The Dire Consequences of Disregarding Internal Evidence
by Mark Mountjoy
The ordeal of interpretive ambivalence, aspect blindness and systemic abdication of the imperative to understand the Book of Revelation as the culmination of a narrative, a larger story and a Semitic epitome passing from a narrow national stage to a universal, transcendent and ultimate framework is the direct result of massive academic failures along the way—denying explicit indicators from the Old Testament prophets, (Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) subverting the prophecies of Jesus himself, ('this generation', the fall of Jerusalem, the coming of the Son of man, the coming of the kingdom of God) and playing fast and loose with the emphatic words of the Apostles and their amanuensis (e.g., "the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly"1; "in yet a very little while and he that shall come will come and will not delay"2 ; "the judge is standing at the door"3 ; "the end of all things is at hand"4; "the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass"5)—by not paying attention, or by deliberately ignoring the Words of God the subject of apocalyptic seems like a hopeless mess and every man's interpretation is right in his own eyes and the Bible's own claims, notwithstanding, are despised as desperate and wishful thinking or else out-and-out fiction.
What is interpretive ambivalence? This is the inability or unwillingness to define a book, a chapter or a verse as meaning anything definitive or sure. Hostile leaders of the people in Jesus' day, in some cases, were unwilling to say or admit to a logical conclusion based on the ramifications or implications that they could see were involved. It could be that the logic of a situation is viewed as completely undesirable or, perhaps a particular interpretation could deprive them of the basis of power or the cloak of authority. Many reasons can be offered as to motivations, but it is clear today that of all the books of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation is, by far, the one in which the majority of scholars and laymen alike, are vague and uneasy about making definitive pronouncements of what it certainly means and what it certainly says.
But this ambivalence does not cover all topics in the book (as one might expect). Instead, the bulk of the material in John's revelation is chalked up to insinuations about the Romans, their army, their capital, their religion, but, ultimately, authorities are completely certain that at the end of time Jesus is coming back in glory and there is but one universal resurrection.
This, out of a book that is filled to the brim with such suggestive detail and intricate knowledge of the Old Testament that it literally breathes the rhythm of Old Testament justice and the spirit of destruction and deliverance not unlike the words of Hosea, Obediah, Zechariah or Micah and yet the fact that these transactions cannot be seen or observed in the history of the rise, stabilization or fall of the Roman Empire casts a gigantic pall over the entire suggestion and makes the confession of it seem feigned or almost a jest or an obligatory confession believed insincerely.
On the matter of aspect blindness, it is an observable fact that references in the Book of Revelation that lead straight back to the Gospels (Matthew and Mark and Luke and John), but in the so-called Four Views, these do not serve as guidelines or connection points to any of the claims voiced in the Book of Revelation. This blindness prevents scholars and students from seeing in the Book of Revelation the Revelation of Jesus Christ—this means that men and women literally cannot see the very thing the prologue says the book was written about! They do not see the Second Coming as being a circumstantial and integral aspect of the fall of first Jerusalem and second century Israel; they do not see the resurrection of the dead as happening twice at the end of ancient Israel's history; they do not comprehend how the kingdom of God came in the midst of the terrible Jewish civil war that raged from A.D.66—70; they do not acknowledge, but await eagerly for the day to come when Jesus shall marry the Church (the destruction of Jerusalem over two thousand years ago, notwithstanding).
This aspect of blindness (which, by the way, is real and widespread) has no true beginnings in New Testament misunderstandings, but it begins in the source of the motifs in Daniel where, for instance, the coming of the Son of man to the Ancient of Days to receive the dominion, authority, and power is clearly and indelibly marked out as happening in the final years, days and moments of the fourth principality of Bible prophecy (Daniel 7:7-27).
Therein is the source, and yet it will be observed that even the many commentaries—by provided by eastern or western Christians—on Daniel 2 and 7 wallow in what are essentially repetitive conjectures and gaffes in understanding, gaffes that lead in circles, gaffes that rely on Early Church Fathers for their ultimate authority; gaffes that serve only to justify forestalling a definite conclusion—or of assuming, with dogmatism, that no conclusion can be possible (under any circumstances). This is truly tragic!
So when Jesus, in the New Testament, essentially follows the same assumptions outlined in these antecedent prophecies (predictably) no one is the wiser (and even the wisdom of Jesus is, with embarrassment, doubted). Herein lies the debacle of why and how Jesus' words in Matthew 4:23; 6:10; 8:11-12; 10:7-23; 11:12-24, 12:39-45, 13:36-43; 15:1-9; 16:27-28; 19:28; 20:20-23; 21:33-46; 22:1-13; 23:1-39; 24:1-51; 25:1-46; 26:62-66 do not ring a bell in the hearts and minds of orthodox Christian interpreters (almost as a rule).
We start off on a journey of faith, not by unfaith, but by believing more and more. We do not default to unbelief whenever difficult issues arise, but we resort to God through prayer. We do not beg the Church for her answers, but we humbly beg God for his wisdom and insight. From these spiritual habits we go from faith to faith, on to increasing spiritual maturity and abounding love in the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:40 cf. Hebrews 5:12).
Systemic abdication is the attitude and notion that a particular person or group has no responsibility to or for this subject. A person or a group may harbor that they do not "have" to have or know the truth of what the Book of Revelation means. They may believe they do not have to come anywhere near trying to understand what the Bible actually says or means about the Second Coming of Christ.
Now, this abdication runs real deep and is not exclusive to one particular viewpoint, but, in fact, has several chief guises that it goes by: Amillennialism, Postmillennialism, Dispensational, and Ultra-dispensational Premillennialism and Historicism. In these formats, systemic abdication will justify itself by fudging on a date the Book of Revelation was supposedly written (A.D.95). This is a rueful date that will actively not allow its internal contents any dissonance with history in Jewish or Roman antiquity, either.
Now, this is an amazing thing! It is amazing mainly that in either case the late date for the Book of Revelation STILL won't let the Book of Revelation be resolved by consulting any events that happened to the Romans, their capital, their empire, or their army. No soon-Second Coming and no coming of the kingdom of God in power anywhere in the long, long road that was Roman history (absolutely nothing!). This, therefore, shows the A.D.95 date to be nothing more than a futile ruse designed to "buy time" or at the very least, to cling to plausible deniability (even at the cost of falsifying what the Apostle John testified would happen shortly).
But one cannot "buy time" on the Apocalyptic budget of the Bible when the book itself is screaming, from the prologue to the epilogue that the time is near, soon, shortly, and at hand! Such warnings cannot be directed at the Roman civilization, its so-called "domestic and commercial injustices", idolatrous religion or its alleged economic disparities or even its phenomenal existence without doing great injury to the texts which speak of nothing short of total oblivion (Revelation 19:11-21; 20:7-15) followed by indescribable hope and joy and glory (Revelation 21:1-27 and 22:1-14). That was not the course of the Romans, who went from being the persecutors of Christians to the Constantinoplian patrons and protectors of Christians to fragmentation and decline and death, under the auspices of Osman Bey's Ottoman Empire.
This varied and sometimes tragic history of the nation of the Cross, far from indicating the transfer of kingdom power to peoples other than Christians, proved to be for the long-range good of the Church, who now enjoys a flooding influx of multitudes of all nations and (even as we speak) now stands ready to surpass the three billion mark in the very near future.
Revelation's trajectory of events, as we have said before, follows the timeline of events played out in the last days of the Second Jewish Commonwealth—and not any other civilization will fit this imperative so neatly and so flawlessly. The time has come for Christians to reassess the Apocalypse in terms of nothing else or more or less than its Hebrew roots and the catastrophic week of activities stretching from A.D.66 to A.D.136. We promise you, if due diligence is coupled with prayer and the strongest possible desire to both love and please God, no disappointment in your hopes in Jesus Christ will ever befall you, but you will, instead, be steadied in your faith that the New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is absolutely and completely true, from beginning to end, without question.
A 'Perverse' Canon Law
One of the main consequences of disregarding internal evidence will be the implementation of Canon Law, which is the exacting of punishment on any and all who dare to question the fixed creedal beliefs Christians have hallowed for themselves over the past twenty centuries. Now, the perverseness of canon law stems precisely from the fact that it upholds what the Bible actually does not advocate, but it decries what the Bible does endorse. Canon law does not emerge from understanding, but from ignorance, conjecture, and authoritarianism only; these are not informed by the Word of God and being beholden to them justifies people in the eyes of men, but certainly not in the eyes of the judge of the earth, who will do right. The canon law of Christian churches, while not being entirely false, in the matter of apocalyptics could be labeled and described as essentially pointless if not "evil."
The spirit of Exodus 23:2 can help Christians, far and near, to put their hope in God's word, not the Church, its creeds or famous literary figures—St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, Martin Luther, John Calvin, or Hal Lindsey. A legal viewpoint that will condemn a Christian as a "heretic" even though the prophets, and Jesus, and the Apostles upheld a contrary confession, is clearly wrong and must be examined, tested and abandoned by all God's people with haste.
While riding in a truck with another Christian back in 1982 he began to complain about the falsehoods and pretensions of the (LDS) Mormon Church and how they perverted the teachings of the Bible. I totally agreed with him that Joseph Smith led them astray with the Book of Mormon and the angel Moroni story, but I asked him if he believed we Christians had to say the same things Jesus said about the Second Coming, or not?
He agreed that we have to believe and teach what Jesus said, no questions about it! I had him note Matthew 24:29-30 and Mark 13 and then I asked him which generation did Jesus say those things would happen in? I asked him, Was it our generation today, or their generation then? He became seriously unhappy when he looked over in the Gospel of Mark (chapter 13) and saw there was no escape from the implications of what Jesus said would happen.
And I found this to be a very strange thing! It is easier for Christians to criticize and chastise the cults—Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, the World Mission Society Church of God—than to face the facts of so many failed Second Coming prophecies we made stretching back to the second century under Montanus, Priscilla, and Maximilla. Those prophecies (which never came true) were a pain in the Church's side!
When people make up stuff it makes it look like the New Testament could be false, too.
Now, we need not fear that what we have to share will be despised by everyone. There are always people everywhere who are interested in the truth. But you may find (like I do) that it is easier and less stressful to share this material with a Christian one-on-one than in a group. And why is that?
Because, it seems, in a group, there could be interference. In a group, there could be those who are completely and utterly devoted to the status quo. The status quo to them is "The Truth." The status quo also has force because it is supported by that group's agreement and when you are on their property you are literally on their turf and territory. And since this is the case, we have to teach but be ever mindful to do so in neutral environments to avoid running the risk of seeming sneaky, transgressive, or underhanded about what we are trying to share.
We trespass whenever we do not have permission to teach something in someone else's territory, but in God's kingdom, we must aim to exercise the right to teach what the prophets, and Jesus, and the Apostles taught us so that we can speak freely in group contexts and settings among ourselves (and this is the point of developing and nurturing Christian partnerships whenever we can). If we consistently follow this rule, before long we can invite more and more people to accompany us and participate in our circles of leadership and influence, and services.
The conclusion that the Book of Revelation is true because of the fulfillment of past Semitic realities must fill each Christian with hope and joy and wonder that never ceases.
No longer can we afford to harbor even the inkling of a suspicion that a New Testament begun in truth and certainty all of a sudden (supposedly) ends in the scandal of hopeless denial and equivocation that the Four Views of Bible prophecy imply. The four Gospels lead to one Cross event and the Book of Revelation does not naturally lead to the Four Views of apologetic creedalism.
They, therefore, cannot be vouched for, and because they cannot be vouched for, they must be roundly rejected, not out of hand with the spirit of conceited disregard, but through careful study to confirm our Christian faith-based on a foundation clearly evident in the timeline and circumstances revealed in the Book of Daniel and the other prophets, Jesus our Lord, and his Apostles.
This must not end there, though: Jesus' words must mean something and, not only his words, but the parameters he put around them must guide and direct and permeate our motivations and our thoughts, each and every step of the way. We each have a choice: to either deny the evidence three times or admit the evidence that is preserved for us, three times. If we choose to admit the evidence then we can have no doubt that justifies four opinions that directly oppose Jesus' stated vows, edicts, and certainties. When we reach this level of awareness and of inner conviction and the peace it brings, we have but to teach others of our kingdom and heavenly hope and do so with meekness and boldness and firmness, as we are commanded to do, "As the oracles of God."
3 James 5:1-9.
4 1 Peter 4:7 and see also 2 Peter 2:1-3 and 3:12-14., note: It is impossible to "hasten" an event which is not actually near and those Christians were encouraged to do. If the end they looked for is actually situated at the end of the material universe, how could they "look for" and "hasten" it two thousand years ago?
5 Revelation 1:1. Note: Revelation 1:1 abrogates what Jesus said in Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32. If Christians can admit that "God" in Revelation 1:1 is God the Father, then it will be easy for them to see that he "gave" the time of Jesus' coming at the same moment the Book of Revelation was vouchsafed to the Apostle John on the Eve of the First Great Jewish War and the ensuing Destruction of Jerusalem. This also means that Revelation 1:3 and 7; 2:24-25; 3:3; 3:10-11; 16:15; 19:1-8 and 22:6, and 7, and 10, and 12 and 20 also nullify what Jesus said in Matthew and Mark—why? Because the only one who knew, made it known to the Son when he gave him the knowledge of it in the very first verse of the prologue of the Book of Revelation. To gainsay this is to assert that the Father himself did not know either and did not reveal this to his Son (as the verse explicitly says and which is clearly evident and demonstrable in the more than ten verses like it that are strung from the very beginning to the very end of the Book of Revelation).