Skip to comments.REVELATION: IT'S CENTRAL THEME ILLUMINATED
Posted on 02/02/2017 5:22:40 PM PST by grumpa
Revelation: Its Central Theme Illuminated
by Charles S. Meek
The book of Revelation is surprisingly easy to understand. While the books symbolism may leave certain details debatable, the overarching themes are quite clear. Yet, Christians often misunderstand Bible prophecy for at least four reasons: (1) they fail to see how Revelation ties to the rest of Scripture, (2) they are largely unfamiliar with the Old Testament, (3) they are ignorant of Hebraic apocalyptic language, and (4) they are heavily influenced by unbiblical assumptions. In this article, I will briefly give some important highlights. For more details on eschatology, the reader is invited to see related articles at my website linked at the bottom.
WHEN WRITTEN. The evidence is strong that the book was written in the mid-60s AD, prior to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Here are some import clues, among many others: It was written during the tribulation (Revelation 1:9), which Jesus time-restricted to his own generation (Matthew 24:9, 21, 29, 34). It was written while the temple was still standing (Revelation 11:1). It was written during the reign of Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome (Revelation 17:10 now is) who ruled from AD 54 to AD 68. There is no mention in the book of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 as a past event. Further, ancient sources suggest that John (the author) was killed, about the same time that Paul and Peter were martyred, during the era of intense Christian persecution from AD 64 to 68. (Over 130 theologians have been identified as holding to this early dating of Revelation.)
WHEN FULFILLED. Revelation contains over 30 passages that demand its imminent, i.e. soon, fulfillment. We see such statements as must shortly take place, soon, near, and about to happen (Revelation 1:1-3; 22:6-20; etc.). There are over 70 other imminence statements in the rest of the New Testament that confirm the time-line for fulfillment of most, if not all, prophecy. While many Christians read thousands of years later into these words, this does violence to the text. Words mean something and God repeatedly used understandable words of imminent fulfillment that can be clearly understoodas long as your mind is not cluttered with futurist presuppositions. God does not deceive. It is illegitimate to pour unbiblical or non-dictionary meanings into plain words. While Revelation is a timeless book with universal application (Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 13:7; 14:6), the fulfillment of prophecy was AT HAND when the Bible was being penned (Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28; 24:29-34; 26:64; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 1:2; 10:37; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 4:7, 17; 1 John 2:17-18; etc.).
MAJOR THEME. Scholars agree that the major theme of Revelation is the defeat of Babylon, but disagree on what Babylon represents. Babylon was an historic enemy of Gods people, and it is used symbolically in Revelation to represent Old Covenant Israel/Jerusalem who had become unfaithful. This is the theme of chapters 16-19. Jesus wrath, promised in Revelation, would come against the great city Babylon (Revelation 18:21-24) which is clearly identified as the city where the Lord was slain (Revelation 11:8-9). This unambiguously confirms that the Great Judgment was against Jerusalem. There is an abundance of additional proof:
Babylon is described as a harlot (Revelation 17:1, 15; 19:2). Throughout the Bible, when Israel was unfaithful, she is characterized as a harlot or adulterer (Deuteronomy 31:16-18; Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6-9; Ezekiel 6:8-9; 16:15, 26, 28; Hosea 1:2; 9:1). The harlot is adorned in purple and scarlet (Revelation 17:4), which are the colors of the ritual dress of the high priest and the colors that adorn the temple (Exodus 28:5-6; 39:1-2).
In Revelation, we find a reiteration of the biblical theme of Gods final wrath upon unfaithful Israel. This theme began all the way back in Deuteronomy 27-32 where we see a discussion about Gods covenant with Israel (29:1), which could be sustained only IF the Israelites were obedient. The passage in Deuteronomy intimates that at some time in the futureat the end (32:20), further described as the latter days (32:29)Israel would break their side of the covenant (31:16) and be destroyed (28:20, 24, 33, 45, 48, 61, 64; 32:23, 26). This fits perfectly with what happened in AD 70when the ancient custom of temple sacrifices for sin ended forever and the priesthood was dissolved.
This same theme is portrayed by other Old Testament prophets. For example, Daniel 12 prophesied that the time of the end (Daniel 12:6) would happen when the power of the holy people comes to an end (Daniel 12:7), and when the regular burnt offering is taken away (Daniel 12:11)which would be the time of the abomination of desolation (Daniel 12:11). Jesus confirmed Daniels time line in the Olivet Discourse (Abomination of Desolation, Matthew 24:15), which would close out the END OF THE AGE (Matthew 24:3, 13) while some of those living in the first century were still alive (Matthew 24:34)all coincident with the destruction of the temple (Matthew 24:2). This was clearly the culminating end of the Old Covenant Age, which was just in front of the biblical writers (Hebrews 8:13). It was never to be the end of time, as many Christians think, but rather the time of the endthe end of the Old Covenant Age, which ended in finality in AD 70.
In Matthew 23:29-39 Jesus told the Jews of his day that THEY were the target of his wrath. The blood of all the prophets EVER IN HISTORY would befall THEM, fulfilling the prophecy from Deuteronomy 32:43 and echoed by the other Old Testament prophets! This is an astounding prophecy which we cannot legitimately assign to any other group of people. Revelation has several DIRECT REFERENCES to Matthew 23Revelation 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:2.
It is irrefutably clear that the wrath upon Jerusalem in Matthew 23 (and elsewhere) would be fulfilled in Jesus generation per Matthew 23:36. The Great Judgment of which the Bible frequently speaks was directed squarely at the generation of Jews living in the first century. While each person is judged when he dies per Hebrews 9:27 and other passages, the overwhelming number of judgment passages in the New Testament are about AD 70.
Jesus tied the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy to his own generation multiple other times. For example, the time of VENGEANCE from Deuteronomy 32:35, 41, 43 (cf. Isaiah 63:4) was the first-century generation. Jesus said, THESE are the days of VENGEANCE to fulfill all that is written (Luke 21:22, 32). Jesus also echoed the Deuteronomy prophecy about a perverse generation (Deuteronomy 32:20), and told the Jews of his day that THEY were that generation (Matthew 12:38, 39, 42; 16:4; 17:17; Luke 11:29-32).
Revelation, we should note, is part of the Bible. It does not introduce totally new concepts from the rest of Scripture; rather, it elaborates on them. Johns gospel, interestingly, does not contain the Olivet Discourse as do the other three gospels (Matthew 24/25, Mark 13, Luke 21). So, Revelation can easily be understood to be Johns expanded version of Jesus Olivet sermon. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus emphatically prophesied that his own generation would not pass away until all was fulfilled (Matthew 24:29-34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32). There is no mistaking its meaning of this generation, by the way, as this expression is used eight times outside of the Olivet Discourse and always clearly means the generation of people living in the first century (Matthew 11:16; 12:38-45; Mark 8:12; 8:38-9:1; Luke 7:31; 11:29-32, 49-51; 17:25).
Thus, Revelation and the Olivet Discourse are thematically the samethe vengeance against Old Covenant Israel. So, why would Jesus have been so upset with the Jews of the first century? Well, (1) they were indeed evil (Luke 11:29), (2) they fulfilled all Old Testament prophecy (Luke 21:22), and (3) they refused to accept Him as Savior (Matthew 21:33-46; 22:1-14; 23:37). The destruction of the temple, and along with it the end of Jewish temple rituals, is theologically very important. No longer could anyone legitimately think they were saved through the temple sacrificial system. Jesus became the new temple (Revelation 21:22) and the sole source of our salvation.
In summary, the central theme of Revelation is the coming judgment against Old Covenant Israel in AD 70, and the establishment of the New Covenant in full. It is the same judgmentand predicted change of the covenantsspoken of throughout the Old and New Testaments (Deuteronomy 32:5; Jeremiah 31:31; Matthew 21:43; 22:7-8; Hebrews 8:13; etc.).
I hope you will examine these things with a biblical mind. Test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Begin here, then continue to the Index of Topics listed at the top right:
“WHEN WRITTEN. The evidence is strong that the book was written in the mid-60s AD, prior to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.”
False. Only preterists who need to believe this in order to prop up the rest of their unbiblical doctrines assert this.
Scholars who look at the evidence without a predetermined agenda usually conclude it was written after the fall of Jerusalem, but that would debunk all of preterism’s assertions in one fell stroke so preterists reject it on principle instead of based on the evidence.
For believers, this story is the important message written in the Book of Revelation: “The Rescue of the Bride” http://october-5-2017.com
Your heavenly father is calling to you, his children, to come to him through his son.
When you stand before your heavenly father, the only question that will make any difference is: “Did you accept the gift of eternal life that my son bought for you?” When he asks you that question, you want to be able to truthfully say, “Yes, I did.”
The early church fathers, Eusebius, Irenaeus, and Clement of Alexandria tell us that John was exiled to Patmos in the reign of Domitian, who only became emperor AFTER the fall of Jerusalem:
I’ve never found any sources of such early date which disagree with this assessment. The only sources that claim an earlier date come many centuries later, after the false doctrine of preterism was invented.
“Re-Dating the New Testament” by John A.T. Robinson shows the book of Revelation was written before Jerusamel fell in 70 A.D..
The author points out that there is no mention in the New Testament of the Temple in Jerusalem having been destroyed, I.e. a past event.
There is, however, many references to the event as being in the imminent future.
Why was dispensationalism not taught prior to 1830?
Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Catholic did not teach it; they are preterist...
Jerusamel —> Jerusalem
Actually, there is a large number of scholars who take an early date. The full article is at this link:
A short of example of the long list is below:
Jay E. Adams, The Time Is at Hand (Philipsburg: 1966).
D.E. Aune, Revelation 15 (WBC, 52A; Nashville: 1997) ; Revelation 616 (WBC, 52B; Nashville: 1998a) ; Revelation 1722 (WBC, 52C; Nashville: 1998b).
Greg L. Bahnsen, Victory in Jesus: The Bright Hope of Postmillennialism (1999).
Joseph R. Balyeat, Babylon The Great City of Revelation (1991).
Arthur Stapylton Barnes, Christianity at Rome in the Apostolic Age (Westport: 1938), pp. 159ff.
R. Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (Edinburgh: 1993).
W. Bauer, W.F. Arndt and F.W. Gingrich, A GreekEnglish Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (1979).
Ulrich R. Beeson, The Revelation (1956 PDF).
Albert A. Bell, Jr., The Date of Johns Apocalypse. The Evidence of Some Roman Historians Reconsidered, New Testament Studies 25 (1979): 93-102
Charles Bigg, The Origins of Christianity, ed. by T. B. Strong (Oxford: 1909), pp. 30,48.
F.F. Bruce, New Testament History (Garden City: 1969), p.411.
Rudolf Bultmann (1976).
R. Carré, `Othon et Vitellius, deux nouveaux Néron?, in J.-M. Croisille, R. Martin and Y. Perrin (eds.), Neronia V. Néron: histoire et légende (Collection Latomus, 247; Brussels: 1999): 152-81.
David Chilton, Paradise Restored (Tyler, TX: 1985); and The Days of Vengeance (Ft. Worth, TX: 1987).
William Newton Clarke, An Outline of Christian Theology (New York: 1903).
Adela Yarbro Collins, The Combat Myth in the Book of Revelation (Harvard Theological Review; Harvard Dissertations in Religion, 9; (Missoula: 1976) ; Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse (Philadelphia: 1984).
Theologians are like armpits. Every religion has at least one, and they usually stink.
quote from article:
The harlot is adorned in purple and scarlet (Revelation 17:4), which are the colors of the ritual dress of the high priest and the colors that adorn the temple (Exodus 28:5-6; 39:1-2).
There is one color that was in the ritual dress in the Old Testament that is missing in Revelation- BLUE
And the color Blue represents The Commandments- Numbers 15:38-39
A color that was to remind Israel of His Commandments..
Which seems like a very central theme of Revelation-
Because in the 13th chapter:
the beast is being worshipped(breaking the 1st Commandment)
the image is being worshipped(breaking the 2nd Commandment)
His Name is being blasphemed(breaking the 3rd Commandment)
And the mark of the beast is placed on the hand and forehead-
That is exactly the same place Israel was to have His Commandments as a sign of obedience- Deuteronomy 6:8
Then we have the next chapter, Revelation 14, which states the ‘Patience of the Saints’ is the ‘Keeping of the Commandments of God’ and faith of Jesus.
And to Worship Him who made Heaven, Earth, Sea and fountains of water..
This lawless blueless woman may have no clue what day ‘today’ is to Him who made heaven, earth the sea and the fountains of water-
this lawless blueless woman probably calls it ‘Thor’s Day’.
I am not a preterist but I think that the “little book” that John ate was his Gospel. That explains why it is different from the others.
“The author points out that there is no mention in the New Testament of the Temple in Jerusalem having been destroyed, I.e. a past event.”
This is an “argument from ignorance” fallacy.
“There is, however, many references to the event as being in the imminent future.”
Show us a single verse from Revelation that says the Temple in Jerusalem is going to be destroyed in the imminent future. (Don’t try to use the verses talking about the destruction of the entire earth, of course, since we know that hasn’t happened.)
“Why was dispensationalism not taught prior to 1830?”
I’m not here to debate dispensationalism, please stay on topic.
“Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Catholic did not teach it; they are preterist...”
It matters not if all the denominations in the world decided to hold to a false doctrine; the doctrine would still be false. Preterism is a recent invention that was never held by any Christian church for well over a millenia, so it would certainly be alien to the apostles who are our standard for Christian belief.
I’ll have to look into that list. My suspicion, though, is that they are going to turn out to be preterists with an agenda to advance preterism, rather than scholars engaging in an objective study of the evidence.
Exactly. John was not on Patmos until 90 ad. Not before.
In Revelation, immediately after John eats the “little book”, he is told by the angel who carried it that he must “prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings”.
The use of that word “again”, and the context of this being something that John must do in the future leads me to think that if the “little book” is any book of the New Testament, it would Revelation itself. “Again” implies he had prophesied already to many peoples in the past, which could refer to writing prophecies in a previous gospel, or simple prophesying as part of his evangelical mission prior to his exile.
Also, Revelation is the only book in the NT that is composed almost entirely of prophecy like the writings of the OT prophets. After John had this vision, in which he was given a book and told he must prophesy again, he wrote THIS book of prophecy...
OK, well it appears we will be able to ask him about this shortly. MARANATHA! ;-)
ITS CENTRAL THEME ILLUMINATED
“Its” not “it’s.”
Are the other commentators who say that John was exiled during Domitian's reign perhaps just retrojecting this on the basis of Irenaeus' comment?
Some sources say that John was forced to work in the mines on Patmos when he was in exile. That doesn't support the late dating, because John would have been an old and infirm man by the AD 90s.
And the Syriac commentaries on Revelation say flatly that it was written during the reign of Nero, as does Epiphanius.