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PROBLEMS WITH REVELATION’S EARLY DATE (1)

Objections, Preterism, Revelation July 16, 2021 Comments: 3

Emperor worship 5

PMW 2021-055 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Preteristic postmillennialists hold that Revelation was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70. We argue this on historical and exegetical grounds. We do not argue for an early date for Revelation on purely theological grounds in order to defend our long-range hope against John’s enormous judgment scenes.. I have argued the case of the early date of Revelation in several places, most especially in my doctoral dissertation published as Before Jerusalem Fell. In this brief series of articles I will respond to four leading arguments against the early date.

The modern case for the late date of Revelation concentrates upon four basic arguments. These have been ably and succinctly summarized by noted evangelical scholar and late-date advocate Leon Morris in his commentary, The Revelation of St. John (2d. ed.: Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987). I choose to investigate Morris’s approach for three basic reasons.

(1) He has rightfully earned an international reputation among both evangelical and liberal scholars. (2) He has a demonstrated competence in the field of New Testament studies, having even produced an excellent commentary on Revelation itself. (3) His presentation is succinct and focused, which lends itself to blog analysis. The order of my listing of these evidences will follow Morris’s, which is based on his scholarly estimation of their priority.



Beast of Revelation

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


Morris begins with what he calls “the principal reason for dating the book during” Domitian’s reign, which is: Revelation “contains a number of indications that emperor-worship was practised, and this is thought to have become widespread in Domitian’s day” (p. 35).Earlier than Morris, James Moffatt insisted that the role of emperor worship in Revelation was virtually conclusive: “When the motive of the Apocalypse is thus found in the pressure upon the Christian conscience exerted by Domitian’s emphasis on the imperial cultus, especially as that was felt in Asia Minor, any earlier date for the book becomes almost impossible.” [1]

This argument regarding emperor worship is also held by Robert H. Mounce, R. H. Charles, H. B. Swete, Donald B. Guthrie, W. G. Kümmel, M. Eugene Boring, William Barclay, and many others. References in Revelation which seem to reflect emperor worship are found in scattered places. See especially Revelation 13:4, 8, 12, 15; 14:9, 11; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4. The most noteworthy statements re found in Revelation 13, where worship of the “beast” is compelled.

Unfortunately, for this view emperor worship dates back to Julius Caesar in the last century before Christ. And it is endorsed by Nero, the emperor who commissions Vespasian to put down the Jewish rebellion (which results in the destruction of the temple). The emperor cult had a prominent role in the political and social life of the Roman empire well before Domitian, and even before Nero.

Although it is true that historical development continued to introduce new features and requirements into the practice, nevertheless after 30 B.C. “we can observe a swift spread of the emperor cult throughout the Roman Near East.” [2] As even late-date advocate James Moffatt wrote: “The blasphemous title of dims, assumed by the emperors since Octavian (Augustus = sebastos) as a semi-sacred title, implied superhuman claims which shocked the pious feelings of Jews and Christians alike. So did theos [god] and theou huios [son of god] which, as the inscriptions prove, were freely applied to the emperors, from Augustus onwards.” [3]


Before Jerusalem Fell Tyler

Before Jerusalem Fell Lecture (DVD)
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


The appearance of emperor worship in Revelation is held by many late-date theorists as the strongest evidence for a date during the last year of the reign of Domitian (A.D. 81-96). It is true that Domitian required people to address him as “Lord and God.” Certainly the emperor cult was prominent in his reign. Yet when we scrutinize the relevant historical evidence we discover abundant testimony to emperor worship at various stages of development well before both Domitian and Nero. Indeed, such clear statements exist of so many aspects of the emperor cult, it is surprising that this argument is used at all against the early date. One wonders why it is deemed “the principal reason” (Morris) that makes it “almost impossible” (Moffatt) for the early date view to stand is wholly incredible.

Notes

  1. James Moffatt, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, vol. 5 in W. Robertson Nicoll, ed., The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, rep. 1980), 317.
  2. Doron Mendels, The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism: Jewish and Christian Ethnicity in Ancient Palestine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 278.
  3. Moffatt, Revelation, 429. See also: Aune, Revelation 1-5, lxviii; Leonard L. Thompson, The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire (New York: Oxford, 1990), 104-190.

IS REVELATION PAST? (3)

PMW 2021-028 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).

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.


Survey of the Book of Revelation

(DVDs by Ken Gentry) Twenty-four careful, down-to-earth lectures provide a basic introduction to and survey of the entire Book of Revelation. Professionally produced lectures of 30-35 minutes length.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


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).

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).


Blessed Is He Who Reads: A Primer on the Book of Revelation By Larry E. Ball

A basic survey of Revelation from an orthodox, evangelical, and Reformed preterist perspective. Ball understands John to be focusing on the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70. Insightful. Easy to read.

For more Christian studies see: www.KennethGentry.com


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.

IS REVELATION PAST? (2)

PMW 2021-027 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

In my last article I introduced the first of four arguments for approaching Revelation from the preterist perspective. The first article focused on the temporal indicators that John places in Revelation. Lexically, it is clear that he expected the events to “soon” take place (Rev 1:1) because “the time is near” (Rev 1:3).

But after placing that argument as the foundation stone for the preterist house, we need to notice that there are other indications as well. In this installment I will consider Audience Indicators. Revelation did not fall down out of heaven as book of concepts. It was given in a real, historical context. It is what scholars call, “occasional literature.” That is, it was written regarding a certain occasion, which I believe to be the fall of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.

Technical studies on key issues in Revelation, including the seven-sealed scroll, the cast out temple, Jewish persecution of Christianity, the Babylonian Harlot, and more.

Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues

Navigating the Book of Revelation (by Ken Gentry)

Technical studies on key issues in Revelation, including the seven-sealed scroll, the cast out temple, Jewish persecution of Christianity, the Babylonian Harlot, and more.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com



First, John writes to seven historical churches. Immediately after twice declaring the nearness of the events (1:1, 3) we read: “John to the seven churches that are in Asia” (1:4a). In 1:11 and 2:1–3:22 he specifically names the churches. John informs these first century churches of events ‘soon’ (1:1) to come to pass because “the time is near” (1:3). How could they have understood John to really mean that either 2,000 years would elapse before the events broke out or that they would drag on and repeat themselves for 2000 years?

Second, studies by William Ramsey and Colin Hermer show how intimately Revelation addresses those specific churches regarding their histories, settings, and struggles. The seven letters are occasional letters designed specifically for their concerns.

Third, within these letters we also find temporal qualifiers suggesting those churches would experience the shock waves from the events of Revelation (2:5; 2:16; 3:11; 22:12, 20). One of them was “about to” be tried by Satan (2:10; cp. 1:19 Gk.). To another Christ is “coming quickly” in judgment (2:16; cp. 1:1). To still another He promises: “I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world [oikumene]” (3:10; cp. 1:19 Gk.). Indeed, a church must “hold fast” for awhile in that Christ’s judgment-coming will trans transpire “quickly” (3:11; cp. 1:1).


Perilous Times: A Study in Eschatological Evil (by Ken Gentry)

Technical studies on Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, the great tribulation, Paul’s Man of Sin, and John’s Revelation.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Fourth, John wrote Revelation while these churches were enduring stressful times: “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus” (1:9a). Revelation promises quickly to vindicate the martyrs who cry: “How long?” (6:9). The were told “they should rest for a little while longer” (6:10-11; cp. Lk 18:7-8). In fact, later in Revelation, we learn “there shall be delay no longer” (10:6). Yet, on the non-preterist interpretation, their vindication was not after “a little while,” and the events await an enormous delay.

And there is more! But you will have to wait for the next article in this series.

UNDERSTANDING POSTMILLENNIALISM

PMW 2021-025 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Postmillennialism is perhaps the easiest eschatological position to misunderstand in our era and therefore inadvertently to misrepresent. Consequently, we must remind our brothers in the debate of postmillennialism’s actual claims. In a Westminster Theological Journal article I wrote a few years ago, I caution non-postmillennialists regarding three faulty assumptions that they must avoid when responding to our eschatological system. And though few competent theologians would intentionally apply these conditions to postmillennialism, I fear that these sometimes lurk unrecognized in the subconscious.

First, postmillennialism neither teaches nor implies universalism. Postmillennialists do not argue that at some point in temporal history each and every individual then living will be saved. Consequently, even at the very height of the postmillennial advance, unbelievers will remain among us, though in a minority status—some as false converts to the faith, others as openly unrepentant resisters. Jesus clearly teaches this in his Parable of the Tares among the Wheat (Matt 13:30), just before declaring the enormous victory of the faith in all the world (Matt 13:31-33). This is a part of the “mysteries of the kingdom” (Matt 13:11): the glorious kingdom of God does not overwhelm the world catastrophically (but grows gradually like a mustard plant and penetrates little-by-little as does leaven) and it will not conquer the world absolutely (but grows to a majoritarian dominance like wheat in the field).


The Truth about Postmillennialism
By Ken Gentry

A group Bible study guide for explaining the optimistic prophetic hope for this world to be accomplished before Christ’s Second Coming. Establishes the postmillennial system in both the Old and New Testaments. Touches on key eschatological issues, such as creation, covenant, interpretive methodolgy, the great tribulation, the Book of Revelation, the Jewish Temple, and more. It presents and answers the leading objections to postmillennialism.Twelve chapters are ideal for one quarter of Sunday School.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Second, postmillennialism neither teaches nor implies perfectionism. Postmillennialists do not argue that at some point in temporal history Christians then living will be perfected. Despite the worldwide victory of the Christian faith, Christians will remain sinners—sanctified sinners, of course, but redeemed vessels of mercy suffering the complications of indwelling sin. Just as no current evangelical church is perfect, neither will an evangelical world be perfect. But if the majority of the human race were conducting themselves as the average church-going, born-again Christian of today, the world would certainly be a different and much better place—despite this lack of perfection.

Third, postmillennialism neither teaches nor implies satisfactionism. Postmillennialists do not argue that Christ’s people should prefer temporal, earthly conquest through gospel dominion over eternal, heavenly victory in consummational glory. Any believer with even a modicum of spiritual sanctification and biblical understanding must recognize the surpassing glory that awaits him in the resurrected estate. Then—and only then—will we see God face-to-face, experience the transformation of our bodies from mortality to immortality, enjoy freedom from temptation and sin, live forever in blessed circumstances, and be reunited with our saved loved ones. The glory of Christian dominion in the earth pales in comparison to the glory of resurrection majesty in the new earth.

In addition to these three clarifications, postmillennialists endure dissenters reminding us of present world conditions as evidence against our expectations. Consequently, we must insist that our eschatological system be properly defined: nowhere in the definition of postmillennialism do we declare that by the year 2016 we will witness the glorious blessings of worldwide gospel conquest. Until the moment the Lord returns postmillennialism cannot be disproved by evidences from cultural decline and social chaos in the world. Who knows how long God will take to effect the glorious transformation? Just as Christians should not doubt the second coming of Christ because it has not occurred yet (2 Pet 3:4), neither should evangelicals discount the cultural dominion of Christ because it is not full now. All our system requires is that the world be Christianized before the Lord returns—and we do not know when that will be (Matt 24:36; Acts 1:7).


Postmillennialism Made Easy

Postmillennialism Made Easy (by Ken Gentry)

Basic introduction to postmillennialism. Presents the essence of the postmillennial argument and answers the leading objections. And all in a succinct, introductory fashion.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


CHRIST’S RESURRECTION & THE AGE TO COME (Richard Gaffin)

By Richard B. Gaffin (The Gospel Coaltion)

Gentry note: Dr. Gaffin is a noted Reformed theologian who has done much study in the theological two-age construct. Though he is amillennial, postmillennialism and amillennialism share much in common. Indeed, until the early 1900s the two used to be one eschatological option. Below is a helpful article on the topic of the two ages

THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST AND THE AGE TO COME
By Richard B. Gaffin, Th.D.

Definition

The resurrection of Christ as it relates to the “age to come” and the eschatological resurrection in Scripture.

Summary

This essay will examine the “two age” outlook of the biblical writers and the arrival of the age to come in the resurrection of Christ. In the resurrection of Christ the age to come (future) has come (present) and is shared in the experience of those united to Christ by the Spirit. Continue reading

MY HYPER-PRETERIST FRUSTRATIONS (1)

PMW 2021-011 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Well, I promised myself I would never engage in a land war in Asia. But against my better judgment, here I go. In this two-part series I will briefly respond this one last time to Don Preston’s responses to my series on Matthew 24:3. I will not be interacting much with his exegetical errors, since I am working on a commentary where these should be exposed. Rather, this article and the next one function more as a testimonial on my part. That is, it explains why I do not like interacting with Hyper-preterists.

It is totally frustrating to read their challenges and arguments. They live in a different world and have a whole new theology. And I guess in my Preston-diagnosed “desperation” I fear that they might pull out a ray gun, set it on “phase,” then fire a death-beam at me. Continue reading

Of Sundials, Clocks, and Humans