While staying up all night to watch the record lows, and keep the shed cat happy and warm, I have been reading Richard Bauckham’s book on the theology of the Revelation. He is good for me, because he reads the book like the modern scholars do, as referring to the Roman empire in the time that John wrote, rather than some future political disaster. This is comforting, because then we do not have to worry that these things are occurring in our world. There is just a huge hiatus between the Roman emperors and “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And that third of the world destroyed, why, that’s just symbolic of the Roman empire, the nations at the four corners of the earth, just parts of the Roman empire surrounding Jerusalem as in 70 A. D., the whole apocalypse referring to those other people. The seventh trumpet has been blown, and Babylon fell somewhere early in the fifth century. The beheading of the martyrs, again symbolic of Roman persecution, as must be the mark of the Beast. The scroll and seals were open for the seven churches, and refer to the particular troubles predicted in the seven letters.
The anti-futurist reading makes sense of some things in the text which are otherwise difficult for me, like the inclusion of the seven churches in the gifts of the kingdom, and the fact that all the apostles seem too to have thought of the events as very imminent, in their own lifetimes. It is a good challenge to our reading to say just why it cannot be so. If I were not now doing the second manual index for yet another edition…I will address these things in a note, after I spend some time with his book.
The main reason we think the futurist reading to be true is the symbolic resemblance of things in the vision to things in the political theory and developments in the world. But it is also said that the gospel would be preached throughout the whole world, and then the end would come. But there is no way to demonstrate, for example, that the reading of the visions in the Revelation as referring to the end times future is false or is a misreading. The modern scholars simply assume this as a principle, because we are uncomfortable with so many futurists. We can say things like there has not been a universal rule, the nations have not gathered at Armageddon, no mark of the beast given, no nations from the four corners of the world, etc. But they will simply say these things are not really to be looked for, but rather, we were to look for Nero revived attacking Rome with the Parthians for troops. This we know because we know John was writing about his own times, and could not think beyond the Roman emperors then bothering the Christians.
Perhaps some simple math is in order: The Antichrist or Beast/False Prophet is to be the worst tyrant of all time. Hitler was worse than Nero. Therefore Nero is not the Beast or Antichrist.
Three foul spirits are to proceed from the mouth of the dragon, beast and false prophet, gathering the armies from the four corners, that were held back by the four winds. Nothing like the modern ideological tyrannies of fascism, communism, and now terrorist Islam, had ever been imagined in the world when John saw his vision.
You see, I should not stay up past 5 A. M. watching the weather!