Archive for November, 2018


Dominoes Falling (5)

Dispensationalism Goes Down

Responding to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

Debate 5: Ron Rhodes asks, ‘How Are We to Understand the Book of Revelation?’

 

Rhodes specifically asks: Can We Identify Babylon? Who Are the 144,000, and What Is Their Ministry? Who Are the Two Witnesses?

Firstly, for those who are new to this series, in my previous post, Interpreting Revelation Part 1 – Taking Issue with Futurism, I explained that once the genre of Revelation is identified then the correct method of interpretation can be applied and the original meaning can be established. The questions in this post that Rhodes has put forward are therefore to be considered in the light of Revelation having been determined to be apocalyptic literature, which is filled with figurative language.

Can We Identify Babylon?

Futurists suggest that this will be either a rebuilt Rome or a rebuilt Babylon. However, having determined that Revelation is full of figurative language, why should it be referring to a specific literal place at all? And, furthermore, consider that the text doesn’t speak of it being rebuilt, but of its existence.

When we consider that this book was written to a 1st century audience using apocalyptic terms like dragon, beast, etc., we should ask what they would have understood by the term Babylon in a figurative context. And, in order to understand the figurative meaning behind the term, we need to first understand the literal significance of the term in their minds.

Babylon had been an empire in the Old Testament that had exercised dominion over other nations. They had enforced their worldview, created unfair trade and exploited people. Among those affected were God’s people. In the first century, Rome was doing exactly the same and so it was figuratively referred to as Babylon. It appears in 1 Peter 5:13 where Peter speaks of the church in Rome by calling it the ‘church in Babylon’.

Now, though there’s little doubt that the term Babylon referred to Rome in the book of Revelation, it clearly went beyond Rome too, because this Babylon goes on to exist until it is judged at the end of time. Therefore Babylon should be seen as an continuing world system that was merely being represented by Rome in the 1st Century and that continually exists through various governments and economic systems throughout the ages until it gets destroyed.

Babylon in Revelation is therefore not literally a rebuilt place sometime in the distant future, but an ongoing worldly system manifest in power, wealth and abuse. It’s one of the constant enemies that the Church faces. However, she faces Babylon in the light of the revelation of Jesus Christ, who guides His church in the context of it being allowed to exist.

Essentially Jesus tells the Church to “Come out of her”, echoing His words elsewhere in the New Testament like “love not this world” and “where your heart is there your treasure will be also”. Such an interpretation would have been meaningful to a 1st century audience and has been to the Church ever since.

Who Are the 144,000, and What Is Their Ministry?

‘And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel’ (Revelation 7:4).

Because Revelation is comprised of figurative language throughout, we should consider that the numbers are being used symbolically too. In my post, Numerology in The Revelation, I argue that numbers should be considered figuratively if –

  • the literature is apocalyptic (a genre that uses symbolic and allegorical language)
  • there is clear use of numerology
  • numerology is used at the outset
  • numbers associated with Biblical numerology are used
  • numbers associated with Biblical numerology are used throughout
  • only numbers associated with Biblical numerology are used throughout
  • credible Biblical meaning is consistently the outcome of interpretation
  • multiple cases make chance meaning an impossible explanation

Revelation ticks all of the above, therefore we ought to consider the figurative meaning behind the number 144 000:

12 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10 = 144, 000

12 = covenant people

10 = quantitative fullness

3 = God

2 = both Old and New Testament eras

‘one hundred forty-four thousand’ – 10 x 10 x 10 (or 103) x 12 x 12 (or 122) depicts the fullness (10) of God’s (3) people of both (2) the Old (12) and New (12) Covenant eras.

‘sealed’ – this is not a literal sealing, but is figurative of a spiritual truth.

‘tribe’ – note that this isn’t the traditional tribal list. This suggests meaning behind why some are listed and others omitted. Also of significance is the order in which they appear. Obviously Judah being listed first has meaning. Furthermore, the exact number from each tribe suggests meaning outside of the literal, as some tribes were much larger.

‘Israel’ – figuratively, Israel represents the true people of faith of both Testaments, not the literal people of whom Paul said ‘not all Israel are Israel.’

The 144000 are therefore the people of God of both Testament eras. The original audience would have recognized that they were being included and referred to by this symbolism. And, such an interpretation would have encouraged not only them, but the Church throughout history. This is in contrast to a literal interpretation of 144000 Jews after the Rapture, which clearly is a total misrepresentation that comes from applying a literal method of interpretation to what is clearly figurative language.

Who Are the Two Witnesses?

‘And I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth’ (Revelation 11:3-4).

2 = Double witness

Context:

  • Witnesses = Lampstands = Olive Trees
  • Lampstands = Churches

Some allusions to consider:

  • Olive Trees = Kingly & Priestly authority (Zerubbabel – governer, Joshua – high priest
  • Elijah and Moses at the transfiguration
  • Jesus sent disciples out in 2’s
  • 2 Churches = Old & New Testament churches
  • 2 Churches = Smyrna & Philadelphia as ideal churches
  • Two witnesses required to establish truth
  • God’s house on foundation of the apostles and prophets

The two witnesses with authority to prophesy are “those who worship in the temple” (Revelation 11:1), i.e. God’s people of both Old and New Testament eras.

This is a far cry from the Futurist view of an actual two persons well beyond the first century church and after the church era, who will be literally killed in Jerusalem and their bodies left in the middle of the street, and the whole world will look upon them via a video gone viral over the Internet. Who then, three days later, will stand up and be taken up to Heaven.

Such a view is based on a wooden literal interpretation in the face of the clear need for figurative interpretation. Its outcome has no relevance to the 7 churches, the audience of the prophecy, or to the Church throughout time.

In contrast, however, the Church in the 1st century would have received comfort from the vision if they saw the slaying and resurrection of the Two Witnesses as a figurative depiction of the Church of the Old and New Testament eras who lay down their lives (not necessarily literally) in service to God. And, we too should receive this comfort and encouragement in our service of the Lord.

Rob Morley

Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:

  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
  4. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
  5. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
  6. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?
  7. The Signs of the Times – Is America in Bible Prophecy?
  8. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 1 – Israel regathered from Many Nations
  9. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 2 – Russians and Muslims to Invade Israel on Horseback?
  10. When Will The Rapture Occur?
  11. Taking Issue with Futurism – Interpreting Revelation Part 1
  12. Daniel’s Seventieth Week and the Book of Revelation – Interpreting Revelation Part 2
  13. Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
  14. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
  15. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
  16. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
  17. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
  18. The Millennium
  19. Prophetic Events and Their Timing
Dominoes Falling (5)

Dispensationalism Goes Down

Responding to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

Debate 5: How Are We to Understand the Book of Revelation?

Ron Rhodes asks, ‘How Does Daniel’s Seventieth Week Relate to the Book of Revelation?’

The 70th Week in Context

24Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.25Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27And he shall confirm a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator” (Daniel 9:24-27).

Introduction

Dispensationalists like Rhodes assign the 70th week, that is a 7 year period that is prophesied in the book of Daniel, to a time in Israel’s’ future that they interpret will occur only after the Church has left the earth. They, therefore, place the 70th week within the multiple chapters of Revelation that they have likewise allocated to such a period.

In my previous post, Taking Issue with Futurism – Interpreting Revelation Part 1, I contend that Futurists have wrongly aligned Revelation to a future beyond the Church age, when, in fact, it has everything to do with the Church. Now, in this post I will show that though the 70th week was a prophecy specifically given to Israel concerning a 7 year period in their future, it was realized when Jesus, their Messiah, died, rose and ascended in the middle of the week.

By the end of the article it will be clear that Daniel’s 70th week is about the simultaneous end of God’s Covenant with His people and the inauguration of a New Covenant with them in Christ, bringing about the Church age. Consequently, it will be clear that like Revelation, it too has nothing to do with some distant future for Israel that Futurists will have you believe.

The Intention of the 70 Weeks

Firstly, the 70th week forms part of a prophecy about 70 weeks and the intention of the entire 70 weeks is stated up front in verse 24. Consequently, because the 70th week is part of the 70 weeks, its purpose is included too. Consider:

“70 weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.”

  • “70 weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city”

It’s about Daniel’s people, the Jews and Daniel’s holy city, Jerusalem.

  • “to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin and to atone for iniquity”

Jesus finished the transgression by taking all mankind’s sin – ‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross’ (1 Pet 2:24). In so doing Jesus satisfied the Law’s requirement for their transgression by baring their sins and iniquities. When dying Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). ‘He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2).

  • “to bring in everlasting righteousness”

Consider ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Cor 5:21) and ‘For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more’ (Heb 8:12).

  • “to seal both vision and prophet”

to completely satisfy what was prophesied through Daniel’s vision.

  • “and to anoint a most holy place”

The anointing of the Spirit is within believers, God’s new Holy Place. Consider, ‘But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and … his anointing teaches you about everything’ (1 John 2:27).

It’s obvious that the purpose of the 70 weeks was entirely satisfied through Jesus Christ’s ministry through the cross on behalf of His people. Therefore, the 70th week, which is part of the 70 weeks, has to do with His ministry.

The Structure of the 70 Weeks

The 70 weeks are divided into 3 series of weeks as follows: 7 weeks followed by 62 weeks followed by 1 week.

A judgment principle of a year for every day as in Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:4-6 was used. In this way 70 weeks = 70 x 7days = 490 years.

Each series of weeks has particular related activities:

  • 7 weeks = 7 x 7 = 49 years: “From the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks.”
  • 62 weeks = 62 x 7 = 434 years: “Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.”
  • 1 week = 1 x 7 = 7 years: “And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. And he shall confirm a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

The plain understanding has a single unit of 70 weeks divided into 3 parts. Consider:

7 weeks (49 years) – refers to a period of 49 years between getting a word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to an anointed one (no doubt to allow or lead them in that endeavor).

62 weeks (434 years) – refers to a 434 year period of being established as a city, yet “in a troubled time”.

7 weeks (7 years) – refers to a 7 year period “after the sixty-two weeks”

  • in which “an anointed one” is “cut off”,
  • over which He confirms “a strong covenant”
  • and in the middle of which He and puts “an end to sacrifice and offering.”

Inserting any time within the 70 weeks makes the plain understanding of 70 weeks redundant (unless of course the text speaks of such an insertion, which it plainly doesn’t). But, that’s precisely what Dispensationalists would have you believe. They maintain that after the 69th week God suspended completing the 70 week program concerning Israel, delaying the 70th week. However, the text clearly states that “after the sixty-two weeks (which is the 69th week), an anointed one shall be cut off”. Clearly, “after” the 69th week is the 70th week.

The delay, Dispensationalists say, is an interlude in God’s working with Israel, now being filled with almost two thousand years of Church history. However, there is clearly no interval mentioned anywhere in the text concerning the 70 weeks. It’s therefore especially ludicrous to believe that the decreed 490 year period has an inserted 2000 year period.

They believe that God has suspended His governing of Israel as a nation because of their national rejection of Christ. While this is true, it is not according to their construct of the 70 weeks. Furthermore, they maintain that this suspension is temporary and that God will once again restore His direct governance of Israel. This is where the views depart once again, because the 70 weeks makes no mention of this.

From Nation to Spiritual Nation

Instead, the 70 weeks leads to a New Covenant for Daniel’s people (and whosoever believes) that is no longer is about God’s governance of a natural nation in their land, but concerns God the governing of a spiritual nation regardless of where they are. Jesus, who confirmed the covenant, said, “…the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24).

This bizarre insertion of a so-called separate Church age not only makes a mockery of interpreting the intention and structure of the 70 weeks, it’s clearly a slap in the face of the Messiah’s purpose for His people. Furthermore, it discards the fact that a huge remnant of Israel believed at the time of the apostles and that many have continued to come to faith ever since. (For more see The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel).

The 70th Week

26 “And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing.”

  • “after the 62 weeks” implies it’s in the 70th week.
  • “anointed one” – Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) means anointed one.
  • “cut off” – Consider this prophecy concerning Jesus: ‘For he was cut off out of the land of the living’ (Isaiah 53:8).
  • “shall have nothing” – He was rejected, even stripped of his clothes.

27And he shall confirm a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering.

  • “he shall confirm a strong covenant” – Jesus “is the mediator of a better covenant” (Heb 8:6).
  • “for one week” –
  • “for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering” – 31/2 years into His ministry Jesus ‘entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus securing eternal redemption’ (Heb 9:12) and putting an end to the need for sacrifice and offering.

Dispensationalists believe that the making of ‘a strong covenant’ and the putting of ‘an end to sacrifice and offering’ in Daniel 9:27 refers to a future Antichrist instead of to Christ. However, didn’t the Messiah institute a ‘better covenant’ and end the need for sacrifice and offering by dying ‘once for all’? Sadly, their interpretation of the 70 week period has no mention of the Messiah’s work on the cross. Surely, the single most significant event in Israel’s history would have been included in the 70 weeks!

From Old to New

In the final week of the 70 weeks God, through the Messiah, ends the Old Covenant and at the same time establishes a ‘better covenant with better promises.’ However, many rejected Him and, as a result, Israel for the most part missed receiving the kingdom of God. This was preempted by Jesus when He said to those who were rejecting Him, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”

Israel as a nation failed to produce fruit, rejected their Messiah and were cut off, however, it is not as though they were forsaken. A remnant of Jewish believers repented and became part of His new people, His Church that produces fruit. Also, any who had been cut off could be grafted in again if they repented. Only now it wasn’t to the old physical promises that relate to this world, but to better spiritual promises and promises of a New Heaven and New Earth.

There was only ever a remnant of faith in Israel. As Paul says, not all Israel is Israel. And, even the wholesale national rejection of their Messiah did not stop God’s purposes, for a remnant of Israel has continued to believe and the promises and covenants remain available to those who might still repent.

God’s working with Israel was not suspended temporarily after 69 weeks for their rejection of the Messiah as Dispensationalists contend. Instead, they have been invited into the New Covenant that was instituted by their Messiah in the 70th week. The fact that only a remnant have believed is as it’s always been. As Paul explained, a ‘partial hardening has come upon Israel’.

Desolation Beyond the 70 weeks

The description of the 70th week completes the full description of an uninterrupted 490 year period over 3 phases. Throughout the text there is no indication of any time period to be inserted within the 70 weeks (490 years) so as to delay any part of it. However, while that deals with Futurist claims for an interlude, there is an interchange of text in the final 3 verses describing the 70th week that includes information of desolation beyond the 70th week.

A description of the Messiah being cut off in the final 70th week and of the covenant He will make is described in interchange with a final desolation of the Temple. No doubt this is because the outcome of Messiah’s cutting off and strong covenant had a direct effect on the necessity of the Temple.

This, however, is not the same as inserting a time period within the actual 70 weeks, but is simply a reference to a time period outside of the 70 weeks that is being referred to because of its connection to the 70 weeks.

Here’s The Interchange:

A: And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing.

B: And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.

A: And he shall confirm a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering.

B: And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator”

The outcome of the 70 weeks is that Christ ended the Old Covenant and instituted the New. In relation to that the Temple’s desolation was to occur, however, this would be outside of the completed and uninterrupted 70 weeks (490 years). In the middle of the final 70th week Jesus predicted it too, warning His disciples and citing Daniel saying, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination of desolation,’ described by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains (Matt 24:15-16).

Futurist’s Squeeze and Sever

Rather than seeing the Church as God’s intended extension and outcome of Israel’s promises, Dispensationalists keep Israel and the Church distinct. This, along with a completely different understanding of the characters and happenings in the 70th week, requires Dispensationalists to squeeze 2000 years of Church history between the 69th and 70th weeks.

As I have outlined previously, Dispensationalists do the same when it comes to the description of the fourth beast. Between the beast and its horns they maintain that there is a great separation of time. Yet, by doing this they completely sever the intended unity of what is pictured and the immediacy of the timing that was meant. (See The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?).

The severing off of the 70th week from the 70 weeks, and of the horns from the beast, along with the squeezing in of the Church age, so as to maintain a future outcome for Israel, is extreme eisegesis, laughable and sad. Especially sad is that Bible seminaries and colleges have doctors in theology who actually teach this. Let alone the million dollar industry of selling books on this subject!

This idea of a delayed period of 1 week is further fueled by misunderstandings and manipulations of other texts. For example, futurists have a false understanding of Romans 11, presuming that the text implies that the Jews have a future after the time of the Gentiles. For more on that you can read Jewish Salvation.

In Conclusion

By disconnecting the 70th week from the first 69 weeks, Dispensationalists throw any reasonable interpretation of the intention and structure of the 70 weeks under the bus. This is clearly a big delusion and a sham of an interpretation, because the plain understanding is that the three series of weeks follow immediately after one another. Any idea that the decreed 70 weeks is disconnected at any point is simply abusive interpretation of the intended unity of the 70 weeks.

As for Revelation, it has to do with the Church’s existence in the knowledge of Jesus Christ at her side as she faces various troubles in this world. Daniel’s 70th week, on the other hand, has to do with the Old Covenant being satisfied and the Church’s beginnings through Israel’s Messiah, Jesus, in a New Covenant. So, Revelation and the 70th week are not directly related to each other.

More importantly, in the light of this debate, Revelation and the 70th week have nothing to do with Israel’s future as a nation governed by God. Sadly, Futurists miss the intention of the 70 weeks for the Jewish people, and, in so doing, fail to see that the Messiah’s Church is Israel’s destiny.

Rob Morley

Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:

  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
  4. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
  5. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
  6. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?
  7. The Signs of the Times – Is America in Bible Prophecy?
  8. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 1 – Israel regathered from Many Nations
  9. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 2 – Russians and Muslims to Invade Israel on Horseback?
  10. When Will The Rapture Occur?
  11. Taking Issue with Futurism – Interpreting Revelation Part 1
  12. Daniel’s Seventieth Week and the Book of Revelation – Interpreting Revelation Part 2
  13. Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
  14. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
  15. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
  16. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
  17. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
  18. The Millennium
  19. Prophetic Events and Their Timing
Dominoes Falling (5)

Taking Down Debate 5

Responding to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

Debate 5: Ron Rhodes asks, ‘How Are We to Understand the Book of Revelation?’

Rhodes asks, ‘Which Interpretive Model Is Correct – Historicism, Idealism, Preterism, or Futurism?’

Spiritual Warfare

For starters, though Rhodes calls it a debate, he is not attempting to give you a fair representation of the various views. Instead, his intention is to lead you into his belief of Futurism. I am writing to counter his view and to warn you of what you can lose by believing futurism and, on the other hand, of the great gain in believing the truth.

Your Sword is at Stake

Chapter 4-22 of The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave, is at stake. That’s 19 out of 22 chapters. That’s 86% of a book that was designed to strengthen you in times of trouble that futurists say doesn’t belong to you. They say it’s about another people; Jews who they believe will remain on earth after the rapture.

This futurist thinking is partly based on the gross misinterpretation of words, “Write those things which shall be hereafter.” The term “hereafter,” however, was not meant for some 2000 years hereafter, but hereafter to the day in which John was living. They were to be words of prediction and comfort for that generation as they faced their enemies, Babylon, the Beast and the 2nd Beast, under Satan. These words, in turn, have become a book to comfort countless generations as they have faced the same enemies.

Discovering the Interpretation Model

Firstly, the method of interpretation that one uses for a book is not an outside tool that unlocks the text, but is instead a tool that’s interpreted from the text. The ‘interpretive model’ is therefore something that is discovered by observation. With that in mind we can determine what method of interpretation that should be applied to the book of Revelation by observing the genre of the book, the intended audience and any evidence of timing related the audience or any predictions.

The Genre is Prophecy

In the opening lines of the book we read, ‘Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.’ This book is therefore no doubt a prophecy. But what is prophecy? Is it just a bunch of predictions?

Prophecy in the Old Testament and also here in The Revelation was primarily a form of feedback from God as to how well His people were doing in light of their covenant relationship with Him. Then, in light of His evaluation of His people, God sometimes predicted various judgments as warnings. These, however, were preventable through changed behavior.

Such prophecies often spoke of the enemies of His people Israel and how God was going to deal with them too. In the case of The Revelation, it speaks likewise of the enemies of His people the Church, and how God will deal with them. Based on their behavior, the prophecies often predicted their inevitable judgment.

So, prophecy dealt in part with behavior and in part with an associated prediction of judgment. In The Revelation, God begins judgment with His people to bring about repentance where needed. This is appropriate because judgment begins in the household of God. He then deals with their enemies, the world (Babylon), world power (the beast), false religion (the second beast), and Satan (the dragon).

The Genre is Apocalyptic

The book is filled with symbolic terms in phrases, names and numbers that need to be interpreted. The initial audience would have had the keys for the interpretation. Firstly was to note what John said concerning the symbols as he often interpreted his own writing.

Secondly, was recognizing the reuse of terms that had previously been used in Scripture. Here the original context lent meaning to the newer context, however, determining whether it was symbolic or literal required further consideration.

Once a pattern of figurative or literal interpretation is identified, barring clear internal changes, then that becomes the normative method for the whole text. This is because the author would not chop and change as this would be confusing to his audience.

In Revelation, John is most helpful by setting us off in the direction of figurative interpretation, interpreting his references to Old Testament images with figurative meaning. For example, ‘Gog and Magog’ (Rev 20:7), the traditional foes of the people of God, are interpreted by John as ‘the nations in the four corners of the earth’. That makes sense as this world is at enmity with the Church, God’s people; just as Gog and Magog had been with Israel.

Another example is where he interprets the image of ‘the ancient dragon’ as ‘that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan’. Though he interprets for us in many cases, he also leaves the readers to interpret terms based on their knowledge of the Scriptures.

For some reason, many stubbornly hold on to a literal meaning when it comes to the numbers, even in the face of them clearly being used symbolically. Remember, however, that consistency is the key. Therefore, if in the case of numbers figurative language has been clearly and repeatedly used, we should assume that all the numbers are most likely figurative too.

With this in mind, consider how the Spirit of God is introduced to the Churches at the beginning of the letter as the 7 Spirits. We know it’s the Holy Spirit, but 7 is used do display the figurative meaning of omnipresence, i.e. that He is with each Church. This sets the scene for numbers having meaning.

Throughout Revelation distinct numbers are used that were previously used in God’s word, only now with figurative meaning. Revelation uses an apocalyptic style that embraces figurative language with clear evidence of symbolically represented numbers. (See Numerology in The Revelation).

Sometimes the numbers are used literally and figuratively, for example the 7 churches, but never only literally. However, even in the case of the churches, the selection of a literal seven out of many churches in Asia was intentional toward the figurative meaning behind the number 7. It was a comment on God’s church.

Often the numbers that are used are combinations of the distinct numbers of Scripture which adds to the meaning. With that in mind, any literal interpretation of the 144000 of the tribes of Israel or of the 1000 years in chapter 20 is nullified. This dismantles any Futurist notion of 144000 Jews after the Rapture or of a literal future 1000 year reign of Christ.

The Genre is a Letter

The book is a letter that was written to a specifically named audience. It had a purpose. It was prophetic, i.e. correctional and predictive. Like other New Testament letters it was instructional and encouraging. Be assured, all 22 Chapters were meaningful and relevant to the audience.

The Genre is a Drama

The structure of the book is a series of visions within a drama. This is to be expected as the main Church was Ephesus (where John was from) with a large amphitheater and they would have been used to this form of communicating. The scenes are repetitions of the same time frame only dealing with how Jesus is pictured and how the Church is seen in context to different opposition. This form of presentation emphasizes that it was a message firstly for the audience of that time and place.

Audience

Through interpretation we can see that the initial audience was very much in mind. For example, the audience is stated as ‘the seven churches in the province of Asia’. Yet, based on assumptions around the change of scenes between chapter 3 and 4 (or 5 and 6 in some cases), Futurists interpret chapters 4-22 as being applicable to an end-time audience. In so doing, they rob us of applying in our lives what is clearly interpreted for John’s generation.

Prediction

The phrase, ‘what must shortly/soon take place’, is stated as the reason for the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It forms part of the reason for the book. The alternative, ‘what must quickly take place’, i.e. whenever it happens it will be ‘quickly’, is debunked by the intended audience having been clearly identified. Unless, of course, “quickly” is used with regard to the initial audience and not some future audience. Furthermore, the phrase “for the time is near/at hand” (Rev 1:3) establishes the imminent nature of what is prophesied, especially that it is part of the introduction to the book as a whole.

The number of the mark of the beast, 666, clearly identifies as Nero, yet the beast ‘had the wound by a sword, and did live’. Therefore, though Nero had died, the beast was predicted to manifest through another leader as it had through Nero. History shows us that Domitian was the leader that was like Nero in his persecution of the Church, a reincarnation of the beast that they were being warned about.

Though they appeared in human form in John’s day as the world, false religion and ungodly governmental power (all under Satan), these enemies, including Satan, are written about in such a way that they are seen to transcend the generations. So, though they are definitely interpreted with a Preterist model, i.e. for the 1st century churches that were addressed, nevertheless, their longevity before their destruction lends to an intended Idealist model too, i.e. to the broader Church and the ongoing Church.

The end of these enemies who afflicted the churches that John wrote to (mainly Preterist), and who afflicted other churches then and many more throughout the Church age (also Idealist) will be sentenced to the Lake of Fire at the end of the Church age (briefly Futurist).

Preterist Model is Correct

In Conclusion, the Revelation is Preterist in the main with Idealist and Futurist parts. However, the evidence in the text points to a Preterist interpretation. This Preterist interpretation was intended for John’s audience, but as application for the Church throughout the ages. Preterism is the correct interpretive model. Preterism does not imply that there isn’t any mention of idealistic or futuristic elements.

Idealism for Application

Idealism is a great way to apply the Preterist truth for all generations. It was obviously not Idealist for the original audience, however, as evidence points to that audience being addressed along with certain specific issues of their time.

Historicist Error

As for Historicism, this is the view that the Revelation is of events that would unfold in history. The same objection exists as was given to the Idealist model. Parallels in history are better considered as application of Preterist interpretation rather than the text specifically predicting these latter events. Identifying the papal system in Revelation during the Reformation is an example of this. To the extent this was true, its only by way of application of the timeless truths and principles found in Preterist interpretation.

Futurist Deception

Don’t let the Futurists steal Chapter 4-22 from you. Beware of those who inadvertently make Israel more important than Jesus Himself. God became man and said He was going to build a Church and the Futurists make it a parenthesis. Some will dance with a blend of these beliefs, but, the extent to which the Church is diminished, they diminish the very purpose of Christ and therefore of God Himself.

Revelation 4-22 is for the Church

The Church has replaced Israel. Now, I do not mean by that that the Jews are forsaken. Rather, the Church is the fulfillment of the New Covenant that the Jews were promised. Their own Messiah is building His Church in which He includes any who believe. His is the blood of the New Covenant. The Apostles were among the first of multitudes of Jews who have believed. To the Jews belongs this covenant. It’s their New Covenant by which I, a Gentile, am grafted into their heritage of covenants and promises that are fulfilled in Christ, the Son of God.

Gentiles are grafted into the Jewish faith. The Church comprises Jewish believers in their Messiah (Christ) and Gentile believers in the same. It is the Jewish Messiah’s plan for Israel and the world. It’s the New Israel that God has established for any of Israel to participate in (through faith) and also for anyone else in the world.

New Covenant Replaced the Old

Concerning God’s promise to Israel, the book of Hebrews reads: “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: … For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:6-13).

The last generation to live under the old covenant still existed at the time of the author. Hence, it was vanishing until the destruction of the temple.

The Fig Tree

‘Seeing a fig tree by the road, he (Jesus) went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered’ (Matt 21:19).

What did the fig tree represent? Israel. What did he mean by ‘never’? Never.

The Kingdom Given to the Church

To the Jewish leaders Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit” (Matt 21:43). Compare that with God’s word says to His Church, comprising Jews and Gentiles, ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light’ (1 Peter 2:9). How about to the Church in Revelation where it says ‘He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father’ (Rev 1:6)?

Conclusion

Besides robbing the Church of most of the book of Revelation, the Futurist lie is that the Jews have a future mapped out for them after the Rapture. They interpret a hope for Israel outside of their Messiah’s Church and the New Covenant in His blood being offered now. (Here’s my post on Jewish Salvation).

By teaching that Revelation 4-22 belongs to a future generation of peoples after the Rapture, Futurists lose the validity, purpose and impact that it was meant to have in our lives. It’s sadly a lie that my brothers and sisters believe, which Satan has brought into the Church in order to blunt the sword of the Word of God in the lives of believers and the Church as a whole.

Rob Morley

Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:

  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
  4. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
  5. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
  6. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?
  7. The Signs of the Times – Is America in Bible Prophecy?
  8. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 1 – Israel regathered from Many Nations
  9. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 2 – Russians and Muslims to Invade Israel on Horseback?
  10. When Will The Rapture Occur?
  11. Taking Issue with Futurism – Interpreting Revelation Part 1
  12. Daniel’s Seventieth Week and the Book of Revelation – Interpreting Revelation Part 2
  13. Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
  14. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
  15. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
  16. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
  17. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
  18. The Millennium
  19. Prophetic Events and Their Timing
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