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Understanding the Apocalypse

03 Jan
Understanding the Apocalypse

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The Apocalypse never directly quotes a passage from the Old Covenant. However, according to several scholars the book’s 404 verses contain from nearly 300 to nearly 600[1] allusions and echoes of Old Covenant passages. For example, we are told in Revelation 1:1 that God revealed a secret that would shortly come to pass to Jesus who in turn gave it to his angel who then gave it to Jesus’ disciple, John to disclose to the Church. Under the Old Covenant, we are told that it is God who reveals secrets that would come to pass (Daniel 2:28-29), but the Lord wouldn’t do anything before he revealed his secret to his servants, the prophets (Amos 3:7). So, in the very first verse of the Apocalypse we have an allusion to at least two Old Covenant passages.

The Prophets figure prominently in John’s work, but allusions or echoes from all three divisions of the Old Covenant, the Law, the Writings and the Prophets, are found in the Apocalypse. Thus, the question must be asked, if one doesn’t know or understand the Old Covenant properly, is it even possible for that one to understand the Apocalypse?

Paul brings out an interesting point in his second letter to the Corinthians. He mentions the fading glory of the Old Covenant (2Corinthians 3:13-18), as pictured in the veiled face of Moses, which he covered so that Israel wouldn’t see the glory fade away. Paul used this picture to show that the same veil is over the Old Covenant scriptures for the Jews who don’t read them through the eyes of Jesus. The point is that, if the Apocalypse is so saturated with allusions and echoes to the scriptures in the Old Covenant, the reader, if he takes the understanding similar to that of the Jews on those passages, would logically have the same veil over his eyes that is upon that of the Jews today (viz. prophecy concerning judgment, resurrection, the coming of the Messiah etc.).

In the present context of studying the Apocalypse, whose themes cover the coming of the Messiah, the judgment at the end of the age and the resurrection of the dead, the Christian who holds similar beliefs as do the Jews on these subjects, would, in the words of Paul:

“…their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the Old Covenant (and the New Covenant which interprets the Old Covenant) the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ [2Corinthians 3:14 – parenthesis mine].

Understanding when the Apocalypse was written is extremely important to understanding its message. For example, if the book was written during the reign of Domitian, Emperor of Rome, near the end of the first century AD, then it couldn’t possibly be about the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The fact is that many, probably most Biblical scholars, date the Apocalypse late in the first century AD, during the reign of Domitian. These believers spiritualize away the eminency of the internal evidence of a near fulfillment and conclude the book must refer to the distant future. Consequently, the eschatology of these believers is such that they look for a literal, physical return of Jesus, a literal, biological resurrection of the dead, and a final judgment at what they term “the end of time.” Interestingly, first century Jews also looked for a physical Messiah to reign in physical Jerusalem and awaited a physical, bodily resurrection of the dead out of literal graves. If Paul claimed a veil was over the eyes of these first century Jews who rejected Jesus, when they read the scriptures (2Corinthians 3:14), wouldn’t Paul’s claim also include Christians who held similar views that those first century AD Jews embraced about eschatology?

On the other hand, there are other scholars who believe the Apocalypse was written prior to the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies. If this is the case, (i.e. that the book was written early), then the internal evidence of a near fulfillment of the Apocalypse, including the coming of Jesus, the judgment and the resurrection must have occurred at or near the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple. Therefore, knowing when the Apocalypse was written is extremely important to understanding its content. An error in dating this book would necessitate a complete misunderstanding of John’s message. I’ll speak more about this in my next study.

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[1] The actual figure depends upon the individual scholar’s study.

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5 Comments

Posted by on January 3, 2019 in Apocalypse, Book of Revelation

 

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5 responses to “Understanding the Apocalypse

  1. Patricia Watkins

    January 3, 2019 at 13:31

    Hi again Eddie,

    Ditto what Dave White wrote: it is “absolutely critical” to get the date of Revelation’s composition correct. I’m convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that the year was AD 59. – no earlier, and no later. Cross-referencing scripture’s internal evidence is how we accomplish this. The external evidence also favors this date, but as we all recognize, the internal evidence takes precedence over everything.

    Eddie, I would be totally in your debt if you would please, please, puhhhleeeeeez look at the following two links that cover this internal evidence narrowing this date down to AD 59 from every scriptural angle.

    This one starts at comment #14:

    http://www.gracecentered.com/christian_forums/end-times-forum/when-was-revelation-written/

    http://www.gracecentered.com/christian_forums/end-times-forum/the-666-year-old-sea-beast-of-revelation-13/

    As Dave already said, knowing when this book was written does change so much of what we think we understand. That also applies to many other doctrines than just eschatology.

    Lord bless your studies this year of 2019, Eddie.

     
    • Eddie

      January 3, 2019 at 23:04

      Greetings Patricia, and thank you for reading and for you kind encouragement to read another study. I’m about 3/4 through comment #14 (the one you suggested I read). The posting is very interesting, and no doubt it took a great deal of labor compiling the study, but the gentleman doesn’t prove any of his statements. Some things he concludes logically, which is fine, but even much of the logical conclusions are based upon iffy statements that aren’t proved beyond his stating they are so. For example, his conclusion about the house of Annas being the 7 heads of the beast. Five are fallen, one is and the other will come for a short time. He claims that the five that are fallen are dead, but if Luke’s addressee is Theophilus, the son of Annas, and one of the high priests (whom I believe is, indeed, Luke’s addressee, and have several studies showing this is so). Luke had to have written Acts sometime after 62 AD when Paul arrived in Rome. Luke tells us that Paul preached out of his own rented house for two years, bringing us up to cir. 64 AD. Acts had to have been written about this time, and Theophilus was alive at that time, even after the term of Ananias, the son of Annas, who had James, the brother of the Lord, stoned to death. If the whole house of Annas was dead at the writing of the Apocalypse, to whom was Jesus speaking when he declared **you** will see the Son of man, sitting on the right hand of power, coming in the clouds…” (Matthew 26:64)? I believe he was speaking directly to Annas, himself. Josephus tells us that he was killed just after the beginning of the war with Rome on the 6th day of the 6th month in the year 66 AD after being high priest for 60 years, the first high priest appointed by Rome in the year 6 AD (Josehpus “Wars of the Jews” 2.17.8-9).

      The gentleman of “comment #14” has every believing man and woman in Asia abandoning Paul. How does he know this — 2Timothy 1:15? Did Paul really tell Timothy that literally every believer deserted him? How about Onesiphorus who ministered to Paul both at Rome and Ephesus? Wasn’t Timothy, to whom Paul wrote two epistles, a pastor of the Ephesus church? What about Tychicus, whom Paul sent to Ephesus (2Timothy 4:12)? When Peter wrote his epistles to the five provinces of Asia, weren’t those churches believers, and if believers, how are the turned against Paul? Peter wrote his second epistle just before he was martyred by Nero about the same time Paul was beheaded. We need to understand that the Bible was written with many literary modes of expression. For example All Judea was supposed to come out to John’s baptism. Does that mean every man and woman of age was baptized by John? Of course not, and just because we may say of an important event in our day that “everyone will be there” — that doesn’t mean **literally** everyone in the city, state or country.

      I believe the house of Annas plays a part in the Apocalypse, but they are not the seven heads of the beast. Rather, they are riding the beast. They (with others who make up Jerusalem) are the harlot, but they also have a very specific role, which I’ll speak of when we get to that place in the Apocalypse.

      I’ll read the rest of the links tomorrow. It is getting late now and I’m tired. Have a good night, Patricia, and Lord bless you.

       
    • Eddie

      January 4, 2019 at 07:22

      Greetings Patricia, after a good night’s sleep, I feel better equipped to deal with the arguments stated in comment #14 of a link you shared above. While I agree with the gentleman that Revelation was written prior to 70 AD, I do not agree with is arguments that get him there. I’ll address his arguments one by one:

      Concerning #1, Revelation 16:14 doesn’t distinguish between the “kings of the earth” and the “kings of the world”, because “kings” is mentioned only once. Read as written in the KJV it is “kings of the earth AND of the world” The second phrase further defines the first. Secondly, the phrase “of the earth” is omitted in the texts, and scholars believe it was a later addition. Therefore, defining the “kings of the earth” as the high priests of Jerusalem is a reach, and cannot be used as “evidence” that Revelation was written prior to 66 AD.

      Concerning #2, While I agree that one is unable to measure a non-existing Temple, the gentleman doesn’t show how he determined that the “Chamber of Secrets” answers to Matthew 24:26. Does Josephus mention this room in the Temple?

      Concerning #3, While I agree with the logic, I don’t agree with how the gentleman gets from “a” to “b”. The “power of the holy people” has always been their covenant with God. The Temple was the idea of men, not God. While it symbolized the “power” of the people, it wasn’t that power. Their power was vested in their covenant relationship with the Lord.

      Concerning #4, While I agree with the gentleman’s logic, he doesn’t prove 2Peter was written prior to 70 AD. If Peter’s epistle wasn’t written prior to 70 AD, the logic is moot.

      Concerning #5, Once more, I agree with the gentleman’s logic, but the same “evidence” could be used to prove the futurists’ argument. Tacitus records the earthquake occurred in the 7th year of Nero (if Nero was Emperor of Rome from AD 54-68, this places the earthquake cir. AD 61 (Annals 14.27). Tacitus also mentions that Laodicea was later rebuilt. Futurists, like to lend credence to their argument by saying that Jesus wrote to Laodicea but not Colossae. In other words, Revelation was written cir. 96, because Colossae no longer existed, but Laodicea was rebuilt and thriving by the reign of Domitian.

      Concerning #6, The gentleman’s logic isn’t sound. Both Peter and Paul were slain in the same persecution. However, Peter wrote both his epistles to the churches in the five provinces of Asia, indicating thriving churches. Paul’s epistle at 2Timothy 1:15 is being misinterpreted, and cannot be used as evidence for an early date of Revelation.

      Concerning #7, Smyrna was one of the 7 churches of Revelation. However, the gentleman says in #6 above that **ALL** these churches abdicated and deserted Paul. Smyrna cannot desert Paul and at the same time receive the “crown of life”. Once more, because of contradictions, this cannot be used as “evidence” of an early date for Revelation.

      Concerning #8, This “evidence” is too arbitrary to prove anything. The gentleman doesn’t show why the 7 heads of the beast **must** be Annas and his descendants (Eleazar, Caiaphas [son-in-law], Jonathan, Theophilus, Mathias, Ananias, and Matthias, son of Theophilus [the eighth but of the seven] in his argument). His story is interesting, but not proved, and so cannot be used as “evidence” for an early date for Revelation.

      Concerning #9, John was a “companion in tribulation” throughout much of his New Testament ministry. How can this be used to prove an AD 59 date for the writing of Revelation? Moreover, how were “hostile Jews” able to use Acts 19:23-41 against Paul? The near riot grew worse when representatives of the Jews tried to speak. Alexander and the silversmiths were as much against the Jews as they were against Paul. At this date in the first century AD both Jews and believers were considered part of Judaism. Also, the gentleman’s use of the “ten days” or ten years of persecution beginning with the riot in Ephesus in 59 AD is skewed. The riot occurred in 56 AD before Paul went to Jerusalem. He was imprisoned by Felix whose tenure ended cir. 58 AD. If the riot occurred before Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea (cir. 56-59 AD), then it cannot be used as “evidence” of the beginning of the “ten day” / ten year persecution ending in 69 AD and, obviously, cannot be used as “evidence” for an early date of Revelation.

      Concerning #10, Finally, the gentleman bases the “nail in the coffin” type evidence to say that **666** means the age of the beast, which dates to 607 BC. Not only is he one year off in his calculations (59 AD to 607 BC is only 665 years, owning to the fact there is no 0 AD) but he bases his “most convincing” evidence upon the arbitrary dating of historians. If the 607 date is really accurate, then the 70 Weeks Prophecy fails, because it is only 490 years long. If Jerusalem fell in 607 BC but rose to power again in 557 BC, this is still too long a period of time for Daniel to be correct. There are errors in the historical record, which I address in a few studies on Daniel’s prophecy. Therefore, the gentleman’ shoots his whole argument in the foot with this piece of “evidence” which cannot prove the Bible is correct about anything.

      I hope you don’t think I am being too critical here. After all, I do agree with the man’s premise, namely, that the Apocalypse was, indeed, written before 70 AD. However, I don’t agree with how he tries to get us there. Lord bless you, Patricia.

       
  2. Dave White

    January 3, 2019 at 07:56

    Brother Eddie I’m excited to read this study! Dating the book is absolutely critical, and changes so much of what we think we understand.

     
    • Eddie

      January 3, 2019 at 10:38

      Hi Dave, I appreciate the fact that you follow this studies. Keep me in prayer, so I stay in the word without too much supposition. My next two studies will particularly concern the date of the Apocalypse.

      Lord bless you.

       

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