1 The Preteristic Understanding of the Revelation 20 Millennium in Relation to Christ’s Kingdom: A Reformed Response. By Jeffrey S. Krause Liberty University School of Religion Bible 450-B07 For Professor Michael Clifton O‟Brien 11 February 2010 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this essay is taken by permission from the English Standard Version (ESV). Thomas Nelson (Ed.), Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishing. 2001 .
2 Table of Contents: Opening Thesis Page 3 Foundational Argument: Revelations Dating Page 3 The Reign and Kingdom of Christ Page 8 The Identity of the People of God Page 12 The Meaning of the Millennium Page 16 Conclusion Page 20 Bibliography Page 22 .
3 Opening Thesis: Much debate has arisen in the modern church as to the nature of the Revelation 20 millennium. Historically, great theologians such as Athanasius, Augustine and Edwards have maintained that this period of time is to be seen as symbolic; in effect, symbolizing the entire reign of Christ who is seated at the “right hand” of the Father. However, since the mid 1830‟s, a new Eschatological system has arisen to challenge this view. Dispensational Premillennialism asserts that the “thousand year” millennium is a literal, physical reign of Christ on earth. In doing so, the Dispensationalists depart from the sound tradition of theologians who have held the former and more historic view. It is the intention of this essay to affirm the historic and Reformational position in regards to the millennium, which shows the Revelation 20 account as a symbolic image of the entire reign of the Christ and His triumphant church. Foundational Argument: In support of the author‟s thesis, it must first be noted that this essay presupposes an early dating of the Apocalypse. Internal evidence suggests that the Book of Revelation was written prior to the fall of Jerusalem, or rather, pre A.D. 70. Time-texts such as “soon” (Rev. 1:1, 22:6, 7, 12 and 20), “near” (Rev. 1:3, 22:10) and “quickly” (Rev. 22:20) all indicate an imminent return of Christ in judgment to the addressee of the book; the Seven Churches of Asia. Next, the self evidence of Revelation indicates that the Temple (Herod‟s Temple – Rev. 11:1-2) was still standing in the “holy city” (c.f. Isa. 48:2, Matt. 4:5, 27:53) at the time of Revelations penning.1 It is vital to note two lines of support that indicate that the Temple in question is in fact, “Herod‟s Temple.” First, there is no instance or indication of a future, rebuilt Temple within the pages of 1 There is no account from the New Testament witness that speaks of the destruction. Although this is in affect, an argument from silence, it is still helpful to note. Matt. 24:1-2 speaks of the destruction of Herod‟s Temple and when coupled with the fact that the Temple was the pinnacle of worship and the source of the Jewish leadership that falsely accused the Lord of Glory, then it is reasonable to assume that this event, if Preteristic, would have been mentioned. .
4 the New Testament. Point in fact, the word “Temple” ( ) is only cited within the pages of the New Testament in reference to Herod‟s Temple (Matt. 24:1, 26:55), Jesus‟ body (John 2:19-20), as the dwelling place of the Spirit within the believer (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19), as God Almighty and the Lamb in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:22) and in reference to the church (Eph. 2:21). However, is never cited within the context of a future (rebuilt) Temple. In addition, Matthew 24:1-2 clearly indicates the identity of the Revelation 11 Temple in question where the Lord proclaims; Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, "You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.2 In these verses, the Lord Jesus clearly indicates “which” Temple would be trampled in the Revelation 11 account. First, in Matthew 23, the Lord pronounces the “seven woes” upon the Jewish leaders and Israel. This was the same Geo-political entity that “killed the prophets” (Matthew 23:34-35; c.f. Rev. 16:6), in the same land (“holy city” Rev. 11:2; c.f. Matt. 23:37) that was referred to as “Sodom” and “Egypt” (Rev. 11:8). Moreover, Jesus pronounces that the very “generation” to whom He is speaking to, would suffer the Matthew 24 judgment (Matt. 23:36, 24:34; c.f. Matt. 16:4, Matt. 16:28, Rev. 1:7) and would be “left desolate”3 (Matt.23:38; c.f. Rev. 1:7).4 Thus, the “literal” meaning of the text indicates that the Temple in question is in fact 2 Matthew 24:1-2, English Standard Version; c.f. Luke 21:6 "As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." Here the Lord clearly indicates “which” Temple is in view in the Apocalypse, Herod‟s Temple. 3 “Behold, He is coming with the clouds” is an historic reference to a spiritual in judgment within the Old Testament. See Joel 2:1 “coming” and Isaiah 19 and the oracle concerning Egypt where the LORD is “riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt” in judgment. These verses support the judgment announced in Matt. 23-24 and Rev. 1 in respect of Rev. 11:1-2. 4 Revelation 1:7 indicates and helps to affirm the current argument. John indicates that those whom pierced the Lord were witness to His return in Judgment; “7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him…” It is also helpful to note that the term “tribes” is used, which is a heavy indication of corporate Israel. Also, the translated word “earth” ( ) is equally translated as “land,” “country” and “ground” according to Strong‟s. .
5 “Herod‟s Temple;” the very same Temple that was known to the generation to whom Jesus rebuked. The last line of eternal evidence that will be used to establish an early dating of Revelation comes by way of Revelation 17. First, it is essential to note that the “great prostitute” spoken of in verse one is none other then corporate Israel herself. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is referred to as the “whore” (Isa. 1:21, Jer. 2:20, 3:1, Ezek. 16:15, Hos. 4:12), as a “prostitute” (Ezek. 16:30-31, 33, 35, Hos. 9:1) and as one who commits “adultery” (Jer. 3:9, 23:14, Hos. 2:2). Being in Covenant with God, Israel was known as the Lord‟s “bride” (Jer. 2:2, 2 Sam. 17:3 by inference) and a “wife” (Jer. 3:20, Ezek. 16:32, Hos. 2:2).5 In its ultimate rejection, the unfaithful wife Israel rejected its purposed “bridegroom” (Luke 5:34-35, John 3:29) and instead, committed “sexual immorality” with other nations (Rev. 17:2, 4, 18:3 – see the above descriptions of Israel‟s unfaithfulness and prostitution). Thus, with all of these offensives, coupled with the rejection of the Messiah, she was labeled as the “synagogue of Satan”6 and was judged with thee afore mentioned judgment by God for her unfaithfulness. Next, Revelation 17:9-10 proclaims; This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while.7 It is of most importance to note that the apostle calls for his readers (those in the Seven Churches of Asia) to have a “mind with wisdom” in reference to the “seven heads” – of which “five of 5 In Hosea 2:2, YAHWEH is referred to as the “husband” and Israel as the unfaithful “wife” who committed adultery; “Plead with your mother, plead---for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband---that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts” 6 Contextually, the reference to the “synagogue of Satan” must apply to the Jews: "I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” 7 Rev. 17:9-10 ESV .
6 whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come…” Dr. Kenneth Gentry states the following in regards to this point; On both early-date and late-date views, Revelation‟s recipients live under the rule of Rome, which is universally distinguished by its seven hills. How could the recipients living in the seven historical churches of Asia Minor and under Roman imperial rule, understand anything else but this geological feature?8 In addition, Dr. Gentry proclaims; We learn further that the seven heads also represent a political situation in which five kings have fallen, the sixth is, and the seventh is yet to come and will remain for a little while. Remarkably, we must note that Nero is the sixth emperor of Rome. Flavius Josephus, the Jewish contemporary of John, points out that Julius Caesar was the first emperor of Rome and that he was followed in succession by Augustus, Tiberius, Caius (aka Caligula), Claudius, and Nero…That is, since the first five are dead, the sixth one is then reigning even as John writes. That would be Nero Caesar…When John writes, the seventh king/emperor “has not yet come.” That would be Galba, who assumes power in June, AD 68. But he only continues a “short space”: his reign lasts but seven months…the shortest reigning emperor to that time.9 Thus, the evidence from Revelation 17 points to the identity of the “beast” as the seven emperors of Rome; with Nero Caesar being the reigning emperor of the day. Further supporting this view is the fact that Nero (Neron Kesar “nrwn qsr” in Hebrew) is the mathematical equivalent to the “mark” spoken of in Revelation 16 (six hundred and sixty-six or six hundred and sixteen in Latin).10 Gary DeMar explains; When we take the letters of Nero‟s name and spell them in Hebrew, we get the following numeric values: n=50, r=200, w=6, n=50, q=100, s=60, r=200 = 666…There is a curious variation on 666. Some manuscripts read 616. Why would a copyist make such a number change? “Perhaps the change was intentional, seeing that the Greek form Neron Caesar 8 Gentry, Kenneth. Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues. Fountain Inn, SC: Goodbirth, 2009; pg. 18 9 Ibid. Gentry; pg. 18-19 10 The oldest know MSS fragment of Revelation (P155) reads 616. .
7 written in Hebrew characters (nrwn qsr) is equivalent to 666, whereas the Latin form Nero Caesar (nrw qsr) is equivalent to 616.11 To further establish this point, F.W. Farrar in “The Early Days of Christianity” proclaims the following about the historical understanding of the “person” of the Beast; All the earliest Christian writers on the Apocalypse, from Irenaeus down to Victorinus of Pettau and Commodian in the fourth, and Andreas in the fifth, and St. Beatus in the eighth century, connect Nero, or some Roman Emperor, with the Apocalyptic Beast.12 Farrar‟s comments not only support thee afore mentioned argument of the identification of the “beast,” but they also show the historicity of such a line of reasoning for the cited arguments in toto. Given that the Apocalypse was written to a specified group of people, within the first century, who were under tribulation, and that these prophecies were to happen “soon” and “shortly,” and Jesus return was “near,” it is reasonable and proper to conclude a pre A.D. 70 dating. Likewise, it has been established that corporate Israel was to suffer judgment to the generation to whom Jesus spoke (Matt. 23-24) for her breaking of her Covenantal vows to her bridegroom. Hence, the preponderance of the evidence and the plain meaning of the time-text establish the author‟s case. If Revelation was written prior to A.D. 70 and the message was to have direct meaning as to the trials and tribulations that the addressed churches were suffering through, then this has a significant bearing upon the Revelation 20 millennial text, in relation to when and how Christ is to reign upon the earth. A late-date understanding with a literal meaning supports a “physical” reign of the Christ in some sense. However, a early-date understanding of the Book of Revelation, which uses a “literal in context” method of hermeneutic, supports a spiritual reign of Christ and assigns a near total Preteristic fulfillment to the Apocalypse directed towards those addressed in chapter one by the apostle; the seven churches of Asia. 11 DeMar, Gary, Last Day's Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church. Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999; pg. 258-259 12 Farrar, F.W. The Early Days of Christianity. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1882; pg. 472 .
8 The Reign and Kingdom of Christ: When will Christ reign and in what manner? Is the reign of Christ, as the Futurist proclaims, to take place in a millennial kingdom, with Christ literally upon the earth? Or rather, is the Christ presently reigning from Heaven while seated at the “right hand” of the Father, in sovereign control? To answer this question, Acts 2:32-36 must first be addressed. Here, Luke proclaims; This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, 'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.' Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.13 Within this Acts chapter 2, passage it is obvious that Jesus is currently reigning in Heaven. It is vital to note that Peter makes reference to Psalm 110:1 to demonstrate this very fact; that Jesus is seated at the “right hand” of the Father enthroned. The great reformer John Calvin proclaims; He being therefore exalted by the right hand of God The right hand is taken in this place for the hand or power, in like sort as it is taken everywhere in the Scripture. For this is his drift, to declare that it was a wonderful work of God, in that he had exalted his Christ (whom men thought to be quite destroyed by death) unto so great glory…For these words, to “sit at the right hand of God,” import as much as to bear the chief rule, as we shall afterward more at large declare…The Lord said unto my Lord. This is the most lawful manner of ruling, when as the king (or by what other title so ever he be called) doth know that he is ordained of God, therefore David pronounceth that the commandment to reign was given unto Christ by name…he is made Lord of heaven and earth, which sitteth at the right hand of God.14 Noting Calvin‟s words, it is obvious to see the Reformed and historic position on this text. Jesus, whom is in Heaven, is seated next to the right hand of the power 15 of the Father and is currently reigning. Point in fact, the Lord Jesus Himself declared His enthronement prior to His 13 Acts 2:32-36 ESV 14 Calvin, John. Commentary on Acts: Volume 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 1995; pg. 72-74 15 Here, the Lord Jesus uses the second person plural to indicate to His audience an event that they will witness within their lifetime or generation; “And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." (Mark 14:62; c.f. Matt. 23:36, 24:34) .
9 crucifixion on a number of occasions. First, Luke 22:69 states; “But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God." Next, Mark 14 provides the reader with conclusive evidence of the enthronement of Jesus. When the Lord is questioned as to His identity and is asked if He is the Messiah, the Lord Jesus states unequivocally; “And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:62, ESV). There are a number of points to draw from this section of Scripture. First, the Lord Jesus uses the term “I Am” in answering the Jewish leaders. This is an obvious draw on His Deity and Messianic office (“ego eimi”; c.f. Jn. 8:58, Ex. 3:14). Next, the Lord uses the words “you will see” therefore identifying the group of individuals that will witnesses the next clause, which is Jesus being exalted “at the right hand” (c.f. Rev. 3:21) of Power and “coming with the clouds of Heaven.” Who is it that will see the Lord‟s “coming” according to the text? It is the very individuals to whom Jesus is speaking, the Jewish leaders.16 Likewise, in Matthew chapter 16:27-28, the Lord tells the disciples the timing and nature of both His coming and the arrival of His kingdom when He proclaims; For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. Points of interest in these verses include; (1) the coming of the Son of Man as previously mentioned in Mark 14:62, (2) payment for actions (judgment), (3) “there are some standing here” in reference to the disciples and (4) the coming of the Son with His Kingdom. Again it is seen, that the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom had arrived! Point in fact, Jesus makes it clear that some of the disciples, with whom Jesus walked, would witness the “coming” of this Kingdom. Therefore 16 Thus establishing the point previously made in regards to Rev. 1:7; “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth (land) will wail on account of him.” .
10 implying that some would be dead and some left to live.17 Simple logic declares that if only “some” are left to witness the coming of the Kingdom, then some were already asleep that would not witness the Kingdom. Thus, the most common interpretation of the Dispensationalist is dismantled and found wanting. Meaning, the classical Dispensational interpretation of this verse proclaims that the “coming of the Kingdom” in verse 28 is in actuality, the “Transfiguration” that took place only six days later. However, this is simply untenable considering the previously cited verses. As it has already been noted, the statement that only “some” would be left necessarily implies that some would not be left. Again, Gary DeMar states; “If we adopt the view that the transfiguration is the fulfillment, we must conclude that most of the people with whom Jesus spoke were dead within a week of Jesus‟ prediction (Matt. 17:1).”18 Moving on we see a remarkable statement in Matthew 12:25-28 in regards to the timing of the Kingdom. It is here that Jesus declares the present nature of the Kingdom that is already at hand; Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Emphasis added) 19 The Greek word translated “upon” in the previously stated verse, is the word ἐφ᾿20 which has various meanings such as “on,‟ “before” and “among.”21 It directly correlates the arrival of the Kingdom with the ministry of the Christ (c.f. Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15); thus fully supporting 17 This is the very thing that transpired within the first century. The Apostle John, the author of Revelation, bore witness to the “coming” of the Son on the clouds in judgment (Rev. 1:8). Jesus without question was referring to this very fact in John 21:22, when in reply to Peter about the future of the beloved disciple proclaimed; “Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!" 18 Ibid. DeMar; pg. 44. 19 Matt. 12:25-28 ESV 20 Brown, R, and P Comfort, . The New Greek English Interlinear New Testament. UBS 4th edition, Nestle-Aland 27th edition. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 1990. 21 Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside: Libronix, Libronix. .