A (Really) Brief Return to Eschatology

Posted By on August 28, 2010

Pardon me for the brief transgression. Came across an article you’ll all be interested in today. It’s called “Measuring the Temple of God: Revelation 11:1-2 and the Destruction of Jerusalem.”  Has obvious implications not only for the dating of the book of Revelation but eschatology in general–and for both issues, the article’s stance adds sort of a twist to the two traditional options. Here is one introductory paragraph:

A first point that needs to be discussed has to do with the nature of the temple that is mentioned. Is it located in heaven or is it the earthly temple of Jerusalem? Or should it perhaps be understood as a symbol for the people of God? This last possibility is sometimes adopted by interpreters, but is unable to explain the precise function of the altar, the worshipers and the holy city. Regularly, all of these are taken as metaphors of the people of God, but this does not adequately explain the abundance of images. In addition, one wonders whether a symbolic interpretation does justice to the very concrete and historical language of our text. A heavenly location is also problematic, because the evident threat that the nations pose for (part of) the temple is difficult to envisage if the temple is in heaven. Furthermore, the passages that precede and follow Rev 11.1–2 take place on earth and there is no indication of a change of scenery. It therefore seems probable that the temple of Revelation 11 is located on earth. The present paper will demonstrate that our textual unit can indeed be cogently interpreted from this vantage point. It should be noted at this point that the argument that Rev 11.1–2 cannot refer to the destruction of the earthly temple and city in 70 ce because these did not exist anymore by then (assuming that John wrote around 95 ce) is short-sighted. The author of Revelation nowhere simply reports events; he consistently seeks to interpret them. There is no reason why John could not have written a theological interpretation in 95 ce of what happened in 70 ce.

Would enjoy seeing your thoughts.

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10 Responses to “A (Really) Brief Return to Eschatology”

  1. Gary says:

    Much easier to believe that John wrote Rev prior to 70 AD (which I believe). All the author’s comments still apply. But for those that believe it was written after 70 AD, still OK. The destruction of the temple was completed by the Romans, but the zealots, John, Simon, and Eleazar polluted the temple, and were all fighting among themselves, in the temple, and outside the temple, which resulted in the destruction of the city’s food supply, according to Josephus, “The War of the Jews” (5.1.4) “almost all the corn was burnt, which would have been sufficient for a siege of many years. So they were taken by the means of the famine…the aged men and women were in such distress…that they wished for the Romans”. God’s judgement, from John’s (the author of Rev) point of view, was probably fully justified.

    • Gary says:

      Of course, the real reason for God’s judgement was the rejection of Christ, the killing of the prophets and Stephen, James, etc..
      However, since I just finished reading Josephus, I have to add…Titus wanted the zealots to surrender, and did not want to destroy the temple. That’s why Titus kept Josephus around, to try and negotiate a surrender. The zealots refused to surrender, just like their fellow zealots in Masada shortly afterwards. I find it ironic that the Jewish state to this day considers the people at Masada heroes for not surrendering, when that same type of action resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.

  2. Robbie says:

    Mike: This article makes sense on so many levels. It is entirely consistent with John’s primary mission as an apostle to the Jews of the Disporia; and it addresses his role to the believers of the city of Jerusalem. Once we Western readers free our minds from an obsessive compusion with linear chronology, the Apocalypse rightly opens up as a profound and timeless, awesome,and many faceted revelation of Jesus as prophet, priest, redeemer, potentate. Ties in nicely with your view about the two powers in Heaven.

  3. Janina says:

    There is really no obvious proof that Rev 11:1-2 refers to 70AD. It seems like the author of the article lifts these two verses completely out of the rest of chapter, as well as the preceding verses.

    I don’t see Rev 11 as “theological interpretation”. John is simply relating a vision that he was shown – Rev 1:11 – “Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book…” – Rev 1:19 “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;

    In fact John asks many times what all those visions mean.

    The rest of the chapter is too specific – two witnesses and their ministry for example – has not happened yet.

    Author also states the obvious: God is in control and He declares times and methods of punishment.

    There is some merit in trying to tie “measuring” with judgment – providing we understand God’s judgment in a broader sense. It is not only referring to punishment but also to evaluation (testing) – otherwise martyrdom of true believers would not make sense.
    1 Pe 4:17 – “For the time [is come] that judgment must begin at the house of God:…”
    Now again “the house of God” could refer to the nation of Israel, the Christians or most likely to both.

    Comparison of “little scroll” in Ezekiel and Revelation is very interesting one.
    Few observations: Ezekiel was appointed as a watchman to the House of Israel, but the house of Israel was taken to captivity by Assyria many years before. Ezekiel is now with the exiles of the House of Judah in Babylon, and yet he is to warn the house of Israel.

    John gets a command: Rev 10:11-“ And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy AGAIN before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.

    Is Ezekiel and John connected to the same command?

    It is not over yet. It seems quite plausible that “measuring” here refers to yet future “judgment” of unbelieving Israel and “testing” of those refusing the mark of the beast.
    There are too many specific verses about “42 months”, “time, times and half a time”,
    “1260 days” to just assume they pertain to some general period of time that should be taken symbolically.

    • Gary says:

      42 months was the duration of the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. I’d like to ask a rhetorical question of history buffs. The Christian leaders during the time of the destruction of the temple were obviously educated. The destruction of the temple was a major event in 70 AD. Why aren’t there any major writings of it from Christians during that time, regardless of their beliefs of fulfilling revelations or not? Where was John during this time? Were they all in hiding? Seems like there would be comments from Christians about this event. I don’t know the answer to this.

  4. Bonnie says:

    “Or should it perhaps be understood as a symbol for the people of God? This last possibility is sometimes adopted by interpreters, but is unable to explain the precise function of the altar, the worshipers and the holy city.”

    Both you and Sitchin are Jews. He has a vested interest in the Tablets. I’ve read from varius sources, that he has bend the Meanings of the Sumerian Tablets to coincide with the Jewish Genesis.

    How about you? What then is in the Tablets. What is your interest and why do you challenge Sitchin.

    My last question is, “What people of God?: Do you dare to say that there are only ONE group of people on this planet that are the people of God?

    I KNOW that THE God of Creation, All That Is, would NEVER choose one people over another.

    If you are claiming that thate ARE a people of “God.” then you can be assured, it would have been a usurper to the title, “Those who from Heaven Came” with a high tech, arrogance and hubris, and psychos.

    They were NOT – THE God of Creation.

    And this stigma obviously rubs off on the people who adhere to this Entity, Jedhovah, and his cohort.

    As to the “holy city.” What “holy “city?” The title only applies to 3 combatative religions. If you mean, Jerusalme” it is anything, but holy. It was the dark aurea, black vibrations of war, death, violence. Over millennia.

    Jerusalme is NOT holy.

    Independent Freethinker

    • MSH says:

      This comment is unspeakably uninformed on so many levels. I apologize to the rest of the readers that the Sitchin weirdo-ness has crept over to this blog instead of where it belongs (other than the circular file) over on PaleoBabble. This commenter is staggeringly ignorant of the context of any of this discussion, but I guess it’s my fault that I haven’t applied a comment approval system here.

      In response, I am not Jewish. I oppose Sitchin because he fabricates material. Yes, the Jewish Scriptures do say God chose Israel, but they also say that the nations, though at one point disinherited by Yahweh, would be brought back to him. That was accomplished through Christ. Theology doesn’t get any more basic than this, and this commenter knows nothing about it. I’ll be applying a comment review system now so I can keep material where it belongs on respective blogs. That was my reason behind having three blogs.

  5. Cognus says:

    I have to partly agree with Janina.
    John was not a trained 20th century theologue and its hard for me to imagine him picking/choosing/parsing words as the author speculates. It is, however, really easy for me to believe John was steeped in the apocalyptic images of Ezekiel and Zechariah and 1Enoch. The word brings revelation, I believe, and being full of that word made the kindling for the type of visions granted him on the Isle.

    The article is excellent other than the provisioning of a new profession for the apostle.

    • MSH says:

      Understood, and this is a tough methodological question. Realize that most scholars — even if they accept John wrote Revelation — would either reply that his material had some deliberate editing, OR that the narrative art in Revelation *does* say that John was absolutely deliberate in what he was crafting, even to the point of word choice. In other words, you can’t have elegant narrative and literary structuring by accident. Real thought was put into it all.

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