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REVELATION’S EARLY DATE AND EXPECTED INFLUENCE

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  February 17, 2012 — 1 Comment

I believe that Revelation was written in AD 65-66 about events in AD 70. Some complain that if that is so, how could John have expected it to be widely circulated in so short a period of time? It seems the book’s grandiose vision would be largely wasted because of the time frame involved. It could do little good, especially since the bulk of its actions (on the preterist view) occur in Palestine.

How shall the preteristic postmillennialist respond? I would offer the following replies:

John’s Original Audience

First, we do not believe John knew the exact date the events would play out. It is not like he thought: “Well, it is now AD 66. I had better get to work on this book because these events are going to start up in earnest in AD 68 and will be over in AD 70.” Remember, he said the dates were “at hand” and “soon.” He did not say: “They will begin on March 15, A.D. 68.”

Second, nevertheless, Revelation is directed specifically to seven particular churches who could have easily gotten it quickly enough. These were the ones John was directly addressing and specifically concerned with. In fact, according to the majority of commentators, including dispensationalists Robert L. Thomas and John F. Walvoord (at Rev 1:11 in their commentaries), the order of appearance of those churches shows that they were arranged according to a Roman postal road. Since the closest of these seven churches was but fifty miles from Patmos, the churches would fairly quickly receive Revelation since they were on this know postal road.

Scripture’s Abiding Usefulness

Third, Revelation’s usefulness does not evaporate with the occurrence of the events of the Jewish War. Consider Isaiah 7 or Micah 5: they do not cease to be useful when Christ is finally born of a virgin in Bethlehem. Does Paul’s letter to the Corinthians about their particular problems (divisions among followers of Paul, Cephas, and Apollos; a man marrying his father’s wife; and so forth) have no meaning for us today? Most of the NT epistles are “occasional letters.” That is, they were written to address specific issues on certain occasions. Yet their authority and applicability still remain for us today as we apply the principles embodied therein.

Regarding Revelation, even after Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed, Christians would need to know what happened and why — since God had worked for so many centuries through Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple. Revelation presents these events in dramatic fashion to underscore the vitally important redemptive historical truths involved of the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant. The destruction of Jerusalem was no accident of history; it plays into the plan of the Lamb who had been slain as he avenges himself and his people against his assailants.

Revelation’s Future Application

Fourth, we can (and should! and must!) draw lessons from Revelation for all times. For example, consider the following observations:

(1) Paul warns in Rom 11 that God judges his old covenant people Israel and that we should not boast against those branches — because we too might be broken off. Wasn’t Israel God’s special people for so long? But look at what he did to them when they became unfaithful and rejected and slew their own Messiah.

(2) Revelation shows that Jerusalem’s destruction was no accident of history. It shows that behind the historical scenes, spiritual forces are at work as God works his plan in history.

(3) Revelation shows very clearly that God in the NT era also exercises wrath. He is not the liberal God-of-love that we hear so much about. Liberals often try to distinguish the OT conception of God from the NT conception. Revelation clearly undercuts that attempt.

(4) Revelation shows that God upholds his people in their trials. He answers their prayers — in his time and according to his plan. Though the Jews and Rome were persecuting our first century fathers, God upheld them. He will uphold you as well. After all, in each of the seven letters he urges upon the broader church: “He that has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

(5) Revelation shows that despite the might of Nero and Rome, when God opposes them, they are doomed. His people should not fear earthly forces arrayed against them.

(6) Revelation shows that God’s redemptive forces have been established (the redemptive new creation, cp. Rev 21:1-2 with 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15-16) in time and on earth, and that they will gloriously impact the outcome of history. This occurs as the new creation forces gradually (like a mustard seed!) flow out into the world. God is at work in history and moving it toward its goal, which is already unfolding around us.

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

One response to REVELATION’S EARLY DATE AND EXPECTED INFLUENCE

  1. In looking for a physical subduing of the literal nations-world, is that not where 1st century Irsael was mistaken ? A literal earthly super kingdom? Even though the world has its China’s,Iran’s, all the country’s of the world for that matter; God’s goal in history has been fulfilled in Christ, His supper Kingdom is a present reality everywhere, He has done it, He has established His eternal kingdom, God is with us, and we are His temple,He is in our presence, or are we to wait for His physical bodily presence with each of us in the unknown future sometime? thanks.

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