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 AMILLENNIALISM PESSIMISTIC?

GloomPMW 2021-054 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

The basic evangelical eschatological positions may be broken down into two classes: optimistic or pessimistic. Only postmillennialism is characterized as optimistic. In fact, this is the distinctive feature of postmillennialism, which resembles amillennialism in most other respects.

Amillennialists do not like being deemed pessimistic. And they will often complain that postmillennialists wrongly designate them as “pessimistic.” They generally reject this evaluation for two reasons: (1) It is negative sounding in itself, and (2) it overlooks the fact that they argue that ultimately Christ and his people win the victory at the end of history. Still other amillennialists deny this designation because they call themselves “optimistic amillennialists.” Continue reading

WHY WILL SATAN BE LOOSED?

Broken chainsPMW 2021-053 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

I continue to receive this question on a regular basis. So I thought it a good idea to re-visit it.

In Rev 20 John focuses briefly on ultimate eschatological events that look well beyond the short time frame of the book. This is anticipated in his referring to the thousand years (Rev 20:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), which by definition must extend beyond the “near” / “at hand” time frame. “Now, although the closing part of the Revelation relates beyond all doubt to a distant period, and some of it to a future eternity, yet the portion of the book which contains this is so small, and that part of the book which was speedily fulfilled is so large, that no reasonable difficulty can be made concerning” the book’s claim to focus on near-term events” (Moses Stuart, Apocalypse, 2:5).

But you may ask why Satan will be loosed. You will have to ask John, not me — for he does not say. Just as God surprisingly allows Satan to enter Eden and tempt Adam and Eve, so does he allow Satan’s re-release to tempt the nations live for a long time under Christ’s rule (cf. G. R. Beasley-Murray, Revelation, 291). Continue reading

THE TEMPLE IN REVELATION 11

Temple 2PMW 2021-052 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Revelation is an important book in eschatological discussions. The most vigorous Revelation debate in ecclesiastical circles today revolves around the dispute between preterism and futurism. Preterism holds that Revelation was largely fulfilled not long after John wrote it. Futurism holds that it deals largely with events yet to come.

Because of this debate, the identity of the temple in Rev 11 arises as a serious matter. In Revelation 11:1, 2 we read:

And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

Here we find a Temple standing in a city called “the holy city.” Continue reading

THE NT AND POSTMILLENNIALISM

New Testament postmillPMW 2021-051 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

As we enter the New Testament record Christ’s birth immediately confronts us. The birth of “the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (Mt 1:1) gloriously echoes the Old Testament victory theme, showing that his first coming begins the fruition of the promises (Lk 1:46–55, 68–79). The fullness of time comes in the first century through Christ’s incarnation (Gal 4:4; Eph 1:10; Tit 1:2–3).

Christ’s covenanted kingdom comes near in his early ministry because the “time was fulfilled” for it to come (Mk 1:14–15; Mt 3:2). Thus, John Baptist is something of a marker separating the fading Old Testament era from the dawning kingdom era (Mt 11:11–14; Mk 1:14–15; Jn 3:26–30). Continue reading

HISTORICAL EVIDENCE FOR PRETERISM

PMW 2021-050 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Evangelical preterism is virtually the opposite of dispensational futurism. Because of this, dispensationalists are alarmed at the spread of orthodox preterism among some of its claimants. One means by which they try to dissuade their followers from adopting preterism is by charging that it was a late creation by a Jesuit priest named Luis Alcázar around 1600. Continue reading

GOSPEL CONFUSION (2)

PMW 2021-049 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is the second in a two-part series on the proper presentation of the gospel. This is an important consideration for the truly biblical postmillennial hope. If the gospel is not understood, the method of presentation will be deficient, and the results of preaching will be skewed.

The Nature of Salvation

As A. W. Pink rightly stated: “Salvation is a supernatural work which produces supernatural effects.” [1] The dog returns to his vomit and the swine to the mud, but the believer stands in a new relationship to God (2 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Of the believer the Scriptures teach that he is chosen to be holy (Ephesians 1:4), obedient (1 Peter 1:2), and to bear fruit (John 15:16). He is ordained to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). He follows Christ (John 10:27). Christ died for him in order to redeem him from iniquity (Titus 2:14), to move him to live in righteousness (1 Peter 2:24), and to cause him to serve without fear in holiness and righteousness (Luke 1:74-75). He is predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). This begins with the new birth and is ultimately and perfectly realized in heaven. He is described as a called, chosen, and faithful person (Revelation 17:14). Continue reading