I found the following evangelism training refreshing, challenging, and thoroughly biblical. I highly encourage you to watch for yourself:
To skip to the chase, scroll to the Wrap Up at the end.
Quick Background on Terms
There are 4 major “schools” of interpreting the book of Revelation in the church today:
- Futurist – probably the most popular among evangelicals today, this viewpoint sees the majority of Revelation as fulfilled in events that take place shortly before Jesus returns
- Spiritualist (Idealist) – sees Revelation as dealing with general concepts and ideas, but not corresponding to any specific time-space events that have taken place.
- Preterist – most everything in Revelation was fulfilled in the AD 70 Jerusalem temple destruction
- Historicist – Revelation speaks to the entirety of church history from the time it was written until Jesus’ future bodily return
I am of the historicist persuasion (see FREE – Revelation Unveiled (2006) Videos). But this post addresses the problems I see with preteristism.
Before exposing problems with “full preterism” (that is, seeing most/all of Revelation as fulfilled in the AD 70 Jerusalem temple destruction), I should say that I am a partial preterist.
Meaning, I do think parts of the Bible (such as Matthew 24; Mark 13; and Luke 21) point very specifically to Jerusalem’s AD 70 destruction.
I disagree, however, that Revelation focuses on that AD 70 event. Here’s why…
Reasons To Reject Full Preterism
- The preterist viewpoint on Revelation originated in 1614 from Luis de Alcasar, a Jesuit (Catholic) priest. This was during the Roman Catholic Counter Reformation (see “Preterism,” Wikipedia). It was a Catholic attempt to squelch the Protestants’ overwhelming belief that the Pope was the Antichrist. Such an anti-protestant origin does not prove preterism wrong (God can even speak truth through donkeys!–Num. 22), but it should make Bible-believing protestants at least cautious.
- The book of Revelation has traditionally been dated around AD 90-95, during Domitian’s reign as Roman emperor. Though it is possible, as some preterists point out, for Revelation to have been written earlier, the AD 90-95 dating has been the most consistent conclusion throughout church history, for multiple, independent reasons (see Donald Guthrie’s, New Testament Introduction, 1970, 3rd Ed.). And if Revelation was written any time after AD 70, the Preterist viewpoint falls apart.
- In many ways, the books of Daniel and Revelation parallel each other. Both are apocalyptic writings that point to future events. Where Daniel highlights Jesus’ 1st coming, Revelation highlights His 2nd coming. Both share similar symbolism to describe similar things (compare Rev. 13 with Dan. 2 and 7). And where Daniel ends with a sealed book to be opened later (Dan. 12:4ff), Revelation begins with seals of a scroll being removed (Rev. 5:1ff). Considering all these parallels, it would be remarkably inconsistent if Revelation took 22 chapters to foretell only 4 years of future events (as the Preterist position demands), while Daniel sweeps through ~500 years in only 12 chapters.
- This dissimilarity between Daniel’s 500 years / 12 chapters and Revelation’s 4 years / 22 chapters seems even odder when considering that the AD 70 temple destruction is foretold elsewhere in Scripture with far greater clarity (cf. Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). Thus, if the Preterist position is correct, God takes 22 chapters to very cryptically (and, compared to Daniel, very slowly) describe an event He explains elsewhere with great precision and detail (and at a pace much more akin to Daniel’s).
- Further, as the book of Daniel (and many other Bible books) demonstrate, God consistently foretells–in writing–seemingly all future significant events that would happen to his people (at least into the early apostolic age, cf. Acts 1:16, all the way to AD 70, cf. Matt. 24). In fact, we are told: “the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets,” (Amos 3:7). In light of this, are we to say that He stops prophesying (at least in writing) concerning His people from AD 70 on? Would He leave his bride (the church) completely blind in terms of written communication of all the major events she would go through from AD 70 to the present day? On the other hand, if He has foretold such things, it seems Revelation is the best place to find this (and thus it must foretell events far beyond AD 70, in contrast to the preterist viewpoint).
- Finally, the book of Revelation begins with a vision of Jesus. And though this vision has many components (His eyes of fire, sword in his mouth, etc.), only 2 are specifically revealed for the reader: (1) lampstands = churches, (2) stars = angels of churches (Rev 1:20). In other words, the 1 subject He chooses to reveal and focus on from the very beginning of Revelation is His church. There are 2 implications: (1) of everything that could be revealed of Jesus, this prophecy begins with a focus specifically on the church; (2) this prophecy uses overtly Jewish symbolism (in this case, the temple lampstands) to now apply to the church (it also uses creation [i.e. stars] to speak of church phenomena, but that is a separate, though related, subject). We see this pattern continue where the temple incense = prayers of the church (Rev. 5:8), and Jerusalem = the Bride of Christ (Rev. 21:2). Thus, using distinctly Jewish emblems to point to facets of the church continues to be the focal point through the end of the book (see Rev 21-22). Such a pattern suggests that Revelation will focus chiefly on the church, and use Jewish symbolism to do so. This would agree with the historicist interpretation, but casts doubt on a preterist approach that makes the literal Jerusalem temple (and it’s destruction) the focus of Revelation.
Now consider all of these evidences from the opposite perspective. Consider what it would mean for preterism to be true:
- it was “discovered” by an anti-Protestant to defy the reformation
- though the majority of dating evidences have led the majority of scholars to date Revelation later than AD 70, they are all mistaken
- though Revelation parallels Daniel in virtually every other way, it radically departs in spending so much ink on such a short period of time
- Revelation takes 22 chapters to explain cryptically what other Bible passages detail with much more clarity
- God must have effectively stopped predicting in writing major events concerning his people after AD 70
- Revelation must actually focus on a literal Israel with a literal temple, though the book begins and ends with Jewish symbolism that represent the church
Perhaps there are rebuttals to each of these points, but considered in total, I find a historicist approach to Revelation far more compelling than preterism.
Happy Resurrection Day 2020!
Here is a PDF of “Harmonizing the Resurrection”.
This is part of a broader gospel harmony I’ve created, and gives a plausible order and harmonization of resurrection events based on the 4 gospels (plus 1 Corinthians 15).
The list of resurrection events (in sequence)
- Weekly Sabbath
- Women buy and prepare anointing spices
- Women go to Jesus’ tomb
- Angel moves stone and frightens guard away
- Women arrive to tomb, see stone removed
- Mary Magdalene notifies John and Peter
- Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John return to tomb
- Peter and John leave after finding tomb empty
- Mary Magdalene discovers angels in tomb; departs to consult “gardener”
- Other women talk with angels
- Mary Magdalene realizes the “gardener” is Jesus
- Other women join Mary Magdalene and Jesus
- Women leave to tell disciples
- Guard conspires with Jewish leaders
- Disciples doubt women’s report
- 2 to Emmaus encounter Jesus
- Peter encounters Jesus
- Group of disciples (minus Thomas) encounter Jesus
- Group of disciples (including Thomas) encounter Jesus
- Disciples journey back to Galilee
- 7 apostles encounter Jesus while fishing in Galilee
- Jesus appears to 500+ people at Galilean mountain
- Jesus appears to James (His brother)
- Disciples return to Jerusalem (for Pentecost)
- Jesus meets with disciples
- Jesus ascends to heaven 40 days after resurrection
Can’t think of a better time to consider God’s perspective on the book of Revelation!
Here is a re-release of Revelation Unveiled (2006)–8 hours of Revelation teachings (produced by the late, Earl Washington; presented by Rich Geer and Brian Holda).
This pairs nicely with the less-professional-more-recent Daniel teachings I gave.
When He [Jesus] appears we shall be like him…everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.1 John 3:2-3
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy [Revelation], and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.Revelation 1:3
He [Jesus] who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!Revelation 22:20
Pray God’s Will
Jesus teaches us to pray, “Thy [God’s] will be done,” (Matt. 6:6).
We are promised: “if we ask anything according to his [God’s] will…we have the requests that we have asked of him,” (1 John 5:14-15).
Thus, effective prayer does not pray your will, nor try to change God’s will (God forbid!).
Instead, we need to, “understand what the will of the Lord is,” (Eph. 5:17), then pray that. And pray that boldly…expectantly…humbly.
What is God’s Will in COVID-19?
Thus, effective prayer for COVID-19 must consider God’s desires with this pandemic.
In addition to 2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (as shared in my previous post), 3 other Scriptures have stirred me in prayer along these lines, and I humbly ask you to consider them in your prayers, too…
Passage 1: David’s Census (2 Samuel 24:1-17)
For issuing a sinful census, King David had to choose between 3 punishments: (1) famine, (2) enemy defeats, or (3) a plague.
He chose (3) a plague, saying:
Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great2 Sam. 24:14
Notice first that he preferred sickness because He knew God was overtly in control of such a thing. Thus, He could depend on God’s supernatural mercy if sickness came.
Sadly, it did come. And 70,000 people died. It was just, but surely God’s heart simultaneously broke (cf. Ezekiel 33:11).
This time of sickness had a measured duration:
- “the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated” (2 Sam. 24:15)
- “When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, ‘Enough! Withdraw your hand.'” (2 Sam. 24:16)
See, the sickness had a designated end, based on God’s mercy. It had to run it’s full course, but after that, God could interpose and say, “ENOUGH!”
- Sickness is within God’s oversight, and God is filled with mercy.
- God predetermined an ending to this plague.
Passage 2: Lazarus (John 11:1-44)
When Jesus heard that Lazarus was ill, He said:
This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.John 11:4
Immediately after saying this, we read how much Jesus loved Lazarus and his family.
Yet, curiously, after saying the sickness wouldn’t lead to death, and after we read of Jesus’ great love for Lazarus…
We read that Jesus “stayed two days longer in the place where he was,” (John 11:6). And during this time, Lazarus dies!
Now many will know the rest of the story. Jesus resurrects Lazarus, and proclaims Himself, “The resurrection and the life,” (John 11:25). It truly is an awesome ending.
Nevertheless, in the middle of it, out of love, Jesus waited longer than they wanted to do something. He waited so long that Lazarus actually died (even after Jesus said the sickness wouldn’t lead to death!). The point, of course, is that it didn’t lead to ultimate death.
In fact, that is true for all who believe in Jesus, no matter what sickness they get.
- COVID-19 does not lead to ultimate, eternal death. In fact, I think the Lord may be speaking to me that it isn’t meant to ultimately be a destructive agent, but, instead, something that Jesus will receive glory from.
- Jesus had a determined time to heal Lazarus, for the ultimate glory of God, even if it lasted longer than people wanted.
- Christ used sickness to point people to eternal life and resurrection through Him.
Passage 3: God’s Spirit Isn’t Fear (2 Tim. 1:7-8)
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.2 Tim. 1:7
Christians may experience fear. Even Paul the apostle admits he had “fears within,” (2 Cor. 7:5). But this is our humanness, and is not part of God’s Spirit.
God does not want us to fear anything except Him. And He has given us the means to counter fear with power, love, and self-control: The Holy Spirit!
Further, this power from God’s spirit was to lead Timothy to share, obey, and suffer for THE GOSPEL (2 Tim. 1:8ff).
- God doesn’t want us to live with fear
- God has given us the means to conquer fear: His Spirit
- This is ultimately for the sake of spreading the gospel
How to Pray for COVID-19
In Daniel 9, when Daniel discovered from the Bible that God had decreed the 70 years of captivity he just lived through (and therefore the time had come for Israel to be set free), he wrote:
Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession…Daniel 9:3-4
Notice that he:
- humbled himself,
This is equivalent to the 2 Chron. 7:13-15 response shared in my previous post.
But notice something further: he did all this in response to what God had spoken in His Scripture. He prayed for things already determined by God in the Bible. And guess what? They came to pass.
So…with the exact same heart I appeal to you Christian brothers and sisters, that you would pray with me according to the various biblical principles shown above on behalf of COVID-19:
- God would show his mercy in COVID-19 (2 Sam. 24)
- It would last the entire duration God has set for it (no more, no less), achieving the full effect God has for it (2 Sam. 24; John 11)
- It would not destroy people, but instead be used for God’s glory, pointing people to Jesus and eternal life (John 11)
- Christians would be filled with God’s power, love, and sound-mind instead of fear (2 Tim. 1)
- Christians would be eager to serve, obey, and share the gospel during this difficult time (2 Tim. 1)
Calling all Christians!
- We, Christians, alone, have God’s ear, so to speak, on the basis of Jesus’ blood (see Heb. 10:19-22).
- God alone has ultimate power over what we are seeing in the land.
- Thus, we Christians have a duty and obligation that no other people group has: We alone can petition God in such a way that He would hear and be moved to change things.
Now consider this duty/honor/privilege in light of 2 Chronicles 7:13-15:
When I [God] shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people…(2 Chron. 7:13)
- no rain: see Australia [“Recent Australian droughts may be the worst in 800 years”]
- locusts: Middle East & Africa [“Locust Watch [from United Nations]”]
- plague: COVID-19
According to 2 Chron. 7:13, God sends these things. And we live in a time where all 3 have reached abnormal levels in this world.
Do I have your attention so far? More importantly, does God have your attention?
Now read on to see what our duty is:
if my people, who are called by my name, will HUMBLE THEMSELVES and PRAY and SEEK MY FACE and TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place [i.e. the place of God’s presence, which was the temple at that time, and today is wherever believers dwell].(2 Chron. 7:14-15)
Specifically, God has enlisted you to:
- humble yourself – ultimately, this is a posture of your heart, so I really hesitate to show external ways to do this and have anyone miss the most important thing to be humbled: you and your heart. Saying that, the Bible does show things like kneeling (2 Chron. 6:13) and fasting (Psalm 35:13) as ways to externally humble ourselves
- pray / seek God’s face – please, do this on your own and with your family and whoever lives in your house
- repent (“turn from your wicked ways”) – you are not the exception. You have areas you need to repent of. Even those private, “secret” sins can cause public, open pain (for a sobering example of this, see Josh. 7).
TLDR: Freely enjoy the world-renowned (and biblically faithful) The Tyndale House Bulletin Archives
The Bad News of Bible Scholarship
For any who have delved a bit in the academic world of biblical scholarship, it can be a bit depressing to see so many “scholars” reject the Bible as God’s word.
Not that this should surprise us, since God Himself has warned in 1 Cor. 1:18-25 (and elsewhere) that He (God!) turns human wisdom into blindness when people trust in their own reasoning instead of humbly receiving Christ.
In the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him1 Corinthians 1:21
The Good News of Bible Scholarship
Understanding that many trusting exclusively on their own reasoning abilities (instead of on God the Revealer) have been blinded to truth should not make us distrust God-given intelligence and wisdom altogether. God forbid!
For, in fact, God loves using people rich in intelligence. Consider, for instance, that the educated Paul and Luke wrote the majority of the New Testament.
I’ve heard that ~50% of Biblical scholars (in a strict definition of this word) maintain convictions that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. But it honestly (and sadly) feels to me more like about 10%. Either way, God still would get at least a “tithe” of faithfulness. And those who do remain faithful shine like stars (in my humble opinion).
Introducing Tyndale Bulletin
Top on that list of faithful biblical scholarship for me is the work that is being done (and has been done) at the Tyndale House (in Cambridge). I especially love the Tyndale Bulletin (a biblical studies journal by world-class scholars in their respective fields that remains faithful to the conviction that the Bible = God’s Word).
Thus, you can imagine my joy to recently find out that the entire bulletin (minus the last 2 years) is completely free to browse and read! I couldn’t hold this in, so without further ado, please search and read: