RESPONDING TO SIMON KISTEMAKER’S REVEALING CHAPTER ON REVELATION #9
Don K. Preston (D. Div.)
This is article #9 in response to a chapter written by Simon Kistemaker, in a 2004 book edited and produced Keith Mathison entitled When Shall These Things Be? (The book is available on Amazon). That book was intended to be a definitive refutation of Full Preterism. The respected commentator Simon Kistemaker wrote a chapter in which he attempted to establish the late date of Revelation.
When that book was published, Edward Stevens asked me and some other authors to write chapters for a proposed book to respond to Mathison’s book. He even raised money to publish that work. Unfortunately, Stevens never published that book. Since Edwards never published the book I thought it would be good to go ahead and publish the chapter, after such a time, that I submitted to Stevens.
Be sure to read my previous articles in response to Kistemaker- Follow the link to a page listing them.
THE PROPHETS, JESUS,
THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS OF JESUS
There is a consistency between Revelation and the rest of the Scriptures, especially between Jesus, Paul and John, that is often overlooked by commentators, and certainly by Kistemaker in his comments.
For brevity we can only give a sketch of that consistency by way of a chart.
Matthew 23 — 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 — Revelation
History of killing the prophets (v.29) History of killing the prophets Killed the prophets (16:6f)
Jerusalem killed the Lord (chapter 21) Jews killed the Lord Killed the Lord (11:8).
Killed the apostles and prophets of Jesus (23:34) Killed the apostles of Jesus Killed the apostles and prophets of Jesus (18:20-24). Babylon killed the apostles and prophets of Jesus.
Measure of sin being filled (Matthew 23:29f). In Thessalonians, Israel’s Measure of sin was being filled up. In Revelation Babylon’s Measure of sin was being filled (6:9-11;17:2-6).
In Matthew we find Jewish culpability for killing the martyrs. In Thessalonians we find Jewish culpability Jewish culpability. In Revelation, it was Babylon, “where the Lord was slain” (11:8).
In Matthew, Eschatological wrath was imminent “This generation” (v. 36). In Thessalonians, Eschatological wrath was imminent “Wrath has come on them.” In Revelation Eschatological Wrath Was Imminent-“Behold, I come quickly!”
Jesus, Paul and John all speak of the guilt of killing the prophets, Jesus and Jesus’ apostles and prophets. They all speak of filling the measure of sin. They all speak of Israel’s guilt in these matters. They all speak of impending judgment.
Kistemaker and all late date advocates and futurists would have us ignore this consistency. They admit the subject matter of Matthew 23 and 1 Thessalonians 2 is the same, but insist that John, although using the identical language, motifs and themes, is speaking of something totally unrelated!
Consider: the judgment on Babylon would be for her guilt of killing the “apostles and prophets” (Revelation 18:20, 24). Jesus said he was sending his “apostles and prophets” to Israel, and she – not Rome, and not apostate Christianity – would kill them. As a result, her sin would be full, and she would be judged in that generation. You cannot extend the filling up of the measure of sin for killing the apostles and prophets beyond the time of the apostles and prophets, and Jesus limited that to his generation, and to Israel’s guilt in killing them!
Kistemaker and those like him, want us to ignore this testimony and to believe that Babylon is somehow, “the worldwide structure of unbelief and defiance of God.” (When, 226). The problem is, it was not, “the worldwide structure of unbelief and defiance of God” that Jesus charged with the guilt of killing the apostles and prophets! It was Old Covenant Jerusalem. Kistemaker must either ignore, or distort the testimony of Jesus and Paul to achieve his identity of Babylon and this is especially true in regard to the guilt for killing the apostles and prophets. (There is a great deal more that can be said about this issue that cannot be presented here. See my, Who Is This Babylon? for an in-depth study of the issue).
Take a closer look at Matthew 23. Jesus emphatically said that the guilt for all the martyrs, all the way back to Creation, and including the guilt for killing his apostles that he was to send, was to be required of that generation. This is a comprehensive judgment! And here is the issue.
Unless Kistemaker can demonstrate, positively and conclusively, that Revelation is unconcerned with the vindication of all the martyrs from the death of Jesus’ apostles and prophets backward to Creation, then this is proof positive that Revelation was written before the fall of Jerusalem and is concerned with the vindication foretold by Jesus in Matthew 23.
Patently, the judgment foretold by Jesus involves all the martyrs from Abel to the time of the martyrdom of Jesus’ apostles and prophets. (Paul said that his suffering, and that of the apostolate, would finally fill up the measure of guilt (1 Corinthians 4:9; Colossians 1:24f). Thus, for Paul, the suffering and martyrdom of Jesus’ personally appointed apostles was eschatologically critical, and should be seen in the light of Matthew 23).
Revelation is undeniably concerned with the vindication of the martyrs. However, Kistemaker affirms that it has nothing to do with the judgment of A.D. 70 foretold by Jesus. He must therefore, be able to prove that none of the martyrs in Revelation died before A. D. 70! He cannot do this because:
1.) Revelation is about the judgment of those who killed the Lord (1:7; 11:8).
2.) It is about the vindication of those suffering at the hands of “those who say they are Jews, but are not” (2:9; 3:9). And this best fits the situation prior to A.D. 70.
3.) It is about the vindication of those “slain for the word of God and the testimony that they held” (6:9f). This is as comprehensive term possible to describe the entire body of the martyred saints. How would one exclude from this description those listed in Hebrews 11 who were “stoned, sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword”? All the martyrs listed in Hebrews died “for the word of God and the testimony that they held.” How can you then exclude them from the vindication promised in Revelation? If you cannot positively prove that Revelation is not concerned with them, then Revelation is concerned with the judgment of A.D. 70.
4.) Revelation is concerned with the rewarding of the prophets (11:15f), and this is positively the time of the judgment of Israel (Daniel 12:2-13).
5.) Revelation 7 and 14 speak of “the first fruits” of those redeemed unto God from men, (First generation Christians!), and they are Jews, and they are those who came out of the Great Tribulation. Jesus undeniably posited the Great Tribulation for the first century (Matthew 24:34). Therefore, since the salvation and vindication of the 144,000 is directly related to the first century – and specifically to the events surrounding A. D. 70 – this posits Revelation in that framework.
There is a wealth of additional evidence to prove that Revelation is undeniably dealing with martyrs who died before A.D. 70. (It is sometimes argued that since Revelation 17 says Babylon had a cup full of the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, that this proves that Revelation is not concerned with the vindication promised by Jesus in Matthew 23. This overlooks the fact Revelation 17 speaks of two classes of people, i.e. “The saints” and “the martyrs of Jesus.” There are two definite articles in the text “the saints” and “the martyrs of Jesus.” Furthermore, the word “saints” is commonly used for Old Covenant saints (See the Psalms).
Since this is true, then since Jesus said that all of the blood of all the martyrs up to the time of the death of his apostles and prophets would be vindicated in the judgment of Israel in A.D. 70, this is prima facia demonstration of the early date of Revelation, and vindication of the preterist paradigm.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
There is so much more we would like to say, but space forbids. (For instance, we would love to develop the concept of “the war” introduced by Kistemaker. He contends that the references to “the war” must be advert to the end of time. On the contrary, the entire theme of “the war” in Revelation is drawn from Isaiah 2-4, which is an undeniable prophecy of the last days, terminating in “the war” of A.D. 70. See my Babylon book for a fuller discussion of this.
In addition, we would like to develop the theme of the consummation of the vengeance of God (Rev. 11, 15). God’s vengeance would be finished in the pouring out of the seventh vial against Babylon. Yet, Jesus said God’s vengeance would be finished in the judgment of Israel in A.D. 70 (Luke 21:22).
What we have done however, is to show:
1.) The total inconsistency between Mathison, who holds to an early date of Revelation and an application to the judgment of A.D. 70, and Kistemaker. It must surely be disturbing to those who know of Mathison’s convictions on the matter that he chose to use Kistemaker to write on Revelation. Make no mistake, the differences and disagreements between Kistamaker and Mathison are not minor issues, they involve the crux interpretum of the book itself.
Thus, for Mathison to utilize Kistemaker to “make his case” against preterism smacks of “the ends justify the means.” Mathison rejects virtually everything that Kistemaker has to say about Revelation, and Kistemaker likewise rejects Mathison’s paradigm, yet, Mathison chose Kistemaker to present what Mathison believes is false, in order to refute Preterism. This, just from a methodological perspective, is deeply disturbing.
2.) We have shown that Kistemaker’s use of the internal evidence of Revelation violates the wording of the text itself. He is guilty of making blatantly false statements about the text.
3.) We have shown that Kistemaker, like so many others, depends heavily on the tenuous testimony of Iranaeus to support his view. Yet, as Gentry and Mathison show, Iranaeus was highly unreliable.
4.) We have shown that Kistemaker’s position negates the “audience relevance” of Revelation. Yet, Revelation was written to real people, experiencing very real persecution. The Apocalypse promised them relief at the parousia. Any attempt to delay, postpone, or extrapolate that promise centuries into the future, far removed from any relevance to those suffering saints, is an injustice to the inspired text.
5.) We have shown that Kistemaker’s attempts to negate the temporal indicators of Revelation are misguided. His appeal to kairos is patently false.
6.) We have shown that Kistemaker must ignore or distort the clearly stated theme of Revelation – the judgment of those who killed the Lord – to sustain his thesis.
7.) We have shown that the persecution in Revelation had a Jewish source, and that this best fits the early date of Revelation. Kistemaker would so “moralize” the idea of persecution in Revelation that it has no historical source, and no objective identity.
8.) We have shown that Kistemaker must ignore, or distort, the consistent testimony of scripture about the time and setting of the vindication of the martyrs in order to refute preterism.
9.) As a corollary to #6, we have shown that Kistemaker must be able to prove conclusively that the martyrs of Revelation cannot be any of the martyrs prior to A.D. 70, since Jesus said that all the martyrs from Creation to the death of his apostles and prophets would be vindicated in the A.D. 70 judgment. Yet, the testimony of Revelation undeniably includes Old Covenant prophets and saints. This alone disproves Kistemaker’s view.
10.) We have shown that the promise of the resurrection, that serves as the ultimate climax of the Apocalypse at the end of the millennium, was “the hope of Israel.” Kistemaker either does not see this, or is unwilling to see it. Yet, the hope of the resurrection belonged to Israel after the flesh. This means that however you interpret Revelation, you must keep it within the context of the last days of Israel. To ignore this foundational Truth is to be doomed to improperly interpret Revelation. This is precisely what Kistemaker has done.
In conclusion, Kistemaker has failed to establish his case for a late date and future application of Revelation. He has utterly failed to refute the preterist paradigm. We fully concur with Mathison that the evidence for the early date of Revelation is “decisive.”