IS REVELATION A SEQUENCE OF EVENTS?
I was recently discussing the Book of Revelation with a friend and thought that I should blog about some of our discussion, as many of you may find this helpful if you have struggled with the same theological concepts.
My friend has admitted that he holds to a position known as Historical Premillennialism, as well as being a Mild Preterist with a dash of Historicism for good measure (don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into an academic paper).
This week we will examine my friend’s opening statement. And I will paraphrase: “I believe that the Book of Revelation is written in sequential order and will happen over the course of church history. That it began to unfold in 70AD, but Babylon represents the Roman Empire collapsing which happened in the 5th century, also the wedding of the lamb will be in our future as well.”
Many of you, my readers, may have come from this perspective before you read Raptureless and some of you may still hold to this view. But there are flaws in this perspective, which make it completely untenable. In this blog I will address the above statement as three parts
- Revelation is a sequenced order of events
- The events extend beyond 70AD to covering church history
- The wedding of the Lamb is in the future.
My friend divides Revelation into sections such as this:
- Rev 1 Introduction
- Rev 2-3 Seven letters
- Rev 4-5 Throne room
- Rev 6-11 Judgment on Jerusalem (70AD)
- Rev 12-18 Judgment upon the Ancient Roman Empire (476AD)
- Rev 19 Wedding of the Lamb
- Rev 20 The Millennium and Great White Throne Judgment
- Rev 21-22 New Heaven and New Earth
Although it looks plausible, this view falls apart upon scrutiny. For example, if Revelation is about church history over the last 2000 years and Jesus becoming the King, then how is Revelation 12-18 all about the Roman Empire being judged, and then suddenly in Revelation 19 it is about Jesus returning and marrying the Bride? Was the fall of Ancient Rome the only event that happened between 70AD and Jesus’ future return? Is there a reason that only Ancient Rome is addressed for six full chapters (and judgment on Jerusalem for only 5 chapters), and Jesus mentions nothing else in the last 1500 years before switching supposedly to talk about His future return?
Also where do we draw the arbitrary line between the destruction of Ancient Rome and the Wedding of the Lamb 1500+ years later? Wouldn’t Revelation provide a clear gap for that leap in the timeline?
No, Revelation does not provide such a gap. In fact there are no time gaps in Revelation (although Dispensationalists create time gaps for their system). Revelation 19:1-7a is celebrating the destruction of Babylon (whatever that is…), and then Revelation 7b suddenly speaks of the Bride that has made herself ready for the wedding. “For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.”
There is no separation of thought between celebrating the fall of Babylon and the wedding of the Lamb having arrived.
Secondarily, the concept that the Lamb and the Bride are not married is a myth that I personally believed for most of my life. Yet this myth also falls apart when you begin to study.
For example, Romans 7 speaks of how by dying to the Law we are free to marry another; the clear implication from Paul was that we are now married to Christ rather than the Law.
Paul also draws a very strong analogy of Christ and the Church being an example of how husbands and wives should treat each other in Ephesians 5, yet if Paul knew that Jesus would simply be engaged to the church for 2000 years, how could he draw such an analogy for husbands and wives? He even goes so far as to speak of two becoming one (Eph 5:31-32), which in 1 Cor. 6:17 we see that “whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (We are like a wife that has forgotten that she is married and pines for her wedding day!)
Lastly, if Revelation is an orderly sequence of events, then it is a mess. I agree with my friend when he says that the Beast of Revelation is the Ancient Roman Empire and sometimes Nero specifically. Yet if we are looking for an orderly sequence of events, then in Revelation 12-19:7a there is the destruction of Babylon, followed by the wedding of the Lamb in Rev. 19:7b-10, followed by the battle between Jesus and the beast in Rev. 19:11-21. See if you can follow my friend’s sequence of events:
- Revelation 12-19:7a (Destruction of Ancient Rome 476AD)
- Rev. 19:7b-10 (Wedding supper, in our future 2014+)
- Rev. 19:11-21 (Battle with the Beast 68-70AD)
Can you see how problematic that is?
The truth is that as virtually every commentary says, Revelation is a multilayered vision filled with symbolism and depth, which repeats and rephrases itself so many different ways to paint a profound picture for its original audience. We cannot put our modern expectations upon it and try to force it into a clean sequential timeline. It is about one incredibly momentous event in Israel’s history, the final removal of the Mosaic Covenant in 70AD.