Category Archives: Revelation

Days of Vengeance by David Chilton, Review, Part I








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I have been tweeting about doing a series of posts on David Chilton’s commentary on Revelation called Days of Vengeance. Chilton died in 1997, but Gary North put out another edition in 2007, which includes a lengthy preface by North himself on the history of the book, and an introduction to postmillennial thinking. North claims that Chilton’s commentary in many ways began this modern revival of biblical optimism. The preface is worth the read.

At the heart of Chilton’s exposition is his premise that the book of Revelation teaches that Christians will overcome all opposition through the work Jesus Christ. It is certainly filled with all sorts of mysteries; mysteries, which even the great expositor John Calvin did not dare to tackle, but central to it is the victory of Jesus’ kingdom on earth before the Second Coming.

Chilton has five main assumptions about this book, and they are:

First, that Revelation is the most Biblical book in the Bible. That is, it is bathed in Old Testament quotations. And because it is so rich with Old Testament theology, one can only begin to understand the book when he knows the Bible well.

Second, Revelation has a system of symbolism. In fact, it contains a particular language. The goal for the interpreter is to learn this language. Symbols in Revelation are not disconnected from the rest of Scriptures, but rather fully dependent on the Hebrew Scriptures.

Third, Revelation is about imminent events. If one accepts this premise, it will un-do virtually the entire evangelical eschatology industry. Revelation has primarily in mind those events in the first century; specifically, the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.

Fourth, Revelation is a worship service. The worship of God, says Chilton, “is central to everything in life.”[1] So, Revelation is highly ecclesiastical and liturgical.

Finally, Revelation is a book about dominion. Revelation is not about the terror of anti-Christ, but about the glory of Jesus Christ; He is the beginning and the end; the victory and Lord of all creation. Revelation spells victory for those united to the Son of God.

For those new to David Chilton’s Revelation commentary, I welcome you to this journey. Chilton argues that the Bible is more than a mere textbook, but it is a life-changing story about a King whose kingdom will endure forever.

Feel free to comment on the blog, and we will delve into the Introduction in the coming days. Pick up and read!

[1] Xii.

Man Needs Liturgy

David Chilton in his delightful Revelation commentary The Days of Vengeance demurs Protestant rationalism, which has abandoned liturgical worship. He observes that the abandonment of certain liturgical practices actually “contribute to the outbreaks of individualistic pietism.” Chilton concludes succinctly: “Man needs liturgy and symbolism.” Though a return to liturgy is not a cure-all, it will prove–Chilton argues–to be a “corrective to the shallow, frenetic, and misplaced “spirituality” that has been the legacy of centuries of liturgical poverty.”

666 and Neron Caesar

Leithart wants the best of both worlds by reconciling Jim Jordan and Richard Bauckham. In my estimation, he succeeds:

666 is the numerical value of Neron Caesar, spelled in Hebrew letters.  It’s the number of a man.  As Richard Bauckham points out (Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation), 666 is also the numerical value of therion (beast), spelled in Hebrew letters.  It is the number of the beast.  Thus, Bauckham suggests, “The gematria does not merely assert that Nero is the beast: it demonstrates that he is.  Nero’s very name identifies him by its numerical value as the apocalyptic beast of Daniel’s prophecy.”

James Jordan argues that the number has “nothing” to do with Nero, and that its source should be traced back to the number of talents of gold imported to Solomon’s kingdom every year – 666, according to 1 Kings 10.  This accumulation marked the beginning of Solomon’s downfall, as he began to multiply gold, and later girls and guns.  For Jordan, the number indicates that the Jewish leaders had become Solomonic, specifically, it seems, in their greed for gold (plug in Nick Perrin’s recent Jesus the Temple here).

Bauckham’s suggestion is elegant; Jordan’s has inner-biblical intertextuality going for it.  Can we split the difference?  It seems that Jordan’s rejection of the Neronic connection is hyperbolic, since the land beast urges everyone to worship the sea beast, identified with Rome and Rome’s current ruler is Nero.  The number is a tensive symbol: It is Solomonic, indicting the temple leaders who worship the sea beast to keep the gold flowing in, and it is the number of a man, Nero, who is also the head of the beast, Rome.

Concerning the Dating of Revelation

Peter Leithart writes:

In a revealing article tracing the Domitianic date of Revelation back to JB Lightfoot (who, ironically, agreed with the 19th-century consensus that the book was written before 70), Christian Wilson notes that confidence in a date in the 90s increased after the first generation of English commentators adopted it at the beginning of the 20th century (Charles, Swete, Beckwith especially).

Wilson observes: “Confidence could still be seen in a commentary such as that of G.R. Beasley-Murray in 1974, who argues simply ‘Christian tradition unanimously represents Domitian to be the first persecutor of Christians after Nero.’”  He wryly comments, “This statement is correct if by unanimous Christian tradition one means Eusebius.”

Of EF Scott’s 1940 statement that the book was written in 96, under Domitian, when “the church was subjected to the first serious persecution, which raged most fiercely in Asia minor, and was occasioned by the Christian refusal to worship the emperor,” Wilson says that “Not a single point in Scott’s statement is accurate.”

With Yabro Collins, we have the odd situation of a scholar who has abandoned the notion of a Domitianic persecution yet still clings to a Domitianic date for the book.  ”Perceived” crisis and “relative” deprivation motivates the millennial vision: “the crucial element is not so much whether one is actually oppressed as whether one feels oppressed.”  Wilson comments that she has trouble finding any specific “traumatic” events to pin the book to.  She relies instead on later evidence (Trajan-Pliny) and on earlier evidence, oddly enough on evidence from the Neronian persecution and the destruction of the temple.  In other words, Revelation itself seems to fit best in the 60s, but Yabro Collins remains convinced on other grounds that the book is from the 90s.


Leithart on rods of measuring…

Peter Leithart writes:

In Revelation 11, John is given a rod to measure out the courts of the temple.  That picks up on the imagery of Ezekiel 40ff, where a bronze man measures out the holy space of the new temple.

But there are other rods in the Old Testament.  Egypt is a rod (Ezkiel 29:6), an unreliable rod that will only pierce the hand of Israel if they choose to lean on it.  And behind that is the rod of Moses, used for “measuring” judgment to the Egyptians.  That imagery is linked too to the imagery of the plumb line that tests whether Israel is “square” or not.

Rods have at least a double connotation – measuring holy space and carrying out judgments – and these two associations overlap, since it is the Holy One who does righteousness.

Review of “The Vindication of Jesus Christ” by James B. Jordan

The book of Revelation is a book that “often results in confusion,” says author James B. Jordan. In the The Vindication of Jesus Christ: A Brief Reader’s Guide to Revelation, James Jordan seeks to clarify a book often biblically mistreated. Calvin and Luther stayed away from Revelation, as well as many other authors throughout the centuries. In our own day, converts to Christianity neglect Genesis through Jude to find solace in Revelation. This, of course, leads to all sorts of exegetical abominations. From flying helicopters in John’s vision to modern scenarios of warfare, Revelation in the hands of a novice is bound to be treated with utmost disrespect.

On the other hand, Revelation in the hands of an able and biblically-saturated theologian is precisely the reformational agenda. James Jordan is one of the world’s leading scholar on Revelation. He has written on it, he has done 204 lectures on it, and he knows Genesis through Jude like no one else alive today.This makes a Brief Reader’s Guide an invaluable addition.

Jim Jordan argues that Revelation is filled with interpretive clues; clues that facilitate the reading of often complex passages. For instance, one of these clues is that in Revelation “angels are portrayed as bringing final judgment on creation.” This clue affirms that the creation being judged is the First or Old Creation. Since this is the case, the reader can know with certainty that the book was written “before the final destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in AD 70.” How do we know this? Because the Old Creation (Old Testament) was “superintended by angels, while the New Creation is superintended by redeemed humanity.” Jordan makes no theological assumptions without leading the reader to specific biblical passages to prove his conclusions.

What is unique about this book?

In the preterist camp ( I am using preterism as synonymous with partial-preterism, which is orthodox) there are many who build a case for an early dating of Revelation (pre-AD 70) on the basis of Josephus and other extra-biblical books. Jordan sees this as helpful and useful, but not necessary to make the case for an early dating of Revelation. In fact, he sees the book of Acts as essential in understanding the Revelation. As he writes:

In Acts, we routinely see the Romans defending the Church. Revelation predicts, however, that in the near future Rome, the “Beast,” will also turn against the Church. Revelation extends the history in the book of Acts down to the end of the Old Creation.

The reader will also find a helpful discussion on the “Literary Structure of Revelation,” “The Fundamental Symbols,”The Historical Context of the Trumpets and Bowls,” The Centrality of the Kingdom and the Centrality of Jesus as the Standard of Measurement.” Jordan will define terms, which will allow the reader to more fully recognize and understand their usage in the text.

Anyone interested in the significance of numbers in the book will find it immensely interesting that Jordan does not see 666 as having anything to do with Nero Caesar. He sees it as a reference to false religious leaders of the day (certainly a new preterist interpretation of this Jewish number).

Finally, for those who have read David Chilton’s Days of Vengeance, this short study is an improvement on some of David’s deficiencies.

Revelation is a Divine Liturgical Service.The Church is central to God’s purposes. Her worship is the fear of evil nations who reject Messiah’s claims. Revelation is the wilderness period of the Church from AD 30-70. We live in the day of the conquest of the land.

Helpful Links:

Free Audio Lectures by James B. Jordan

The James B. Jordan Complete Audio Collection (including his 204 lectures on Revelation)

Buy “The Vindication of Jesus Christ: A Brief Reader’s Guide to Revelation”

Revelation 20: The Triumph of the Church and the Humiliation of the Old Serpent; A Brief Exposition, Part 2

Editor’s Note: The entire paper is available in word format, including bibliography.

Paper: revelation-20.doc

A Defense of Postmillennial Eschatology in Revelation 20

There is a general consensus within the Reformed tradition concerning the beginning of Christ’s kingdom. Amillenialists and Postmillennialists concur that Christ bound the evil one, Satan, in the first century.[1] Further, they both agree that the binding[2] of Satan had a very specific purpose– in order that he should not deceive the nations any longer (Revelation 20:3).[3] The devil roams around seeking to devour as many as possible,[4] but his ability to restrain the gospel from becoming a world-wide enterprise will continually fail.[5] Before proceeding to make a positive case for a Postmillennial eschatology, one must note that in a substantial manner both Amils and Postmils share much in common with one another concerning Revelation 20.[6] As Chilton remarks:

From the Day of Pentecost onward, orthodox Christians have recognized that Christ’s reign began at His resurrection/Ascension and continues until all things have been thoroughly subdued under His feet, as St Peter clearly declared (Acts 2:30-36).[7]

Chilton’s claim testifies to the overall unity of thought from the early church to the present day–defended by Post and Amillenarians alike–that the kingdom of God has come upon confessors of the true Messiah.[8] Further, believers do not wait Christ’s reign in the future, but believe He has reigned from the first century until now, and His kingdom shall reign forever and ever. Arguing for eschatological distinctions, Keith Mathison observes:

…it should be noted that postmillennialism (and Amillenialism), in contrast to premillennialism, does not teach that this single passage, in this highly symbolic book, should be the cornerstone of one’s system of eschatology.[9]

Reformed thought is comprehensive and covenantal in nature. It builds from Old Covenant prophecies and reaches a crescendo in Christ, rather than one particular pericope. Hence, to depend solely on one passage to build a positive case for one’s millennial position–as Premillennialism does–makes Revelation 20 the apex of eschatological discourse and debate. Even George E. Ladd[10] admits that if Revelation 20 were not the vision of the Second Coming, then we would be left with no clear reference to the events of the end.[11]

In contrast, Postmillennialism[12] argues that Revelation 20 gives greater conviction to the Church of Christ that His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. Further, Postmillennialism builds its case from the entirety of sacred revelation: from the promise of the coming seed[13] to the triumph of the Lamb over the Evil One.[14] Unlike other approaches, Postmillennarians believe in a present reign on earth, which will be consummated in the Second Coming of the Lord when He will be all in all (I Corinthians 15:26).

In considering Revelation 20, there are at least two distinct exegetical observations that distinguish the eschatology of hope of Postmillennialism from Amillennialism and Premillennialism.[15] They are:

a) The nature of Satan’s defeat.[16]

b) The nature of the reign of the saints.[17] Continue reading Revelation 20: The Triumph of the Church and the Humiliation of the Old Serpent; A Brief Exposition, Part 2

Revelation 20: The Triumph of the Church and the Humiliation of the Old Serpent; A Brief Exposition, Part 1

The significance of Revelation 20 cannot be underestimated. Scholars have pondered the exegesis of this passage for centuries. Consequently, three positions have emerged. The first position is Premillennialism. The word “millennialism”[1] means a “thousand years” mentioned six times in Revelation 20. “Pre” refers to the time before the “thousand years.”[2] Therefore, Premillennialists[3] argue that Christ will return before the initiation of the aforementioned thousand years. Historically, Premillennialists have been divided over when Christ will return, though they agree it will precede the millennium of Revelation 20. Dispensational Premillennialists[4] contend that Christ will return in two separate stages: first, to rapture His church and second, to end this present world and bring about the prophetic promises[5] of a land of peace and righteousness for a literal thousand years.[6]

Conversely, Historical Premillennialists believe the rapture of First Thessalonians 4 is the same as the “glorious appearing” of Titus 2:13. Therefore, the Rapture and the Second Coming refer to the same event. This position bears much similarity to the Amillenialist viewpoint.

Amillenialism has a long tradition in Reformation history.[7] The “A” negates “millenialist.” Thus, those who defend this position believe that there is no literal millennium. Some consider the term “Inaugurated Eschatology” a more accurate description of this position, since with the First Advent of the blessed Lord; Christ’s millennial reign began in the hearts of believers.[8] Summarily, Amillennialists[9] prefer to see the millennium as a spiritual manifestation of the kingdom of God.[10] During the period from the First to the Second Advent, the Church can expect to see simultaneous growth of justice and injustice, good and evil, Christianity and paganism.[11]

A third position is Postmillennialism.[12] “Post” indicates that Christ will return after the completion of the Millennial Age. This period endures from Christ’s First Coming in the Incarnation to His Second Coming in the Consummation.[13] Unlike Amillenialists and Premillennialists, Postmillennialists believe that the Church can expect to see a great manifestation of the gospel throughout the nations.[14] Nations will be converted to God in abundance, societies will be transformed, and peace and righteousness will reign[15] for a thousand years.[16] Nevertheless, Postmillenarians do not believe in a utopian society where all sin will be banished.[17] Since Postmillennialists are largely Calvinists, they recognize the post-lapsarian results of sin. Continue reading Revelation 20: The Triumph of the Church and the Humiliation of the Old Serpent; A Brief Exposition, Part 1