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DOES REVELATION PROVE REALIZED ESCHATOLOGY?

DOES REVELATION PROVE REALIZED ESCHATOLOGY?

PRELIMINARY MATTERS  

Without a doubt, the book of Revelation is one of the most difficult, yet intriguing, books in the Bible. The apostle Peter said that some of the things Paul had written “in all His epistles” were “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). Certainly, what Peter said of Paul may also be applied to the book of Revelation. There is no doubt, due to the symbolic nature of John’s writing, that the book of Revelation, especially between chapters four and twenty-two, is indeed challenging. Of course, at the very outset of the book John prepares his readers for how his message would be revealed. He says it was going to “signified” (1:1). When something was said to be “signified” it was to be represented with “signs” – symbolized. The “sign” is insignificant compared to that which it represents. What it represents is most significant. Essentially, the “sign” does not matter, but what it communicates does. Being a representation of existing reality, a “sign” always points to something else. This symbolized message would be imbedded in the book’s literary form which consists of three genres:  

Virtually all interpreters recognize that Revelation comprises three genres: letter (epistle); prophecy; and apocalyptic. The genres have been merged or mixed together. Therefore, as Beale puts it, ‘the most preferable view is that Revelation is a prophecy cast in an apocalyptic mold, and written down in a letter form in order to motivate the audience to change their behavior in the light of the transcendent reality of the book’s message (Menn, 182).  

Revelation is prophetic in nature because it points to events soon to be fulfilled. It is apocalyptic which, of course, is also a Jewish genre of literature, using symbols to convey Divine Truth. However, like all the other New Testament writings, Revelation was a circular letter to be shared and copied with other churches in the first century. While it may be “hard to understand,” the book of Revelation, like Paul’s writings, is not impossible to understand! In providing the verbally inspired (and authoritative) Scriptures, God revealed His mind and Will. The implication is that Scripture is to be understood alike by all, because it is God’s revelation to mankind. John says what he was writing was “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1), a phrase that should be identified as Genitive of Source, meaning Jesus is the source from which John received the revelation. Some, on the other hand, suggest the phrase is a Plenary Genitive, meaning both the Subjective and Objective Genitives are used simultaneously, creating an intentional ambiguity, in order to convey a deeper meaning.

However, John is not revealing the Person of Christ so much as he is revealing the things which much shortly take place” (Rev.1:1), which is further qualified by: “Blessed is he who READS and those who HEAR the WORDS of this PROPHECY, and keep those THINGS which are WRITTEN in it” (1:3, emph., DP). Therefore, the phrase “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” is objective genitive – the message or revelation that was from (derived from) Christ, consisting of: (1) of a prophecy (2) containing words both to read and hear and (3) things needing to be kept which were written down. While the book is replete with “deeper meaning” due to its symbolic representations, the phrase “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” refers to the Genitive of Source or Objective Genitive – the message John was told to write down. Unquestionably, however, the most common interpretive error in reading the symbolism of Revelation is to confuse the symbols of the book with its message.  The symbols are not the message; they carry and embody the message.

John was writing to be understood. He was convinced his readers would understand and be blessed for having doing so. Contrary to popular opinion, the book of Revelation is not a secret book with hidden mysteries waiting to be revealed by some modern-day prophet with a calculator. It has already been revealed!  There are no more secrets in God’s plan of salvation!  Revelation is just that – a revealing or unveiling of God’s plan. The English word “revelation” translates the Greek apokalupsis, which is a compound word consisting of apo, meaning “off of” or “away from,” and kalupto, meaning “to cover” or “to hide.” Therefore, the word picture we have before us is that of removing a cover off of something. In this case, “revelation” means an uncovering or unveiling that which was previously hidden or unknown. It is the revealing of Christ’s will or as John wrote, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” In fact, John tells us that he is going to reveal “things which must shortly take place” (1:1).

PERIOD AND PURPOSE OF REVELATION

The occasion and purpose of the book of Revelation is not only to reveal those “things” that will shortly occur, but also to encourage the Christians to stand fast in the faith. Poythress provides a good summary for the purpose of the book: 

Revelation is addressed to seven churches in Asia Minor, which is today part of western Turkey. Each church receives rebukes and encouragement, in according with its condition. Persecution has fallen on some Christians, and more is coming. Roman officials would try to force Christians to worship the emperor. Heretical teachings and declining fervor would tempt Christians to compromise with pagan society. Revelation assures Christians that Christ knows their condition. He calls them to stand fast against all temptation. Their victory has been secured through the blood of the Lamb. Christ will come soon to defeat Satan and all his agents, and his people will enjoy everlasting peace in his presence (Poythress, The Returning King, 55).    

John is told to write seven letters to seven churches who find themselves in the epicenter of a Caesar cult in Asia Minor, which began with Jupiter Julius (Julius Caesar) the father of the Roman Empire in 46 B.C., to Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus) in A.D. 68. Julius Caesar (Jupiter) was voted into the hierarchy of the gods by the Roman senate, calling him “divine Julius.” His successor, Octavius, took on the title “Augustus,” meaning “venerable, worthy of reverence and worship.” Tiberius was worshiped, when the Roman senate voted to build a temple for him in the city Smyrna. Caligula, so convinced of his divinity, erected a colossal image of himself in the temple of the Jews in Jerusalem. Claudius believed the spiritual supremacy of the state was paramount, being summed up in the phrase, “Caesar is Lord” (NT in Antiquity, 36-446).  This philosophical pretense was common among the people, including the Jews. When Pilate wanted to release Jesus the Jews cried out, “Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar” and when Pilate responded, “Shall I crucify your king?” the Jews answered, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:12, 15). A generation later Nero succeeds Claudius and is worshiped not only as “Lord” but as “Savior.” It is within this milieu John admonishes the seven churches to stand firm in the conviction that Christ, NOT Caesar, is both Savior and Lord! John writes:   

“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” … “He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Revelation 2:10, 13:15).

It should be noted that the Jews are equating the title of “king” with the title of Caesar, making them synonymous, a concept which Suetonius, Josephus, Dio Cassius, and the Sibylline Oracles all refer to. “Caesar” was the family name of Julius, making him the first Caesar, which was also applied to subsequent Roman emperors or kings (cf. Rev.17:9-11).

Revelation discloses things that "must shortly take place," or things that were "at hand" or things that must “soon take place” (Rev. 1:1, 3, 22:6, 7, 10, 12, 20). When Jesus says things will happen “shortly” He must mean “shortly.” When He says something is “at hand” it must certainly be near. And when He says “soon” He must mean “soon.” Jesus is not linguistically challenged. He is not referring to thousands of years into the future or some other disproportionate time frame. Rather, He is using the language of the Old Testament prophets and is speaking to a crisis looming on the horizon, associating vindication for His people along with it. In fact, when Jesus uses the word “near” with reference to the fig tree and its “putting forth leaves” He specifically says “you know that summer is near” (Matthew 24:32). In like manner, with regards to the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, Jesus says: “So you also, when you see all these things, you know that it is near – at the doors” (24:33). In a manner of a generation this prophecy would take place, not in hundreds or thousands of years later. The book of Revelation is replete with Old Testament Scripture, demonstrating that the audience to whom John is writing was familiar with the Old Testament. In fact, “[o]f the 404 verses in the book of Revelation, seemingly 278 of them make some allusion to the Old Testament. That is 68.8% of the verses! And some of these verses contain two, or even three, allusions to the Old Testament” (Lyons, Apologetics Press). The book of Revelation is a recapitulation of Old Testament, Jewish history, ranging from the Garden of Eden to Babylon, with the many references coming from Genesis, Leviticus, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah.

This brings us to the controversial dating of the book of Revelation, which I humbly accept as being prior to AD 70. Since this is not a discussion about the dating of the book of Revelation, and since there is too much information to include here, I will simply offer one “theo-philosophical” reason why, not only the book of Revelation, but all the books of the New Testament were written prior to AD 70.

As mentioned previously, Revelation is replete with Jewish history and with graphic Jewish imagery. Why, then, would John (and Jesus) not mention anything concerning the fulfillment of the greatest prophetic statement made concerning the Jews? Why is there nothing written concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and the end of the Jewish nation? Why does John write so much about Jewish history, yet does mention anything concerning the greatest moment in Jewish history? Geisler asks it this way:

If you and your fellow followers write accounts of Jesus after the temple and city were destroyed in A.D. 70, aren’t you at least going to mention that unprecedented national, human, economic, and religious tragedy somewhere in your writings, especially this risen Jesus had predicted it?  Of course! (Hanegraaff, 156).  

Clement of Alexandria speaks to the end of inspiration and the close of the New Testament canon prior to AD 70: “For the teaching of our Lord at His advent, beginning with Augustus and Tiberius, was completed in the middle of the times of Tiberius. And that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, end with Nero" (Miscellanies 7:17). The Gospel Accounts retell the detailed story of Jesus, His teachings, and His prophetic statements, including the destruction of the temple. Certainly the fulfillment of such a prophecy as that of the destruction of the temple, one which the deity of Christ relies upon for its fulfillment, would have been retold as well. The omission of the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy of the destruction of the temple, seemingly provides overwhelming evidence, internal or otherwise, that the entire New Testament had been completed and written down before AD 70. If the book of Revelation was written prior to AD 70, then the view which has as its central theme the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, would fit the best. However, this view does not necessarily imply that ALL future events have been fulfilled. It is my studied conviction, that most of the book of Revelation can be outlined with Matthew 24 (the Olivet Discourse), including Matthew 23:31-39 as well. Jesus answered His disciple’s questions: (1) “Tell us, when will these things be? (2) And what will be the sign of your Coming and the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). He answers the first part of their question, referring to the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem (24:4-34), then the second part, which deals with His Second Coming ((24:36-51). The book of Revelation simply unfolds and expands upon these events and questions of Matthew 24.  

PRETERISM – REALIZED ESCHATOLOGY

A person claiming the entire New Testament was written prior to AD 70 is sometimes referred to as a “preterist,” but that is not necessarily true. The entire New Testament was written before AD 70 has no connection to claiming ALL Bible prophecy has been fulfilled. The word “preterist” has come to be defined as a person who maintains that the prophecies in the Apocalypse have already been fulfilled, which I believe is a poor definition. The Latin word “preter” means “past, bygone, or former,” referring to one who believes any specific or given prophecy to have been fulfilled (occurred in the past). Just about anyone can be labeled a preterist who believes some prophecy has already been fulfilled. For instance, if one believes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ has already occurred, then they are viewing that event from a “preterist” viewpoint – it occurred in the past. Therefore, it is imperative to understand there are varying degrees of preterism concerning just how much of Biblical prophecy is to be considered "preterate" or past. Anyone claiming that ALL Bible prophecies have been fulfilled, including the Resurrection of the dead, the Second Coming of Christ, and the Judgment are “full preterists” or “hyper-preterists.” Anyone claiming that some or most Bible prophecies have been fulfilled are “partial preterists.”  

            Associated with Full-Preterism or Hyper-Preterism (as opposed to Partial-Preterism) is Realized Eschatology (Herein RE).  For our purposes, anything that has been “realized” has already taken place. Having been fulfilled it has been realized. The word “eschatology” is “the study of last or end time things.” It is comprised of two Greek words: eschato meaning “last,” and logos meaning “word” or “study” Therefore, Realized Eschatology is the study of already fulfilled end time things, such as the Resurrection, the Second Coming, and the Judgment. Therefore, Full Preterists or Realized Eschatologists believe ALL prophecies in the Bible, and specifically in the book of Revelation, have been fulfilled.  The question now is, does Revelation prove Realized Eschatology?

Preterists advocating the dogma of Realized Eschatology affirm that ALL end time events were fulfilled. When the Roman armies destroyed the temple and Jerusalem the Second Coming of Christ, the Resurrection of the dead, and Judgment are said to have occurred in AD 70. Therefore, RE claim the Second Coming, the Resurrection, and the Judgment are all past are now past, having been fulfilled (“Realized”). These preterists are Realized Eschatologists or “Hyper” or “Full-preterists.”

It cannot be stressed enough that Partial-Preterists, such as myself, reject the fanciful and absurd doctrine of RE. Those of us believing much or most (not all) of Bible prophecy has been fulfilled, and who still yearn for the Second Coming of Christ, are not so much preterists as we are “exegeticalists” – students of the Bible. Realized Eschatology, on the other hand, consist of “hyper-eisegeticalists” in the line of Hymenaeus and Philetus “who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:18). Students of the Bible respect God’s Word enough to know that the Second Coming did NOT occur in AD 70. In fact, God had several, unique "judgment comings" throughout the Old Testament, in which God "came" and destroyed a wicked nation by using another nation as his tool or agent of judgment.

MATTHEW 24 – FIIGURATIVE LANGUAGE

The Bible is replete with the use of figurative language, therefore it is imperative to recognize it. The most common figures of speech in the Bible involve idioms, metaphors, hyperbole, metonymy, synecdoche, simile, locution, parallelism or synonymy, rhetoric, personification, sarcasm, ellipsis, etc. Since I have stated that Matthew 24 is, essentially, an outline of the book of Revelation, I must address the figurative language found in it. The expression “the coming of the Son of Man” and “the Son of Man coming on the clouds” (Matthew 24:27, 30), referring to the same thing, are both figures referring to Christ's "judgment coming" in AD 70, in which He "came" and destroyed apostate Israel by using the Roman nation as his tool or agent of judgment. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple was the sign that the Son of Man was in heaven orchestrating His judgment upon His people. The wording of this passage refers us back to the expression, "The Son of Man," found in Daniel 7:13, which Jesus used concerning Himself when referring to His coming (Matthew 24:27). The judgment of Jerusalem was a sign that the Son of Man was in heaven in fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14. Here we see Jesus, the Son of Man, coming to the Ancient of days and receiving His everlasting kingdom. This prophecy was fulfilled at the Ascension (Acts 2:30-36). The kingdom received from the Ancient of days is no other than the kingdom symbolized by the stone cut out of the mountain (Daniel 2:34-35), His church (2:44-45). The kingdom of Christ was made manifest to all Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Jerusalem's destruction was a sign that Jesus Christ was the Messiah of God, having all authority (Matthew 28:18).  

In Matthew 26:63-64, Caiaphas, the high priest, asks Jesus if He is the Son of God, the Messiah. Notice the similarities between Jesus' answer to Caiaphas with what He said in Matthew 24:30: “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." Jesus told Caiaphas, "You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power." He said to His disciples, "They would see the sign that the son of man was in heaven." He told Caiaphas, "You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven." He told His disciples, "They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." Matthew is speaking of the same event in both passages.

It is significant to note Caiaphas' response to Jesus in Matthew 26:65. He understood the implication Jesus made, because only God is the One who can be said to be “coming in the clouds.” Similarly, in Mark 14:62 it says they would see Him “coming with the clouds of heaven" while He is "sitting at the right hand of the Power." Jesus’ coming with the clouds was proof of His authority and reign, sitting on the right hand of power. Caiaphas knew the symbolic language Jesus used was the same language the prophets used concerning God, which was symbolic of His judgment. For instance, God's coming in the clouds revealed His judgment upon His enemies. In Isaiah 20, we see God coming in the clouds as a figure for God using the Assyrians as instruments of His wrath upon Egypt: "The LORD rides on a swift cloud, And will come into Egypt; the idols of Egypt will totter at His presence" (Isaiah 19:1). God came to Egypt in judgment in 480BC. His presence was made known in judgment. But it was the Assyrians who were literally present. Similar language is used of Nineveh's fall (Nahum 1:3, 5-6). God, Himself, did not literally destroy Nineveh. He did not literally come out of heaven riding on the clouds like some cartoon might picture it. Instead “coming on the clouds” referred to the Chaldeans and Medes capturing the Assyrian capital of Nineveh in 612 B.C (Spielvogel, 46). In using the symbolic or apocalyptic phrase “coming on the clouds” Jesus was demonstrating His authority as both Messiah and Judge. After all, not only was He the heir of the language used by the prophets, but He supplied it to them.

The prophetic language of the Old Testament clearly shows that the Lord coming on a cloud symbolizes His coming in judgment, and this very same symbolism is carried over to the New Testament when it speaks of Christ coming on clouds. Jesus came in judgment, not literally, not physically, and not visibly. The Jews witnessed His judgment but saw Him not, but Jesus did, come in the clouds” (judged). Jesus came on the clouds using Rome to carry out His judgment upon the Jews. A similar metaphor is found in the subsequent verse: “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:31).

We know the “coming on clouds” is figurative based on the usage noted previously, but we also know it is figurative because the “coming on the clouds” precedes Matthew 24:36-51, wherein Jesus answers the second part of His disciples’ question. It is here Jesus speaks of His Second Coming. Moreover, when Jesus told His disciples that He would “come again” to bring them with Him (John 14:1-2), He mentioned “again” only one time. He did not say again and again. So, the “coming” mentioned in Matthew 24:27 -31, must be figurative. This proves that the doctrine of RE is false. Any one aspect of this multifaceted monster shown to be false, brings down the entire heretical eschatological system.

When we consider the use of the “trumpet,” we know that it was used to call the people of Israel together (Numbers 10:2) and on the Day of Atonement in the year of Jubilee in releasing slaves and debts. It should be noted here that AD 70 was a year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:9). The trumpet was used to call the perishing and the outcasts to worship God together (Isaiah 27:12-13), which is same gathering the prophet mentions earlier (11:1-12). This is the idea we draw when read of the gathering from the four corners of the earth.

These "judgment comings" of God in the Old Testament consisted of God using one nation as a tool of his judgment, in order to destroy the apostate Jewish nation. In the same manner, the "coming of the Son of Man" in Matthew 24 is symbolic language for Christ’s punishment and Roman army was his tool of judgment.

ALL PROPHECY NOT “REALIZED” IN REVELATION

I believe most of us would agree that the book of Revelation would not be our primary reference book to turn to in order to teach someone how to be saved and to understand the fundamentals of the faith. It would not be the primary book to prove faith, repentance, confession, or baptism. It would not be the book to turn to learn about the one church, the one Spirit, the one hope, the one Lord, the one faith or gospel, the one baptism, or the one God and Father (Ephesians 4:4-6). For all of these, we would consult other books of the Bible. Even if we were to going to teach a class on Eschatology, Revelation would be the last book we turn to, no pun intended.

While the concept of RE has been around for a long while, many of the arguments have not. In fact, Like Deaverism (and other false and heretical systems), many of the arguments of RE have evolved and are continuing to evolve. In fact, I will be so bold as to claim that there really is no such thing as formal system of RE, because it is simply a group of men having many unsound ideas, with a constant effort of forcing their ideas into a particular text. For instance, in RE disagree among themselves over various matters, to the point of division. In fact, some today disagree with Max King who is one of the major pioneers and influences on RE. Some present day advocates of RE might even call him a false teacher. Some have gone so far as to publicly declare that those denying the necessity of baptism in denominations are saved and are their brethren, as RE evolves into universalism.

However, some of the strongest arguments for a preterist interpretation of the book of Revelation come from within the book itself. The first would be the imminent time of fulfillment statements found in the beginning and end of the book (Revelation 1:1-3; 22:6, 7, 10, 12, 20). The second, is the statement found in Revelation 11:8: “And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” These were the bodies of the two witnesses which would lay in the streets of the Harlot City, Babylon, which is Jerusalem. I will address these two points later.

Of course, some preterists have evolved their view into RE, teaching that not only were ALL the prophecies of the book of Revelation made prior to the destruction of the temple in AD 70, but ALL were fulfilled by AD 70. Let us see if Revelation teaches such a thing. According to RE advocates, the Kingdom of Christ was not “Realized” and/or not fulfilled until AD 70. Accordingly, King writes:

The fall of Judaism (and its far reaching consequences) is, therefore, a major subject of the Bible. The greater portion of prophecy found its fulfillment in that event, including also the types and shadows of the law. It was the coming of Christ in glory that closely followed his coming in suffering (1 Pet. 1:11), when all things written by the prophets were fulfilled (Luke 21:22: Acts 3:21). It corresponded to the perfection of the saints (1 Cor. 13:10) when they reached adulthood in Christ, receiving their adoption, redemption, and inheritance. The eternal kingdom was possessed (Heb. 12:28) and the new heaven and earth inherited (Matt. 5:5; Rev. 21:1, 7 (King, 239).

While some in the RE camp teach the kingdom fully came in AD 70, others teach that the kingdom “began” on Pentecost, but did not reach its fullness until it came with “power and glory” (Mark 9:1; Matthew 24:30) when Christ’s judgment and wrath was poured out upon Jerusalem. Either way, the Bible does not teach that the kingdom was either fully established in AD 70, nor does it teach a progressive establishment of the kingdom, reaching its fullness in AD 70. First, we note what John says about the kingdom in his writing: “I John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the Island of Patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9).

While I hold to the “early date” (preterist view) of the book of Revelation, having been written prior to AD 70, RE goes much farther teaching that the kingdom, itself, did not come until AD 70. Of course, John was unaware of that, since he said he was actually in the kingdom prior to AD 70 when he penned Revelation. Note what John did not claim. He did not claim to be in a partial kingdom or incomplete kingdom, neither did he claim to be in only some sense or aspect of the kingdom of Christ, or that the Coming of Christ made the kingdom made more complete or full. On the contrary, John simply said that he was in the kingdom, and did so prior to AD 70. The first century Christians were also in the very same kingdom with John (Colossians 1:13). The apostle  Paul says, “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). Please note that coming of “the end” implies the end of all things, including prophecies. Paul is saying that at the end Jesus will deliver the kingdom to the Father. Paul does not say that the kingdom will be made more complete or “Realized”. He simply said when Christ comes again, He will return the already established kingdom. It is here we find some similarities between RE and Premillennialism, where both erroneous systems suggest Christ’s kingdom would come at a later time.

Regarding the coming kingdom, Isaiah wrote:

“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3).

            We can read of the fulfillment of this prophecy in Acts 2, when the kingdom had come with power (Mark 9:1) We know the church is synonymous with the kingdom (Matthew 16:18-19), and that those who were added to the church (Acts 2:47) were also translated into the kingdom (Colossians.1:13; cf. 1:2, 18). In the New Testament, we know Paul equates the “house of God” with the church (1 Timothy 3:15). Moreover, the prophet Micah prophesied the establishment of Jehovah’s mountain (Micah. 4:1-3). This passage uses “kingdom language.” Old Testament prophecies typically use the phrase or idiom “mountain” to symbolize that which is a kingdom (c.f. Daniel. 2:35, 44-45; Isaiah 13:4; 41:11-16; Jeremiah 51:24-26).  Therefore, according to both Isaiah and Micah, when the “mountain” of the house of God will be established and exalted, all the nations will flow into it and the word or law of the Lord will go forth out of Zion (Jerusalem). Both of these prophecies were fulfilled before AD 70.

The very fact that the church and the kingdom may be used synonymously, as well as the fact that both are connected with the descriptions “house of God” and “mountains,” demonstrates that if there is only one church or body (Ephesians 4:4; 1:22-23), then there cannot be “churches. And, if there is only one church, then there can be only one kingdom, not kingdoms (Daniel 2:44, 7:14). Moreover, Daniel said the kingdom would be given to the Son of Man when He ascended to the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13-14). When did that occur? Jesus ascended back to the Father in heaven ten days before Pentecost (Acts 1:3, 9-11, 2:1). Again, this is some forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.

As noted previously, some within the RE persuasion teach that the kingdom “began” to be established (one part or aspect) on Pentecost, and progressively developed over the forty year period, until it reached its fullness when it came with “power and glory” in AD 70. Of course RE advocates take Mark 9:1 However, the apostle Paul refutes that silly notion. Paul says “glory” was in the church/kingdom and was to be “forever and ever” (Eph.3:20-21). Paul also says power existed in the church/kingdom before AD 70 saying, “For the kingdom of God is not word but in power” (Eph.4:20). Since there is only one kingdom, then there is absolutely no difference in meaning between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of God, especially since Paul makes no distinction between the two. The kingdom, then, whether described as the “kingdom of Christ” or the “kingdom of God,” was in existence when Paul penned the book of Ephesians and, specifically, Ephesians 5:5.

No inspired writer of the New Testament speaks of a partial kingdom. No inspired writer of the New Testament speaks of an incomplete kingdom. The kingdom is not spoken of as having any missing parts. The kingdom is not spoken of as being anything less than whole. On the contrary, the kingdom, all of it, every aspect of it, was fully and completely established on the Day of Pentecost 40 years before AD 70. Therefore, RE and its false doctrine of the kingdom, is refuted by the book of Revelation as penned by John.

            Associated with the kingdom is the reigning of its King. Whoever heard of a kingdom without a king? In his Pentecost sermon, Peter declared that God had raised Jesus from the dead, exalting Him to the right hand of the Father , making Him both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:32-35). Zechariah prophesied:

Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the Lord; Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both” (Zechariah 6:12-13).      

Christ was to build His temple, which Paul says is the church (1 Cor.3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16), which was also bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; cf. Acts 20:28).  Just as the kingdom had fully come on Pentecost, so Christ began to fully reign as King on His throne. However, if we are to believe RE, then if the kingdom did not fully come on Pentecost, then Christ was not fully ruling and reigning as King on Pentecost. If He was not fully ruling and reigning as King on Pentecost, then He did not have all authority. Who could believe it in light of these Scripture? However, RE wants us to believe that both the kingdom and the King became such in some sense on Pentecost, but the kingdom and the King were not fully the kingdom and King until AD 70. Again King writes:

The second stage of the resurrection takes place in conjunction with the Messianic reign of Christ, which we have placed in the period of time between His ascension and His parousia in the A.D. 70 consummation of the age. This means that Christ’s reign was an age-ending reign, a transition to ‘the age to come (The Cross and Parousia of Christ, 415).

Where do the words of Zechariah and Peter even hint at the progressive fullness of both the King and His kingdom from Pentecost until AD 70? That both Christ’s kingdom and Kingship would evolve in stages? Not only is the Scriptural evidence missing, the logic is as well.

Another aspect that must be considered is Christ’s Priesthood. According to Zechariah’s prophecy, when Christ began ruling as King after building His temple, He would also become “priest on His throne.” The Hebrews writer points out that Christ began serving as Priest “when He had by Himself purged our sins” (Hebrews 1:3). Now the purging of sin as Priest and His ruling as King are simultaneous, but just when did His Kingship rule and His Priestly duty of purging sin begin? The Hebrews writer explains that all of this began when Christ “sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high” (1:3). His sitting down is representative of His ruling and reigning as all ruling Kings sit on the throne of authority and majesty. The writer of Hebrews was not finished. He goes on to say, “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb. 8:1). The inspired writer declares at the time of his writing that that Christ was serving as High Priest at that very moment and was seated at the right hand of the throne of Majesty, at that very moment, which is well before AD 70. According to Max King and all Realized Eschatology, however, Christ was not King, He did not have a kingdom, and He was not High Priest, until AD 70.In claiming the end of all things occurred on AD 70, then not only does RE reject the aforementioned Scriptures, but it also rejects the fact that Christ is presently serving as our King, that His kingdom presently continues, and that He is presently serving, not only as a Priest, but as our High Priest. The pathetic view of RE is that there is no hope for anyone living after AD 70. There is no answer to the problem of sin and death, because all things have ended. Physical life just winds down. Again we note Max King:

When the temple is destroyed, the world ends. The ending of the world is the coming of Christ. The coming of Christ is the fall of Jerusalem, or the destruction of the temple, etc….ALL would come to pass before that generation passed into history, and that included the coming of Christ, as well as the passing of heaven and earth.” (The Spirit of Prophecy, 39)

In quoting Psalm 2:9, John writes: “He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ as I also have received from My Father” (Rev.2:27). Again, John if John is writing Revelation prior to AD 70, then at the time of the writing, Christ received from the Father (past tense) His ruling authority, then Christ was ruling, not in part or in some measured sense, but as fully King having full rule. To buttress this point, John records the Words of Jesus, declaring: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21).  

Zechariah said Christ would rule from His throne upon the completion of His temple, the church, which was established on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. It was on this very day that Peter declared Christ to have been raised from the dead, and exalted by God, sitting at the right hand of the Father (2:32-35). John in His Revelation tells us, plainly, that Christ had already “sat down” with the Father. When did Jesus sit down with the Father? When He was exalted by the Father being made to sit at His right hand on His throne. When did that occur? When God raised Him up. All of this occurred forty years before AD 70, when Christ was ruling as both Priest and King, purging sin through His atoning blood. Revelation in no way proves a partial or incomplete Kingdom, Kingship, or Priesthood. Instead it clearly demonstrates that Christ was indeed ruling from His throne, just as John said, long before AD 70.

CONCLUSION – ACTS 1:11 AND REVELATION 19:19 -20:15

It is not in the scope of this presentation to discuss any particular approach to the book of Revelation, or give a defense to any one particular view. We all need to be independent thinkers, providing what best explains this wonderful book based upon reasoned evidence. However, as I said at the outset, we can understand this book. We may not understand every detail completely, but we can certainly understand what the book is about and be confident that we know it. Most importantly, we must recognize that the “sum of thy word is truth” (Psalm 119: 160), as a guiding principle, will help us in our understanding. Whatever conclusions one might reach about this book, cannot contradict what is so plainly stated in the other twenty-six books of the New Testament. Any view of Revelation, which contradicts even one passage from any other New Testament book, is the wrong view, and needs to be abandoned.

For instance, in speaking of Christ’s ascension and Second Coming, Luke writes: “…Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). It is a very simple and straightforward statement of fact. The apostles witnessed Christ ascend INTO HEAVEN and in like manner Christ will be witnessed when He comes again. Yet, in spite of this straightforward passage, RE advocates tell us Christ’s ascension was not seen, implying His Second Coming, could not be seen either, because their argument rests on their denial of the bodily resurrection, which implies that Christ’s resurrection was not bodily: 

While this verse [Acts 1:11] is generally cited to prove that the glorified Jesus will himself be personally visible at his second coming, it is in fact the case that the glorified Jesus cannot be seen by any man because his glorified person is veiled, hidden, and enveloped within the cloud of God’s presence…. Just as the disciples had not seen Christ going up to heaven, but rather the cloud which veiled him and his Divine Glory, so in the same manner, i.e., hidden within the cloud, he would return. It cannot be stated too strongly: the glorified Jesus himself will not be visible in his second coming for he was not visible in his ascension, but rather hidden (Otto, 257,258). 

Here we see the plain statement of Acts 1:11. Concerning Christ’s ascension, two men in white, presumably angels, specifically say, “as you saw Him go into heaven,” yet the RE advocate tells us that the Lord’s “disciples had not seen Christ going up to heaven.” It is amazing how someone could distort the straightforward language of this text. To reject such plain language demonstrates the desperate measures some will take to sustain their false doctrine. Of course, the point here is that. Just as Christ’s body was raised from the dead, so will ours. Concerning the resurrection, Paul writes: “And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power” (1 Corinthians 6:14). Moreover, John tells us that when Christ is revealed (known by seeing), “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Whatever is true of Christ’s resurrection and His resurrection, will be true for us. As Christ’s resurrection was an individual resurrection, so will ours. This all demonstrates that the resurrection of the dead is bodily, as opposed to some invisible, corporate style symbolic resurrection put forth RE:

There is nothing in Paul’s corporate language of the ‘body’ of Christ that forces us to assume that the resurrection to come (in their day) would involve the literal process of individual corpses coming out of their graves. Instead, the expected eschatological resurrection was the translation of the children of God from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:18). The death from which we are corporately raised is from sin-death, or alienation from God (Spirit of Prophecy, 309).

 Here we see that RE teaches against, an individual, bodily resurrection, being viewed. King states, “out of the decay of Judaism arose the spiritual body of Christianity” (IBID, 200). The resurrection is defined as Israel being “spiritually raised from the grave of sin,” rather than an individual, bodily resurrection of the dead. A clear denial of the general resurrection. 

 Since the “sum of thy word is truth” (Psalm 119:160) is a divinely established exegetical principle, and since Luke provides us with the foundational principle of the individual, bodily resurrection of the dead, and of the visible Second Coming of Christ by virtue of Christ’s example (Acts 1:11), then any view of the highly symbolic book of Revelation must not contradict the plain teaching of other passages dealing with the same subject, including Acts 1:11. In other words, the more difficult passages should be interpreted in the light of the simpler and more direct statements in Scripture. This is a universal hermeneutical principle for all Bible students. Why should we abandon that principle now? Since RE teaches the Second Coming has already occurred (AD 70), as well as the alleged non-bodily resurrection, which is allegedly the spiritual resurrection of Israel, then the straightforward and factual statement of Acts 1:11 must be consulted when this subject is discussed. This is especially valid when interpreting the book of Revelation.

One of the more controversial chapters in the book of Revelation is chapter twenty, where John mentions one thousand years six times (20:3-8). Of course, “one thousand years” is referred to as a “millennium,” or in this case “The Millennium,” because those subscribing to the faulty view of premillennialism hold to the idea that Christ is going to return to the earth, establish His kingdom, and reign on earth for “one thousand years.” Of course, this topic will be discussed at length by others during this lectureship, however, one of the main reasons this doctrine is wrong is because the Bible plainly tells us that Christ will not set foot again on this earth – ever (1 Thessalonians 4:17), and when He does appear again, He is not going to establish a kingdom as is supposed, but, rather, He will deliver His already established kingdom back to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).

While Premillennialism erroneously teaches that this one thousand years is to be taken literally, RE, teaches that it is a figurative, and rightly so. Whenever we come across the term one thousand years in Scripture it is to be taken in the figurative sense (Deut. 1:11, 7:9; Josh. 23:10; 1 Chr. 16:15; Job 9:3, 33:23; Psa. 50:10, 84:10, 90:4, 105:8; Eccl. 6:6, 7:28; Isa. 7:23, 30:17, 60:22; 2 Pet. 3:8; Rev. 20:2-7). The term is always used symbolically with reference to either “many people” or “many things.” In this case the figure stands for “many years” or simply to an indefinite amount of time. However, RE advocates also use this term to refer their alleged incomplete reign of Christ, which, again, is said to have been finally made complete at AD 70. While the one thousand years is correctly seen as figurative, it is erroneously deemed to be for some forty or so years, between the beginning of Christ’s ministry and the destruction of Jerusalem. Don K. Preston writes:  

“Our purpose is to demonstrate two things: 1.) That the millennium of Revelation 20 began with the ministry / passion / resurrection of Christ, 2.) That the millennium terminated forty years later at the resurrection and termination of the Old Covenant age in AD 70” … “The time of the end (1 Corinthians 15:24) is when Messiah finalized his triumph over his enemies, not the time when he would begin to put down his enemies. Revelation depicts that final victory, “when the thousand years are finished” (20:7). So, in Revelation, the beginning of the millennium is the beginning of Messiah’s conquering work. The millennium reign is the consolidation of Messiah’s rule. The end of the millennium is when that work was perfected” (Preston, Eschatology.org).

While Preston correctly views one thousand years as figurative, nowhere in Scripture do we find one thousand years being anything less than a very long period time, or seen as an indefinite period of time, i.e., an innumerable or immeasurable period of time. It is an absolute impossibility for the term to be arbitrarily forced into representing such a brief period of time as forty ears. The term is never used to describe anything less than an over-extended duration, and is consistently used throughout the Bible representing a vast amount of time. Herein lies another blow to Hyper-preterism.?

The approach one takes to the book of Revelation dramatically affects one’s exegetical conclusions. I believe that the book itself demands a basically preterist approach, but this does not mean that all of the prophecies in the book have been fulfilled. For instance, while partial or semi–preterists believe nearly all the prophecies in the book of Revelation have been fulfilled, there are differences of opinion where that takes place. It is safe to say that differences will be found between chapter twenty and chapter twenty-two – the end of the book. Just here, Brother Daniel Denham has proposed two significant syllogisms entitled, Revelation Falsifies Preterism:  

First Syllogism:

Major Premise: If it is the case that Revelation 21-22 prophesied of an ongoing state of things that is still in effect, then it must be the case that the prophecy in Revelation 21-22 was not completely fulfilled in A.D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem.

Minor Premise: It is the case that Revelation 21-22 prophesied of an ongoing state of things that is still in effect. (Steve Baisden’s own statements to that effect!)

Conclusion: It therefore must be the case that the prophecy in Revelation 21-22 was not completely fulfilled in A.D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem.

Second Syllogism:

Major Premise: If it is the case that the prophecy in Revelation 21-22 was not completely fulfilled in A.D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem, then it must be the case that Full Preterism teaching that all prophecy was completely fulfilled in A.D. 70 is a false doctrine.

Minor Premise: It is the case that the prophecy in Revelation 21-22 was not completely fulfilled in A.D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem.

Conclusion: It therefore must be the case that Full Preterism teaching that all prophecy was completely fulfilled in A.D. 70 is a false doctrine (Denham, Facebook Notes). 

WORKS CITED

All Scripture quotations are from the NKJV unless otherwise indicated.

Burge, Gary M., and Gene L. Green. The New Testament in Antiquity. Grand Rapids,

            Mich.: Zondervan, 2009.

Randall E. Otto, Coming in the Clouds: An Evangelical Case for the Invisibility of Christ

            at His Second Coming (Lanham: University Press of America, 1994).

Hanegraaff, Hank. The Apocalypse Code: Find out What the Bible Really Says about

            the End Times– and Why It Matters Today. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

King, Max R. The Spirit of Prophecy. Warren, OH: M.R. King, 1971.

King, Max R. The Cross and the Parousia of Christ: The Two Dimensions of One Age-

changing Eschaton. Warren, Ohio (4705 Parkman Rd., Warren): Parkman Road Church of Christ, 1987.

Lyons, Eric. http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=886.

Menn, Jonathan. Biblical Eschatology. Eugene, Oregon. Resource Publications. 2013

Clement: Miscellanies 7:17. http://www.preteristarchive.com/StudyArchive/c/clement-of-alexandria.html

Preson, Don K.: http://www.eschatology.org/index.php?option=com_content&view =article&id=877:a-forty-year-millennium-is-that-possible&catid=40&Itemid=211

Poythress, Vern S. The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation. Phillipsburg,

            N.J.: P & R, 2000.

Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization. 7th ed. Minneapolis/St. Paul: West, 1994.

 

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