Consider helping today!
by Foy E. Wallace
THE BOOK OF REVELATION
AN APOCALYPTIC PREVIEW
The current phrase “the book of revelation” is at once connotative of the apocalypse of John on Patmos--but the whole Bible is the book of revelation from God to man, and is the culmination of a divine pattern and policy of God’s communication with man.
The first two verses of the Hebrew epistle in the New Testament states the whole policy of divine revelation: “God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” This One who was the agent of the creation of the universe and of man became the heir of all things in God’s revelation to man, the culmination and fulfillment of the scheme of divine revelation. This chain of revelation, from the voice of God in the garden of Eden to the voice of the blood of Christ on the cross, follows a divine pattern from its first forms of communication to the completion of the divine purpose in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Primitive revelation was oral, when God addressed the patriarchs in direct verbal communication. Then revelation took the form of theophany--the manifestation of God in symbols and types and visions, inclusive of the long series of representations of God in the early ages. After this, revelation assumed an ethnic character in the formation of the Hebrew race, the existence of which was but an early form of divine revelation, from which developed the national feature of revelation in the establishment and organization of the nation of Israel, the whole history of which was a phase of divine revelation. Finally, revelation reached its documentary culmination and was committed to the records of the Old and New Testaments.
This gradual course and progressive policy of revelation is the meaning of Heb_1:1-2 . God spake in time past (the old dispensations) unto the fathers (from Adam to Moses) by the prophets (the agents of ancient revelation) in sundry times (in various parts or portions) and in divers manners (employing many methods of communication), but in the last days (the gospel dispensation) God has spoken unto us by his Son (Jesus the Christ), whom he appointed heir of all things (spoken by the prophets). The various parts and portions were gathered into one, the many methods merged into the completed revelation, and the Bible thus becomes the longest thread of thought ever woven in the loom of time. This course of divine revelation is a basic principle of the present treatise.
PROPHECY AND THEOPHANY
The Book of Revelation being admittedly an apocalypse, the approach to its study requires a comparison of the meaning of certain related words, such as dream, vision, and prophecy.
The dream is usually understood as a vain image, formed in the subconscious mind or imagination, a series of thoughts and emotions of seeming reality, occurring during sleep. “He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.” ( Job_20:8 ) From the earliest biblical times dreams were superstitiously regarded. Though the ordinary dreams and the dreamers, as well as the pretenders of the skill to interpret them, were condemned and forbidden, there are instances in the Bible where God made use of them to reveal his will and his purposes through individuals to whom he imparted the powers of interpretation. This use of dreams, and the supernatural gift to interpret them, manifestly had reference to future events known only to the Supreme Being who controls and disposes of the events of time. Since the fulfillment of divine revelation has been accomplished in the gospel of man’s redemption, foretold in the Old Testament and made known in the New Testament, all claims of faith in the validity of dreams as indicative of future events are pretentious, presumptious and delusive, and must be regarded as impious in character.
The vision in the periods of direct divine revelations was a means by which God, through persons whom he appointed, revealed Himself and communicated his will. In this sense the vision was an oracle from God, and in the Old Testament the term had reference to the Most Holy Place of the temple, where God through the high priests revealed and declared his will to the people of Israel. ( 1Ki_6:5 ; 1Ki_6:19 ; 1Ki_6:23 ; 1Ki_8:6 ) In the New Testament the word is used only in the plural, as in Rom_3:2 ; Heb_5:12 ; 1Pe_4:11 , and refers to the inspired Scriptures which contain the will of God, revealed to the men of God who were “moved by the Holy Spirit.” The oracles of the heathen world were uttered from their shrines, and at one time were consulted and held in repute and fear by kings, but did not long withstand the corruptive influences of bribery. The broad use of the term vision would include the divine oracles through the God-appointed men of the Old Testament, and the spiritually-gifted men of the New Testament, with the imparted powers of prophecy and inspiration during the time of the planting of the church in the miraculous age.
The word trance was of a more limited application. It is found only twice in the Old Testament ( Num_24:4 ; Num_24:16 ) and in both instances the word is printed in italics, indicating that it was supplied by the translators and not in the original manuscript. In the New Testament the word occurs three times ( Act_10:10 ; Act_11:5 ; Act_22:17 ). The etymology of the word denotes a state of mind separated from the external world and occupied only with mental or spiritual contemplations. Psychologically, this state of mind may result in the effects of natural causes; but in the case of Simon Peter in Act_10:1-48 ; Act_11:1-30 , and of the apostle Paul in Act_22:17 , the interposition of supernatural power for special divine purposes is evident. Such mediums served all divine purposes during the progress of revelation and are no longer existent as a divine means of communication.
The word prophecy is the far more frequently used word of the Scriptures, and its common use in the religious vernacular of today has been the root of all error. The prophets of the Old Testament were the “men of God” whom God authorized and inspired to reveal the things of the future, whose prophecies were not mere prognostication and human interpretation based on current events as the premise from which to draw their conclusions for future development. The character of true prophecy is such that there is no example in the present upon which to form a prophetic premise from which to draw a prophetic conclusion.
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” ( 2Pe_1:20-21 ) Thus prophecy must be so far removed from anything in the present that there is no existing example of the thing prophesied upon which to base the prediction of the future event. Otherwise there would exist in the prophecy itself the element of human foresight.
The prophets of the New Testament were not of the same category--they belonged to the order of the “spiritual gifts” of 1 Corinthians_12:1-31 :1-11 , and were assistants to the apostles in the development of the scheme of redemption revealed in the New Testament, as mentioned in Eph_2:20 ; Eph_3:1-5 . The reference to prophesying in the Corinthian epistle designated a form of inspired teaching of the specially endowed teachers in the exercise of the “spiritual gifts” for the edification of the church during this period of miracles before the revelation of the will of God in the New Testament was completed. Prophecy does not exist in either category today--neither in the foretelling of future events nor in the form of the special spiritual gift endowment.
Finally, the term apocalypse--the word employed to name the Book Of Revelation --was applied to anything viewed as a prophetic revelation, in the sense of an unfolding vision. The Book Of Revelation is termed a prophecy only in the modified sense of a vision of events--but not the foretelling of the distant future, such as characterized the old prophets. Prophecy in the authentic sense of the foretelling of future events was necessarily so detached from anything in the present, upon which to base the prophecy concerning things to come, that no example for it existed. But the whole vision of the Book Of Revelation was surrounded by existing events already in a state of development, and it was written in code as a warning to the churches living in that period, endangered by these conditions and facing the perils of persecution therein delineated. If Revelation is “a book of future prophecy,” then we are in a regime of prophecy still, and living in an age of prophecy. But the Lord declared in Luk_16:16 that “the law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” The phrase “until John” here does not mean until John appeared, but until John’s order ended. At the house of Cornelius, in Act_10:37 , Peter used the phrase “after the baptism which John preached.” Jesus said “until” John, and Peter said “after” John. Obviously after John meant after the cross; and until John meant until the cross. Jesus did not say that the law was until the cross--he said the law and. And what? The law and the prophets were until the cross--which means that prophecy ended exactly when and where the law ended. The word “until” expresses the point of termination. Paul states in Heb_9:10 , that the ordinances of the law were imposed until the new covenant --the point of termination. So both law and prophecy were terminated by the cross of Christ and “since that time the kingdom of God is preached” and all men “press into it” under the Great Commission, the preaching of it.
In reference to this same point, Jesus declared in Mat_5:17 , that he did not come to destroy the law or the prophets but to fulfill them. And in Hebrews_1:1-14 :1-2 the apostle affirmed that Christ is the heir of all things spoken by the prophets. The phrase all things in verse 2 must have an antecedent--Christ is the heir of what “all things”? The antecedent is in verse 1. In the former dispensation God spake unto the patriarchs by his prophets, the agents of divine revelation. In so doing he employed many methods and revealed his will in various parts. But “in these last days!"--the gospel dispensation--he speaks unto us by the Son whom he appointed to be the heir of all things spoken by the prophets. Jesus Christ became the heir of the “all things” spoken by the prophets in that he is the fulfillment of these “all things.” In Eph_1:10-11 the same apostle uses the same phrase “all things” in reference to the old and the new dispensations, saying: “That in the dispensation of the fulness of time he might gather together in one all things in Christ . . . according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will.”
The telescopes of the prophets were all focused on Jesus Christ; and the types of the old dispensation all pointed to Him who became “the heir of all things” thus spoken.
Like other students the author has in the past attempted to tread the tangled maze of “the future prophecy” theory of Revelation from A. D. 96 through the “dark ages” to the end of time--and like all the others who did so, he bogged down in the meshes of the wildernesses! Such an effort is as traditional as the Catholic calendar of popes from the apostle Peter in A.D. 33 to pope Paul VI of 1963-- and is as erroneous as the Baptist claim of the chain of succession back to John on the banks of the Jordan--the links fall out.
The historians use the word anachronism--meaning an error in the order of time. Taking an event out of the period to which it belongs and assigning it to a wrong period of time is an anachronism. The multiple theories asserting that Revelation is a book of future prophecy are anachronistic. The internal arguments--the contents of the book itself--are preponderantly negative to the future fulfillment theories, as many of the best scholars have admitted. After many years of intensive study it is the calculated conclusion of the author that the symbols of Revelation were fulfilled in the experience of the early church; that it bears a pre-destruction of Jerusalem date; and that it is prophetic only in the sense of an apocalyptic description of the struggle of the early church with the Jewish and Roman persecutors, and the spectacular and phenomenal victory over the pagan persecuting powers.
To accept this sensible application of the apocalypse is to walk in the light; to reject it and follow the future theorization is but to wander in the dark--in the maze of the medieval centuries--in search of some historical counter part for symbols that were fulfilled in the corresponding events of the century of the apocalyptic disclosure. This “dark ages” network of prophetic bewilderment has so trammelled the Book Of Revelation, and made it to bristle with so many difficulties, that most readers and students of all other books of the New Testament shrink from any effort to understand and apply the symbolic language of the apocalypse, in the vague dread of the fearful future events of a wholesale onslaught of reckless fury to be launched against the church, either to overwhelm us in our day or to overtake our children in another day. So they stop reading the New Testament at the end of Jude.
All who have followed these prophetic meanderings have been misled into theological back alleys. The relation of the contents of Revelation to the persecution of the church is undeniable, and there is no reason to look beyond the period of these persecutions for their fulfillment. The symbolism of the book offers no reason for future vagaries. Its code language has an obvious purpose--the same purpose the military has in communicating messages in code to its personnel in order to withhold the information from the public. If John had written Revelation in plain literal language it would have precipitated a premature onslaught against the church which would have obliterated it from the Roman empire and wiped it off the face of the earth.
It was therefore communicated in code for the information of the churches facing this era of persecution, and there were the spiritually-gifted teachers in every early church able to decode its message to the members. The Seer of Revelation speaks to his own time, which was, indeed, the time of crisis which the book envisions. The efforts to map an incalculable future, and attempt to force history to conform to it is a strange and curious method of exegesis.
With the foregoing deliberations in mind, the parallelism existing between the visions of the prophets in the Old Testament and the visions of John in Revelation will enhance the study preparatory to an exegesis of the book itself.
The visions contained in the Old Testament books presented in apocalyptic form the fortunes of God's people Israel--the exile and the dominion of the wicked lords, and in short the cause of the Old. Testament church, the people of God, in conflict with the existing heathen powers.
The apocalypse of John in Revelation similarly portrays the struggle and triumph of the early Christians--the New Testament church--in conflict with the existing Jewish and Roman persecuting powers in the period of their persecutions.
All forms of apocalypse ended with the age of inspiration; there have been no revelations since, and there are no visions or apocalypses or prophecies of divine source today.
For every phase, feature and symbol of the visions of Revelation, there is a parallel in the Old Testament apocalypses. They are related in both character and description to the visions of John on the isle of Patmos. The classification and structure of the Old Testament books are essential to the application of the similar portions of the New Testament, such as the discourse of Jesus on the Mount Olivet, recorded in Mat_24:1-51 , Mar_13:1-37 , and Luk_21:1-38 , bearing on the siege and destruction of Jerusalem--and with these the Book Of Revelation. The apocalypse of John is the climax, consummation and crown of all biblical vision.
Let it be remembered that there is a distinct difference between the prophets and prophecies in the Old Testament and the use of prophecy in the New Testament, as indicated in 1Co_14:6 , which reads: “Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?” Here, as in 1Co_12:7-11 , prophecy was listed among the “spiritual gifts” imparted by the apostles to edify the churches in the absence of the completed will of God in the New Testament, and it was a phase of inspired teaching in the churches. The prophets of the New Testament were thus the spiritually gifted teachers assisting the apostles in the completion of the plan of redemption, and they were not in the category of the Old Testament prophets. In the Book Of Revelation the word prophecy is used in the modified sense of apocalypse or vision. As before stated, prophecy in the sense of the foretelling of future events must have been so far removed from anything in the present that there could have been not even an example in the present of that which was prophesied--otherwise the element of human foresight, based on the development of the current events, would have obviously existed. But the visions of John were based on existent conditions and surrounded by events already in a state of development.
This fact removes the Book Of Revelation from the category of “future prophecy” and places it in the classification of apocalyptic vision relating to the fortunes of the New Testament churches in the midst of Jewish, Roman and Pagan persecutions, comparable to and parallel with the apocalypses of Ezekiel in relation to the fortunes of the Old Testament Israel.
The symbolic and typical system of the old dispensation, with its altars, visions and apocalypses, pointed to fulfillment in Christ and the church. The blood stream of the Old Testament began its flow from Abel’s altar and it did not cease until it was mingled with the crimson flow of the blood of Jesus Christ from the cross of Calvary.
There are multiple passages in the New Testament gathered around the fact that the types and symbols and prophecies all pointed to Christ and were thus fulfilled. That is why Heb_1:1-2 declares that God appointed him to be the heir of the all things spoken by the prophets; and it is why Paul in Ephesians_1:1-23 :1 O-11 stated that in this dispensation God has gathered together in one all things in Christ; and it is why in Rom_8:27-29 the apostle shows that the all things of God’s plan work together for the good, or the redemption, of all men who are called according to his purpose in the redemptive plan; and it is why in 2Pe_1:19 that Christ was proclaimed the day star of all prophecy; and that is why Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, in chapter 4, when seeking a figure of speech to adequately portray the grandeur of the One to come, selected the flaming orb of the day, and declared that the coming Christ should be the Sun Of Righteousness "with healing in his wings.” What the sun of the solar system is to the universe, Jesus Christ, the Sun Of Righteousness, would be to the darkened world of humanity in sin. In fulfillment of the prophecies He came; the Sun Of Righteousness had arisen, and it cast the beams of splendor across the crest of Calvary, glimmering and glistening in the blood of the crucified Son of God, who thus became “the heir of all things” spoken by the prophets. “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” ( Luk_24:44-45 ) “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree.” ( Act_13:29 ) Jesus Christ is the heir of all things spoken by the prophets.
Having shown the object of prophecy and apocalypse, it is now in order to list the parallelism and application in the prophets of old and the apostle of Patmos.
(1) The sword and cherubims of Eden-- Gen_3:24 .
The flaming sword placed in the garden, after the expulsion of man and his mate from their Edenic home, was the symbol of divine justice; but the cherubims beside it were the symbols of grace and mercy. Together they symbolized the righteous judgment of God mingled with the grace of redemption in the unfolding plan for the restoration of man.
(2) The ladder of Jacob’s dream-- Gen_28:10-22 .
This dramatic and familiar experience of Jacob was the symbol of the mediation between God and man, set forth in a long series of typical images in the Old Testament, which culminated in Jesus Christ, as indicated in Joh_1:15 .
(3) The burning bush of Midian-- Exo_3:1-22 : l-10.
This burning bush in the desert of midian was a synbolic representation that the wrath of Pharaoh could not harm Moses any more than the bush could be consumed by the fire that was burning it; and that the people of God in Egypt were as imperishable in the afflictions of slavery as the bush was impervious to the elements which failed to consume it, and that they would remain so before all enemies. Here is a forecast, not only of the fortunes of the nation of Israel, but also of the “Israel of God” in Gal_6:16 .
(4) The song of Moses-- Exo_15:1-27 .
These richly poetic and prophetic verses compose a magnificent song of triumph and victory over Egypt and deliverance from Pharaoh’s power and sovereignty. It is comparable to the Song Of Moses And The Lamb in the apocalypse of Revelation.
(5) The tabernacle in the wilderness-- Exo_25:1-40 .
This unusually remarkable and amazing tent of the wilderness of Sinai was a symbol of the manifestation, presence and dwelling of God in and with his people--an outward demonstration of an inward dwelling among them, and is again set forth spiritually in 2Co_6:16-18 and in chapters 11:19 and 21:3 of Revelation.
(6) The sword of Jericho-- Jos_6:1-27 .
The siege and fall of Jericho were the signs and signals for the defeat and overthrow of any and all enemies who stood in the way of Israel, as further recorded in Jos_5:13 ; Jos_6:27 . It has an unmistakable parallel in Rev_11:8 .
(7) The vision of Isaiah-- Isaiah_6:1-13 :1-13 .
This imagery of the judgments and fortunes of Israel is paralleled with the experiences of the church in the apocalypse of Rev_6:9 --"How long, 0 Lord, how long.”
(8) The dominion and death of Israel’s lords-- Isa_26:13-19 .
The prophet here depicts the oppressions of Israel under the rule of the despotic lords of Babylon during their exile. The phrases in this vision, “they are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise . . . but thy dead men shall live,” referred to Israel’s deliverance from exile.
The wicked lords were dead as lords, never to hold dominion over the people of Israel again; they should not again rise to power. But the people of God, who were represented as dead in exile would live and exult in triumph over deliverance from the lords of Babylon. The expressions “thy dead” and “my body” refer to the collective body of Israel, which would rise from the dead state of captivity, and finds parallel in the figurative resurrection of the persecuted saints in the throne scene of Revelation, chapter 20-l-6.
(9) The new heaven and earth for Israel-- Isa_66:22 .
The deliverance of Israel from Babylonian exile is called their new heaven and new earth, when Israel returned from the Babylon of captivity to the land of their fathers. It finds symbolic parallel in the New Testament church emerging from the Roman persecutions into their new heaven and new earth of victory.
(10) The winged creatures of Ezekiel-- Eze_1:4-28 ; Eze_10:1-22 : l-22.
The visions begin with the view of the opened heavens --the symbols of God’s presence, and of his judgments in the winds and fire. The creatures and cherubims are the visions of divine activity, indicating that God was not in repose. It is the apocalyptic symbol of the restoration of what Israel had lost in captivity, a parallel which is repeatedly envisioned in Revelation of the emergence of the church from the period of persecution to restored peace, unity and spirituality in the victorious cause of Christ.
(11) The valley of dry bones-- Eze_37:1-28 .
This vision is a graphic description of the grave of exile and captivity, and of Israel's resurrection in deliverance from the Babylonian captivity. It parallels the resurrection of Rev_20:1-15 --the survival and resurrection of the cause of the martyrs.
(12) The temple of Zechariah-- Zec_8:9-11 .
The horsemen and horns of Zechariah’s vision symbolized that God’s hosts would put down oppressions, and restore and enlarge Jerusalem after the return of the exiles. The measuring of the temple, though it has a dual meaning, is a parallel of full import with the New Jerusalem of the gospel dispensation.
(13) The branch, throne, priest and ruler-- Zec_6:9-15 ; Heb_4:7-11 ; Heb_8:4 .
The description of the priest and king on the throne and the apocalypse of the temple are typical of the spiritual priesthood and kingship of Jesus Christ, who in fulfillment of this prophecy was king and priest at the same time, as set forth in the Hebrew references and other parts of the New Testament, including the imagery of Revelation.
(14) The fountain for sin-- Zechariah_13:1-9 :1-6 .
This chapter points to Christ and to the crucifixion, where he was “wounded in the house of his friends”--by the Jews who crucified him, as declared in Joh_1:11 . The vision channels the blood stream of redemption in the Old Testament forward to its crimson flow from the cross of Calvary.
(15) The living waters of Jerusalem-- Zec_14:1-21 .
The sweep of the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Zechariah carries the reader from Calvary to Pentecost and envisions the living waters of the gospel dispensation flowing from Jerusalem, as foretold in Isa_2:2-4 , and quoted by Jesus Christ in Luk_24:47-48 . Those apocalypses of the Old Testament merge into the remedial dispensation of the gospel.
(16) The image of Nebuchadnezzar-- Dan_2:1-49 : l-45.
This visional dream of the colossal image was a prophetic apocalypse of the succession of the world monarchies of Babylonia, Persia, Grecia and Rome, culminating in an imagery of the kingdom of God in the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, and in Daniel’s visions of the years, months, weeks and days--all pointing to the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the kingdom of Christ “in the days of these kings,” fulfilled in the time of the Roman Caesars.
(17) The apocalyptic discourse of Christ-- Mat_24:1-51 .
The signs of this chapter all point to the siege and the destruction of Jerusalem, the demolition of the temple, the downfall of Judaism and the end of the Jewish state. There 14 THE BOOK OF REVELATION is no sign mentioned below the thirty-fourth verse of Mat_24:1-51 , and it reads: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” They were fulfilled before the passing of that generation, in the events accompanying the destruction of Jerusalem.
(18) The apocalypse of John in Revelation--in twenty-two chapters.
The apocalypse of John in Revelation is but the extension of the descriptions of Christ in Mat_24:1-51 , of the destruction of Jerusalem, the signs preceding it, and the events connected with it, before and after the siege. It represents the blending of the apocalypses of the old and new testaments, which form the basis of this treatise of Revelation.
AUTHENTICITY AND CHRONOLOGY
There is hardly a book in the Old Testament or in the New Testament, the authorship of which has not been disputed by the modern higher critics, to raise doubts and create distrust among all who accept the Bible as the Word of God. The seer of Revelation by-lines his apocalypse with the personal inscription, John. But the dissentient critics assert this signature to be pseudonymous, in keeping with the character of an apocalypse, and that it professes to be authored by someone other than the actual writer. All ecclesiastical sources ascribe Revelation to John the apostle, and this is confirmed by the testimony of the book itself, in chapters 1:4, 9 and 21:2 and 22:8
The claim that it was composed by another John compares with the efforts to take Moses out of the Pentateuch; and with the double-Isaiah theory, which splits the prophecy, attributing a part of the book to a second Isaiah of a later date; and to confuse the authorship of James, John and Hebrews--all for the purpose of destroying the credibility of the Bible and the inspiration of its authors and its books. These issues have been settled by various capable scholars, such as McGarvey of the church, and recognized denominational theologians and scholars such as Philip Schaff, the translator of the American Standard Version, published in 1901. and many others of his class who believe in the integrity, authenticity, credibility and inspiration of the Bible.
The claim regarding the differences in the language and style of Revelation, and of John’s gospel and epistles, are of similar nature and intent. Such differences, if their existence is actual, are attributable to the apocalyptic character of Revelation--that it is not an epistle of John’s composition, but was dictated to John by the angel; therefore it was the language of the angel and not in his own style. In his own epistles the Holy Spirit utilized John’s personality, style and language, but in Revelation it was that of the angel of Christ as plainly stated in chapter 1:1. It must also be considered that John was “in the spirit” when Revelation was dictated to him, and was no more than the visional amanuensis to write from dictation the words of the angel of Christ.
The argument on the chronology of the apocalypse is centered on the choice between two dates that have been assigned to it--first the latter part of the Domitian reign about A.D. 96; second, the pre-destruction of Jerusalem date in the period of Nero Caesar, about A.D. 58-64. The contention for the Domitian date is based mainly on two claims:
(1) That in the second century a “church father” named Irenaeus is said to have seen Polycarp who is also said to have said that John was seen by him in the latter part of the reign of Domitian--and that has been taken to mean that the apocalypse was seen, rather than John, at that time. The most that can be said of this contention is that it is rather a circuitous method of arriving at a point of chronology, and it sounds more like hearsay than history.
(2) On a supposition that apostasy in the Asian churches forms a case for the late Domitian date, based on the improbability of apostasies occurring so soon as the earlier date--hence, indicating a longer existence of the Asian churches than the earlier date would allow, as a necessary consideration of the time of the vision. But the apostasies of the Galatian churches “so soon removed” from Christ, as stated in Gal_1:6 ; and of the Hebrew teachers and members, as mentioned in Heb_6:1-6 ; Heb_10:25-39 , together seem to refute the impossibility of such an early apostasy of the Asian churches, if not altogether the claim of improbabilities that departures in the churches could have occurred and did occur that soon. The evidences of these early apostasies are also seen in such passages as Rom_16:17 and 1Jn_2:15 . The argument for the late Domitian date of Revelation, therefore, lacks finality and is entirely too inadequate for proof.
The argument for the early Neroan date has solid internal proof--within the book itself--and external historical support by recognized and respectable scholars of high standing.
In the first book of the eight volume set entitled The History Of The Christian Church, by the world recognized historian, Philip Schaff, the author cited a group of twenty reputable scholars who assign the date of Revelation to the early Neroan period before the destruction of Jerusalem, who also applied its descriptions to the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the overthrow of the Jewish theocracy, the fall of Judaism and the end of the Jewish state--all in the fierce conflict with the Roman empire.
Among these high ranking scholars are the names of Moses Stuart, Samuel Davidson, Ewald, Bleek, DeWitte, and Cowles, who were named by historian Philip Schaff on page 837 of the volume mentioned. Other notable names added from other sources who hold to this early Neroan date are, Westcott and Hort (authors of the New Testament Greek Text), Farrar, Lightfoot, and as Paul said of the honor roll of Hebrews eleven, the time would fail me to tell of them all. But historian Schaff, on page 219, places the beginning of “the Neronian persecution” in A.D. 64, the tenth year of Nero, according to Tacitus; and the martyrdom of Paul and Peter either then or a few years later, and states that some of the best scholars in his estimation, from the internal indications, assign the apocalyptic epistle to the period between A.D. 60 and A.D. 70, before the destruction of Jerusalem.
In addition to the consensus of the views of such an impressive array of scholars as mentioned and commended in Schaff’s history, there are the testimonies of other eminents such as Charles Wordsworth, of Cambridge (author of the multiple volume Commentary On The Bible, and the long out of print volume entitled Lectures On The Apocalypse; and Milton S. Terry, of the Garrett Biblical Institute of the Northwestern University (author of Biblical Apocalyptics); and James M. MacDonald, of Princeton (author of The Life and Writings Of John). In the Commentary and the Lectures Wordsworth stoutly opposed the various forms of millennialism and committed himself to the view of the early origin of Revelation.
He argued forcefully against the theory of the future millennium based on the twentieth chapter of Revelation, saying in substance that the millennialists have all commonly supposed the apocalypse to be a continuous prophetic history, flowing in regular chronological stream from the beginning of the events to the end of time. Based on this assumption the millennial claims, that the twentieth chapter describes a future period beginning at the return of the Lord, cannot allow the transpiring of these events earlier than a time posterior to the coming of Christ. This conclusion is based on the erroneous premise of the late date for the apocalypse, disconnecting it from the events anticipated in its visions and imagery. The fundamental error is in the assumption that “the seven seals” extend from the apostolic age to the end of time. But the Book Of Revelation is not that kind of a consecutive prophecy, but rather a succession of immediate events.
It is further argued that the doctrine of the future millennium, based on the late date, caused the apocalypse to decline in repute because, said Wordsworth, “the doctrine of millennialism is repugnant to the Scriptures,” and the misinterpretations resulted in the rejection of the entire apocalypse as unauthentic vagaries. But with these misconceptions refuted the book takes its proper place with the other epistles, dealing with things present and immediate, and respect for the apocalypse was restored. The kingdom of Christ is spiritual and future wars and revolutions of political import are not the object in Revelation. of the visions
The importance of this phase of the study of Revelation justifies the further mention and consideration of History Of The Christian Church, by Philip Schaff, the international scholar, theologian and historian, who was the president of the translating committee for the American Standard Revised Version of 1885-1901, composed of one hundred one of the world’s ripest scholars. The statements that follow, gathered from the first volume of his history, summing up the views of a galaxy of scholars, historians, theologians and commentators, weigh heavily in favor of the early Neroan date for the Book Of Revelation.
The gist of the testimony of these authorities, as confirmed by Schaff’s history, is here submitted in the following abridged summation:
(1) That none of the leading apostles remained to record the horrible massacre (the destruction of Jerusalem) except John . . . who at all events was himself the victim of persecution and depicted its horrors in the vision of the apocalypse. . . . The seer must have had in view the Neronian persecution, the most cruel that ever occurred, when he called the woman seated on seven hills “drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus,” and prophesied her downfall as a matter of rejoicing for the “saints and apostles and prophets”. . . . Some commentators discover a direct allusion to Nero, as expressing in the Hebrew letters Neron Kesar (Nero Caesar) the mysterious number 666.--Page 385-386.
(2) That the internal evidence of the apocalypse itself, and a comparison with the fourth gospel, favor an earlier date before the destruction of Jerusalem. . . . The unmistakable allusions to imperial persecutions apply much better to Nero than to Domitian . . . that John was exiled on Patmos under Nero, where he wrote the apocalypse not later than A.D. 68 or 69, not only before the destruction of Jerusalem, but before the Gospel of John, and at least twenty years before his death at Ephesus.--Pages 428-429.
(3) That the traditional date of the composition of the apocalypse at the end of the Domitian reign in A.D. 95 or 96, rests on the testimony of Irenaeus, and has the support of some learned defenders, but the internal evidence strongly favors the earlier date, before the destruction of Jerusalem.--Page 834.
(4) That the apocalypse is a Christian counterblast against the Neronian persecution, with Nero represented as the beast of the abyss, and the number 666 signifying the very name of this imperial monster in the Hebrew letters-- NERON CAESAR--as follows: N-50; R-200; O-6; N-50; K-100; S-60; R-200 the sum of which is 666.-- Page 845.
(5) That the Neronian coins of Asia bear the inscription of Nero Caesar, the first and most wicked of all imperial persecutors of Christianity, and who was eminently worthy of being characterized as the beast of the abyss, and who was regarded as the embodiment of Antichrist. --Page 846.
(6) That the Hebrew letters for 666 correspond to the Latin and the Greek, with, the last letter N having been dropped by a copyist from the Latin, making the sum 616, which was the number in some of the texts.--Page 846.
(7) That the apocalypse of Revelation is based on the Lord’s discourse in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, describing the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.--Page 826.
On pages 253-270 in Biblical Apocalyptics, Terry (of Northwestern) makes numerous arguments in favor of the early date, before. the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the salient points of which are condensed into the following summation:
It is therefore not to be supposed that the language, or style of thought, or type of doctrine must needs resemble those of other production of the same author . . . The difference of language is further accounted for by the supposition that the apocalypse was written by the apostle at an early period of his ministry, and the gospel and epistles some thirty or forty years later.--Page 255.
A fair weighing of the arguments thus far adduced shows that they all (referring to early writers) excepting the statement of Irenaeus, favor the early rather than later date. The facts appealed to indicate the times before rather than after the destruction of Jerusalem.--Page 258.
Now, there is no contention that Galatians and Hebrews were written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and, to say the least, the most natural explanation of the allusions referred to is to suppose that the Apocalypse was already written, and that Paul and many others of his day were familiar with its contents. Writers who cite passages from the apostolic fathers to prove the priority of the gospel of John are the last persons in the world who should presume to dispute the obvious priority of the Apocalypse of John to Galatians and Hebrews. For in no case are the alleged quotations of Gospel more notable or striking than these allusions to the Apocalypse in the New Testament epistles.--Page 260.
According to the following exposition the prophecies of this book are an apocalypse of the fall of Judaism and the rise and triumph of Christianity. . . . In our analysis and exposition we have been guided by the principles of interpretation which have already been tested and illustrated in the apocalyptic portions of the Hebrew Scriptures. We thus find that John’s Apocalypse is but an enlargement of our Lord’s eschatological sermon on the Mount of Olives. It takes the same line of thought and translates it into the more extended and formal elements of apocalyptic symbolism.
We have endeavored to support our exposition by abundant citation of illustrative analogies from the older scriptures, and to show how the successive revelations depict, in the most perfect harmony with apocalyptic methods, the fearful overthrow of that great city which had become a harlot . . . the corrupt and outcast Jerusalem . . . called Sodom and Egypt and Babylon.--Pages 269-70.
The subject-matter of the Apocalypse is here said to be things which must shortly come to pass. . . . The things thus destined to come to pass soon after the composition of this book were in substance the same as those of which Jesus discoursed on the Mount of Olives, and which are written in Mat_24:1-51 , Mar_13:1-37 and Luk_21:1-38 . They concerned the approaching end of that age, the overthrow of Jerusalem, and with it the old covenant of Mount Sinai. .. . . It was necessary that these things come to pass shortly, for Jesus had repeatedly declared that the consummation of that age and his coming in his kingdom would take place before that generation passed away.--Page 276.
The exhaustive treatise on The Life And Writings Of John, by James M. MacDonald, of Princeton, was produced as a companion to the inestimable work of Conybeare and Howson on The Life And Epistles Of Paul, and ranks with it in worth and merit and scholarship. In this work the author, MacDonald, devotes an entire section to the affirmation that Revelation was written before the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. Doctor Howson, of England, the co-author of the aforementioned Life And Epistles Of Paul, edited the Life And Writings Of John with notes, and wrote its introduction after the death of its author. Apparently agreeing with and indorsing the views of the author, Doctor Howson reviewed the contents of. the book, and in reference to the date of Revelation he commented as follows:
Concerning the Book of Revelation I will say nothing, except to invite attention to the arguments by which Doctor MacDonald endeavors to fix its date. The reasoning seems to me to be very well drawn out, which assigns the writing of this part of the Holy Scripture to a time intermediate between the Gospel and the Epistles of St. John.--Page xxxiii, Introduction.
It will be noted that in the foregoing statement, the editor, Doctor J. S. Howson, agrees that the apocalypse of John was written before some of the other epistles of John. In the order of arrangement in his book, MacDonald places Revelation first, with the history of it and his comments on its text and contents. The general trend and tenor of the author’s argument in favor of the early date of Revelation are observed from the following quotations:
The question whether the Apocalypse was written at an early date or in the very closing period of the apostolic ministration has importance as bearing on the interpretation of the book. A true exposition depends, in no small degree, upon a knowledge of the existing condition of things at the time it was written; i. e., of the true point in history occupied by the writer, and those whom he originally addressed. . . . If the book were an epistle, like that to the Romans or to the Hebrews, it might be of comparatively little importance, in ascertaining its meaning, to be able to determine whether it was written at the commencement of the apostolic era or at its very close.
It is obvious that if the book itself throws any distinct light on this subject, this internal evidence, especially in the absence of reliable historical testimony, ought to be decisive. Instead of appealing to tradition or to some doubtful passage in an ancient father, we interrogate the book itself, or we listen to what the Spirit saith that was in him who testified of these things. It will be found that no book of the New Testament more abounds in passages which clearly have respect to the time when it was written.-- Pages 161-162.
Continuing and extending these comments on the internal evidences of the book, which favor the early date before the destruction of Jerusalem, author MacDonald concludes an argument with the statement: “So clear is the internal evidence in favor of the earlier date of the Apocalypse. And no evidence can be drawn from any part of the book favoring the later date so commonly assigned to it.” (Page 167) Then in a final statement, at the close of the section on “The Date Determined From Internal Evidence,” on page 171-2, the author concludes: “And when we open the book itself, and find inscribed on its very pages evidence that at the time it was written Jewish enemies were still arrogant and active, and the city in which our Lord was crucified, and the temple and the altar in it were still standing, we need no date from early antiquity, not even from the hand of the author himself, to inform us that he wrote before that great historical event and prophetic epoch, the destruction of Jerusalem.”
The present problem to this author is not to find the facts to sustain the premises of this treatise on the period to which the Book Of Revelation belongs, but rather to select them. Before passing from the external testimony of eminent authorities to the examination of the internal evidence of the book itself, this part of the section would not be complete without the inclusion of a few other references.
First: The chronology on Revelation on the title page of the Syriac Version of the New Testament assigns the date to the year A. D. 68--before the destruction of Jerusalem.
Second: Sir Isaac Newton advocated the early date, based on various references in the other epistles to the contents of the Apocalypse, as was later so ably affirmed by scholar Milton S. Terry. In reference to the view of Newton, MacDonald says on page 154: "Of all the arguments adduced by Sir Isaac Newton, none appears more cogent to Michaelis than that which is drawn from the Hebrew style of the Revelation, from which Sir Isaac had drawn the conclusion that John must have written the book shortly after his departure from Palestine, and before the destruction of Jerusalem.”
Third: In a short and concise Commentary On Revelation published prior to 1885, by Robert Young, author of Young’s Analytical Concordance, he states: “It was written in Patmos about A. D. 68, whither John had been banished by Domitius Nero, as stated in the title of the Syriac version of the book; and with this concurs the express statement of Irenaeus in A. D. 175, who says it happened in the reign of Domitianou--i.e., Domitius (Nero). Sulpicius, Orosius, etc., stupidly mistaking Domitianou for Domitianikos, supposed Irenaeus to refer to Domitian, A. D. 95, and most succeeding writers have fallen into the same blunder. The internal testimony is wholly in favor of the earlier date.”
Fourth: In a Catechetical Commentary on the New Testament (in question and answer form) William Hurte, of Edinburgh, Scotland, wrote in 1884: “That John saw these visions in the reign of Nero, and that they were written by him during his banishment by that emperor, is confirmed by Theophylact, Andreas, Arethas, and others. We judge, therefore, that this book was written about A. D. 68, and this agrees with other facts of history . . . There are also several statements in this book which can only be understood on the ground that the judgment upon Jerusalem was then future.”
Fifth: In Dissertations, on the verbally parallel passages of the New Testament, pointing to the same tribulations Tilloch, a reputable early scholar, finds proof in these parallels for the early date of Revelation, before the destruction of Jerusalem, which was the object of these various references in other books of the New Testament.
Sixth: All of the writers who assign the date of Revelation to the Domitian period admit the uncertainty of the contention, granting it by the repeated use of probable and probability, and, while depending on the “external” evidences, it is conceded that the internal indications overwhelmingly favor the earlier date. It is this fact that Philip Schaff emphasizes is the History Of The Christian Church, Vol. I, which should give ground for considerable pause for those who hold to the theory of a continuous historical pageant character of the Apocalypse.
Seventh: It has been mentioned that the chief witness for the late Domitian date is Irenaeus, of the second century, and the admissions of the ambiguity of his testimony renders its evidence null and void. The claim for the Domitian date, based on the statement of Irenaeus, depends solely on a quotation from Eusebius, who made some reference to Irenaeus having said that he had seen Polycarp, who in turn mentioned having seen the apostle John near the end of Domitian’s reign, and from this is constructed the conclusion that the apocalypse was seen at that time. But the argument has been reduced to a logomachy, a war of words, as to whether the statement of Irenaeus meant that John was seen or that the apocalypse was seen, and it has little, if any value, as evidence. Moreover it is stated by Jerome that in the year A. D. 96 the apostle was so aged and weak and infirm that “he was with difficulty carried to the church, and could speak only a few words to the people.” This fact is incompatible with the interpretations of the alleged claim of Irenaeus, based on the reference in Eusebius.
Furthermore, the fact that Eusebius denied that the apostle John was the author of Revelation, and assigned its authorship to what is called “another John,” casts serious reflection on the worthiness of this particular testimony and renders its value as evidence virtually nil.
Commenting on the weight of the Irenaeus claim, as an argument touching the date of Revelation, Professor Milton S. Terry makes the following extended comment in Biblical Apocalyptics:
1. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, says that in his boyhood he had conversed with Polycarp, and heard him tell of his personal friendship with the apostle John. In speaking of the mystic number given in Rev_13:18 , he says: “If it were necessary to have his name distinctly announced at the present time it would doubtless have been announced by him who saw the apocalypse; for it was not a great while ago that (it or he) was seen, but almost in our own generation, toward the end of Domitian’s reign.” Here the critical reader (of the Greek sentence) will observe that the subject of the verb was seen, is ambiguous, and may be understood either of John or the Apocalypse. To assert, as some do, that the only grammatical and legitimate construction requires us to understand the Apocalypse rather than John as the subject of the verb, is arbitrary and presumptuous.
To say the least, in fairness, one construction is as correct and legitimate as the other. But why should he say that the book was recently seen? The point that he aims to make is that the man who saw the visions of the Apocalypse had lived almost into the times to which Irenaeus belonged, and had it been needful to declare the name of the Antichrist he would himself have done it. The time when John saw the Apocalypse was of no consequence for determining the name of the Antichrist so long as the apostle himself was yet alive. There is more reason for believing that the reference is to the Apocalypse in the fact that Irenaeus elsewhere says that John lived on into the times of Trajan.
2. But admitting that Irenaeus refers to the Apocalypse as having been seen near the close of Domitian’s reign, his ambiguous statement is the only external evidence of any real value for determining the question. All other statements are later, and like the numerous statements of Eusebius, seem to be either repeated from Irenaeus or based on mere inferences. And it is notorious that even Eusebius, after Irenaeus and others, leaves the question of the authorship of the Apocalypse in doubt--Pages 256-57.
The foregoing facts which are stated with authority and clarity by Terry, an accomplished scholar, are corroborated with the same indubitable and historical evidence by MacDonald in The Life And Writings Of John. This together with the statement of the scholarly Robert Young that Sulpicius, Orosius and others, had stupidly mistaken the reference to Domitius (Nero) for Domitian, and that “succeeding writers have fallen into the same blunder,” has created so much divergence of opinion and confusion regarding the credibility of the Irenaeus quotation as to render it worthless as external evidence for the later date of Revelation.
Seeing now that the late Domitian date of A. D. 96 for Revelation, so far as external evidence is concerned, hangs on the slender thread of assumptions, mostly taken for granted, that are too inadequate for proof; and that there are no certain indications within the book itself for the assumed Domitian date; it is time to turn to the solid internal evidences--the proof within the book--that it was written during the reign of Nero, before the siege and destruction of Jerusalem; that it was an apocalypse of the overthrow of apostate Jerusalem, the obliteration of the Jewish theocracy with the demolition of the temple, the calamitous downfall of Judaism and the catastrophic end of the Jewish state; that in apocalyptic imagery it describes the tribulations of persecution that engulfed the early church and overwhelmed its members in suffering; that the conflict with the persecuting powers ended in the victory of the Cause for which Christians suffered and martyrs died, symbolized in the triumphant scenes of a figurative resurrection and enthronement--and, all in all, that the visions of the Book Of Revelation were fulfilled in the experiences of churches of that period, and that the apocalypse does not extend beyond the era of the Roman persecution of the church.
To establish these premises it must first be shown beyond reasonable doubt, by the contents of the apocalypse itself, that John wrote the Book Of Revelation before the siege of Jerusalem which ended with its destruction--and to that task we now boldly turn, as an assignment confidently accepted.
Our proposition is that the argument for the early Neroan date has solid internal and external support. In the arrangement of these points there may be some repetitions necessary to complete the following classification:
(1) The witness of the Syriac Version of the New Testament to the date of Revelation.
Of this ancient version, Philip Schaff’s Dictionary Of The Bible, under the term Syriac, has the following to say: "Syriac, the ancient language of Syria, a dialect of the Aramaean. The word occurs in Dan_2:4 , where it should be Aramaic, as it is in the Hebrew. The Chaldeans spoke in Aramaic in order to conform to the custom of the court, but this was not their proper or scientific language. . . . The language now called Syriac first comes to notice in the second century A. D., but ceased to be a vernacular before the twelfth century. It contains the most extensive literature of any Aramaean dialect, chiefly theological, and, of the greatest importance, a translation of the Bible--commonly called Peshito (“simple”), because it was literal and not paraphrastic--which was made in the second century. It is the earliest of the direct versions.”
It is of “greatest importance” now to observe that this “earliest of the direct versions” places the period of the Apocalypse in the reign of Nero, hence, before the destruction of Jerusalem. This fact is cited by MacDonald, in The Life And Writings Of John, on page 171, as follows: “In the Syriac version this book is entitled: ‘The Revelation which was made by God to John the evangelist in the island Patmos, into which he was thrown by Nero Caesar’. And Theophylact, in the eleventh century, places the origin of the Apocalypse during the reign of Nero.” Here is a double-barreled combined internal and external testimony in favor of the Neroan date of Revelation.
(2) The historical background of persecution in the whole book and in all of the visions--2:10; 3:10.
The basis of the book is in the conditions that prevailed in the relations existing between the church and the empire. The whole foreground and background of the visions are the threats of impending persecution. The Roman emperor and his votaries were to become the instruments of Satan in the empire’s furious assault on the church. Clement of Rome said that “the Neronian persecution had been a wholesale onslaught of reckless fury.” This persecution was directed against both the Christians and Jews, for the Christians were loyal to Christ, and the Jews were loyal to their Law. It was the Roman requirement that the Christians and the Jews must worship the emperor, compliance with which edict would constitute disloyalty to the Supreme Object of worship and of adoration by the orthodox Jews, and a complete renunciation of Christ by all Christians-- and it was this edict which initiated the conditions that called forth the Book Of Revelation. Here both Judaism and Christianity were involved for no lower loyalty to an earthly king or empire could warrant compliance or even a policy of compromise. Both Judaism and Christianity were incompatible with the Roman religion. With respect to Judaism, the empire could tolerate it; but the mere profession of Christianity was pronounced a crime worthy of death.
In the reign of Nero a great conflagration enveloped Rome. The old saying that “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” is due to the common belief that he instigated the burning of the city. High authorities considered the emperor guilty, others were inclined to leave it an open question, but whether guilty or innocent the emperor must have a scapegoat, and he found it in Christians. At the first Christianity had been regarded by the empire as merely a new Jewish sect, but it had now come into a position of distinction from Judaism, and the Roman world was aware of this distinction. The riots which had erupted in the reign of Claudius had created prejudice and engendered hatred against them in provinces other than Judea, and they were commonly believed guilty of the crimes for which they were charged. Before Rome burned the people of the empire had come to recognize the distinction between the Jews and the Christians, and the trials and martyrdoms which were staged subsequent to the burning of the city publicly crystallized this line of cleavage between Judaism and Christianity. In this hatred of the Christians the Jewish authorities instigated the persecutions of the church.
It is a fact of history that the burning of Rome occurred in A. D. 64 and that it was the event which precipitated the persecutions. Inasmuch as the persecutions in the Apocalypse were impending, and yet lay in the future, it identifies the date of the Book Of Revelation with the early part of the reign of Nero and before the destruction of Jerusalem. And it is timely to state here that it was Nero who gave the order for the siege of Jerusalem which resulted in the destruction of the city, followed by the tribulations symbolized in the visions of the Apocalypse.
(3) The reference to the early and impending events mentioned in the preamble to the visions--1:2-3.
The exhortation to “read, hear and keep” the contents of the book, and the reason stated for so doing in the phrase “for the time is at hand,” is manifestly based on the imminence of these events; and if they were not to occur in their own time there was no point for such urgency of exhortation, considering the suppositions of the theory that makes these events so far removed from them and even now remote to us. These events had application to the persecutions resulting from the destruction of Jerusalem; the conflict with the powers of heathenism in the Roman empire, and in ruin of the Great City (Jerusalem) “where the Lord was crucified,” which had become apostate--"a faithful city turned harlot.” The description of these events is parallel with and an extension of the same events more briefly pictured in the Lord’s summary of them in Mat_24:1-51 . In this light the Apocalypse has a clear and unforced meaning and immediate application. But the application of these time elements and allusions, to events millenniums after the date of the visions, and to the centuries yet to come, renders the whole book unreal, its language unnatural, its interpretation conjectural, its understanding impossible, and is incompatibly inconsistent with the purpose, completion and fulfillment of divine revelation.
(4) The early persecution of and opposition to the church by the Jewish authorities--2:9; 3:9.
On this point the pre-destruction of Jerusalem date of Revelation is indicated by apparent references to the persecutions of that time proceeding from the Jews. The early persecutions of the church in the apostolic age were in consequence of Jewish instigation, due to the bitter hatred among the Jews for those Jews who, in their view, had defected from Judaism by becoming disciples of Jesus Christ, which was the cause of the fierce zeal of the Jewish population against Christians. At the first, the Christians had protection and shelter from these Jewish persecutions by the Roman government, which considered Judaism and Christianity as nothing more than two major Jewish factions engaged in a quarrel between themselves, but later the government itself extended the persecution of Christians which had been initiated and instigated by the Jews in opposition to the church. The reference to these Jewish persecutions in the chapters and verses named identifies the date of Revelation with these early Jewish persecutions.
(5) The activities of the Judaizers mentioned in the letters to the seven churches--2:1-6; 11:13.
There are clear and repeated references in the letters to the churches, and other parts of the apocalypses to the prevalent activities of the Judaizers, and to their existence and presence in the churches as a source of strife, trouble, discord and contention. But after the destruction of Jerusalem, the demolition of the temple, the overthrow of their theocracy and the end of the Jewish state, the activities of the Judaizers became nonexistent, and their influence null and void.
(6) The definite existence of the Jewish state at the time of John’s visions--6: 1-17; 9:1-21.
The contents of these chapters are based on the existence of the tribes of Israel, and the conditions prevailing in the Jewish state against which the warnings of imminent events were issued and directed. The description of the second rider fits the magisterial authority of the Jewish officials opposed to the church, and the third rider describes the imperial power to execute wrath and judgment. The symbols of chapter eight are Jewish and directed at the Jewish theocracy, and connects the events with immediate subsequent Jewish history.
(7) The representation in the vision that the temple of Herod was still standing--11:1-19.
The temple, the court and the altar, were referred to as yet intact, and the reference in present tense to “the great city, which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified,” clearly refers to Jerusalem, and reveals that neither the city of Jerusalem nor the temple of Herod had been overthrown and destroyed--but their utter demolition was at hand and was shortly to occur.
The parallel of Mat_24:1-51 points to the fulfillment in A. D. 70, in the siege and desolation of Jerusalem, and necessarily indicates an earlier period, before A. D. 70, for the date of the Apocalypse.
(8) The indication that other apostles than John were known to be living--2:2.
If it were known that John alone survived, the claim of the pretenders “which say they are apostles,” thus claiming that there were other apostles than John yet alive, would have been so palpably false as to have been completely untenable, and none would have dared to make the claim. If the churches were aware that no other apostle than John was then living, as they would have assuredly known if the late date is correct, such a claim would have been so utterly false that no such crisis over it could have existed in the Ephesian church as that which made it necessary to bring the imposters to trial.
(9) The date of the Apocalypse and the time of John’s visions are definitely assigned to the period of the sixth Roman emperor--17:1O-12.
This reference marks the period when John wrote Revelation. It is the evidence within the book which decides its chronology. There had been five Caesars before the then reigning emperor. Of the “seven kings” the sixth was reigning and the seventh was yet to come--“five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come.” The order of the five is necessarily as follows: Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius--the sixth was Nero, and the seventh, which was “not yet come,” was Domitian. Though Julius was the head of the Roman Republic which merged into the empire, it would be folly to attempt to name the Roman Caesars and leave Julius out. There can be no reason for doing so, except to force the date of Revelation into the later period of Domitian, and it does not have the appearance of the honesty that ennobles authors and editors, not to mention historians. The name Caesar, which became the official title of the Roman emperors, was itself derived from the first and most famous of them all--Julius Caesar. Commenting on the passage in The Life And Writings Of John, on page 164, MacDonald says: “We have then only to reckon the succession of emperors, and we must arrive with certainty at the reign under which the Apocalypse was written or was seen.” And beginning with Julius Caesar he adds: “It stands thus: (Julius) Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius; these make up the five who have fallen. ‘One is’--Nero.” MacDonald then adds: “The ancients, although the empire was not fully established till the time of Augustus, reckoned from Julius Caesar.”
Considering the same passage in point, Milton S. Terry, in Biblical Apocalyptics, comments on page 259, as follows: “This (the early date) receives additional confirmation in the fact that the book assumes to belong to the period of the sixth king as mentioned in 17:10, ‘the one that now is’, and if we follow the most natural method of reckoning the Caesars, and the one which appears in Suetonius and Sibylline Oracles, we have (1) Julius, (2) Augustus, (3) Tiberius, (4) Caligula, (5) Claudius, (6) Nero. The reign of Nero extended from A. D. 54-68, and somewhere between these dates we must assign the composition of the Apocalypse.” These are the authentic facts of history and they identify the time with the reign of Nero, which eliminates the Domitian date. The five preceding rulers had passed and the sixth-Nero-was on the imperial throne. This succession of Caesars, and the person and time of the ruling emperor, places the date of the Book Of Revelation before the destruction of Jerusalem.
The only escape from this conclusion has been attempted in an effort to qualify certain vicegerents and mock rulers as bona fide emperors, and thus place them in the line of succession. This is done in the effort to eliminate Nero as the sixth emperor, but it would also clutter up the whole line of emperors, eliminate Domitian also, and nullify the whole argument for the Domitian period as the date of the Apocalypse. Without the juggling of some commentators, who are bent of the continuous historical and dark ages theory of Revelation, the facts of chronology within the book itself are understandable.
(10) The mystic number employed, as a code name for the beast, identifies the time of the Apocalypse with the persecutions of Nero--Chapter 13: 16-18.
It has been shown by various scholars that the Hebrew consonants, the Latin letters and the Greek characters, in the official name of Nero Caesar, when broken down into numerals, all add up to the sum of 666. An impressive column of scholars, commentators and historians have verified this fact with a finality that cannot be questioned. The juggling of these numerals in different languages can be made to represent numerically this number, in the Latin, for instance, the name of Lateinus a medieval pope, and a variety of others in like fashion--but a relevant name is required to harmonize with the text of the Apocalypse.
By reason of the fact that the sixth ruler is mentioned in the context, nothing can be more relevant to the vision nor conclusive from the premises than for Nero-Caesar to be the persecuting beast of this mystic number. In the search for a “beast” to fit the number--why skip that old beast!
He was there, and is in both the Hebrew and Greek alphabets, according to the scholars; and in the words of one of them we have only to reckon the succession of the Roman Caesars from Julius to Nero in order to determine the date of Revelation and the period of time to which it belongs.
(11) The predication in the vision of the kings that the seventh ruler had not arrived places the time of the Apocalypse in the period of the Neroan reign before the siege of Jerusalem--17:9-11.
That these verses refer to the city of Rome and the succession of Caesars cannot be reasonably disputed. The city is identified by the reference to the “seven mountains” describing the famed seven hills of Rome. The “seven kings” are identified by the expression “five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come.” The explanation that the seven kings refer to seven future dynasties offers no sound reason for such latitude of interpretation by mere assertion. The text of the vision says seven kings, the five preceding the sixth having fallen, and the seventh not having yet come, it follows that the expression “and one is” refers to Nero, the sixth, in the line of succession from Julius Caesar. It allows no alternative choice, and those who consider these points without pre-possession of mind concerning the continuous historical pageant character of Revelation can come to no other conclusion than that of the earlier date, in the reign of Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome in succession to Julius, the first of the Roman Caesars.
(12) The existence of only seven churches in Asia, at the time of the vision, sets the date before the destruction of Jerusalem--l:4-11.
By reason of the fact that the preamble of the book addresses the seven churches, it is evident that the vision was received when there were only seven churches in proconsular Asia. But after the destruction of Jerusalem, as a result of the diffusion of Christianity, the Asian churches were numerous, as was foretold in the Lord’s description of these events in Mat_24:1-51 , verses 30-31: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
The darkening of the sun and the moon, and the falling of the stars, and the shaking of the heavens, in verse 29, were all figures of speech to describe the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish state; and the mourning of all the tribes of the earth meant that all the Jewish families in the whole empire had knowledge of the siege and desolation of Jerusalem, and mourned over the sorrows befalling the Jewish state and their beloved city. The sending of his angels to the four winds, meant the expansion of the church over the whole empire by the emissaries of the gospel, after the destruction of Jerusalem.
The passage of the Apocalypse, Rev_11:15 , is the parallel of the Lord’s statement in Matthew, and it reads: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever.” Like the Matthew passage, this verse referred to the expansion of the gospel after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the everlasting extent of the kingdom and reign of Jesus Christ.
It has been offered as a counter argument that the churches of Colosse and Hierapolis were both in Asia, and are not included in the mention of the seven churches in the letters of the Apocalypse. But the historical fact is that after “the great earthquake,” by which this region was so dreadfully shaken, that these cities were not rebuilt and the congregations merged with Laodicea. Geographically, these cities were separated by only a few miles, and it was entirely feasible for the congregations to consolidate after this catastrophe. So the churches named did not maintain a separate existence after the earthquake, about the middle of the century, before the date of the Apocalypse. This fact is verified by Philip Schaff, in his Dictionary Of The Bible, in the article on LAODICEA, which reads: “Laodicea, the old city of Diospolis . . . a few miles distant from Colosse and Hierapolis . . . When in the middle of the first century of our era (A. D.) , an earthquake destroyed Colosse, Hierapolis, and Laodicea, the latter was rebuilt by its own inhabitants.”
So Laodicea was rebuilt but Colosse and Hierapolis remained in ruins, and the churches merged with the Laodiceans. In the article under COLOSSE, Schaff says: “A city of Phrygia, on the Lycus . . . twelve miles above Laodicea . . . The town in now in ruins.”
If further evidence is required on this point, on page 155, in The Life And Writings Of John, MacDonald states that in the reign of Nero an earthquake overwhelmed Laodicea and Colosse, and that the church at Colosse was not restored, but presumably became identified with the Laodiceans. In a volume entitled Dissertations, by Dr. Tilloch, he states on page 32, that “There were but seven churches in Asia when the Revelation was given.”
These authorities settle the history angle, and the premise stands, that there were only seven churches in Asia Minor when John wrote the Apocalypse, which is a salient point in settling the time in which it was written. The evidence is accumulative in favor of the Neroan period before the destruction of Jerusalem for the date of Revelation.
(13) The numerous exhortations in the letters to the seven churches identify the date of the Apocalypse with the experiences of the churches of that period--l-3.
There are terms employed and expressions used in each of the seven letters which clearly indicate that the events envisioned would come within the life and experience of these churches.
1. The repeated use of the phrase “he that overcometh,” in all seven of the letters, is indicative of an imminent trial of faith by ominous impending events, forecasting a momentous struggle. This word “overcome” is given an unusual emphasis in both the apocalypse and in the epistle of John, and the uses of it in his epistle may well be portents of the same approaching crisis.
2. The exhortation in chapter 2:10, for them to “fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer,” is more than a general admonition for faithfulness in ordinary trials and temptations; it is rather of a portentous nature--a note of special warning concerning fateful forebodings of the impendent experiences, in which “ye may be tried,” and which held them in such fearful suspense.
3. The positive warning, “that ye shall have tribulation ten days,” can have no other meaning than that they themselves were to pass through this period of ten days tribulation. There were exactly ten successive persecuting emperors, beginning with Nero, as mentioned in chapter 17:10, and there can be no manufactured events of the future which could more accurately fulfill the figurative ten days period, which is supported by the actual history of that time.
4. The further exhortation to this church, in the words “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,” indicates that this period of tribulation would come upon them. The expression “be thou faithful unto death” cannot be taken to merely mean come to church every Sunday and you will go to heaven after death. The phrase “unto death” here means martyrdom; and “a crown of life” is in contrast the reward. Paraphrasing the passage, it reads: Be faithful even unto martyrdom and your crown will be life. It is an advance martyr scene, as verse 10 shows: “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death”; and it finds fulfillment in the victory scenes of chapter twenty. To apply these things of Revelation to a yet historical future is to “wrest the scriptures” and remove them from the context.
5. The commendation of patience, in chapter 2:19, coupled with the advance warning to the church at Thyatira that the supreme trial to come upon them was in the seer’s crystal, was a dread portent of a yet unleashed assault upon the church. “And the last to be more than the first”-they were standing upon the threshold of events which would require patience in greater degree than at the first, or from the beginning of the church. The further indication of this truth is in verse 25: “But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.” The application of this verse to the second advent of Christ would mean that in this letter the Lord Jesus Christ deceived the church at Thyatira into believing that his second coming would occur in the lifetime of that church. But it does mean that He would come to them in the events described, and it proves that these events would transpire in that period of time.
Still further proof that this is the meaning of these references is in the next verses, 26-27: “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers.” This is a clear reference to the victory of the church over these persecutions and the defeat of the persecuting powers. Their “power over the nations” referred to the influence of the gospel; and ruling “with a rod of iron” simply meant the invincible force of the truth; and the “breaking into shivers” of the nations referred to the defeat of the persecuting powers in the triumph of the Cause for which these early churches suffered in tribulation.
6. The promise of the preservation of the Philadelphian church through this period of trial, in chapter 3:10, is nothing short of prima facie evidence that the events of the Apocalypse belonged to and transpired in the period of the experiences of these existing churches--3:7-13. The pivotal passage in the letter to Philadelphia is the tenth verse: “Because thou has kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation (trans. “the hour of trial”), which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Here is the augur of the frightful onslaught that would strike the church in all parts of the Roman world. It is the invulnerable evidence that these portended events belonged to that period of time, and to assign them to a continuous historical future is anachronistic--an error in the order of time. And to say that the passage means that these events would not occur in the lifetime of the Philadelphian church reduces the Lord’s promise to the nonsense of saying that he would keep them from the hour of trial by not letting the hour of trial happen! The Lord’s promise to the Philadelphian church is historically factual--that hour of trial did come upon them, and the church at Philadelphia was kept, or preserved, through it. Here is the divine assurance for the preservation of the faithful then living through the period of persecution, designated the hour of trial, and these conclusions are irresistible and impregnable.
7. In a final reference to the contents of the letters to the seven churches, as evidence of the early date of Revelation, it is germane to mention the senses in which the promise of the coming of the Lord are employed. The three key words of Revelation are “signified,” “shortly” and “quickly.” The visions were signified to John --set forth is signs; of things that were shortly to occur-- these impending events of that time; and the Lord promised to come quickly--his presence in the occurring and transpiring events.
The coming of Christ in the Scriptures has various connotations: It refers to his first advent into the world ( Gen_49:10 ; Mat_2:6 ; Rom_11:26 ); to his second advent ( Act_1:11 , Heb_9:28 ); to his chosen apostles in the church ( Joh_14:3 ); to the coming of his kingdom on Pentecost ( Mat_16:28 ; Mar_9:1 ); to the destruction of Jerusalem ( Zec_14:1-4 ; Mat_24:30 , Mar_13:26 ; Luk_21:27 ); to the death of a Christian at the end of life ( Psa_23:4 ; 1Co_1:7-8 ); to the end of time ( 1Co_11:26 ; 1Th_4:15 ); to the last judgment ( Mat_25:30-31 ; 2Th_1:6-10 ); and to the rewards and judgments in the events of trial described in Revelation, as mentioned in the letters to the seven churches ( Rev_2:5 ; Rev_2:16 ; Rev_2:25 ; Rev_3:3 ; Rev_3:11 ; Rev_3:20 ).
In the counsels to the declining and backsliding churches there are such phrases as “I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of its place”; and, "I will come to thee quickly and fight against them”; and, “I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee”--these are the warnings of the Lord’s coming in the events of judgment. But to the churches in which he found nothing to condemn there are the phrases: “That which ye have already hold fast till I come”; and, “I come quickly; hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown”; “and I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me”--these are the promises of his spiritual presence and reward.
In the beginning John mentioned that the things to be signified in the apocalypse would shortly occur, and that the Lord Jesus would come in these events which were at hand. At the end of the visions he declared that “the things must shortly be done,” and the Lord said, “behold, I come quickly”--meaning that this coming of the Lord would be concurrent with the events. The seer, therefore, says at the end of the visions: “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
It is not agreeable with the context to make this last statement of Revelation refer to the Second Coming Of Christ. The epilogue must comport with the prologue (the ending with the beginning), and it means simply, that as the events that had been signified were so soon to occur, and the Lord had promised his presence, “even so, come Lord Jesus.” And He did come in the transpiring events of the Patmos vision.
There is no truth so evident, when the facts are brought into proper focus and perspective, as that of the present thesis--that the Book Of Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and its visions fulfilled in the experiences of the early church.
(14) The parallels between the Lord’s forecasts of the destruction of Jerusalem in Mat_24:1-51 , and John’s visions in Revelation, join them together as being descriptions of the same events and as belonging to the same period of time. The following comparisions will show Revelation to be an enlargement and extension of the discourse on Mount Olivet in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew (and in the parallel chapters of the thirteenth chapter of Mark and the twenty-first chapter of Luke), of which Jerusalem and Judaism and the Jewish state were the subjects and objects.
1. Mat_24:34 -- Rev_1:1 . “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled”--Matthew. “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass”--Revelation.
2. Mat_24:21 -- Rev_1:9 ; Rev_3:10 ; Rev_7:14 . “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be”--Matthew. “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation” . . . “And ye shall have tribulation ten days” . . . “These are they which came out of great tribulation"-- Revelation.
3. Mat_24:2 ; Mat_23:37 -- Revelation 11:8, 18:10, 21 . “And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” . . . "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate."--Matthew. “And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” . . . “When, they shall see the smoke of her burning, standing afar off for fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come” . . . “Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more”--Revelation. (In the commentary on these verses it is shown that as Jerusalem was “spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, in 11:8, the Babylon of chapter 18 is the symbolic name for Jerusalem).
4. Mat_24:16-21 -- Rev_12:6 . “Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: Let him that is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes . . . For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be"-- Matthew.
“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there two hundred and threescore days”--Revelation.
(In the commentary on these verses it is shown that the 1260 days is the exact length of the siege of Jerusalem, and the exile of the faithful in the mountain wildernesses).
5. Mat_24:7-8 -- Rev_18:8 . “For nation shall rise against nation; and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrow”--Matthew. “Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death and mourning, and famine, and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her"-- Revelation.
6. Mat_24:31 -- Rev_11:15 . “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other”--Matthew. “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of the world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever”--Revelation.
This last parallel refers to the end of the period of persecution and visualizes the success of the church, when gospel emissaries (designated as angels) would proclaim the gospel to the four winds--“from one end of heaven to the other”--as described in the Matthew account. And in Revelation the scene envisions the universal sway of the kingdom of Christ by the spread of the gospel, as the kingdoms of the world became the kingdoms of God and of his Christ. Both passages describe the universal expansion of Christianity after the destruction of Jerusalem.
(15) The statement implying that John expected to leave Patmos, after this apocalypse, and relate the visions in various parts of the empire, indicates the date and period of the Revelation--10:11 .
After the visions John expected to be an active emissary to prophesy again, “before (or among ) many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.” It is hardly possible, and altogether improbable, that John, at the supposedly advanced age of ninety-six, would or could have undertaken a mission requiring several years to accomplish. And in the light of the testimony of Jerome, that in the year A. D. 96, the apostle John was so aged, weak and infirm, that “he was with difficulty carried into the church, and could speak only a few words to the people,” such an itinerary would have been wholly impossible. It adds evidence to the argument for the earlier date of Revelation and the younger age of John.
(16) The philological argument, based on the language element in the Hebrew-Greek idioms which abound in the book, is considered by many worthy scholars as solid proof for the early date. The chronology of an ancient document can be established by the period to which its language belonged. The Septuagint version of the Hebrew Old Testament (the Greek Old Testament) introduced the Hebraistic element into the Greek, about 270 B. C. It is claimed by these scholars that this element is definite in the style and language of Revelation; and that the comparison with John’s Gospel lends weight to the evidence that Revelation was composed many years prior to both the gospel and the epistles of John. And any supposition to the contrary has been declared to be a defiance of all observation and experience in critical processes. The fact that Hebraistic element had disappeared at the later time assigned to Revelation is considered by this class of ranking scholars as invulnerable evidence of the early date, before the destruction of Jerusalem.
(17) The various allusions in the other New Testament epistles to the contents of Revelation indicate that it was written earlier than these other epistles.
There are several passages in Galatians and Hebrews which are considered related by quotation to Revelation. The reference in the fourth chapter of Galatians to “the Jerusalem which is above . . . the mother of us all,” and in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews to “mount Zion . . . the city of God . . . the heavenly Jerusalem . . . to the innumerable hosts . . . general assembly . . . and church of the firstborn” --these phrases are considered too familiar in the apocalypses of Revelation not to be indirect quotations. There has been no disagreement over Galatians and Hebrews having been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and as John manifestly did not compose “the warp and woof” of the visions and apocalypses of Revelation from the few expressions in two preceding epistles, it rather follows that these allusions in the epistles were adaptations from Revelation. As Peter’s reference to the epistles of Paul in 2Pe_3:15-16 proves the prior existence of Paul’s epistles, so these allusions indicate the earlier date of Revelation.
(18) The references in Revelation to the once faithful city that had become harlot identifies the apostate Jerusalem as the spiritual Babylon of the Apocalypse-- Rev_17:5 ; Isa_1:21 .
As the prophet in the Isaiah reference compared the former apostasies of Jerusalem to harlotry--“How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers”--so the seer in Revelation envisioned apostate Jerusalem as the harlot and the mother of harlots in this later apocalypse.
There is not a line in either secular or sacred history to prove that Rome was ever a faithful city; but the once faithful Jerusalem that turned harlot, the apostate Jerusalem, the spiritual Babylon, was the harlot city of Revelation, and its fate along with the Jewish theocracy was the object of John’s visions. (Further references to these points will be found in the comments on these verses in the commentary section of this work).
(19) The nature of the contents of the New Testament apocalypse as counterpart to the apocalyptic books of the Old Testament, which parallel the experiences of the persecuted church of the New Testament with the exiled Israel of the Old Testament, is convincing evidence of the period to which it belongs. This sustained relation the old and new testament apocalypses carries through to the emergence of the church from the period of the Roman persecutions, in correspondence with the deliverance of Israel from the captivity of Babylonian exile. It is a clear parallel with the events and the date of Revelation, and the fulfillment of its symbols and visions must be brought within this range in order to be consonant with it.
(20) The coming of the Lord, signified in the events accompanying the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, is further evidence for the fulfillment of the apocalypses of Revelation in that period--l:7.
As the prophecy of Zec_14:1-2 , on “the day of the Lord,” foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, so “the coming of the Lord” in Rev_1:7 applies to the events attending its destruction. The Jews that “pierced him” and the “tribes” (the Jewish families) over all the earth “mourned” for the destruction of their city, the demolition of their temple, the downfall of their theocracy, and the end of their Jewish state.
(21) The announcement of warning to the members of the churches living at that time is proof that the events envisioned would occur in their life time, and is evidence that the symbols of the apocalypse applied to that period.-- 1:3; 22:10.
The emphasized imminence of these events in the repetitions of the phrases “the time is at hand,” and “shortly come to pass,” and “come’ quickly,” is the primary proof that the succession of happenings related to that period, not to the remotest times of the far future centuries.
(22) The code language of the Apocalypse, in the symbolic descriptions of the persecutors and of the persecuting powers, is the pillar and ground of all other evidences that the visions referred to the living emperors and existing governments of that period.--1:1.
As the military and the government make use of the code system in the communication of messages to personnel, to be withheld from the public, so the use of code language in Revelation was for the purpose of “showing unto his servants” throughout the empire the ominous message of admonitory warning. The reason for this code system is plain, for if John had named the rulers and their offices it would have brought immediate reprisals against the church.
Herein lies another evidence: for if the events of the apocalypse did not refer to that period, but to the future centuries, there would have been no danger involved, and no crisis precipitated, by John’s employment of plain literal language, nor any more purpose for the use of such symbols than in the other epistles of the New Testament.
Our conclusion is that from the prologue to the epilogue the Apocalypse speaks to its own time. In any other concept its pageantry is pretentious and bizarre, and its imagery abnormal and grotesque. Such does not comport with the purposes of divine revelation in the scheme of human redemption.
III SYMBOLOGY AND TYPOLOGY PREVIEW
As a further preliminary to entering into the analysis of The Book Of Revelation, and a commentary on its verses, a specific study of symbols and types, in addition to the previous discussion of visions and theophanies is in order for the symbolic character of Revelation is the culmination of all biblical apocalyptics
(1) The symbolic pattern.
The parallels and comparisons in the visions of the prophets and the apocalypses of John will demonstrate that Revelation is the climax and crown of them all. The similarities between the typology of the former and the symbolics of the latter, establishes a divine pattern of the typical and symbolical form of divine revelation, showing the otherwise unaccountable unity in the books of the Bible. It also constitutes additional evidence that Revelation is not the confused compilation of fragmentary history of future centuries, which the continuous historical pageantry theory demands, but is rather the grand finale in the transcendent design of all revelation, “according to the eternal purpose,” to make known “by the church the manifold wisdom of God,” in the time of its full establishment.
A grouping of these theophanies to show the unbroken chain of divine revelation in biblical symbology and typology is here arranged:
1. The prophet Isaiah’s vision of the throne-- Isa_6:1-13 and Rev_4:1-11 .
2. The prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the creatures-- Eze_10:1-22 and Rev_4:1-11 .
3. The vision of the valley full of the dry bones-- Eze_37:1-28 and Rev_19:1-21 .
4. The vision of the kingdom that would stand forever-- Dan_2:44 and Rev_11:15 .
5. The vision of the new heaven and the new earth-- Isa_66:1-24 and Rev_21:1-27 .
6. The vision of the horses with mingled colors-- Zec_1:1-21 and Rev_6:1-17 .
7. The vision of measuring Jerusalem-- Zec_2:1-13 and Rev_11:1-19 .
8. The vision of the ruling priest-king on the throne-- Zec_6:1-15 and Rev_5:1-14 .
9. The forecast of the siege and fall of Jerusalem-- Zec_14:1-21 and Rev_14:1-20 .
10. The vision of the holy city, the new Jerusalem-- Zec_14:1-21 and Rev_21:1-27 .
11. The vision of the seven golden candlesticks-- Zec_4:1-14 and Rev_1:1-20 .
12. The vision of the living waters flowing from Jerusalem-- Zec_13:1-9 ; Zec_14:1-21 and Rev_21:1-27 ; Rev_22:1-21 .
The foregoing chart of comparisons of the old and the new testament apocalyptic passages reinforce the premises of this treatise that the apostolic visions of John in the Book Of Revelation sustain the same relation to the tribulation and victory of the church in the New Testament era of persecution as the prophetic visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel sustained to the captivity and deliverance of Israel in the Old Testament period of their exile.
These impressive parallelisms cannot fail to impress a pious peruser of the divine book with unity and continuity of its contents, from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation; that its prophecy and history are from the same divine hand; and that the events which they foretold and described were all unfolded and fulfilled “according to the eternal purpose” in the establishment and perfection of the divine institution, the church of Christ.
(2) The symbolic code.
It is virtually a truism to say that definitions of the code words of Revelation are necessary to an understanding of their use. These code words fall into various associations, such as earth and air; the land and the sea; the sun, the moon, the stars, and heaven. All the colors of the rainbow are employed, and beasts and birds, and names and numbers. The calamities of war, pestilence and famine, of conquests and victories, are all envisioned--and all these will be defined and applied in the progress of these commentaries. It is sufficient here to list their uses and meanings in their respective categories.
1. The air refers to the sphere of life and influence, as “the prince of the power of the air” in Eph_2:1 .
2. The earth designates the place of the nations, particularly Palestine, as in chapter 13: 11-12, where the earth and the beast of the earth referred to Palestine, in contradistinction from the emperor beast of Rome, from over the sea.
3. The quaking of the earth signified the shaking of nations, as in Rev_16:18 , where “the great earthquake” symbolized an upheaval in the nations.
4. The sea symbolized society and its state, or condition-- the tossed sea meaning a trouble society, and the placid sea a peaceful society.
5. The word heaven refers to existing government, authority, and dominion--the context determining this use of the term, as in Rev_12:1 ; Rev_12:8 , where “the great wonder in heaven,” and “neither was their place found any more in heaven,” referred to position in earthly government.
6. The stars are the designations of the rulers and officials of government, as in Mat_24:29 and Rev_6:13 , where the falling of the stars applied to the downfall of the officials of government, in connection with the calamitous events during and after the siege and fall of Jerusalem.
7. The term war is employed to describe various phases of hostilities and conflicts among the governments and inhabitants of the earth, such as Rev_12:7 ; Rev_21:17 ; Rev_19:19 , and numerous other examples. In the category of symbolic colors, all of the specific colors are engaged in the imagery of the visions. White was the emblem of purity and righteousness, like the Rider of the white horse in the scene of sixth chapter, the Christ. Black was the sign of distress and calamity, as signified by the rider of the black horse. Red was the evil omen of war and bloodshed, as symbolized by the red horse. Pale presented the aura of death, as is specified for the pale horse and its rider, in chapter 6:8. Purple represents the show of pomp and luxury, as in the great harlot woman of chapter 17:4, and of the once great city of Jerusalem in chapter 18:16. Emerald was the emblem of divine grace and goodness and patience, as in chapter 4:3.
(3) The symbolic drama.
In the classification of the animals in the visions, the composite beasts, with multiple heads and horns, tails and toes, were the representation of varied characters of the persecutors, and the various characteristics of the persecuting powers, whether Jewish or Roman, or the combined powers of the world of heathenism, both secular and spiritual.
In the symbolic acts, there were the riders of the horses, the measurements of spaces, the movements of armies, and the flying of fowls. In the symbolic numbers, the numerals of 3, 7, 10, 12, 100 and 1000 are employed. In the symbolic names, of cities and of characters, frequent mention is made of Babylon, Sodom, Egypt, Balaam, Jezebel, Nicolaitanes and Antipas, in respective figurative connections. As the multiple headed and horned beasts symbolized the diverse characters of the persecutors, the various types of calamities, famine and pestilence depicted the diversity of the forms of the persecutions.
The battle word Armageddon is a metaphor of conflict between the secular and the spiritual forces, the struggle between the pagan powers and the church, between heathenism and Christianity.
The shift from the altar scene of the sixth chapter to the throne scene of the twentieth chapter envisions the triumph of the Cause of the Martyrs in the victory of the saints over the powers of persecution; and the thousand years was the representation of saints reigning with Christ in complete victory. There is nothing said in the text or context of the reign of Christ, but rather the reigning of the saints with Christ, which represents the spiritual state after the victory over the persecutions. The words reigned and reign in Rev_20:4-6 denote the same spiritual state as the same words do in Rom_5:17 and 1Co_4:8 and 2Ti_2:12 , all of which are used in the sense of the spiritual reign with Christ in the sacrifice and service of our fellowship with him.
The word thousand is mentioned in Revelation about a score of times, and is a perfect number, as elsewhere in the Bible in such references as Deu_7:9 : “Know ye therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.” Also in 1Ch_16:15 , in a song of praise. David said: “Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.” The use of the figurative term thousand in these references can only mean that God’s recollection of his word and his covenant is infinite, perfect and complete.
In the sixth chapter of Revelation the souls of the slain (the martyrs) were seen under the altar, which was the scene of seeming defeat in persecution and martyrdom. But in the vision of the twentieth chapter the same souls were removed from beneath the altar and elevated to thrones, which was the scene of victory over their persecutors, and they were said to reign with Christ a thousand years. The use of the word here, as elsewhere, is in the sense of that which is perfect and complete--they lived and reigned with Christ, in the spiritual state of triumph and victory; a thousand years, that is, in complete victory in deliverance from the persecutors and the persecutions, which they had overcome. During this period of persecution and distress Satan was represented as running loose in the land, but in the victory scene he was restrained, or bound--so the ebbing and the flowing of the tide of the persecutions were envisioned as the binding and the loosing of Satan, as the analysis of the closing chapters in the commentary section will disclose.
The vision of the new he aven and the new earth was descriptive of the state of victory and success after the period of persecutions through which they had passed, comparable to Isaiah’s description of the deliverance of Israel from exile in Babylon to their land of Judea, as recorded in Isa_65:17 ; Isa_66:1-24 ; Isa_22:1-25 ; Isa_23:1-18 . This was called Israel’s “new heaven and new earth”; and the scenes of chapters 20 to 22 of Revelation were the like depictions, symbolically narrated, of the deliverance of the church from tribulation into the state of victory and blessing that followed.
The figurative resurrection of these chapters form that counterpart, previously mentioned, of the visions of the deliverance of Israel from captivity, figuratively set forth in Isa_26:13-19 and Eze_37:11-14 as the resurrection of the people of Israel.
The symbol of the spiritual Jerusalem is used by the apostle Paul, in Gal_4:26 , as “the mother of us all,” and the metaphor of “the new heavens and the new earth” is used by the apostle Peter, in 2Pe_3:13 , as descriptive of our future eternal state of final victory in the heavenly home of the soul.
So the metaphorical phrase, “the new heaven and the new earth,” has been figuratively adapted to any state of success and victory, and by no stretch of imagination can the phrase be applied to a future dispensation on earth, with Christ reigning a thousand years in bodily presence among men, according to the literal millennium theory.
The new Jerusalem descending from God, pictured as robed in the attire and habiliment of the Bride of Christ, is the portrayal of the church as the new spiritual Jerusalem, in contrast with the old apostate Jerusalem, which had disappeared from the scene. The marriage supper of the vision means the continuous feast of fellowship in Christ, which must necessarily be as continuous as baptism, for in every baptism into Christ there is a marriage to Christ performed.
The descriptions of the holy Jerusalem, and the city that lieth foursquare, were the symbolic narrations of the grandeur of the victorious church, in keeping with the preceding vision of the gloriously arrayed Bride of Christ.
The scene of the great white throne, and the casting of the Dragon into the lake of fire and brimstone, was the symbolic delineation of the judgment of God against the persecutors and of the divine wrath that descended upon them.
Having completed this cursive preview, attention is now turned to the commentary on the visions and their significance.
Eve of Ascension