The contents of Revelation were written regarding the 70AD destruction of Jerusalem.
The second presupposition builds upon the first. Once a person accepts the presupposition that the book of Revelation was written before the 70AD destruction of Jerusalem, then the contents of the book can take on a new form. Not only was the book written before the destruction, the book was written regarding the destruction itself. There are several clues, which Chilton uses to point to this possibility. Firstly, the fact that Revelation 11 speaks of the Temple as physically still standing. “I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. 2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.” Revelation 11:1-2 If the book of Revelation was written in 96AD, 26 years after the utter destruction of Jerusalem, then it is likely that John would have clarified something to that effect. Perhaps he would have mentioned that he was in a vision and that he was not referring back to the Physical Temple that was no longer standing. Yet there is not one mention in the entire 22 chapters regarding the destruction of Jerusalem. This point not only bolsters the first presupposition, but it also points to the truth that Revelation was very likely written about the 70AD destruction which was about to take place. Chilton also brings out a point, which he does not seem to emphasize. To this reader the following point was one of the most fascinating keys of interpretation in his entire thesis. The contents of Revelation parallel the contents of Ezekiel (20 point diagram from page 21)
- The Throne-Vision (Rev. 4/Ez. 1)
- The Book (Rev. 5/Ez. 2-3)
- The Four Plagues (Rev. 6:1-8/Ez. 5)
- The Slain under the Altar (Rev. 6:9-11/Ez. 6)
- The Wrath of God (Rev. 6:12-17/Ez. 7)
- The Seal on the Saint’s Foreheads (Rev. 7/Ez. 9)
- The Coals from the Altar (Rev. 8/Ez. 10)
- No More Delay (Rev. 10:1-7/ Ez. 12)
- The Eating of the Book (Rev. 10:8-11/Ez. 2)
- The Measuring of the Temple (Rev. 11:1-2/Ez. 40-43)
- Jerusalem and Sodom (Rev. 11:8/Ez. 16)
- The Cup of Wrath (Rev. 14/Ez. 23)
- The Vine of the Land (Rev. 14:18-20/Ez. 15)
- The Great Harlot (Rev. 17-18/Ez. 16, 23)
- The Lament over the City (Rev. 18/Ez. 27)
- The Scavengers’ Feast (Rev. 19/Ez. 39)
- The First Resurrection (Rev. 20:4-6/Ez. 37)
- The Battle with Gog and Magog (Rev. 20:7-9/Ez. 38-39)
- The New Jerusalem (Rev. 21/Ez. 40-48)
- The River of Life (Rev. 22/Ez. 47)
Essentially what Chilton demonstrates is that the book of Ezekiel is to the Old Testament what the book of Revelation is to the New Testament. Ezekiel laid out the coming destruction of Jerusalem (by the Babylonians) in the Old Testament and John used the same prophetic language to speak of the imminent coming destruction of Jerusalem in the New Testament. With that framework, the symbolism of Revelation is set in place and becomes simpler to interpret. Then Chilton quotes The Meaning of the Revelation by Philip Carrington (1931) about this Ezekiel/Revelation connection. “The Revelation is a Christian rewriting of Ezekiel. Its fundamental structure is the same. Its interpretation depends upon Ezekiel. The first half of both books leads up to the destruction of the earthly Jerusalem; in the second half they describe a new and holy Jerusalem. There is one significant difference. Ezekiel’s lament over Tyre is transformed into a lament over Jerusalem, the reason being that St. John wishes to transfer to Jerusalem the note of irrevocable doom found in the lament over Tyre. Here lies the real difference in the messages of the two books. Jerusalem, like Tyre, is to go [be removed] forever.” (Page 21)
The time-texts of Revelation should be taken literally, that Revelation 1-22 was written regarding things that were shortly to come to pass.
While all four systems of interpretation would agree that parts of Revelation are symbolic and other parts are literal, each of the of the four systems takes a different stance regarding the time-texts. I find that using the time texts literally is the most sensible approach, although this presents the reader with much more to grapple with, whereas if the time texts are symbolic it is easy to stretch the contents of Revelation to mean anything in almost any time period. The Preterist’s challenge is to place Revelation 1:1 “What must soon take place” on the left and Revelation 22:20 “Behold, I am coming quickly” on the right and then use these literal statements as theological bookends. Therefore the entire contents of Revelation 1:2-22:19 must fit literally in between them. “The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,” Revelation 1:1 “The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.” Revelation 22:6-7 “Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near.” Revelation 22:10 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” Revelation 22:12 “He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Revelation 22:20 Chilton takes up this challenge and over the course of 720 pages he delivers a convincing mountain of historical evidence to lead the reader to the same conclusion, that the contents of the book of Revelation did come to pass quickly and literally in the first century.
Jerusalem and the Jewish religious system had become apostate and was seen by God as an adulterous whore, as Babylon, as the old creation, which was about to pass away.
Chilton beautifully excavates a clue to interpreting the symbols of Sodom, Babylon and the Whore in the book of Revelation. That clue is the reoccurring term, the “Great City.” In its first occurrence the text tells us that the “Great City” is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, yet literally speaking, this was the city where Jesus was crucified, therefore the “Great City” is a reference to Jerusalem. (Page 281) “Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified.” Revelation 11:8 With this key in hand, we can begin to see that Revelation 16-18 speak of the first century Jerusalem as not only Sodom and Egypt, but also as Babylon and as the Great Whore that fornicated with the kings of the earth. Even as the Jews said at Jesus’ trial, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15), thus rejecting their groom and adulterating themselves with the Roman Government. (Pages 414, 442-443, 452-463) The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Revelation 16:19 The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” Revelation 17:18 “Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: “‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, you mighty city of Babylon! In one hour your doom has come!’ …. and cry out: “‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! ... When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: “‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin!’… [The Finality of Babylon’s Doom ] Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.” Revelation 18:10, 16, 18-19, 21
[Part 3 coming next week]