Making Sense of Revelation – Part 2

Holding Glasses over BibleWe saw yesterday that understanding how the Book of Revelation describes the future depends upon its interpretation. Aside from the obvious interest in a view that is unfolding in our own generation, prevention of a large degree of first century fulfilment is based upon whether it could have been written earlier than the A.D. 70 Fall of Jerusalem prophesied by Jesus in the Gospels. To place it some thirty years earlier than a mid-90s authorship, though, is therefore required for such a view to even be considered and goes against majority scholarship.

The mid-90s theory is largely based upon a quote by the second century writings of Irenaeus who said of the Beast of Revelation: “…if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, toward the end of Domitian’s reign. (Against Heresies 5:30:3). Even if the ‘that’ is the giving of the vision at the time of the said mid-90s emperor (not John and not the appearance of the document), Irenaeus is problematic since, even though he was a helpful writer to the Christian cause, he believed Jesus to have lived beyond 50 (2:22).

Circumstantial evidence from the references of other writers seems to suggest that John was exiled to Patmos (where he wrote Revelation) by Nero in the 60s; he may, in fact, have been exiled twice (and may even have edited his vision in the 90s as one theologian has suggested).

Those who suggest that Rome could not be linked to Babylon before A.D. 70 because of the absence of such usage elsewhere have obviously not considered 1 Peter 5:13’s use (Peter was himself martyred in the late 60s).

Also, the idea that the seven churches of Revelation could not have lapsed as badly as stated by the 60s ignores the desertion of the Galatians (1:6) and the shipwrecking of faith in Paul’s companions (1 Timothy 1:19). Both occurred in a relatively short period of time.

The implications of all this not only colour how the Book of Revelation is read, but how we view the time of the end. This view does not support an end-time Tribulation, a peace treaty with an antichrist in Israel or a secret rapture of the Church. It does, however, affirm the fact that Christ will return (once and suddenly!) and that we not only need to be ready, but that we live in a great age of the Christian church as the only hope of the world for eternal security in Heaven.

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