PMT 2015-154 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
This is my third installment on the question of the evidence that Revelation was fulfilled in the first century. As surprising as this conclusion is for the modern evangelical, the proof is in Revelation itself. In this article I will consider the Historical Indicators for preterism.
I agree with the Puritan Talmudic scholar, John Lightfoot: Revelation appears to prophesy Christ’s judgment upon the Jews in A.D. 70. John’s opening statement of purpose (1:7), the seven letters (2:9; 3:9), and the body of Revelation (4-19; e.g., 7:1-8; 11:1-8) all reflect this truth.
Just after mentioning the nearness of the events (1:1, 3) and just before alluding to the dire circumstances of his original audience (1:9), verse 7 warns: “Behold he comes with the clouds, and will see him every eye and those who him pierced, and will wail over him all the tribes of the land. Yes, amen” (Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear Greek-English NT; cp. Robert Young, Literal Translation). Though this sounds like a Second Advent reference, the following evidence points to A.D. 70.
Coming with the Clouds
Cloud-coming language often speaks of historical divine judgments. For instance, Isaiah 19:1a warns: “An oracle concerning Egypt: See, the LORD rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt” (cp. Ps 18:7-15; 104:3; Joel 2:1,2; Na 1:2ff.; Zep 1:14,15). This speaks of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon conquering Egypt in 671 B.C. As Young notes: “The scene does not necessarily suggest that the Lord comes from the Temple at Jerusalem nor from heaven, but merely that He comes as a judge” (Isaiah, 2:14), i.e., providentially, not personally.
Interestingly, John follows Jesus in merging Zechariah 12:10 and Daniel 7:13. Like John, Jesus mentions the “coming on the clouds” (cp. Mt 24:29-30) against Israel (Mt 23:36-24:2, 16). And like John, Jesus ties the events to the near future: “all these things shall come upon this generation” (Mt 24:34).
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Those Who Crucified Christ
Christ’s judgment-coming is against: “they who pierced him.” Jesus blames the Jews for his death: “Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed” (Mt 16:21; cp. Mt 20:18-19; 21:33-43; Mk 8:31; Lk 9:22). The apostles also lay the covenantal blame for his crucifixion upon Israel: “Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified” (Ac 4:10a; cp. Jn 19:5-15; Ac 2:22, 23, 36; 3:14, 15; 4:8-10; 5:30; 10:39; 1Th 2:14-16). Revelation 1:7 must refer to the first century in that those who “pierced him” are now long since deceased.
The Tribes of the Land
This judgment brings mourning upon “all the tribes of the land” (1:7; Marshall’s Interlinear). These “tribes” (phyle) must be the tribes of Israel (cf. Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30). TDNT notes that the Septuagint “with few exceptions . . . has phyle, so that this becomes a fixed term for the tribal system of Israel” (9:246). Revelation clearly mentions those Jews who were saved out from “the tribes” of Israel (7:4-8; cp. 21:12); and John sets these over against other “tribes and peoples” beyond Israel (7:9; cp. 11:9).
What is more, John associates these “tribes” with “the land” (tes ges), the well-known Promised Land (cp. Lk 21:23). As Edersheim observes: “Palestine was to the Rabbis simply ‘the land,’ all other countries being summed up under the designation of outside the land.”1 Indeed, the OT mentions “the tribes” and “the land” together in numerous instances (e.g., Ge 49:16; Nu 26:55; Jos 14:1; 19:51; Eze 45:8; 48:29).
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In the seven letters John specifically mentions the defection of the Jews from God. He even informs the churches that Christ will vindicate them by judging the Jews:
• “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.(2:9)
• Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie, behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you.” (3:9)2
Surely this humiliation of the Jews was in the lifetime of the recipients of Revelation — in A.D. 70 when the Jews were “cast out” (Mt 8:10-12) and the kingdom was given to the gentiles (Mt 21:40-43).
The Temple and Holy City
Revelation expressly mentions the coming destruction of the temple, and with language drawn from the Olivet Discourse.
“Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Lk 21:24b).
“But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months” (Rev 11:2).
Note that both of these passages inform us that the “holy city/Jerusalem” will be “trampled” by the “gentiles.” And both appear in prophecies confined to the short term (1:1, 3; 22:6, 10; Lk 21:31-32). Evidently, these texts are referring to the same events, with John deriving his cue from Christ’s discourse about A.D. 70 (Lk 21:6-7).
Interestingly, the time of the formal imperial engagement of the Jewish War until the destruction of the temple was forty-two months. According to Bruce, after the initial Jewish uprising in A.D. 66, Vespasian “arrived the following spring [A.D. 67] to take charge of operations. . . . Titus began the siege of Jerusalem in April, 70. The defenders held out desperately for five months, but by the end of August, the Temple area was occupied and the holy house burned down, and by the end of September all resistance in the city had come to an end.”3 From Spring A.D. 67 to September A.D. 70, covers a period right at forty-two months. This is a remarkable correspondence which fits relevantly with all the other data.
And now: three down, one more to go! My next article will conclude this series.
Tagged: justifications for preterism