PMW 2022-012 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
To your last point, if the 42-month Roman siege was the great tribulation, doesn’t that imply a gap? After all, either Vespasian or Titus could be the prince who was to come (Daniel 9:26). But if Messiah, the Prince was cut off in 33 or 34 that leaves about 33 years.
No, because the great tribulation is not one of the six things anticipated in Dan 9:24 which were to occur in the Seventy Weeks. See: https://postmillennialworldview.com/2013/11/22/dispensationalism-and-daniels-gap-part-1/
Being a veteran who later got saved this language of coming on clouds, Lord of hosts, and etc has always leaped off the page at me. Swarms of precisely wielded large armies moving with great purpose readily comes to mind. When one considers fully that the Lord of hosts has at His disposal all the armies of the earth it sets one in awe.
Ezekiel 38 makes direct references to armies moving and being as a cloud. The military meaning behind it in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is inescapable.
Nobody thinks that Hebrews 12:1 using “cloud of witnesses” (kjv) means anything other than other than a very large host of people.
Clouds means hosts although not interchangable but, Lord of the host(s) is a direct reference to the Lord as head and director of human armies doing His will.
Surely Daniel 7:13’s use of “clouds of heaven” (kjv) doesn’t refer to cumulus nimbus. It means a whole host of those in (from) heaven.
I don’t see any real break in the consistency of these uses from the earliest of mentions, especially in Joshua, through to Revelation.
Our Lord brought the armies of the Roman empire to bare against Jerusalem in the first century. I have no doubt of this.
Thank you for these articles. Re your section on “the tribes of the Land” I think it was dispensationalist Mark Hitchcock who I heard point out that if you search for the exact phrase “φυλαί της γης” i.e. tribes of the land/earth in the LXX then actually most of the references indicated the nations of the world e.g. Gen 12:3, Gen 28:14 (Abraham’s seed’s blessing on all the tribes of the earth), Ps 72:17 (All the nations shall declare him [Solomon] blessed), Ezek 20:32 (Israel being like the tribes of the earth in their idolatry).
I don’t disagree with your general premise in the article but perhaps the “tribes of the land” part could do with some qualification / nuancing?
I read the article; very interesting; many questions, but for now, just two. 1) Do you agree that Cyrus’ decree of B.C. 538/537 is the terminus a quo of Daniel 9:24? 2) Are you saying Daniel 9:25-27 is outside the purview of 9:24?
Both of these questions are carefully answered in the series I recommended to you. You can begin with the first one, then at the end of it, click on the next one. https://postmillennialworldview.com/2013/11/13/when-do-daniels-weeks-begin/
That is true for the OT. But in the NT by the process of prophetic reversal, images are often flipped to show how Israel has become like the Gentiles, separated from God. G. K. Beale has argued this prominently in his commentary on Revelation.
I’ve read them, so I’m ok, but, you had me wondering. I do lean to 444 rather than 457 since Ezra went to Jerusalem to teach and Nehemiah went to rebuild the broken down walls, which is the terminus a quo of Daniel 9:25.
Oops! I accidentally left it in DRAFT MODE. It is now available. Thanks for letting me know about this.