Review of Simon Kistemaker on the Dating of Revelation – #2
SODOM AND EGYPT, WHERE ALSO THE LORD WAS CRUCIFIED
This is article #2 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. (It failed – badly). The respected commentator Simon Kistemaker wrote a chapter in which he attempted to establish the late date of Revelation.
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 first article here.
Kistemaker realizes that Revelation 11:8 poses a tremendous challenge to his view of Revelation, and is potentially strong evidence for the preterist doctrine. Speaking of the “great city” John says it, “spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was slain.” Kistemaker admits, “The reference to the crucifixion of Jesus is patently linked to Jerusalem, called the great city.” (P. 226). However, he cannot allow this to stand, so, he claims that the reference to “where our Lord was slain” is a spiritual appellation just as “Sodom” and “Egypt.”He then claims:
Jerusalem lost its name as ‘the holy city’ when it took its place next to Babylon by defying God, his message, and his messengers. People who live in this great city of Babylon oppose the will of God; it is the place where they have crucified and continue to crucify the Lord all over again (cf. Hebrews 6:6). Thus, ‘the great city’ in 11:2 is not the earthly city of Jerusalem where the Lord was crucified; rather, it is the symbolic opposite of the holy city in which God’s people reside.” (P. 226).
Let’s take a close look.
First, if Jerusalem lost its name as the holy city, could it not have been given the name of Babylon? This is after all the nature of metaphoric language. Nothing could have been more natural than this change of name.
Second, the city of Babylon did indeed oppose God, His Word, and His messengers. The key here is to understanding the consistent message of scripture, from the OT to the New. That message is that it was Old Covenant Jerusalem that withstood God, His Word, and His messengers! (See Nehemiah 9; Matthew 23; Luke 13; Acts 7; 1 Thessalonians 2:15f, etc.). More on this later. For Kistemaker’s view to stand, he must be able to prove conclusively that John is ignoring the entire Biblical history, recorded in the prophets and the words of Jesus, and changes that history to speak of a “world power” stretching through the ages. This is presuppositional to say the least.
Third, Kistemaker says that this city is not just where the Lord was slain, it is where they, “continue to slay the Lord.” This is a blatant misuse of the text. The text does not say they continue to crucify the Lord. The city is where the Lord had been slain. That is, in the words of Gentry, a clear, indisputable, historical and geographic reference: “‘The city that is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt’ is ‘where the Lord was slain.’” (Before, 162). Kistemaker has taken an interpretive phrase, and turned it into a symbolic reference.
Fourth, Kistemaker says the great city is not where the Lord was slain. The trouble is, John says the great city was “where our Lord was slain.” Kistemaker is confronted with the daunting task of making God’s word mean the exact opposite of what it says, even though the inspired writing is in fact interpreting his spiritual language for the reader. Kistemaker’s view only compounds the interpretive difficulty, whereas the Spirit was trying to clarify it!
Fifth, Kistemaker says that the great city is not where the Lord was slain, but rather, “it is the symbolic opposite of the holy city in which God’s people reside.” Question: Did not literal, Old Covenant Jerusalem apostatize into that very degenerate condition? Did not the Lord himself say Israel had turned the temple into a den of thieves (John 2:16)? Did not literal Jerusalem become, “the symbolic opposite of the holy city in which God’s people reside” One has but to compare Galatians 4:22f, Philippians 3, Hebrews 12:18f, etc. with this concept to see that Old Covenant Jerusalem was in fact the opposite of the holy city in which God’s people reside. Kistemaker’s objection is specious.
Sixth, Kistemaker claims that the great city, Babylon, “cannot be one particular place, but, ‘the worldwide structure of unbelief and defiance of God.’” (266). The trouble is that as Gentry as noted, the “mention of streets in Rev. 11:8 and the deaths of 7000 people by earthquake further preclude the designation from being applied to a ‘secularized church.’” (Before, 170, n.24). And, what is Kistemaker’s evidence for his interpretation? Does he do an exegetical demonstration that John is ignoring the Old Testament testimony, or altering the evidence to fit his own distinctive views. No. There is absolutely nothing in the text of Revelation 11 to support Kistemaker’s thesis. It is bold assertion and nothing more.
Note that the phrase “where also the Lord was crucified” is offered by John as the interpretation of the spiritual appellation of Sodom and Egypt. He says the great city is, “spiritually called Sodom and Egypt,” and then adds, “Where also the Lord was crucified.” John does not say the great city is, “spiritually called where our Lord was slain.” The force of the Greek phrase (hopou kai ho kurios auton estaurothe), is explanatory in nature. The literal rendering might be, “where indeed our Lord was slain.” This is destructive to Kistemaker’s paradigm.
Furthermore, this city Babylon is the city, as we shall show, that is not only guilty of killing the Lord, but, in addition, killed the Old Covenant prophets, and the apostles and prophets of Jesus. This completely precludes the identify of Babylon as some generic, timeless, nebulous “worldwide structure of unbelief.” These are concrete historical references to past events, not predictions of what was to be. Revelation does not say that “Babylon” was to be like the city that had killed the Lord, the prophets, or the apostles. The Apocalypse does not say, “As Jerusalem did this, so Babylon shall do.” Babylon had already done those things! And this can only be one city, Old Covenant Jerusalem.
Kistemaker attempts to negate the application of the spiritual terms Sodom and Egypt to Jerusalem by claiming that they simply, “connote immorality and slavery.” While admitting that Isaiah and Ezekiel call Old Covenant Jerusalem Sodom, Kistemaker claims that, “neither they nor anyone else identified Jerusalem with Egypt.” (266+) This brings two issues to our attention.
First, in the Apocalypse, John is drawing extensively from the Old Testament. In fact, the Old Testament is the source for the imagery and terminology he uses. Thus, since the only city in all the Bible to ever be spiritually called Sodom, was Old Covenant Jerusalem, and since John is drawing on that background, the evidence is strong that Sodom was Jerusalem. (See my Who Is This Babylon? for extensive documentation on this identity. One issue ignored by Kistemaker is Deuteronomy 32, the Song of Moses. Moses spoke of Israel’s last days (32:21f), and said she would be, “the vine of Sodom.” The fact that John alludes to the Song in the Apocalypse makes it highly likely that his reference to Sodom, especially in light of the, “where the Lord was crucified” statement, means Old Covenant Jerusalem, and not some vague timeless entity).
There is much here that is determinative for understanding the dating and application of Revelation.
Deuteronomy 32 is a prediction of the last days of Israel (21:29; 32:20f; 32:29). It is not about the end of human history. Significantly, Moses said that in her last days, “their vine is the vine of Sodom” (32:32). In the Day of the Lord, Jehovah would “avenge the blood of His saints” (32:43).
In Isaiah 2-4, another prediction of the last days, the prophet said, “They declare their sin as Sodom” (3:9f). The result of this arrogance would be the Great Day of the Lord when men would flee to the hills, and caves (2:9f; 2:19f), and Jesus himself applied this prophecy to the impending judgment of Israel (Luke 23:28f). This Day of the Lord would be when Israel’s guilt for shedding innocent blood would be purged (4:4). Jesus leaves no doubt about when that would be: A.D. 70 (Matthew 23:29f).
So, Deuteronomy 32 and Isaiah 2-4 foretold the last days of Israel, and said that Israel would be “Sodom” in her last days, and would be judged for spilling innocent blood. John was clearly living in the last days (Acts 2:15f; Hebrews 1:1; 1 Peter 1:20), and anticipates the judgment of the city “where the Lord was slain, which is the city “spiritually called Sodom.” This is the city guilty of shedding “all the blood shed on the earth” (18:24), and her judgment was at hand.
In the last days, Israel would be called Sodom, and would be judged for shedding innocent blood. John was living in the last days, and based on the Old Testament prophecies, foretold the judgment of “Babylon” for shedding innocent blood. Therefore, unless John was creating a totally new identity for the last days than foretold by the scriptures he is utilizing, and unless he was ignoring the prophetic identity of “Sodom/Jerusalem” as the one guilty of shedding innocent blood, we conclude that Babylon in Revelation was Israel/Jerusalem. John was a Jew, drawing from Jewish prophecies, of Israel’s last days. Kistemaker would ignore all this, and create a totally new, foreign paradigm for Revelation.
This consistent, prophetic evidence falsifies Kistemaker’s convoluted attempt to divorce Revelation from its moorings in Israel’s prophetic corpus. It also demands that Babylon was Jerusalem, and Revelation was written before her fall in A.D. 70.
Second, Kistemaker claims that no writer ever refers to Israel / Jerusalem as Egypt. I contend that this is wrong. In Galatians 4:22f Paul refers to Jerusalem as Hagar, and refers to her bondage under the Law. It must not be forgotten that Hagar was an Egyptian (Genesis 16:1). For Paul to refer to “Jerusalem that now is, and is in bondage with her children” in his discussion of the Egyptian, would, in typical “midrashic” fashion, mean that Jerusalem had in fact become Egypt. Hagar was Jerusalem, but Hagar was an Egyptian. Therefore, Jerusalem was Egypt!
What is so important about Paul’s allusion to Hagar, bondage, and Jerusalem is that Paul and John contain the identical motifs and themes. (Preston, Babylon, 148+). Paul speaks about a woman, persecution, bondage and impending judgment. Likewise, John depicts the Harlot as persecuting the Seed, bondage, and impending judgment. The motifs are identical.
So, Revelation 11:8, contains three keys to the identity of the harlot. Whereas Kistemaker seeks to negate the references to Sodom, Egypt, and “where the Lord was crucified,” this cannot be done without ignoring the connection to the Old Covenant. Unless a person ignores that evidence, as Kistemaker has done, it is persuasive in identifying Babylon as Jerusalem.
More to come.