Literal Interpretation of Revelation?

I am currently preparing sermons on the book of Revelation. In reading through the commentaries, one finds much that is helpful, and much that is useless. An example of the latter category comes in Robert L. Thomas’s premillenial commentary. He says on p. 32:

The futurist approach to the book is the only one that grants sufficient recognition to the prophetic style of the book and a normal hermeneutical pattern of interpretation based on that style. It views the book as focusing on the last period(s) of world history and outlining the various events and their relationships to one another. This is the view that best accords with the principle of literal interpretation. The literal interpretation of Revelation is the one generally associated with the premillenial return of Christ and a view of inspiration that understands God to be the real author of every book of the Bible.

There are so many problems with this analysis that it is difficult to know where to start. First of all, he assumes that which must be proved in the first sentence. “Prophetic” must equal “future,” and therefore the futurist approach is the only possible approach that would sufficiently acknowledge the prophetic character of Revelation. He downplays apocalyptic features of the book elsewhere (the reason why is somewhat mystifying in its absence).

Secondly, his bifurcation of world history is extremely unhelpful. How could the book have been written to first-century Christians if the things described in Revelation have no relevance to the first century? Yes, Revelation is written to the entire church. That is why the events of Revelation happen all throughout history, having relevance to the entire church age between the first and second coming of Christ.

Thirdly, his view that only the literal interpretation of Revelation is consistent with a high view of inspiration is quite frankly ludicrous and offensive. According to Thomas’s view, God could not possibly reveal anything to us in a symbolic way without compromising inspiration. I might remind Thomas at this point of John 11, where the disciples take Jesus literally when He says that Lazarus has fallen asleep, and thereby misinterpret Jesus. Thomas might object at this point and say, “Ah, but John tells us that Jesus was speaking metaphorically.” To which I would reply that John does so again in Revelation 1:1, where the word “semaino” means to reveal by means of signs and symbols (see Beale’s commentary). Given that such a description is meant to describe Revelation as a whole, the default in interpreting Revelation must be symbolic, not literal.

To put this in a less abstract way, if I want to say that my wife is the most beautiful woman in the world, I could say it just like that. Such a statement would be objective, scientifically verifiable fact stated by a completely unbiased person. Well, maybe not, but it would be a very literal way of getting the point across. But I could say it another way, by quoting George Gordon, Lord Byron: “She walks in beauty like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies, and all that’s best of dark and bright meet in her aspect and her eyes.” Now, Robert Thomas, which of these statements is more true than the other? Having trouble with that? Well, of course you are! That something is true is a distinct question from how that truth is stated. Thomas does not understand this, and therefore equates literal interpretation with a high view of inspiration. One can have a very high view of inspiration (I believe, for instance, that every single word of Revelation is inspired by God and is utterly infallible) and yet interpret Revelation symbolically because it is a symbolic book.

The real fear, of course, is that a symbolic interpretation would give license to the interpreter to say whatever he wants to about the text. This is a genuine problem with those who have over-reacted to the literal folks. The solution is to recognize that there are brakes on symbolic interpretation. Those brakes are called “the rest of Scripture.” For Revelation in particular, the Old Testament functions as the source of almost all of the imagery. John is either explicitly alluding to the Old Testament or (maybe even unconsciously!) simply lives in the aura of the Old Testament. John is saturated with the Old Testament. It comes out his pores. This is not surprising, given that Revelation pulls all the threads of the Bible together and wraps everything up.

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28 Comments

  1. theoldadam said,

    August 6, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    My pastor refers to the Greek word which appears often in Revelation, which is nike’ (to conquer).

    Yes…there may lots of bad things going on ion the last days…but Christ will conquer. Christ has conquered.

    No need to worry. For we have a conqueror who will vanquish the enemy.

  2. August 7, 2014 at 12:04 am

    *This* is why John Calvin declined to write a commentary on Revelation: exegetical and interpretational headaches.

  3. Roy said,

    August 7, 2014 at 10:58 am

    “…given that Revelation pulls all the threads of the Bible together and wraps everything up.” There you go again with that symbology!

  4. tominaz said,

    August 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    I have found Dennis Johnson’s “Triumph of the Lamb” to be very helpful for a good exegetical analysis of the book.

  5. Jack Bradley said,

    August 7, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Lane, I find it ironic that both premils and amils spiritualize when it comes to the clear time texts, such as: “this generation.” The former says “this generation” means “this race,” while the latter says “this generation” means the entire interadvental age.

    Unfortunately, both make Jesus a false prophet: “Assuredly, truly, truly, verily, verily, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

  6. asimpleelder said,

    August 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Let’s try that again:
    I am a former student of Dr. Thomas. I had the privilege of studying the book of Revelation under him in a Th.M. level class with only two other students – all of our names are included in the preface to volume 2. So while I can’t speak for Dr. Thomas himself, I not only love him dearly but also testify to his godly life and dedication to Holy Scripture. I simply must take exception to your review of his positions.

    First of all, he assumes that which must be proved in the first sentence. “Prophetic” must equal “future,” and therefore the futurist approach is the only possible approach that would sufficiently acknowledge the prophetic character of Revelation. He downplays apocalyptic features of the book elsewhere (the reason why is somewhat mystifying in its absence).

    I would like to suggest you read what Dr. Thomas means by “prophetic” rather than assume it “must equal future” or to assume that he, like you, equates the prophetic with the apocalyptic. He doesn’t. For example, after several pages (p. 23ff) of explaining various hermeneutic approaches to Revelation, he writes,

    But it also differs distinctly from everything else in this class. Other apocalypses are generally pseudonymous, but Revelation is not. The epistolary framework of Revelation also sets it apart from the works that are similar in other respects. Other writings lack the repeated admonitions for moral compliance that Revelation has (2:5, 16, 21, 22; 3:3, 19). Revelation is not as pessimistic about the present as other works in this category. In others the coming of Messiah is exclusively future, but in Revelation He has already come and laid the groundwork for His future victory through His redemptive death. Most distinctive of all, however, is that this book calls itself a prophecy (1:3; 22:7, 10, 18, 19). Its contents fully justify this self-claim. Of the thirty-one characteristics that have been cited in attempts to define apocalyptic, all when properly understood could apply to prophecy as well, with the possible exception of pseudonymity (which does not apply to Revelation). Alleged differences between the Apocalypse and generally accepted works of prophecy often rest upon inadequate interpretations of the Apocalypse. The Apocalypse is the product of the NT gift of prophecy, administered by the Holy Spirit, referred to frequently in the NT as a gift (e.g., Rom. 12:6), as a product of the gift (e.g., 1 Tim. 1:18), as a person possessing the gift (e.g., 1 Cor. 12:28, 29; Eph. 4:11), or as an exercise of the gift (e.g., 1 Cor. 14:31).

    He continues this discussion, including numerous other hermeneutic approaches to Revelation for the next 10 pages, a feat I’ve not seen duplicated in other commentaries on this book.

    You wrote,

    Secondly, his bifurcation of world history is extremely unhelpful. How could the book have been written to first-century Christians if the things described in Revelation have no relevance to the first century? Yes, Revelation is written to the entire church. That is why the events of Revelation happen all throughout history, having relevance to the entire church age between the first and second coming of Christ.

    I know of no such bifurcation in Robert Thomas’ thinking of writing. In his comments on 1:3, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy,” he writes,

    The reason for the blessing pronounced is introduced by gar, “for”) (1:3). The reason consists of the nearness of the accomplishment of the things predicted in the book. Compliance with the moral, and ethical standards is much more urgent because final accountability for personal behavior is imminent. Kairos (kairos, “time”) (1:3) frequently has a technical sense in the NT, referring to the end times when the earthly kingdom of Israel will be instituted (cf. Acts 1:7; 3:20; 1 Thess. 5:1). The events of this book are thus identified with the last of the “critical epoch-making periods foreordained of God.” From the perspective of prophetic anticipation this period is declared to be near, (engys, “near”) (1:3) (Beckwith). This declaration echoes and reinforces the en tachei, “soon” of v. 1.

    Elsewhere Dr. Thomas explains the strict moral and ethical standards of the book, especially in the letters to the churches. Nor is it accurate for you to claim “Revelation is written to the entire church.” The ascended Lord of the churches addresses it to a different ecclesiological structure than that you assume:

    John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come (Rev 1:4)

    Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches (Rev 1:11)

    As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Rev 1:20)

    He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev 2:7)

    “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches (Rev 22:16)

    You then wrote,

    Thirdly, his view that only the literal interpretation of Revelation is consistent with a high view of inspiration is quite frankly ludicrous and offensive. According to Thomas’s view, God could not possibly reveal anything to us in a symbolic way without compromising inspiration.

    Come again? Dr. Thomas writes in his commentary on 1:1,

    The end of v. 1… tells the means by which the revelation was passed on. The graphic term esemanen deserves special notice because in nonbiblical literature it already had a usage related to symbolic divine communications with men (Tenney). At other times, however, the notion of symbolism in the word seems to have vanished (cf. John 12:33; 18:32; 21:19; Acts 11:28). Nevertheless, the present instance is more in keeping with the symbolic import in light of the many signs and symbols that make up the apocalyptic portion of this book (cf. 4:1 ff.).

    Dr. Thomas worked hard to accurately represent His Lord’s and other people’s theological positions, and as president of the Evangelical Theological Society back in its early days, worked closely with many men who held positions on issues contrary to his own. I recommend his example as worthy of imitation.

  7. rfwhite said,

    August 7, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Green Baggins: I share your concerns. Dr. Thomas, a kind and gentle man, was a product of the generation born on the cusp of the modernist-fundamentalist controversy. For him, anything other than the so-called “literal” approach to Revelation was a concession to liberalism, a threat that shaped him profoundly. His approach is sadly, in the end, just not practicable and cannot be made consistent with sound hermeneutics.

  8. August 7, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    rfwhite: Yes, Dr. Thomas is, like all of us, a product of his own times. Born in 1928, he is 86 this year and is (as far as I know) retired. His commentary presents the “classical dispensational” approach in which he grew up and trained. As for us Reformed folks, I think it’s still possible to learn something from this serious academic commentary as long as one knows how to “eat around” the dispensationalism.

  9. greenbaggins said,

    August 8, 2014 at 7:49 am

    First of all, simple elder, I do NOT equate prophetic with apocalyptic. Not sure where you got that from in the post, since it is non-existent. I would argue that the prophetic, while having glimpses of the future, is usually more concerned with the present than with the future. Apocalyptic has to do with a mediated message that is spatially and temporally eschatological (a new age inbreaking) that uses highly symbolic imagery to get the point across. Revelation has aspects of both prophetic and apocalyptic (not to mention epistolary!) genres. Thomas seems to think that the prophetic genre is almost exclusively futuristic.

    Secondly, the quotation you adduce in regards to when the events of Revelation will unfold only proves my point. He regards everything in Revelation as happening in the future. That the first readers would be able to apply a sense of urgency in view of wholly future events is really beside the point.

    Thirdly, the fact that Revelation was written to the seven churches of Asia mentioned does not limit the broader recipients of the letter to just those seven churches. We are allowed to read their mail, and see Revelation as applying just as much to us as to them. Otherwise Revelation wouldn’t be in the canon.

    Fourthly, I have read his comments on 1:1, and to my mind they seem flat out to contradict what he said about symbolic interpretation earlier in the introduction.

    Fifthly, I regard Thomas’s commentary as the best of the pre-millenial dispensationalist commentaries on Revelation, and intend to read the entirety of it. However, it is comments such as I have noted that make me much less favorably disposed to dispensational hermeneutics, since they seem to dismiss rather sweepingly the possibility of other interpretations even being orthodox.

  10. rfwhite said,

    August 8, 2014 at 11:00 am

    8 Richard: You’re exactly right when you remind us that we’re able to learn from Dr. Thomas and others of his dispensational persuasion.

  11. asimpleelder said,

    August 8, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Lane,

    I’m glad to hear you don’t equate the apocalyptic to the prophetic. I misunderstood you as saying apocalyptic was the prophetic by reading your two sentences as coordinate:

    “Prophetic” must equal “future,” and therefore the futurist approach is the only possible approach that would sufficiently acknowledge the prophetic character of Revelation. He downplays apocalyptic features of the book elsewhere (the reason why is somewhat mystifying in its absence).”

    My fault, thank you for clarifying and please accept my apology for misreading your words.

    But you really should be more guarded on your statements, for you are reviewing another man’s work. Our Lord teaches that you should do to others as you would have them do to you. So when you say, “He regards everything in Revelation as happening in the future” you are simply wrong – true – that applies to 4:1 to 22:5 – but not the whole book. And if you will honest with the man’s honest work, you should express it.

    You wrote in your post, “Revelation is written to the entire church.” No, and I gave you the Scripture from the mouth of Christ to show you were wrong: “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches” (Rev 1:11). Yes, the book of Revelation applies to all the churches of Christendom for all time, but it was not written to them all.

    So when you write,

    Thirdly, the fact that Revelation was written to the seven churches of Asia mentioned does not limit the broader recipients of the letter to just those seven churches. We are allowed to read their mail, and see Revelation as applying just as much to us as to them.

    Again, wrong. Just because you can read the letter of Paul to Philemon doesn’t make you a co-recipient. I doubt you own a runaway slave named Onesimus, and I doubt your church is in Ephesus or any of the other 6 cities which received the book from individual messengers. So no, you are not a recipient of the letter, you are reading what was written to them.

    Yet being Scripture both Philemon and Revelation authoritatively apply to you and your church. So unless you wish to make a case for correcting the Jesus who speaks from heaven in 1:11, it would be wiser to make a clear distinction between recipient and non-recipient. It is an important matter in interpretation, and saves one from making the category mistake of merging interpretation with application – a point closely linked to the difference in our differing schools of interpretation.

    Ted Bigelow

  12. greenbaggins said,

    August 8, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Ted, some of your comments are really bordering on nitpicking. If I say that Thomas believes that everything in Revelation happens in the future, and someone else saw that and said “so Thomas is a futurist,” you wouldn’t exactly say that I got it wrong, now, would you? It is fairly common knowledge that no one believes that absolutely everything described in Revelation happens in the future, not even the most die-hard futurist does that. So by “everything” it is a fair generalization to mean by that “everything that is disputed among the various schools.”

    Your distinction between recipient and non-recipient is also at least bordering on nit-picking. Would ANY normal reader read my comments and conclude from them that there was a verse in Revelation that said, “Dear Lane”? My point is that God did not intend for the original readers to be the only readers. Indeed, the evidence suggests that many of Paul’s letters, for instance, were circular letters to begin with (see in particular the analyses of the textual variants at the beginning of Ephesians in several commentaries). In Revelation 1:3 a blessing is given for those who read this work. That refers primarily to the lectern readers who read the epistle in a worship service (so the vast majority of commentators). That means that more people were intended to read Revelation than seven churches in Asia Minor. So I have just given you inspired words that contradict your overly narrow interpretation of 1:11. The warnings at the end of Revelation are also surely meant to be read by more people than seven churches in Asia. Ted, your vision of canon needs some tweaking.

  13. Mark Kim said,

    August 9, 2014 at 12:31 am

    I have my own problems with the way many classic dispensationalists interpret the Book of Revelation (this coming even from a historical futurist premillennialist) but I also have serious reservations with the way some preterists interpret the book. Thomas’ understanding of Revelation may have some shortcomings (some of them significant) but at least you can give him credit for trying to be consistent throughout with his use of the grammatico-historical-literal method. I’m sure some of you have heard of David Chilton and his bizarre commentary on Revelation titled “Days of Vengeance.” He basically interprets everything that has happened before Revelation 20 as occurring in the first century (even the final battle described in Rev 19). Classic dispensationalists may have their faults when it comes to handling prophetic texts but some Reformed commentators have not done an adequate job in interpreting this very difficult book either. Although I stand closest to someone like George E. Ladd on how Revelation should be interpreted I believe we need to have some humility when it comes to interpreting this book that still puzzles many Christians.

  14. Ted Bigelow said,

    August 9, 2014 at 7:59 am

    Lane, you write,

    The warnings at the end of Revelation are also surely meant to be read by more people than seven churches in Asia. Ted, your vision of canon needs some tweaking.

    It appears to me you once again are conflating. No one argues that the book of Revelation wasn’t meant to be read by many people through the centuries. That’s a silly straw man. The question for those who are submitted to Christ’s words is, “who does Jesus Christ say are the recipients of the letter?” Unfortunately you still conflate the original recipients with yourself and those who are mentioned as readers and hearers in 1:3 and 22:18-19. That adds, without textual warrant, to Christ’s own recipient list of 1:11 all those who may be blessed by the book’s contents. In distinction from that, I would say that you cannot make a proper application of Revelation until you make a proper interpretation of its recipients.

    Then you conflate hermeneutics with canonicity, if I read you correctly. Essentially your argument is, “since Revelation is in the canon, the extended recipient list of the letter is “the church.” But when you treat canonicity as a hermeneutic and yourself as in “the church.” you cannot help but conflate interpretation with application. You’ll read yourself and your situation into the book everywhere. But consider – employing canonicity as a hermeneutic means you have a better interpretive paradigm for understanding the book than the original recipients since the canon was not ratified until almost 300 years after the letter was written.

    As I said above, it would repay you to commit yourself to the words of Christ and understand why our Lord says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches” and not, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the church.”

  15. greenbaggins said,

    August 9, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Ted, you artificially limit the scope of Revelation 1:3 and 22:18-19. Everyone can agree that the first readers were the seven churches in Asia. But if God is the author, then He gave these words to His people for all time. I make zero claim that we would be more knowledgeable readers than the original recipients. We simply can’t know that (though the likelihood is that they had a better “gut” reading of it than we do). If I’m in “danger” of conflating interpretation with application (which I deny), then you are in danger of divorcing them. How can we properly interpret any text of Scripture without applying it? One can make a distinction between the two, but one must never separate them. I believe one separates them unduly if one believes as you do that Revelation was not written to the entire church of all ages (even if the church is a secondary readership). On your schema, a proper interpretation of the text might NOT result in application for us, because we weren’t intended to be in the audience. How do you guard against this problem?

  16. rfwhite said,

    August 9, 2014 at 10:38 am

    This is how it looks to me.

    For TB, the word “recipients” means the original, historical audience.

    For GB, the word “recipients” means the audience of redemptive-history, original and later.

    Example: who is addressed by Proverbs 3:11-12? Original audience only, or later audience also?

    Where does this analysis go wrong?

  17. Ted Bigelow said,

    August 9, 2014 at 11:55 am

    rf, it doesn’t matter who the recipients are to me or Lane. What matters is who the recipients were to the author – does he tell us?

    In the case of Revelation, the answer is yes: Rev. 1:4, 1:11.

  18. Reed Here said,

    August 9, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Ted, does John limit the audience to only those?

  19. greenbaggins said,

    August 9, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Ted, I have already answered your quotation of Revelation 1:4 and 1:11 by referring to 1:3 and chapter 22. But if that does not convince you, perhaps this will: 1 Peter 1:10-12 indicates rather clearly that the God-intended audience and readership is not limited to the immediate recipients.

    “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”

    On a futurist reading of Revelation, you should actually be harping on this principle much more than me, since prophecies are typically addressed to the generation that experiences the fulfillment of those prophecies. That seems to be the plain implication of this passage in Peter. The sufferings of Christ indicate (by synechdoche) the first coming of Christ. In this the prophets were serving the “us” that Peter mentions. In fact, the prophets were serving the “us” MORE THAN their own generation (this is not an example of the exclusionary “not this but that” but rather an example of “this more than that” as in “I desire mercy not sacrifice”). This sweeping statement of Peter applies to all the Old Testament prophets who prophesied about Christ (and that’s all of them!), even and especially when God told them to bring such prophecies to such and such people. The parallel is exact. Your position is wrong.

  20. Reed Here said,

    August 9, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Ted, maybe there is some misunderstanding at work here. Are you trying emphasize that the human author’s meaning intended for the original audience is a significant factor in present interpretation? if so, I doubt anyone here disagrees with you.

    Are you saying more than this, that this original audience meaning orientation is all there is, that this level of meaning exhausts the meaning intended>

    Thanks.

  21. rfwhite said,

    August 9, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Ted, who is the author?

  22. Ted Bigelow said,

    August 10, 2014 at 6:50 am

    Lane, you write,

    “Ted, I have already answered your quotation of Revelation 1:4 and 1:11 by referring to 1:3 and chapter 22. But if that does not convince you, perhaps this will: 1 Peter 1:10-12 indicates rather clearly the God-intended audience and readership is not limited to the immediate recipients”

    Well, of course. You are arguing straw men again. The “us” of Christ’s predicted sufferings in the OT are not a part of their interpretation but their application.

    But since you have the freedom to conflate eventual readership with the original recipients, do you also feel the sufferings of Christ are your sufferings? Are they something you share in since you are a part of the wider audience who reads them? If you met the eunuch on the way back to Ethiopia, how would you answered his question,

    “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Would you have answered, “all of us who read it?”

    Doesn’t it bother you that Revelation is a book in which Christ directly speaks and yet never directly addresses the wider readership while He repeatedly and directly addresses the recipients quite clearly? To those who read and obey, He gives a macarism” “Blessed are….” But to its recipients He is direct, “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this….”

    The futurist interpretation fears and worships Christ better than your interpretation, for it submits to His own words in the text without conflation, and therefore humbly receives His own outline of the book in 1:19. Yours does not:

    “Therefore write the things which you have seen (1:1-1:18), and the things which are (1:20-3:22), and the things which will take place after these things (4:1-22:21).

    You write,

    “On a futurist reading of Revelation, you should actually be harping on this principle much more than me, since prophecies are typically addressed to the generation that experiences the fulfillment of those prophecies.”

    Here’s a challenge for you – show from 4:1 through 22:5 one passage that is specifically addressed to the churches (cf. 1:4, 22:16), where the churches, or Christians individually, are addressed in the present tense.

  23. roberty bob said,

    August 10, 2014 at 10:14 am

    When I teach a course on The Revelation of Jesus Christ, I mention the singing of The Hallelujah Chorus (chapter 19). Then I ask the class to identify the following: 1) the first choir to sing it; 2) the occasion that it marked.

    While some are aware that a multitude in heaven did the singing, no one — when put on the spot — knows that the occasion prompting The Hallelujah Chorus was the covenant judgement upon The Great City who had been persecuting the saints, apostles, and prophets (18:18-20; 19:2).

    Today’s readers of The Revelation have difficulty following the thread, and they seem to lose track of the power Gospel truth of the vindication of our Lord Jesus Christ by our God — a vindication accomplished during the Days of Vengeance [covenant payback!] upon that city that had corrupted the earth by her adulteries.

    Name that city!

  24. Jack Bradley said,

    August 10, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Roberty, the city, as you clearly know, is Jerusalem.

    “Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: ‘With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. . . In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people, of all who have been slaughtered on the earth.’” Rev. 18:21, 24

    This passage is a prime example of why “gase” in Revelation, and in the Olivet Discourse, should be translated “land”, not “earth.” Yet, all the translations say “earth”. But it obviously makes no sense to understand “all who have been slain on the earth” as having been slain in this “Great City”, no matter with which city you identify it.

    Jesus clearly identified this city in Matthew 23 in the sevenfold woes, 23:35: “That on you may come all the righteous blood that has been shed on the gase.” “the land.’” The land of Israel, whose capital, the Great City, was Jerusalem.

    Rev. 11:8: “The Great City which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”

    I honestly do not understand how so many make “the great city” out to be Rome. There is only one city in the world where the Lord was literally crucified. There is nothing symbolic about “crucified.” “. . .where their Lord was crucified.” You can’t get any more specific than that.

    That is why there is really no mystery about who “mystery” Babylon, the Great City, the great harlot city, is. It’s not Rome. Rome is of course also portrayed in Rev. 17. David Chilton (The Days of Vengeance, p. 429):

    “. . . the passage [Revelation 17:1-9] [is] a reference to Jerusalem’s apostate intimacy with both Satan and the Empire. Rome was the devil’s reigning political incarnation, and the two could certainly be considered together under one image. Israel was dependent upon the Roman Empire for her national existence and power; from the testimony of the New Testament there is no doubt that Jerusalem was politically and religiously ‘in bed’ with institutionalized paganism, cooperating with Rome in the crucifixion of Christ and the murderous persecution of Christians.”

  25. roberty bob said,

    August 10, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Well said! Thanks Jack Bradley.

    The reason I brought up the identity of The Great City is that Jerusalem is always in view. Those who lose sight of Jerusalem and the specific judgment spoken against her will inevitably read The Revelation as some kind of futuristic fantasy involving Rome — and in most cases a Revived Roman Empire — that will one day unleash beastly terrors upon the whole wide world. Yup! Most Christian readers regard The Revelation as prophecy awaiting its fulfillment rather than as a declaration of our Lord’s victory and vindication!

  26. Jack Bradley said,

    August 10, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    “The Revelation. . . as a declaration of our Lord’s victory and vindication!”

    Amen.

  27. roberty bob said,

    August 10, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    ” . . . the events of Revelation happen all throughout history . . . ”

    Oh? When I read The Revelation I hear of specific events related to the persecution of the true church by the apostate church whose headquarters are in Jerusalem. I hear of specific acts of judgment being poured out upon The Great City that has shed the blood of the prophets and apostles.

    The recounting of these specific events can be applied [with relevance] to the church of every generation. The Revelation’s relevance is not contingent upon them happening all throughout history.

  28. September 8, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    I was wondering if you have audio files of this series of sermons online? I’d really like to hear them. Thanks! :)


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