JEWS AS DATING EVIDENCE IN REVELATION

CandelabraPMT 2014-113 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is my final installment for this brief series on Revelation’s date. If Revelation was written prior to the temple’s destruction in AD 70, then we might surmise that its judgments pointed to the temple’s destruction rather than the world’s end. And I believe that is the case. This would work well within the postmillennial system.

The final evidence from Revelation’s self-witness that I will consider is the relationship of the Jew to Christianity in Revelation. And although there are several aspects of this evidence, we will just briefly introduce it. Two important passages and their implications may be referred to illustratively.

First, when John writes Revelation, Christians are tensely mingled with the Jews. Christianity is presenting herself as the true Israel and Christians the real Jews (cp. Gal. Gal. 3:6-9, 29; Phil. 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:9). In Revelation 2:9 we read of Jesus’ word to one of his churches of the day: “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”


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Who but a Jew would call himself a Jew? But in the early formative history of Christianity, believers are everywhere in the New Testament presented as “Abraham’s seed,” “the circumcision,” “the Israel of God,” the “true Jew,” etc. We must remember that even Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, took Jewish vows and had Timothy circumcised. But after the destruction of the Temple (A.D. 70) there was no tendency to inter-mingling. In fact, the famed Jewish rabbi, Gamaliel II, put a curse on Christians in the daily benediction, which virtually forbad social inter-mingling.

In Revelation the Jews are represented as emptily calling themselves “Jews.” They are not true Jews in the fundamental, spiritual sense, which was Paul’s argument in Romans 2. This would suggest a date prior to the final separation of Judaism and Christianity. Christianity was a protected religion under Rome’s religio licita legislation, as long as it was considered a sect of Judaism. The legal separation of Christianity from Judaism was in its earliest stages, beginning with the Neronic persecution in late A.D. 64. It was finalized both legally and culturally with the Temple’s destruction, as virtually all historical and New Testament scholars agree. Interestingly, in the A.D. 80s the Christian writer Barnabas makes a radical “us/them” division between Israel and the Church (Epistle 13:1).

Second, at the time John writes, things are in the initial stages of a fundamental change. Revelation 3:9 reads: “Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie — behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you.”

John points to the approaching humiliation of the Jews, noting that God will vindicate his Church against them. In effect, He would make the Jews to lie down at the Christian’s feet. This can have reference to nothing other than the destruction of Israel and the Temple, which was prophesied by Christ. After that horrible event Christians began making reference to the Temple’s destruction as an apologetic and vindication of Christianity. Ignatius (A.D. 107) is a classic example of this in his Magnesians 10. There are scores of such references in such writers as Melito, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Lactantius, and others.


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There are other arguments regarding the Jewish character of Revelation, such as its grammar, its reference to the twelve tribes, allusions to the priestly system, temple worship, and so forth. The point seems clear enough: When John writes Revelation, Christianity is not divorced from Israel. After A.D. 70 such would not be the case. This is strong socio-cultural evidence for a pre-A.D. 70 composition.

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