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THE TEMPLE PROBLEM FOR REVELATION’S DATING

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  February 18, 2012 — 3 Comments

Preteristic postmillennialism argues that the great catastrophes of Revelation occurred before the temple destroyed, which removes Revelation as an objection to the eventual growth and dominance of the gospel. One argument for the early date is based on Revelation 11:1–2:

Then there was given me a  measuring rod like a staff;  and  someone said, “Get up and measure the  temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. Leave out the  court which is outside the  temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will  tread under foot  the holy city for  forty-two months.”

We argue that John must be measuring an actual, historical temple in Rev 11:1-2, and that this serves as good evidence from John’s writing Revelation prior to the temple’s destruction. That passage reads:

Yet a problem arises when we consider Ezekiel measures a temple, even though it does not exist in history. This suggests that the temple does not need to exist for John to measure it. How do we explain this problem for the early date? Consider the following response.

Ezekiel’s prophecy expressly tells us that Israel has been attacked and destroyed. He opens with this statement: “Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” (Eze 1:1.) He is among the exiles because Jerusalem has been attacked and destroyed. Everyone knows that the temple was destroyed in these events.

Furthermore in Eze 40 where Ezekiel begins the measuring, he opens this vision with: “In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was taken, on that same day the hand of the Lord was upon me and He brought me there” (Eze 40:1). Thus, he introduces the temple vision with words that show the historical temple no longer exists.

Just before this prophecy of the measuring, Ezekiel is promised by God: “Therefore thus says the Lord God, “‘Now I shall restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I shall be jealous for My holy name’” (Eze 39:25).

After he measures the temple, he writes in Ezekiel 43:1-3, 7a:

“Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing toward the east; and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. And it was like the appearance of the vision which I saw, like the vision which I saw when He came to destroy the city. And the visions were like the vision which I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face….

And He said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will [future tense] dwell among the sons of Israel forever.”

Consequently, even a surface reading of Ezekiel repeatedly reminds the reader that the city (and thus the temple) is destroyed and the people exiled. But in Revelation there is no indication that he is having a vision of a future rebuilt temple. The clear implication is that the temple is standing but is in danger.

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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 80 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.

3 responses to THE TEMPLE PROBLEM FOR REVELATION’S DATING

  1. Dr. Gentry,

    Ezekiel is measuring the temple typified as the restored people of God. Why would John venture away from the foundation of this prophecy, and thus be measuring the physical temple? The is hermeneutically inconsistent. Thoughts?

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. March 20, 2012 at 6:30

      Ken (I like that name!):
      John repeatedly alters the OT prophecies to which he only alludes. Interestingly, he never quotes the OT, but only employs it allusively. Consider, for instance: it is obvious that the Beast in Rev 13 is based on Daniel’s beast in Dan 7. But John has only one beast; Daniel has four. Furthermore, John’s beast is a compound of three carnivores; Daniel’s of four. A careful study of Rev shows us that John generally does not intend to present the fulfillment of particular OT passages, but that he intends to employ their images so that he can mold his own prophetic work. Rev is filled with many, many examples of John’s altering his OT material. Thus, we see that John is not tied to the meaning of the OT passages.

      • Hi Dr. Gentry,

        Thanks! It is a great name, and good to see a great scholar like yourself who dons it. I have come to understand that these prophets indeed alluded to, and drew from, fulfilled, not fulfilled, and conditional prophecies in ways to accentuate and apply them to the early church, and this one does the same. It draws from Ezekiel’s temple in that John is measuring a worship center of God, that infers it is their worship is acceptable to God, since it is unharmed from the calamity that befalls the “courts and holy city.” As far as the beast is concerned, I agree, John likewise draws from the beasts of Daniel, however, it is John’s beast which is the final one, the one who causes great harm to the church at large, and could be none other than Rome, as I believe we would both agree there. Yet I still find it unconvincing that John would remove himself, or better said, the vision would remove itself from the underlying foundations from where it was founded. The beasts were governments, as both prophets would agree, as we would as well. Their makeup is irrelevant, but their symbolism, remained identical. Such I believe is the temple. Their makeup may be different, as Ezekiel would only understand it to be greater Israel, but for John, the revelation of Jesus Christ has come in Him, and he knows it is about remnant Israel and Gentile converts.

        Thanks for you time.

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