judgment as a “coming” of the Lord: “when the owner of the vineyard comes” (21:40). In the following context another parable speaks more literally: “But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire” (Matt.22:7). All commentators recognize that this refers to AD 70. And yet, it is called a “coming” of the Lord. It is a metaphorical coming of Christ in judgment.

Clearly then, Revelation 1:7 can at least theoretically be applied to AD 70. And given its contextual setting (and other matters that I will rehearse below), this is the preferred understanding of John’s theme.

Fifth, the Specific Cause of the Judgment

We have now established John’s specific context and the possibilities arising from that context. We must now focus specifically on the actual wording of Rev 1:7. Once again, the theme reads:

“Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.”

We need to read this statement carefully. Certain details can easily slip by us. We must note first that John applies this prophecy specifically against “those who pierced him”: “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him” (Rev. 1:7). This provides us with a dramatically important clue for interpreting the fuller statement. This clue parallels in significance the theme’s setting in a context of near-term expectation (Rev 1:1, 3) which I noted earlier.

Navigating the Book of Revelation
by Ken Gentry
Technical studies on key issues in Revelation, from a preterist perspective.

Of course, we full well know that the Roman soldiers were the immediate, physical instruments of Jesus’ crucifixion. Nevertheless, the NT repeatedly emphasizes Israel’s covenantal responsibility for the whole tragic episode. I will list a few verses that point directly to Israel as the cause of Christ’s crucifixion, which well justify John’s statement against “those who pierced him”:

“And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’” (Matt.27:25). The Jews call down Jesus’ blood upon themselves. They were forcing the hand of Pilate and declaring if there is any blame, they will accept it.

“They therefore cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar’” (John 19:15).

Speaking to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem at the Pentecost festival after the Lord’s crucifixion, Peter declares: “This Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23). Note that he says to the Jews “you nailed” Christ to the cross, even though noting their instrument: “the hands of godless men” (the Romans).

Speaking in the presence of the temple, Peter derides Israel: “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered up, and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses” (Acts 3:13-15).

Later Peter once again declares to Jews in Jerusalem: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross” (Acts 5:30).

Just before he is stoned to death, Stephen preaches to the high priest and others (Act 6:12, 15; 7:1): “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become” (Acts 7:52).

In another context, Peter once again warns Israel of her responsibility for Christ’s crucifixion: “And we are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. And they also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross” (Acts 10:39).

Paul sees the Jews not only as resisting the gospel themselves and forbidding the apostles from preaching to the Gentiles, but also declares the Jews guilty of his crucifixion, which is leading to their judgment: “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost” (1 Thess. 2:14-16).

The unrelenting testimony of Scripture blames Israel for Christ’s death. She is covenantally responsible; she should have known better (Luke 19:41–44). So then, Revelation 1:7 promises judgment upon “those who pierced him,” which demands that that judgment fall in the first century while “those who pierced him” were still alive — especially given the near-term temporal indicators in the very context of this statement (Rev. 1:1, 3). The events of AD 70 present us with a most perfect, relevant, and compelling fit.

But there is more. And I will get to that in my next blog.

Olivet Discourse Made Easy
by Ken Gentry
Verse-by-verse analysis of Christ’s teaching on Jerusalem’s destruction in Matt 24

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