Monday, January 8, 2018

For some Bible students, the book of Revelation is a curious book, but dangerous!  Some begin with Matthew, continue through each book until John’s Revelation.  Chapters one through four will be digested, but five through twenty-two are taboo!  For some, the warning in Revelation 22:18-19 demands that restriction.  Why endanger yourself, even accidently, by adding or subtracting from what God revealed?  Wouldn’t it be safer to start over again with Matthew!  For many, Revelation 4:11 is a safe stopping place!

Scholarship is divided over the date of the book.  Wikipedia states, “Early Church tradition dates the book to the end of the emperor Domitian (reigned AD 81–96), and most modern scholars agree, although the author may have written a first version after Nero’s Great Fire in Rome (AD 64) under Vespasian (AD 69–79) and updated it under Domitian.  The beast with seven heads and the number 666 seem to allude directly to the emperor Nero (reigned AD 54–68).” Emphasis mine, RH.

In the nineteenth century, Philip Schaff listed twenty reputable scholars who believed Revelation was written before AD 70. (The History of the Christian Church, Vol. I, p.837).  The Syriac Version assigns the date to AD 68 and Jerome states that in the year AD 96, John “was with difficulty carried to the church, and could speak only a few words to the people.”  That isn’t a picture of someone delivering the twenty-two-chapter Revelation message as God commanded (Revelation 10:11).  John would have had no problem doing so thirty years earlier around AD 65.

John A.T. Robinson, a liberal scholar, wrote a book, Redating The New Testament, in 1976 giving proof for all 27 books being written prior to AD 70.  Before authoring the book, he had dated all books much later.

It seems strange that John would write to a first century audience, make it appear he was speaking in their time frame, yet he was referring to events that would not transpire until 2018!  Except for chapters one through four, the rest would have nothing to do with anyone in the first through the twentieth centuries.  Writing to that first century audience, he would use “time” expressions that were meant to happen in 2018, rather than in the immediate future of those seven churches.  John would “borrow” expressions from the Old Testament, which related to past judgments, to describe the same thing happening, not during the first century, but in 2018.  Every century since the first one, has produced individuals who believed the time statements referred to their period, rather than John’s!  That interpretation, due to misdating the book, plays a cruel joke on each expectant generation!  When we die, the next generation will erroneously claim that expectation for themselves.  They will disappointingly pass it on as a “cruel” gift to the next one!  Due to an incorrect dating, we’ve been guilty, for twenty centuries, of sharing a false expectation with future generations, who have blindly accepted it as truth!  Isn’t that ironic and cruel?

Jesus prophesied the destruction of the Temple in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.  Josephus, a Jewish historian with the Roman army detailed that destruction in AD 70.  Isn’t it strange that New Testament books, passed off as being written after AD 70, don’t hint at that fulfillment?  Some give the prophecy, but refuse to write one “jot” or “tittle” about Jesus’ prophecy being fulfilled?  The Hebrew writer informs his Jewish audience, “Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away,” but no mention is made by any inspired writer to say, “It happened”!

If Washington D.C. had been destroyed by an atomic attack on December 7, 2017, do you believe the world would be silent about it?  If that event had been prophesied in detail on December 7, 1977 by President James Earl Carter, Jr., wouldn’t it be remembered?  Wouldn’t Carter’s reputation as a prophet be shared far and wide?  Wouldn’t uninspired history books devote several pages to his foretelling?  Yet, several New Testament books are dated after AD 70 and are silent about Jesus’ prophecy being fulfilled!  Is that God’s fault or an error in dating?

Revelation begins with “things which must shortly come to pass” (1:1 KJV), and “the time is at hand” (1:3 KJV).  How would a first century believer understand those words if John spoke them in AD 68 or as late as AD 96?  Would anyone think “shortly” and “at hand” meant 2018?  The book also ends with these words, “Seal not the sayings of this book: for the time is at hand” (22:10 KJV), and “behold I come quickly” (22:12 KJV).  Do the expressions “the time is at hand” and “I come quickly” mean 2018?  If someone told you they were going to place one million dollars in your hands, and the giving date was “at hand” and “quickly,” would you think they meant 4018?  If so, what would you think of that person’s promise?  Would the word “stupid” be a descriptive word to express your condition for swallowing that promise?  Yet, the interpretation given on these words is that they mean what they say to the generation they were addressed to!  If so, why didn’t John say so?  The results of that view is that each generation has foolishly brought the condemnation of Revelation 22:18-19 upon their head, by applying those time statements to their generation rather than the one they were intended for!?  Are you among that foolish, cursed number?  If nothing happens, haven’t we added “2018″ to Jesus’ words and become false teachers (Revelation 22:18-19)?

John is addressing seven churches which existed in the first century, not in 2018.  He calls them by location.  He warned Ephesus and Pergamos to repent or he would come “quickly” to punish them.  If “quickly” meant 2018, would either assembly been concerned about their judgment?  If someone told you they were going to “quickly” place you in front of a firing squad and shoot you, but “quickly” meant 4018, would that “quickly” have any real meaning to you?

In Revelation 11:1-2 John is told to measure the temple of God, the altar, and them that worship therein.  The temple and courtyard were destroyed in AD 70.  If the book was written in AD 96, how would John measure something that did not exist?  Some believe he is told to measure the church not the temple.  If so, one’s definition of “the church” is not the definition given for it in scripture!  Such only compounds the error.

John writes in symbolic, Old Testament language, showing God’s judgment upon the Temple and Jerusalem.  On the day of Pentecost, described by Luke in Acts 2, a new era is being revealed and confirmed.  No more trips to Jerusalem to worship (John 4:19-21).  No more animal blood to be spilled (Hebrews 10:1-18).  A priesthood would not be limited to a tribe (Hebrews 7:12).  Approaching God would not be limited to space nor time (John 4:23-24).  God would dwell, but in human temples (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)!  God would no longer count the sins of a “blessed” person (Romans 4:8 NIV).  All things would be made new (2 Corinthians 5:17; Hebrews 12:18-24, 28).  The old was obsolete and ready to vanish away in AD 68 (Hebrew 8:13)!  The new was being revealed.  A new Jerusalem was coming down out of heaven from God and those that God was adding to the saved were the ones in that new relationship (Revelation 21:2, 9-10).

Jesus tells John, “Surely, I come quickly,” not “Surely, I come quickly for those living in 2018.”  John’s response was, “Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”  John wasn’t thinking “come, Lord Jesus in 2018.”  All 27 books were written prior to AD 70.  Jesus kept his promise and returned in judgment upon the Temple and city, just as God rode into Egypt in judgment (Isaiah 19:1).  We have the privilege of living in the New Jerusalem and God dwelling in our hearts because Jesus has cleansed our temple with his blood!

The Hebrew writer encouraged Jewish believers to remain faithful.  He informs them,

Now, when sins have once been forever forgiven and forgotten, there is no need to offer more sacrifices to get rid of them.   And so, dear brothers, now we may walk right into the very Holy of Holies, where God is, because of the blood of Jesus.   This is the fresh, new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us by tearing the curtain—his human body—to let us into the holy presence of God.   And since this great High Priest of ours rules over God’s household, let us go right in to God himself, with true hearts fully trusting him to receive us because we have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean and because our bodies have been washed with pure water.   Now we can look forward to the salvation God has promised us. There is no longer any room for doubt, and we can tell others that salvation is ours, for there is no question that he will do what he says” (Hebrews 10:18-23 TLB).

He ends that section with,

But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39 KJV).

Perhaps Revelation 4:11 is a good stopping place for some!