NAVIGATING THE BOOK OF REVELATION (BOOK REPORT)
Greetings blog readers!
When I started my blog (January 2012) I was overly ambitious with two blog postings a week. I soon found a better pace with a weekly posting (usually either Tue/Wed/Thur). As I am beginning 2013, I am aiming for bi-monthly.
I have completed my five book reports for my core coursework on my Doctorate. At this point I have submitted my proposal for my Dissertation and it has been approved. This means that I will be reading approximately 10,000 pages of research in 2013 (ie. 25 pages a day, consistently). Then beginning to write what may end up being 300-700 pages for my book/Dissertation in 2014.
My five core book reports were:
The Days of Vengeance by David Chilton
Behind the Veil of Moses by Brian L Martin
Victorious Eschatology by Harold Eberle and Martin Trench
Navigating the Book of Revelation by Kenneth Gentry
Last Days Madness by Gary DeMar
I received an 'A' Grading for all five book reports!
Here is the (slightly edited) book report for this blog:
Navigating the Book of Revelation
Special Studies on Important Issues
Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr, TH.D.
I have been looking forward to reading this book for my coursework. About two years ago I read an earlier work of Mr. Gentry’s entitled, Before Jerusalem Fell. That book fully convinced me that the Book of Revelation was written in the AD 60’s, thus leading to a solid base for Preterist interpretations of Revelation.
Gentry’s writing is very strong and academic, everything that he states, he proves. I enjoy reading his perspective because he causes his reader to feel safe. I know that if he is willing to publish it, he has thoroughly researched it. At one point on page 168, he demonstrates how his understanding of Revelation 20 has changed and how that has three significant impacts on his eschatology. This shows that he is not only a teacher of the Word but also remains a student as well. I maintain that the best teacher always remains a student.
Considering that The Days of Vengeance was 750 pages and Behind the Veil was 450 pages, this 196 page book seemed tiny in comparison. As far as content is concerned though, it is no lightweight. In fact, this is the book that I am now constantly recommending to others for understanding Revelation from a Preterist viewpoint. The final two chapters alone are worth the cost of the book.
I will examine this book by first giving an overview of the chapters and topics covered, then I will highlight what I consider the strengths.
Chapter 1: A.D. 70 and Redemptive History
As I open this series of studies, it is absolutely essential that we bear in mind the enormous significance of A.D. 70 on redemptive-history and the biblical record. In this first chapter I will provide introductory orientation to this matter. The importance of A.D. 70 will be the controlling presupposition of all that follows.
The presentation below provides only a small sample of evidence demonstrating the significance of A.D. 70, which is too often overlooked by Christians. Our deficient understanding of the purpose and consequences of A.D. 70 diminishes our understanding not only of early Christian history, but of the New Testament record itself. (Page 1)
The backdrop of the New Testament is the anticipation of the events that transpired in A.D. 70. Unfortunately, most evangelical Christians have never heard anything about the destruction of Jerusalem.
“To miss the significance of A.D. 70 is not just to miss the meaning of an important historical event, but to misunderstand much of the New Testament message” (page 2)
Through the rest of this chapter Mr. Gentry takes the reader through Matthew’s Gospel as an example of how A.D. 70 is the incredibly important backdrop to the New Testament. From John the Baptist to the Olivet Discourse, he expounds an immense amount of material from Matthew in a very rapid fashion.
Chapter 2: The Date of Revelation
An important presupposition in this work and in my forthcoming commentary is the proper dating of Revelation. I believe that Revelation was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The chapters below should be read with this perspective in mind. This matter was the subject of my doctoral dissertation at Whitefield Theological Seminary. (Page 13)
Mr. Gentry shares what I thought was very insightful and a rarely noticed fact:
The current majority of biblical scholars is in a fundamental disagreement with the majority of the scholars from one hundred years ago. The current opinion – the late-date view – holds that John writes Revelation while in exile during the closing days of the reign of Domitian Caesar, about A.D. 95 or 96. This contradicts the nineteenth century view – the early-date view – which held that John writes Revelation prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. This position was held by such worthies as John Lightfoot, Moses Stuart, B. F. Wescott, F. J. Hort, Alfred Edersheim, Philip Schaff, Milton Terry, and others. (Page 14)
To espouse a view contrary to the A.D. 95/96 date of Revelation’s authorship is to be the recipient of many strange looks and incredulous inquiries. That is why I consider the previous paragraph of high importance, deep fascination and also quite comforting.
He then goes on to cite pertinent examples of why the early-date is preferred (here follows my summary).
- A physical temple is still standing in Jerusalem in Revelation 11, without the mention of it having been destroyed in A.D 70, this clearly points to an early-date of authorship.
- The seven kings of Revelation 17 is convincingly argued as pointing to authorship during the reign of Caesar Nero.
- The Jews are seen as the protagonists with statements recorded by the Apostle John such as being the “Synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9; 3:9).
- Then Gentry examines four early church writings that point positively toward an early-date for Revelation.
- Lastly, he addresses the famous quote from Irenaeus, which has been the source of all confusion regarding the date debate. It is from Irenaeus which all late-date advocates claim their position. Mr. Gentry shows how our understanding of the quote from Irenaeus is most likely a misinterpretation, which happened through the translation.
Chapter 3: Interpretive Approaches to Revelation
In this book – and in my larger commentary – I will be operating from the perspective known as “Preterism.” As I note in chapter 1, I now call my view “redemptive-historical Preterism” to emphasize the story of Scripture rather than merely the mundane history of the era. Redemptive-history deals with the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan in world history. If my reader is unfamiliar with this approach he will be confused when I begin presenting my exegesis of key passages. A researcher’s interpretive approach should be stated early in his work so that his reader will be able to follow his line of evidence and evaluate it as he moves through the material.
The vast majority of evangelical Christians today know only one approach to Revelation: futurism. They are almost wholly unfamiliar with other options available. But if we adopt a wrong approach, then the reader of Revelation will simply overlook contrary evidence that does not fit his interpretive expectations. The classic example of this is the total overlooking of John’s temporal statements regarding his prophecies’ nearness – though these are cited at the very beginning of the work, at Revelation 1:1, 3. (page 31)
Mr. Gentry then goes on to give an excellent overview of the four major schools of interpretation: Historicism, Idealism, Futurism, & Preterism. He also gives an analysis of each of their given strengths and weaknesses, as well as listing the names of their major proponents. Navigating the Book of Revelation is written in the school of Preterist thought.
PART 2: Special Issues in Revelation
Chapter 4: The Sealed Scroll as a Divorce Certificate
In my first three chapters I deal with general issues necessary for approaching Revelation’s drama. Now I will move beyond the basics to analyzing specific issues that arise within Revelation. The reader should recall a point I make in the Preface: These studies require a basic understanding of redemptive-historical Preterism, which I deal with elsewhere. This and the following chapters are for the “initiated,” as it were.
In this chapter I will be focusing on the important scroll in Revelation 5. Revelation is performative drama that employs forensic rhetoric. The succession of scenes will increasingly inform the audience of the legal action undertaken within. The identity of this scroll will exercise a large interpretive influence over the later chapters of Revelation. (page 45)
Mr. Gentry lays out in fifteen points a general overview of the theme of Revelation. This basically boils down to the courtroom of God being described, then charges are brought against Israel as God’s adulterous wife, then a divorce certificate is brought against her and finally God remarries a new bride at the end of the book of Revelation. Mr. Gentry does an excellent summary as follows:
Revelation shows God issuing a divorce decree against His harlot-wife in a dramatic heavenly court-room setting before taking a new bride, the “new Jerusalem,” the Church of Jesus Christ. The local movement in this section of Revelation is from God’s throne (Rev 4), the presentation of the divorce decree and Christ’s opening it (Rev 5), the judgments flowing from it (Rev 6), to a pause to consider the faithful remnant of Jews (the 144,000 from the twelve tribes), and the resulting universal growth of the Christian Church of the scroll (Rev 10), the destruction of the temple in the holy city (Rev 11:1-2) in the presence of witnesses (Rev 11:3-8), with a reiteration of its universal consequences (Rev 11:15) and its viewing of the heavenly temple (Rev 11:16-18) which is now open (Rev 11:19). The divorce of Israel leads to enormous redemptive-historical changes. (page 70)
Chapter 5: The Jewish Persecution of Christianity
This chapter is a powerhouse of information rarely unearthed in modern evangelicalism. To even quote certain of the New Testament verses that Mr. Gentry excavates is to be considered Anti-Semitic by some. In breaking from my normal pattern of overview by sharing a quote from the beginning of Mr. Gentry’s chapters, here I will jump to a quote from the middle of the chapter. It is an example of the beautiful exegesis that takes place in this chapter.
Carson observes that “there should be little doubt that the first virulent opposition Christians faced came from the Jews, precisely because the Church sprang out of Judaism and all of its earliest members were Jews. It is not surprising that Paul five times received the thirty-nine lashes (2 Cor. 11:24) – a distinctive punishment meted out by synagogue authorities.” Indeed the Book of Acts is virtually a running report of Jewish resistance to fledgling Christianity.
In Acts Luke traces the growing vehemence of Jewish opposition strengthening from mockery (Ac 2:12-13), to threats (Ac 4:1-3, 21), to flogging (Ac 5:40), and finally to death (Ac 7:58-59). The persecution motif leads up to Stephen’s important message (Ac 2:22-23, 36; 3:13-15a; 4:10; 5:28, 30), concludes it (Ac 7:52), and follows it (Ac 10:39; 13:28-29). Luke emphasizes Stephen’s message, for it appears as the longest recorded statement in Acts (Ac 7:2-53), is given by a man highly praised (Ac 6:5, 8, 10, 15; 7:55-56, 60; 8:2), and sets the stage for the fuller Jewish persecution of Christianity (Ac 6:10-15; 7:58-8:1). (page 80)
Mr. Gentry brings a massive amount of Scriptural, historical and even statistical evidence to bear regarding the Jewish persecution of Christianity in the first century. This is refreshing in light of the modern movement to return to the “Jewish roots of the Church.” It is good to see an author that is not simply steeped in Zionism, and instead is willing to stand with the biblical record.
Chapter 6: The “Cast Out” Temple
Upon first reading this chapter, it seemed bland and unmemorable. As I have reexamined it, it does contain a fascinating point throughout. Basically, a mistranslation has neutered the power out of a sentence about the first century Jewish Temple wherein John is recounting that God is rejecting and casting out the Temple. A significant point indeed!
…in my present context I want to look a little more deeply at it in light of the divorce motif in Revelation (see Ch. 4 above). The phrase that I will focus on is” “leave out the court which is outside the temple.” [Rev. 11:1-2]
We should note that John is not simply commanded: “do not measure it,” which would be sufficient to direct him in his task. Rather, the verb translated rather blandly (and uniquely for the New Testament) as “leave out” is actually the dramatic and forceful ekbale, which means “cast out.” Not only so, but John seems to emphasize it, for the Greek literally reads: “And the court outside of the temple cast out, outside” : exbale exothen. (page 93)
Chapter 7: The Jewish Temple as Idol
Chapter seven is a continuation of the thoughts flowing from chapters five and six. Essentially these three chapters are parts 1, 2, & 3, of an unfolding thought, that Judaism of the first century was an apostate adulterous idol, not pleasing to God, but in fact ready for impending judgment. Mr. Gentry sums it up well in the following statement from chapter seven:
In the final analysis the temple system becomes for Israel an idol substituting for a right relationship with God. Formalism replaces vitalism in worship, externalism pushes out spirituality. The Lord rebukes the Pharisees and scribes for their empty traditionalism which “invalidated the word of God” (Mt 15:1-6), making them “hypocrites” (15:7), and showing that “this people honors Me with their lips, / But their heart is far away from me, / But in vain do they worship Me, / Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (15:8-9). He chastises Peter for not understanding the hypocrisy involved in Pharisaic hand washing rituals (Mt 15:15-20), for “not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man” (Mt 15:11). (page 102)
As a fellow author, I would suggest to Mr. Gentry that rather than having this book divided into two parts, it might serve better as three parts. Chapters 4-7 would do well as Part 2: The First Century Jewish Apostates. Then chapters 8-15 could be Specific Players and Issues of Revelation.
Chapter 8: Hebrew Riddles, 666, and Asian Christians
In Revelation 13:18 we find the famous and perplexing gematria identifying the beast of Revelation (the first beast, i.e., the beast from the seas; cp. Rev 13:1): “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.”
Since the beast plays a prominent role in Revelation and since John presents his number to provide his reader “wisdom” and “understanding,” interpreting the number is important to recognizing who the beast is.
Mr. Gentry then thoroughly proves that the 600, 60 and 6 number clearly and definitively points to Nero as the beast from the sea, as Emperor he represents the Roman Empire of the first century.
Chapter 9: The Land Beast and the High Priestly Aristocracy
In Revelation John presents two evil beasts as plaguing the world. In my previous chapter I focus on an issue that relates to the first beast, the beast from the sea (Rev 13:1). In this chapter I will be considering the second beast, the beast from the earth, which we may translate “land” (Rev 13:11).
Mr. Gentry argues that the two beasts and the dragon compile an evil parody of the holy Trinity. He then uses this chapter to build his case that the beast from “the land,” is a beast from the “land” of Israel. This leads to identifying the beast as the first century priesthood system, which had become altogether corrupt and evil.
On the second page of this chapter (page 118) a little bit of Mr. Gentry’s humor shines through his magnificent intelligence. In reference to Revelation 13:1c, “he spoke as a dragon” Gentry includes a footnote.
The humorous footnote reads: “Carrington amusingly dismisses R.H. Charles’ statement on the dragon: ‘Dr. Charles is distressed about this statement, because he says dragons do not speak [Charles 1:358]; I am too ignorant about the natural history of dragons to contradict him here.”
Chapter 10: The Jewish Temple and the Beast’s Throne
Building off of the conclusion of the previous chapter, that the beast of the land was the high priesthood, Mr. Gentry goes on this chapter to reveal what the “throne of the beast” was. Revelation 16:10 reads “And the fifth angel poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast; and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain.”
Mr. Gentry does a beautiful job of consistently interpreting the imagery. If the land beast is the high priesthood, then it would follow that the seat of their authority, or in other words their “throne” would be the temple that they ruled from.
He then shows that Revelation 16:1 uses the greek word “Ge” for localized land, not global, therefore the seven bowl judgments were poured not “into the earth (Kosmos)” but were poured “into the land (Ge)” of Israel.
Chapter 11: Jerusalem and the Babylonian Harlot
Mr. Gentry presents a debate that continues among commentators regarding the identity of the Babylonian Harlot. As a student, I was unaware that the current dominant view among commentators is that the Harlot represents the Roman Empire. I do not find any validity to this point of view, especially considering the facts presented in David Chilton’s work, The Days of Vengeance. I have found Chilton’s view completely convincing; that the Babylonian Harlot represents Jerusalem.
As I stated in my book report on The Days of Vengeance:
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
Mr. Gentry presents from the same viewpoint as Chilton regarding the Babylonian Harlot.
Chapter 12: The Harlot’s Dress and Jerusalem’s Décor
In this chapter we are presented with the argument that the clothing of the Babylonian Harlot was the same colors as the Priestly garments. This chapter presented the evidence quite well and I am convinced that this is what John was pointing to in his writings, yet there is a missing piece to this puzzle. John does not include the color blue in the description of the Harlot, yet the priests wore blue. This is a glaring discrepancy, which was not addressed; I share about this further in the weaknesses section below.
Chapter 13: Nero and the Beast that “Was”
“The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.” Revelation 17:8
Earlier, Gentry beautifully explained that Nero, as the head of Rome, was represented in the Book of Revelation as the Beast from the sea. Then when the reader of Revelation arrives at 17:8, they are presented with a complicated and confusing passage, “The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction.” From the preterist perspective, how are we to understand what John is speaking of? Was Nero going to be resurrected?
Mr. Gentry lays out several interpretive options and their weaknesses, ultimately arriving at what I found to be a simple and convincing conclusion: Nero was the beast specifically and Rome was the beast generally. In his own words:
The evidence for the specific identity of the beast being Nero, with the generic identity being Rome, is strong. Though initially the problem of the past tense statement (“the beast which was”) seems to create a problem for the argument, when we more carefully consider it, it does not. Nero is the specific emperor living when John writes. His death in A.D. 68 puts the Roman Empire in death throes, from which it arises after the Roman Civil Wars (AD 68-9). The beast generically considered in John’s view – not the beast specifically considered. This corporate beast mimics the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. (pages 164/165)
I found Chapter 14, 15 and the anti-Semitism Appendix to be absolutely the most fascinating and profound sections of this book. I am familiar with the material in chapters 1-13, Mr. Gentry expounded those chapters beautifully and there were many items I learned along the way. Yet these last three sections were revolutionary to my perspective and far exceeded my expectations, especially chapter 15.
Chapter 14: The Martyrs’ Millennium (Rev 20)
For all my writing and study regarding eschatology, I have not yet arrived at a view regarding the “millennium” of Revelation 20 with which I am fully convinced or comfortable. It remains a mystery to me. Although I greatly appreciated David Chilton’s stance which I would summarize as partial-postmil and partial-amill. I believe that both of these systems have some truth to them and a combination of them is even stronger, whereas I find nothing good at all in the premillennial system.
I have arrived at a few conclusions, which help direct my current understanding. Mr. Gentry holds to these same conclusions:
In Revelation 20:1-3 we witness the binding of Satan for a thousand years. This immediately raises the millennial debate. I maintain the Augustinian view on this portion of the chapter. That is, I believe that the thousand years is a symbolic time frame covering Christian history from the first century down to the end. And I also believe that it teaches that Satan is bound in his mission to “deceive the nations” (Rev 20:3). In other words, Satan has been bound since the first century (Mt 12:28-29) [In a limited sense of bound, not entirely bound]. (page 167)
I have found this foundation to be a great start in heading away from the popular views of the Literal-Pre-Mill interpretation of this passage. Gentry continues:
However, I am no longer a Revelation 20 Augustinian across the board. In fact, an enormous change has recently occurred in my views regarding the next three verses, Revelation 20:4-6. The changes have resulted from my deeper analysis of Revelation as I work on my full commentary. Consider the following three major changes in my understanding. These three issues are important in the millennial debate, as well as in the flow and meaning of Revelation.
First, I originally held that two groups were in view [in] Revelation 20:4. I held the common Augustinian view that the martyrs represented deceased Christians in heaven (the Church Triumphant) and the confessors represent living saints on the earth (the Church Militant). And together these two groups picture all Christians throughout Church history. I no longer accept this interpretation.
Second, I also previously held that the fat that they “came to life and reigned with Christ” (Rev 20:4c) portrayed the new birth experience, where the Christian arises from spiritual death to sit with Christ in heavenly places. I still believe this doctrinal position, for it is taught in various places in Scripture (see especially Eph 2). But I do not believe this is a proper exegetical position here in Revelation 20. In other words, I now believe that this view is good theology but bad exegesis – if we try to draw it from Revelation 20.
Third, I previously held that “the rest of the dead” who “did not come to life until the thousand years were completed” (Rev 20:5 pointed to the bodily resurrection of all the unsaved at the end of history, as a part of the general resurrection of all men. As an orthodox Christian I do, of course, believe that John teaches a general resurrection of all men. He even teaches it in Revelation 20. But I now believe he holds off on that until verses 11-15. (Page 168)
Mr. Gentry then goes more in-depth explaining each of these three changes to his eschatology. In my opinion, this section is rather complex for most readers, yet for someone wrestling through the Millennium debate, it provides a uniquely fresh perspective. Here is his conclusion:
So then, my first two changes in my understanding of Revelation 20 are: I now see only one group in the vision; and that one group involves only the first century martyrs. Revelation 20:4-6 does not speak of the reign of the Church in history, nor does it prophesy a still-future political reign on earth. Though again: I do believe the Church reigns in history (1 Cor 3:21-23; Eph 1:19-23), and that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places (e.g., Eph 2:6; Col 3:1). But John is writing an occasional epistle dealing with specific historical matters. We may take principles from Revelation and apply them in other contexts (just as we apply, for instance, principles from Paul’s congregation-specific directives to the church at Corinth). But John’s express teaching regards the first century persecuted Church and her two persecutors, Rome and Israel. (page 174)
Regarding the third change:
“The rest” of the dead are the ones allied with the first-century beast and his false prophet, the ones responsible for executing the martyrs. In Revelation 19:20 the beast and the false prophet are thrown directly and immediately into the lake of fire, which accents their leadership role in opposing God and His people. But “the rest (ho lopi) were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of him who sat upon the horse.” Remember: the beast is Nero (particularly), the false prophet is the Jewish High Priestly aristocracy; thus, their armies are their supporters in the persecution and the war against the Lamb. (page 175)
I greatly appreciated Mr. Gentry’s exegesis in this chapter; he brings new clarity, but also simplifies an often poorly taught passage. Even though I now understand Revelation 20 better, I am still mystified by two verses, which I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer of by any school of interpretation: “When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle.” Revelation 20:7-8a
If the thousand-year reign is symbolic of the Church in history advancing the Kingdom of God upon the earth (and I believe it is), then how are we to understand the release of Satan at the end of time? For all our Post-Mil advancement of the Kingdom, should we still be thinking that at the end of human history satan will be released and wreaks havoc one last time? I hope to one day find an adequate answer to this question, as currently I am unsatisfied with any answer I have heard and for the most part I have not even heard a Post-Mil perspective on this question.
Chapter 15: The New Creation as New Covenant (Rev 21-22)
This chapter is only eight pages long, yet it contains the clearest exposition of Revelation 21-22 I have ever laid my eyes upon.
Despite initial appearances, Revelation 21-22 does not speak of the consummate new creation order. Rather, it provides an ideal conception of new covenant Christianity, presenting it as the spiritual new creation and the new Jerusalem. Though the ultimate, consummate, eternal new creation is implied in these verses (via the now/not yet schema of New Testament revelation), John’s actual focus is on the current, unfolding, redemptive new creation principle in Christ. (Page 177)
He starts by laying out four reasons why he would not place Revelation 21-22 as the final eternal consummate order. (1) The time-texts of Revelation (1:1, 3; 22:6) indicate that the entire book was imminent. (2) Revelation is filled with bold symbolism, which should not be used as a rigid literalism. (3) The chronology of this section shows that it should be taken in a more symbolic manner. (4) The flow of Revelation shows an expectation that Revelation 21-22 should immediately follow 1-20. There is not massive time-gap indicated.
He then lays the foundation that John’s immediate source material for writing in Revelation 21-22 would be connected to Isaiah 65:17-20. As Gentry states, “Isaiah was not speaking of the consummate order, for he includes aspects of the present fallen order in his description:”
“Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.” (Isaiah 65:20)
Gentry makes the case that Revelation 21-22 is a picture of new covenant Christianity, as such he lays out nine points in chapters 21-22 which point to our current reality in Christ. (I paraphrase below)
- Rev. 22:1 speaks of the water of life. This represents God’s offer of salvation, Jesus speaks of it in John 4:10-14, and 7:37, we are to come to Him and drink.
- Rev 21:14 speaks of the twelve foundations with the apostles names upon them. Paul also wrote of the church being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20).
- Rev 21:16 speaks of the city as a cube with each side measuring 12,000 Stadia, in modern terms, 1400 Miles, approximately. Gentry then shows that if one were to measure from Rome to Jerusalem (east to west) and from the northern edge to the southern edge of the Roman Empire this adds up to 1400 miles by 1400 miles, with the isle of Patmos exactly at the center of this measurement.
- Rev 21:22 speaks of no temple in the New Jerusalem. This is because the work of the Cross removed the necessity of the previous temple.
- Rev 21:24 “the nations shall walk by its light” suggests that nations still exist as national separate entities, which suggests a present-temporal condition rather than an eternal condition. As well as Jesus established the Church as the “light of the world” (Mt 5:14).
- Rev 21:25b speaks of the gates never being closed. This shows the temporal work of ongoing evangelism.
- Rev 21:27 shows that there are those that are “unclean” and those who “practice abomination and lying” therefore this is still a pre-final-judgment setting, otherwise there would be none of this sort.
- Rev 22:1-2 for the Tree of Life to have leaves for the “healing of the nations” means that the nations have not yet been healed.
- The existence of “dogs and sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying (Rev 22:15),” shows this is not about heaven after the final judgment. [This point was simply a recapitulation of points 6 and 7 combined.]
Mr. Gentry then writes of how the New Creation is in a process of gradual growth.
The principle of gradualism is important to understand as we look into the idea of the present new creation process. Gradualism recognizes that God generally works His will incrementally over time rather than catastrophically all at once. We see this in God’s method in the progress of redemption in time (Ge 3:15; Gal 4:4), in Israel’s gradual conquest of the Promised Land (Ex 23:29-30; Dt 7:22), in God’s unfolding of His revelation in history (Isa 28:10; Heb 1:1-2), and in the expansion of Christ’s kingdom to the end (Mk 4:26-32; Isa 9:6-7). (page 182)
I find Revelation 21:5 to fit well in line with this presupposition, “…I am making all things new…” Jesus did not declare, “I have made all things new” He declares that there is a process of “making” all things new. So to see Revelation 21-22 not as a description of the consummate order of all things, but as the beginning of the “making new” process is a little known but contextually accurate interpretation. Mr. Gentry concludes his book with the following summary statement.
In Revelation John details Christ’s judgment upon Israel (Rev 1:7, cp. 3:10) and the collapse of the temple and the old covenant order (Rev 11:1-2, 19). Christianity is born out of Judaism, and for its first forty years functions as a sect of Judaism. But once the temple collapses (Hebrews 8:13; 12:20-28), Christianity is finally and forever freed from its mother and the constraints involved in that previous association (cf. Mk 2:21-22; Jn 4:20-24). John is picturing the glory of new covenant Christianity, which arises from the ashes of collapsed Judaism (cp. Mt 8:11-12; 21:43; 22:1-10). Christ promises victory over Israel and her resistance: “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His Glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt 19:28). (page 184)
Appendix: Anti-Semitism and Preterism
One of the harshest criticisms against Preterism is the emotionally charged accusation that it is “anti-Semitic.” While it is unfortunate that Mr. Gentry must waste his time addressing accusations, which are simply Zionistic tripe, it is still important because many people do not have a proper Scriptural foundation to understand that by teaching the Bible clearly, Mr. Gentry is not anti-Semitic. Although for some, there is no hope that they will ever be swayed that Preterism is not anti-Semitic, this appendix by Mr. Gentry would definitely sway most reasonable people.
He starts by presenting three issues that blur the thoughts of many and lead to aiming anti-Semitic judgments at Preterism. I will paraphrase:
- The fear of any theology that could influence an individual toward thinking, which led to the Nazi holocaust.
- The modern concept of “political correctness.”
- The modern convention known as Dispensational Theology.
Mr. Gentry gives a powerful defense through four different angles (I paraphrase below).
A definitional defense
Here he shows that the definition of anti-Semitism is simply akin to hatred and racism, both of which are individual choices and not a construct of preterist theology. Although a preterist individual may be a racist, Preterism itself as a system is not racist.
A theological defense
Here he shows that many liberal theologians have claimed that Preterism is racist on the basis that they also believe that the Gospels and the Book of Acts are also racist. Simply put, Mr. Gentry cautions Evangelical Christianity against making the error of claiming Preterism is racist, for danger that they will have to rip out large portions of the New Testament.
A biblical defense
In this short section he shows that it is illogical to consider the teachings of the Bible itself as anti-Semitic. For example when Ezekiel, Isaiah and Jeremiah rail against Israel for being an adulterous whore, are we to believe that each of these Godly Jewish men were simply being anti-Semitic? Clearly not! So to say that interpreting the Book of Revelation as the Apostle John prophesying against Jerusalem is not even remotely an anti-Semitic concept.
A historical defense
To consider first–century Judaism to be apostate and bankrupt spiritually is not anti-Semitic. Mr. Gentry shows how even the Dead Sea Scrolls and other writings of the time record “other Jews reviling Jerusalem, the temple, and the High Priesthood while calling for God’s judgments on their own brothers.” (page 194)
Navigating the Book of Revelation is the shortest book on my list of core coursework. Contrarily, it has taken the longest to write my report on so far. I have found it much harder to write a book report regarding a book that I so thoroughly agree with.
I recommend this book constantly. I wish that every pastor and seminary student were required to read this book, if even only to properly understand the Preterist perspective. I do believe that if a person were to read this book with an open mind, they would find the overwhelming research and Scriptural evidence to be inescapably convincing.
Navigating the Book of Revelation is the shortest book on my list of core coursework. Contrarily, it has taken the longest to write my report on so far. I have found it much harder to write a book report regarding a book that I so thoroughly agree with. I recommend this book constantly. I wish that every pastor and seminary student were required to read this book, if even only to properly understand the Preterist perspective. I do believe that if a person were to read this book with an open mind, they would find the overwhelming research and Scriptural evidence to be inescapably convincing.