Apocalyptic

Shortly after graduating from an evangelical college with a Biblical Studies degree, I began to wrestle with the book of Revelation. I was taught that Revelation prophesied in detail what was to happen in the last days; and the last days were no more than a few years away.

We were concerned with the antichrist who might already be among us. We were careful to avoid taking the mark of the beast by mistake. More than anything else we were determined to be ready for the imminent rapture so we would escape the terrible 7-year tribulation.

The Apocalypse

My initial questions about Revelation were:

  1. Why would God approve Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people?
  2. Why would temple sacrifices be restored if Jesus made them obsolete?

These questions drove me to examine my understanding of the book of Revelation; what I discovered was Jewish apocalyptic literature.

What is Apocalyptic?

Apocalyptic is a literary genre filled with visions, heavenly journeys, and spirit-guides who explain to the traveler what is happening. Symbolism and grand imagery are the order of the day. Crashing mountains and falling heavenly bodies depict the collapse of secular powers. Demons and mythic beasts represent evil forces in opposition to God and his people, while powerful angels bring about his will.

Apocalyptic literature is mysterious—hence the spirit-guide, but even with guidance it is unclear.

This literature was written between about 200 BC and 100 AD with a distinct purpose. For centuries God’s people experienced oppression by foreign powers, and at times it seemed they would be totally destroyed. The apocalyptic writings developed to assure the people that, though things seemed desperate, ultimately God would prevail and evil would be contained and annihilated.

Apocalyptic was a literature of hope during times of hopelessness, and sufficient apocalyptic works from this period exist to establish common characteristics of the literature. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1, edited by James H. Charlesworth contains numerous examples.

The First Book of Enoch

I Enoch was one of the earlier and more influential apocalyptic writings. It even influenced New Testament writers, and in these excerpts you will notice many similarities to the book of Revelation.

Chapter 14:

In the vision, the winds were causing me to fly and rushing me high up into heaven. And I kept coming (into heaven) until I approached a wall which was built of white marble and surrounded by tongues of fire.

As for the floor, it was of fire and above it was lightning and the path of the stars; and as for the ceiling, it was flaming fire.

And I observed and saw inside it a lofty throne—its appearance was like crystal and its wheels like the shining sun; and (I heard?) the voice of the cherubim; and from beneath the throne were issuing streams of flaming fire. It was difficult to look at it. And the Great Glory was sitting upon it—as for his gown, which was shining more brightly than the sun, it was whiter than snow.

Chapter 40:

And after that, I saw a hundred thousand times a hundred thousand, ten million times ten million, an innumerable and uncountable (multitude) who stand before the glory of the Lord of the Spirits. I saw them standing—on the four wings of the Lord of the Spirits—and saw four other faces among those who do not slumber, and I came to know their names, which the angel who came with me revealed to me; and he (also) showed me all the hidden things.

(Then) I heard the voices of those four faces while they were saying praises before the Lord of Glory.

Chapter 60:

On that day, two monsters will be parted—one monster, a female named Leviathan, in order to dwell in the abyss of the ocean over the fountains of water, and (the other), a male called Behemoth, which holds his chest in an invisible desert whose name is Dundayin, east of the garden of Eden, wherein the elect and the righteous ones dwell.

Chapters 100 and 102:

In those days…From dawn until the sun sets, they shall slay each other. The horse shall walk through the blood of sinners up to his chest.

In those days, the angels shall descend into the secret places. They shall gather together into one place all those who gave aid to sin. And the Most High will arise on that day of judgment in order to execute a great judgment upon all the sinners.

In those days, when he hurls out against you terror of fire, where shall you flee, and where shall you find safety? When he flings his word against you, will you not faint and fear? All the luminaries shall faint with great fear; the whole earth shall faint and tremble and panic.

The Book of Revelation as Apocalyptic

Do these passages from I Enoch have a familiar ring? They should; many of the themes and images reappear in the book of Revelation (or The Apocalypse). This is because 1 Enoch and Revelation are similar books written for similar purposes. They represent symbolically the situations of the original hearers; it is misguided for us to read the book of Revelation as prophesy of future history.

We will continue our discussion of apocalyptic after taking a look at how atheists and inerrantists agree on the Bible.

Photo Credit: Waiting For The Word via Compfight cc
I invite your comments and observations below.
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Have a great day! ~Tim
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46 Responses to Apocalyptic

  1. michaeleeast says:

    Tim, the examples you gave from 1 Enoch are very spectacular but I wonder how helpful they are? My feeling is that the Book of Revelation is an exaggeration of all the end times writings as I have said in my post on the subject. I agree that they should not be taken as prophetic history. As you say they were written to give hope to believers under oppression. They give a false impression of God’s nature which is non-violent and patient.

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    • Hi Michael, I agree that the writer depicted God in a harsh and vengeful light, but keep in mind that the entire book is symbolic and not meant to deliver actual information. The message is simply that the church will survive and evil in the world will not ultimately prevail.

      My objective in this post was to point out what kind of literature Revelation is. For many people it makes a huge difference to know that the book is not intended to be God’s sharing with us details of what is going to happen in the future. And it’s symbolism does not provide us insights on which to develop doctrine.

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  2. Marc says:

    Tim – It is interesting that the Book of Enoch is excluded from the biblical canon of most churches, and the Book of Revelation is the only NT book not read liturgically in the Orthodox Church. The symbolism used in Revelation caused a bit of millennial madness early in the Church history. The Second Ecumenical Council in AD. 381 added to the Creed, “and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.” This affirmed that the thousand years mentioned in Revelation were to be understood as symbolic. This was accepted by virtually all Christians until John Darby began spreading his dispensation heresy in the early 19th Century.

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    • Thanks Marc, I did not know the Orthodox Church did not include the book of Revelation in the liturgy.

      I know that there was a lot of millennial speculation after the first followers had passed away, but fortunately even then it was not universal. I plan to write about Darby and his movement later this year.

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  3. lotharson says:

    I long thought that the author of Revelation (Offenbarung) was a psychopatic moron because I assumed the fundamentalist interpretation to be the correct one.

    Appreciating the apocalyptic imagerie salvaged this book as far as I am concerned 🙂

    Otherwise I just interviewed Jonny Scaramanga:
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/leaving-fundamentalism-an-interview-with-jonny-scaramanga/

    Cheers.

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  4. Pingback: Midrash in the New Testament | Jesus Without Baggage

  5. Alan C says:

    One big question I have for the end-times folks: Why, with all the “sevens” in Revelation, is there no mention of “seven years” to coincide with the supposed 7-year tribulation?

    Great blog! I just ran across it.

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    • Marc says:

      Great question Alan. The prevalent use of the number seven in Revelation reflects the symbolic nature of the number. Seven is symbolic of completeness. The term “great tribulation,” is only used three times in Scripture, once in Matthew and twice in Revelation. However there are over 20 references in the NT. to the Church being subject to tribulation. The concept of a 7 year tribulation stems from a misreading of Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15-22. Regarding Daniel 9:27:

      Then He shall confirm a covenant with many for one seven; but in the middle of the seven He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation which is determined, is poured out on the desolate (Daniel 9:27).”

      The subject of this whole prophecy is the Messiah, the Prince. It is Jesus Christ who is confirming this covenant, not the Antichrist as some believe. Some English translations state, “he will make a firm covenant with many for one seven,” but we know the New Covenant is forever not just seven years, so “confirm a covenant” or possibly “establish a covenant” has to be the correct translation. This is important because it reveals to us not only when the Lord’s earthly ministry would end, but also how long the Day of the Lord will be. The New Covenant that Jesus Christ began to establish during the three years and four months of His earthly ministry, and which He then confirmed by His Crucifixion and His Resurrection, has not been completely fulfilled. So He will come again, with Glory, to judge the living and the dead for the balance of the seven years, thus completing the establishment and confirmation of the New Covenant with the resurrection harvest of the Day of the Lord.

      Regarding Matthew 24:15-22:

      “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those with nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened (Matthew 24:15-22).”

      The notation to understand in the first sentence, is there because this Scripture like the one that our Lord is referring to, Daniel 9:26-27, continues to be misunderstood by many. The abomination is the Romans who represent Satan’s dominion. The desolation is the coming destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. The holy place is the site where our Lord was Crucified and Resurrected, located outside the walls of the city. When the Roman Legions withdrew for a brief period of time following the death of Nero in A.D. 68, the faithful heeded the warning and escaped the holocaust that ended the lives of untold thousands.

      The history of the Church is truly the story of the faithful enduring great tribulation: terrible persecutions by the Romans endured until 313; continuous tribulations of heresy and schism overcome by selfless love, conciliar episcopal leadership, and faithfulness to Holy Apostolic Tradition; continuous persecutions by the Islamic powers, endured since the seventh century; and persecutions by the apostate sectarian powers that arose after the great schism of 1054. This tragic falling away, precipitated by papal pretensions, gave rise to ever increasing sectarianism (see II Thes. 2:1-7). Sectarian conflicts eventually led to the atheistic ideologies of Communism and Nazism, martyring more Christians since 1917 than in all the preceding centuries of the Church age. We have lived for over fifty years in the shadow of an earth destroying nuclear holocaust that grows more probable as nuclear weapon technology proliferates. This reality brings weight to our Lord’s words of shortening the time; before the destruction of “all flesh.”

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      • Marc, you seem quite informed on the issues of Daniel 9. I did not know this was much of an interest in Orthodox circles. I thought it was mostly a dispensational concern of interest mainly among some protestants.

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        • sheila0405 says:

          The book I recommended “The Rapture: The End Times Error That Leaves the Bible Behind” by David Currie also uses the book of Daniel quite a bit in his refutation of dispensationalism. He is also a Roman Catholic convert. Orthodox and other Catholic sects use the Bible as the basis for their doctrines. Sometimes Protestants don’t realize this. As a former Protestant, I can tell you that my dispensationalist, fundamentalist church taught that Catholic doctrines are all man made.

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          • Sheila, I disagree that Catholic doctrines are all man made; that seems like a very uninformed thing to say. I think some Catholic beliefs are based on misinterpretations, but it is no better among protestants.

            Thanks again for suggesting the Currie book. I am glad he uses Daniel; I think anyone discussing dispensational issues must include Daniel.

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        • Marc says:

          Tim – My interest in Daniel 9 stems from a personal desire to have greater eschatological clarity. Misunderstanding of Daniel 9:24-27 has led to many divisive and harmful eschatological schemes in recent times, so it is important to understand it correctly.

          “Seventy sevens are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy (Daniel 9:24).

          Seventy sevens is understood as four hundred ninety years. Yet we also need to consider the symbolic and prophetic aspect of this number. Seventy times seven is symbolic of fullness and completeness: Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22).” With the end of this full and complete time period true Israel, the Church of Jesus Christ, will fully establish the everlasting Kingdom of God, ruling it for all eternity from the New Jerusalem.

          Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven sevens and sixty-two sevens; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times (Daniel 9:25).

          There were three commands given by the Persian authorities to the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild. The first decree was given by King Cyrus in 538 B.C., the second decree was given by King Artaxerxes in 458 B.C., and the last decree of 445 B.C. also by King Artaxerxes. If you add the 483 years indicated in Daniel 9:25 to 538 B.C you come to the year 55 B.C., with no connection to the Messiah. If you add 483 years to 445 B.C. you come to A.D. 39, several years after the Messiah’s death. However if you add 483 years to 458 B.C., you come to the year A.D. 26 several years before the Messiah’s Baptism. If you add the complete 490 years of Daniel 9:24 to 458 B. C., you come to the exact year of the Messiah’s death on the Cross; A.D. 33. The seven sevens of Daniel 9:25 points us to the Law of the Sabbaths and the fifty year cycles of Jubilee Years (see Leviticus 25:1-23). This law given to Israel commanding that all debts be forgiven every fifty years was a type of what was to be fulfilled at Golgotha when all debts would be forgiven. The chronological fulfillment of this seventy week prophecy is fulfilled in the last week that ends in A.D. 33. The Jubilee period of forgiveness continues through the last week of the symbolic period of fullness and completeness ending at the Second Coming.

          And after the sixty-two sevens Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the Prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined (Daniel 9:26).

          Jesus Christ is crucified, cut off, for the salvation of all mankind, not Himself, in the early Spring of A.D. 33. It is His people, the Jews, who bring about the terrible three and a half year siege of Jerusalem by the Romans; ending in the complete destruction of the city and its temple in A.D. 70. It was the failure of most of the Jews to receive and believe their Messiah that brought about these desolations; the physical desolation of war with Rome, and the spiritual desolation of their rejection of God.

          Then He shall confirm a covenant with many for one seven; but in the middle of the seven He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation which is determined, is poured out on the desolate (Daniel 9:27).”

          The subject of this whole prophecy is the Messiah, the Prince. It is Jesus Christ who is confirming this covenant, not the Antichrist as some believe. Some English translations state, “he will make a firm covenant with many for one seven,” but we know the New Covenant is forever not just seven years, so “confirm a covenant” or possibly “establish a covenant” has to be the correct translation. This is important because it reveals to us not only when the Lord’s earthly ministry would end, but also how long the Day of the Lord will be. The New Covenant that Jesus Christ began to establish during the three years and four months of His earthly ministry, and which He then confirmed by His Crucifixion and His Resurrection, has not been completely fulfilled. So He will come again, with Glory, to judge the living and the dead for the balance of the seven years, thus completing the establishment and confirmation of the New Covenant with the resurrection harvest of the Day of the Lord.

          That the temple sacrifices were ended when our Lord died on the Cross is confirmed by the tearing of the veil in the temple: And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split (Matthew 27:50-51). Also worthy of note, is the fact that when the Day of the Lord begins, the sacrifice of the Eucharist will also end in the middle of the seven years: “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days (Daniel 12:11-12).” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord‘s death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

          The wing of abominations is the series of empires which manifest Satan’s dominion until the end of this age. These empires and their leaders will cause great tribulation for God’s Church until the last empire of Satan‘s dominion, led by the Antichrist, is destroyed after the one thousand two hundred and ninetieth day of the Day of the Lord. The desolate are the spiritually barren who will be judged and condemned at the end of this age.

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    • Good point Alan! In addition, the secret pre-tribulation rapture factors importantly in the dispensational view of the book of Revelation, and it isn’t mentioned at all! The only correspondence to the rapture in Revelation dispensationalists seem to provide is in chapter four:

      “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.'”

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      • Alan C says:

        Yes, and then of course the word ” church” doesn’t appear in the rest of the book, which I know dispensationalists often use to argue that the church itself is absent after that point. I think the lack of a mention of “seven years” in Rev. undermines their viewpoint. They have to go through some gymnastics to get two 3 1/2’s to make the seven years.

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  6. Marc says:

    Tim – The Book of Daniel might have been a better comparison to the Book of Revelation, than the non-canonical Book of Enoch. Regarding the Book of Revelation, I do not agree with your assertion that the Book of Revelation should not be understood as prophecy of the future. Having spent some time exploring this issue, I offer the following:

    Although the Holy Spirit guided the Church Fathers to include the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, there has never been a consensus among the Fathers and teachers of the Church regarding how to interpret it. Without a clear understanding of the Book of Revelation, most of the other prophetic Scriptures in the Holy Bible concerning the great tribulation, the Antichrist, and The Day of The Lord; cannot be correctly understood.

    The Book of Revelation has remained shrouded in mystery primarily because none of its previous interpreters have fully understood its unique sequential structure. St. John wrote down the revelations of our Lord in the sequence that they were given to him. However, from chapter four onward St. John received these revelations from a Heavenly perspective where past, present, and future events are indistinguishable from one another. When the text of these chapters are arranged in a sequence that follows the related historical and prophetic passages of the Holy Scriptures, it becomes very clear that St. John was given twelve distinct visions. These twelve visions encapsulate the entirety of the story of God’s relationship with mankind; from the beginning, to the end of this age. This is why our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ begins and ends His Revelation to St. John explaining: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last (Rev. 1:8,11,17; 22:13).”

    The Holy Apostolic Tradition of the Church also provides three keys of understanding to unlock some of the deeper mysteries of Revelation. First, God’s love for mankind is so great that He has done everything possible to save us from our own self-destruction, except to deprive us of His gift of free will. Second, there is only one family of God and one dispensation of His grace. True Israel is the true Church of Jesus Christ. Finally, God’s wrath and judgments are always remedial, never vindictive.

    Using these guidelines and keys to interpret Revelation allows the Bible and history to refute five widespread pernicious misconceptions. First, the great tribulation spoken of in Matthew and Revelation is not a time limited to three and a half or seven years, but is rather the condition of the Church from the first century until our Lord’s Second Coming. The singular and plural form of the word tribulation is used many times in the New Testament, almost always in reference to the continuing condition of those in God’s Church. Daniel 9:27 is not referring to the great tribulation, but rather to the seven years that Jesus Christ confirms the New Covenant; beginning with His earthly ministry, then ending with the Day of the Lord. Second, the Day of the Lord is not a standard twenty-four hour day, but is rather the period of time which begins when Jesus Christ returns in glory, then continues for one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days until the confirmation of the New Covenant and the harvest of the resurrection are completed. The last chapter of Daniel and much of Revelation consists of prophecies about what will happen in Heaven and on the earth during this period of judgment.

    Third, the temple of God referred to in the eleventh chapter of Revelation is not a third temple yet to be built upon the temple mount in Jerusalem, but is rather the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which now stands upon the holy site of our Lord’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. Fourth, the prophecy in second Thessalonians concerning the “falling away” and the “man of sin” is not yet to be fulfilled, but rather was fulfilled by the events leading to, and then following the Great Schism of 1054. Fifth and finally, the Antichrist will not be manifested before the Day of the Lord begins, but rather after the initial worldwide chaos of the Day of the Lord begins to subside. The Antichrist is not a single person, but is rather an evil trinity of Satan and the two beasts in chapter thirteen of Revelation. One of these beast represents the political leader of the last empire of Satan’s dominion on the earth, and the other represents Satan’s false prophet, the last “man of sin,” who will deceive many people during the Day of the Lord.

    The Book of Revelation completes the Holy Scriptures given to the Church by God the Word, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It summarizes the historical revelations that begin in Genesis, then focuses on the Incarnation of the Son of God, His Gospel message, and the continuing great tribulation of His Church on the earth. Revelation concludes by focusing on the future, and the prophesied events that will take place during and after the resurrection harvest of the Day of the Lord.

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    • sheila0405 says:

      Marc, there is no consensus on the meaning of Revelation. I highly recommend this book. http://www.amazon.com/Rapture-End-Times-Error-Leaves-Behind-ebook/dp/B005D9IGKE/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392947374&sr=1-1&keywords=david+b+currie

      David B Currie is a convert to Catholicism, as am I. I have read a couple of his books, but this one goes into great detail about the end times. What’s interesting about Currie is that he grew up with, and met, the great teachers of dispensationalism. He taught it himself. Currie’s conversion story is told in another of his books, called “Will Catholics Be Left Behind?”

      Aniyway, Currie goes into great detail about how the passages in Daniel line up with the history of Israel, and the prophecies of the coming of Jesus as Messiah. I think you would find it most interesting. Some of what you said lines up with Currie’s thesis, and some of it does not. This book was a huge help to me as a fairly new Catholic, who was wondering about the Church’s teachings on eschatology.

      May God bless you, and thanks so much for your own post. I found it intriguing, to say the lease, since I am very interested in eschatology.

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      • Marc says:

        Thanks Sheila for sharing your experience and the information about David Currie’s book. I may well decide to buy it.

        You and I have a lot in common regarding our spiritual journey. Wanting to have a clearer understanding of eschatology was one of the major issues that led me to reject the prevailing evangelical concepts that are based on the dispensational teachings of John Darby. I found in the Reformed Church and then in the Orthodox Catholic Church the traditional teaching that refuted Darby and his modern day followers such as Hal Linsey.

        As Catholic Christians we confirm in each Divine Liturgy and Mass our belief and hope in the Second Coming as we recite the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.

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    • sheila0405 says:

      to say the least. I wish I could edit my typos here.

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      • I know what you mean Sheila; I feel the same way when I comment on other people’s blogs. Whenever you want a comment edited, just mention it in another comment (as you did here) or email men what you want changed, and I can fix it.

        If you still want edits on comment to this post, let me know what they are.

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    • Marc, you seem to be describing an historical amillennial interpretation of Revelation; I am more of a preterist amillennialist. However, I do think the historical interpretation is enormously superior to the dispensational one.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective!

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      • sheila0405 says:

        I am an amillenialist, too, but what is preterist?

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        • A preterist is an amillenialist who understands the book of Revelation to be written to the situation of the audience who first heard it–that being the believers who were under persecution at that time–rather than prophecies addressed to believers at a later time.

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          • sheila0405 says:

            Well, then, I’m a preterist as well. I did find a website hosted by Andrew Corbett when I went searching for more information on the subject. He has ebooks on his site are dirt cheap. He wrote a book called “The Most Embarrassing Verse in the Bible”, which I snagged for $3.95. I’m quite anxious to read it. The verse he is referencing is Matthew 24:34. It should be fun.

            Corbett has also written “The Most Embarrassing Book in the Bible”, which covers the book of Revelation. If the first book is good, I might get the second one.

            I wonder why Revelation is in the canon of the Bible in the first place.

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          • I have not read Corbett but I am glad you found his books. Let me know if they seem to be good quality and I will consider reading them also.

            You might be aware that during the years that consensus was growing on what books to include in the canon, Revelation was among the most questioned books.

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          • sheila0405 says:

            I am not at all surprised that the efficacy of Revelation in the canon was debated. I don’t find much in it as to guidance for living. The seven letters have some good points about the need to remain faithful to Jesus, but other than that, I just don’t read it. And, I very rarely look even at the seven letters. Just opening up that book triggers a lot of bad memories for me.

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  7. sheila0405 says:

    “Why would temple sacrifices be restored if Jesus made them obsolete?” I asked that question way back in 1984 when I read through the entire KJV of the Bible in a year. I read it in chronological order, not straight through. I read the books in the order in which they were written and also when events occurred. Thus, the stories in the two books of Kings, Samuel, and Chronicles were often split. I’d read a story and then I would read the prophesies of the prophet who was preaching during that time. When I got to Ezekiel, I understood that I had been taught wrong. It was obvious (to me, at least) that the temple being referred to was not a temple that would be in existence during the “tribulation”, but a physical restoration of the temple that was destroyed during the time of exile in Babylon. Ezra and Nehemiah describe how that particular temple was built. I was really rattled, because I lost my belief in dispensationalism that year in one fell swoop. Reading the Bible in context made me understand that the cut and paste “teaching” I had been receiving all of my life was wrong. It took 30 years for me to find the Catholic Church. Even though there is wide disagreement among Catholic scholars about the meaning of Revelation, the consensus is that it is a book written in allegory and apocalyptic manner, and describes events which have already taken place, mainly. I know this is long, but read my reply to Marc, which I am about to post. I will have a link to a book which is interesting.

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    • Marc says:

      Sheila – I believe the sealed scroll in the Book of Revelation represents the Bible, the first four seals being the past, the fifth seal being the present, and the sixth and seventh being the future:

      And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshipped Him who lives forever and ever (Revelation 5:1-14).

      The focus then changes to a scroll sealed with seven seals, and who might be worthy to break the seals and reveal the contents within. No one in Heaven or on the earth, or under the earth; that is no angel or human being living or dead, is worthy to open the scroll. Only the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, the Lamb of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is worthy. And with that proclamation all the hosts of the Church in Heaven fall down in worship of Him who lives forever and ever. It is only with the illumination of the Incarnate Word, who shows us the way to truth and life, that this scroll of Revelation is opened to our understanding. This scroll, or book, is what we know as the Holy Bible.

      Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.” And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer (Revelation 6:1-2).

      As Jesus Christ, the Lamb, opens the first seal of the scroll of the Holy Bible, St. John is summoned to “Come and see.” He observes a white horse with a crowned rider sent to conquer the dominion he has been given. As a summary of the Creation story of Genesis, this white horse and crowned rider are symbolisms of the purity of the Creation, and of the dominion God gave to Adam and Eve before sin entered the world: Then God said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1:26-28).”

      When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see.” Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword. When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.” When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth (Revelation 6:3-8).

      For the inhabitants of the earth the rebellion against God is a horrible tragedy. The second, third, and fourth seals reveal in the symbolisms of the three horses and their riders, a summary of the effects of sin on mankind: Murder and war, famine and disease, and a hostile environment, bringing death to all of the people who will ever live on the one fourth of the earth’s surface inhabited by human beings.

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      • sheila0405 says:

        For sure, the story of God’s plan of salvation throughout history can be seen in these passages. That’s why I love the Easter Vigil, because the readings summarize this salvation history. It is our passover, our moving from death to life through Jesus. It’s my favorite Mass of the entire year. As a convert, I was received into the Church on Easter Vigil 2004, and it has been “my” Mass ever since.

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        • Marc says:

          My wife and i were also received into the Church on the eve of the Feast of the Resurrection in 2002. We call this Feast Pascha in the Orthodox Catholic Church, because as you say, “It is our passover, our moving from death to life through Jesus.” The celebration of the Resurrection and the Harrowing of Hades is probably the most joyous events in the Church year.

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    • Excellent! I agree–the temple was already restored, as you say, by Ezra and Nehemiah. It is always to good to encounter others who have discarded the troubling baggage of dispensationalism.

      I have added your book recommendation to my (long) reading list. Thanks for the heads up on it.

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  8. Hey guys! I am sorry I could not respond to comments in a timely manner. I was very ill and only able to return to my schedule today.

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  9. Pingback: The Apocalyptic Book of Fourth Ezra and the Book of Revelation | Jesus Without Baggage

  10. Pingback: Final Thoughts on the Book of Revelation as Apocalyptic Literature | Jesus Without Baggage

  11. Michelle says:

    How do they represent the situations of the original hearers? I’m amazed to read the passages from Enoch. You see, my son started having visions and dreams when he was 12. Once he recounted to me some of the same things that are in the Book of Revelation. This was weird since we didn’t go to church. He has continued to have visions/dreams of heavenly battles between light and dark. There is something to all of this — I just don’t know what it is.

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    • Hi Michelle,

      The situation of the hearers of Revelation were Christians who were persecuted heavily by the Romans. The hearers of 1 Enoch were earlier Jews who were persecuted by the Greeks or possibly the Romans who displaced the Greeks.

      The Jews actually experience the destruction they anticipated. The Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, and a few decades later the Jews were completely driven out of Jerusalem. Israel as a nation ceased to exist and the Jewish people lived among other nations for 1900 years.

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