Thursday, December 1, 2016

Commentary on Revelation 11:1-2

Preterists like to point out that neither the ancient nor the Reformation theologians penned a commentary on the book of Revelation. By this, the preterists imply that eschatology has not been addressed in any systematic manner until along came the preterists. However, the book of Revelation is merely a cryptic version of much of the content found within the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24/Mk 13/Lk 17 & 21) which has been extensively commented on by various scholars down through the ages.

The book of Revelation has always been a difficult book to interpret and an especially popular book for speculators and would be "prophesy" buffs to dabble within. You can take the symbolic language and spin it almost anyway you want and you'll sound like you got a Jack Van Impe degree. This is partly the reason theologians have avoided commenting on the book of Revelation; not because they didn't have a systematic eschatology. As a matter of fact, eschatology is perhaps the doctrine upon which historic Christianity is MOST unified if we just consider the 4 main aspects of endtimes theology. The Church is in 100% agreement despite denominational position:

  • Jesus is yet to return.
  • The collective resurrection of the saints is yet to be.
  • The judgment of the wicked and righteous is yet to be
  • The end of sin and culmination of God's plan is yet to be.
But what I want to address in this article are the opening verses of Revelation 11. Note that verse 1 begins with the word and so it is obviously a carry over from verses in chapter 10. As a matter of fact, many sentences in the preceding chapters begin with the word and, so let's see if we can determine the start of the context for Revelation 11:1-3. The overarching context is the apostle John being shown in a vision or in person the expanse of Heaven and its environs at the supposed apocalypse. So in Revelation 11:1 we see John being told to measure the Temple of God and the altar.

And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. -- Rev 11:1
The immediate question is what and where are these structures; the temple of God and the altar? Are they the earthly structures in Jerusalem or something in Heaven? The further context of Revelation 11:2 seems to indicate an earthly structure since we see mention of Gentiles, holy city, and treading under foot. Certainly we cannot think a Heavenly, spiritual Temple is going to be tread underfoot; a reference to hostile occupation or destruction. Compare Revelation 11:2 with Luke 21:24.

But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. -- Rev 11:2


Revelation 11:1-2 are especially important to the question of the dating of the book of Revelation. If the book was written after AD70, then John's vision here is a history rather than a foretelling of events. If the book of Revelation was written in AD95-96 as many posit, basing on an obscure reference by Irenaeus who said either John or the book of Revelation were seen around that time; then it is a history book. Unfortunately there are a great number of scholars who advocate for the late or early date, so that doesn't solve the issue. (late dateearly date)

But if we look just at Revelation 11:1-2 again, we would seem to come to the conclusion that John is talking about the Herodian Temple that would be tread underfoot by the Romans for forty two months (3 and a half years), especially since the holy city most often refers to Jerusalem.(See Lk 21:20) Perhaps another option as advocated by many Dispensationalists is that Revelation 11:1-2 speaks of some future, rebuilt temple. The problem with that interpretation is that it contradicts the Bible in other places which seem to indicate that the Herodian Temple was going to be destroyed and God would never again use a physical building to indicate His symbolic dwelling place on earth. See Acts 7:48 & Acts 17:24 for example. There is no warrant for inserting a rebuilt Temple and nothing that would indicate God would ever dwell there or that it would be considered "holy" in the way the Temple was in Jesus' time.

So, what we can conclude is that if we believe in a pre-AD70 authorship of Revelation 11:1-2 then John is seeing things about to happen, especially since Revelation 1:1-3 actually says:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. -- Rev 1:1-3

A person would be hard pressed to interpret Revelation 11:1-2 as some future Temple. Are we then advocating the preterist interpretation that Jesus returned in AD70 since we are agreeing these other events happened in AD70? Emphatically NO. We don't dispute (nor do most theologians past) the imminence with which many of the events in the Olivet Discourse were to take place. Jesus was indeed ABOUT TO/SOON/AT HAND/SHORTLY come...but it was a coming TO the Father, the Ancient of Days as we see in Daniel 7:13-14 and Mt 26:64. A coming in glory and vindication, not merely at Christ's ascension but in His exalted station. The problem with preterism is that is confuses the concept of coming with returning.

1 comment:

JBsptfn said...

Roderick, you should check this book out that I read:

Amazon: Steve Wohlberg-End Time Delusions

You can get it for real cheap. Steve makes a good case against Preterism and Futurism, as well as the identity of antichrist.