RESPONDING TO SIMON KISTEMAKER’S REVEALING CHAPTER ON REVELATION #8
Don K. Preston (D. Div.)
This is article #8 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.
Follow this link to a page listing all the previous articles.
THE EVIDENCE FOR THE EARLY DATE
Mathison, contra Kistemaker, says the evidence for the early date of Revelation, and application to A.D. 70, is “decisive” (Hope, 143). He then lists seven lines of evidence, from Gentry, to support that claim. We will list those lines of evidence from Hope (143f).
1.) The theme of Revelation is the judgment of Israel, based on Revelation 1:7, i.e. the judgment of those who killed Jesus. “This coming for judgment is directed at those ‘who pierced’ Christ and ‘the tribes of the earth.’” We say, Amen!
2.) The Nearness of the Coming. John writes a number of times in Revelation that the prophecy will be fulfilled very soon. Nothing in the these verses indicates that the coming of Christ referred to in 1:7 is to occur thousands of years later. Everything in them points to an impending ‘coming.’” We say, Amen!
3.) The sixth king: Revelation 17:9 comes close to indicating the date when the book was written…The sixth king, the one who ‘is’ when John is writing would have been Nero.” We say, Amen!
4.) The existence of the Temple: Revelation 11 describes John measuring the temple. “The statement that this temple will be tread upon by the nations for forty-two months seems to indicate that the Jewish temple is in view and that it had not been destroyed at the time of the writing.” We say, Amen!
5.) The Symbolic Descriptions of Nero: “A strong case can be made that this number (666, DKP) is a symbolic designation of Nero.” We say, Amen!
6.) The strong presence of Jewish Christianity: “The book of Revelation gives evidence that it was written during a time when there remained a strong Jewish and even Judaizing element in the church (2:9; 3:9; 7:4-8; 14:1; 21:12). The Jewish influence and threat dwindled rapidly after A.D. 70.” We say, Amen!
7.) The Impending Jewish War: “There are a number of passages in the book that seem to point to the catastrophe that was about to befall Jerusalem.” We say, Amen!
We find ourselves in full agreement with Mathison/Gentry’s reasoning, and evidence for the early date of Revelation, and application to the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. We agree with Mathison that the evidence is “decisive,” and with Gentry that it is “compelling.” Lamentably, Mathison concealed his own convictions from the readers of When, and instead offered the views of Kistemaker who disagrees with virtually all of this evidence!
THE EVIDENCE FOR THE EARLY DATE: A CLOSER LOOK
In addition to the evidence offered by Mathison/Gentry, we want to call attention to some other evidence that counters Kistemaker. We will keep this as brief as possible, and yet demonstrate that the evidence for the early dating of Revelation is indeed “decisive.”
1.) Audience Relevance: Kistemaker’s interpretation completely strips the Apocalypse of any application to the first century recipients of the book. He would have us believe that the book, although written to first century saints undergoing severe persecution, were given a vision of the coming of the Lord that had no bearing whatsoever on their current stressful and dangerous situation. John was telling them to ignore their current situation and look to a time, thousands of years removed from them, when another nameless, unidentified godless figure would once again persecute the saints, but that in that far off time, God would give those saints relief from their persecution!
Gentry has responded well to the futurist view of Revelation by offering the following four point hermeneutic:
Another detriment to the strained interpretations listed above is that John is writing to historical churches existing in his own day (Rv. 1:4; 11:2-3). He and they are presently suffering ‘tribulation’‘ (1:9a). John’s message (ultimately from Christ, 1:1; 2:1; 22:16) calls upon each to give careful, spiritual attention to his words (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). John is deeply concerned with the expectant cry of the martyrs and the divine promise of their soon vindication (6:10; cp 5:3-5). He would be cruelly mocking their circumstances (while committing a ‘verbal scam,’ according to Mounce), were he telling them that when help comes it will come with swiftness–even though it may not come until two or three thousand years later. (Beast, 28)
This an excellent hermeneutic. Solid, logical, persuasive. Yet, if one accepts Kistemaker’s view, the book of Revelation has virtually no audience relevance. (Of course, one has the perfect right to wonder why Gentry does not consistently apply his excellent hermeneutic to other passages, e.g. Romans 8:18f! The reason of course, is that if Gentry were to consistently apply the logic and hermeneutic that he uses to properly interpret Revelation to other eschatological texts, he would be a full preterist, and he has, essentially, vowed that will never happen!)
THE TIME ISSUE
One of the most helpful interpretative clues in Revelation is at the same time both one of the most generally overlooked among lay students of the Bible and one of the most radically reinterpreted by evangelical scholars. This clues is the contemporary expectation of the author regarding the fulfillment of the prophecies. John clearly expects the soon fulfillment of his prophecy. (Before, 133, his emphasis).
Kistemaker’s material on the time statements of Revelation is a good example of how the time statements of Revelation are “radically reinterpreted by evangelical scholars.” Clearly, if the time statements of Revelation are taken in their normal, prosaic definition, and not in some vague, incomprehensible, “god-speak” then Kistemaker’s paradigm is falsified. As Gentry notes, the temporal expressions of imminence in Revelation are so varied, so clear, so undeniable, that those who would reject them are guilty of arguments from desperation. See the chapter that addresses these time statements.
THE THEME OF REVELATION
Mathison believes, contra Kistemaker, that the theme of Revelation is expressed in Revelation 1:7, and “it refers here to a contemporary judgment. This coming for judgment is directed at ‘those who pierced’ Christ and ‘the tribes of the earth.’” This is the coming for judgment that Christ said would come upon that generation of Jews to whom he spoke (Matthew 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32).’ (Hope, 144)
Kistemaker seeks to negate the force of this argument by arguing that Revelation 1:7 must refer to “the people (tribes) of all nations (5:9; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6). In harmony with these passages, a universal interpretation of 1:7 appears more likely than a nationalistic explanation.” (When, 253). Gentry has shown however, that the “tribes of the earth” and “even those who pierced him” is a clear reference to the judgment of A.D. 70.
It should be noted that Revelation 1:7 says that “even those who pierced him” would see Christ coming in judgment. One can hardly keep from seeing in this the answer to the Jews cry in Matthew 27:25: “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”
Furthermore, Revelation 1:7 cites Zechariah 12:10 as does Matthew 24:30. In Zechariah, those who pierced the Lord would look on him and mourn. In that day, Jehovah would destroy 2/3rds of the rebels from the land (Zechariah 13:8f), and this would be when Jerusalem was destroyed, at the coming of the Lord with His saints (Zechariah 14:1-5). In Matthew 24, Jesus was quoting from Zechariah, in his own prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem.
So, Zechariah foretold the judgment of those who would pierce the Lord. That judgment would be the coming of the Lord against Jerusalem. Jesus, citing Zechariah, predicted judgment of those who were about to kill him, and said that judgment would be in his generation. Likewise, John is told that the coming of the Lord would be against those who looked on him whom they had pierced, the judgment was near. The perfect correspondence between Zechariah, Matthew and Revelation points clearly to the judgment of Israel in A.D. 70, not an end of time event.
THE HOPE OF ISRAEL
The book of Revelation is one of most thoroughly “Jewish” books of the entire New Testament. By that we mean that it contains more references and allusions to the Old Covenant than almost any other New Testament book. Westcott and Hort list over 400 quotations / allusions of the Old Testament in Revelation. (Westcott and Hort, The New Testament In the Original Greek, (London, MacMillan and Co., 1911)612ff. See also Ferrell Jenkins’ helpful work, The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation, (Marion, Ind., Cogdill Foundation, 1972) for further documentation.
Why is this significant? It is significant because John was anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promises to Old Covenant Israel. It is important to understand this critical issue. Kistemaker, like virtually all other futurists, believes in Christian Eschatology. He says ‘John speaks about the renewal of heaven and earth at the end of time.” (When, 251) This is false. Biblical eschatology belongs to Israel and the end of her age (Acts 24:14f; 26:6f). Kistemaker believes that God was through with Israel in the first century. However, he posits the fulfillment of Israel’s promises, i.e. the resurrection, at the end of the Christian Age! ( See my debate with James Jordan, October, 2004, Tampa, Fl. Tapes available from this website. Jordan, like virtually all futurists, posits eschatology at the end of the current Christian Age. In that debate, I demonstrated that Biblical eschatology, the promise of the “final coming” of Christ, judgment and resurrection, were promises made to Israel, and were to be fulfilled at the end of her Aeon).
Consider the promise of the New Heavens and Earth of Revelation 21. Isaiah foretold the coming of this New Creation (Isaiah 65:17f). The question is, when would this New World come? The answer is found in Isaiah 65:13f where Jehovah spoke to Old Covenant Israel and said “The Lord God will slay you, and call His people by a new name.” Then follows the promise of the New Heavens. So, Biblically, the New Heavens and Earth would come at the time of the destruction of the Old Covenant World of Israel. This is preterism, otherwise known as Covenant Eschatology.
Consider the promise of the resurrection. As we have seen, Paul said that the promise of “the adoption, redemption of the body” belonged to “Israel according to the flesh” (Romans 8:23; 9:1-5). He said that the resurrection was the promise “to which our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain” (Acts 26:6f). He said that his doctrine of the resurrection, in other words, his eschatology, was nothing but what “Moses and all the prophets” said should happen (Acts 24:14f).
Daniel, in foretelling that resurrection promise, said it would be at the time of the end (Daniel 12:2, 4, 9-13) when the power of the holy people is completely shattered (Daniel 12:7). Thus, the resurrection is posited by inspired scripture at the end of Israel’s Age. Consider what this means for the interpretation of Revelation.
Revelation 20:12f foretold the resurrection. The resurrection of Revelation 20:12f would occur at the end of the millennium. But, the promise of the resurrection belonged to Israel. Therefore, the resurrection, at the end of the millennium (Revelation 22:12f), would be the fulfillment of the promise made to Israel.
If, as Kistemaker believes, the resurrection has not occurred, then patently, the end of Israel’s Age has not arrived. God has not yet fulfilled His promises to Israel, and she remains His covenant people. If the resurrection has not occurred, then the Old Covenant promises, and the Law, remain valid, for Jesus said not one jot or one tittle of the Law would pass until all of it was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18).
Thus, Kistemaker’s paradigm logically imposes the Law on the church, postpones the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, reinstates Israel as God’s covenant people and depreciates the position of the church in God’s schema. You cannot posit the resurrection, i.e. Biblical eschatology at the end of the Christian Age without rejecting the Biblical doctrine of the hope of Israel. Where ever you posit the fulfillment of the Apocalypse, it is there that God fulfills His promises to Israel. Since Jesus said that in the fall of Jerusalem: “These be the days of vengeance in which all things that are written must be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22), we are on safe ground to see the fulfillment of all of God’s promises to Israel fulfilled at that time. And that means that Revelation, concerned with the judgment of the city “where the Lord was slain” was written before that event.
THE VINDICATION OF THE MARTYRS OF GOD
Without question, one of the major, if not the major theme of Revelation centers on the vindication of the martyrs of God. Christ was coming in judgment of those who pierced him (1:7). The martyrs under the altar (6:9-11), were promised vindication very soon. Those who came out of the Great Tribulation were promised the living waters (7:14). The time of the judgment of the city “where the Lord was slain would be the time of the rewarding of the prophets (11:15f). In chapter 16 the Lord is called righteous for His promise to judge Babylon for killing the prophets (16:6f), and in 17-18 that judgment was to fall on Babylon because she held a cup full of the blood of the martyrs of God and of His Christ (17:6f; 18:20, 24). Those beheaded for their faith are given robes and crowns (20:1f). The list of the martyrs included the apostles and prophets of Jesus.
This promise of the vindication of the martyrs is Biblically comprehensive, yet, Kistemaker ignores it. For instance, when commenting on Revelation 6:9f, he simply claims that it is the promise of the judgment at the end of time (When, 243). Not one word about the reason for the judgment of v. 12f! And, he completely ignores the fact that the judgment was to be “in a little while.”
The Old Covenant promised the time of the vindication of the martyrs, i.e. in the last days of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:21-42),and the New Testament is replete with this theme. (See for instance (Matthew 16:27-28; 21-24; Luke 18; Acts 7; Romans 12, 16; Galatians 4; 1 Thessalonians 1; Hebrews 10; James 5; 1 Peter 1. There are other examples as well. See my book Who Is This Babylon? for a full discussion of this critical eschatological doctrine).
What is critical to see, for our examination of the dating of Revelation and its application to A.D. 70, is that all New Testament promises of vindication from suffering/martyrdom invariably posit that vindication as occurring in the first century. And, in the context of the judgment of Israel.
The perfect harmony of the testimony from the gospels and epistles, with Revelation, is apparent. Revelation was written to Christian being persecuted by the Jews (2:9; 3:9), and they were promised vindication at Christ’s coming. Christ promised: “Behold I come quickly!”
Now, unless John is writing of a different persecution, perpetrated by a different opponent, at a different time, and promised vindication at a different parousia, at a different time of the end than all the other passages in the earlier epistles, then we must conclude that Revelation, like Matthew, Acts, Romans, Corinthians, Thessalonians, et. al. promised vindication from that suffering at the coming of Christ against Israel in A.D. 70.
The perfect harmony in theme, terminology, motifs, and application between the gospels and epistles and the Apocalypse in relation to the suffering of the saints and their impending vindication at the coming of Christ against Israel demands an early date for Revelation, and its application to the consummation of her Old Covenant Aeon in A. D. 70.