In this brief series I am providing “talking points” in answer to common questions. I hope these are helpful.
Is there any evidence that the early church understood Revelation thus?
(1) Ironically this question exposes the fundamental error of the futurist viewpoint. It recognizes the need of Revelation’s relevance to its first century audience, which preterism fits perfectly.
(2) This type of question could answered in the negative with no harm done to the preterist view. For we learn from the Gospels that the disciples constantly misunderstood Jesus’ own teaching and were even surprised that he died and even more so that he was resurrected. Even within Revelation Jesus chastises the churches for not having “ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” He chastens them for their dullness of hearing and for their falling away from their first love. Spiritual dullness does not negate the validity of divine revelation. The Jews as a whole missed the entire coming of the Messiah, even though the Old Testament clearly prophesied it. Subjective apprehension does not determine objective reality.
(3) Revelation’s warning about Rome and the coming Jewish War are not just matters found only in this book. We find these issues in the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24), the parables of Jesus (Mt 20-23), and various warnings of impending judgment elsewhere in the NT (2 Thessalonians; Hebrews; James; 1 Peter). The question could be legitimately be asked whether Christians understood those references too. Grammatical exegesis leads us to the proper interpretation, not historical understanding by the early Christians.
(4) Unfortunately, due to the chaos produced by the events of the destruction of Jerusalem we have very few records of Christianity in the era of the Jewish War and just after. So we really have no documents from that time period which inform us as to what they believed. We do know, however, from later sources that the early Christians understood the coming judgment upon Israel and Jerusalem. Eusebius particularly mentions their escaping as the Jewish War broke out. And we have some later, though ancient, comments on Revelation indicating knowledge that its events refer to the Jewish War (the Syriac versions of Revelation mention it was written under Nero; Andreas and Arethas of Capadocia, etc.)
(5) The purpose of Revelation includes more than immediate warning to escape Jerusalem, but also presents other important matters:
(a) It explains the collapse of Jerusalem, which was the headquarters of the Church (Acts 8; 15).
(b) It demonstrates God’s concern for his people: he will both vindicate them and protect them through trials and tribulations. Thus, his enemies are warned and his people encouraged.
The Climax of the Book of Revelation (Rev 19-22)
Six lectures on six DVDs that introduce Revelation as a whole,
then focuses on its glorious conclusion.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com