Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Revelation 11 and 70AD: The Judge Rules in Favor of the Plaintiffs

"The nations raged, but Your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding Your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear Your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth."
- Revelation 11:18

For years, I have had trouble understanding why this verse is located where it is. Why would John describe the great judgment halfway through his book, only to bring it up again near the end, in chapter 20? However, through an enlightening remark in a commentary, I have gotten it. The judgment here isn't of the dead, but rather a judgment for the righteous dead, in answer to their prayers in 6:9-10, "When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, 'O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before You will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?'" In other words, 11:18 is comparable to a civil lawsuit in our times, while 20:11ff is a criminal judgment.

We see parallels in some of the Davidic Psalms, such as 35:17, "How long, O Lord, will You look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions." Compare verses 22-26. And again in 94:2, "Rise up, O judge of the earth, repay to the proud what they deserve!" Likewise the Prophet Habakkuk, such as 1:13b, "Why do You idly look at traitors and are silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?"

I think this judgment in Revelation also comes in answer to Jesus's own words in Matthew 21:21, "Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to this fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' it will happen." While this verse is often misread, as if He said "a mountain," or even spiritualized to represent obstacles in life, notice that He actually specifies "this mountain." This is spoken as He returns to Jerusalem the morning after He cleansed the temple (v. 18). In other words, I think that He was instructing His disciples to pray for the overthrow of Jerusalem and the temple order, as actually occurred in 70AD. Revelation 6 describes the martyred saints making this prayer, and 11:18 describes their sovereign Redeemer vindicating their pleas with a judgment against their persecutors, represented in their emblem, the Temple Mount. This understanding of that verse brings much clarity in my mind, as to the intentions of God, speaking through the Apostle John, in the first half of Revelation.

While I have followed my own thinking in coming to these conclusions, I am not alone in them. The Preterist Archive has a page dedicated to this interpretation. And Kenneth Gentry gives a wide-ranging bibliography of publications on his website.

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