PMW 2021-108 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
I frequently have folks respond to my presentation of the preterist argument for Revelation in an unusual way. They see the strength of the preterist analysis of Revelation. They recognize that it is difficult to get around Revelation’s opening and closely comments regarding the temporal nearness of its prophecies. After all, Revelation 1:1 states rather clearly:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place.
And Revelation 22:6 closes the book on the same note:
These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.
Since these statements are so clear and compelling, some believers attempt an end-run around them. They agree that Revelation does in fact point to events that were to occur in John’s lifetime. But then they argue that these events can have double-fulfillment, so that they occur originally in the first century, but will occur again toward the end. For instance, Marvin Pate holds that Revelation “does not imply that Nero filled the complete expectation of the coming antichrist, but, as a precursor to such, he is certainly a good starting place.”
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See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Three difficulties plague this type of response:
Lack of Exegetical Warrant
First, there is no exegetical warrant for double-fulfillment in Revelation. The statement is pure theological assertion. What is more, this approach not only empties John’s express declarations of meaning (“these things must shortly come to pass“), but it contravenes a specific angelic directive contrasting John’s responsibility to Daniel’s. An angel commands Daniel to “seal up” his prophecy for later times (Dan. 12:4), but commands John (who lives in “the last hour,” 1 John 2:18) to “not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand” (Rev. 22:10).
Stretching of Intellectual Credulity
Second, the double-fulfillment argument requires us to believe that the many specific events, things, and personages of Revelation will appear repeatedly on the scene of earth history. In the same order? In the same geographic regions? With continual groupings of 144,000 being sealed? With constant beasts designated by the same number 666? On and on I could go. For example, Pate suggests that “the signs of the times began with Jesus and his generation,” and history witnesses “the coming intensification and culmination of those signs of the times” which begin in the first century. Such a position seems to stretch credulity to the breaking point.
The already/not yet theological principle, though valid and widely accepted by evangelicals, cannot govern whole, vast, complex works such as Revelation. The already/not yet principle applies to unitary, simple constructs: the kingdom, salvation, new creation, and so forth. The principle snaps apart when we stretch it over so vast a work as Revelation. Furthermore, how can this principle explain the simultaneous operation in one book of such allegedly global themes operating as judgment (Rev. 6-19) and blessing (Rev. 20-22)? Pate’s use of this principle to explain Revelation seems more hopeful than helpful.
Confusing Interpretation and Application
Third, this approach not only denies what John expressly affirms, but confuses principial application with original interpretation. That is, even were the events of Revelation repeated, that would not diminish the fact of their direct first century historical fulfillment — with all its pregnant meaning in that unique era which effects the closing of the sacrificial system, the setting aside of Israel, and the universalizing of the true faith. For instance, Exodus-like events occurring after the Mosaic Exodus do not remove the redemptive-historical significance of that original historical episode. Pate specifically notes the mark of the Beast “can be understood as pointing a guilty finger at those Jews in the first century.” Why, then, should we look for further fulfillments beyond this most relevant first century one?
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According to John, then, the prophetic events are “soon” (Rev. 1:1) and “at hand” (Rev. 1:3), so that his original audience must “hold fast” (Rev. 2:25; 3:11), waiting only “a little while longer” (Rev. 6:10). “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (Rev. 3:11). The modern student of prophecy must not let his presupposed theological scheme or predetermined interpretive methodology blunt these forceful assertions.
- C. Marvin Pate and Calvin B. Haines, Jr., Doomsday Delusions: What’s Wrong with Predictions About the End of the World (Downer’s Grove, Ill.: Inter-varsity, 1995),43-44.
- Pate and Haines, 36 (cp. 44, 57), 148-149. Emphasis added.
- Pate and Haines, 148-155.
- Pate and Haines, 53.
Tagged: double fulfillment
The double fulfillment approach is also tempting to those with a “newspaper exegesis” mentality during the kind of times we’re living in. Therefore, it is all the more crucial for believers to maintain focus and hold to the veracity of the Scriptures as written.
Ken I have been wondering about this since listening to Bahnsen’s lectures on Revelation. He likewise takes exception with a double fulfillment of Revelation. But, why is it not proper to interpret a double fulfillment of Revelation, but it is okay to interpret a double fulfillment of Matthew 24? I think your view is that Matt. 24: 1-34 is fulfilled in AD 70, while 35-51 refers to the Second Coming. So why is a double fulfillment legitimate in Matt. but not in Revelation? Can you help me understand this? Thank you.
To have double-fulfillment you must have one prophecy being fulfilled twice. The Olivet Discourse involves two prophecies which are clearly divided at Matt. 24:34-36.
So, has Jesus drank from the cup of the fruit of the vine (Luke 22:18) since the Last Supper, i.e, after 70 AD when preterists believe the kingdom of God was ushered in after the destruction of Israel?
Yes. For the fuller statement appears in Matt. 26:29: 29 “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” Thus, he will partake of it “new” with them. That is, not carnally, physically, but spiritually, redemptively. This is much like being born involving a physical delivery of a child from its mother, while being born again involves a spiritual new birth.
Part of the argument for Matt 34.36 being a transition text is that it mentions the “day and the hour” and those are usually references to the final judgment. If Matt 24.36’s mention of the day and the hour refer to the final judgment, then how can the “hour” in 1 John 2.18 refer to John’s readers’ near present? I agree that Matt 24.36 marks a transition in the discourse, but I have yet to think of a good answer to this one.
Like the word “day,” the word “hour” when used alone can and often does mean “a period of time.” But it seems that when used together, there is an emphasis on the exact moment. Be careful not to think that any time you see a particular word in Scripture, it always means the same thing. Like English words, Greek words have a range of lexical meanings which requires context to discern.