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David S. Clark -The Message From Patmos: A Postmillennial Commentary on the Book of Revelation (1921) "This early twentieth-century Postmillennial commentary on the Book of Revelation, written by the father of theologian Gordon Clark, offers an easy-to-read alternative to the popular Pre-millennial/Dispensational views of the best-selling Scofield Reference Bible and a multitude of other dissertations on end-time prophecy that litter the shelves of Christian bookstores. "
Preterism Defined, Defended
I. DEFINED: "Preterism places the prophecies of intense evil and foreboding gloom in the first century, focusing on the on the events surrounding the forty-two-month long Neronic persecution, the forty-two-month long Jewish war with Rome, and the destruction of the temple. The word "preterist" is based on the Latin "praeteritus," meaning "gone by" or "past."
II. WHY ESPOUSED
A. NT TIME-FRAME REFERENCES
1. JESUS’ PREDICTIONS INDICATING A FIRST CENTURY PAROUSIA
a. Mt 10:23 - "Verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come."
b. Mt 16:28 - "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom."
c. Mt 24:34 - "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." (Jesus’ use of "this generation" throughout the gospels always refers to his contemporaries: 26:36; 11:16; 12:39, 41, 42 and 45; Lk 11:50-51; 17:25; Mk 8:38)
d. Mt 26:64 - "You [the high priest] will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven."
2. REVELATION'S PREDICTIONS INDICATING CHRIST'S IMMINENT RETURN
a. SHORTLY, QUICKLY: tachos and en tachei mean "quickly, all at once, with all speed, without delay."
(1) 1:1 - "...things which must shortly take place"
b. NEAR AT HAND (engus)
(1) 1:3 - "The time is near."
c. ABOUT TO, ON THE POINT OR VERGE OF (mello)
(1) 1:19 - "Write ... the things that are about to take place."
3. OTHER NT INDICATIONS OF CHRIST’S IMMINENT RETURN
b. 1 Cor 7:29-31 "Brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away."
c. 1 Cor 10:11 - "On [us] the ends of the ages have come."
d. Phil 4:5 - "The Lord is at hand."
e. Jas 5:8-9 - "The coming of the Lord is at hand. ... Behold, the Judge is standing at the door."
f. 1 Pet 4:7 - "The end of all things is at hand."
g. 1 Jn 2:18 - "It is the last hour ... we know that it is the last hour."
B. PRETERISM AS THE SOLUTION TO A DILEMMA: The apparent failure of these prophesies to come true has led to skepticism about the reliability of the Bible and the deity of Christ. Preterism solves this problem by maintaining that these prophesies did, in fact, have a first century fulfillment.
1. THE SEVEN WOES pronounced upon the scribes and Pharisees in Mt 23. They are pronounced not only upon them, but upon the entire generation ( 23:36).
2. QUESTIONS concerning when the temple would be destroyed, and what would be the sign of Jesus’ coming and the end of the age (24:1-4). The temple is Herod’s, and Jesus links its destruction with his future coming and the end of the age.
B. THE SIGNS OF JESUS’ COMING AND THE END OF THE AGE: THEIR FIRST CENTURY FULFILLMENT
1. FALSE CHRISTS AND PROPHETS DECEIVING MANY: (5, 11, 24). Josephus writes that many false prophets and false Messiahs appeared during the government of Felix (A.D. 53-60), deluding many. Such figures played a leading role in the Jewish revolt in late A.D. 66 that led to the Jewish War.
2. WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS (6-7). These would not have been perceived as an unusual sign during most periods of world history, but during the pax Romana war was extremely rare. E.g., Epictetus writes that "Caesar has obtained for us a profound peace. There are neither wars nor battles" (Discourses 3:13:9) Josephus and Tacitus both write of the unsettledness of the empire leading up to A.D. 70 (see below).
3. FAMINES (7). Josephus writes that during Claudius' reign (A.D. 41-54) there were four seasons of great scarcity. In the fourth year of his reign, the famine in Judea was so severe that the price of food became enormous and great numbers died. Cf. Acts 11:28. He also describes starvation and cannibalism during the final five-month siege of Jerusalem (Wars 5.12.3 and 6.5.1)
4. EARTHQUAKES (7). These occurred in Caligula's (A.D. 37-41) and Claudius' (A.D. 41-54) reigns. Josephus reports many earthquakes in A.D. 68 in the midst of the Jewish War. He describes one particularly terrifying quake and lightning storm, remarking,"anyone would guess that these wonders foreshadowed some grand calamities that were coming" (Wars 4.4.5). Tacitus reports them throughout Rome, also nterpreting them as portents of impending divine judgment (Histories, 1.2-3)
5. PERSECUTION (9-10) - Jesus predicts the coming persecution and martyrdom of the church, and Israel's impending judgment, adding: "I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation" (Mt 23:32-36). The NT reports the intense persecution of Christians by the Jews in Acts 8:1 and 1 Thess 2:14-16.
6. APOSTASY (10-13): Hebrews reflects Jews apostatizing and returning to Judaism (Heb 2:1-3, 3:6 and 14, 6:4-6, 10:26-27). Cf. Gal 5:4; 1 Jn 2:18-20, and 4:3, but especially 2:24, all of which report apostacy during the time of the apostles. Also 1 Tim 4:1, 2 Pet 2:1-2 and 20-21.
7. GOSPEL PREACHED IN ALL THE WORLD (14): "World" is Roman world. NT statements that this had taken place by A.D. 70 - Acts 24:5, Rom 1:8 and Col 1:6, 23: "All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing. ... This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I Paul, have become a servant."
8. ABOMINATION THAT CAUSES DESOLATION (15):
a. CHRIST REFERS TO THE HERODIAN TEMPLE, NOT SOME FUTURE ONE: Mt24:1-2
b. JESUS' PROPHESY OF THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM (Lk 21:20) AND DESECRATION OF THE TEMPLE IS CONFIRMED BY JOSEPHUS: "After the five month siege they breached the wall, burned the temple down and worshiped Caesar atg its eastern gate" (Wars 6.6.1)
9. DISTRESS UNEQUALED AND NEVER TO BE EQUALED AGAIN (21)
a. LOSS OF LIFE: 1.1 million Jews died during the Jewish War (Wars 6.9.2).
b. JOSEPHUS REPORTS TERRIBLE CARNAGE: Jerusalem, the temple, the Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, Jordan, and Dead Sea covered with blood and gorged with bodies (Wars 3.9.3; 3.10.9; 4.7.6; 4.1.10; 4.5.1; 5.1.3; 6.8.5). Cf. Rev 8:8-11
c. JOSEPHUS reports the Romans laying waste to Israel, setting fire to towns, cities, and trees (Wars 6.1.1; 3.7.8; 5.6.2; 3.7.1; 3.7.8; 5.6.2; 3.4.1; 6.6.2; 7.5.5). Cf. Rev 18:8
d. DISTRESS "UNEQUALED SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD AND NEVER TO BE EQUALED AGAIN"? This may be a dramatic device used for emphasis. Such language is used elsewhere in Scripture (Ez 5:9, 2 Kgs 18:5, 23:25). Yet this judgment upon Jerusalem was without equal.
10. CHRIST’S COMING ON THE CLOUDS (27, 30):
a. CLOUD COMING AN OT IMAGE OF GOD COMING IN JUDGMENT (Is 19:1, Ps 18:7-15, Mic 1:3-4)
b. HEAVENLY ARMIES REPORTED BY JOSEPHUS (Wars 6.5.3) AND TACITUS: "In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armor" (Histories 5.13)
11. THE COLLAPSE OF THE UNIVERSE (29): The same cosmic language is used of the destruction of Babylon by the Medes (Is 13:9-10), and a prophesy against the nations (Is 34:3-5), both of which Christ quotes. Similar language is used of a judgment of the "people of the earth" in Is 21:18-23, of the judgment of Judah in Jer 4:23-29, and of the Day of the Lord in Joel 2:30-31.
12. THE GATHERING OF THE ELECT (31): Postmillennialists interpret this as having to do with Christ sending forth his messengers (missionaries) throughout the earth and the conversion of Gentiles from all nations after the fall of Jerusalem.
a. THE MEANING OF ANGELOS: The word translated "angel" (angelos) can just as easily be translated "messenger" (as it is in Mt 11:10, Mk 1:2 , Lk 7:24, 27).
b. THE MEANING OF THE TRUMPET CALL: In the year of Jubilee complete forgiveness of debts was announced by a trumpet call: Lev 25: 9-10.
c. THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL AND GROWTH OF CHRISTIANITY: Ignatius, Melito of Sardis, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Lactantius and others point back to A.D. 70 as proof that God favored the Christians, not the Jews, thus paving the way for the advance of Christianity. Cf. Rev 3:9
IV. INDICATIONS OF A FIRST CENTURY FULFILLMENT OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION
2. Especially noteworthy is Rev 22:10 - "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near." This is the exact opposite of what Daniel was told in Dan 12:4. He was told to seal up his prophecy "until the time of the end."
B. THE TEMPLE IS STILL STANDING (Rev 11:2)
C. IT IS HEROD’S TEMPLE
2. John, familiar with Jesus' words, has this as his backdrop - the Gentile trampling underfoot of Jerusalem will last 42 months (Rev 11:2)
D. THIS TRAMPLING UNDERFOOT OF JERUSALEM OCCURRED DURING THE JEWISH WAR that ended with the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. The war lasted exactly 42 months: from spring, A.D. 67 through August, A.D. 70.
E. WHO IS "BABYLON THE GREAT, MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES"? SHE IS . . . JERUSALEM
1. SHE FILLS HERSELF WITH THE BLOOD OF THE PROPHETS AND SAINTS: Rev 16:6, 17:6, 18:20, 24. Cf. Mt 23:37 and Acts 7:52.
2. SHE IS THE "GREAT CITY ... WHERE ALSO THE ... LORD WAS CRUCIFIED" (Rev 11:8) Although Rev 11 clearly is speaking of Jerusalem, is this the "Babylon the Great" of later chapters? Yes, the designation, "great city" is used both in ch. 11 and chs. 17-18 (17:18, 18:10, 16, 19, 21).
3. THE IMAGE OF THE UNFAITHFUL WIFE, THE HARLOT, WAS OFTEN USED OF ISRAEL IN THE OT. Israel is repeatedly called the wife of God (Jer 2:2, 3:14, Is 54:5). But she was an unfaithful wife (Jer 3:20, Hos 1:2, Ez 6:9, Ez 16, Is 50:1) behaving as a prostitute (Jer 3:1-2). In the context of Jerusalem’s designation as a prostitute, Is 1:21 is especially noteworthy: "See how the faithful city has become a harlot."
4. HER ARRAY
a. Dressed in purple, scarlet, gold, precious stones and pearls (Rev 17:3-5) - an almost exact description of the high priest’s ephod (Ex 28:5-6, 36)
b. This combination of fabrics and gems also describes the temple tapestry which, according to Josephus, was "Babylonian tapestry in which blue, purple, scarlet and linen were mingled." (Wars 5.5.4)
c. The gold cup she holds (Rev 17:4) is symbolic of the temple’s implements: "The greatest part of the vessels ... were of silver and gold" (Wars 5.4.4.)
d. Josephus’ description of the temple reflects the same opulence: "The outward face of the temple in its front ... was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun's own rays. But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for, as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white." (Wars 5.5.6)
The inscription on the prostitute’s forehead is a perverse image of that on the high priest’s: "Holy to the Lord."
5. HER DESTRUCTION:
a. EVEN JERUSALEM’S END RESEMBLES THAT OF AN ADULTEROUS WIFE - DEATH BY STONING: Josephus writes: "The stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was a white color" (Wars 5.6.3) This account is reminescent of hailstones, weighing a talent each, that rain down on the "great city" in Rev 16:19-21.
b. In the end, a New Jerusalem comes down from heaven, replacing the old, adulterous bride.
F. WHO IS THE BEAST?
1. THE BEAST GENERICALLY CONCEIVED: ROME
a. THE WOMAN (BABYLON) IS SEATED ON THE BEAST: Rev 17:2-8
b."SEATED ON" = "IN DEPENDENCE ON, IN LEAGUE WITH"
(1) BEFORE THE JEWISH REVOLT, THIS HAD BEEN THEIR RELATIONSHIP. Josephus writes: It seems to me to be necessary here to give an account of all the honors that the Romans and their emperors paid to our nation, and of the leagues of mutual assistance they have made with it." (Antiquities, 14.10.1-2)
(2) THE JEWS USED THIS RELATIONSHIP TO GET AT CHRIST AND HIS FOLLOWERS: (Jn 19:15, Lk 23:2). Throughout Acts they agitated against the Christian so as to involve the Romans in their persecution (Acts 4:27; 16:20; 17:7; 18:12; 21:11; 24:1-9; 25:1-2)
c. THE BEAST TURNS ON THE WOMAN AND DESTROYS HER: Rev 17:16-17. This happens with the Jewish War, the 42 month period of trampling underfoot by the Gentiles (Rev 11:2)
d. OTHER INDICATIONS THAT THE BEAST (GENERICALLY UNDERSTOOD) IS ROME
(1) "SEVEN HILLS": " The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits." (17:9) Rome was known in antiquity as the city on seven hills (Septimontium).
(2) ROME RISES FROM THE SEA (13:1). From either John’s vantage point on Patmos, or the Jews’ vantage point, Rome appeared to rise from the sea. Cf. 17:1.
(3) "SEVEN KINGS": "The seven heads ... are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come." By this time of Revelation’s writing (during the Neronic persecution) five of the Roman emperors had fallen (Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, and Claudius), one was still reigning (Nero), and one would remain for only a short time (Galba, who reigned only seven months, from June A.D. 68 to January, A.D. 69), and was followed by three others in short succession.
(4) THE MORTAL WOUND AND ASTONISHING REVIVAL OF THE BEAST
(a) REV 17:8 and 13:3 - "One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast."
(b) NERO HIMSELF INFLICTED THIS WOUND, ALMOST DESTROYING ROME:
(i) TACITUS writes of the months following Nero's death in A.D. 68: "The history on which I am entering is that of a period rich in disasters, terrible with battles, torn by civil struggles, horrible even in peace. Four emperors were felled by the sword; there were three civil wars, more foreign wars and often both at the same time."
(ii) JOSEPHUS writes that Rome was near "ruin." (Wars 4.11.5) The state of the Romans was so "ill" that "every part of the habitable earth under them was in an unsettled and tottering condition" (7.4.2).
(iii) TACITUS perceived Rome to be in its death throes: "This was the condition of the Roman state when Serius Galba, chosen consul for the second time, and his colleague Titus Vinius entered upon the year that was to be for Galba his last, and for the state almost the end." (Histories 1.11)
(iv) THIS STATE OF AFFAIRS WAS NOT RESOLVED UNTIL VESPASIAN left his Judean expedition to take power in Rome: "The empire, which for a long time had been unsettled and, as it were, drifting through the usurpation and violent death of three emperors was at last taken in hand and given stability by the Flavian family" (Suetonius, Vespasian 1).
2. THE BEAST SPECIFICALLY CONCEIVED: NERO (A.D. 54-68)
a. NERO THE EMPEROR AT THE TIME OF THE WRITING: He is the fifth king "who is." Suetonius’ enumeration of the emperors was: Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius or Caligula, Claudius (the five kings who have fallen at the time that John is writing), Nero (one "who is"), and Galba - one who "has not yet come, but when he does come, he must remain for a little while" - seven months (Rev 17:10)
b. NERO DEMANDED WORSHIP: Rev 13:5-8. Inscriptions have been found in Ephesus in which Nero is called "Almighty God" and "Savior." He and Caligula "abandoned all reserve" in promoting emperor worship - they were the only two who demanded divine honors while still alive. Nero claimed to be Apollo.
c. NERO’S PERSECUTION OF THE CHURCH
(1) 42 MONTHS IN DURATION: from November, A.D. 64 through June, A.D. 68. John banished to Patmos during this persecution (Rev 1:9) and Peter and Paul died in A.D. 66 or 67.
(2) PREDICTED PRECISELY BY JOHN: REV 13:5 - "The beast was given ... authority for forty-two months. ... He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them."
(3) THE FEROCITY OF THE PERSECUTION: Tacitus reported that Nero "inflicted unheard-of punishments on those who, detested for their abominable crimes, were vulgarly called Christians" (Annals 15.44). The persecution claimed "an immense number" (Tacitus), "a vast multitude of the elect" (1 Clement 6).
d. NERO’S BEAST-LIKE CHARACTER
(1) HE MURDERED HIS OWN FAMILY MEMBERS
(2) HE "MARRIED" A BOY, THEN CASTRATED HIM
(3) HE KICKED HIS PREGNANT WIFE TO DEATH
(4) HIS SADISTIC SPORT: Suetonius writes that Nero "devised a kind of game in which, covered with the skin of some wild animal, he was let loose from a cage and attacked the private parts of men and women, who were bound to stakes." (The Lives of the Caesars, 6.29)
(5) HE WAS EVEN CALLED "THE BEAST": Tacitus ... spoke of Nero's ‘cruel nature' that ‘put to death so many innocent men.' Pliny the Elder ... described Nero as ‘the destroyer of the human race' and ‘the poison of the world.' Juvenal tells of ‘Nero's cruel and bloody tyranny.' Apollonius of Tyana specifically states that Nero was called a ‘beast': ‘In my travels, which have been wider than ever man yet accomplished, I have seen man, many wild beasts of Arabia and India; but this beast, that is commonly called a Tyrant, I know not how many heads it has, nor if it be crooked of claw, and armed with horrible fangs. ... And of wild beasts you cannot say that they were ever known to eat their own mother, but Nero has gorged himself on this diet."
e. NERO’S DEATH: He committed suicide by the sword at the age of 31. Cf. Rev 13:10 - "If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he will be killed."
f. NERO’S NUMBER
(1) REV 13:18 - "Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man: and his number is 666." (NASV)
(2) THE HEBREWS HAD NO NUMERALS, and so, used letters to signify numbers, just as the Romans did. Neron Caesar (the Greek rendering, documented by archaeological finds), when transliterated into Hebrew (NRWN QSR) had a number of 666.
(3) FURTHER EVIDENCE: A well-documented textual variant has 616. A mere copyist's error? Bruce Metzger speculates: "Perhaps the change was intentional, seeing that the Greek form Neron Caesar written in Hebrew characters (nrwn qsr) is equivalent to 666, whereas the Latin form Nero Caesar (nrw qsr) is equivalent to 616."
What do YOU think ?
Date: 21 Jul 2013
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