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Church-State Relations and the Book of Revelation
An Introduction to The Parousia: A Careful Look at the New Testament Doctrine of the Lord's Second Coming
by James Stuart Russell (1878) // Written by
Todd Dennis, Curator
 


 

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The Revelation -- Which Interpretation
PRETERIST - CONTINUOUS HISTORIC - FUTURIST

By Graham Pearce
Christadelphian Scripture Study Service
June,1982

CONTENTS

Preface

Chapter 1: A BOOK GIVEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD ... 10

    Blessed is he that keeps the sayings of the book
    A brief outline of four interpretations
    The origin of the past and futurist interpretations

Chapter 2: THE CLAIMS OF THE HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION ...15

    A prophetic record promised
    A rational structure
    Things which must shortly come to pass
    Fulfilment understood in earlier times
    The ultimate test: the fit of history to the symbols
    -- A thousand years' history that cannot be ignored
    -- History and prophecy through six Trumpets

Chapter 3: A PRETERIST INTERPRETATION ... 32

    The basis for our examination
    The date of the Revelation: Nero's or Domitian's persecution?
    Examination of the proposed rules of interpretation
    Which interpretation is the Biblical approach?
    The Seals and Trumpets: Do they fit the events of AD 70?
    Comparison of two interpretations of the Seals.
    The Trumpets and AD 70
    Why abundant prophecy for AD 65-70 and none for the period after?

Chapter 4: A FUTURIST INTERPRETATION ... 45

    A summary of the interpretation
    Four general criticisms
    -- Promise of prophetic guidance
    -- Things which must shortly come to pass
    -- Keeping the sayings of the book
    -- Improbable grouping of symbols
    Twelve detailed criticisms
    -- The 6th Seal: 'portents' of the Lord's return?
    -- What is the sealing of the 144,000?
    -- 200 million horsemen engaged in a future war
    -- Christadelphians commissioned to witness by the Rainbowed Angel
    -- Mortal Christadelphians waging war
    -- Ascended up to heaven: to the judgement seat
    -- The nation of Israel, the sun-clothed woman with the moon under her feet
    -- Jesus and the dragon in heaven
    -- The nation of Israel nourished in the wilderness
    -- The nation of Israel the harlot on the beast
    -- Angels carry out all judgements
    -- Punishment of the unfaithful

CONTENTS PAGE 8

Chapter 5: DOES THE SIXTH SEAL APPLY TO CONSTANTINE? ... 55

    Two problems to be faced
    Is the language of the 6th Seal too grand for Constantine?
    The greatness of the Constantinian Revolution
    A new constitution
    Fundamental religious changes
    Political nature of the religious revolution
    The pagans fleeing from the wrath of the Lamb
    Ch. 12 confirms the application of the 6th Seal to Constantine
    The apparent coming of the kingdom of God
    Constantine ascending 'the throne of God'
    Extracts from the historian Michael Gilbert

Chapter 6: '1260' -- DAYS OR YEARS? ... 67

    This is a key question
    The Revelation a book of symbol
    The decorum of the symbol
    Evidence from the book of Daniel
    An exact fulfilment of 1260 years

Chapter 7: IS THE REVELATION A BOOK ABOUT MODERN ISRAEL? ... 76

    "Exploring the Apocalypse and the Future" -- A Summary of Events
    Israel and the beasts of Revelation and Daniel
    The Bible contrasted with what Bro. Watkins writes
    -- The nation welcomes Jesus on his return
    -- The restoration a slow process under divine favour
    -- Israel is weak, not powerful, when Christ returns
    -- Israel and Babylon
    Four more illustrations of inappropriateness
    -- The little horn of Daniel 7
    -- The manchild and dragon of Revelation 12
    -- The harlot and the beast
    -- Ezekiel 38 not fulfilled until Revelation 20:8 is fulfilled
    What will be the effect of this anti-Jewish attitude?

Chapter 8: SAINTS THANKFUL FOR PROPHETIC GUIDANCE TODAY ... 84

    Prophetic guidance in the time of the End
    The pouring out of the Vials -- The perspective
    An analysis of the Vials
    The Old Order passes away
    -- Great changes in western Europe
    -- Events in the East
    Preparation for Christ's return
    -- Preparing the Way for the Kings of the East
    The gathering of the nations by the frog-like spirits
    -- Frog-tike spirits

CONTENTS PAGE 9

    -- They are the spirits of demons working miracles
    -- Out of the mouth of the beast and the dragon
    -- Out of the mouth of the false prophet
    -- The developing socialist bias of the Vatican
    -- The present Pope (1982)
    -- Gathering the nations, Revelation 16:15

Chapter 9: -- THE DESTRUCTION OF BABYLON: BY THE BEAST OR THE SAINTS? ... 97

    The shape of things to come
    The importance of Babylon
    Babylon and the harlot on the beast -- Rome or Jerusalem?
    Who destroys Babylon -- the beast or the saints?
    Seven reasons for believing it is the saints
    Some difficulties to be solved
    -- The horns burn the harlot with fire
    -- Come out of her my people
    -- The marriage of the Lamb ch. 19

Chapter 10: -- ANOTHER 'HISTORICAL' INTERPRETATION ...107

    "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" -- a brief statement of some key ideas Comments on chapters 11-16

Chapter 11: WHICH INTERPRETATION? 115

    Our examination reviewed
    The voice of our earlier brethren
    Truth is precious

APPENDIX 1: DANIEL AND THE APOCALYPSE ... 120

APPENDIX 2: IS THE APOCALYPSE A CHRONOLOGICAL PROGRESSION ... 126

APPENDIX 3: NOTES ON THE SECOND EDITION OF "APOCALYPSE FOR EVERYMAN" ... 131

APPENDIX 4: A PRINCIPLE OF INTERPRETATION ... 136

FURTHER READING ... 137

 

 

A PRETERIST INTERPRETATION

THE BASIS FOR OUR EXAMINATION

The above book has approximately 300 pages and covers all the chapters of the Revelation. The key chapter is No. 9 where the basis of exposition is set out. At the end of this chapter a conclusion is drawn:

"It can be said right away that in the main the use of the rest of the Bible to elucidate Revelation leads to the emphatic conclusion that practically all the book from chapter 6 onwards applies either (i) to the grim events associated with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 and God's rejection of Israel, or else (ii) to the great events prior to and contemporary with the return of the Lord, or else (iii) to both".

So in Bro. Whittaker's interpretation, the Seals and Trumpets apply to the nation of Israel in AD 70. This gives us a solid foundation on which to test the exposition. We can measure historical facts against the detail of the symbols. The item (ii) above, the projection of the symbols to a future fulfilment, is necessarily speculative, and therefore of quite secondary importance in assessing the validity of this 'Israel' approach. If we are satisfied with the handling of the past -- with the facts of history -- then we can be interested in the author's future ideas. But if the past application is erroneous, and the foundation wrong, then we need not concern ourselves with the rest.

It will be apparent that Bro. Whittaker's exposition depends on proving that the Revelation was given to John before the events of AD 70. We will look at this matter first before examining the 'Biblical' ground for the Israelitish interpretation. So the matters under consideration in this chapter are:

Was the Revelation given before AD 70?

A critical examination of the proposed basis.

Is this basis 'Biblical' and the continuous historical basis 'Unbiblical'?

Does the Apocalyptic record fit the events around AD 70?

An interpretation that fails to provide the promised prophetic record.

THE DATE OF THE REVELATION: NERO'S OR DOMITIAN'S PERSECUTION?

For Bro. Whittaker's interpretation to have meaning it is essential for him to attempt to prove that the Revelation was given to John during the Nero persecution, AD 64-68. Even this date is hardly appropriate, for it would mean that the Seal and Trumpet visions were being fulfilled before, or while, the copies of the Revelation were being circulated to the ecclesias. But the question is: Was the Revelation given in the time of Nero's persecution? No. There is ample evidence that it belongs to the later persecution under Domitian, around AD 96. If this is so, his whole case loses credibility. The matter is of such importance that we must take some space to present the evidence.

Elliott published his Horae Apocalypticae in 1844, and he occupies some 30 pages in establishing the date of the writing as in the reign of Domitian, and dealing with the arguments for Nero's reign. The following arguments are taken from his first volume, chapter 1.

1 . The testimony of Irenaeus (130-202): "for it was seen no very long time ago; but almost in our own age, toward the end of the reign of Domitian."

2. Tertullian (155-222) says that it was Domitian's persecution that was characterised by banishment, whereas under Nero the penalty was death (John was banished to the isle of Patmos).

3. Clement of Alexandria (202-232) describes John as an infirm old man at his exile, which could not describe John at the time of Nero's persecution.

4. Victorinus in his commentary on the Apocalypse toward the end of the 3rd

century twice says the Apocalypse was written when John was banished during the reign of Domitian.

5. Eusebius (260-340) "distinctly intimates more than once his agreement with the tradition of the ancients, that referred it (the date of writing) to Domitian's persecution: and indeed implies, as if it were perfectly evident, that he knew of no other tradition" (Elliott).

6. Elliott adds to the above quotation, as taking the same view, Jerome, Crosius, Sulpitus Severus and Primasius; and "other ancient testimonies of less importance might be added".

7. Elliott then points out that there was not extant any contrary early tradition respecting the date, which surely would have been noted if it existed. He then says: "As to any contrary statement on the point in question, there appears to

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have been none whatsoever until the time of Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis in the latter half of the fourth century."

The main external evidence for a Nero date is the heading of "a very ancient Syriac version" which says John was banished by Nero. But Elliott disputes the "very ancient", and says the "generally admitted" date is about AD 500. Others suppose there was an earlier Syriac version; but if so, it does not follow that it had a heading referring to Nero.

8. The main evidence for a Nero date is said to be internal evidence. It is said that phrases found in the epistle to the Hebrews and in the epistles of Peter are similar to those in the Revelation, and this indicates that the Revelation was known when the epistles were written. Elliott comments on this that such similarities are quite satisfactorily explained by reference back to the Old Testament. If one examines Bro. Whittaker's 'comparisons', it will be found to be a feeble argument. Because the writer to the Hebrews uses the phrase "For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God", one surely does not have to conclude that he was conversant with the Revelation. Or again, if he writes "The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword", do we have to assume he has in mind Revelation 1:16 "out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword"? Or again, because Paul writes in Hebrews 1: 14 that angels are ministering spirits, do we assume he is thinking of Revelation 8:3 "And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints"? In all these writings, the epistles and the Revelation, there is but one author, the Spirit of God, and this is sufficient reason for similar phrases, with no necessity for saying one was written before the other.

If one holds to the idea that phrases in the epistles similar to those in the Revelation prove that the Revelation was written before the epistles, then one would have to admit that the Revelation was written before the second epistle to the Thessalonians: the first and second chapters are clearly 'apocalyptic'. It is generally believed that the epistles to the believers at Thessalonica were written while Paul was at Athens (see I Thess. 3) and therefore before he had established the truth at Ephesus; read Acts chapters 17 to 19. So if the Revelation was written before the epistles to the Thessalonians, it will mean that Jesus addresses his letter to the ecclesia at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1) before, or about, the time of the founding of the ecclesia. No one would agree with this; and it shows that the line of reasoning used to establish the date of the Revelation is not sound.

Even if we accept Bro. Whittaker's internal evidence theme, it is most unlikely that the writer to the Hebrews was acquainted with the Revelation. Nero's persecution was AD 64-68, making John's banishment and receiving the Revelation about AD 66. The writer to the Hebrews several times exhorts

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the believers to stand fast in the coming trial -- it was still a short way ahead; so he must have been writing about AD 66 or earlier. There would not be time for the Revelation to be transcribed and circulated to the ecclesias before the epistle to the Hebrews was written.

Again, according to this Preterist interpretation the first and second Trumpets were fulfilled AD 67. Could we expect the Revelation to have been circulated to the believers in Judea by that time? A prophecy received after it had been fulfilled would not be of much use.

9. The state of affairs in the Ephesian ecclesia does not fit the Nero date. The ecclesia was founded about AD 55, and Paul's epistle to the ecclesia was written about AD 62, with much commendation of the brethren. In the letter of Jesus to the ecclesia (Rev. 2:4), it is censured for having left its first love. Is this change likely to have occurred in a brief four or five years? A date for the Revelation around AD 96 is much more reasonable.

10. Finally, there is the evidence of Laodicea. It is generally accepted that Laodicea was destroyed by earthquake around AD 60. It is difficult to believe that by AD 66 the city was rebuilt and the brethren were so prosperous and settled after such trial and loss, that they could be described as "rich, and increased in goods, and in need of nothing". Again, a date around AD 96 would give time for this state of things to develop.

There is additional evidence in connection with Laodicea. The epistle to the Colossians was written about AD 62, and in the last chapter Paul refers to the ecclesia at Laodicea in terms that show it was acceptable to him, and of a similar standing with the ecclesia at Colosse. He writes: "Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea" (Colossians 4:15, 16). One cannot suppose the ecclesia had so rapidly declined, that Jesus regarded it as "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17) some four years later, in AD 66 when it is alleged the Revelation was given.

In the light of all the evidence, one can be satisfied that the Revelation was given around AD 96 in the Domitian persecution, and not around AD 66 in the Nero persecution. This conclusion rules out Bro. Whittaker's exposition; the symbols do not apply to the nation of Israel in the first century.

AN EXAMINATION OF THE PROPOSED RULES OF INTERPRETATION

Bro. Whittaker sets out in chapter 9 of his book his 'Biblical' basis of interpretation. It can be presented in three simple steps.

1. The Revelation abounds with allusions to the Old Testament.

2. Jesus and the apostles teach us how to apply Old Testament allusions. Illustrations are given. Quoting: "Jesus applied Isaiah 61 to his own work of redemption; therefore Isaiah 61 must be given an interpretation on these lines.

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In Romans 15 Paul quotes Isaiah 11:1,10 applying the words to the gospel concerning Christ; therefore the conscientious exponent of the Word must follow where Paul has led. Peter and Paul both apply to Christ the two, Isaiah prophecies of the stone of stumbling and the chief corner stone (Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16; 1 Peter 2:6,8; Romans 9:33); therefore the Holy Spirit intended these as prophecies of Jesus" (p. 65).

3. If, therefore we find in the Revelation phrases similar to those in the Old Testament, we should link the two and interpret the Revelation in the context of the Old Testament phrase.

Let us examine the logic of these steps. All will agree with items (1) and (2). But there is no logical sequence in the vital step from (2) to (3). Item (2) does not justify the conclusion (3). Step (2) is obvious -- that if the apostles apply clearly expressed words of prophecy in the Old Testament to Jesus, we should so understand such prophecies. But this is far removed from making the Revelation a prophecy about the Jewish nation because of similarity of phrases in the Old Testament and the Revelation.

Bro. Whittaker's thesis is faulty in a number of directions. First, the New Testament illustrations, which are made the proof of the thesis, are not matters of similarity of language between Old and New Testament. The Old Testament references are definite prophecies of Jesus Christ that had to be fulfilled; and the apostles showed that they were in part fulfilled in Jesus' first coming. This is in a different class to an Old and New Testament passage using similarity of language. Secondly, Bro. Whittaker is not applying his illustrations properly: the illustrations are of the New Testament providing authority for understanding the Old Testament passage. But Bro. Whittaker is reversing the process, and taking an Old Testament passage to interpret an 'unknown' passage in the New Testament, in the Revelation. Thirdly, when one examines the detail of Bro. Whittaker's interpretation of the Revelation, it is apparent that he does not distinguish between symbols of general application, and those which are specific -- as in his illustrations. Zion's foundation stone, Isaiah 28:16; the root out of Jesse, Isaiah 11:1; the Son of God established on Mount Zion, Psalm 2; these are quite specific matters, and whenever they occur elsewhere, they must be given the same interpretation. When Bro. Whittaker takes symbols like fire, sword, famine, etc., in the Old Testament in a context of the nation of Israel, it does not follow that the same symbols in the Revelation identify the situation as that of the nation of Israel. Let us make this perfectly clear by looking at a few of his Revelation interpretations.

Take the 4th Seal. A quotation is made by Bro. Whittaker from the end of Revelation 6:8: "and power was given unto them to kill with the sword, and and with hunger, and with death and with the beasts of the earth" and he adds: "The very language used here is confirmatory of the restricted Jewish application which is now being suggested for this part of the prophecy, for -- as already observed -- the words are verbatim from Ezekiel 14:21 LXX which describes 'my four sore

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judgements on Jerusalem' ". But sword, famine and pestilence, are descriptive of divine judgements generally. They are not specific to the nation of Israel. They are used in Jeremiah against Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, etc. Referring to these nations God says: "That nation will I punish saith the LORD with the sword, and with the famine and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his (Nebuchadnezzar's) hand" (Jer. 27:8). On the basis of similarity of language one can argue that the 4th Seal applies to Edom, or Moab, or the Ammonites. All that can properly be deduced from similarity of language is that the quality of things in the one case will be similar in the other; it does not require a similarity of geography or people. Similarity of quality is the key to the Revelation's use of Old Testament phrases. 'Balaam' in the ecclesia at Pergamos means the qualities Balaam showed were there and not that we look for a repeat of Moab against Israel. Similarly, 'that woman Jezebel' in Thyatira means people behaving like Jezebel, not that we have a repeat of an Israelitish king marrying the daughter of the king of the Zidonians.

Bro. Whittaker's treatment of the Ist Trumpet is similar. The text reads: "The first angel sounded and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of the trees was burnt up, and all the green grass was burnt up." Against this Bro. Whittaker quotes Jeremiah 7:20 "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched"; and he concludes that the 1st trumpet was a repeat fulfilment on the nation of Israel in AD 70. Here, as before, hail, fire, blood, trees and grass destroyed, are expressions of God's judgements, but not judgements specific to Israel. Hail, fire, blood, trees and grass destroyed apply to Egypt at the Exodus, but one does not have to conclude therefore that the 1st Trumpet was to do with Egypt.

In the 6th Seal the sun is black as sackcloth, the moon is as blood, stars fall from heaven, etc. Such language is used of Israel in Old Testament times; and is used by Jesus for Israel in AD 70 (Matthew 24:29). But the same language is used for the fall of Chaldean Babylon (Isaiah 13:10); and for judgement on Egypt (Ezekiel 32:7). The quality of things was the same in all cases -- the figures of speech have the same meaning. The use of similar language in the Revelation means that the same kind of thing is happening, but it does not establish which -- or indeed if any -- of the previous occasions is being repeated. One has to examine the immediate context, and other significant matters to decide the nation or people involved.

We conclude, first, that Bro. Whittaker's New Testament illustrations regarding prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament do not provide a basis for his 'similar language' thesis; and secondly, symbols and language (like war, famine, death, pestilence, hail, fire, earthquake) are always descriptive of God's judgements, but the language could apply to Israel or to the Gentiles. Furthermore this justification that his interpretation is 'Biblical' we perceive is of no weight

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when the processes of deduction are not sound. The continuous historical interpretation has far better claims to being 'Biblical'.

WHICH INTERPRETATION IS THE BIBLICAL APPROACH?

In claiming a Biblical approach for his interpretation, Bro. Whittaker labels the continuous historical method as un-biblical: "This 'continuous-historic' method of interpreting the Revelation is, of necessity, un-Biblical". He adds that there is no Biblical warrant for this method of interpretation. Such statements have the effect of putting the continuous historical interpretation in an inferior position. But the statements are not true. In showing the Biblical warrant for the historical interpretation we shall highlight the weakness of Bro. Whittaker's approach. There are at least two Biblical justifications for the historical method that associates the Revelation with the Roman world and the Roman church.

The first 'Biblical warrant' for the Roman interpretation is found in the book of Daniel. Daniel puts on record -- as we are about to show -- the continuing existence of the Roman power from the time of Christ's first coming to his second coming; also its change of religion, and its blasphemy and opposition to God and God's people. Therefore it is an expected development that when Jesus sent his Final Message, and the fulfilment of history was drawing near, the brethren should be provided with more detail than Daniel had given. This is what the Revelation provides (see Appendix 1).

It is in Daniel chapter 8 and part of chapter 11 that we are given quite a lot of detail about the Roman power. The first mentioned symbols in chapter 8 are explained as the Medo-Persian and Grecian supremacies. Then follows the next great power, that starts as the little horn of the Goat and grows to greatness. This power magnifies itself against the prince of the host (Jesus); takes away the daily sacrifice; casts down the place of the sanctuary and casts down the truth. Later in this chapter this power is described as "a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sayings", and is said to be mighty, to destroy wonderfully, to practise and prosper, and to destroy the holy people. This clearly, with so much detail, identifies the Roman power. Then follows the important evidence that this Roman power would continue until Christ returns: "He shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand" (v.25). "Broken without hand" -- by miraculous power. In chapter 11 more information is given concerning the long career of this 'King' power. Verses 1-33 of this chapter outline the calamitous events in the land of Israel from the time of Daniel to the Maccabean independence and the rise of the power of Rome. The 'King' is introduced at verse 36, and verses 36-39 describe his activities until we come to the Time of the End in verse 40. The record says the 'King' is allowed by God to prosper until the indignation against Israel is accomplished. It highlights the greatness and high pretentions of this Power -- "he shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods"; and then it adds another very significant item. Verses 37 and 38 tell us "Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers ... but in his estate shall he

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honour the God of forces (margin -- Mauzzim, guardians): and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things". Here is expressed the development of this Roman power and the change from pagan religion to a new religion, christianity; also the emnity against the God of heaven, an emnity which has manifested itself in christian Rome's long persecution of the saints.

If Daniel records such prophecies of Roman history and its development of a new religion and its emnity against God, it surely is not strange that God should later fill in the details. Here is a Biblical warrant for the interpretation of the Revelation.

Paul strengthens this Biblical warrant in what he writes to the Thessalonians. He warns them of the development Daniel had spoken about: "Let not man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, He that exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped ... Remember ye not, that, when I was with you, I told you these things?" (2 Thess. 2:3-5 R.V.) Notice how concerned Paul was that they should understand, and be warned. He fills in Daniel's picture as far as it had developed. "For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work:... and then shall be revealed that lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming" (R.V.). Now if Paul should so concern himself to instruct the brethren on the coming of the lawless one and his emnity against God, should we not expect Jesus to show the same care to those who were to come after, and explain to them, in symbol, further developments, so that they were warned, strengthened and guided? This he does in the Revelation.

When we come to read the Revelation, it opens with warning and guidance to the believers in Christ living in the Greek-Roman world. This is in the seven letters. Should we not expect, as the record continues, that it would provide further guidance to the same class of people? If so, then the record will be about situations in the Roman world around the believers.

There is an additional scriptural warrant for the Christian-Roman interpretation of the Revelation, from a different direction. As Bro. Whittaker says, the Revelation has many phrases that one associates with the nation of Israel in Old Testament times; the lightstand, the ark, the altar, the tabernacle of testimony, the Lamb, the Holy City, etc. Attention to the New Testament writings shows that the Old Testament items regarding national Israel are transferred as figures to the new Israel in Christ. In the epistles, the believers in Christ are partakers of the circumcision in Christ; they are a "royal priesthood, an holy nation", offering up spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5,9); they are a holy temple (Ephesians 2:22); they are the "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16); they belong to the 'heavenly Jerusalem' (Hebrews 12:22); they are the nation Jesus spoke of to the unbelieving Pharisees . . . "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a

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nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matthew 21:43). Here is a clear pattern to guide us. Should we not follow the guidance of the apostles, and apply the same principle to the inspired writing that follows theirs, in the book of Revelation? This is a much sounder use of the authority of the apostles than that adopted by Bro. Whittaker. The Revelation takes Old Testament items concerning the nation of Israel, and makes them symbols for the believers in Christ, the true Israel in the times of the Gentiles. The Revelation is about the affairs of the saints, not national Israel.

THE SEALS AND TRUMPETS: DO THEY FIT THE EVENTS OF AD 70?

We have examined critically two aspects of Bro. Whittaker's thesis that the Revelation concerns the nation of Israel - in the past in the events of AD 70, and also in thefuture. First, we have found that evidence strongly points to the Revela tion being given near the end of the first century, not before the AD 70 events. This rules out his basic idea. Secondly, we have seen that his thesis of 'similarity of language'providing evidencefor the Seals and Trumpets representing a repeat of Old Testament judgements on Israel, was not valid evidence. There remains the ultimate test, do the symbols and their sequence correspond with his proposed historical facts? As the continuous historical interpretation and the nation of Israel interpretation are rival presentations, we have set out the Seals and the two interpretations in column form for easy comparison. Not all the details of the Seals are included, and if the reader wishes to make his own comparison, it would not be a long study. In Bro. Whittaker's book the Seals and Trumpets in their AD 70 application occupy under 30 pages. Likewise in the book Apocalypse and History (Boulton and Barker, Christadelphian Office) the same events occupy under 30 pages.

After this tabulation of the Seals, various features of interpretation of the Trumpets are considered.

 
COMPARISON OF TWO INTERPRETATIONS OF THE SEALS
Text Details Historial Interpretation
--Roman World AD 96-325
Preterist Interpretation
-- Israel, around AD70
1st Seal -- White horse, arrowless bowman, to conquer and win a crown AD 96-183
Horse -- a recognized symbol of Roman state - see below.
White -- a long period of peace and prosperity. Bowman -- gospel preaching gradually overcoming Paganism
Christianity conquering Judaism.
Comment. It did not -- Judaism continued to grow in ecclesias. Embodied in Catholic church -- salvation by works. Judaism is essence of Jewish faith today. What is white horse?
2nd Seal -- Red Horse 'peace taken away,' kill one another, the great dagger AD 184-221. A period of violence, particularly assassination of emperors. Accurately symbolised by the Gr. machaira -- "dagger", (not sword) Violence AD 65-70
Comment. What peace was taken away at this time?
3rd Seal -- Black horse, rider with balance, very expensive wheat and barley, "touch not oil and wine" AD 222-235. Balance Holder -- magistrate and lawgiver (see coin of Emperor Severus.) Laws enacted, with crippling taxation, resulting in farms deserted, shortages and distress. The last emporer of the period, Severus reduced tax to one-thirteeneth -- "hurt not the oil and wine," these being the last element in the harvesting year Famine, especially in Jerusalem AD 67-70. The "oil and wine" class -- those whose wounds had been bound up by Jesus -- they did not suffer.
Comment. Jesus indicated they would suffer. Read Mark 13:14-27
4th Seal -- Pale horse, rider Death, followed by Hell -- 4th part of each killed by sword, hunger, death and wild beasts AD 236-303
Rider Death. Succession of vile emperors who rode the empire and brought it to a state of "Death".
Gibbon "the ruined empire seemed to approach the last and fatal moment of its dissention" (ch. 10).
4th part affected, 4 praefectures, Italian praefecture no longer exempt. Wild beasts-barbarian invasion.
Grim events in Jerusalem
AD 67-70.
Comment. Why should Jerusalem be described as a fourth part?
5th Seal -- Souls under the altar, slain for their testimony, waiting for their fellow martyrs AD 304-311
Well known severe persecution of Christians by Diocletian. Note the accuracy of sequence of Seals 1-5 with history
Jewish hostility to Christians from Stephen onwards.
Comment. cf. Luke 21:12, 16, 17 and Acts. Also Nero's persecution of Christians was not at Jerusalem.
6th Seal -- Great earthquake, heavens depart; kings, great, rich, chief captains all hid in dens and rocks from wrath of Lamb, islands and mountains moved AD 312-24
Constantine defeats pagan rivals, new Christian constitution for Roman world. Fearing wrath of Lamb. See Chapter 5.
End of Jewish constitution.
Comment. It would be difficult to identify symbolic "mountains" and "islands" for Israel, but appropriate to the vast Roman empire.

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In the above comparison, the AD 70 interpretation lacks precision relative to the detailed symbology; and in some cases does not fit.

WERE THE TRUMPETS FULFILLED IN AD 70?

Now let us look at the Trumpets. They contain so many features, strange features, that it provides a good testing ground as to whether the proposed history is an accurate fit to the symbols. We have already shown in chapter 2 how well the Trumpets follow the Seals in a continuous historical fulfilment; they describe events in western and eastern Europe in the time of the 7th seal, following the Constantinian earthquake of the 6th Seal. But what of Bro. Whittaker's interpretation? As the Trumpets belong to the 7th Seal, we would expect the events to be after the 6th Seal, that is, after the AD 70 events. But no, Bro. Whittaker makes them a repeat story of the Seals, covering the same time and events. This is unlikely to be true; to have a second series substantially covering the same events; and covering them in the same style, not even looking at the situation from another angle.

In the first Trumpet the burning up of a third of the trees and all the grass is, according to Bro. Whittaker, a second fulfilment of similar language in Jeremiah 7:20, and results in the destroying of national Jewry.

In the second Trumpet there are in the text three features: (1) there is a great mountain burning with fire, (2) it is cast into the sea, (3) the result is a destruction of the third part. Bro. Whittaker offers this explanation: the great mountain burning with fire is Zion. How the remnant of the Jewish nation in AD 65-70 is a great mountain we are not told; nor how it was a destructive fire. On Bro. Whittaker's basic principle of looking back to the Old Testament for a parallel, one might have suggested this was a symbol of Babylon, for Jeremiah describes Babylon as a destroying mountain that became a burnt mountain (Jer. 51:25). How is Zion cast into the sea to produce death to a third of the creatures in the sea? Quoting: 'Josephus supplies the answer. He tells of a tremendous encounter

PAGE 43

on the sea of Galilee between a Jewish fleet and ships commandeered by the Romans'. We leave the reader to choose between this explanation and the continuous historical explanation which relates the symbols to the invasion of Genseric and the Vandals into the western Empire, and the maritime battles that established his supremacy over the coastlands of Spain, North Africa and Italy. The activities affected 'a third' -- the western third of the Roman empire. One may ask what is Bro. W'hittaker's "third" that is destroyed?

In the third Trumpet a great star falls on the rivers and fountains of waters. Bro. Whittaker associates this star with Halley's comet, which was said to stand over the city of Jerusalem for a whole year. The rivers and fountains of waters is the land of Israel; but how the star brought destruction we are not told, other than to quote the words of Jesus, "I beheld Satan fall as lightning from heaven".

In the fifth Trumpet the locusts in the smoke and fire from the great furnace in the pit of the abyss are the Roman army coming against Jerusalem. The text describes the locusts: "On their heads were as it were crowns of gold, and their faces were as the faces of men: And they had hair as the hair of women". This is certainly an apt description of the Arabians -- turbanned, unshaven faces, flowing hair -- but it is not a description of the Romans. Regarding locusts, on Bro. Whittaker's principle of looking to the Old Testament for guidance, one suggests he should have decided they represented the Assyrians. Nahum describes the Assyrian army -- "Thy crowned are as locusts, and thy captains as great grasshoppers" (3:17).

The locusts were to operate for 5 months. Bro. Whittaker says this is precisely the length of the final siege of Jerusalem. But note the problem. In the symbology the locusts were not to kill, but only to torment; men would seek death and not find it. This, then, will be the situation at Jerusalem. How can Bro. Whittaker explain it? To propose the Roman army were commanded not to kill the Jews does not make sense; and if not taken literally, how can it be applied symbolically?

Again, note that the locusts were not to hurt the grass and the trees (9:4). How can this be applied to Israel and Jerusalem, when at the same time, in the first Trumpet, Bro. Whittaker has the grass and the trees burnt up! This is confusion, to have two Trumpet Judgements for the same situation containing opposite instructions. Bro. Whittaker is not able to provide a detailed correspondence between the many symbols involved in the 5th Trumpet and the events of AD 70. Instead he gives us 'a final and utterly conclusive proof' that the Seals and Trumpets all relate to the AD 70 period, by putting side by side verses from Jeremiah 8 and Revelation 8 and 9, and showing general similarity of language. He tells us these are 'such facts' as we need.

In the sixth Trumpet the symbology is a vast army of 200,000,000 horsemen released from the river Euphrates. This, Bro. Whittaker says, represents the 60,000 men of the Roman army that took Jerusalem. The Bible text has very strange features for the horses -- heads as the heads of lions issuing fire, smoke

PAGE 44

and brimstone, their tails were like serpents, and the tails had heads with which they do hurt. Bro. Whittaker has no historical counterpart for all of this. By contrast the language describes exactly the warfare of the Turks and the use of gunpowder in their cannons.

Sufficient has been brought forward to show that the events in the land of Israel around AD 70 provide a completely unsatisfactory interpretation of the symbols. But the application of the symbols to the Roman empire and christianity is a compatible and an accurate interpretation.

WHY SO VAST AN AMOUNT OF PROPHECY REGARDING AD 65-70 AND NONE FOR THE PERIOD AFTER?

Before the Revelation was given there was ample prophecy regarding the ending of the Jewish State that occurred about AD 70. Daniel's prophecy of the 70 weeks, chapter 9, had put on record the desolation determined on Israel following their "cutting off of Messiah the Prince". Jesus referred to the coming desolation of Israel a number of times in his addresses and parables; and at the end of his ministry he gave a comprehensive outline of events up to the overthrow of Jerusalem, with appropriate warnings and encouragement. This was ample guidance for believers at that time. Did they need these further series of Seals and Trumpets with strange and overlapping detail?

Is it likely that God would provide a super abundance of prophetic guidance for those living around AD 70, and then provide nothing for the centuries ahead? This is barely credible. An interpretation that applies the Revelation only to the 1st century and the distant future, leaving 18 centuries or more of prophetic darkness cannot be accepted (cf. Amos 3:7). The only reasonable position is to expect that as Jesus provided an outline of events for believers in the immediate future, he later through John provided a similar amount of guidance for the centuries to follow. The book of Revelation thus takes its proper place, for two groups of symbols -- the Seals and Trumpets -- would give the observant saint a continuing account of events which would start to happen in the Roman world at the beginning of the second century.

Much of Bro. Whittaker's book is concerned with proposals about the future. His ideas are based on the world as he sees it today -- Roman Catholic power rapidly declining; Russia and Communism dominant; growing Arab power and independence in the Middle East. But this is not interpreting the Revelation on his Biblical basis! Does he not come under his own censure upon the historical method, that using history to interpret the Revelation is 'unbiblical'? We point this out in passing. As his exposition has failed when dealing with the facts of history in the past, it is not felt necessary to examine here his uncertain proposals for the future.

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