Gustave Doré, Christus Victor or The Triumph of Christianity over Paganism
We continue in our survey of the promises of God in the Bible, bringing forth the light of the New Testament to illuminate and amplify the stories of the Old Testament. Here we will look at the many passages of Scripture that support the idea that Jesus’ reign and the binding of Satan began at the cross. Furthermore that from His position of enthronement as the supreme Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus has extended the scepter of His righteousness over His bride, the Church, and is calling us to rule over His enemies.
The Greatness of the Great Commission
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).
The Church needs to recover the idea that “all authority” is given to Christ at the resurrection. This authority is both “in heaven and on earth.” The Greek word exousia means full power to do as one wills. In exposition of these verses, R.C.H. Lenski writes:
Never did a human army have such resources behind it. All the earth is also subject to him, its inhabitants, both friend and foe, and all the powers that are in the earth (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel).
This idea is sometimes known as the greatness of the Great Commission. Gordon-Conwell professor John Jefferson Davis writes in his book, Christ’s Victorious Kingdom.
It is precisely in the light of this unlimited authority that Christ sends his disciples into the world as agents of the kingdom, not in the strength of their own human resources, but energized with a divine authority that is his alone (John Jefferson Davis, Christ’s Victorious Kingdom).
The greatness of the power of God is referred to in Ephesians 1:18-23.
… that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:18-23).
What is clear from this passage is that Jesus, the Son of God, came as the Messianic and Mediatorial King to establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Citing Philippians 2, Acts 2, Ephesians 1, Hebrews 1, and a host of other Biblical texts, William Symington wrote these words in his study, Messiah the Prince, or, The Mediatorial Dominion of Jesus Christ.
Christ’s appointment [to the kingly office] was still farther intimated by his actual investiture with regal power at and after his resurrection…. Christ’s appointment gives him rightful claim to the implicit and conscientious obedience of every moral creature…. This appointment affords ample security for the overthrow of all Christ’s enemies, and the ultimate establishment of his kingdom in the world (William Symington, Messiah the Prince).
The one great event that must precede the Second Coming of Christ is the universal proclamation of the Gospel. The conversion of the world is the work assigned to the Church by Christ himself. While the scriptures are rife with triumphant and even militant language concerning the advance of Christ’s kingdom against the gates of hell, the importance of understanding the nature of this effort cannot be overstated. The Apostle Paul was careful to denote the spiritual aspect of the warfare we are to engage in.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
The result of spiritual warfare, according to Paul, is far greater than warring according to the flesh in that it brings about conversion – the transformation of hearts and minds. Thus the reformation of the world is to occur at the grassroots level. And that is why Jesus was careful to teach His disciples that the Kingdom of God would not come suddenly; it would not be the result of a military conquest or political victory; nor would the King actually reign on an earthly throne while the kingdom was being established on earth.
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened” (Matthew 13:31-33).
The Apocalyptic Nature of the Great Commission
If we were to boil down everything we’ve said thus far concerning the doctrine of postmillennialism to two key elements, we should emphasis the following.
- Throughout Scripture, Christ is portrayed as a mighty king ruling the nations with a rod of iron from His throne in heaven and nowhere is this throne depicted as an earthly throne in Jerusalem during a future millennial kingdom.
- There is still a truly apocalyptic nature to Christ’s reign in that as the kingdom of God advances in the earth, the Great Commission is fulfilled. Yet this fulfillment will be much more vast than the majority of today’s Christians realize affecting not just the salvation of individuals, but also salvation in it’s fullest sense – victory over the works the flesh and the devil in creation itself.
So what is yet to come after the evangelization of the world, the reformation of nations and the renewal of the creation? The Apostle Paul describes the consummation of the kingdom in 1 Corinthians 15.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:22-26).
Consider for a moment the significance of this verse: “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.”
What does this mean practically?
With the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Church’s preaching of the Gospel, in gradual stages of growth, a great number of individual, families, communities, and even cities and nations, will eventually submit to Christ. The important thing to remember here is that this great harvest is not the result of a ministry campaign or man’s effort to “usher in the kingdom” or to subjugate people to the Christian religion by force or coercion — but it comes gradually in history even in times when the Gospel seems on the decline – and most importantly it comes because the people will “volunteer” freely in the day of the Lord.
Your people shall be volunteers
In the day of Your power;
In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
You have the dew of Your youth (Psalms 110:3).
B.B. Warfield wrote concerning this verse:
If you wish, as you lift your eyes to the far horizon of the future, to see looming on the edge of time the glory of a saved world, you can find warrant for so great a vision only in the high principles that it is God and God alone who saves men, that all their salvation is from him, and that in his own good time and way he will bring the world in its entirety to the feet of him whom he has not hesitated to present to our adoring love not merely as Savior of our souls, but as the Savior of the world…. The redemption of the world is similarly a process. It, too, has stages; it, too, advances only gradually to its completion.
The New Testament’s call for the Church to be active in a great harvest of souls is the same promise we saw earlier in this presentation explained in the Abrahamic covenant.
“Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5).
We see the prophecy given to Abraham fulfilled in John’s vision in Revelation:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).
In light of these scriptures which proclaim the magnificent calling we have in Christ to be participants in the Great Commission, it is both remarkable and sad that so many Christians today have a bleak view of the number of people who will be eventually saved. They simply do not understand the universal scope of the Gospel in all areas of life. But if we are to take John’s vision at face value, there will be a “great multitude, which no man could number” made up of people from every nation of the earth. This is a vision of victory surpassing man’s best efforts to measure it.
In the words of the Apostle Paul, the Gospel is “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.”
The Gospel Preached to The Jews
Another misunderstood aspect of the postmillennial worldview is God’s plan for ethnic Israel, the modern day Jews. According to some dispensationalists, the postmillennial view of the Kingdom of God must be incredibly anti-Jewish, since it denies a literal thousand year rule of Jesus from an earthly throne at Jerusalem with the converted Jews the center of the millennial society.
The dispensationalist view has the Church in effect failing at the Great Commission. Only after the rapture occurs are the Jews converted. Then it becomes the job of the Jews to convert the world during the “Great Tribulation.” When Jesus returns to inaugurate the millennium, the center of the world’s civil government literally becomes David’s throne with Jesus ruling from an earthly Jerusalem.
Postmillennialism does not deny the importance of the Jewish people in God’s end-time purposes. The main difference is the timing of the Jews conversion. Dispensationalists have taught that the conversion of the Jews will occur after the Second Coming of Jesus.
Just a brief survey of postmillennialists (and indeed most amillennialists and historical premillennialists) throughout history shows that God’s plan for the conversion of the Jews is an event occurring prior to the Second Coming – and in the postmillennial view this mass conversion of the Jewish people adds greater glory to a unified Church throughout the world.
The Apostle Paul explained this matter in terms of the following equation, since the first century Jews had rejected their Messiah, the Gospel would then go to the Gentiles and finally the Jews would be converted.
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins” (Romans 11:25-27).
Thus the equation is: Gentiles first, then the Jews. The incredible promise of Romans 11 is: “And so all Israel will be saved.”
The controversy that has ensued over just this one verse is more than we can cover here! Just for starters, what is meant here by “all”? And who or what is “Israel”? Sparks fly at the mere mention of these questions. However, the Reformed consensus of the past 500 years has been that Paul was indeed speaking of God’s plan for the conversion for the Jews. The resistance of ethnic Israel to be thoroughly converted to Christ in Paul’s day is described in Romans chapters 9 through 11.
Paul’s explanation to this “mystery” is that in the “fullness of time” after the majority of the Gentile nations will converted, the majority of ethnic Jews in the world will become saved, added to the Church – now made up of Jews and Gentiles – and thus “all Israel will be saved.” For example, B.B. Warfield made this generalization:
[T]he nature of the whole dispensation in which we are living, and which stretches from the First to the Second Advent, [is] a period of advancing conquest on the part of Christ … The prophecy [of Romans 11] promises the universal Christianization of the world.
To make a complicated controversy simple, just as New Covenant “Israel” refers to the Church – and not the geo-political state of Israel — so the “Church” is made up of Jews and Gentiles. So Christians throughout the last 2000 years have looked forward to a time when Israel would be converted to a saving faith in the Messiah, King Jesus.
But what does “All Israel will be saved” – mean? This is another controversy. Does this mean all Jews? The majority of Jews? The nation-state of Israel?
The future conversion of the Jews was taught in a marginal note for Romans 1:26 in the 1560 Geneva Bible.
He sheweth that the time shall come that the whole nation of the Jews, though not every one particularly, shall be joined to the church of Christ (1560 Geneva Bible).
As F.F. Bruce has also pointed out, Israel is clearly ethnic Israel. In verse 25, the Apostle Paul refers to the ethnic Jews of Jesus’ day: “blindness in part has happened to Israel.” Therefore it would be unlikely for “Israel” in the next sentence – “And so all Israel will be saved” – to mean something other than ethnic Israel.
“All Israel” is a recurring expression in Jewish Literature, it does not mean “every Jew without a single exception” but “Israel as a whole” (F.F. Bruce The Epistle of Paul to the Romans).
In Hebrew biblical literature, the term “all Israel” usually refers to the vast majority of Israel in contrast with a “remnant” which denotes a minority.
Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace (Romans 11:5).
And so all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:25).
John Calvin understood this verse to mean ethnic Jews.
I extend the word Israel to all the people of God, according to this meaning — when the Gentiles shall come in, the Jews also shall return from their defection to the obedience of faith; and thus shall be completed the salvation of the whole Israel of God, which must be gathered from both; and yet in such a way that the Jews shall obtain the first place, being as it were the first born in God’s family (John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans).
The leader of America’s First Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards, also held this view.
Nothing is more certainly foretold than this national conversion of the Jews in Romans 11. Besides the prophecies of the calling of the Jews, we have a remarkable providential seal of the fulfillment of this great event, by a kind of continual miracle , their being preserved a distinct nation, the world affords nothing else like it. There is undoubtedly a remarkable hand of providence in it. When they shall be called, that ancient people, who alone were so long God’s people for so long a time, shall be his people again, never to be rejected more. They shall be gathered together into one fold, together with the Gentiles.
Princeton scholar, Charles Hodge, wrote:
The second great event, which, according to the common faith of the Church, is to precede the second advent of Christ, is the national conversion of the Jews…. As the rejection of the Jews was not total, so neither is it final…. As the restoration of the Jews is not only a most desirable event, but one which God has determined to accomplish, Christians should keep it constantly in view even in their labors for the conversion of the Gentiles (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology).
This promise of God to ethnic Israel – the flesh and blood descendants of Abraham – comes not because the Jewish people are in some way superior, but the promise of God comes because of God’s calling of Abraham and the covenant that He made with his descendants.
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).
God’s covenant with Abraham, and Abraham’s response, not only blessed the great patriarch — it is spilled over to his descendants as well. God’s supernatural work in Israel to bring ethnic Jews to himself will be one aspect of God’s demonstrating himself to the nations. It will be an aid to the Church in her witness. And so we should seek the support of all believers to pray for the conversion of Israel in the “last days.”
The Final Greatness of the Kingdom
Finally, it’s important to note once more that God’s promises to the Covenant people of God, both Jew and Gentile, are beyond measure. The Apostle John wrote in Revelation 21:15,16:
And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal (Revelation 21:15,16).
The Church, the New Jerusalem, is depicted as a cube of equal lengths – a symbol of spiritual perfection in the Bible. But note that each side is 12,000 furlongs or 1500 miles in length. Just the surface area of 2,250,000 miles would dwarf what the Jews of John’s day thought of as “Israel.” The image is given here to demonstrate that the proportions of God’s heavenly city, the Church, are incredibly vast. The end result to the Church’s missionary efforts will far surpass our mere human expectations because God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).
The choices afforded to us by the two-party system in the 2020 presidential election are sad indeed. I decided in 1992 that I’d vote Constitution Party in every election whenever the Republicans fielded a candidate who was unfit for the office. I’ve voted Constitution Party in every election since then with the exception of 2008, which I now concede to be a mistake.
I have always said, “Revival in the church and reformation of culture first. Then politics will follow.” So in one sense, I agree that we can’t end a serious moral problem like abortion by stacking the Supreme Court with constructionist judges or by making it illegal. But I do make the pro-life position a litmus test for my vote for several reasons.
The first and most practical reason is that if a politician is correct on the sanctity of life (meaning no abortion with no exceptions) and won’t compromise, he will be correct on 90 percent of other issues that I also hold. As a bonus, he won’t compromise on those issues either. Think about it. If you are willing to compromise on the most fundamental of all rights — the God-given right to life — what else won’t you compromise on?
Second, a big part of revival and reformation stems from obedience to God’s Word. Practically, we have to replace at least 90 percent of our legislators to truly reform America to the place we need to be politically. So why not begin that process now. Why wait? Why delay our obedience until the political system changes on its own? That day will never come unless we move first.
Third, another reason is put aptly in the words of George Washington, “If to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the event is in the hand of God.”
To put this in the reciprocal, “If to promote political expediency, we give our vote to politicians whom we disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the event is in the hand of God.”
If we believe revival is supernatural and heaven-sent, why do we believe that God will send it to Christians who allow for some child murder in every election?
“LET US RAISE A STANDARD TO WHICH THE WISE AND HONEST CAN REPAIR, THE EVENT IS IN THE HAND OF GOD.” ~ George Washington
It’s all about the entitlements!
Every Republican nominee for president since Nixon has promised to do three things.
- End the Great Society social welfare entitlements
- Cut taxes and spending
- Balance the budget by reducing the size of government
Every Republican president since Nixon has ended up doing exactly the opposite of this.
The fundamental problem with socialism welfare is the entitlement mentality it has produced. We have created a society of irresponsible people. If we simply ended the entitlements of the Great Society programs, this would soon create a truly great society of responsible people.
For example, there would still be abortion, but in general, the abortion rate would be low since an abortion is expensive. Abortion is level two invasive surgery that is risky and has frequent complications. It’s healthier, cheaper and easier to be responsible.
A lot of people don’t realize it, but there are now fewer than 500 abortion doctors in the whole country. The average age of an abortionist is now over the retirement age of 65. Soon these numbers will plummet even more. Mainly, they are old farts and quacks who can’t get board certified. So they become bottom feeders and prey on women in crisis pregnancies. If we simply eliminated entitlements, the numbers of abortionists would drop even more and virtually no one in their right mind would want surgery performed on them by the few notorious horror show characters that would be left on stage for all to see.
Eliminating entitlements would also solve the problem of “illegal” immigration, since all people would have to work.
The controversy over same sex “marriage” among Christians would become moot too, since no one would have to support or recognize a marriage he did not agree with.
I could go on and on.
It’s all about the entitlements!
America would probably return to a pre-1960s social morality and gain untold liberty by simply eliminating the social entitlements of the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson.
I don’t even need to be a libertarian on social issues to understand that eliminating entitlement programs is 90 percent of the solution that we so desperately need.
You may have seen this meme in various forms. Spurgeon isn’t talking politics specifically here, but he applies this principle consistently when he does venture into preaching on the political involvement of Christians.
Someone has asked: “Is politics dirty, then? Shall the Christian completely abstain? Stay out? Is there no hope?”
Well, yes and no. The conclusion Spurgeon comes to in the quotes below is that it is unusual to find a Christian politician, even in a nation with a state-church such as England, who will stand for the Gospel without compromise. The truth is that we can’t ever look to politics as a savior. If we do, we will always be disappointed. Salvation comes from personal regeneration. Then we should evangelize our family. Then we should work to build strong churches. Finally, the culture will be transformed and politics will follow. Our slogans should be, “No King but Jesus” and “Politics fourth!”
How do we apply this to the current election? Many Christians are going to support Donald Trump because it is “the only way of stopping Joe Biden” and “If we lose the Supreme Court, we lose our liberty for the next generation or more” and so on. Well no, we lost our liberty when we lost our salt and hid our light under a bushel. We lost our liberty when we lost our families. We lost our liberty the moment the church began preaching a compromised Gospel.
This isn’t an admonition to stay out of politics. On the contrary, it is a strong warning not to trust politics to be the answer. Even so, choosing the lesser of two evils when a third or fourth choice is the best representative of the Gospel in public life shows a idolatry of the political system. We must be more prepared to lose with the Truth — or the closest imperfect human representative of the Truth — than we are to “win” with the gross compromise of first principles. It is only in standing for Truth as “Athanasius against the world” that we win in the long run.
Finally, I submit that we lose because many Christians have a pessimistic long term view. “The world is getting worse and worse. Why polish the brass on a sinking ship. And the only course is to run up our debts until the Antichrist takes over the world.” We have greater faith in Zeitgeist than in sound biblical hermeneutics.
The good news is we will win, but not in an instant. If we have faith in a mighty, conquering God, He will in time will put all things under His feet, not only when He returns, but progressively as His people obey His Word.
What follows are some excepts from Spurgeon’s sermons:
But there were senators, there were forums of political discussion, there were the places where the representatives of the people make the laws, was there no room for Christ there?
Alas! my brethren, none, and to this day there is very little room for Christ in parliaments. How seldom is religion recognised by politicians!
Of course a State-religion, if it will consent to be a poor, tame, powerless thing, a lion with its teeth all drawn, its mane all shaven off, and its claws all trimmed — yes, that may be recognised; but the true Christ and they that follow him and dare to obey his laws in an evil generation, what room is there for such?
Christ and his gospel—oh! this is sectarianism, and is scarcely worthy of the notice of contempt. Who pleads for Jesus in the senate? Is not his religion, under the name of sectarianism, the great terror of all parties? Who quotes his golden rule as a direction for prime ministers, or preaches Christ-like forgiveness as a rule for national policy? One or two will give him a good word, but if it be put to the vote whether the Lord Jesus should be obeyed or no, it will be many a day before the ayes have it. Parties, policies, place-hunters, and pleasure-seekers exclude the Representative of Heaven from a place among representatives of Earth.
To what then do we look? We answer, we believe that national peace, and the security of our great cities, can only be guaranteed for a long future, by the recognition of the religion of Jesus Christ, and the wider spread of its principles.
Editor’s note: I don’t agree with every point of Terry’s analysis, but this is overall an excellent primer on the pseudepigraphal works that influenced Jewish eschatology in the Maccabean and Roman periods. ~ JCR
The Apocryphal Apocalypses
By Milton S. Terry
The Apocalypse of John is the consummation of all the biblical apocalypses, and the most complete in form and construction. But it belongs essentially to a vast literature of like character, which grew up and flourished during the period from about 175 BC to AD 400. The pseudepigraphical character of nearly all this literature is remarkable. The books of Daniel and Jonah appear to have produced so powerful an impression, and to have evinced so clearly the fitness of pseudonymous prophecy to illustrate the dominion of God over all the world, that a host of writers followed in the ideal method of these great models. We have seen, however, in the first half of this volume that the formal elements of apocalyptic writing are found in the older Hebrew literature, and that the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah and Joel contain some of the finest specimens.
The apocryphal apocalypses, though of inferior rank, demand the attention of exegetes and theologians. Our limits and aim do not call for a detailed discussion of these books, but it seems entirely appropriate to include in this volume at least a brief notice of the most important of them. Our main purpose in this appendix, while supplying a short account of these pseudepigrapha and informing the English reader where he may find fuller knowledge, is to point out the inferior character of all this extra-canonical literature. It may be said that our exposition of the Apocalypse of John ignores the help that may be derived from the apocryphal apocalypses; and therefore it is one purpose of this chapter to show that the New Testament Apocalypse was not in any perceptible degree de pendent upon or influenced by the pseudepigraphical writings, which are now known to us.
The Book of Enoch
Among all the Old Testament pseudepigrapha the Book of Enoch holds highest rank.1 It is now generally believed to be a compilation out of a variety of ancient Jewish writings, of different author ship, which once circulated as apocalypses of Enoch and of Noah. Critics differ as to the number and dates of the several sections of the composite work, some supposing three, others four or more in dependent writers. The entire book as it has come to us in its Ethiopic version consists of one hundred and eight chapters (Laurence made one hundred and five), and, according to R. H. Charles, who has furnished us with the latest and best English translation and commentary, it may be analyzed into six constituent elements, as follows:
- Chapters 1-36, written before 170 BC;
- Chapters 83-90, written before 166 BC;
- Chapters 91-104, written before 134-94 BC;
- Chapters 37-70, written before 94-79 or 70–64 BC;
- Chapters 72-73, 82 and 79, date uncertain;
- A large number of interpolations, most of which are supposed to have been taken from a lost Book of Noah.
Taking up these sections separately, it is sufficient to say, first of all, that nothing in the large number of scattered fragments, supposed to have come from an Apocalypse of Noah, and perhaps from other sources also, can reasonably be brought into a rival comparison with the apocalyptic portions of the biblical canon. They are in part a grotesque enlargement of the story of the apostate angels, and in part a collection of Jewish speculations and fancies touching the secrets of the lightnings and thunder and various cosmical phenomena. The same may be said of the section that Charles entitles “The Book of Celestial Physics” (chapters 72-82). It assumes to be a revelation made to Enoch by the angel Uriel, and to explain “the courses of the luminaries of the heaven and the relations of each, according to their classes, their dominion, and their seasons, according to their names and places of origin, and according to their months, and how it is with regard to all the years of the world and till the new creation is accomplished which endureth till eternity.” The author declares that “the moon brings in all the years exactly, so that their position is not prematurely advanced or delayed by a single day unto eternity; but (the moons) complete the changing years with perfect justice in three hundred and sixty-four days” (74:12). The translator fittingly remarks that nothing but the writer’s Jewish prejudices, and possible stupidity, could have prevented him from seeing that a year of three hundred and sixty-four days could not effect such a result.
The English reader may find this book in three different translations. The first and oldest is that of Laurence (Oxford, 1821), the title page of which is: “The Book of Enoch the Prophet: an apocryphal production, supposed for ages to have been lost; but discovered at the close of the last century in Abyssinia; now first translated from an Ethiopic manuscript in the Bodleian Library. By Richard Laurence.” A great improvement on this is “The Book of Enoch: translated from the Ethiopic, with Introduction and Notes. By George H. Schodde.” Andover, 1882. These have both been superseded by “The Book of Enoch: translated from Professor Dillmann’s Ethiopic text, emended and revised in accordance with hitherto uncollated Ethiopic Manuscripts and with the Gizeh and other Greek and Latin fragments which are here published in full. Edited with Introduction, Notes, Appendices, and Indices, by R. H. Charles.” Oxford, 1893.
The other sections contain passages of a higher religious type, and emphasize in true apocalyptic spirit the doctrines of reward for the righteous and retribution for the wicked. But taken as a whole the work is easily seen to belong to a lower order of thought and composition than the biblical apocalypses. Its highest ideals are not infrequently puerile and fantastic enlargements of something recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. The larger portion of the first thirty-six chapters, which appear to be the oldest section of the book, is made up of a detailed account of the sin and punishment of the angels, the “watchers of the heaven who abandoned the high heaven and the holy eternal place, and defiled themselves with women.” They are charged with having “taught all unrighteousness on earth and revealed the secret things of the world which were wrought in the heavens.” These fallen watchers are said to have besought Enoch to draw up a petition for them, and to seek their forgiveness in the presence of God in heaven. The saintly patriarch is represented as acting for them as intercessor, and his testimony is:
I composed their petition and the prayer on behalf of their spirit, and for their individual deeds for which they besought forgiveness and forbearance. And I went off and sat down by the waters of Dan, in Dan, to the right of the west of Hermon, and I read their petition till I fell asleep. And behold a dream visited me and visions fell down upon me, and I saw the vision of a chastisement to the intent that I should recount it to the sons of the heaven and reprimand them. And when I awaked I came to them, and they were all sitting together weeping with their faces covered at Ublesjael, which is between Lebanon and Seneser. And I recounted to them all the visions, which I had seen in my sleep, and I began to recount those words of righteousness, and to reprimand the heavenly watchers (8:6-10).
As an example of the heavenly visions of Enoch the reader will do well to study the following, which purports to be the answer to Enoch’s intercession, and the manner in which the revelation was made known. After declaring to the fallen watchers that God will not grant their petition throughout all the days of eternity, he thus describes the vision:
Behold in the vision clouds invited me and a mist invited me: the course of the stars and the lightning’s drove and impelled me, and the winds in the vision gave me wings and drove me. And they lifted me up into heaven and I came till I drew nigh to a wall, which is built of crystals and surrounded by a fiery flame: and it began to affright me. And I went into the fiery flame and drew nigh to a large house, which was built of crystals: and the walls of that house were like a mosaic crystal floor, and its groundwork was of crystal. Its ceiling was like the path of the stars and lightnings, with fiery cherubim between in a transparent heaven. A flaming fire surrounded the walls of the house and its portal blazed with fire. And I entered into that house, and it was hot as fire and cold as ice: there were no delights of life therein: fear covered me and trembling gat hold upon me. And as I quaked and trembled, I fell upon my face and beheld in a vision. And lo! There was a second house, greater than the former, all the portals of which stood open before me, and it was built of flames of fire. And in every respect it so excelled in splendor and magnificence and extent that I cannot describe to you its splendor and its extent. And its floor was fire, and above it were lightnings and the path of the stars, and its ceiling also was flaming fire. And I looked and saw therein a lofty throne: its appearance was like hoarfrost; its circuit was as a shining sun and the voices of cherubim. And from underneath the great throne came streams of flaming fire so that it was impossible to look thereon. And the great Glory sat thereon and his raiment shone more brightly than the sun and was whiter than any snow. None of the angels could enter and could behold the face of the honored and glorious One, and no flesh could behold him. A flaming fire was round about him, and a great fire stood before him, and none of those who were around him could draw nigh him: ten thousand times ten thousand were before him, but be stood in no need of counsel. And the holiness of the holy ones, who were nigh to him, did not leave by night nor depart from him. And until then I had had a veil on my face, and I was trembling: then the Lord called me with his own mouth and spake to me: Come hither, Enoch, and hear my holy word. And he made me rise up and approach the door: but I turned my face downwards.
And he answered and spake to me with his voice: I have heard; fear not, Enoch, thou righteous man and scribe of righteousness: approach and hear my voice. And go, say to the watchers of heaven, who have sent thee to intercede for them: You should intercede for men and not men for you. Wherefore have ye left the high, holy, eternal heaven, and lain with women, and defiled yourselves with the daughters of men and taken unto yourselves wives, and done like to the children of earth, and begotten giants as (your) sons? Whilst you were still spiritual, holy, in the enjoyment of eternal life, you have defiled yourselves with women, have begotten (children) with the blood of flesh, and have lusted after the blood of men, and produced flesh and blood, as those produce them who are mortal and short-lived. Therefore have I given them wives also that they might impregnate them, and children be borne by them, that thus nothing might be wanting to them on earth. But you were formerly spiritual, in the enjoyment of eternal immortal life, for all generations of the world. Therefore I have not appointed wives for you; for the spiritual have their dwelling in heaven. And now the giants, who are produced from the spirits and flesh, will be called evil spirits upon the earth, and on the earth will be their dwelling. Evil spirits proceed from their bodies; because they are created from above, and from the holy watchers is their beginning and primal origin; they will be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits will they be named…. And the spirits of the giants will devour, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and cause destruction on the earth, and work affliction: they will take no kind of food, nor will they thirst, and they will be invisible. And these spirits will rise up against the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them. In the days of murder and of destruction and of the death of the giants when the spirits have gone forth from the souls of their flesh, in order to destroy without incurring judgment – thus will they destroy until the day when the great consummation of the great world be consummated over the watchers and the godless. And now as to the watchers who have sent thee to intercede for them, who had been afore time in heaven (say to them), You have been in heaven, and though the hidden things had not yet been revealed to you, you knew worthless mysteries, and these in the hardness of your hearts you have recounted to the women, and through these mysteries women and men work much evil on earth. Say to them therefore: You have no peace (chapter 14:8-16:4).
Here now is one of the finest passages of the oldest section of the Book of Enoch; but, to say nothing of the prolixity of the composition as a piece of literature, what are we to think of the value of its subject matter as compared with any corresponding passages or pictures in the biblical apocalypses? The detailed account here given of the fallen angels and of their propagation of demons in the world moves in a very different realm of thought from that of the brief ideal in Genesis 6:1-4, out of which it was evidently developed. If we allow the statements in Genesis to be a fragment of an ancient myth, it is to be observed that the author of the Book of Genesis briefly touches it with the hand of a master word-painter in order to enhance the picture of human wickedness. Not so the writer or writers whose crass imagination elaborated the story as it appears in the Book of Enoch.
Another of the most remarkable passages is that part of “The Similitudes” which describes the Elect One of the Lord of spirits, and speaks of him as –
… the Son of man who hath righteousness, and who reveals all the treasures of that which is hidden, because the Lord of spirits bath chosen him, and his lot before the Lord of spirits hath surpassed everything in uprightness forever…. And he will put down the kings from their thrones and kingdoms because they do not extol and praise him, nor thankfully acknowledge whence the kingdom was bestowed upon them. And he will put down the countenance of the strong and shame will cover them: darkness will be their dwelling and worms their bed, and they will have no hope of rising from their beds because they do not extol the name of the Lord of spirits (46:3,5,6).
And in those days I saw the Head of days when he had seated himself on the throne of his glory, and the books of the living were opened before him, and his whole host, which is in heaven above and around him stood before him. And the hearts of the holy were filled with joy that the number of the righteous had drawn nigh, and the prayer of the righteous was heard, and the blood of the righteous required before the Lord of spirits. And in that place I saw a fountain of righteousness which was inexhaustible: around it were many fountains of wisdom, and all the thirsty drank of them and were filled with wisdom, and had their dwellings with the righteous and holy and elect. And at that hour that Son of man was named in the presence of the Lord of spirits and his name before the Head of days. And before the sun and the signs were created, before the stars of the heaven were made his name was named before the Lord of spirits. He will be a staff to the righteous on which they will support themselves and not fall, and he will be the light of the Gentiles and the hope of those who are troubled of heart. All who dwell on the earth will fall down and bow the knee before him, and will bless and laud and celebrate with song the Lord of spirits. And for this reason has he been chosen and hidden before him be fore the creation of the world and for evermore. And the wisdom of the Lord of spirits hath revealed him to the holy and righteous, for he preserveth the lot of the righteous, because they have hated and despised this world of unrighteousness, and have hated all its works and ways in the name of the Lord of spirits: for they are saved in his name and he is the avenger of their life (47:3-48:7).
So far now as the author of this passage (and of others like it) has presented us a unique ideal of the Son of man, modifying the sources from which he derived his suggestions and stamping them with the cast and color of his own individuality, we give him all due credit for the sublime picture he has made. But it is scarcely open to question that in its main elements it is modeled after what is written in Daniel 7:9-14. The doctrine of preexistence here set forth is traceable to the well-known portraiture of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-30, and has further parallels in the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon 7:25-27, and the Fourth Book of Ezra 12:32; 13:26. It is also probable, as some of the best scholars hold, that all these more striking Messianic passages have been enlarged or colored by the hand of some Christian translator. But, taken at their best and made the most of, they are still exceptional portions of the Book of Enoch as a whole; and are mixed up with much that is of an inferior cast and with some things that are puerile.
In his Introduction to the Book of Enoch, Charles maintains that the influence of the book on the New Testament writers “has been greater than that of all the other apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books taken together” (p. 41). There can be no reasonable doubt of this in the composition of 2 Peter and Jude, and there appears no good reason to suppose that the book was unknown to any of the New Testament writers. But how far any of them, except the two just named, made direct use of it or consciously quoted it is a very open question. It requires more than mere analogy of ideas and language to establish such a position, especially when it can be shown that such ideas and language are traceable to other and older written sources. Whatever influence the book may have had on other writers, there is no conclusive evidence that the author of John’s Apocalypse made any direct use of it whatever. The statement that “the writer or writers of this book are steeped in Jewish apocalyptic literature” (p. 42) is very true if it is understood that by “Jewish apocalyptic literature” we include the apocalyptic portions of the biblical canon. For our notes on the Apocalypse have shown that there is scarcely a figure or symbol of the book that is not traceable to some corresponding idea in the Old Testament. The list of passages in the Book of Revelation which Charles refers to (pp. 43-45) as having been derived from the Book of Enoch cannot be fairly pressed for such a purpose. Most of them are obviously traceable to the Old Testament, as his own notes sufficiently show, and not one of them is of a nature to prove beyond question that the New Testament writer made use of the apocryphal Enoch. What propriety is there in citing John’s sublime ideal of “the seven spirits which are before the throne” (Revelation 1:4; compare 4:5; 8:2), as if it were drawn from the “seven first white ones” of Enoch 90:21? Much rather may we suppose it to have been taken from Zechariah 3:9; 4:10, especially as Revelation 5:6, is seen to be a direct allusion thereto. The doctrine of seven chief angels, moreover, was so current in the Jewish thought of the time (see Tobit 12:15) that we have no need to suppose that the author of the Revelation was in the least dependent for it on the Book of Enoch.
Equally futile for his purpose is Charles’s assumption that the ideals of the tree of life in Revelation 2:7; 22:2,14,19, have any necessary connection with Enoch 25:4,5. For all these allusions go back originally to the story of Genesis 2:9, and the apocalyptic picture of John is clearly modeled after that of Ezekiel 47:12. How anyone can believe that the four living creatures full of eyes before and behind, as seen around the throne in Revelation 4:6, are an ideal drawn from Enoch 40:2, rather than from Isaiah 6:2,3, and Ezekiel 1:5-13, is difficult to comprehend. The same may be said of the implication that the star fallen from heaven (Revelation 9:1) was suggested by Enoch 86:1, rather than by Isaiah 14:12; and that the mention of the opened books in Revelation 20:12, is indebted to Enoch 90:20, and 47:3, when in his notes on those passages of Enoch the writer admits that the idea is clearly expressed in Daniel 7:10, and also underlies several other passages in the Old Testament. The picture of terrible judgment in Revelation 6:15,16, seems at first sight to be a striking parallel of Enoch 62:3-5; but careful examination shows that all the essential elements of the picture in both places are to be found in Isaiah 2:17-19; 11:2-4; 13:6-3, and Hosea 10:8, combined with Daniel 7:13,14. In his own note on Enoch 62:5, Charles says, “This shows that Isaiah 12:8, was in the mind of the writer.”
It is needless for us to go further over the list of supposed parallels. Those already cited are among the most noticeable.2 It is not improbable, as we have already observed, that the author of John ‘s Apocalypse was acquainted with the Book of Enoch, and it need not be denied that he was to some extent influenced by a few of its apocalyptic ideals; but if so the influence was of no considerable weight in shaping either the plan or the details of his own superior prophecy.
The Book of the Secrets of Enoch
Another book of the same general cast of thought, entitled “The Book of the Secrets of Enoch” (one manuscript bears the title, “The Secret Books of God which were shown to Enoch”), has lately been brought to the attention of English readers.3 It has been preserved in a Slavonic version, and proves to be an independent pseudepigraph rather than a version of the Book of Enoch as we find it in the Ethiopic. It exhibits a much greater unity, and is scarcely less valuable for critical and historical purposes than its older and better-known rival. The translator, Mr. Morfill, and the editor, Mr. Charles, are of opinion that its author was a Hellenistic Jew and that it was written in Egypt, probably at Alexandria, sometime during the period AD 1-50. The discovery of this new pseudepigraph is an additional evidence of the magnitude of apocryphal literature that in ancient time gathered around the name of the saintly patriarch who “walked with God, and was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). The character and style of the book may be seen in the following paragraph, which constitutes its first chapter:
Hardly had I accomplished a hundred and sixty-five years [here the Septuagint is followed], when I begat my son Methusal; after that I lived two hundred years and accomplished all the years of my life, three hundred and sixty-five years. On the first day of the first month I was alone in my house, and I rested on my bed and slept. And as I slept a great grief came upon my heart, and I wept with mine eyes in my dream, and I could not understand what this grief meant, or what would happen to me. And there appeared to me two men very tall, such as I have never seen on earth. And their faces shone like the sun, and their eyes were like burning lamps; and fire came forth from their lips. Their dress had the appearance of feathers; their feet were purple, their wings were brighter than gold, their hands whiter than snow. They stood at the head of my bed and called me by my name. I awoke from my sleep and saw clearly these men standing in front of me. I hastened and made obeisance to them and was terrified, and the appearance of my countenance was changed from fear. And these men said to me: Be of good cheer, Enoch, be not afraid; the everlasting God hath sent us to thee, and lo! today shalt thou ascend with us into heaven. And tell thy sons and thy servants, all who work in thy house, and let no one seek thee till the Lord bring thee back to them.
The book goes on to tell how Enoch was taken up through the seven heavens, which doctrine of seven heavens, Charles observes, “is set forth by our author with a fullness and clearness not found elsewhere in literature.” The patriarch was shown in the first heaven the secrets of the world, the treasuries of the snow and ice and dew, and the angels that guard them. In the second heaven he saw the prison of the apostate angels, who asked him to intercede for them. The third heaven is described as a beautiful and blessed paradise, with the tree of life in the midst, and the picture corresponds remarkably with the ideal of the third heaven into which Paul was caught up, and heard unspeakable words (2 Corinthians 12:2,4). In the seventh heaven, the writer says:
I saw a very great light and all the fiery hosts of great archangels, and incorporeal powers and lordships, and principalities and powers; cherubim and seraphim, thrones and the watchfulness of many eyes. There were ten troops, a station of brightness, and I was afraid, and trembled with a great terror. And those men took hold of me and brought me into their midst and said to me: Be of good cheer, Enoch, be not afraid. And they showed me the Lord from afar sitting on his lofty throne. And all the heavenly hosts having approached stood on the ten steps, according to their rank, and made obeisance to the Lord. And so they proceeded to their places in joy and mirth, and in boundless light singing songs with low and gentle voices, and gloriously serving him.
Into this glorious heaven Enoch was welcomed by the Lord, anointed with holy oil, clothed in shining raiment, and put in charge of the wisest among the archangels, who instructed him for thirty days and thirty nights in the secrets of the world and of men and of angels, the results of all which were written down accurately in three hundred and sixty-six books (chapters 3-23).
There follow after this, revelations of the creation of the heavens and the earth, a fanciful and, in part, grotesque elaboration of the creation narratives of Genesis. One is reminded of Milton’s poetic description (Paradise Lost, book 7), and may observe that in taste and power of expression the Hellenistic dreamer is far surpassed by the English poet. In the creation of man the Jewish apocalyptist represents the Lord as saying: “On the sixth day I ordered my Wisdom to make man of seven substances: his flesh from the earth; his blood from the dew; his eyes from the sun; his bones from the stones; his thoughts from the swiftness of the angels, and the clouds; his veins and hair from the grass of the earth; his spirit from my Spirit and from the wind. And I gave him seven natures: hearing to his body, sight to his eyes, smell to the perception, touch to the veins, taste to the blood, the bones for endurance, sweetness for thought.”
The foregoing specimens are sufficient to show that, while the apocryphal Enoch literature was very popular and widespread at the beginning of our era, it is conspicuously inferior to the biblical apocalypses, and could have exerted little or no influence on the composition of John’s Apocalypse. The New Testament writer drew from a deeper fountain, and his entire range of thought moves in a higher plane.
The Fourth Book of Ezra
Hardly second in importance to the Book of Enoch is that apocalyptic production which is generally known among readers of the Apocrypha in the Authorized English version as “Second Esdras.”4 Among modern scholars it is, perhaps, most commonly known as “The Fourth Book of Ezra.” The first two and last two chapters (1,2,15,16) are obvious additions to the original work, and in a majority of the manuscripts are detached and designated as separate books. A very common arrangement in the manuscripts is to reckon the canonical Ezra and Nehemiah as First Ezra; chapters 1 and 2 of our book as Second Ezra; the Greek apocryphal Esdras as Third Ezra; chapters 3-14 of our book as Fourth Ezra, and chapters 15 and 16 as Fifth Ezra. As the book consisting of chapters 3-14, called Fourth Ezra in this arrangement, is the earlier and independent work, and is conspicuously apocalyptical in style. We shall examine these chapters only as a possible source of some of the contents of John’s Apocalypse, and as having a rank in literature coordinate with that of the Book of Enoch. Aside from all questions concerning the original title of this production, the contents would justify our calling it the “Apocalypse of Ezra.”5
This apocalypse consists of a series of seven revelations, purporting to have been made known to Ezra in the thirtieth year after the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Chaldean army. In answer to the appeal and prayer of the prophet, who argues that the Most High Lord, that beareth rule, has preserved his enemies, the Babylonians, and destroyed his people, and who implores that the iniquities of Israel and those of the nations be weighed by an impartial balance to show “which way the scale inclineth,” the angel Uriel is sent unto him to show him three ways and to set forth three similitudes be fore him (4:3). He is asked, much after the manner of Jehovah’s answer to Job out of the whirlwind (Job 38), if he can weigh fire, or measure the wind, or call back again a day that is past. If a man know so little of fire and wind and day through which he has passed, how can he expect to comprehend the way of the Most High? Ezra, however, protests that “it were better that we were not here at all than that we should come hither and live in the midst of ungodliness, and suffer and know not wherefore” (4:12). Whereupon the angel answers him by a fable of the woods of the field and the waves of the sea, showing that each has its own place and bounds, that they who dwell on earth can understand only what is on the earth, and that things above the heavens are known only to the Most High. But the prophet persists in his questioning: “Wherefore is the power of understanding given unto me? For it was not my mind to be curious of the ways above, but of such things as pass by us daily; because Israel is given up as a reproach to the heathen” (4:23). What purports to be an answer to this question runs on through a similar succession of questions and answers unto 5:13, but leaves the subject in as deep obscurity as before, save that the general doctrine is announced that “the world hasteth fast to pass away,” and a time is coming when all wrong shall be righted.
After fasting and weeping for seven days, and again asking in his prayer the same question – why the one chosen people had been given over to the violence of the many – the angel Uriel communicates further instruction to the prophet. All things and all seasons of the world have their natural order, but there shall come times of momentous change.
The trumpet shall give a sound, which when every man heareth, they shall be suddenly afraid…. And it shall be that whosoever remaineth after these things that I have told thee of, he shall be saved, and shall see my salvation, and the end of my world. And they shall see the men that have been taken up, who have not tasted death from their birth; and the heart of the inhabitants shall be changed, and turned into another meaning. For evil shall be blotted out, and deceit shall be quenched; and faith shall flourish, and corruption shall be overcome, and the truth, which bath been so long without fruit, shall be declared (6:23-28).
A like repetition of prayer, question, and answer runs on through the third revelation, which extends from 6:35 to 9:25, and yields the same general result. In this section occurs the passage touching the places of torment and of rest set opposite each other, the furnace of gehenna and the paradise of delight. This passage does not appear in the common version, but was preserved in the Ethiopic and Arabic versions, and has in recent years been found in an old Latin manuscript, and has added a new chapter to our Old Testament Apocrypha.6 Its main doctrine is the certainty of reward and punishment in the world to come, and the unchangeable ness of the final judgments of God. The outcome is that “the Most High hath made this world for many, but the world to come for few. I will tell thee now a similitude, Ezra: As when thou askest the earth, it shall say unto thee, that it giveth very much mold whereof earthen vessels are made, and little dust that gold cometh of: even so is the course of the present world. There are many created, but few shall be saved” (8:1-3).
The fourth, fifth, and sixth revelations are in the form of visions, and maintain the methods and style of apocalyptic symbolism. In the first of these visions (9:26-10:59) the prophet is in “the field which is called Ardat” (or Arphad), and is sitting among the flowers and eating the herbs of the field. As he vexes his soul over the miseries of Israel and cries unto God be beholds in a vision a woman bewailing the death of her son, and refusing to be com. forted. While Ezra expostulates with her and exhorts her to throw off her excessive sorrow she suddenly disappears, and in her place he beholds a city builded up upon large foundations. The angel explains to him that the woman is Zion, and the death of her son the destruction that came to Jerusalem. For his comfort he is told to enter and look upon the beauty and greatness of the building (10:55), and he is assured that he shall see and hear things of great moment, and receive from the Most High visions of what shall befall “them that dwell upon the earth in the last days.”
Next follows (in 11 and 12) the vision of the great Eagle that came up out of the sea, and had twelve feathered wings and three heads. In the interpretation, which is given in chapter 12, the eagle is said to be “the fourth kingdom which appeared in vision to thy brother Daniel.” The symbolism of this vision is detailed, confused, and difficult to explain. Most interpreters understand by the eagle the Roman Empire. The twelve wings are twelve Cæsars, the eight smaller wings over against them (Authorized Version, “contrary feathers”) represent so many dependent and tributary kings, and the three heads are the Flavian emperors, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. But there is obvious incongruity in thus making the heads as well as the wings represent emperors. We should more naturally understand by the heads some territorial seats of power, distinctive sources of revenue, and constituent elements of the body of the kingdom; not temporary rulers, but prominent parts of the empire, like those lying in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The roaring lion out of the wood is said to be the Anointed One of the Most High, who “shall set them alive in his judgment, and when he has reproved them, he shall destroy them” (12: 33).
In the next vision, the prophet sees a man ascend from the midst of the sea and fly with the clouds of heaven, and cause all things to tremble before him (13:3). Against him a great multitude of men from the four winds of heaven make war; but “as he saw the assault of the multitude that came, he neither lifted up his hand, nor held spear, nor any instrument of war, but he sent out of his mouth as it had been a flood of fire, and out of his lips a flaming breath, and out of his tongue he cast forth sparks of the storm. And these were all mingled together, and fell upon the assault of the multitude, and burned them up every one, so that upon a sudden of an innumerable multitude nothing was to be perceived, but only dust of ashes and smell of smoke” (13:9-11). Afterward this man came down from the great mountain which he had made for himself, and called unto him another multitude which was peaceable. This man is shown to be one “whom the Most High hath kept a great season, and who by his own self shall deliver his creature” (13:26). He is the Son of God (verse 32), and “he shall stand upon the top of the mount Zion. And Zion shall come, and shall be shown to all men, being prepared and builded” like the mountain which Ezra saw graven without hands (verses 35,36). The peaceable multitude, to be gathered to this Messiah after the destruction of his enemies, are the ten tribes of Israel, who are preserved beyond the river Euphrates, and destined to be called back again and shown very many wonders.
The seventh and last revelation of the series is a communication of God to Ezra, which came as a voice out of a bush after the manner in which Moses received revelations in the days of old (14:1-3). He is told that the world has lost its youth, and that the times begin to wax old; for of the twelve parts into which the period of the world is divided ten have already passed and only two remain. Worse evils are to happen in the future than in the past; as there will be no prophet to instruct the people, and the law is burnt, Ezra is commanded to withdraw from the people for forty days, and with five assistant scribes write down the things which should be revealed unto him. When they were thus alone in the field Ezra drank of a full cup which was given him, and forthwith his “heart uttered understanding and wisdom grew in his breast” (14:40). By means of such supernatural revelation ninety-four books were written during the forty days. Seventy of these were to be kept in secret, and delivered only to the wise; but the other twenty-four (books of the Old Testament canon?) were to be published openly, so that the worthy and the unworthy might alike have the liberty of reading them.
Here now we have an apocalyptic composition of unquestionable merit, but whether it can be shown to antedate the Apocalypse of John is a question not likely to be soon determined. It is generally believed that the work was originally written in Greek, but that original is now lost, and existing translations are so overlaid with additions of later writers that the exact contents of the book as it first appeared are quite uncertain. The notable Messianic passages are in all probability colored by the hand of editors and Christian translators. The oldest witnesses to its existence are citations from it in the Epistle of Barnabas (12), and in the Stromata of Clement of Alexandria (3:16); but these citations cannot prove it to be older than the close of the first century. This being the case, it cannot be fairly maintained that the author of John’s Apocalypse made use of this Ezra -Apocalypse for anything which the two works have in common.
To test any such claim by direct appeal to the books themselves, we compare the cry of the souls in their chambers (Fourth Ezra 4:35) with that of the souls underneath the altar in Revelation 6:9.
Fourth Book of Ezra – Did not the souls of the righteous ask questions of these things in their chambers, saying, How long are we here? (so Syriac; Latin: How long shall I thus hope?] when cometh the fruit of the threshing time of our reward? And unto them Jeremiel the archangel gave answer, and said, Even when the number is fulfilled of them that are like unto you (Fourth Ezra 4:35).
Apocalypse of John – I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And there was given them to each one a white robe; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little time, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, which should be killed even as they were, should be fulfilled (Revelation 6:9).
Here in both cases are souls inquiring how long before they shall obtain redress. It can hardly be claimed that there is any necessary dependence of one of these passages on the other. Their apparent likeness may be only accidental. The familiar frequency of the cry, “How long, O Lord!” in the Psalms and the Prophets may be sufficient to account for two apocalyptic writers composing the above passages independently of one another. Compare Psalm 6:3,4; 13:1,2; 35:17; Habakkuk 1:2. But if one of these writers borrowed from the other the presumption would be that the Ezra Apocalyptist is the borrower. For his language is an appeal to what certain souls of the righteous had aforetime asked, as something already known, or assumed to be known. The vision in John’s Apocalypse, on the contrary, is altogether unique, and immeasurably superior in language and imagery. Even if it were clear that the passage in Ezra had suggested the vision of the cry of the martyr-souls in John, it must be conceded that the latter has amplified and exalted the ideal far beyond any imagery that was before the apocryphal writer.
The vision of an innumerable multitude gathered together to fight against the Messiah, who stands on Mount Zion and destroys them by the fiery flame out of his mouth (Fourth Ezra 13), has obvious likeness to that of Revelation 20:7-9. But the two pictures are not strictly parallel, and we have seen in our notes on Revelation 20:7-9, that the New Testament writer has drawn his imagery and in part his language from Ezekiel 38 and 39. In such parallels as Fourth Ezra 14:32, and 9:3, and Matthew 24:7, it may be questioned (1) whether the parallel is real or only apparent; (2) whether, in case it be real, the evangelist or the apocryphal writer is the borrower; and (3) whether, after all, the similarity of language is not due to the Christian translator and editor of Ezra rather than to the original work. A number of such verbal parallels can, therefore, in the absence of the Greek original of Ezra, prove nothing as to the age of this apocryphal apocalypse.
The book is unquestionably of great importance to the biblical scholar. One may study with much interest its doctrine of the Messiah, of rewards and punishments, of the small number of the saved, of resurrection and judgment, of the efficacy of good works, and of the relations of mankind to Adam the first. The chief value of this entire body of apocryphal literature is in thus showing the beliefs of the Jewish people of the time.
The apocalyptic character of the book may be seen not only in its formal elements of angelic revelations and visional dreams, but in the dark background of suffering and oppression which is implied in the oft-repeated cry, How long shall the wicked triumph? How long shall Israel, the chosen people, be trampled down by the heathen nations that are more sinful than they? The author was evidently a Jew, and his most elaborate symbol, that of the great Eagle in chapters 11 and 12, is confessedly an attempt to enlarge upon the vision of the fourth kingdom in the Book of Daniel. But his work as a whole lacks the originality of Daniel, and moves in a line of thought and imagery far below the Apocalypse of John.
The Apocalypse of Baruch
A number of apocryphal books attach to the name of Baruch, the son of Neriah, who was famous for being the close companion and amanuensis of the prophet Jeremiah. The Book of Baruch, which appears in the Old Testament Apocrypha along with the attached Epistle of Jeremiah, is well known. Other works ascribed to the same author are mentioned by several of the early fathers; but the most important of all, and a production worthy to rank with the Book of Enoch and Fourth Ezra (which latter it much resembles), was lost to the world for more than a thousand years, and discovered by Ceriani in a Syriac version and published in 1871. A Latin translation of the Syriac was published in 1866, soon after the discovery of the manuscript in the Milan Library. The Syriac version appears to have been made from a Greek text, and the Greek probably from a Hebrew original. It has been made the subject of most thorough study by a large number of eminent critics, and has recently been translated into English and elaborately annotated by R. H. Charles.7
The book may be divided into two large sections, the first (chapters 1-77) of which contains various revelations and prayers of Baruch; the second (chapters 78-87) being an epistle to the nine and a half tribes. The first of these greater sections is artificially divided into seven parts, each division being denoted by a fast of the prophet, which in most cases lasted seven days. The main burden of the apocalypse consists of anxiety on the part of the seer to know God’s purposes concerning Jerusalem and the people of Israel, and of revelations of the Lord given in answer to his servant’s prayers. A few selections from the finest passages of the book will best exhibit the character of the writing. In chapter 6, the prophet says:
I was grieving over Zion, and lamenting over the captivity which had come upon the people. And lo! suddenly a strong spirit raised me, and bore me aloft over the wall of Jerusalem. And I beheld, and lo! four angels standing at the four angles of the city, each of them holding a lamp of fire in his hands. And another angel began to descend from heaven, and said unto them: Hold your lamps, and do not light them till I tell you. For I am first sent to speak a word to the earth, and to place in it what the Lord the Most High has commanded me. And I saw him descend into the holy of holies, and take from thence the veil, and the holy ephod, and the mercy seat, and the two tables, and the holy raiment of the priests, and the altar of incense, and the forty-–eight precious stones wherewith the priest was adorned, and all the holy vessels of the tabernacle. And he spake to the earth with a loud voice: Earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the mighty God, and receive what I commit to thee, and guard them until the last times, so that, when thou art ordered, thou mayest restore them, so that strangers may not get possession of them. For the time comes when Jerusalem also will be delivered up for a time, until it is said that it is again re stored forever. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up.
In chapter 27 (compare also chapter 70) the travail pains which usher in the time of the Messiah are described, and may be compared with the corresponding parts of the apocalypse of the synoptic gospels (compare p. 229 above), and the opening of the seals in Revelation 6:
Into twelve parts is that time divided, and each one of them is reserved for that which is appointed for it. In the first part there will be the beginning of commotions. And in the second part there will be slayings of the great ones. And in the third part there will be the fall of many by death. And in the fourth part the sending of desolation. And in the fifth part famine and the withholding of rain. And in the sixth part earthquakes and terrors. (Seventh is wanting.) And in the eighth part a multitude of portents and incursions of the Shedim (demons). And in the ninth part the fall of fire. And in the tenth part rapine and much oppression. And in the eleventh part wickedness and unchastity. And in the twelfth part confusion from the mingling together of all those things aforesaid.
In chapter 29, it is written:
It will come to pass when all is accomplished that was to come to pass in those parts, that the Messiah will then begin to be revealed. And Behemoth will be revealed from his place, and Leviathan will ascend from the sea, those two great monsters which I created on the fifth day of creation, and I kept them until that time; and then they will be food for all that are left. The earth also will yield its fruit ten thousandfold, and on one vine there will be a thousand branches, and each branch will produce a thousand clusters, and each cluster will produce a thousand grapes, and each grape will produce a cor of wine.8
The vision of the white and black waters and the great lightning in chapter 53 is noteworthy. The writer says:
I fell asleep and saw a vision, and lo! a cloud was ascending from a very great sea, and I kept gazing upon it, and lo! it was full of waters white and black, and there were many colors in those selfsame waters, and as it were the likeness of great lightning was seen at its summit. And I saw that cloud passing swiftly in quick courses, and it covered all the earth. And it came to pass after these things that the cloud began to pour upon the earth the waters that were in it. And I saw that there was not one and the same likeness in the waters which descended from it. For in the first beginning they were black exceedingly for a time, and afterwards I saw that the waters became bright, but they were not many, and after these things again I saw black waters, and after these things again bright, and again black and again bright. Now this was done twelve times, but the black were always more numerous than the bright. And it came to pass at the end of the cloud, that lo! it rained black waters, and they were darker than had been all those waters that were before, and fire was mingled with them, and where those waters descended they wrought devastation and destruction. And I saw after these things that lightning which I had seen on the summit of the cloud, that it held it fast and made it descend to the earth. Now that lightning shone exceedingly, so as to illuminate the whole earth, and it healed those regions where the last waters had descended and wrought devastation. And it took hold of the whole earth and had do minion over it. And I saw after these things, and lo! twelve rivers were ascending from the sea, and they began to surround that lightning and to become subject to it. And by reason of my fear I awoke.
In the interpretation which follows, given by “the angel Ramiel who presides over true visions” (chapter 55), Baruch is told that the black and bright waters symbolize successive periods of good and evil between the time of Adam and the consummation of the world; and the bright lightning which is to come at the end is the Messiah, in whose days “healing will descend in dew, and disease will with draw, and anxiety and anguish and lamentation will pass from amongst men, and gladness will proceed through the whole earth. And no one shall again die untimely, nor shall any adversity suddenly befall” (chapter 73).
These extracts are enough to show that this pseudograph is an invaluable monument of the later Jewish literature. But it contains nothing that can be shown to have influenced the composition of the Apocalypse of John. The mention of opening books “in which are written the sins of all those who have sinned” (24:1) is parallel with Revelation 20:12, but the source of the imagery is Daniel 7:10. The allusion in 51:11, to “the living creatures which are beneath the throne,” reminds us of Ezekiel 1:26, and 10:1, rather than of Revelation 4:6. Taken as a whole, the book falls far below the New Testament Apocalypse. In range of thought, symmetry of arrangement, power of description, and magnificence of execution the Revelation of John is immeasurably superior.
The date and composition of the Baruch Apocalypse are yet matters of discussion. The analogy between it and the Fourth Book of Ezra is very striking, and the relations of these two pseudographs is a complicated problem of criticism. Into these questions we have no occasion here to enter. Mr. Charles, who has given the subject a very thorough investigation, believes that this Apocalypse of Baruch is a composite work put together about the close of the first century of our era, and compiled out of five or six independent writings. In the Preface of his recent edition of the work he observes:
In this Apocalypse we have almost the last noble utterance of Judaism before it plunged into the dark and oppressive years that followed the destruction of Jerusalem. For ages after that epoch its people seem to have been bereft of their immemorial gifts of song and eloquence, and to have had thought and energy only for the study and expansion of the traditions of the fathers….
The Apocalypse of Baruch has had a strange history. Written by Pharisaic Jews as an apology for Judaism, and in part an implicit polemic against Christianity, it gained, nevertheless, a larger circulation amongst Christians than amongst Jews, and owed its very preservation to the scholarly cares of the Church it assailed. But in the struggle for life its secret animus against Christianity begat an instinctive opposition in Christian circles, and so proved a bar to its popularity. Thus the place it would naturally have filled was taken by the sister work, Fourth Ezra. The latter work having been written in some degree under Christian influences, and forming, in fact, an unconscious confession of the failure of Judaism to redeem the world, was naturally more acceptable to Christian readers, and thus, in due course, the Apocalypse of Baruch was elbowed out of recognition by its fitter and sturdier rival.
The Assumption of Moses
An apocryphal book, called variously the Assumption, the Ascension, and the Reception of Moses, is frequently referred to by the early Christian fathers, and according to Origen (On the First Principles, 3.2.1) was the source of information concerning Michael’s contention with the devil about the body of Moses mentioned in the ninth verse of the Epistle of Jude. The book was supposed to be lost until Ceriani, in 1861, published a considerable fragment of it in a Latin version, which he discovered in the Ambrosian Library at Milan. The manuscript of this version is a palimpsest of the sixth century, illegible in many passages, the beginning and end missing, and the style of the Latin barbarous and irregular. The Latin version was evidently made from the Greek, as a slavish dependence on a Greek original is apparent in numerous words and phrases; but the Greek is believed to have been a translation from a Hebrew or Aramaic original. The work has recently been made accessible to English readers by R. H. Charles, who supplies a faithful translation from the Latin into English with extended notes and critical discussions.9 This translator maintains that the work was written in Hebrew shortly after the beginning of our era, between AD 7 and 29, and that a Greek version of it appeared during the first century. The version was made to embody a composite work of two originally distinct books, namely, the “Testament of Moses” and the “Assumption of Moses,” both of which titles appear in lists of apocryphal books. Mr. Charles thinks that the fragment preserved in the Latin is not the “Assumption,” but the “Testament of Moses,” and that it “was designed by its author to protest against the growing secularization of the Pharisaic party through its fusion with political ideals and popular Messianic beliefs. Its author, a Pharisaic Quietist, sought herein to recall his party to the old paths, which they were fast forsaking, of simple unobtrusive obedience to the law. He glorifies, accordingly, the old ideals which had been cherished and pursued by the Chasid and early Pharisaic party, but which the Pharisaism of the first century BC had begun to disown in favor of a more active role in the life of the nation. He foresaw, perhaps, the doom to which his country was hurrying under such a shortsighted and unspiritual policy, and labored with all his power to stay its downward progress. But all in vain” (Preface, p. 7).
That it is referred to in the Epistle of Jude is not doubted, and that a few sentences have been appropriated from it in Matthew 24:29; Acts 7:35, need not be disputed. That it was known to the author of the New Testament Apocalypse of John is neither affirmed nor denied. But a very brief survey of its contents, so far as this fragment goes, must show every unbiased reader that its rank as an apocalypse is unworthy of any serious attempt at comparison with the Revelation of John.
The work is arranged in twelve chapters, and purports to be a communication of Moses to Joshua. He tells him that the Lord
… has created the world on behalf of his people. But he was not pleased to manifest this purpose of creation from the foundation of the world, in order that the Gentiles might thereby be convicted, yea, to their own humiliation might by their arguments convict one another. Accordingly he de signed and devised me, and prepared me [Moses] before the foundation of the world, that I should be the mediator of his covenant. And now I declare unto thee that the time of the years of my life is fulfilled, and I am passing away to sleep with my fathers even in the presence of all the people. And receive thou this writing that thou mayest know how to preserve the books which I shall deliver unto thee.
Chapters 2-7 purport to be a prediction in brief outline of the history of Israel from their entrance into the promised land under Joshua until the time of Herod the Great, and the suppression of a Jewish rebellion by Varus, Roman governor of Syria. Charles offers valid reasons for transposing chapters 8 and 9 so as to place them between 6 and 7; for internal evidence shows that they treat of the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. They accordingly form a part of the picture of the fortunes of the Hebrew people, which it is the purpose of this pseudograph to foretell. Chapter 10 reads as follows:
And then his kingdom will appear throughout all his creation,
And then Satan will be no more,
And sorrow will depart from him.
Then the hands of the angel will be filled
And he will be appointed chief,
And he will forth with avenge them of their enemies.
For the heavenly One will arise from his royal throne,
And he will go forth from his holy habitation,
And his wrath will burn on account of his sons.
And the earth will tremble: to its confines will it be shaken:
And the high mountains will be made low,
And the hills will be shaken and fall.
And the horns of the sun will be broken and he will be turned into darkness;
And the moon will not give her light, and will be turned wholly to blood.
And the circle of the stars will be disturbed.
And the sea will retire into the abyss,
And the fountains of waters will fail,
And the rivers will dry up.
For the Most High will arise, the eternal God alone,
And he will appear to punish the Gentiles,
And he will destroy all their idols.
Then thou, O Israel, wilt be happy,
And thou wilt mount upon the necks and wings of the eagle,
And the days of thy mourning will be ended.
And God will exalt thee,
And he will cause thee to approach to the heaven of the stars,
And he will establish thy habitation among them.
And thou wilt look from on high and wilt see thy enemies in gehenna,
And thou wilt recognize them and rejoice,
And thou wilt give thanks and confess thy Creator.
The rest of the fragment consists of a conversation between Joshua and Moses, in which the former bewails his insufficiency to be a leader of Israel, and asks his “lord Moses, What will be the sign that marks thy sepulcher? Or who will dare move thy body from thence as a man from place to place? For all men when they die have according to their age their sepulchers on earth; but thy sepulcher is from the rising to the setting sun, and from the south to the confines of the north: all the world is thy sepulcher.” Moses’ response (chapter 12) is in substance that all things are in the hand of God, who will certainly prosper the righteous and punish the wicked.
The Ascension of Isaiah
This book is a compilation of Jewish and Christian documents, and may, like the analogous Assumption of Moses, be said to treat of two different subjects, namely, the Martyrdom and the Ascension of the prophet Isaiah. The Jewish section was probably written some time in the first century AD, and the Christian portion in the second century. It is preserved to us in an Ethiopic translation, which was made from the Greek. It was long lost, but discovered and published in 1819 by Laurence with a Latin and English translation. A revised edition of the Ethiopic with a Latin translation and notes was published by Dillmann in 1877. The only English version aside from that of Laurence (which is very scarce and rare) is one by Schodde, published in the Lutheran Quarterly of October, 1878 (Gettysburg). The book records the tradition that Isaiah was sawn asunder with a wooden saw, and appears to be referred to in the Epistle to the Hebrews 11:37, and in Justin Martyr (Trypho 120).
The apocalyptic portion of the books (chapter 6-11) details a vision of the seven heavens through which Isaiah was taken. It was written by a Christian who makes the Hebrew prophet foretell the descent of Jesus Christ, unrecognized, through the seven heavens, and then his ascent again glorified by all. The trinitarian form of worship in the sixth heaven, where “all called by name the first Father, and his beloved One, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, all with one voice” (8:18), betrays the late origin of the work, and forbids the thought that the Apocalypse of John could have derived any thing from it. On the contrary, there are several passages in this Pseudo-Isaiah, which appear to have been appropriated in substance from John’s Apocalypse. The mention of heavenly clothing and thrones and crowns in 9:9-12, remind one of Revelation 3:4; 4:4; 6:11; 7:14; 20:4. The contention in the firmament in 7:9-12, is not unlike what we read in Revelation 12:7-9; and the coming of the Lord with his angels and hosts of saints to put Berial (Belial) and his hosts into gehenna (4:14) is a sort of combination of Revelation 12:9 and 20:1-3. Isaiah’s falling on his face to worship the angel who acted as his guide (7:21) is like that which is written in Revelation 19:10. The impious matricide, who becomes possessed of Berial and works wonders in the world (4:2-12), is a picture of Nero made up of ideals derived both from Daniel (7:25; 8 10-12) and the Revelation (13:2-7, 12-16; 17:8). These correspondencies show how early and how profoundly John’s Apocalypse influenced the pseudepigraphic productions of ancient Christian writers.
The Sibylline Oracles
The collection of Greek hexameters in twelve books now known as the Sibylline Oracles contains a great variety of prophetic utterances cast in pretentious poetical form. In the opening lines of the first book the Sibyl says:
Beginning with the generation first
Of mortal men down to the very last
I’ll prophesy each thing, what has been erst,
And what is now, and what shall yet befall
The world through the impiety of men.10
In different parts of the work the author represents herself as a daughter-in-law of Noah, and a sister of the Egyptian goddess Isis. These variations, however, may be due to the diverse authorship of the several books; for the collection of oracles, which make up the twelve books exhibits a mixture of Jewish and Christian elements, and some portions of possible pagan origin. But most of the books as we now find them are of Christian authorship and of a date later than that of the Apocalypse of John. There are some passages that appear to have been derived from John’s Apocalypse, and the numerous references to Nero and the notion that he would come again from the East may be regarded as evidences that these portions were written not long after the death of that impious Cæsar. It is generally conceded that the oldest part of the collection is that portion of Book 3, which begins with line 114 (Greek text 97) and comprises nearly all the rest of that book. The reference to the tower of Babel and the confusion of tongues at the beginning of this section is cited by Josephus (Antiquities 1.4.3). The fourth and fifth books also contain passages, which may antedate the Christian era, and there are several fragments, one known as the Proem, which are among the oldest portions. These Sibylline Books are referred to and quoted by Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Lactantius, and other Christian fathers, and are treated by some of them as if they were as authoritative as the Holy Scriptures.
In the fifth, twelfth, and fourteenth books we find a prophetico-poetic enumeration of the Roman emperors, and a designation of each by the numerical equivalent of his initial letter. This habit of pointing out a person by a mystic number of his name is seen in Revelation 13:18, and need not be supposed to be original either with the author of John’s Apocalypse or the unknown writers of the Greek Sibyllines. As analogous with the mystery of Revelation 13:18, observe the following from Book 1:167-172 (Greek text 141-146):
Nine letters have I, and four syllables;
Mark me. The first three have two letters each,
The other has the rest, and five are mutes;
Of the whole sum the hundreds are twice eight,
And thrice three tens, with seven. Know who I am,
And be not unacquainted with my lore.
The name or word intended is doubtful. Some suggest ανεκφώνος, shortened from ανεκφώνητος, “unutterable.” Others propose θεός σωτήρ, “God the Savior.”
Another passage of similar character is found in Book 1, lines 382-391 (Greek text 324-–331):
Then also shall a child of the great God
To men come clothed in flesh and fashioned like
To mortals in the earth; and he doth bear
Four vowels, and two consonants in him
Are twice announced; the whole sum I will name11
For eight ones, and as many tens on these,
And yet eight hundred will reveal the name?
To men insatiate; and do thou discern
In thine own understanding that the Christ
Is child of the immortal God most high.
Wherever and at whatever time this method of designating names began in prophetic writings, it will hardly be claimed that the author of John’s Apocalypse borrowed from these Sibylline Oracles. He doubtless made use of the method, which was current in his time, just as he appropriated numerous figures and symbols from the Old Testament and gave them the masterly touch of his own genius. But certainly these Oracles as a whole could have had no influence upon the composition of the New Testament Revelation.
The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
Under this title we have a most interesting production of the early Christian times, purporting to be the last words of the twelve sons of Jacob to their children, after the manner and spirit of Jacob himself as recorded in Genesis 44.12 So far as these utterances assume to foretell the future they take on the nature of an apocalypse. But the work is so obviously a production of the second century of our era that we need not take space for any comparison with the biblical Apocalypses. In the Testament of Levi (15) there is mention of the destruction of the temple and of the dispersion of the Jews; and the numerous references to the various books of the New Testament show that the composition must date not only subsequent to the fall of Jerusalem by the Romans, but some considerable time thereafter, when most if not all the writings of the New Testament were in circulation. Being cited by Tertullian and Origen, these Testaments must have been known before the close of the second century.
Direct use of the Revelation of John seems to be made in Levi (18), where it is said, “He shall give to his saints to eat from the tree of life” (compare Revelation 2:7); in Naphtali (5), where Judah appeared in vision “bright as the moon, and under his feet were twelve rays” (compare Revelation 12:1); and in Joseph (19), where we read that “the Lamb overcame them, and destroyed them, and trod them under foot” (compare Revelation 17:14). But should these allusions to John’s Apocalypse be disputed no one would for a moment seriously suppose that the New Testament writer drew from these pseudepigraphic Testaments.
The Book of Jubilees
This ancient Jewish writing is apocalyptic so far as it purports to be a revelation given to Moses on Mount Sinai. But in contents it is merely a repetition of the narratives of the Book of Genesis and so much of Exodus as concerns the call and ministry of Moses. It is sometimes called Leptogenesis, or “Little Genesis,” because of its narration of many little matters not recorded in the first Book of Moses. But the name Jubilees is the more appropriate, since the author so adjusts his narrative as to set the events from the creation to the time of Moses in fifty jubilee periods (49 × 50 = 2450). The author made use of the Book of Enoch, and has introduced into the stories of the patriarchs numerous rabbinical legends. He was probably a Palestinian Jew, and wrote the book sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; but there is no evidence that any New Testament writer has made use of it. The composition moves in a relatively low plane of thought, has a semi apologetic tone about it, and belongs to the midrashic literature of decaying Judaism.13
There are other less important apocalyptic writings of which we have no need to speak in detail. A fragment of the “Apocalypse of Peter” was discovered in Egypt in 1886, and aroused no little attention and interest at the time. An English translation of it is published in the supplemental volume of the American edition of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. The translator observes that it is “the earliest embodiment in Christian literature of those pictorial presentations of heaven and hell, which have exercised so widespread and enduring an influence. It has, in its imagery, little or no kinship with the Book of Daniel, the Book of Enoch, or the Revelation of John. Its only parallels in canonical Scripture, with the notable exception of the Second Epistle of Peter, are to be found in Isaiah 66:24, Mark 9:44,48, and the parable of Dives and Lazarus in Luke 16:19.” With this witness before us we have no occasion here to consider this interesting fragment further.
The same volume of the Ante-Nicene Library contains also “The Vision of Paul,” another and quite different version of the “Revelation of Paul,” which appears in the Edinburgh edition of this library (volume 16), in the volume of “Apocryphal Gospels, Acts and Revelations.” There are also “The Apocalypse of the Virgin,” “The Apocalypse of Sedrach,” and the “Testament of Abraham,” of which we have no space or need to speak. There is also a spurious Apocalypse of John, and, in his Prolegomena to the Greek Apocryphal Apocalypses, Tischendorf mentions Apocalypses of Bartholomew, Mary, and Daniel. An Apocalypse of Elijah is mentioned in the Apostolical Constitutions (6:16), and Moses Buttenwieser has recently published the first part of a German translation and exposition of a Hebrew Apocalypse of Elijah, which appears to have been written some centuries later than any New Testament book. None of these, however, are entitled to a rival comparison with the New Testament Book of Revelation.
This rapid survey of apocryphal apocalyptic literature is sufficient for the purpose of this volume. It has proven, I trust, that no one of these pseudepigraphic books can fairly claim to have been either a source or a direct help in the composition of any one of the canonical apocalypses. They are all helpful to the study of apocalyptics in the broader sense, and admonish us that the idealistic manner of portraying God’s creation and government of the world is admirably adapted to serve the purposes of divine revelation.
The older biblical apocalypses, and especially the Book of Daniel, seem to have created a kind of passion for this class of sacred writings, and, as is always the case, the successful and popular work is followed by imitations of varying character. The genuine coin is often followed by the counterfeit and spurious; not a few of the later apocryphal apocalypses are of this spurious stamp.
All these apocryphal writings are obviously later than the Book of Daniel. But some of them, or portions of several, are older than the Apocalypse of John. Their composite and pseudonymous character as a class is a fact to be duly noted. That John’s Apocalypse is of the same composite and pseudonymous character ought not on any a priori ground to be either assumed or denied. The presumption might indeed be that this masterpiece would conform in this particular to all others of its kind. But such a question cannot be settled by presumptions. Appeal must be made to all relevant facts and to a sound and rational method of interpretation. Every plausible hypothesis is entitled to a fair hearing. All the favor asked for the expositions presented in this volume is that they be carefully read and judged without passion or prejudice.
1 The English reader may find this book in three different translations. The first and oldest is that of Laurence (Oxford, 1821), the title page of which is: “The Book of Enoch the Prophet: an apocryphal production, supposed for ages to have been lost; but discovered at the close of the last century in Abyssinia; now first translated from an Ethiopic manuscript in the Bodleian Library. By Richard Laurence.” A great improvement on this is “The Book of Enoch: translated from the Ethiopic, with Introduction and Notes. By George H. Schodde.” Andover, 1882. These have both been superseded by “The Book of Enoch: translated from Professor Dillmann’s Ethiopic text, emended and revised in accordance with hitherto uncollated Ethiopic Manuscripts and with the Gizeh and other Greek and Latin fragments which are here published in full. Edited with Introduction, Notes, Appendices, and Indices, by R. H. Charles.” Oxford, 1893.
2 Compare the observations of Deane, Pseudepigrapha: An account of certain apocryphal sacred writings of the Jews and early Christians, pages 84-88. Edinburgh, 1891.
3 The Book of the Secrets of Enoch. Translated from the Slavonic, by W. R. Morfill, M.A., and edited with Introduction, Notes, and Indices, by R. H. Charles, M. A. Oxford, 1896.
4 The Latin version of this book, believed to be the oldest and best of the versions, was revised and edited by Professor R. L. Bensly, of the University of Cambridge, with an Introduction by M. R. James, and published by the Cambridge University Press as number 2 in volume 3 of Terts and Studies: Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Studies, Cambridge, 1898. The revision of the Authorized Version of the Apocrypha (1895) presents this book in much better form than that of the old version of 1611.
5 There is, however, another apocryphal book which bears the title of Apocalypse of Ezra. The Greek text is published in Tischendorf’s Apocalypses Apocrypho, pp. 24, ff. Leipsic, 1866. An English translation of this appears in the Ante-Nicene Christian Library, vol. xvi, pp. 468-476. It is a late production, by a Christian hand, and a very weak imitation of our Fourth Book of Ezra.
6 The Missing Fragment of the Latin Translation of the Fourth Book of Ezra, discovered and edited, with an Introduction and Notes, by Robert L. Bensly. Cambridge University Press, 1875. In all recent versions of the book this fragment is inserted in its proper place between verses 36 and 36 of the seventh chapter.
7 The Apocalypse of Baruch, translated from the Syriac, edited, with Introduction, Notes, and Indices, by R. H. Charles, M. A. London, 1896. It should be stated that the last section of the book (chapters 78-86), entitled “The Epistle of Baruch which he wrote to the Nine and a Half Tribes,” had been known to scholars long be fore Ceriani’s discovery of the complete manuscript of the Apocalypse. These chapters were published in Syriac and Latin in the Paris and London Polyglots, and were translated into English by William Whiston in his Collection of Authentic Records (1727). It was not until after the discovery of the complete Syriac manuscript that this epistle was proven to be a portion of a larger work.
8 This passage is cited in Irenæus (Against Heresies, book 5, chapter 33) as a part of the teaching of the Lord.
9 The Assumption of Moses, translated from the Latin sixth century manuscript, the unemended text of which is published herewith, together with the text in its restored and critically emended form. Edited with Introduction, Notes, and Indices, by R. H. Charles, M. A. London, 1897.
10 The only English translation of all these books is that rendered into English blank verse by M. S. Terry, New York, 1890. A new and thoroughly revised edition, based upon the Greek text of Rzach (Vienna, 1891), is about to be issued.
11 The name Jesus in its Greek form, Ιησούς, Iisoús, has four vowels, and the two consonants are the same, “σ” appearing twice, and the numerical value of all the letters when added into one sum is 888.
12 The English reader may find an accurate English translation of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs in volume 22 of the Ante-Nicene Library. Edinburgh, 1871. It was made by Robert Sinker, of Cambridge, who is also the editor of the best Greek text, published in Cambridge, 1869.
13 See The Book of Jubilees, translated from the Ethiopic, by George H. Schodde. Oberlin, O., 1888. A later translation from a revised and improved Ethiopic text, by R. H. Charles, may be found in the Jewish Quarterly Review, volume 6 (October, 1893, and July, 1894), pp. 184-217 and 710-745.
In the debate over the meaning of the Book of Revelation, futurists enjoy telling preterists that only their view takes the text literally. This is, of course, a misnomer since all literature is read literally. We read symbols to be literally symbols where the author clearly means for the text to be taken symbolically. There is no denying that the Book of Revelation is full of symbolism. The author literally states this as he interprets many of the symbols for the reader. For example in Revelation 12:8, John explains the obvious symbolism, “the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan.”
The confusion over Revelation has come because there are so many symbols that must be interpreted by the reader. Revelation 12 is a good example of this, but it follows a fairly simple scheme.
Revelation chapter 12 has four elements that are clearly symbolic.
- The woman clothed with the sun
- The child who is later caught up to heaven
- The dragon (which John identifies as Satan)
- The remnant of the woman’s seed
John clearly identifies the “great red dragon” as the devil. The main difficulty is identifying the woman here. If the child is Christ, we may say that the woman is either Mary or Israel. The remnant of the woman’s seed is most likely the entire Church or those in Israel who have received the Good News of Christ’s entrance into the world.
If we consider these interpretive symbols as the key, then there are basically three schemes from a preterist perspective by which to interpret Revelation 12. I have named these three schemes.
- Preterist BC
- Preterist AD
These are the three strongest possibilities from a preterist perspective. The terms, BC, AD and Idealist refer to when the prophecy was fulfilled.
Here I will briefly describe each view. Then I’ll examine Revelation 12 verse by verse. Finally, I will explain why the view that combines both BC and AD, which I call the Preterist-Idealist view is likely the intended meaning.
The Preterist BC View
The first possibility is straightforward. It has Mary and Joseph fleeing into the wilderness in 4 BC as told in Matthew 2, while Herod the Great, representing the satanic image of the dragon, pursues them. The story then leaps in time from Christ’s Incarnation to His Ascension to the throne of heaven. Then the Church (the remnant of the woman’s seed) does battle with the dragon throughout the New Testament era. The dragon here symbolizes Satan warring against the Church through both the Jewish religious/civil persecutions and Nero’s persecution in the first century.
If the remnant seed is the Church, then the woman can be seen as Old Covenant Israel who gave birth to the Christ. It does not do a great deal of harm to this scheme to see the woman as Mary because she was among the last of Old Covenant saints – along with Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Simeon and Anna (cf. Matthew 1,2; Luke 1,2) to receive the Good News of Jesus Christ prior to His public announcement around AD 27 that “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 3:1).
The Preterist AD View
The second possibility centers around Jesus’ warning to His disciples to flee to the wilderness in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. In this scheme, the woman is indeed faithful Old Covenant Israel. The dragon is represented by the imperial armies of Rome under Nero. The dragon first appeared outside the holy city, Jerusalem, for a short, failed campaign in the summer of AD 66. The wording of Luke warns Jesus’ disciples to flee to the hill country of Judea once they see armies surrounding Jerusalem. Historically, this is known as the Flight to Pella, which was recorded by the second century Church historian Hegesippus and passed down to us through Eusebius of Caesarea and Epiphanius of Cyprus.
All the disciples had settled in Pella after their remove from Jerusalem — Christ having told them to abandon Jerusalem and withdraw from it because of the siege it was about to undergo. And they settled in Perea for this reason and, as I said, lived their lives there (Epiphanius, Panarion 7.7).
Eusebius describes it like this.
The whole body, however, of the Church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella. Here those that believed in Christ, having removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had entirely abandoned the royal city itself, and the whole land of Judea; the divine justice, for their crimes against Christ and his Apostles finally overtook them, totally destroying the whole generation of these evildoers from the earth (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.5).
This Flight to Pella could have taken place on three separate occasions, AD 66, 67 or 70. Each time, Roman troops arrived on the scene to surround Jerusalem. The first, AD 66, is the date I favor for the Flight to Pella. At this time, the Roman general Cestius Gallus attacked the gates of the Temple at Jerusalem, but was forced to withdraw. Although it was an inexplicable retreat, this seems to have been a providential window – a lull in the onset of the Jewish War in the summer of AD 66. The fighting did not resume until Nero sent in Vespasian’s troops who arrived in the Spring of AD 67. This window of opportunity to flee Jerusalem would have been the fulfillment of Luke 21:21,22.
And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.
It also explains a time indicator in the text – “1260 days” – (Revelation 12:6). This time would be synonymous with other three-and-a-half year time periods mentioned in both Revelation and Daniel. In short, during the 1260 day period when God is punishing covenant-breaking Israel who are trapped in the city of Jerusalem, the Christians flee to the wilderness and are cared for by the Holy Spirit. This flight can be likened to numerous other instances throughout biblical history of God protecting and preparing a remnant seed often in the wilderness or in captivity. God has a dual purpose in this. As He purifies a remnant, He judges the wicked.
The only difficulty in this interpretation is identifying who are the remnant of the woman’s seed. If the woman is the mother church (the church in Jerusalem), it could be inferred that the remnant seed refers to the church who literally fled into the wilderness and then to Pella in AD 66. But it could also refer to the universal Church scattered throughout the nations that eventually prevailed against Roman paganism in later centuries. This presents us with the problem of having two symbols in the same passage both referring to the Church. I believe this conundrum is solved by the Preterist-Idealist View.
The Preterist-Idealist View
I call this view both preterist and idealist because Revelation 12 was fulfilled by first century events, but the symbols also allude to a broader theme throughout the whole Bible. Note that I place the term preterist first. Revelation 12’s fulfillment has a particular application to events in the first century, but the full scope of theme occurs throughout Scripture. For example, the epic story of the struggle between the serpent and the seed of the woman originates in Genesis 3:15.
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
This struggle then ensues through the sons of Seth who are contrasted with the sons of Cain in Genesis 4-6. It picks up with Abraham and Lot’s consternation with the men of Sodom. The seed of the woman, God’s chosen people Israel, clash with the seed of the serpent, represented by God’s pagan enemies – the Canaanites, Egyptians, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians and so on – each nation bearing a beastly, or snake-like mark through some biblical symbol. An example of this is the young David, who slays the monster Philistine, Goliath, who is portrayed as wearing mail armor like a snake.
This culminates in the New Testament when Herod the Great persecutes the Christ child, resulting in Herod’s death. The Roman and Jewish authorities crucify Jesus, and later persecute the Church for preaching the risen, ascended Son of God. This resulted in the death in the grandson of Herod, King Agrippa, who was struck down by God for proclaiming his own divinity (Acts 12:23). The conflict is then seen in Nero’s persecution of the Church and the sifting of the remnant people of God from the city of Jerusalem at the onset of Roman-Jewish War, which resulted in Nero’s death.
Although the battle was already won by Jesus at the cross, the Church continues in its war against a defeated foe, Satan. In short, the Preterist-Idealist view is an “all-of-the-above” interpretation of a highly symbolic passage.
Revelation 12 Explained
In this section I will interpret Revelation 12 verse-by-verse in preterist perspective. Revelation 12 can be understood as having a parallel structure in three parts.
Revelation 12:1-6 – First, the symbols of the woman, the child and the dragon are presented. The war of the dragon against the Christ and Church and then the war on the land of Judea is described as taking place simultaneously in both heaven and on earth.
Revelation 12:7-12a – Second, the same war is presented from a heavenly perspective.
Revelation 12:12b-17 – Third, the events of the war are recapitulated once again from an earthly perspective.
The War Part 1
Revelation 12:1 – And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
A woman clothed with the sun … the moon … and … twelve stars – The woman here is Israel. She is depicted as Mary by Roman Catholics and as the Church by many Protestants. Both of these are at least partially correct since Mary was part of Israel. Israel is the Old Covenant “Church” (Acts 8:37). The New Covenant Church is called the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). The symbols of the sun, the moon and the stars refer back to Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9.
“Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.”
The eleven stars here, of course, are Joseph’s brothers. The sun and the moon could be interpreted to be his father and mother. The symbol of being clothed with the heavenly bodies represents Israel’s status as a nation of kings ruling in the earth taking dominion through Abraham’s descendants that are as numerous as the stars. There are numerous references in the Old Testament to the “stars” as God’s Covenant people (Genesis 15:5; 22:17; 26:4; 37:9; Exodus 32:13; Deuteronomy 1:10; 10:22; 28:62; Judges 5:20; 1 Chronicles 27:23; Nehemiah 9:23; Daniel 8:10; 12:3). In Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Minor Prophets, we read frequent language about the sun being darkened, the moon turned to blood and the stars cast down. This speaks of God’s judgment and the loss of authority for Israel due to their incorrigible covenant breaking.
Revelation 12:2 – And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
In verse 1, the woman is radiant, that is, she is clothed with the light of heaven. She is faithful Israel. But in verse 2, she is crying out and suffering in travail. Out of that travail comes the birth of a child, whom we shall see is Christ the Lord.
Revelation 12:3 – And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
A great red dragon – This is Satan. He is red because he is full of fury and viciously desires the blood of the saints. This is straightforward. What is confusing are the seven heads and ten horns because this same image is seen in Revelation 13 and 17.
Having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads – This monster has seven heads, ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. Another seven-headed, ten-horned monster – this time with ten crowns on his horns – is repeated in Revelation 13 and 17. The ten crowns show that this is a different monster, this time a sea beast, which appears at the beginning of the next chapter, Revelation 13. We see another recapitulation of this same image in Revelation 17, and John says the beast gets his power from the dragon (17:10). The dragon is Satan. The sea beast is Rome. The heads and horns symbolize the line of Roman Emperors who began to act as Satan’s proxy in persecuting the Church in the time of Nero. This sixth king who “is” (Revelation 13:10) at the time of John’s writing is Nero, who also began the war against Judea in AD 66 that resulted eventually in the destruction of the Temple after Nero’s death in AD 70.
In my book, In the Days of These Kings – The Book of Daniel in Preterist Perspective, I show that in Daniel 7, the four beasts that have seven heads among them symbolize Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. The ten horns of the fourth beast made of iron can be harmonized with the beast with seven heads and ten horns in Revelation 13 and 17. Although this is a composite image of the four beasts, this is for the purpose of allusion. This beast of Revelation 13 and 17 is Rome and the heads represent a line of seven kings, which marked the end of the three-and-half year tribulation at Nero’s death in AD 68 and the ascension of the short-lived Galba. The ten horns represent the line of ten kings that ended with Vespasian, who was at war with Judea in that same year as a general and oversaw the destruction of the Temple as the Roman emperor in AD 70.
Without digressing too much into the next chapter (Revelation 13), it is sufficient to know that the dragon uses the Roman civil powers to persecute the Church. However, in chapter 12 the dragon is Satan, not Rome.
Revelation 12:4 – And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
The third part of the stars of heaven – It is generally supposed that the stars of heaven are angels who fall to earth (cf. Revelation 12:9) and become demons, or Satan’s minions who do his bidding. From this one verse, a demonology has sprung up claiming that one-third of the angels of heaven fell from grace shortly after the Creation. I disagree with this interpretation. It is not in keeping with the scheme of chapter 12 or the rest of Revelation. Although Revelation 12 alludes to Genesis 3, it is not a description of what took place shortly after the Creation.
Just a few sentences earlier, we saw the woman was clothed in the sun, the moon and the stars, which symbolize the descendants of Abraham. It’s important to be consistent seeing that the same symbol is used twice in the same passage. Throughout Revelation 8 and 9, we read that during the plagues that befell the inhabitants of the “earth” (Greek: GE, which preterists take to mean the “land” of Judea) “the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up…. the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed…. the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter … the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and third part part of the stars; the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise” (Revelation 8:7-12, emphasis mine).
And finally, “the third part of men killed” (Revelation 9:15,17, emphasis mine).
So in keeping with this one-third pattern, the dragon’s tail – or Rome’s legions – killed the third part of the inhabitants in the land of Judea. Josephus records that the total number of Jews killed in the Roman-Jewish War amounted to 1.1 million. This is one-third of about 3.3 million. Although estimates of the Jewish population of first century Palestine vary, scholars have placed this number anywhere between 1 to 5 million (Anthony Byatt, “Josephus and Population Numbers in First Century Palestine” in Palestine Exploration Quarterly 105, 1973, pp. 51–60).
Further, we have to ask, “When was Satan cast down?” In verses 9 and 13, we will see a repetition of the idea that Satan himself was cast down and this resulted in the casting down of the stars of heaven. A popular idea is that this refers to Satan’s fall from grace either shortly after the Creation between Genesis 2 and 3; or in Genesis 3:14,15 when God curses the serpent condemning him to crawl on the ground and eat dust and making him the enemy of the woman’s seed. Certainly, there is an allusion to Genesis 3 in the Revelation 12. The seed of the woman is at war with the serpent. We can include this idea as part of a more comprehensive and thematic Preterist-Idealist approach.
In another sense, Satan fell when Christ came into the world. The New Testament records that Satan fell from heaven (Luke 10:18); he was cast out of heaven (John 12:31); he is being crushed under our feet (Romans 16:20); he was disarmed (Colossians 2:15); he was rendered powerless (Hebrews 2:14); his works were destroyed (1 John 3:8).
By the time Revelation was written, the idea that Satan was defeated and bound by the work of Christ was a strong theme of the teachings of the Apostles. Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father after His resurrection and ascension (Revelation 4:2). Christ is first presented as seated on a throne and is even now the ruler over the kings of the earth (Revelation 1:5). Further, through the preaching of the Gospel by Christian apostles and evangelists in all parts of the known world, the reign of Christ was taking root and was having an impact through all strata of society (Book of Acts).
Satan “drew” or “cast down” one-third of the inhabitants of the land of Judea and the surrounding areas. This has an allusive parallel to Daniel 8:10 and the prophecy of the Little Horn, which in this case is Antiochus Epiphanes from 168 to 165 BC. I cover this passage in detail in my book, In the Days of These Kings: The Book of Daniel in Preterist Perspective.
Daniel 8:10 – And it [the Little Horn] waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.
It cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground – Antiochus removed the sacred furniture from the Temple and “went back to his own country, having shed blood and uttered words of extreme arrogance” (1 Maccabees 1:21-24 NJB). Antiochus also killed numerous Judeans in several campaigns. This was a temper tantrum of sorts after he had failed to conquer Egypt. Antiochus had been rebuffed by some Roman emissaries. On his way back to his home in Syria, he made war on the rebellious Judeans. Since Judea had tried to enter into an alliance with Egypt to wrest control of the country from Antiochus, this persecution was served up as a cruel punishment.
In Revelation 12:4, the antagonist is not Antiochus Epiphanes, but Satan. However, the parallel to Daniel 8:10 fits. John’s audience also understood that Satan was working among the civil powers to persecute the Church. This seems to point to the Roman emperor Nero (who is also depicted as a Little Horn in Daniel 7; and as the sixth head of the Beast who “is” in Revelation 13).
Generally, the casting down of the stars from heaven refers to both the persecution of the Church from AD 64 to 68 and the Roman-Jewish War from AD 67 to 70. Both of these attacks were due to Nero’s rage against the God of heaven and no doubt inspired by Satan. The purpose here is to try to destroy the remnant, who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire, but also concentrated in Jerusalem and Judea. In killing the one-third inhabitants of the land, as we will see, Satan succeeded in eliminating apostate Israel, who were under God’s judgment, while the woman and the remnant of her seed were delivered to safety.
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men (Matthew 2:16).
If we take the “Child” here to be Jesus Christ, this seems to be out of chronological order. It is not at all a predictive prophecy since from John’s perspective, it takes place in the past. Even if it is descriptive prophecy rather than predictive, it seems to be a clumsy interpretation to jump backwards in time to an event that occurred almost 70 years prior to John’s writing. However, John is not making a predictive prophecy here. He is making an analogy by way of an allusion to Matthew 2:16. Satan, working through the Roman emperor Nero, persecuted the Church and trampled on the holy city of Jerusalem killing one-third of the Jews in Judea over a three-and-a-half year period, just as Satan sought to use King Herod to kill the Christ child.
This is a providential parallel of history. When Herod heard that a king was to be born in Bethlehem, he sought to kill the infant Jesus. He managed to massacre a group of children under three-years-old in the region near Bethlehem, while Joseph and Mary fled into the desert for protection. In the same way, Nero was angered by prophecies that a Messiah-King would arise from Jerusalem. After numerous false Messiah’s began to appear, he sought to put down a Judean rebellion against Rome’s dominion. Nero desired to move his throne to Jerusalem and rule there as king of the world. However, the object of Satan’s wrath toward Jerusalem was the infant Church. In the same way that Joseph was warned in a dream to flee into the desert, a remnant of faithful believers in Jerusalem were able to escape to the wilderness after being warned by Jesus’ prophecy to “flee to the hill country of Judea.”
Nero’s obsession with Jewish prophecies about the Messiah who would arise in Jerusalem is a little known historical fact. His second wife, Poppaea, was a Jewish proselyte and Nero himself secured Jewish priests as “hostages” from Jerusalem to be her teachers. Nero was familiar with the Jewish prophecies about the Messiah just as he was assured by his own soothsayers that a king would arise in the east. Some of his pagan soothsayers even said it would be Jerusalem, which was at the time one of the largest cities of the empire. This is an obscure fact, but it is stated in the Roman histories of Suetonius and Tacitus. Josephus wrote that Vespasian, not Nero, was this prophesied Messiah-King who had come to punish the sins of the Jews.
This is important because people are often confused by this point of the preterist interpretation. How it can be said that the Beast (Nero or Rome) made war against the Lamb, when the Roman-Jewish War served to destroy the apostate Jews, who were also enemies of Christ and the Church? In the preterist view, Satan sought to destroy the Holy City because it was the seat of Jesus’ Apostles. But God used Satan’s sifting to punish the apostate Jews and rescue His people out of the city – as gold, silver and precious gems delivered out of the refiner’s fire.
Around AD 64, James the brother of Jesus, who was (in effect) the first Bishop of Jerusalem, was killed by a mob of rioting Jews. Many historians believe that these riots were due to the inept rule of the Roman governor Gessius Florus, whose seizure of money from the Temple as a gift to Nero was the primary cause the Great Jewish Revolt. The Roman general Cestius Gallus was called in to restore order, but was repelled from the city in the summer of AD 66. Later in the year, the remaining Christians, having seen the encroaching Roman armies as prophesied by Jesus, made a successful escape.
In summary, John is here alluding to Matthew 2 by way of comparison. In the same way that Herod was tricked by the magi and Satan’s plot to destroy the Christ child was thwarted, Satan’s plan to destroy the Jerusalem Church was thwarted when Cestius Gallus was inexplicably forced to retreat from the city. When Roman armies withdrew for several months, this likely gave the Jerusalem Church the chance to flee to Pella.
Revelation 12:5 – And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
A man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron – This is an allusion to Psalm 2:9.
“I will declare the decree:
The LORD has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel’” (Psalm 2:7-9 NKJV, emphasis mine).
In fact, portions of Psalm 2:8,9 are quoted two other times in Revelation.
“Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations —
‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron;
They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ —
as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star” (Revelation 2:24-28).
Revelation 2 speaks of the reward of the faithful remnant Church. Jesus Christ presents the Church with the “Morning Star,” which here symbolizes the mandate to rule and reign with Him. Although Psalm 2 is a messianic prophecy about the Son of God, Revelation 2:24-28 appropriates the inheritance of Christ to the Church as well.
Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15).
Her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne – The implications of this rule of Christ from heaven over the nations cannot be overstated. The child here is Christ. The extent of His rule is over all the nations. The location of His rule is from heaven. The time of His rule is now. This dominion is not only to take place in a future dispensation, but Christ’s is the presently reigning king over all the nations of the earth.
Revelation 12:6 – And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
The woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God – This is where it becomes obvious that the woman is not the Virgin Mary specifically. Although Joseph and Mary fled into the wilderness, note that here the woman flees after the child is caught up to heaven. The context indicates that the woman must be the faithful Church. As described above, the Church did not go through the Great Tribulation, but fled to the wilderness and hid all during the time when Jerusalem was under siege by Vespasian and Titus.
They should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days – This 1260 days refers to the three-and-a-half year period when Jerusalem was under siege. A place was prepared by God ahead of time. “They” here is implied as part of the Greek verb, trephōsin, “they should feed.” This is meant as a reverse parallelism to the “wilderness,” which does not nourish. Some translations avoid the confusion over who “they” refers to by simply translating, “there she should be nourished 1260 days.”
The War Part 2
Revelation 12:7 – And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
There was a war in heaven – Here begins a recapitulation of the first part of this passage (vv. 1-6). The focus is again the war. This time the vantage point is not the “earth,” or the “land” of Judea, but the war from a heavenly vantage point.
Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels – The Book of Daniel and the Epistle Jude are the only two other books of the Bible that mention Michael, whose name literally means, “Who is like God?” Some commentators have noticed that Michael can be understood as a Christophany, or an appearance of Christ in the Old Testament.
In Daniel, Michael is portrayed as the guardian angel of Israel (Daniel 10:13,21; 12:1).
In Jude, Michael is again portrayed as the defender of Israel who contends against the adversary Satan about the body of Moses (Jude 1:9).
Here in Revelation 12:7, Michael again fights for the people of God. The fact that Michael appears after the child is caught up to heaven and the woman escapes to the wilderness shows that this speaks the persecution of the Church under Nero and the Jewish War.
Revelation 12:8 – And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
Revelation 12:9 – And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him – Above I wrote that the “third part of the stars of heaven” that were cast down to earth by the dragon’s tail were the Jews who were killed in the Great Tribulation. Here the text clearly says that Satan’s angels were cast down to earth. Simply, the first is the earthly perspective and the now we are seeing a recapitulation from a heavenly perspective. We see that the plagues on the Land of Judea in Part 2 were an effect of the dragon being cast down to the earth in Part 1.
This cosmic war had a dual purpose. First, God used the dragon’s wrath with the Christian Church to separate out His elect faithful remnant from the nations and purify them through tribulation. Second, God used the dragon to give Rome power to make war on the Holy City as punishment for rejecting and crucifying the Son of God. Now that Christ is ruling from heaven, Satan and his angels are cast down to earth.
Revelation 12:10 – And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
Revelation 12:11 – And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death – John here uses a Trinitarian formula similar to that of 1 John 5:6-8.
This is He who came by water and blood — Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.
Although this is tangential to the discussion here, this is good internal evidence that the author of Revelation is the same person who wrote the Gospel of John and the three Epistles of John. Assuming Revelation was written first, we can use the symbolism of 12:11 to interpret 1 John 5:6-8. Revelation sheds light on what John may have expected his hearers, presumably also the churches of Asia Minor, to understand these symbols to mean. The blood is Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. The water is the Word of God. The Spirit is the power to overcome all adversity in the Church’s mission to preach the Gospel to the whole world and make disciples of the nations.
It is also important that this verse reveals when Satan and his angels were cast out of heaven (12:9). This was not rebellion of Satan after the Creation or the curse of Genesis 3. It is also not an eschatological event preceding a final tribulation period. No, Satan was cast out and overcome by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
The blood of the Lamb refers to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
The word of their testimony relates to the word the early Church in in persecution who bore witness to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
They loved not their lives unto the death is the identification with Christ’s suffering for sin.
Notice that 12:7-12a is from the vantage point of heaven. It pictures the Michael and the angels of heaven defeating the devil and his rebellious angels casting them out of heaven. The “overcomers” are the Church triumphant, the Church in heaven, those who have been martyred as witnesses for their faith in Jesus Christ.
The War Part 3
Revelation 12:12 – Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
Rejoice ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them – This sentence should be thought of as 12a. It is the turning point from a heavenly perspective to the vantage point of the people of the earth in 12b. For the rest of chapter 12, the same symbols and events are recapitulated from an earthly perspective.
Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! – This sentence begins 12b and the “War Cycle” begins for a third time focusing now on the earth.
For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time – Two things should be noted here that are different from preterist perspective than from other viewpoints.
First, the devil was cast down in the first century in the time of Christ. As described above, the devil was robbed of his power and his kingdom plundered by Christ’s death on the cross. St. Augustine called the cross the “Devil’s Mousetrap.”
The devil was conquered by his own trophy of victory. The devil jumped for joy, when he seduced the first man and cast him down to death. By seducing the first man, he slew him; by slaying the last man, he lost the first from his snare. The victory of our Lord Jesus Christ came when he rose, and ascended into heaven; then was fulfilled what you have heard when the Apocalypse was being read, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah has won the day” [Rev. 5:5]. . . . The devil jumped for joy when Christ died; and by the very death of Christ the devil was overcome: he took, as it were, the bait in the mousetrap. He rejoiced at the death, thinking himself death’s commander. But that which caused his joy dangled the bait before him. The Lord’s cross was the devil’s mousetrap: the bait which caught him was the death of the Lord (Augustine, Sermon 263).
If Augustine’s analogy is true and the devil experienced any momentary joy over the death of Christ, it was fleeting because he was immediately cast down to the earth. The second point follows from this.
Having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time – This is an awesome picture of a great red dragon, once proud of his ascent to usurp God’s throne. His seven heads are said to be crowned with seven crowns (Revelation 12:3). But now he is enraged because he has been cast down and he knows his doom is certain.
Second, John does not mean “a short time” in an eschatological sense. Rather, Satan’s stronghold against God’s people was both pagan Rome and apostate Jerusalem. Since Nero was the sixth king (Revelation 17:10), the power of Satan to wield persecution against the Church was limited in scope to the time of Nero. This great persecution ended with the seventh king, Galba.
Revelation 12:13 – And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
He was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman – The devil persecuted the woman precisely because he saw he was cast down. As in the devil’s mousetrap analogy above, Satan again made the same key mistake. He persecuted the woman thinking he could get rid of Christ and the Church. Jerusalem, the city where the Lord was crucified, was also the bait. Many preterists see Nero’s war against the saints and the war against the Jews as having the same diabolical purpose. Satan, working through the insane emperor, Nero, hoped that by destroying the Church and conquering Jerusalem, the original seat of Jesus’ Apostles, he could install his own throne there in a seat of idolatrous worship. As a historical fact, Nero hoped to move his throne to Jerusalem where he would have been proclaimed the king of the world. However in the end, Nero’s Christian persecution and Jewish War turned him toward a deeper homicidal madness. This was “Nero’s mousetrap.” He committed suicide on June 9, AD 68, when he learned that he already had been tried in absentia and condemned to death as a public enemy. As Suetoius wrote, “The race of the Caesars ended with Nero.” This sparked a brief period of civil wars known as the Year of the Four Emperors.
Revelation 12:14 – And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
To the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness – Just as the infant Jesus escaped from Herod by fleeing into wilderness with his earthly parents, and the man Jesus was caught up to His heavenly throne after He defeated sin and death the cross, so the Church escaped the dragon’s wrath when Nero’s troops attacked Jerusalem.
Where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time – This gives the exact time of the beginning of the Roman Jewish War in the spring of AD 67 to the final destruction of the Temple in September AD 70. A time, times and half a time is three-and-a-half years.
Revelation 12:15 – And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
This flood describes the bitter persecution of Christians throughout the Empire, but especially the Roman Jewish War. The Jerusalem Church, which had thrived in the great city “where our Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:8), was Satan’s real target. The flood was projected to sweep away God’s Church, but instead only destroyed the apostate element among the Jews. The general persecution tested and refined the Church elsewhere (Revelation 2,3). Thus Satan acted merely as an instrument of God’s righteous judgment.
Revelation 12:16 – And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
The “War Cycle” continues to repeat the third time with the vantage point being the “earth.” Here the earth means specifically the wilderness where the woman flees to. The irony here is that although the “earth” or wilderness is supposedly hostile territory, it becomes a refuge from the flood.
Revelation 12:17 – And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
This sentence is essentially a recapitulation of verse 12b, except it is from the perspective of the militant Church, the Church on earth. The remnant of the woman’s seed is God’s Church. She is faithful Israel who is contrasted with the apostate element of Israel in 12b, “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea!”
Revelation 13:1 – Then I stood on the sand of the sea.
This “War Cycle” actually ends with the brief sentence that opens Revelation 13:1, “Then I stood on the sand of the sea.” This is the transitional verse that opens a recapitulation of the story of the war of the seed of the woman vs. the seed of the serpent.
In summary, Revelation 12 can be seen as the story of the deliverance of the Judean Church from the encroaching Roman armies in response to the Lord’s command for “those in Judea [to] flee to the mountains (Matthew 24:16). However, one of the most prominent preterist writers, David Chilton, offers this caveat, “There is nothing wrong with this view, as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. For St. John’s allegory of the Woman is the story of the Church, not only a particular branch of it” (Days of Vengeance 321).
In essence, the Preterist-Idealist view maximizes the role of biblical allusion in telling the whole story of the victory of Christ and the Church over Satan. Chapter 12 as a whole can be seen as both the key to unlocking the symbolism of several of the chapters and the hinge that opens up the second half of the book. The first half, especially the “judgments portion” of chapters 4-11, focuses on the militant Church in tribulation and the beginning of the Roman Jewish War. The first half ends with a vision of the triumphant Church in heaven and is punctuated with the mighty climax of the saints singing, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever!” (11:15). The vision of Revelation 12 is the introduction to the judgments of chapters 13-19. These chapters focus specifically on the end of the Roman-Jewish War and the final destruction of the Temple.
High Quality Paperback — 200 pages
A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism
Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner
The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.
Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.
Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.
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“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Welcome to the Second American Revolution!
This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.
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With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?
Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?
Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?
These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.
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Who is the Real Jesus?
Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.
Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.
Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!
Running Time: 130 minutes
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That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!
Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.
Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.
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