Saturday, February 18, 2012

On The Dating of Revelation

“No can do.”

That’s what David B Currie informs us in “Rapture – The End-Times Error That Leaves the Bible Behind” (p 456). He’s talking about Rev 22:10 where “rapturists attempt to place the fulfillment [of the time is near] twenty centuries later!” Currie argues that most of the events of Matthew 24 and Revelation have already taken place. However, he doesn’t believe that the second coming of Christ occurred at 70 AD. In fact he takes hyperpreterism to task for teaching that (p 465).

His issue is with the word “tachos” in Rev 1:1 regarding the “things which must ‘soon’ take place”. Perhaps the real problem is that Currie wants to place the events of the seals back to 70 AD to defend his adopted Roman Catholic eschatology. Yet his own argument is precarious because a similar expression is used in Rev 3:11 (tachu) and other places where the Lord warns the churches that He is coming quickly. We know that the Lord didn’t come then – or the early church fathers would have noted it – now it’s “twenty centuries later” and He still hasn’t come.

So, we actually “can do”.

Tony Garland provides insight into this alleged quandary in his excellent commentary on Revelation HERE. Robert L Thomas also addresses the issue in his exegetical commentary on Revelation 1-7 (pp 54-56). Dr Thomas cites Henry Alford (among others) and his expository can be read HERE. Alford uses Luke 18:7-8 as one example where similar expressions imply “long delay”.

One of Currie’s contentions is that Revelation was written around 68 AD. If he can support that conclusion then he can gain some traction in arguing that most of the Olivet Discourse and Revelation events were fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. If John wrote Revelation later than 70 AD then Currie’s eschatological assumptions suffer a fatal blow.

Currie somehow sees internal evidence for an early date in the fact that only seven churches were addressed by the Lord. On page 457, he says: “By 96 A.D., there would have been many more than seven Churches to address.” He rejects the suggestion that the seven “encompass the entire scope of St. John’s concern”. However, we need only look at Paul’s Epistles to realize that, in fact, there were many more churches prior to 68 AD that weren’t mentioned in Revelation. It should seem obvious that there were instructive reasons for the Lord to single out those churches that were mentioned.

In “Ancient Witnesses” (p 460) he rejects the argument that John was imprisoned by Domitian between 81 and 96 AD (as per Irenaeus). Currie appeals to Epiphanius who states that John was first imprisoned under Claudius who reigned from 41 to 54 AD. Claudius was another name for one can see where the argument is heading. He then cites Dr Robert Young (Young’s Analytical Concordance) to discount Irenaeus’ witness. According to Currie (p 462):“Dr Young held that the original word Domitianou was later ‘stupidly mistaken’ (his words) as Domitianakos...” So if Domitianou refers to Nero and Domitianakos refers to Domitian then Currie has his early date.

Irenaeus (130-202 AD) wrote: "We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For [he] was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign.”

That last statement fits the later 96 AD date rather than the mid to late 60s.

For various reasons, Nero doesn’t fit the Antichrist’s credentials despite the fact that one can force the number 666 to equal his name (p 457). Nero committed suicide in 68 AD. There was no wound that he was miraculously healed of (Rev13: 3, 12, 14), no miraculous signs and wonders (Rev 13:14) and he didn’t sit in the Temple at Jerusalem proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thess 2:3-4). One can only conceivably fit Nero into the role if one takes great liberties with the texts - which flies in the face of Scott Hahn’s assertion in his Forward to Currie’s book that, “The Fundamentalist tendency is to read each biblical context in isolation from the other texts and from the larger context.....”(p viii).

Of course, given Irenaeus’ observations, he also seemed to have missed the alleged connection between Nero and the Antichrist.

One example of Currie’s circular reasoning occurs on page 451. Consider that he believes that the Roman Catholic Church (the Magisterium) has equal authority with Scripture in the sense that it can proclaim doctrine that hasn’t been taught in the Bible. His premise is that some early church fathers doubted John’s authorship of Revelation because of its perceived “millenarianism”. He notes that “an apostle would never have held the millenarian position that they thought was integral to The Apocalypse.” They objected to the “Jewish” concepts in Revelation. Currie’s solution is that Augustine came along and “conclusively showed that the book does not have a millenarian slant (unless the reader brings it with him).”

To that I would add that only if one does NOT take Revelation at face-value (Rev 20: 1-14) can one then discount millenarianism (Rev 22:18-19).

Dr Mark Hitchcock has written an in-depth 229 page dissertation defending the Domitianic date of Revelation. You can read it HERE

He has also debated Hank Hanegraaff, who can’t seem to be able to decide whether he is a preterist or not. You can watch it HERE

Dan Phillips of Pyromaniacs has a great article on Henry Alford HERE

Henry Alford’s commentaries can also be accessed via Precept Austin HERE

Further reading:

Millennial Series

Theology Adrift: The Early Church Fathers and Their Views of Eschatology

The Reign of Christ and the Great White Throne (Rev 20:1-15)

The Danger of Teaching that All or Most Prophecies Were Fulfilled in 70 A.D.

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