Tag Archives: Revelation

The Martyr Trail 0 (0)

The Martyr Trail

by Bill Lockwood

That the biblical book Revelation is set in the days of the first century and its symbols refer to contemporary events in John’s day is clearly attested by the book itself. Instead of clamoring for future fulfillment of the apocalyptic images, which requires more of a vivid imagination than sober exegesis, one would do well to heed the testimony of Scripture.

One solid line of evidence demonstrating that the entire message of Revelation was intended for a first century audience is to follow what Jay Adams (The Time is at Hand, Prophecy and the Book of Revelation, 49) called “The Martyr Trail” that runs throughout the Apocalypse.  “Breathing threatening and slaughter” against the early church were the Jews (see the book of Acts) and later the Romans. “At bottom the book of Revelation is a message of encouragement and exhortation to the churches of Asia Minor in view of portending persecutions of great magnitude” (45). Consider the following flow of thought.

To the church at Smyrna John encourages: “I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty” (2:9); “Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer” (2:10). In 2:13, Antipas, the faithful witness who was killed for the faith, is mentioned when addressing the church at Pergamum. Chapter 6:9-11 gives a striking portrait of a martyr-band of “souls under the altar” who cry for vengeance upon those who murdered them on the earth. They were instructed that they were to “rest yet for a little time” (not thousands of years later) until their fellow-martyrs in persecution would be killed.

Moving to chapter 7:13-17 John sees a great multitude “that came out of the great tribulation” or persecution. The vengeance for which the martyrs had cried (6:9-11) was now ready to be meted out (10:6,7). “There shall be delay no longer” for the time of judgment has arrived which God had declared by His servants the prophets.

The two witnesses for God (11:3) who worked miracles (v. 6) were finally martyred and their dead bodies lie in the street of Jerusalem (v. 8). Finally, judgment was given in behalf of these saints against those “that destroy [or ‘ruining’] the land” (v. 18).

The promises of Revelation are bestowed upon the ones that overcome that first-century persecution. The “over-comer” is the “martyr.” From 12:11 one reads that “they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death.” This matches what John had written in 3:21. “He that overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in His throne.”

Martyrs are again mention in 13:7, 10 where saints are “overcome” and “killed with the sword.” John writes so that Christians might have “patience” [endurance] in these dark days (14:12). Some of them would “die in the Lord” for the faith (v. 13). A more dramatic picture cannot be drawn than that of 16:6. “They poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets,” speaking of the persecutors. So also 17:6 is colored bright red with the “blood of the saints” and “the blood of the martyrs” of Jesus. “And in her was found the flood of prophets and of saints and of all that have been slain upon the earth” (18:24).

The significance of the frequent reference to the martyrs in this trail through Revelation dates the predictions for the immediate future in John’s day. After all, John himself had been exiled at Patmos and writes to his “fellow-sufferers” as a “companion in tribulation.” The idea is “absurd” (Adams, 48) that John would write a letter to persons in such circumstances and ignore their difficulties while expounding on events that would not transpire for 20+ centuries.

Back to Homepage


Premillennial Textual Problems in Revelation 0 (0)

Premillennial Textual Problems in Revelation

by Bill Lockwood

The Issue Defined

The word “Premillennial” has two components: (1) Pre; meaning “before” and (2) Millennial; meaning 1,000 years. It suggests that Christ will return to the earth just prior to a 1,000 year reign. It contains several ideas. According to Ernest Kevan in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (352) it is “held that the OT prophets predicted the re-establishment of David’s kingdom and that Christ intended to bring this about. It is alleged, however, that because the Jews refused his person and work he postponed the establishment of his kingdom until the time of his return. Meanwhile, it is argued, the Lord gathered together ‘the church’ as a kind of interim measure.”

This theory includes that in the future the Jews will return to the land of Israel; that Jesus will establish a physical kingdom after fighting physical battles and that these events have been in the immediate future since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. It is good to be reminded that Premillennialism is not the common doctrine of the early church (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Part IV, p. 861.

Problems with Premillennialism

The entire theory is freighted with Jewish doctrine and ideas that flatly contradict Scripture as a whole. In the following we are only examining textual problems associated with the book of Revelation. Not included here is the multitude of theological errors posed by premillennialism. What textual problems are there?

(1) Premillennial theorists uniformly remove chapters 4-19 from the immediate context of the book of Revelation. No justification, textual or otherwise, is ever offered for this maneuver. John Hagee does this (Four Blood Moons, 91; see also Mark Hitchcock, Blood Moons Rising, 19; and John Walvoord, Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis, p. 102, 171-72, 178). This is totally arbitrary and reflects merely the whim of the theorist. It substitutes fanciful unfounded caprice for sober exegesis.

(2) Premillennial writers universally insist upon the rule that all passages in the Bible must be literally understood. The late John Walvoord of Dallas Theological Seminary, for example, pronounces that “The study of these [biblical prophecies, bl] demonstrates that when prophecy is fulfilled, it is fulfilled literally” (Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis, 21). Walvoord is one of the premier leaders in the premillennial school. All others dutifully follow this capricious rule. Mark Hitchcock, for instance, insists upon this throughout Blood Moons Rising (p. 31, 45, 48, 71, 106, et. al.). However, no Bible passage states that this is the manner in which prophecies are to be understood. This is unreasonable. The Bible itself tells us that prophets spoke in various times and in various manners (Heb. 1:1,2). God did not reveal His message in one way. All prophecy should be interpreted in the same manner (literal) only if all prophecy was spoken in the same manner! But this is to contradict the Bible itself. The result of this “rule” ends in fantastic unfounded theories.

(3) Premillennialists use fanciful interpretations of the text as a template for the rest of the Bible. Again, no justification for this—only the unbending will of the future theorist. Mark Hitchcock announces: “Using Revelation as a framework, a Bible student is able to harmonize the hundreds of other biblical passages that speak of the seven-year tribulation into a clear model of the next time period for planet earth. With such a template to guide us, we can see that already God is preparing or setting the stage of the world in which the great drama of the tribulation will unfold.” (Blood Moons Rising, quoting another with approval, p. 19).  Again, this is fanciful and arbitrary. The common and well-grounded method of interpretation of Bible material is that “the Bible is to be interpreted in the same manner … by the same principles” of other books (Milton Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, 173). It seems too simplistic to point out that words are to be understood in their primary meaning unless the nature of the literature demands differently. And this is precisely what Revelation tells us: that the message is in “signs and symbols” (Rev. 1:1-3). Why then insist upon using Revelation as a “template” of literal meaning and force other Bible passages within its mold? It can only be to uphold false theories.

Back to Homepage