Prophecy and the Book of Revelation: A Case for Preterism

According to the president of the Radio Christian Network and fundamentalist preacher,

Harold Camping, the world was supposed to end on May 21st 2011. Just like many other doomsday predictions, the day came and went without incident. That is because, according to the Bible, these events have already occurred.

In the book of Luke, Jesus tells his followers that the great tribulation would occur in their very own “generation” (Luke 21.32). This statement is documented in the Gospel of Mark as well:

I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

—Jesus,

Mark 13.30

Jesus was actually indicating that the tribulations would occur in their own time, and not in some era in the far future. This statement is repeated in the Book of Revelation, where it clearly indicates that the time of the unveiling, and of the fiery war of Armageddon, were not 2000 years in the future, but “near”:

Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, for the appointed time is near.

—Revelation 22.10

The Book of Revelation itself clearly reports that the time of the tribulation and Apocalypse would take place in the age in which it was written:

Behold! I am coming soon.

—Revelation 22.12

Biblical scholars know that the characters, places, and events in the book of Revelation refer to Rome and Roman authorities, who were the main persecutors of the Christians in those early years. The reason why Revelation was encrypted with symbolism was to conceal its message from the Roman authorities who would have burned it along with anyone who possessed it. It was an institution that was not only originally unreceptive to the Christian religion but was also involved in the worship of pagan gods. Therefore, the author of Revelation related it to the ancient Biblical city of Babylon. There is even a cryptic reference to Rome in the following passage:

This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads [of the beast] are seven hills on which the woman [the Whore of Babylon] sits.

—Revelation 17.9

The “seven hills” refers to the seven hills on which the city of Rome was built (Broderick 1976). We know from the following verse that the “woman” represents the city of Rome itself:

The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.

—Revelation 17.18

The hostile pagan Romans incarcerated the Judeo-Christians and sentenced them to cruel deaths:

I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.

—Revelation 17.6

This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven hills on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it

goes to perdition.

—Revelation 17.9

The five who have fallen refers to the five Roman emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty who had ruled and passed since the time Jesus was born (Those emperors being: Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius (i.e. Caligula), Claudius, and Nero). The three emperor “kings” who came after the first five were from the Flavian family dynasty of Vespasian. It was “king” Domitian who sought to establish the formation of an imperial cult that was based on himself and the Flavian family that he descended from (Friesen 2001). This bloodline included Vespasian and Titus, the very same Roman persecutors who were involved in the attack on the rebels in Judea. By establishing an imperial pagan institution with religious connotations that was hostile to Judeo-Christianity, Domitian had established himself as a “false prophet” in the eyes of the author of the Book of Revelation.

The second Beast that is from the “earth” is either a high-priest of the imperial cult, or a provincial governor (perhaps of Asia Minor—the same location where the churches mentioned in Revelation were located). This so-called “beast” made the people worship the image of the first. Both the “image” and the “mark” refer to monetary currency. We know this because in Revelation 13.17 we are told that they are linked to “buying” and “selling. What this means is that the Beast and his cohorts sought to control the currency and the wealth of the land.

The “image” of the Beast was the face of one of the emperors that appeared on the Roman coinage of the time. The “mark” of the Beast also refers to the infamous number “666.” Modern-day scholars have discovered that by assigning numbers to the Hebrew alphabet, that the numbers 666 can be derived from the words “Nero Caesar” (Gentry 2001). Therefore it is most likely that the image that appeared on the currency was that of emperor Nero, the infamous persecutor of the early Christians.

A primary reason why these Biblical passages have been ignored is because of the belief that Armageddon, the Tribulation, the Rapture, the Apocalypse, and the return of the Christ, are about to happen, infuses their belief-system with an element of exciting faith-bolstering relevance. The other effect that this interpretation has is that is compels fearful obedience for those who may be concerned about the horrendous adversity that is foretold and about the horror of being “left behind” during the “Rapture.”

The interpretation of the Rapture that is believed by many Judeo-Christian Protestant fundamentalists, is that Christians will simply vanish into thin air and be taken up into Heaven right before the Apocalypse is about to begin; however, this link between the Rapture and the apocalyptic end-times was not developed until the 18th century by men such as the Puritan minister, Cotton Mather.

According to the Gospels themselves, Jesus himself indicated that on that day, ones material possessions will no longer mean anything. The reason for this is because on that day one will no longer be in the physical world. In the Book of Luke, where some of the alleged references to the Rapture occur, Jesus also makes a reference to a dead body:

Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.

—Jesus,

Luke 17.37

The reason for the references to a dead body and to the end of material possessions is because he was actually referring to the process of physical death. This is what the Rapture actually is. This is also what the “Day of Judgment” is as well. Indeed, during the original Tribulation which occurred during the Jewish Roman war and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., many people lost their lives. During that time, worthy spirits ascended into Heaven.

The reality is that the “signs of the times” have always occurred and will continue to occur for years, centuries, and perhaps even millennia to come. That is because, whether intentional or not, the events and characters that are described in Revelation are infused with a certain fundamental archetypal significance that can be applied to a wide array of individuals and situations—including ones in the present-day. However, the situation that is referred to in the Book of Revelation originally applied to individuals and events that were happening in the time in which it was written. This is the “preterist” position.

 

Broderick, Robert, C. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Thomas Nelson Inc, 1976

Friesen, Steven J. Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

———. Twice Neokoros: Ephesus, Asia, and the Cult of the Flavian Imperial Family. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1993.

Gentry, Kenneth L. Jr. The Beast of Revelation. (Revised Edition) Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2001.

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