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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
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An Exegetical Basis for a Preterist-Idealist Understanding of the Book of Revelation
 

By John Noē

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (December, 2006). 

http://www.prophecyrefi.org

John Noē is president of the Prophecy Reformation Institute.  He resides at 5236 East 72nd Street, Indianapolis, IN 46250.  This article is adapted from his Ph.D. dissertation that presents an evaluation and synthesis of the four major evangelical views of the return of Christ.


ACADEMIC JOURNAL ARTICLE PUBLISHED

New Approach for Understanding Book of Revelation Revealed 

(INDIANAPOLIS) – A new breakthrough approach for understanding the past-fulfillment and ongoing relevance of the book of Revelation has been published in the latest issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (December, 2006). 

 It is titled, “An Exegetical Basis for a Preterist-Idealist Understanding of the Book of Revelation” by John Noe.

 Noe’s article was recommended for publication in JETS by Grant R. Osborn, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and author of Revelation (Baker Academic, 2002, part of the “Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament” series), after he (as Respondent), the author, and approximately twenty Stone-Campbell adherents discussed this approach during an afternoon Group Study session on the topic of eschatology at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Antonio, Texas, November, 2004. 

 Most of the article’s contents are taken from the author’s doctoral dissertation titled, “The Superiority of Preterism: An Evaluation of the Four Major Evangelical Views of the Return of Christ” (Trinity Theological Seminary and the University of Liverpool, 2003) in which the author advocates a complete synthesis of the eschatological views of preterism, premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism.

 This proposed preterist-idealist solution to the problem of conflicting and confusing end-time views is being further developed for presentation and outworking in forthcoming books and articles from this author. 

 The Evangelical Theological Society is the professional society of conservative, evangelical scholars. Its purpose is “to foster conservative Biblical scholarship by providing a medium for the oral exchange and written expression of thought and research in the general field of the theological disciplines as centered in the Scriptures.” 

 ETS’s doctrinal basis is, “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs.  God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.”

 ETS membership currently stands at 4,248.

Contact: John Noe (Ph. # 317-842-3411 / jnoe@prophecyrefi.org)


 When attempting to properly understand the Bible’s last book of Revelation, four foundational questions must be addressed: 1) When was this book most likely written?  2) How do we handle its time statements?  3) When was or will it be fulfilled?  4) What is its relevance for us today?  Over the course of Church history, four major, evangelical and eschatological views have evolved.  Each answers these four questions differently. 

In PART I of this article I will present each view, along with some criticism from proponents of the other views.  The four views are the preterist view, the premillennial view, the amillennial view, and the postmillennial view.  In PART II, I will evaluate their different understandings and conclude by offering a solution of synthesis.

 

I.  PART I – A PRESENTATION OF VIEWS

1.  The Preterist View. 

Most preterists[1]  believe that the book of Revelation speaks to particular circumstances and events that were fulfilled within the lifetime of the book’s original 1st-century audience and that there is nothing in it about our future.  Rather, it was concerned fully and exclusively with the 1st Century and not with subsequent periods.  This view places its date of writing prior to AD 70—most likely, between AD 63-68—and its soon-fulfillment in AD 70 in conjunction with Christ’s divine visitation, coming, and return in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.  

            J. Stuart Russell, a 19th-century preterist author, portrayed the Book of Revelation as being concerned “primarily and principally with events with which its first readers only were immediately interested . . . events all shortly to come to pass.”[2]  He believed that “the Apocalypse is nothing else than a transfigured form of the prophecy on the Mount of Olives . . . . expanded, allegorised, and . . . dramatised . . . . First and chiefly the Parousia . . . .”[3]  In other words, and in the opinion of most preterists, the book of Revelation is only another version of Christ’s Olivet Discourse, since “the subject of both is the same great catastrophe, viz. The Parousia, and the events accompanying it[4] . . . . an event which He [Jesus] declared would happen before the passing away of the existing generation, and which some of the disciples would live to witness.”[5]

Preterists further point out that Revelation’s 3 Ѕ-year period (“ 42 months,” 1,260 days,” and “time, times, half time” [Rev. 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5]) corresponds with the exact time frame of the worst tribulation in Jewish history, the AD 66-70 Jewish-Roman War.  It culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and forever-ended Biblical Judaism and the old covenant, animal sacrifice system—just as Christ had perfectly predicted (Matt. 23 and 24).

            Another tie-in is the symbol of Babylon in Revelation 18.  Preterists maintain that this Babylon represents 1st-century Jerusalem, and is not a symbol for Rome, New York City, or any city anywhere, as is commonly assumed.  They believe its identity can be clearly seen by the hermeneutical principle of letting “Scripture interpret Scripture” and can be aptly demonstrated with four simple syllogisms:[6] 

  • Major premise #1: Three times this Babylon is called “O great city” (Rev 18:9, 16, 19)

  • Minor premise #1: “The great city” is “where also their Lord was crucified” (Rev 11:8)

  • Conclusion:  Jerusalem is Revelation’s Babylon

     

  • Major premise #2: Babylon was guilty of “the blood of the prophets” (Rev 17:6; 18:24)

  • Minor premise #2: According to Jesus and Paul, only Jerusalem killed the prophets  (Matt 23:34-35; Luke 13:33-34; 1 Thess 2:15-16)

  • Conclusion: Jerusalem is Revelation’s Babylon
     

  • Major premise #3: John’s people are commanded to “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of   her plagues” (Rev 18:4)

  • Minor premise #3: The only city Jesus ever commanded his followers to flee from is Jerusalem—when they saw two specific signs (Matt 24:15-16 Luke 21:20-21). Eusebius recorded that this departure happened  and no Christians were trapped and destroyed in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70[7]

  • Conclusion: Jerusalem is Revelation’s Babylon

 

  • Major premise #4: This Babylon would be destroyed (Rev. 18:2, 8, 10, 11, 17, 19-23)

  •  Minor premise #4: The only city Jesus said would be destroyed was Jerusalem—it would be “left to you desolate”(Matt.23:38) with “not one stone . . . left on another (Matt. 24:2)

  • Conclusion: Jerusalem is Revelation’s Babylon
     

            Amillennialist Donald Guthrie suggests that “the symbol of Babylon was chosen because it stood for the oppressors of God’s people.”[8]  In 1st-century Jerusalem, apostate Judaism was persecuting God’s emerging Church. 

            But amillennialist Stanley W. Paher protests that “this conclusion suffers on many grounds.”[9]  First, he accuses preterists of “play[ing] down the importance of historical backgrounds, such as Jewish writings contemporary with and immediately previous” to John’s writing that “with one accord” see “Babylon as . . . Rome.”[10]  Secondly, he reports that “all church writers,” including Tertullian, Jerome, and Augustine, “associated Babylon with Rome, ” and that this belief was “the unchallenged position of the ekklesia for the next twelve centuries.”[11]  Thirdly, he stipulates that Rome was “the hub of the world’s economic systems” of that day and only this Rome meets Revelation 18’s commercial and luxury descriptions.[12]  Fourthly, while he recognizes that Revelation 11:8-9 “is the trump card for early date advocates,”[13] he labels as an “inconsistent hermeneutic” the taking of Sodom and Egypt figuratively, as the text says, but then “shift[ing] gears to make the ‘great city . . . where also their Lord was crucified’ refer to a literal location, historic Jerusalem.”[14]  Fifthly, regarding “the blood of the prophets,” he claims that “this proof . . . is inconclusive” and that this blood “was the blood of New Testament prophets”[15]—i.e. “beginning in AD 64, Babylon-Rome also was a city of [this] bloodshed.”[16]  He concludes that a “reinvented Babylon as Jerusalem” is “a conclusion obviously historically unjustifiable.”  Yet Paher does not explain how Rome might fit the above third and fourth syllogisms.  He also seems to equivocate by saying that “the ‘great city’ is worldwide in scope, and not confined to one locality . . . .”[17]

Preterists additionally buttress their view by literally honoring the time statements in Revelation’s first and last chapter.  Like bookends, these are seen as setting the historical context for the soon and now past fulfillment of the whole of the prophecy:  

  •  “what must soon [shortly] take place” (Rev 1:1; 22:6 [KJV]).
  •  “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy . . . who hear it andtake to heart [obey] what is written in it” (Rev 1:3; 22:7 [KJV])
  • “the time is near [at hand]” (Rev 1:3; 22:10 [KJV])
  • “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book” (Rev 22:10)  (Note:  Daniel was told to “close up and seal the words” of his book “until the time  of the end” [Dan 12:4].  In the Revelation, that time was now “near” or “at hand.”
  •  “Behold, I am coming soon!” (Rev 22:7, 12)
  • “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Rev 22:20).

            Postmillennialist and partial preterist Gary DeMar opines that “these passages and many others like them tell us that a significant eschatological event was to occur in the lifetime of those who heard and read the prophecies.” [18] So preterists argue that these full context-embracing phrases demand fulfillment of the whole prophecy within a very short time and certainly within the lifetime of the book’s original recipients.  This includes the consummation and glorious coming/return of Christ in finality.  All is claimed to have occurred within two to seven years, depending upon the exact date of this book’s writing. 

            Thus, Russell counseled, “To regard it as a revelation of the distant future when it expressly declares that it treats of things which must shortly come to pass; and to look for its fulfillment in mediaeval or modern history, when it affirms that the time is at hand, is to ignore its plainest teaching, and to ensure misconception and failure.”[19]  He further admonished that “the interpreter who does not apprehend and hold fast this guiding principle is incapable of understanding the words of this prophecy, and will infallibly lose himself and bewilder others in a labyrinth of conjecture and vain speculation.”[20]

Hence, preterists maintain that Revelation only becomes difficult, if not impossible, to understand when it is lifted out of its self-declared, 1st-century time context and when its signs and symbols are not allowed to be interpreted by the principle of letting “Scripture interpreting Scripture.”  Thus, modern-day preterist Max R. King proclaims that “there is nothing . . .  more to be fulfilled.  God’s work through Christ is finished.  It is full, complete and everlasting.”[21]  But many disagree.

            J. Barton Payne, for one, rejects the preterist limiting of “the range of the book’s applicability to the 1st Christian century.”  He argues that “this is a position which, when held with consistency, denies all modern relevance to John’s predictions.”[22]  Likewise, Michael Wilcock derides the preterist view as “veiled language events of John’s own time, and nothing more.”[23]  Premillennialist Grant R. Osborne raises another valid criticism when he assails preterism “because it limits the universal language of the book (all ‘peoples, languages, tribes, and nations’) to the Jewish people” and “since final judgment and the end of the world did not come . . . .[in AD 70]”[24]

2.  The Premillennial View.

Dispensational premillennialism is known for its insistence that the words of prophecy be interpreted “literally whenever this does not lead to absurdity.”  Therefore, they maintain a “futuristic interpretation” of Revelation.[25]  But historic premillennialists “combine the futurist and preterist views,” stipulating that it had a “message for John’s own day and that it [also] represents the consummation of redemptive history.”[26]

Since most premillennialists date the writing of this book “around AD 95,”[27] they believe its focus is not on a contemporary fulfillment at all, but “on the last period(s) of world history”[28] and “speaks of the personal return of Christ to earth.”[29]  They declare that this view “best accords with the principle of literal interpretation.”[30]  Based upon Revelation 1:19, they trifurcate the prophecy as “the past vision of the glorified Christ (chap. 1, esp. vv. 11-18) . . . the present condition of the churches (chaps. 2-3) . . . and as the third part, the future happenings (chaps. 4-22).”[31]  Amillennialist Robert H. Mounce rightly protests, however, that “the major weakness with this position is that it leaves the book without any particular significance for those to whom it is addressed” and, consequently, “it would be little comfort for a first-century believer facing persecution.”[32]

Historic premillennialist George Eldon Ladd readily admits, “the interpretation of this book has been the most difficult and confusing of all the books of the New Testament.”[33]  Prime examples are Revelation’s time statements in both its first and last chapters.  Although they utilize simple words like “soon,” “at hand,” “near,” “quickly,” and “shortly, ” most premillennialist writers interpret them figuratively.  2 Peter 3:8 is frequently cited as justification.  Or, as dispensationalist Robert L. Thomas explains, these words are “descriptive of the speed with which the events will be carried out once they have begun . . . . in ‘rapid-fire’ sequence or ‘speedily.’”[34]  He also maintains that “when measuring time, Scripture has a different standard from ours.”[35]

            Not surprisingly, then, fellow dispensationalist Ed Hindson teaches that “there are no specific time indicators of when . . . [the prophecies] will be fulfilled.”[36]  But he confuses the issue by adding that “the only indication of time is the phrase ‘the time is at hand’ (Greek, kairos engus).  This may be translated ‘near’ or ‘soon.’  Taken with the phrase ‘come to pass shortly’ (Greek, en tachei, ‘soon’) in verse 1, the reader is left expecting the imminent return of Christ.”[37]

      Postmillennialist and partial preterist DeMar sarcastically quips that “this is surprising since this line of argument is most often put forth by those who insist on a literal interpretation of Scripture.”[38]  DeMar condemns this treatment of the time statements because it “calls into question the reliability of the Bible and makes nonsense of clear statements of Scripture.”[39]

Amillennialist Mounce simply concedes that “it is true that history has shown that ‘the things which must shortly come to pass’ (1:1) have taken longer than John expected.”[40]  But Payne counters that “since the Book of Revelation was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the time texts make perfect sense.”[41]

Most dispensational premillennialists affix the rapture of the Church to the start of chapter four and claim that the following chapters through twenty deal with the “Jewish period of the Tribulation.”  They cite the fact that the word “church” is used many times in chapters one through three, but not at all in chapters four through twenty, and, therefore, deduce that the Church has been raptured.  Ladd terms this reasoning “a tenuous inference, not a declaration of inspired Scripture.”[42]  He sees no pretribulational rapture in Revelation but only the “description of the second coming of Christ . . . in chapter 19; and the Rapture of the Church is altogether omitted.”[43]  Hence, for Ladd, “there is only one coming of Christ, and it takes place at the end of the Tribulation,”[44] which he places in chapters 8-16.[45]

Like the preterists, classic dispensationalist John F. MacArthur agrees “the afflictions of Christ . . . in Matthew 24 closely parallel the dreadful judgments described in Revelation 7—19” and are in “the same eschatological era signified by the last of seventy prophetic ‘weeks’ referred to in Daniel 9:25-27.”[46]  But for him, the fulfillment is all yet-future and none of it past.Also typical of this futuristic view is Larry Spargimino’s assessment of the role of modern technology.  He proclaims that “for the first time in the history of the world, the prophecies of the Book of Revelation can now be fulfilled, and that everything is in place for the fulfillment of this Tribulation scenario.”[47]  Likewise, John H. Sailhamer chimes in that “the book of Revelation is about the final cataclysmic event that will yet transpire on the earth . . . . the Antichrist . . . . [and] the Final Judgment.”[48]  But postmillennial Keith A. Mathison retorts that these interpretations are “highly disputed.”[49]  DeMar challenges that “nothing in the book of Revelation . . . mentions the Antichrist” nor his “making a covenant with the Jews and then breaking it.”[50]

3.  The Amillennial View.

While amillennialist Jerry Newcombe believes the Bible’s last book describes “how the world will end,”[51] fellow proponent Anthony A. Hoekema thinks that “neither an exclusively preterist nor an exclusively futurist view of this book does full justice to it.”  He sees a continuation of the “already – not yet tension” that “runs through the entire book.”  He highlights the following verses as some of the references that apply to the Second Coming “1:7; 19:11-16; 22:7, 12, 20.”[52]

            Hoekema describes his amillennialist interpretation of Revelation, thusly:

 
First, there are references to events, people, and places of the time when the book of Revelation was written.  Second, the principles, commendations, and warnings contained in these letters have value for the church of all time.  These two observations, in fact, provide a clue for the interpretation of the entire book.  Since the book of Revelation was addressed to the church of the first century A.D., its message had reference to events occurring at that time and was therefore meaningful for the Christians of that day.  But since the book was also intended for the church through the ages, its message is still relevant for us today. . . .  [until] the final judgement at the end of history.[53]
 

Guthrie makes note that “Christians clearly do not escape from persecution in this book.”  He, too, equates the Revelation with Jesus’ Olivet discourse and finds that “all the signs mentioned by Jesus in the Matthew 24 = Mark 13 discourse recur among the woes of the Apocalypse.”  He posits that “clearly the interpretation adopted will affect the question whether the tribulation itself can be considered a sign of the parousia.”[54]

            Regarding the date of its writing, amillennialist R. C. Sproul leans toward postmillennialist Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.’s “excellent work.”  Sproul speculates that “if he [Gentry] is correct in arguing for a date prior to AD 70, then sweeping revisions must be made in our understanding of this book’s content and focus.”[55]

Two hermeneutical approaches to the book of Revelation are employed among amillennialists—the historicist and the idealist interpretations.  As Dennis E. Johnson documents, both span the time “between the ascension of Christ and his return at the end of history, although they differ on . . . what they symbolize.”  Notably, these two approaches are in contrast to the preterist and premillennial views which “agree that the visions concentrate on a more limited time period preceding Christ’s second coming.”[56]

 

a.  Historicist interpretation

            This interpretation was “favored by the reformers.”  It “sees in the Revelation a prophecy of the history of the church.”  But as Ladd indicates, “this method can be millenarian . . . nonmillenarian . . . or postmillenarian.”[57]  According to Mounce, this “historical” theory was created around the 12th century by medieval theologians who were followers of Joachim and were growing concerned about abuses in the Church.[58]

Thus, historicists see Revelation as depicting specific and identifiable historical events, institutions, movements, and periods that transpire in a chronological sequence throughout the entire Church age.  These began in the 1st Century, have continued through the centuries, and will eventually lead up to the Lord’s return.  Preterist Milton S. Terry, however, complained that while historicism “presumed that the Book of Revelation contains detailed predictions of the Roman papacy, the wars of modern Europe, and the fortunes of Napoleon, ”[59] he found “nowhere in the prophecies of this book a prediction of Turkish armies, or papal bulls, or the German Reformation of the sixteenth century,” as has been claimed by some historicists.[60]

            The primary methodology applied by historicists is the “year-equals-a-day principle” (“year-day theory”).  Symbolically, they insist, one day in prophecy is equivalent to one year in actual history.  This is based on the precedent of Ezekiel 4:6 and Daniel 9:24-27.  The 1,260 days of Revelation 12:6 are seen as years of tribulation and applied to the long reign of the papacy.  Accordingly, these days began as early as AD 533 with the decree issued by the eastern Emperor, Justinian, to make the bishop of Rome head of all the holy Churches.  They lasted until 1793, during the time of the French Revolution (1789-1799) and the beginning of the end of papal power in France, or until the defeat of papal troops by Napoleon around 1800.

            Using this historicist interpretation, many 16th-Century Reformers “found in the Antichrist a prophecy of the Papacy.”[61]  Hence, the original form of the Westminster Confession of Faith taught a Vatican and papal fulfillment of the Harlot and second Beast of Revelation 11, 12, and 13 and 17.[62]  This was later removed.  Given this level of prominence, it seems surprising that Luther “dealt with the doctrine of ‘last things’ in only fragmented ways.  Calvin, too, gave it only passing attention.  Noteworthy among his voluminous writings is the absence of a commentary on the book of Revelation.”[63] But as Ladd points out, historicism “so dominated Protestant study of prophetic truth for three centuries that it has frequently been called ‘the Protestant’ interpretation.”[64]

            Today, Halley’s Bible Handbook presents an historicist interpretation and provides examples that could have been fulfillments.  For instance, Halley suggests that the rise of Islam in the 7th Century AD might be the fulfillment of the fifth trumpet judgment of Revelation 9:1-11 with its unleashing of “horrible Monsters, with complex appearance of Locusts, Horses, Scorpions, Lions, and Humans.”[65]

            But Ladd is not impressed.  He recounts that “a major difficulty with this view is that no consensus has been achieved as to what the outline of history foreseen in the Revelation really is.”[66]  Likewise, Johnson urges caution as he notes that “historicists have not agreed on which events or time periods to identify with each vision.”[67]  He sees these disagreements as “symptomatic of an interpretative approach that lacks appropriate controls to rein in the interpreter’s imagination.”  He further objects that “a symbolic agenda for the specific events of history for centuries and millennia to come virtually seals up the meaning of the book to John’s first hearers . . . transforming the book . . . into . . . [a] (veiled book), at least for the seven churches to whom it was first sent.”[68]

            Perhaps, historicism’s most-famous advocate was William Miller.  During historicism’s heyday in the early 1800s, Miller made his predictions of Christ’s return in 1843 and 1844.   Classic dispensationalist Thomas Ice points out that “this kind of date-setting helped destroy confidence in the system.”[69]

But Terry is more adamant.  He insists that the year-day theory has “no valid support.”[70]  He remarks, “why should we ignore the statements of the Jewish historian [Josephus], and search in the pages of Gibbon, or in the annals of modern Europe, to find the fulfillment of prophecies which were so signally fulfilled before the end of the Jewish age?”[71] Amillennialist Leon Morris also criticizes the theory because it “largely ingore[d] the world outside western Europe.”[72]  Yet amazingly, this theory “prevailed up until approximately 1820, when all possible termination periods for the 1,260 years expired without any historical fulfillment.”[73]

            Marvin C. Pate summarized the current status of this interpretative theory thusly:

 

While the historicist approach once was widespread, today, for all practical purposes, it has passed from the scene.  Its failed attempts to locate the fulfillment of Revelation in the course of the circumstances of history has doomed it to continual revision as time passed and, ultimately, to obscurity (a situation, one might add, if Jesus tarries, that contemporary doomsday prophets may eventually find themselves in!).”[74]

 

            Thus, few people today give this theory any credence. There is one major exception—the Seventh-Day Adventists, who are premillennial.  They utilize not only Revelation’s 1,260 days, but also Daniel’s 1,290, 1,335, and 2,300 days as well, as part of their year-day theory.  With all these numbers fitting into their equations, they see us today living in between the 6th and 7th seals and trumpets, and with the seven plagues all yet-future.[75]

 

            b.  Idealist interpretation

Idealism is the other symbolic form of interpreting the book of Revelation that is most often associated with the amillennialist position.  In its pure form, idealism does not tie the prophecies to any particular post-New Testament event.  Instead, it sees them as “basic principles on which God acts throughout history.”[76]  Thus, these principles relate to people of every generation. 

Erickson describes it this way, “the idealist or symbolic interpretation dehistoricizes these events, making them purely symbolic of truths that are timeless in character.”[77]  They are “timeless . . . truths about the nature of reality or human existence that either are continuously present or continually recur.”[78]

Hence, Idealist G. K. Beale characterizes Revelation as “a symbolic portrayal of the conflict between good and evil, between the forces of God and of Satan. . . . a timeless depiction of this struggle.”  But he also disclaims that “the problem with this alternative is that . . . [it] does not depict any final consummation to history . . . . [and] it identifies none of the book’s symbols with particular historical events.”  This is the opposite of the problem faced by the preterist and historicist views.  Beale advocates what he calls an “eclecticism” approach coupling idealism’s “transtemporal” applicability with “a final consummation”[79] and “an Antichrist who comes at the end of history.”[80]

            Like historicists, however, amillennialists also “differ on the relationship of the visions to what they symbolize and to each other.”  Johnson, for one, believes that these visions symbolize “abstract trends or forces that may find expression in a variety of historical particulars without being limited to one.”[81]  These particulars include insights into both “behind-the-scenes heavenly sources and at other times . . . of their visible, earthly outworking in the experience of churches, countries, and cultures.”[82]

Hence, idealism agrees with preterism in that John’s visions revealed “dynamics and developments . . . of the first-century.”  It also agrees with historicism that “the visions symbolized the conditions confronting the church throughout the entire church age.”  And, it agrees with futurism in that the forces of evil are “far from defeated.”[83]  Idealism’s all-encompassing embrace is possible because this interpretative approach does not limit itself to only one historical reality, as do the other views.  Therefore, Johnson concludes that Revelation speaks of “forces and trends that would long outlive and far transcend ancient Rome, issues that confront twenty-first-century Christians just as they confronted our first-century counterparts.”[84]

            Ladd seems to characterize idealism in a positive light as “the assurance to suffering saints of God’s final triumph without the prediction of concrete events either in the past or future.”[85]  Yet he objects in that “the genre of apocalyptic literature always used apocalyptic symbolism to describe events in history; and we must expect the Apocalypse to share at least this feature with other books of its character.”[86]

            Morris acknowledges that idealism’s strength is that it “secures its [Revelation’s] relevance for all periods of the church’s history.”  But he flags as a major liability “its refusal to see a firm historical anchorage.”[87]  Amillennialist Merrill C. Tenney contends that while idealism “does contain much that is true.  Its flaw is not so much in what it affirms as in what it denies.”[88]

            But dispensationalist Jeffrey strongly disagrees with this timelessness approach. He blasts its interpretation of Revelation’s visions and prophecies “as mere allegories and figures of speech” which does “not expect any . . . to be literally fulfilled.”  This is done, he assumes, “to avoid the clear predictions of Christ coming . . . .”[89]
 

c.  Partial-preterist interpretation

Most, if not all, amillennialists subscribe to a partial-preterist understanding in varying degrees.  Many think that a “large proportion of Revelation’s visions were fulfilled in the early Christian centuries” with only chapters “20-22 . . . still present or future.”[90]  The fulfilled parts are then applied idealistically as principles for our lives and world today.  Guthrie’s amillennialist take, on the other hand, sees chapters 1-6 in “an historical application.”  But chapters 7-22 he assigns “alone . . . to the future winding up of human history.”[91]  As a group, however, amillennialists generally oppose full preterism and contend that “those who adopt the view that the whole book is no more than a tract for its own time dismiss the prophetic element of a future parousia.”[92]
 

4.  The Postmillennial View.

Like amillennialists, postmillennialists take a partial-preterist approach, envisioning that “a large portion of the book consists of a prophecy that was fulfilled in the first century.”  Hence, Mathison charges that the idealist, historicist, and futurist approaches do “not do justice to” and/or are “ignoring” the numerous time references and descriptions in the text.[93]  Gary North argues that since Revelation was written prior to AD 70,  “the Great Tribulation is not ahead of us; it is long behind us” and that “all ‘futurism’ – dispensationalism, most contemporary non-dispensational premillennialism, and the more popular forms of amillennialism – is dead wrong.”[94]

Mathison, like amillennialist R. C. Sproul, credits fellow postmillennialist Gentry with “documenting in exhaustive detail the dating of the Book of Revelation: before AD 70.”  He suggests that Gentry’s dating evidence “has removed the most significant criticism of the preterist . . . interpretation.”[95]  Gentry has decided that “a date in either AD 65 or early 66 would seem most suitable.”[96]  DeMar defends a date “around AD 64-65” and, therefore, stresses that “we should be looking for a first-century application.”[97]

DeMar also stresses that “the prophetic key” is “determining the time frame from the time texts.”  Hence, he dismisses “distant futurist interpretations as untenable.”[98]  He admonishes that “there is no need to be ambiguous about the meaning of ‘near,’ ‘shortly,’ and ‘quickly.’”  He chides dispensationalists’ manipulations of these words and insists that the “translators chose these English words because they convey the proper meaning of their Greek counterparts.”  He further delineates that “if these words meant something else, then translators would have used the appropriate words.”  He concludes that “these time markers indicate that the events depicted . . . were to happen without delay” and that “these time indicators” are to be “taken literally.”  Thus the events they depict “are history, fulfilled prophecy.”[99]  But, DeMar charges that when Biblical scholars adopted a futuristic view, they must resort to “reinterpreting and relativizing the time texts and, thus, obscuring the plain teaching of the Bible.”[100]

Gentry maintains that the time statements in Revelation 1:1, 3 and repeated in Revelation 22:6, 10 are “the text-bracketing temporal indicators” and they “cannot lightly be dismissed.”[101]  In his opinion, “original relevance . . . is the lock and the time-texts the key to opening the door of Revelation.”  He, too, asks, “What terms could John have used to speak of contemporary expectation other than those that are, in fact, found in Revelation 1:1, 3; 22:6, 10 and other places?”[102]

But Gentry and DeMar are partial preterists.  So Gentry sees chapters 6 through 19 as portraying “the judgment of Israel in cyclical fashion.”[103]  And while he notes that the “forty-two months” [Rev 11:2] or “1260 days” [vs. 3] “indicates the period of the Jewish War with Rome,”[104] he also observes that “the Book of Revelation really does not speak to postmillennialism until its last three chapters.  There, it holds forth the postmillennial hope of an expanding and dominating kingdom of Christ.”[105]

DeMar adds that “Revelation depicts a temporal judgment upon a nation that had ‘crucified the Lord of glory’ (1 Corinthians 2:8) . . . . This is why Revelation could describe the coming conflagration as ‘near.’ . . . The force of these words is decisive . . . . they were to begin with the people to whom the book was written and not thousands of years in the future.”[106] But he ponders “if the Bible can be interpreted so ‘soon’ can mean ‘late,’ and ‘near’ can mean ‘distant,’ and ‘shortly’ can mean ‘delayed,’ and vice versa, then the Bible can mean anything and nothing.”  He dutifully asks, “Can we trust a God whose words can mean their opposite?”[107]

            Although postmillennialists believe that chapters up through 19 were fulfilled in AD 70 and chapter 20, at least the first part, describes the present time as more and more people are coming into the millennial kingdom and under the rule and reign of Christ, they differ on the meaning of chapters 21 and 22.  Postmillennialist Marcellus J. Kik explains that some believe these realities are partially present in “the Church of God upon earth” but await consummation in the “Consummated Kingdom.”  However, Kik calls this “an error.”  He asserts that “the Bride, the Church, and the Holy Jerusalem are one and the same thing.”  It is not “heaven,” “a material city,” and not “the consummated state.”[108]  Other postmillennialists subscribe to Isaiah’s (Isa 65:17-20; 66:22) “new heavens and a new earth” as beginning in history, but separate Revelation’s “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1) as yet future and beyond history.

Mathison posits another dichotomizing scheme.  He teaches that the language of “New Heavens and a New Earth . . . can be used as a description of ongoing change in the existing state of affairs (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15), but it is also used to describe the state

of affairs after the final judgment (2 Pet 3:13).  In other words, there is an . . . ‘already’ . . . ‘not yet’ fulfilled.”[109]  So he believes that “the new heaven and new earth [of Revelation 21-22] is not wholly future. . . . But neither is it wholly present . . . . until the Second Coming.”[110]

            Kik, to the contrary, argues that the earth and the heaven that fled way in Revelation 20:11 teaches “us the end and annihilation of the material earth and heaven” which “have been contaminated by the sin of man.”  He depicts this verse as “one of the clearest statements in Scripture of the non-eternity of the earth and the heavens.”[111] 

Gentry acknowledges these disagreements in postmillennial ranks, but suggests that “there is ample evidence . . . of a refashioning of the earth for the eternal abode of the saints.”[112]  His “key passage” is 2 Peter 3, which he admits “has been the source of a good deal of confusion.”  Some think 2 Peter 3’s “a new heaven and a new earth” refers to “the present era introduced by the destruction of Jerusalem, others apply it to the consummate new heavens and new earth.”[113]  In his comments on Revelation, however, he claims that “the New Creation/Jerusalem of Revelation 21-22 began in the first century” and “stretches out into eternity in its ultimate consummation.”[114]

            Postmillennialists do, however, agree with premillennialists, and against amillennialists, that the events of Revelation 20 chronologically follow those of chapter 19.  But postmillennialists do not view the rider on the white horse as being Jesus’ Second Coming.  Rather, they see this as Jesus riding victoriously over his enemies with the sword coming out of his mouth which is “the Gospel as preached by His followers” during the Church age.[115]  Stanley J. Grenz explains that this passage is seen by postmillennialists as depicting “a process that occurs in history and not the Second Coming, [hence] the golden age precedes, rather than follows, the Lord’s return.”[116]

 

II.  PART II – AN EVALUATION OF VIEWS

FOR THE REST OF THE ARTICLE PLEASE VISIT:
http://www.prophecyrefi.org/acedemicarticle.htm


[1] The term “preterists” means full preterists in contrast to “partial preterists.”

[2] J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Book House. From the 1887 edition       issued by T. Fisher Unwin, 1983) 364. – his quote from Catholic Thoughts on the Bible and Theology,  chap. xxxv. p. 361.

[3] Ibid., 374-375.

[4] Ibid., 379.

[5] Ibid., 535.  Also see preterist Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Book  House, 1988) 6.

[6] For more see Don K. Preston, Who Is This Babylon (Ardmore, OK.: n.p. n.d.) 208-210.  Also see, N.T.  Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, vol. 2 (London, Great Britain; Society for  Promoting Christian  Knowledge, 1996) 323, 354.

[7] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book III, V, in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1979) 138.

[8] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove, IL.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1981) 816.

[9] Stanley W. Paher, The Book of Revelation’s Mystery Babylon Rome, A.D. 95 (Reno, NV.: Nevada Publications, 2003) 15.

[10] Ibid., 67.

[11] Ibid., 97.

[12] Ibid., 110-113.  Another argument for Revelation’s Babylon being Rome is the “Babylon” used in 1 Peter 5:13, from where Peter wrote his epistle. Since   the second century church tradition has held that Peter was in Rome at the end of his life, some, therefore, link these two cities.  But many commentaries disagree with this equation.  See Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Adam Clarke’s Commentary, and Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary.
[13] Ibid., 159.

[14] Ibid., 160.

[15] Ibid., 174.

[16] Ibid., 195.

[17] Ibid., 98.

[18] Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness (Brentwood, TN.: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991) 23.

[19] Russell, The Parousia, 374.

[20] Ibid., 531-532.

[21] Max R. King, The Cross and the Parousia of Christ (Warren, OH.: Writing and Research Ministry, The

Parkman Road Church of Christ, 1987) 669.

[22] J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Books, 1973) 593.

[23] Michael Wilcock, I Saw Heaven Opened (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 1975) 23.

[24] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2002) 20.

[25] Millard J. Erickson, A Basic Guide to Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Books, 1977) 97.

[26] Ibid., 98.

[27] Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL.: Moody Press, 1992) 20.

[28] Ibid., 32.

[29] Ibid., 34.

[30] ibid.

[31] Ibid., 115.

[32] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, rev. ed. 1998) 28.

[33] George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1974, revised ed.,   1993) 670.

[34] Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 54-55.

[35] Ibid., 55-56.

[36] Ed Hindson, Approaching Armageddon: The World Prepares for War With God (Eugene, OR.: Harvest  House, 1997) 36.

[37] ibid.

[38] DeMar, Last Days Madness, 214.

[39] Ibid., 215.

[40] Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 243.

[41] Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, 592.

[42] George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1956) 98.

[43] Ibid., 75.

[44] Ibid., 102.

[45] Ibid., 75.

[46] John F. MacArthur, The Second Coming: Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age (Wheaton, IL.: Crossway Books, 1999) 84.  For a preterist fulfillment of Daniel’s 70 Weeks, see John Noē, Beyond the End Times (Bradford, PA.: International Preterist Association, 1999) 71-89.
[47] Larry Spargimino, The Anti-Prophets: The Challenge of Preterism (Oklahoma City, OK.: Hearthstone Publishing, 2000) 23.

[48] John H. Sailhamer, Biblical Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1998) 71.

[49] Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ.: P&R Publishing, 1999) 177.

[50] DeMar, Last Days Madness, 174.
[51] Jerry Newcombe, Coming Again But When? (Colorado Springs, CO.: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1999) 297.
[52] Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1979) 69.
[53] Ibid., 223-224.
[54] Guthrie, New Testament Theology, 815.

[55] R. C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Books, 1998) 203.

[56] Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation (Phillipsburg, NJ.: P&R Publishing, 2001) 352.

[57] Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, 672.

[58] Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 25.

[59] Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics, 3.

[60] Ibid., 6.

[61] Ladd, The Blessed Hope, 32.

[62] Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 25, sect. 6; Ch.1, sect. 6. 

[63] Gordon J. Spykman, Reformational Theology: A New Paradigm for Doing Dogmatics (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1992) 518-519.

[64] Ladd, The Blessed Hope, 32.

[65] Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Book House, 1940) 716-718.

[66] Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, 672.

[67] Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, 354.

[68] Ibid., 355.

[69] Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, gen. eds., When the Trumpet Sounds (Eugene, OR.: Harvest House, 1995) 15.

[70] Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics (Eugene, OR.: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1890, 1999) 294.

[71] Ibid., 360.

[72] Leon Morris, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1987) 19.

[73] Grant R. Jeffrey, Triumphant Return: The Coming of the Kingdom of God (Toronto, Ontario: Frontier Research Publications, 2001) 42.

[74] Marvin C. Pate, gen. ed., Four Views on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1998) 110.

[75] Seminars Unlimited, “Revelation Seminars” (Keene, TX.), attended July/August 2001, in Indianapolis, IN.

[76] Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 28.

[77] Erickson, A Basic Guide to Eschatology, 98.

[78] Ibid., 30.

[79] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1999) 48.

[80] Ibid., 691.

[81] Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, 352.

[82] Ibid., 360.

[83] Ibid., 361.

[84] Ibid., 362.

[85] Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, 672.

[86] Ibid., 672-673.  Also see, Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 35.

[87] Morris, Revelation, 20.

[88] Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1957, 2001) 143.

[89] Jeffrey, Triumphant Return, 34.

[90] Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, 358.

[91] Ibid., 817.

[92] Guthrie, New Testament Theology, 816.

[93] Mathison, Postmillennialism, 140.

[94] Gary North, Rapture Fever (Tyler, TX.: Institute for Christian Economics, 1993) 45.

[95] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., He Shall Have Dominion (Tyler, TX.: Institute for Christian Economics, , 1992) xxxv-xxxvi.

[96] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell (Atlanta, GA.: American Vision, 1998) 336.

[97] DeMar, Last Days Madness, 198.

[98] ibid.

[99] Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness, 3rd ed., (Atlanta, GA.: American Vision, 1997) 373-374.

[100] Ibid., 466.

[101] Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, 163-164.

[102] Ibid., 164.

[103] Ibid., 401.

[104] Ibid., 408.

[105] Ibid., 421.

[106] DeMar, Last Days Madness, 215.

[107] Ibid., 215-216.

[108] Marcellus J. Kik, An Eschatology of Victory (Phillipsburg, NJ.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1971) 243.

[109] Mathison, Postmillennialism, 87.

[110] Ibid., 157.

[111] Kik, An Eschatology of Victory, 254.

[112] Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, 298.

[113] Ibid., 301.

[114] Ibid., 418-419.

[115] Kik, An Eschatology of Victory, 250.

[116] Stanley J. Grenz, The Millennial Maze (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 1992) 73.



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