PMW 2022-027 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Revelation must be understood preteristically. That is, we must recognize that John was primarily writing about the Jewish War which led to the September AD 70 destruction of the Jewish temple and the conclusion of biblical (Torah-based) Judaism.
In Rev 11:1–2 we read a much debated passage: “There was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, ‘Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.’”
The time-frame of forty-two months has been a large focus of this interpretive debate. Most commentators see this period as either speaking of a brief time of tribulation toward the end of history (G. E. Ladd; G. Beasley-Murray; R. Mounce; B. Witherington; G. R. Osborne), or as symbolic for the whole of Christianity’s historical experience until the end (J. P. M. Sweet; L. Morris; S. Kistemaker; C. Keener; J. L. Resseguie; V. Poythress). Most preterists recognize this period as referring to the period of the first-century Jewish War with Rome (M. Stuart; J. S. Russell; A. Clarke; D. Clark; J. M. Ford; J. M. Court; J. E. Adams; D. E. Aune; M. Barker; M. Wilson)—though, surprisingly, not M. S. Terry or D. Chilton.
Four Views on the Book of Revelation
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Helpful presentation of four approaches to Revelation. Ken Gentry writes the chapter on the preterist approach to Revelation, which provides a 50 page survey of Revelation.
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We must recognize that the Revealer (1:1; cp. 11:1, 3) of the symbolic time-frame is also the Governor of temporal history (4:11; 5:13; 10:6). And he promises that his word “will not return to Me empty, / without accomplishing what I desire” (Isa 55:11). Consequently, a direct correspondence may well exist between revelational declaration and historical execution, between symbolical image and temporal incident. In fact, in the Old Testament, forty-two months represent the literal period of God’s chastening Israel for worshiping Baal (1Ki 16:29–18:46) and Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem under Zedekiah’s reign (Jer 52:4–5). We find this same time period in Antiochus Epiphanes’ oppression of the Jews (Da 7:25; 12:7). Josephus (J.W., Pref., 1:1:32–33; cp. 5:5 §397) notes that Antiochus “took their city (Jerusalem) by force . . . and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice for three years and six months.”
Providentially then, this forty-two month period actually does conform very closely to the length of the Jewish War that ended with the destruction of “the holy city” and the temple. And this is not merely a “curious coincidence” (P. Carrington). The Jewish War unfolded as follows.
In AD 66, after a dreadful period of procuratorial incompetence, Israel revolted against her oppressive Roman governor Gessius Florus. By late October / early November, C. Cestius Gallus (the Roman legate of the Syrian province which included Judaea) led a Roman military force to Jerusalem in an attempt to put down the uprising. He assembled “an army of over thirty thousand men in Antioch—the whole of one of the Syrian legions, XII Fulminata, and vexillations from the others, ten auxiliary units, and large contingents supplied by Agrippa, who led his force in person, and two other client kings, Antiochus IV of Commagene and Sohaemus of Emesa” (M. Smallwood). But after surrounding Jerusalem, he unexpectedly withdrew for reasons that are unclear (J.W. 2:18:9–19:9 §499–555; Tacitus, Hist. 5:10). His withdrawal was disastrous, encouraging the Jews in their revolt by giving them hope of success against Rome (J.W. 6:6:2 §341). This transformed the regional revolt against the procurator Gessius Florus into a full-scale war against the emperor Nero Caesar.
Thus, “such was the situation when Nero, in February 67, appointed Titus Flavius Vespasianus with the rank of legatus to carry on the war” (Cambridge Ancient History). M. Bunson states that Vespasian “was given command of the legions in Palestine in February 67, the rank of governor of Judaea, and the task of suppressing the revolt of the Jews.” John would likely count the beginning of the war from the time that the white horseman actually “went out [ex lthon]” to conquer (6:2), that is, when Vespasian initially entered Israel to engage military operations. Shortly thereafter, “the war began in earnest only in March or April of 67, when Vespasian and his son Titus gathered their legions in Ptolemais. By July of the same year, Jotapata had fallen and Josephus was in chains. Jerusalem would not fall until September of 70.”
Nourishment from the Word
(by Ken Gentry)
Reformed studies covering baptism, creation, creeds, tongues, God’s law, apologetics, and Revelation See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
T. Parry writes that Vespasian made war from “roughly April 67 at Ptolemais [J.W. 3.29] until the fall of Jerusalem in September 70 (J.W. 6.407; 435), a period of three and a half years.” N. Faulkner observes that “the Jewish Revolution against Rome ended, to all intents and purposes, when, on 7 September, the morale of the militiamen, who had struggled so hard for so long, suddenly collapsed.” Though Masada remained unconquered until 73, the conquerors officially treated the war as over, and Vespasian and Titus returned to Rome and celebrated a magnificent Triumph. This was because “from the practical standpoint, after the fall of Jerusalem all else were mopping-up operations” (R. H. Worth).
Considering the above scenario, M. Stuart correctly observes that “the active invasion of Judea continued almost exactly this length of time, being at the most only a few days more; so few that they need not and would not enter into a symbolical computation of time.” M. Barker (186) agrees that this figure represents “the duration of the final struggle with Rome [for] Vespasian entered Galilee with his armies in the Spring of 67 CE (War 3:29-34) and Jerusalem fell forty-two months later, in September 70 CE.”
Thus, we see that from Spring of AD 67 to August/September of AD 70, the time of formal imperial engagement against Jerusalem, is a period right at forty-two months. J. Court (87) speaks of “the period of the Flavian war, from the spring of AD 67 to 29 August 70, during which time Jerusalem was ‘profaned.’” Even in Rabbinic tradition we read: “for three and a half years Vespasian surrounded Jerusalem” (Lam. R. 1:31). Of course, all of this fits perfectly within Revelation’s temporal limits (1:1, 3; 22:6, 10).
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