As was announced, Dr. Sergius Bale and I have agreed to a formal written debate on the dating of the book of Revelation. Was the book written prior to AD 70- and was predictive of that event– as I affirm – or was it written after AD 70 and predictive of Rome?
Part of our agreement was that each man could ask the other a set of 10 preliminary questions, to be answered prior to the beginning of the debate. Bale has now answered the questions that I submitted to him. I will post my questions and his answers in two separate postings. This is the second part of his answers- #6-10:
6. Have ALL of Israel’s feast days – and what they foreshadowed and typified – been completely fulfilled and therefore, do they stand nullified and no longer valid as shadows of “things to come”?
This question does not make sense. The Torah has been fulfilled by Christ and the New Covenant installed at the Cross. This does not nullify Torah nor abolish Torah. We do not go back to Torah if we are in the New Covenant because it cannot save us. The Torah’s purpose was to make the observer of it realize the depravity of their sinfulness and to help Israel and all who joined Israel to manage their sin until the Messiah came to establish a New Covenant with those who are faithful to Him because He was and did more than manage their sin. He makes us righteous. After the Cross, Christ does not abolish the Torah, but through the Cross, He supersedes and surpasses it. We see clearly after the Resurrection of Christ that the apostles hold strictly to the Levitical law in Acts 15 which forbids forcing Gentiles who enter Israel from forcing dietary laws on them and from having them circumcised. Because they are circumcised by baptism and possess the Holy Spirit they do not require it when they become part of Israel (the Church) of God (Gal 6:16). The Gentiles were simply called to abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and to flee from sexual immorality (all part of Levitical Law in the Holiness Code for all who live in Israel – even Gentiles). This still applies today as well. The New Covenant still has a circumcision: baptism is the new circumcision. Christians still celebrate the Day of Atonement but in a different fashion because Christ was and is the ultimate atonement for sin at the Cross. At the foundation of Western soteriology is often the unbiblical and false idea that keeping Torah perfectly grants eternal life and that it is not possible for any human person to do so except for Christ – thereby earning eternal life for all human persons. This ideology contradicts Scripture at several points as they state several times there are people who have kept Torah perfectly and are blameless. When Scriptures describe someone keeping all Torah, it is the whole Torah – all five books of the Scriptures. When St. Paul refers to the ‘nomos’, he refers to the entirety of these texts, not only certain moral commandments that would later be extracted from it. King David is said to have walked in obedience to God and done what is right in his eyes by keeping the decrees and commands (1 Kings/3 Kingdoms 11:38). It contrasts blameless David to evil Jeroboam. Paul himself says he was “blameless according to the Torah,” and did so while murdering early Christians (Phil 3:6).
Paul implies that there were Gentiles outside of Israel who did not possess Torah but had done all righteous deeds required by Torah, serving as their own instructors (Rom 2:14). Anyone familiar with David’s life knows he did not live a life of sinless perfection. Paul could not have done so either speaking of his blamelessness according to Torah right after talking about persecuting the Church. It is doubtful there were a group of pagans who never sinned. Rather it is a statement of those who kept the whole Torah, not those who never violated it. When an Israelite sinned, repented, offered the required sin offering, and participated in the annual Day of Atonement, he kept Torah. The worship of God by Israel, including the sacrificial system, was not some sort of add-on or appendix to the “law” because God knew people couldn’t follow it. Rather, the worship commanded by the Torah is the central core of the Torah. All other commandments of the Torah governing moral life, cleansing places, and agricultural practices are all based around the establishment and maintenance of purity and holiness that is necessary for Yahweh, the God of Israel to remain present with his people for worship. The Torah does not include a system for managing the sins of the people; rather, the Torah is a system for managing the sins of the people to allow for the transformative worship of the true God. Christ, in fulfilling perfectly the Torah, not only kept the so-called “moral law” but all of the Torah, including the sacrificial worship of the temple and the feasts despite not having sins of which to repent. Christ was not baptized for the remission of his non-existent sins, but was baptized to fulfill all righteousness/justice (Matt 3:15). This understanding from Scripture is problematic for Western perspectives because of the presuppositions described above that imply these people “earned” eternal life through Torah apart from Christ. This misunderstanding of the law is not the only faulty presupposition. Even more major is the unbiblical idea that the keeping of the Torah brings some merit and earns eternal life. Galatians 3 is a theological assault on this entire ideology. The promise of theosis, of eternal divine life, is a promise which was made to Abraham based on Abraham’s faithfulness and his walking before God in righteousness (Gal 3:6-8). The Torah is not a long list of added conditions interpolated into the covenant with Abraham (v. 15-18). The Torah never had anything to do with eternal life and the kingdom of God. It served another purpose. “If a law had been given which could give life, then righteousness would be by the law” (v. 21). St. Paul’s conditional statement presents a counter-factual. The Torah given cannot give life. If God had, Paul says humanity wouldn’t be able to handle it. Rather, the promises given to Abraham of eternal divine life are inherited by Christ and those baptized into Christ become co-heirs of that salvation (v. 27-29). God created humanity for theosis to share His life with human beings. This would happen in the fullness of time when the Son would become incarnate uniting human nature to the divine nature in his person. The rebellion of hostile spiritual powers, a rebellion in which humanity joined and participated in as described in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, placed obstacles between humanity and the receipt of God’s promises, though those promises were reiterated to Abraham following humanity’s falls. Christ defeats these enemies and removes these obstacles. Those who have kept the whole Torah still die. Christ has defeated death and saved them from it. Even those who have kept the Torah will still live in a world subjected currently to the power and corruption of sin, which power over us Christ has destroyed and which corruption has been cleansed by Christ’s blood. Even those who have kept the whole Torah still lived in a world dominated by hostile spiritual powers, powers and principalities in the heavenly places given dominion over humans through their sin. Christ has judged and defeated them, taking all power and authority in heaven and on earth for himself (Matt 28:18). God does not save humanity from Himself or one of His attributes. He saves humanity from itself and the consequences of its sinful rebellion. While only those who are in Christ share in his eternal divine life, the results of these victories over sin, death, and the fallen powers are experienced by all of humanity, such that St. Paul can say that “Christ is the savior of all men, especially those who believe” (1 Tim 4:10).
7. Is it necessary for us to possess a MSS of Revelation documented to have been written prior to AD 70, to be able to prove that the book of Revelation was written before AD 70?
If one wishes to DEFINITIVELY prove that Revelation was written before 70 CE it is necessary to provide documentation of said manuscripts and to go off of known historical data to try and come to that conclusion or not. As of yet, there is nothing we possess that will DEFINITIVELY prove Revelation was written before 70 CE. The oldest copies (fragments) of Revelation that we have currently are Papyrus Fragments P18 (200-400 CE), P47 (200-300 CE), P98 (150-250 CE), and P115 (200-400 CE). This does not mean we won’t ever find one that can be dated to the reign of Nero or Vespasian but as of now, there have been no manuscripts nor papyrus fragments that we have in our possession from that time period. What we do have are various historical sources that posit the Revelation to have been written in the reign of Domitian. However the same can be said as well of trying to DEFINITIVELY date Revelation in the reign of Domitian as well as we do not possess a manuscript that is definitively written in the reign of Domitian either so it remains INCONCLUSIVE.
8. At what point of time, and with what events were the 70 weeks of Daniel 9:24 fulfilled and the 70 weeks terminated?
Daniel 9 has in view Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection when He puts an end to sin and makes reconciliation for all iniquity. The events of 70 CE may be in view here as well. God allows Jerusalem to be rebuilt and a further set of years are given for it. Jesus is the Most Holy referred to here.
9. Is it your personal conviction that external, non-biblical, historical evidence is equal to or more authoritative, more probative, for establishing the date of Revelation than the internal evidence of the book?
My personal convictions are irrelevant to the historical dating of Revelation. It is either written in the reign of Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellus, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Nerva, or Trajan. I do not personally hold to sola scriptura being Eastern Orthodox but even from the Protestant perspective sola scriptura does not disregard external, extra-biblical [books that are not the agreed upon Protestant bible canon], non-biblical (secular), secular or patristic historical evidence and data that exists for usage in understanding Scripture better. I hold Scripture to be authoritative and true. “External, non-biblical, historical evidence” is still evidence and evidence is the available body of facts or information that indicate whether a belief or proposition is true or valid. Revelation as far as I am aware does not tell us what time it is written in so establishing any date for Revelation with internal evidence would mean basing a date off of an interpretation as far as I can tell. This argument if done, could be potentially seen as a circular reasoning or the “just because” fallacy. Example: Revelation is written in an early date because I interpret it this way.
10. Is the judgment of the living and the dead – i.e. the resurrection of Revelation 11:15 the same as the resurrection of Daniel 12:2? If not, please document the difference from scripture.
Daniel 11-12 have to do mostly with Antiochus IV and the Maccabean Revolt. However, just as in Amos and Ezekiel with Gog and Magog, there can be argued something deeper – that being that God will deal with all of his enemies and bring justice for all who have been oppressed and persecuted. At the Resurrection of the Dead and subsequently this is the Final Judgment and the 2nd Coming, some will rise to eternal joy and others eternal shame. All enemies of Christ will fall to the Lord ultimately and we will all, if faithful in persecution and trials and tribulations, be part of His Kingdom at the 2nd Coming and the Resurrection of the dead.
Is it the same as Revelation 11? I’m not quite so sure it is. As in Revelation 10:5-7, the proclamation is made that the fullness of time has arrived: the kingdoms of this world are subject to the Kingdom of God. Christ in John 12 says “Now is the judgment of this world: now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to Myself”. This He said, signifying by what death He would die. Christ’s Crucifixion is a judgement on this world. It is also the beginning of the promise of Restoration from Exile. The Crucifixion is a Day of the Lord. John makes that clear. As in John 12: the judgment of the world and the casting out of Satan is effected by the crucifixion. The voices state in Revelation 11 that this has already occurred once and for all, at Calvary. The twenty-four elders then concelebrate the consummation of God’s Kingdom in this heavenly liturgy that carries a message of consolation to the Church. The Roman Empire is likely in view here primarily but due to the rich symbolism here, it is more than just Rome itself but the spiritual powers that oppose God. Are these the same as Daniel 12? Inconclusive. I don’t see this having to do with the destruction of Jerusalem, nor is it necessary do I believe to require the Temple of Jerusalem to still be standing as Revelation makes quite clear in Revelation 11 that John is seeing a heavenly vision here, not one of earth. Secondly, Revelation says clearly that “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple and the Lamb is the Light (Rev 21:22-23). Christ is the New Temple and the Light of the World.