PMW 2020-102 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
I am writing this article as a brief tribute to Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen (Sept. 17 1948–Dec. 11, 1995) regarding his influence on Revelation studies, especially as the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death is approaching. He certainly is gone, but not forgotten.
Dr. Bahnsen’s formal training and primary ministry focus were in the field of philosophy, including Christian apologetics and biblical ethics. Nevertheless, deep interest, wide learning, careful analysis, and perceptive insights touched on many and varied fields of study. Among his leading interests was eschatology and the Book of Revelation. And though he never released a commentary on this majestic prophecy, he did produce sixty-three hours of taped expositional lectures, which have been very popular and quite influential in reformed circles. His enormous catalog of audio lectures at Covenant Media Foundation includes other, more compact lecture series on Revelation, as well. Bahnsen engaged exhaustive and careful research into Revelation over a number of years with a view to writing a commentary. Unfortunately, he was not able to finish the project before his entry into glory in December of 1995.
The Beast of Revelation
by Ken Gentry
A popularly written antidote to dispensational sensationalism and newspaper exegesis. Convincing biblical and historical evidence showing that the Beast was the Roman Emperor Nero Caesar, the first civil persecutor of the Church. The second half of the book shows Revelation’s date of writing, proving its composition as prior to the Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. A thought-provoking treatment of a fascinating and confusing topic.
For more study materials, go to: KennethGentry.com
I believe it safe to say that Dr. Bahnsen is largely responsible for the recent resurgence in evangelical preterism in general and the preterist approach to Revelation in particular. He produced the large tape set on Revelation in the 1970s while lecturing to seminarians and laymen alike at St. Paul Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Also during his two and one-half year tenure at Reformed Theological Seminary he introduced the subject to a good number of future reformed pastors and Christian educators. Counted among his “converts” to preterism are at least three of his seminary students who have encouraged Revelation studies and preterism to an ever widening audience since his death. These three have either written books on Revelation or touched deeply on Revelation themes through related publications: David Chilton, Gary DeMar, and me, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
David Chilton authored Paradise Restored: An Eschatology of Dominion (1985), which touches on Revelation and related themes. His book, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (1987), was Chilton’s largest and most popular work. And though this preterist commentary is flawed by Chilton’s employment of interpretive maximalism (which generated a strong response from Bahnsen), it continues today to introduce the preterist approach to Revelation to new and wider audiences.
Gary DeMar has written Last Days Madness (1991, 1994), which focuses on the Olivet Discourse, the backdrop of John’s Revelation. Not only has DeMar’s book enjoyed several printings, but he has also lectured and debated on Revelation themes through his American Vision ministry. His monthly magazine Biblical Worldview frequently focuses on preterist themes. DeMar has also produced and marketed a video tape of an popular, informal discussion on Revelation, titled Demystifying Revelation.
I had the joy and privilege of co-authoring a book with Dr. Bahnsen in which I focused on preterism and eschatology: House Divided: The Break-up of Dispensational Theology (1989, 1997). I wrote my doctorate on the date of the writing of Revelation (1988), which was published under the title of Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (1989, 1997). It is dedicated to his memory with these words: “Dedicated to Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen who first startled me with his commitment to and then convinced me of the early date of Revelation.”
In addition to frequent seminars, debates, and interviews on the subject, I have also published or am preparing for publication the following works which directly touch on Revelation themes from a preterist perspective: The Beast of Revelation (1989, 1994), a popularized summation of Before Jerusalem Fell. He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology (1992, 1997, 2009), which has two chapters dedicated to Revelation themes. “The Preterist View” in Zondervan’s Four Views on the Book of Revelation (1997). Perilous Times: A Study in Eschatological Evil (1998, which has two chapters dedicated to Revelation. And me study, titled: The Book of Revelation Made Easy (2008, 2010). Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues (2010). In 2015 I even completed a two-volume 1700 page academic commentary on Revelation, titled: The Divorce of Israel: A Redemptive-Historical Study of Revelation (which should be published in early 2021).
For several years I continued to oversee Revelation studies in four academic settings: Christ College, Bahnsen Theological Seminary, Whitefield Theological Seminary, and Trinity Bible College and Seminary (the world’s largest distance learning program).
Before Jerusalem Fell Lecture
DVD by Ken Gentry
A summary of the evidence for Revelation’s early date. Helpful, succinct introduction to Revelation’s pre-AD 70 composition.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
I have also produced several video series on Revelation: The Beast of Revelation: Identified (my special lecture at the Ligonier Ministries’ 1999 eschatology seminar); Before Jerusalem Fell (a lecture given at an American Vision conference); The Climax of Revelation (Rev. 19–22), a six-lecture conference series given in Myrtle Creek, Oregon. The Keys to the Book of Revelation, a four-part series given at a conference in Greenville, SC. Survey of the Book of Revelation, twenty-four lectures given as a course at Whitefield Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Florida. Your Hope in God’s World, five lectures from a conference in Mount Dora, Florida.
Interestingly, a late convert to the preterist approach to Revelation has provided an even greater impetus to preterism: R. C. Sproul, of the internationally prominent Ligonier Ministries. His work touching on Revelation and his bibliography shows heavy influence from Bahnsen, Chilton, DeMar, and me: The Last Days According to Jesus (Baker, 1998).
Clearly, then, Dr. Bahnsen’s perspective in eschatology is continuing to spread, not only directly through his catalog, but indirectly through his students and others he has influenced. His influence in the field of eschatology parallels his impact in apologetics and ethics. This one scholar has impacted and continues to affect the lives of many lay Christians and ordained scholars through his books, tapes, and students. No scholar has had a greater influence on me than Bahnsen.
Click on the following images for more information on these studies:
Tagged: Book of Revelation, Greg L. Bahnsen, R. C. Sproul
I must say Chilton’s flaw of Interpretive Maximalism is not much of a flaw at all if looked at in the view that everything does point to Christ. I subscribe to that, but like anything else, it can be taken to an extreme. The Old and New Testaments, each with their own identities, are two parts of the two-part book we call the Holy Scriptures.
Days of Vengeance was an important read for me, as was Before Jerusalem Fell. Chilton’s use of the liturgical and covenant analogies was a bit much, but there is also some truth to what he said. God’s covenants play a big role in Scripture, but then man has a nasty habit of screwing everything up, such as covenant eschatology vs. covenant theology.
When I read about things like theonomy, dominion theology, Christian Reconstruction, Tyler theology, etc., it made my eyes glaze over, and I avoided them like the plague. Some, Bahnsen, I believe, have likened Chilton to Hal Lindsay, of all people. Some, Bahnsen, again, I believe, have criticized Chilton in his comparison of Revelation to Ezekiel. But, If I’m not mistaken, I believe you also have recently posted a similar comparison.
I know scholars have to hammer out doctrine, but then they pigeonhole others and use that as a means to dismiss them. When held up to the inspired Scriptures, everyone’s writings are subject to error, without exception.
A good tribute to Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen!
Great! Bahnsen is the man!
A brother in the Lord who was an officer in the Air Force introduced me to Preterism (partial) by giving me a CD set containing the Introduction to Preterism by Gary DeMar nearly ten years ago. He was reassigned soon after that but I pursued my studies from that point and switched my view of eschatology from Premillenialism to Postmillenialism as well as my view of hermeneutics. He also left me a CD set containing Dr Bahnsen’s lecture series on Apologetics. These are all treasures to me.
Wow! Every last one of Dr. Bahnsen’s lectures on Revelation are free at Covenant Media Foundation. I had no idea that site existed. Thank you for sharing!
I don’t believe Bahnsen criticized a comparison of Revelation with Ezekiel. It was Chilton’s strained liturgical use of Ezekiel that he criticized. But he did wholly dismmiss Interpretive Maximalism as a bridge too far. Way too far.
That is the article I read, and your point is taken, but Bahnsen comes at him pretty hard. I also find it amazing that he missed who the harlot is by identifying her as the city with seven mountains when it is the beast she sits on that has seven heads: the seven mountains. From what I’ve read, you and I agree that the harlot is Jerusalem, and the beast she sits on is Rome. We disagree as to the waters upon which she sits. Whether they are between the harlot and the beast and are the dispersed Jews, or all the peoples and nations and tongues of the Roman Empire are, to me, an insignificant point. What does matter is the correct identity of the harlot and the beast. I find it astounding that Bahnsen misses that and calls it a major blunder by Chilton. I’m not Chilton’s apologist, and my intent is not to bash Bahnsen, but I have long learned that you have to sift through everyone’s writings to weed out the “bad” stuff. Nobody is 100% correct on everything. As for IM, I try to see Christ in everything. That has helped me to not go off on a tangent as futurists do. If that is IM, guilty as charged. I know it’s way too simplistic to sum up the Scriptures in a few tasty sentences, but generally speaking I do see the Old Testament as pointing to the coming Messiah. In that regard I don’t think it’s outlandish to say so.
At an eschatology conference Dr. Bahnsen and I spoke at in Kingsport, TN, in the mid 1990s, I noted that I only disagreed with him on two issues of prophecy: (1) the identity of the harlot in Revelation and (2) the identity of the that year’s National League East champions in major league baseball (he was a Dodgers fan and I was a Braves fan). He immediately stood up in the audience and said, “And Ken is wrong on both of these!” Ha. The identity of the harlot in Revelation was the last thing we spoke about when were last together in March before he died later that year.
A real loss, without a doubt. So, did you change his mind about the harlot? I’m a Yankees fan, so the Dodgers are a no-no. My wife is from the Atlanta area so I have to make believe I root for them. They had a great team back then – getting there again, too.
No. He and I agreed to disagree.