Good morning all. We will start today with a quote from a book entitled REVELATION by Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951). He was born in Toronto; his father died of typhus at age 27 when Ironside was 2 years old; at the age of 10 his family moved to Los Angeles. He could find no Sunday School to attend, so he started his own at age 11. According to Wikipedia, he and his friends sewed burlap bags together to make a tent, and then taught about 60 children each week. He left school after graduating eighth grade, worked as a cobbler and then as photographic assistant, but preached with the Salvation Army in the evening. At age 16 he became a full-time preacher with the Salvation Army. At 18 his health began to fail, so he stopped his busy preaching circuit to recuperate. He moved to San Francisco where he became associated with the Plymouth Brethren. He ended up as pastor for the Moody Church in Chicago, with 2 honorary PhDs.
Here’s a quote from the Preface of REVELATION, published in 1921:
“Heretofore I have always refused to bring out a volume on the Apocalypse, as it seemed to me there were so many already in print better than any I could hope to write. But while this fact remains as true today as ever, the great war and other colossal movements of the past five years have combined to so emphasize and clarify much that abler brethren had written in years gone by, that it now seems to me there is a need for some later exposition of the last prophetic book of the bible which would take cognizance of these many significant events.
“It must be very gratifying to sober students of prophecy to find that their position is only strengthened by recent happenings, and their previous conclusions confirmed. On the other hand, the self-styled optimistic school, who have ever closed their eyes to the solemn facts of prophecy, might well be humiliated to find their vain-glorious prognostications proven so utterly false, and their confidence in human brotherhood, as a preventative of war and cruelty, shown to be a foolish hallucination, which ignored the word of God and the corruption of the human heart…Trusting that the book may be used to arouse an interest in the study of prophecy and to prepare a people for the Lord’s return, I send it forth in His Name.”
The “self-styled optimistic school” that Ironside refers to is Postmillennialism. They call themselves ‘optimists’ because they believe that Revelation has already happened, that the world is getting better, and that Jesus will come when the world is all fixed up and believing in Him. They characterize Premillennialists as ‘pessimists,’ because Premillennialists see the world going downhill, that the events of Revelation are in the future, and that Jesus will come at the end when everything has fallen apart. In case you hadn’t figured it out, Ironside was a Pretribulation, Premillennial, Dispensationalist (like me).
The next author is William Hoste (1860-1938). I can’t seem to find out any more about him; unfortunately there was a British sea captain of the same name, a century earlier, that keeps coming up in the search. All I can find is a grainy picture and a list of works.
Among his books is one entitled THE VISIONS OF JOHN THE DIVINE, published in 1932. Here’s a quote from Chapter 1:
“The Revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ holds a very important place in the Holy Scriptures. It is the full confirmation of the Old and New Testament prophecies, and of our Lord’s promise concerning the Spirit, ‘He will shew you things to come (John xvi. I3).
“It is also the complement of the Book of Genesis; that is the book of beginnings; this of consummations; there we behold the first Creation, but marred by the fall ; here ‘the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwells righteousness’; there sin and death enter the world; here they are for ever banished; there man is shut out from the tree of life and exiled from Paradise; here the promise to the overcomer is, He shall ‘eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God’’ (chap. ii. 7). There the serpent has his world triumph, here he is dethroned and consigned to his eternal abode; there the rule of the rejected Joseph prefigures, here the universal reign of the rejected but glorified Redeemer. If Genesis is ‘the seed-plot’ of the Bible, Revelation is its harvest field.”
I don’t know if Hoste was the first to talk about this comparison of Revelation to Genesis, but it’s been picked up and used frequently in more modern times. I appreciate when commentators explore this aspect, because, for me, it points out how Revelation wraps up so much of Scripture.
Back to the quote:
“The Revelation, moreover, may be viewed as the concluding chapter of God’s Book. How great would be the loss were it to end with Jude’s dark picture! Even there God’s final triumph is left in no uncertainty, but the order of events, the special character of God’s judgments, as not unmixed with mercy; the opposition of Satan and men; the deliverance of Israel; the judgment of Babylon; the marriage of the Lamb; the setting up of the kingdom, and the final perdition of every foe, would be veiled in obscurity. But God has been pleased to take His people into His counsels and unveil to them their future accomplishment.
“The Book is characteristically a book of judgment; ‘the acceptable year of the Lord’ merges into ‘the day of vengeance of our God’; grace has been rejected; now God put forth His power to set up the Kingdom.
“No wonder if Satan has spared no effort to bring the book into disrepute by the undoubted difficulties of interpretation which it presents to us, the jangling of rival schools, the extravagances of the prophecy-mongers, and the pseudo-spiritual plea that it is unprofitable because it has nothing to do with the evangelization of the masses or ‘our comfort’; but even were these premises true, which is not the case, God has given His people the Book and encourages them to read it….Man says you cannot understand it, and it would be useless if you could; but God says, Read! hear! keep, and the blessing is your. May the Lord help us so to do!”
This passage makes a lot of sense. I especially like the last line: “Man says you cannot understand it, and it would be useless if you could; but God says, Read! hear! keep…” We cannot allow man to overrule God in anything.
The next book we will quote from is called MORE THAN CONQUERORS: AN INTERPRETATION OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION by William Hendrickson (1900 -1982). Hendriksen was born in Gelderland, but his family moved to Michigan when he was eleven. He was a minister in the Christian Reformed Church and a Professor of New Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary from 1942-1952. He was the translator of Revelation for the then new NIV Bible. He reportedly didn’t believe that the Bible prophesied the return of Israel to the land, and he believed in replacement theology, yet we’ll hear him refer to dispensations in the quotes.
I’ve got some extensive quotes from Chapter 1 of his book, which was published in 1940. We begin with the purpose of Revelation:
“In the main, the purpose of the book of Revelation is to comfort the militant Church in its struggle against the forces of evil. It is full of help and comfort for persecuted and suffering Christians. To them is given the assurance that God sees their tears (7: 17; 21: 4);
…And he said, “These are they who have came out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb…For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:14,17; NIV)
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband…He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:2,4; NIV)
“their prayers are influential in world affairs (8: 3, 4)
And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel, who had a golden censor, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censor, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:2-5; NIV)
“and their death is precious in His sight. Their final victory is assured (15: 2);
I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues — last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God. (Revelation 15:1-2; NIV)
And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. (Revelation 15:2; KJV) [I’m curious why the underlined phrase was left out of the NIV; I think it’s important.]
“their blood will be avenged (19: 2);
For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. (Revelation 19:2; KJV)
for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants. (Revelation 19:2; NIV) [Again, an important phrase left out in the NIV.]
“their Christ lives and reigns for ever and for ever. He governs the world in the interest of His Church (5: 7, 8).
And he came and he has taken it [the scroll] out of the right hand of the One sitting on the throne. And when He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell before the Lamb — each one holding a harp and golden bowl full of incense (which are the prayers of the saints). (Revelation 5:7-8; NIV)
He is coming again to take His people to Himself in ‘the marriage supper of the Lamb’ and to live with them for ever in a rejuvenated universe (21: 22).”
And I did not see a temple in it, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. (Revelation 21:22; NIV)
I have to interrupt here. First of all, while a purpose of Revelation is definitely to provide comfort, I seriously doubt it is the main purpose. Let’s review his proof quotes. The first claim is: “To them is given the assurance that God sees their tears”, and for that he fairly reasonably uses quotes about the saints killed during the Tribulation, and from the New Jerusalem. This quote does indeed provide comfort.
The next claim is: “their prayers are influential in world affairs”. For this he uses the quote, rather out of context, about the angel who holds a censor, and the smoke that came with the prayers of the saints rises up to God. There is nothing in that line that says the saints were being “influential in world affairs” or were praying to be. It disturbs me that a Christian would even suggest that. But, the next verse, that he didn’t quote, definitely shows some influence…the angel fills the censor with fire and hurls it at the earth. I don’t think that provides comfort, at least not to me. And even if it did prove that the saints are influential in world affairs”, I would not derive a lot of comfort from that either.
The next claim is that “their death is precious in His sight”, for which he doesn’t offer a proof quote…indeed, I can’t think of one that would prove it. Jesus warned us that the world would hate us, and He wanted us to pick up our cross and follow Him, even unto death: but I don’t think He actually said that our death was ‘precious’ to Him. And, would that comfort me? Not exactly; if I was being put to death then it might I guess. Descriptions of Heaven might be more comforting.
Next is: “Their final victory is assured”. This is a major theme of Revelation. His choice of quote is appropriate, but, I wonder how he views the rest of that quote. I’ve noticed that sometimes people who see most of Revelation as symbolic will pick out a few things here and there to take literally when it agrees with their point of view. As for comfort, I think there is some comfort in knowing that Jesus wins, and that we end up with Him in Heaven.
“their blood will be avenged” is the next claim, and while the quote makes that assertion, notice that it does so only for those who were killed at the hand of the great whore in the KJV (and most of the older translations), yet that part is left out in the NIV (and most translations since then, except for some of the newer literal translations). I guess it would depend on who you interpret the great whore to be, but I don’t think she is responsible for all the deaths. Maybe I’m odd, but vengeance doesn’t do much to comfort me.
And then there is: “their Christ lives and reigns for ever and for ever. He governs the world in the interest of His Church”. I’m really at a loss as to how the quote used illustrates this claim. Again, perhaps if the parts of the quote are ‘interpreted’ to mean very specific things…like the ‘scroll’ is a book of governance and the ‘twenty-four elders’ are ‘the Church’. But even then it’s sketchy. Revelation does address Christ “lives and reigns” forever, and that is comforting. Nowhere have I seen that Christ “governs the world in the interest of His Church,” and the implication of the Church being privileged over others doesn’t really comfort me.
And the last claim, regarding the ‘marriage supper of the lamb’: the quote used has nothing at all to do with the marriage supper of the Lamb. The marriage of the Lamb is actually discussed in Chapter 19 of Revelation.
Onward in the quote:
“But as we consider these truths we realize that already He is with us—with us in the Spirit, walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands (1: 12-20). ‘And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for ever more, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. ’ We are, indeed, more than conquerors through Him that loved us!”
I like this last passage quite a bit, because of course Jesus is with us!
Now we’ll look at quotes regarding who Hendriksen thought Revelation was addressed to:
“On my desk lies a recently published commentary on the Apocalypse. It is a very ‘interesting’ book. It views the Apocalypse as a kind of history written beforehand. It discovers in this last book of the Bible copious and detailed references to Napoleon, wars in the Balkans, the great European War of 1914-1918, the German ex-emperor Wilhelm, Hitler and Mussolini, and so on. But these kinds of explanations, and others like them, must at once be dismissed. For what possible good would the suffering and severely persecuted Christians of John’s day have derived from specific and detailed predictions concerning European conditions which would prevail some two thousand years later?
“A sound interpretation of the Apocalypse must take as its starting-point the position that the book was intended for believers living in John’s day and age. The book owes its origin, at least in part, to contemporary conditions. It is God’s answer to the prayers and tears of severely persecuted Christians scattered about in the cities of Asia Minor.
“Nevertheless, although it is true that we must take as our starting-point the age in which John lived, and must even emphasize the fact that the conditions which actually prevailed during the last decade of the first century AD furnished the immediate occasion for this prophecy, we should give equal prominence to the fact that this book was intended not only for those who first read it, but for all believers throughout this entire dispensation.”
I don’t agree with the ‘interesting book’ on his desk. I agree that the starting point of Revelation is with the people of the time it was written, which is what it says in the book itself (Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. Revelation 1:19; NKJV). I don’t agree that Revelation is God’s answer to the persecuted people of that time or that the conditions of the first century AD were the “immediate occasion” for the book. Rather, I think that the “immediate occasion” was that the book was meant for John to receive, and his isolation on Patmos made it the ideal time to convey it. I do agree that Revelation provides comfort for the entire dispensation, but I’m convinced that the main body of it is future in it’s focus (after Chapter 3).
Continuing with the quote:
“We submit the following arguments for this position.
“First, the affliction to which the Church was subjected in the days of the apostle John is typical of the persecution which true believers must endure throughout this entire dispensation (2 Tim. 3: 12), and especially just before Christ’s second coming (Mt. 24: 29, 30). [How can one know history and think that Christians were enduring much, if any, persecution in the Middle Ages or Renaissance or even into the Industrial Revolution? The early Church endured significant persecution, but then the recent uptick started in the 20th century and has grown since then.]
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12; NIV)
Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. (Matthew 24:29; NIV) [verse 30 has nothing to do with his point; the KJV uses the word ‘tribulation’ rather than ‘distress’]
“Secondly, many of the predictions in which the book abounds (e. g. the ‘seals’, ‘trumpets’ and ‘bowls’) concern principles and happenings which are so broad in their scope that they cannot be confined to one definite year or period of years, but span the centuries, reaching out to the great consummation. [This is encouraging to me, but it doesn’t argue for John’s time being the “immediate occasion” – so it must argue for Revelation being for the “entire dispensation”]
“Thirdly, the letters in chapters 2 and 3 are addressed to the seven churches. Seven is the number which symbolizes completeness. Its use here indicates that the Church as a whole is in mind and that the admonitions and consolations of this book were meant for Christian believers throughout the centuries. Finally, all those who read and study this book in any age are called blessed (1: 3). As at the beginning, so also at the close of the book the author addresses himself, not merely to one group of men living in one decade, but to ‘every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book’ (22: 18).”
Good third point, though again, doesn’t do anything for proving the “immediate occasion,” so it must be for the “entire dispensation.”
I was thinking about quoting extensively from Hendriksen’s section on authorship, but I’ve changed my mind. Most of his arguments pro and con we have heard before. I will, however, excerpt from his conclusions:
“We need not dwell at length on the so-called difference in doctrinal emphasis. The simple fact is that the Fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse do not clash on even a single point. In fact, the agreement in doctrine is remarkable. The Gospel calls Jesus ‘the Lamb of God’ (amnos) in John 1: 29; so does the Apocalypse (arnion), twenty-nine times. The Epistles and the Gospel use the title ‘the Logos’ with reference to our Lord (Jn. 1: 29.; 1 Jn. 1: 1); so does the Apocalypse (19: 13). The Gospel represents Christ as the pre-temporal, eternal Being (1 Jn.1: 1 ); so does the Apocalypse (22: 13; 5: 12, 13). The Gospel of John ascribes man’s salvation to the sovereign grace of God and to the blood of Jesus Christ (1: 29; 3: 3; 5: 24; 10: 10, 11); so does the Apocalypse (7: 14; 12: 11; 21: 6; 22: 17)—most emphatically. And the ‘whosoever’ [whosoever believes receives saving grace] doctrine is found in both books (Jn. 3: 36; Rev. 7: 9; 22: 17).
“There are no doctrinal differences!
“…The early Church is almost unanimous in ascribing the Revelation to the apostle John. That was the opinion of Justin Martyr (c. ad 140), of Irenaeus (c. ad 180), who was a disciple of a disciple of the apostle John, of the Muratorian Canon (c. ad 200), of Clement of Alexandria (c. ad 200), of Tertullian of Carthage (c. ad 220), of Origen of Alexandria (c. ad 223) and of Hippolytus (c. ad 240).
“When we add to all this that according to a very strong tradition the apostle John was banished to the isle of Patmos (cf. i: 9), and that he spent the closing years of his life at Ephesus, to which the first of the seven letters of the Apocalypse was addressed (2: 1), the conclusion that the last book of the Bible was written by ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ is inescapable.”
I find his conclusions very agreeable. His next section is on the date of the book, and again, no real new ground here. He concludes that the book was written under Domitian, around 96 AD.
That’s enough for today. We’ll hit the mid-20th century with the next post, including the authors: J. Dwight Pentecost, William Barclay, J. Vernon McGee, and, if there’s room, Tim LaHaye. Until then, I’ll be praying for us to have the ability to see clearly into the meaning of Scripture.