GOD’S DIVORCE DECREE IN REVELATION (8)

PMW 2020-016 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is my final article on the study of Revelation’s seven-sealed scroll. In this one I will be focusing on Revelation 5 and the divorce grounds.

Covenantal marriage requires formal, legal grounds for divorce. In Deuteronomy 24:1 we read that the husband must find something morally “unclean” (ervah) in her. Jesus affirms the moral grounds for issuing a covenantal divorce in Matthew 5:31–32 and 19:7–9: “fornication” (porneia). In Isaiah 50:1 God’s divorce decree against Israel mentions her “iniquities” (peshaim). In Jeremiah 3 her divorce decree appears in the context of a statement regarding her being covenantally “faithless” (meshubah) and “treacherous” (bagad) (Jer 3:6, 8). Whatever these terms mean, they show the necessity of moral grounds for divorce. In biblical law no one could secure a divorce for “any cause at all” — contrary to the Pharisees’ challenge to Jesus (Mt 19:3; see also: Jos., Ant. 4:8:23; m. Gitt. 9:10).

In Isaiah 1:21 Isaiah declares that the “faithful city has become a harlot” because she was “full of justice” and “righteousness” but “now murderers.” The “faithful [Heb., amen] city” is now acting like a “harlot,” the most unfaithful of women. As Young explains: Jerusalem’s “infidelity is one of the heart and can express itself in various ways. . . . One of these may have been idolatry, but since the following words seem to be explanatory, we may say that the presence of murderers and the general corruption of the state which has been described were also manifestations of this unfaithfulness. The word ‘harlot’ is emphatic; ‘how has become a harlot . . . . the faithful city!”

Isaiah had already deemed Old Testament Jerusalem like Sodom (Isa 1:10), a city well-known in Scripture for gross wickedness (Ge 13:13; 19:4–5; Jer 23:14; Eze 16:49; 2Pe 2:6–7; Jude 7) with no mention of idolatry.


Why I Left Full-Preterism (by Samuel M. Frost)

Former leader in Full Preterist movement, Samuel M. Frost, gives his testimony and theological reasoning as to why he left the heretical movement. Good warning to others tempted to leave orthodox Christianity.

See more study materials at: KennethGentry.com


Revelation 5 presents Christ before the throne in such a way as to highlight the just grounds for God’s divorcing Israel. In Revelation 1:7 the whole theme of Revelation is rooted in Israel’s judgment for crucifying Christ (cp. Mt 21:33–40; 27:25; 1Th 2:14–16). In the court scene in Revelation 5 Christ is repeatedly (emphatically) referred to as the “Lamb that was slain” (Rev 5:12; cp. 6, 9). He is not just a Lamb who was once dead but is now alive (as per Rev 1:5, 18; 2:8, nekrōn, nekros); rather he is the Lamb who had been “slain” (esphagō), that is, ruthlessly murdered (Rev 5:6, 9, 12; cp. 13:8). Even Pilate wants to release Christ (Mt 27:18, 19, 23a, 24), but the Jews persist (Mt 27:20, 23b, 25) even bringing in false witnesses against him (Mt 26:60). John emphasizes that the Jews seek his death through much of his ministry (Jn 5:18; 7:1, 11; 10:31–33; 11:8, 47–53; 18:14; 19:7).

In Revelation this innocent Lamb is the only one in the Universe who is “worthy” to open the seals (Rev 5:2) and he was worthy because he had been ruthlessly slaughtered (Rev 5:9), even though innocent. His worthiness is emphasized three times (Rev 5:2, 9, 12), as well as necessitated by his heavenly praise as equal to God in blessing, honor, glory and dominion (Rev 5:13). Hence, the legal decree is justified in court.

Conclusion

Revelation comes late in the period of canonical revelation, 1500 years after the Mosaic revelation. It appears at the great redemptive-historical juncture reached in the first century with the coming of Christ. As God turns to the Gentiles he will soon finally remove his old covenant temple. The A.D. 70 catastrophe is a major event in redemptive history that an intensely Jewish-flavored book such as Revelation would not overlook. This opens the very strong possibility that the scroll in Revelation 5 represents God’s legal judgment against Israel, especially given the large role that Israel’s judgment plays elsewhere in the New Testament record (note for instance Luke’s four major Jerusalem oracles, 13:32–35; 19:41–44; 21:20–24; 23:38–31).

Thus, as one scholar argues. the judgments of Revelation “are best understood in the light of the ‘sevenfold chastisement’ that is evolved within Jewish legal theology as a scheme of punishment for disobedience to God” (cf. Lev 6:18, 21, 24, 28). This is affirmed by a mass of related contextual evidence in Revelation as well, which I develop in my forthcoming commentary.

In addition, the evidence even suggests that this judgment scroll is a divorce decree against God’s unfaithful wife, Israel. According to Christ’s own teaching, no man may divorce his wife to take another apart from proper moral justification and his securing a divorce certificate (Mt 5:31–32; 19:9). God certainly does this in the Old Testament in response to Israel’s engaging in harlotry (Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8). The moral justification which Christ demands for such a radical breach of covenant is porneia (fornication), which happens to be related to the word used for Revelation’s “harlot”: pornes. In fact, the harlot is guilty of porneia (Rev 14:8; 17:1–2; 18:2–3).


Have We Missed the Second Coming:have-we-missed-the-second-coming
A Critique of the Hyper-preterist Error
by Ken Gentry

This book offers a brief introduction, summary, and critique of Hyper-preterism. Don’t let your church and Christian friends be blindfolded to this new error. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

For more Christian educational materials: www.KennethGentry.com


Revelation shows God issuing a divorce decree against his harlot-wife in a dramatic heavenly court-room setting before taking a new bride, the “new Jerusalem,” the Church of Jesus Christ. The local movement in this section of Revelation is from God’s throne (Rev 4), the presentation of the divorce decree and Christ’s opening it (Rev 5), the judgments flowing from it (Rev 6), to a pause to consider the faithful remnant of Jews (the 144,000 from the twelve tribes), and the resulting universal growth of the Christian Church (Rev 7). This movement parallels in important respects the revisiting of the scroll (Rev 10), the destruction of the temple in the holy city (Rev 11:1–2) in the presence of witnesses (Rev 11:3–8), with a reiteration of its universal consequences (Rev 11:15) and its viewing of the heavenly temple (Rev 11:16–18) which is now opens (Rev 11:19). The divorce of Israel leads to enormous redemptive-historical changes.

Clearly as one biblical scholar argues: “in Israel some kind of written document appears to have been necessary” to effect divorce, and this requires formal court proceedings and proper witnesses (as the Mishnah, Gittin shows). Consequently, I believe Ford’s approach is correct when she writes: “the bride and adulteress motifs in Revelation . . point to such a scroll. It might easily be a bill of divorce; the Lamb divorces unfaithful Jerusalem and marries the new Jerusalem.”

Thus, you now have before you my understanding of the crucial imagery of the seven-sealed scroll in Revelation. There is more that could be said, but it will have to be said later.

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