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Q292 : Have the events in the Book of Revelation already taken place?

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Q292 : Have the events in the Book of Revelation already taken place?

Tony, I read your interesting online article Revelation 1:7 - Past or Future?a

From the start you need to know I am NOT a Preterist. I have no problem with your main argument that Revelation is GLOBAL in scope.

What I wish you would have included were the imminent words that were used. For example, SOON must take place, the time is NEAR, both at the beginning and ending of the Book.

Readers of the 1st century would surely have taken those to mean the Coming was NEAR or SOON to happen.

I do NOT consider the events of AD 70 to be commensurate with Revelation events.

But here is a HUGE problem for me: if Jesus did not return for his disciples as he promised them then he LIED. I can't live with that. Many former believers left the Faith for this very reason.

I seriously doubt that we will have ALL the answers. Surely, mysteries serve a purpose. I would appreciate any words that would get me closer to the Truth of this subject, if that IS even possible. Thanks for your article I gained much knowledge from it.

It would be nice to hear your thoughts.


A292 : by Tony Garland

I spend some time discussing various views concerning the "timing texts" found within the book of Revelation in my commentary on the book of Revelation. See, for instance, my discussion of Revelation 1:1a, Revelation 1:3b, and Revelation 22:6c.

Every interpreter of Revelation faces the challenge of how to interpret these timing texts. For the sake of discussion, let's limit our consideration to the words of Jesus in Revelation 22:7, "I am coming quickly (ἔρχομαι ταχύ [erchomai tachy]) . . .,"

It would seem that we must choose between the following alternatives:

1) Jesus was wrong

For believers, this is not an option.

2) The Scriptures are wrong (Jesus never said what John attributed to Him)

For believers with a high view of Scripture, who understand Scripture to be inspired (2 Timothy 3:16), this is not an option.

3) The words of Jesus were fulfilled soon after they were spoken

This is the view of preterismd. Since Jesus did not return physically soon after Revelation was written, this “coming” is interpreted in a non-physical way. There are two variations on this view.

3A) Jesus came “spiritually” in a separate judgment which was not the Second Coming

As you mentioned, Jesus is usually said to have “come in judgment” upon the Jewish nation in the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 A.D.

One problem with this view is if all the timing texts in the book of Revelation were fulfilled in the first century, we are left with little in the way of substantive promises in the book of Revelation pertaining to the physical Second Coming. Its as if the “spiritual coming” (which pertains mainly to Jewish interests) eclipses the physical Second Coming (of significance globally). This would be surpassing odd since the climax of the book relates to Jesus’ physical Second Coming to overthrow the kings and kingdoms of this world (Revelation 19).

Leaving aside the question of whether Revelation was written prior to 70 A.D., another problem is the writings of early Christians which indicate they did not understand Jesus to have “come” in the events of the fall of Jerusalem as preterists maintain. The writings of early Church Fathers indicate they still looked for a future fulfillment of the events depicted in the book of Revelation—that the reign of Nero and the subsequent overthrow of Jerusalem by Rome was not seen as the “coming” which preterists maintain.

Irenaeus, on the strength of tradition from St. John and his disciples, taught that after the destruction of the Roman empire, and the brief raging of antichrist (lasting three and a half years or 1260 days), Christ will visibly appear, will bind Satan, will reign at the rebuilt city of Jerusalem. . . will celebrate the millennial sabbath of preparation for the eternal glory of heaven; then, after a temporary liberation of Satan, follows the final victory, the general resurrection, the judgment of the world, and the consummation in the new heavens and the new earth.1

When the times are fulfilled, and the ten horns spring from the beast in the last (times), then Antichrist will appear among them. When he makes war against the saints, and persecutes them, then may we expect the manifestation of the Lord from heaven.” [Hippolytus, On Daniel]2

Partial or “inconsistent” preterists disconnect as many of the timing texts as possible from the Second Coming and connect them with a non-physical “spiritual” coming. But they have to be careful to leave room for the future physical Second Coming else deny a key tenet of Christian Orthodoxy. But can a reader really read Revelation 22:6-7 (which follows upon Revelation 19) and conclude that Jesus is not referring to His Second Coming at the close of the book? I’m unconvinced!

3B) The "coming" which Jesus referred to was His Second Coming, but it was non-physical

This is the view of full or consistent preterism. This view is logically consistent. Unfortunately, it is also heretical since it denies the physical Second Coming of Jesus. For orthodox believers (true believers, that is), this is not an option.

4) The words of Jesus have not yet been fulfilled.

This is the view of futurist interpreters such as myself. We believe that the “coming” which Jesus speaks of at the close of the book is related to the entire thrust of the sequence of events culminating in his physical Second Coming: an event which has not yet occurred.

In summary: the timing texts in Revelation represent "Bible difficulties" — passages which, at face value, appear to contradict one another — convey something different than what one might assume at first. None of the interpretive options listed above is without difficulty. But, in view of the function of the book of Revelation as the capstone of God’s Word to man and the larger them of God’s overthrow of the kingdoms of this world in favor of the reign of Jesus (Psalm 2; Revelation 11:15), I feel that option #4 has the most to commend it. This requires understanding the timing texts in a way which does not always denote near-term fulfillment in history.

As I wrote in my commentary, it is my view that the timing texts are meant to convey that “His coming is imminent: it is as if He is already underway. His impending arrival serves as a great motivator for godly living in the present. It also indicates there are no preconditions on His return for the church at the Rapture nor for His return as a thief upon an unsuspecting world in the Day of the Lord.”3

For additional background on this topic, I can recommend The Great Tribulation: Past or Future by Kenneth Gentry and Thomas Ice.4


Endnotes:

1.Ref-0124, 2:617-18
2.Ref-0541, 179
3.Ref-1266, 172
4.Ref-0078, 3-224


Sources:

Ref-0078Kenneth L. Gentry and Thomas Ice, The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? Two Evangelicals Debate the Question (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1999). ISBN:0-8254-2901-3e.
Ref-0124Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997).
Ref-0541The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume V: Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Novatian, Appendix, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson and A. Cleveland Coxe, 218 (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886).
Ref-1266Anthony C. Garland, A Testimony of Jesus Christ: A Commentary on the Book of Revelation - Volume 2, (Camano Island, WA: SpiritAndTruth.org, 2004) [http://www.SpiritAndTruth.org/id/revci.htm]. ISBN:0-9788864-2-9f.


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