Confronting Patristic Apocalyptic
Traditions in Constructive Talks
by Mark Mountjoy
After fifteen centuries of supremacy, Amillennialism is finally being challenged by serious contenders for the epithet “orthodox Biblical eschatology.” First conceptualized by St. Augustine, it remained unchallenged until a little longer than a generation ago when Dispensational Premillennialism stole the scene with its sensational current events claims—claims about the birth of the modern State of Israel; claims about the supposed rebuilding of a third Jewish Temple; claims about the coming of the Lord Jesus in the clouds within forty years of the establishment of the Jewish State and claims about a Soviet “Gog and Magog” invasion of the Land of Israel—these claims (and more) collapsed under the weight of reality in the last seventy years.1 When it remained to be seen what would become of such hopes, Amillennialists were quite unable to best Premillennialism’s charms, but Amillennial officials simply waited; time was on their side, and (as expected) Premillennial apocalyptic claims went unanswered and, disillusioned masses began to question their assumptions and to look around and grope for the older Christian apocalyptic narrative that is Amillennialism. Not completely satisfied, but considering Amillennialism as the more reliable option, Amillennialism is enjoying a slight resurgence in popularity; however, a new contender has entered the race: Preterism. Strongly resembling Amillennialism (in many ways) the ‘mother’ and the ‘daughter’ view each other with wary suspicion. Amillennial officials, in fact, are notorious for their ambivalence or hostility to all things Preterist and we want in this essay to invite them to entertain (for the sake of dialogue) that apprehensions may stem more from Amillennialism’s own inherent unfamiliarity with some basic and fundamental realities of the New Testament and Second Temple history than anything truly sinister, ill-willed or misconstrued in Atavist claims.
Self-Reflection in the Interest
of Intramural Christian Talks
He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened. This statement holds true for each of us as the enemy within is more dangerous than the enemy without. It is important for Christians to recall and abide by Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we obey this revolutionary commandment it will save the Christian church from the grief of unnecessarily tearing itself apart when we could have sat down as brothers and sisters over a meal and talked things over in a brotherly and civilized way—the Christian way. Not debating but dialogue (I urge) should be the top priority of all who follow this website and ministry. What is the advantage of dialogue over debate? These: In dialogue (as Pastor Wagdy Iskander has observed) you gain a friend; in a debate you make enemies. At all events we do not want to best other Christians; we want to bring out the best in each other; we were all bought with a price and, it is not what we know that matters at the end of the day, but did we love each other deeply in spite of our differences? The need for self-reflection on all sides of the questions of concern in these discussions has to do with each one of us being willing and able to question our own assumptions—addressing matters of high irony, addressing the dearth of evidence in John’s Revelation to deal with questions about Revelation within the established framework, order, and direction of Revelation itself (without question-begging, superimposing preconceived notions, evasions, and equivocations). It is about realizing when an assumption cannot be sustained, making comparisons between the Roman world and the Jewish world to reconsider just what backdrop best fits the picture we see stated or implied in Revelation. It is also about the issue of time statements; the annunciations of the New Testament vs. Amillennial apocalyptic lore; confronting and owning up to cognitive dissonance and making a deliberate move towards academic, Biblical, and interpretive competency. These are goals I hope you will consider as you examine and think about the thrust of this essay.
Amillennialism Presents High Interpretive Ironies
Amillennialism claims to explore and explain the redemptive history, but (sadly and tragically) ignores Jewish salvation history. For example, Kim Riddlebarger, an Amillennial apologist, and scholar, in his book, The Case for Amillennialism writes,
My purpose is to set forth the historic Protestant understanding of the millennial age. This position is commonly known as amillennialism and is centered on the present reign of Jesus Christ. Amillennialism is grounded in redemptive history, the historical acts of God as they unfold in the Bible to provide for the salvation of his people.2
Riddlebarger is eager to make the case for the Protestant (not earliest Christian) understanding of the millennial age, but, as we shall see, Amillennialism has little regard for the last seventy years of Biblical Judaism and has little or nothing to say about it. It even would go so far as to find in those events absolutely no significance whatsoever! The claim, then, of being grounded in ‘historical acts of God’ is the height of irony and only serves to prove, for all and sundry, that the view comes far, far short of its stated premises and goals. But, one cannot talk about the historic founding of the Tent, Tabernacle, and Temple, or the sacrifices, oblations, tithes, and offerings, or priests and priesthood and the courses and holy days and then turn around and refuse to acknowledge the public dismissal of those same institutions and realities. One also cannot turn a blind eye to the ignoble and sacrilegious circumstances and surprising supernatural signs that attended the dismissal of those forms from the stage of first and second-century world history—history attested in scores of reports. These reports come down to us from reliable and esteemed sources—Josephus and Tacitus, the Babylonian Talmud, and Cassius Dio, not fiction writers and people writing with agendas or ulterior motives. It is high irony for Christians to make claims about redemptive history supporting their view of Bible prophecy and that support does not take, as a given, the Destruction of Jerusalem and all its attendant events with more than a grain of salt. The New Testament cannot be even understood without realizing its emphasis on the upcoming events which would lead to the disappearance of those forms, structures, and institutions that Christ’s mortal foes took for granted (Heb. 8:13 cf. Heb. 12:28).
Between Paul and John—An Overemphasis and Imbalance
Amillennial eschatology mainly relies on the ideas of the Apostle Paul rather than the writings of the Apostle John. The Amillennial system makes much of the coming of the Lord (with some difficulty in the Gospels). Its emphasis is placed especially on the sayings and writings of the Apostle Paul. First, Acts 1:11 sets the stage (rather than Synoptic and Johannine promises like Matt. 10:23, 16:27-28; 24:29-34 and 26:64 and Jno. 21:21-23). After Acts 1:11 is taken as a new subject and premise (which it is not) Paul’s words in Acts 17:31 (without the understanding of the meaning of the word “will”—which is tthe Greek verb μέλλω) it is assumed as a virtually timeless and perennial promise (which assumption should be suspect). And then, moreover, in 1 Corinthians 15:50-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, Amillennial teachers and enthusiasts fondly and confidently claim that Jesus will (after thousands and thousands of years) come back to do those things stated in these passages. But very little attention is paid to the surrounding contexts of any of these passages; the promises are just lifted with impunity from each and it is assumed that Paul has our world in mind, not his own, however, these conclusions about Paul’s ideas, writings, and doctrines are the opposite of the truth. (1 Cor. 7:29; Ro. 16:20 and 2 Tim. 4:1) The problem of context is only compounded by the fact that the audience relevance features present in Pauline texts continue to play a huge role in the Johannine text, too. The problem of context, moreover, in the surrounding contexts in Paul gets little regard; the problem of context is even increased because the same considerations get even less in John’s Revelation—and the stakes are more urgent there—and higher. Furthermore, Jewish persecution (which had begun in the days of Stephen, Acts 7:54-69) has reached all the way out to the western seaboard of Asia Minor. (Rev. 2:9 and 3:9) The fact that Jewish persecution was going on at all tells us that the Fall of Jerusalem had not yet happened, for had it happened the Jewish propensity to persecute would have been significantly muted (if it was not entirely silenced), but it was not. If Amillennialism’s emphasis on Paul’s claims diminishes both the Jewish oppression and persecution problem and the so-called imminent parousia expectation dilemma (and it does), it doubles down in this regard when these same features are presented in the book of Revelation. We want to both note and address these instances below.
Amillennialism Has an Elusive and Fluid Framework
Amillennialism highlights and attempts to infer apocalyptic texts to the Romans and their imperial history, but Amillennialism's Roman-based presuppositions and a priori assumptions do not compute and cannot be equated with any history in Roman or non-Semitic Ancient Near Eastern antiquity. Specifically, Amillennialism assumes Roman world history and Roman obstruction of the Gospel or antagonism to Christians are the problems being faced by early believers in the Book of Revelation texts. However, Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 and the marking of the twelve tribes of Israel (exempting them from the horrors of upcoming judgment) do not tend to allude that in the eyes of John a Roman catastrophe from God to defend Christians against Roman offenses was then looming. Rather, if anything, a Jewish catastrophe—of breathtaking proportions—was waiting in the wings; everything in the book of Revelation falls neatly into place once this is understood and acknowledged.3
The Amillennial Theory Has Trouble
Seeing the Forest for the Trees
It is entirely possible to have read the Bible for years and years and still pick it up and read it again for the very first time. This phenomenon has happened to many people before. Sometimes it happens when you read something someone else noticed and you check on it and notice it, too. Sometimes it happens by a spark of insight from the Holy Spirit. Millions of Christians need to read the Bible for the first time (literally and figuratively). They need to do this because Amillennialism currently fails to detect or recognize the blatant Semitic milieu of the book of Revelation. Closely related to the above, Amillennialists fail to notice the glaring Semitic hallmarks scattered throughout the book. Hallmarks, code words and expressions sound like this: ‘Balaam’ ‘Jews,’ ‘Jezebel,’ ‘synagogue,’ “mountains fall on us and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,” “the twelve tribes of the children of Israel,” “the Temple of God,” the “great city where our Lord was crucified.” In addition, motifs such as the sounding of the last trumpet and the fulfillment of the coming of the kingdom of God with power, the church fleeing into the wilderness for one thousand two hundred and sixty days, the rise and fall (initially successful but ultimately failed) army in a forty-two-month historical window circumscribes and constricts what we may rationally derive from the prophecies or is corrollary in history. And besides this, a mark, name or number given on right hands, forehead, the divine confutation of those hoping to establish a kingdom, the bombardment of their capital with one hundred pound stones and the destruction of their city in the lifetime of the Apostle John are clear and concrete cues that tell us of the Semitic, rather than the so-called Latin or Papal nature of the events in the book of Revelation. Once Christians recognize and see these details it will not be easy to unsee or continue to lose their way as they traverse the book in ensuing studies and exegesis of the texts and passages.
Amillennialism’s Plausible Denials
Amillennialism’s attitude toward very specific time statements in the Book of Revelation is concerning. Time statements and audience relevance are not Amillennialism’s strong suit. These particular features in the rest of the New Testament, in fact, are cause for embarrassment for some of them; these features make them think Jesus, Peter, and Paul were ahead of their time—or worse—dead wrong. For example, in the Synoptics and John, the emphasis of Jesus’ apocalyptic utterances is upon their fulfillment in ‘this generation’ (the period of his contemporaries). The unity and harmony of the Olivet Discourse; the difference between imminence and immanence; when the Book of Revelation was written and the identity of Jerusalem of Jesus‘ day therein; the beginning and end of events in chapters 19 and 20 and whether or not the return of Satan (that wicked spirit) happens in the lifetime of Jesus‘ contemporaries or is as far away as entropy, billions of years outside of his day and time—these are all specific aspects which need to be addressed and resolved; together, with God’s help, we can do it. And this is needful precisely because these difficulties stand in the way of Amillennialism’s claim to be Biblical eschatology. These problems beset the view and make its claims problematic for teachers and Bible students alike. These aspects (when denied and suppressed or imperiously insisted upon as good and right) make the book of Revelation impossible to place in a historic context—a context that guarantees any predictable results, or one that makes any sense or that yields any sensical or tangible results. Affirming its stated goal of explaining ‘redemptive history’ but denying the last seventy or so years of Jewish salvation history presents enormous and insurmountable problems for all parties concerned with, not only the meaning of the book but also the historical veracity of its claims. Without being able to connect the book's events to anything that happened in the real world, it is impossible to truly appreciate the circumstances that called for the message in the first place. The sayings of Jesus on the bottom of the chart (which Amillennialists take great exception to and issue with) demand that Christians sit down together and talk these things over; progress, solutions, and resolutions will not come in any other way.
Amillennialism’s Achilles’ Heel
Amillennialism's ten brazen errors—errors that are easily refuted—can be called their Achilles’ Heel. By naming a few specific claims made by our brethren,(and claims that can be checked on either in the Bible or in classical Roman, Jewish, or Church history), we can narrow down and eliminate certain notions from our discussion and concentrate our efforts on specifics. For these purposes, there are ten items we want to circle, highlight and address. These are claims that just will not stand up in light of hard facts—facts that are easily attested through documentation that is not difficult to obtain and examine independently.
What are these items?
(1) Amillennialists specifically believe the events of Revelation would not occur in the lifetime of the seven churches of Asia Minor. Instead, it is believed Revelation speaks of a tribulation stretching out over a very extended period of time (from the first century on and up till the final coming of Jesus).
(2) Amillennialists believe the book of Revelation (as well as the rest of the New Testament) emphasizes immanence rather than imminence.
(3) Amillennialists insist the Book of Revelation was written 25 years after the Second Temple ceased to exist.
(4) Amillennialists implicitly believe that “the holy city” = pagan or Papal Rome. (Rev. 11:2)
(5) “The great city where our Lord was crucified” according to Amillennialism = Rome. (Rev. 11:8)
(6) The expression “without the city” probably = Rome. (Rev. 14:20)
(7a) Amillennialists tend to believe that the name, number, or mark of the beast may have something to do with Emperor Nero and the culmination of all evil from three prior empires into the embodiment of evil in the Roman Empire. (Rev. 13:14-18)
(7b) Nero could be the sixth ruler in reference to Revelation 17:10. The real question and what determines if the answer for this one is yes is if all the surrounding details and the larger circumstances of Revelation chapters 13-19 will support him playing such a central role, if not, then the answer is a definite no.
(8) One thousand two hundred and sixty days=one thousand two hundred and sixty years(!!) (Rev. 11:2 and 12:6).
(9) Amillennialists treat the book of Revelation in a bizarre way by claiming (with absolutely NO justification) that Revelation chapter 20 commences on Pentecost of A.D.33. They make this out to be a so-called ‘Inter-Advent Period’ a stretch of time between the first coming of Christ and the final coming of Christ at the very end of time and termination of the physical universe. This strange non-New Testament idea alleges that the binding of Satan, the tribulation of the saints, the mark of the beast, the martyrdom of the saints by the Sea Beast, and the millennium itself pre-dates the events outlined in Revelation chapters 13 and 14, 15, and 16, 17, 18, and 19!
Will these propositions hold up to careful scrutiny? We shall see! The above instances of Amillennial presuppositions can be definitively nailed down and eliminated as possibilities in our discussions with Amillennarians. And once each claim is scrutinized, quantified, and qualified we are one step closer to our goal of smoothing down the rough edges of assumptions that usually muddle a discussion the people of God attempt to maintain in this most controversial book.
How We Would Address Specific Handicaps
In order to give a specific goal, shape, and direction to our discussions, the items above need to be addressed in light of the evidence from the Bible; Biblical history will also fully support or deny claims. Our underlying aim is to pull the discussion into the realm of possibilities and parameters that the history and the text together will allow. These ingredients together will afterward be the basis for someone making a judgment about where they want to stand when they are alone and have time to clearly think things through. The things we do in our talks should be actively supported by our sincere and fervent prayers on behalf of everyone involved in our discussions. We should also bring them before God in our daily supplications privately so that any hidden dangers to brotherly love and courtesy will not be damaged by any impatience or thoughtlessness or insensitivity to those feelings, thoughts, and values being currently held.
(1) To be true to the book of Revelation one would have to fully endorse the idea that the events from chapter 6:1 to Revelation 20:15 had some semblance of nearness to the cares, concerns, and lifetime of the Christians who belonged to the seven churches of Asia Minor:-
JOHN to the seven churches that are in Asia. . .
What John says in Revelation 1:4 and his declarations that follow just in verse 7 must be meaningful—and connected. Our Lord’s statements presented to the other churches in Revelation 2:24-25 and 3:3 and 3:10-11 must also make sense for what what he says and when he said it. Furthermore, Revelation 6:15-17 harks back to events Jesus said would happen to the daughters of Jerusalem and their children (see Luke 23:27-31). Every issue below adds to the reasons why the entire book of Revelation had an immediate interest in the concerns of the seven churches of Asia.
(2) In Riddlebarger’s, A Case for Amillennialism, he uses the word ‘immanence’ multiple times to describe the Second Coming, but he never used the word imminence once in the entire treatise! That is important and revealing because it shows intentional avoidance of a very real New Testament issue that he and other Amillennial advocates find undesirable or at the very least inexplicable about the Christian Scriptures as they stand. And he’s no fool! He knows the difference between these words. These words sound deceptively alike but have two entirely different meanings. Now, immanence means something is pervasive and everywhere, whilst imminence means something is at hand and soon to come to pass. A doctrinal system that hopes to represent itself as explaining the Book of Revelation cannot do so and deny the first-century imminence of the Second Coming.3 If it does, it is talking about something else and has a different agenda—an agenda not known or discussed in the entirety of the New Testament. Let’s be frank: Being beheaded is not a way the New Testament would refer to baptism into Christ or death from purely natural causes. It even seems silly to have to remind anyone that these two options really fly in the face of reason when seven chapters leading up to Revelation 20, starting at Revelation 13:15 we know perfectly well what caused these people to die (even if we do not agree on who did it, the Romans or the Jewish rebels?). Amillennialists, furthermore, declare that the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls are all different ways of talking about the same thing, but in making these claims, we do not know if we are going forward, backward, or in circles in the narrative! By this suspicious methodology how can we know when we are actually advancing toward a given goal or not!? But, even if it was true that the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls were all one and the same thing, it would still land Amillennialists at the very brink of the Destruction of Jerusalem—because that is just where the seventh and last bowl has the city being bombarded with one hundred pound boulders—and that happened in Adar of A.D.70 (See Rev. 16:17-21 cf. Wars 5.6.3:270-274 and Wars 6.5.3:296-309). At any rate, these self-generated and artificial problems stifle and frustrate the teacher and the student, truthseekers, and skeptics. Too many aspects of Amillennialism rest on assertions and not enough on actual observance and familiarity with the text and its corresponding redemptive-historical milieu.
A Move Towards Competency
Amillennialists need to reevaluate and rethink Jewish interpretive nuances like antecedent Jewish traditions of figures of speech, like, for example, Pesher and Peshat. Without going in this decided direction, Christians can never hope to be reading from the same page. It is important to note that the New Testament is a Jewish document through and through. It cannot be truly understood through modern eyes, Gentile eyes. It must be understood through Jewish eyes and from a Jewish point of view. There is no way around this! Amillennarians need to be prepared to do background research under their own motivation and steam. They need to be prepared to discover rhetorical complexities and subtleties that add depth and the proper nuance to expressions that would be misunderstood from a different and alien cultural dictionary. For example, expressions like those found in Revelation 6:12-14, 20:11, and 21:1 cannot be taken literally without making the prophecies of Revelation that follow appear to be ridiculous. One has to be familiar with the language of governmental upheaval, overthrow, and destruction (as seen in Jer. 4:23-26 and Isa. 13:9-22) to make correct sense of what John means at the early and end stages of the catastrophe befalling his own nation and people as they stood on the brink of towering existential dangers in the early 60s and also after their fatal attempt at victory over the Romans in the third decade of the second century. Also, in Revelation 11:1-2 one cannot just arbitrarily assume that by “temple of God” John means a corrupt Christian church, when, even twenty centuries from John’s time that issue is still an open question. Whatever temple of God John saw was an edifice that had an outer court; had the immediate prospect of being occupied by ‘Gentiles,’ and was located in a city where Jesus our Lord was crucified; that would make it almost certainly the Second Temple of God that stood until the autumn of A.D.70 and not the Christian church because Christianity has no outer court to speak of.
Competency will also motivate Christians to investigate and digest some of the more strange events that surrounded the destruction of Jerusalem—armies seen to fight in the sky over Herod's Temple; doors of the Temple opening on their own; voices of a multitude in the Temple saying, “We are leaving this Place;” furthermore, a heifer as she was being led to be sacrificed by the High Priests gave birth to a baby lamb; a light that came on at 3 o’clock in the morning and made Jerusalem look like it was bright daytime for half an hour; the Zealots wounding their right hands in reverence for their leader; one hundred pound boulders cast into the city starting in Adar of A.D.70 and the fall of the city only five months later.4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
These odd events, signs, and circumstances tie in nicely with things that the early Christians were told to expect within their lifetime; however, these items are completely unrelated to anything considered important or noteworthy in the Amillennial frame of eschatological reference, past or future. There has been a tendency of Christians, after years of brutal Roman mistreatment before the legalization of the Church, to lean hard in the direction of the Romans being the villains of the apocalyptic epic: this is understandable on purely human terms. Nevertheless, no direct history of Rome or Roman debacles corresponds to any detail (large or small) to anything in the book of Revelation! However, where the Jewish armies succeeded three times in A.D 66 and then spectacularly failed from then on, Roman armies seemingly floundered and then won patiently, manfully, and courageously.12 Where the Jews fought using the philosophy that the ends justify the means—and lost—the Romans fought with valor and their empire survived to die at a ripe and grand-old age 1,383 years later. Where in the Gospels Jesus declared that his marriage to the Church would occur in conjunction with the Destruction of Jerusalem (and Babylon fell in the nineteenth chapter of Revelation) how does it make sense that Babylon was Rome? Not even in Amillennialism is the claim made that Jesus married the Church when the city of Rome finally fell on September 4, 476! We are just touching the tip of the iceberg here and there is no intention to overwhelm and no need for anyone to gloat. We are all saved from our sins by the same Precious Blood and we need to be men and women of God in our efforts to face each other and resolve these complicated concerns and issues as brothers and friends trying together to figure these things out.
A New Emphasis on Precision
Almost all Amillennial ideas about the Book of Revelation are so imprecise that at the end their position concludes with no results; no real conclusions. A Christian, in fact, can believe and teach Amillennialism to the letter—dotting every “i” and crossing every “t”—and still feel (deep down) that they do not truly grasp or understand what the Book of Revelation means or see its significance. It is not a fluke that this is happening to Christians and that they can't explain what Amillennialism means without resorting to unfounded claims or refusing to discuss specifics. However, everyone should be reminded: It does not have to be this way! We suggest a different approach, one that takes the history, the time statements, the declarations of Jesus and the Apostles, and the apocalyptic expectations of the early Christians seriously.
So that's it! I realize that it seems audacious to ask Christians who hold the dominant view since Augustine to examine themselves rather than look without. You may have already heard of Preterist theologies, but Atavist Bible theology, though it is Preterist it is not anywhere near a Siamese twin of Full Preterism.13 It has enough major differences that we believe you will come away with a completely different impression of what is supposed to have happened as well as what we believe is supposed to be happening today—and what is our destiny in Christ tomorrow. It is in the interest of all Christians for those who hold Amillennialism to be true to the Book of Revelation to have a basic grasp of what Amillennialism teaches and how that compares to what Revelation advocates in the shadow of the late Second Jewish Commonwealth—its Jewish people, its Jewish holy city, its Jewish messianic and nationalist aspirations, and its many-faceted and mutually hostile Jewish armies. Since the Apostle John lived more than 50 years before the end of the state, it is ironic and it does not do this subject any justice to picture Revelation as supporting Protestant ideas and concerns that would not appear for over a thousand years later and more. We also noted that Amillennialism leans and depends heavily on the eschatological pronouncements of the Apostle Paul; not those of John in the Book of Revelation itself. Furthermore, even the declarations of Paul are stripped of their surrounding first-century context and made into themes that militate against the universal New Testament view that the end of all things was then at hand (1 Peter 4:7). Moreover, Amillennialism assumes (but cannot prove) that Revelation’s hopeful message is aimed at buoying Christian morale in the face of hostile persecution at the hands of the Romans. It assumes (without actual historic evidence), that the key to understanding the gist of the symbols and figures of speech is knowing something about Roman attitudes and policies toward and against the Christian people. Taking this for granted, it is inevitable that what Revelation says, when compared side by side with the long and successful history of the Roman Empire, will reduce confidence that anything can be said about what the book means with any degree of authority or certainty. Christians need to look at the Book of Revelation to observe and detect what is between the lines when it makes references that hark back to the Old Testament. In doing this, attempts need to be made to entertain viable options to see what scenario has the best predictive value; makes the most sense, and answers important questions—all in line with concerns that would have been relevant to Jewish Christians undergoing persecution by people Jesus calls ‘the synagogue of Satan.’ We can be sure Jesus would not call a Roman enemy anything like that! But a cluster of images and motifs that describe the Christians’ avowed enemies with loaded words like “Balaam” and “Jezebel” indicate oppression by wicked Semitic authorities bent on causing the churches to be cursed in hopes of gain as well as utterly destroyed by religious interests that had little to do with the will of God in Christ and his genuine intentions for the people of Israel. We also discussed time statements and audience relevance—both in the Book of Revelation and elsewhere in the New Testament—and how these aspects are not characteristic of Amillennialism or its strong suit. This means that Amillennialism, even beyond the question of its interpretation and fealty to the book of Revelation, does not mirror the New Testament, but seeks subtly to suppress or deflect what it says, overall. And we witness this in Amillennial writings whenever semantic maneuvers around suspiciously similar words like imminence and immanence appear to guide the unsuspecting in a certain direction in order to reach a prejudiced conclusion. All these tactics need to be called out and forthrightly confronted and courageously resolved with transparency, honesty, and integrity. Amillennialists need to frankly ask themselves if they really believe the Second Coming of Christ was imminent (impending) from a first-century point of view, or not. If they do not believe it was, then they need to be willing and ready to openly admit to all that they believe the New Testament eschatology is completely in error in every book, chapter, and passage and verse where apocalyptic ideas appear. We also gave ten topics that Amillennialists need to be prepared to study and talk about. Nailing down certain facts is a must so that we can make headway in our talks. These topics help us entertain new ideas, but also eliminate assumptions that come up short.
First, this above study chart meets Amillennial claims and attitudes head-on and challenges them to support, first of all, assumptions about the Olivet Discourse. False ideas surrounding the Olivet Discourse directly trouble and hinder Revelation's hermeneutical and interpretive emphasis.
Second, definitions of what is impending and what is all around. Confusing these two concepts only serves to muddle the issue and aggravate efforts to come to terms and mutual agreement.
Third, the idea that discovering when Revelation was written is a difficult task is a false one. Like most books in the Bible, the question about when the Book of Revelation was written can be detected by simply observing and acknowledging the environment it describes.
Fourth, questions around the sequence and structure of the Revelation narrative can be settled by observing the sequential progress and process and by comparing this with preconceived notions with an eye for accepting the best alternative.
Fifth, Revelation 20 must be circumscribed by parameters provided in the Book of Revelation itself.
Sixth, the final [Great White Throne] judgment has to be seen in the context of ancient Jewish civilization as a result of a suicidal war gone wrong (and Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 provide a solid basis for understanding motivations and circumstances surrounding that perilous event). Conflating or caving the narrative down to a single reductionist issue or point definitely does nothing to help explain what Revelation was intended to say and Revelation chapters 12 and 20 are two classic examples where this practice and its debilitating results can best be seen. Discussions that work towards allowing each situation to be a separate and discrete one (even for argument’s sake) will help Christians appreciate an alternative point of view; try it. A deliberate move toward competency means that an interest in Jewish history towards the end of the ancient State will increasingly be deemed urgent and important. Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews and Wars of the Jews is a good place for you to start. In the end, we believe, you will find yourself feeling better able to cross-reference descriptions, images, and metaphors in the Book of Revelation with historical realities that actually existed as the Second Commonwealth Jewish civilization was on its way out.
Now, a stranger asking you to re-examine your established claims (claims you already accept) is like asking for the moon on a silver platter—but I believe you are equal to the challenge and that you have much personally and spiritually to gain from this. You could take up this challenge and at least be able to understand what makes an Atavist tick. If the inner clockwork is, in fact, wrong, the time you spent looking at the core issues and reasonings put you in the position to speak with genuine rather than presumed authority not only to the Atavist view specifically but also to Atavist views in general. Either way, your time would not be wasted.
1 Clarence Larkin, Salem Kirban, Hal Lindsey, and many others fanned white-hot hopes of a Second Coming made supposedly possible by the unexpected appearance of the modern Israeli State on 14 May 1948. However, after waiting in vain hopes for such spectacular events were dashed again and again as the 20th century completed itself without coming anywhere near meeting these false expectations.
2 The Case for Amillennialism, p.11
3 A panoramic overview of the fall and disappearance of the Second Jewish Commonwealth against the backdrop of the striking success and continuity of the Roman Empire from its early period under the Julio-Claudian, Flavian, Year of the Four Emperors, Flavian, Adoptive, Antonine, Severan, the Time of Chaos, the Restoration of the Empire, to Constantine the Great and the relocation of the Roman capital to Byzantium/ Constantinople in A.D.330 was a long and winding road that completely defies any and everything foretold about a doomed holy city and beastly kingdom in the Book of Revelation.
4 A multitude of otherworldy angelic armies engaged in battle - Dissertation 3.5. Chapter 13 and Wars 6.5.3:297-299.
5 Doors of the Second Temple open on their own - Wars 6.5.3:293.
6 The voices of an invisible multitude of people are heard in the Second Temple saying, “We are leaving this Place!” Wars 6.5.3:300. These were the souls of our Jewish and Gentile Christian brothers and sisters in Christ who lost their lives because they believe Jesus is the Son of God and that he rose from the dead on the third day according to the testimony of the women and the Apostles. On this account were they deemed worthy to be put to death by directives from the Sanhedrim council and by popular fury in the unbelieving, dangerous, and radical environment of the Second Jewish Commonwealth. (Rev. 6:9-11)
7 A heifer gave birth to a baby lamb as she was being prepared for slaughter on the altar - Wars 6.5.3:292.
8 A light shown in Jerusalem at night at about 3 o’clock in the morning and it was like day time for half an hour - Wars 6.5.3:290.
9 The beastly Zealots, who reverenced Simon Bar Giora, wound their right hands to signify their vow to a fatal suicide pact they made in the present war - Wars 3.8.6:385-386 cf. Wars 6.6.3:351.
10 One hundred pound boulders were shot into Jerusalem by Titus and his Roman armies starting in April of A.D.70 (Rev.16:21 cf. Wars 5.6.3:270-272).
11 Rapid fall of the city five months later with almost 3 million people trapped as if in a prison - Wars 6.9.4:427-434.
12 The Romans won their battles but the string of Jewish disasters leads out of the first century and into the second century till it results in the deaths of four billion people between the years A.D.132-136!
"For three and a half years the Emperor Hadrian surrounded Bethar. In the city was R. Eleazar of Modin who continually wore sackcloth and fasted, and he used to pray daily,
'Lord of the Universe, sit not in judgment today!'
so that Hadrian thought of returning home. A Cuthean went and found him and said, 'My lord, so long as that old cock wallows in ashes you will not conquer the city. But wait for me, because I will do something that will enable you to subdue it today. He immediately entered the gate of the city, where he found R. Eleazar standing and praying. He pretended to whisper in the ear of R. Eleazar of Modin. People went and informed Bar Koziba, ‘Your friend, R. Eleazar, wishes to surrender the city to Hadrian.’ He sent and had the Cuthean brought to him and asked, ‘What did you say to him?’ He replied, ‘If I tell you, the king will kill me; and if I do not tell you, you will kill me. It is better that I kill myself and the secrets of the government be not divulged,’ Bar Koziba was convinced that R. Eleazar wanted to surrender the city, so when the latter finished praying he had him brought into his presence and asked him, ‘What did the Cuthean tell you?’ He answered, ‘I do not know what he whispered in my ear, nor did I hear anything, because I was standing in prayer and am unaware what he said.’ Bar Koziba flew into a rage, kicked him with his foot and killed him. A Bath Kol issued forth and proclaimed,
‘Woe to the worthless shepherd that leaveth the flock! The sword shall be upon him arm and his right eye!’ (Zechariah 11:17)
It intimated to him, Thou hast paralyzed the arm of Israel and blinded their right eye; therefore shall thy arm wither and thy right arm grow dim!’
Forthwith the sins [of the people] caused Bathar to be captured. Bar Koziba was slain and his head taken to Hadrian. ‘Who killed him’ asked Hadrian. A Cuthean said to him, ‘I killed him.’ ‘Bring his body to me,’ he ordered. He went and found a snake encircling its neck; so [Hadrian when told of this] exclaimed, ‘If his God had not slain him who could have overcome him?’ And there was applied to him that verse, Except their Rock had given them over (Deuteronomy 32:30). (Mid Lam). Source: Yigael Yadin, Bar Kokhba, p. 255, 1971 Random House, New York
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Recommended reading . . .
Encounter the world and traditions that Jesus knew.
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