So I’m sitting in church on New Year’s Day and my friend C. T. Eldridge gets up to do the New Testament reading. The reading is Revelation 15, and these words jumped out at me:
“Then I saw another sign in heaven . . . And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire–and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass . . .” (Rev 15:1–2).
Why is this another reason to be pre-mil? Because of the way it fits with everything else in Revelation, but before I go into that, consider how the amillennial interpretations won’t work. The amil explanations I have in mind are what is sometimes said of Revelation 20:4,
“Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
Amillers will say that this is a reference to these people coming to life in the presence of God. That view fails because back in Revelation 15:1–2 they’re already alive in the presence of God. Another amil attempt to explain this is that it refers to regeneration, which won’t work because we’re dealing with people who have been “beheaded for the testimony of Jesus,” which means that they were already born again believers before they got beheaded.
Some amillers will say that Satan’s inability to deceive the nations in Revelation 20:3 just means that the gospel can go to the nations, but that fails to fit everything in the book together. What I mean is this:
Satan is deceiving the nations in Revelation 13:14, which is when this “image of the beast” and the mark “on the right hand or the forehead” with “the number of its name” first became an issue (Rev 13:15–18). It’s here, too, that the beast is killing Christians (Rev 13:7), and it’s here that the Christians are “conquering” the beast by not loving “their lives even unto death” (Rev 12:11). Revelation 13, 15, and 20 all mention the beast, the mark, and the number of the beast’s name.
So the beast is deceiving the nations in Revelation 13 when the Christians who come to life in Revelation 20:4 were being put to death. Moreover, those same Christians are already alive in heaven with God in Revelation 15:1–2 (note how they are “in heaven” and “standing beside the sea of glass”).
Thus, the depiction of the saints there in Revelation 15:1–2 is one more reason to be premillennial.
Response to JT on What Premillennialists Must Believe
Did You See What He’s Doing in Revelation 13:14?
I remain Amillennial, but I confess I have no rebuttal to the points made. More studying, I will have to do.
Matt (I KNOW I recognize your name from somewhere…), I am also amil. My initial thought is the cyclical nature of Revelation. It’s not meant to be linear chronology. Will have to meditate on it more, though.
Of course, this argument just begs the question against the Amillennial reading of Revelation, which does not consider the visions to be chronological representations of a timeline but spiraling perspectives on the same series of events. There is both cycle and progression.
Thus Revelation 15 is not “another” piece of evidence for the Premillennial view but the *same* kind of evidence that Premillennialists generally put forward. 🙂
Thanks for your note, Evan, but I want to dispute your claim that I’m begging the question.
The evidence I’m giving here shows that there isn’t recapitulation but progression as you move through these chapters–the Christians are killed in the persecution in Revelation 11–13, then they’re present in heaven in Revelation 15, and then they’re raised from the dead in Revelation 20.
To object to that progression and claim recapitulation is special pleading that disregards the actual details of what the text says.
It seems to me that when you say, “Amillers will say that this is a reference to these people coming to life in the presence of God. That view fails because back in Revelation 15:1–2 they’re already alive in the presence of God,” that begs the question. To say that Revelation 20 cannot refer to a certain event because Revelation 15 has already referred to that event is to not address the Amillennial argument on its own grounds but assumes a Premillennial premise.
You can say that appealing to recapitulation is special pleading, but Amilennialists present recapitulation on the basis of textual evidence; it’s not an ad hoc argument in response to Premillnnial claims.
Regarding the relationship between Revelation 11-13 and 20, I don’t dispute that these chapters are progressive in a visionary sense, and they offer different perspectives. But the thematic and linguistic ties convince me that they are intended to be read in parallel fashion. Christians are both killed and conquering in the safety of Christ. I think that you would agree that this reflects Revelation’s own theology.
I have no doubt that Dr. Hamilton would school me in a debate on this subject! Just wanted to offer my perspective on this particular argument.
I want to respectfully disagree with Dr. Hamilton and agree with you. Revelation seems to be presenting the same truths from different perspectives. Satan is deceiving the nations and is not. He is powerful yet he is bound. If you are looking from the perspective of Christians, he can’t destroy us or harm us because we are protected by God and no one can snatch us out of his hand. From the perspective of non-Christians, Satan is still deceiving and dangerous.
I appreciate your comments, Evan. They are the ones that I would make. At the end of the day, we must be humble about our positions. My reason for being amillennial is based on textual evidence, as you point out. But historical premilliennial folks would argue similarly. As long as we don’t make the millennium the lens through which we view the whole Bible (a la dispensational folks), then I think we can agree to disagree and be humble and all love each other as we ought to.
God bless you all,
Exactly Emay, didn’t read your comment yet 🙂
Thank you for your insight. I wonder how you would view my post on an alternative endtimes scenario?..again, I appreciate your knowledge and sharing.Amen.
Just wanted to apologize to Dr. Hamilton for my first comment. On second reading, it has a tone I didn’t intend. I know Dr. Hamilton doesn’t mind an exchange, but my comment was too confident.
No worries, Evan.
Watch for an interview at dennyburk.com where I list out the reasons for being pre-mil.
On recapitulation, I think we need some evidence in the text that the author intends us to see it. So, for instance, consider the similarity of language in Revelation 11:7 and 13:7. This and other features of the text lead me to think that 11:1–14 is telling the same basic story that 12:1–13:10 tells.
Both are depicting the persecution of the church brought about by the deception of Satan, which is precisely what is brought to an end when Satan is bound for a thousand years and the martyrs are raised from the dead to reign with Christ.
“No worries, Evan.”
Thanks for being gracious!
“On recapitulation, I think we need some evidence in the text that the author intends us to see it.”
I agree! Here is an example of this kind of evidence:
Much more could be said, but that’s a summary.
“So, for instance, consider the similarity of language in Revelation 11:7 and 13:7. This and other features of the text lead me to think that 11:1–14 is telling the same basic story that 12:1–13:10 tells.”
I agree completely. And its the same kind of features that lead me to believe that 20 is parallel as well. 🙂
“Both are depicting the persecution of the church brought about by the deception of Satan, which is precisely what is brought to an end when Satan is bound for a thousand years and the martyrs are raised from the dead to reign with Christ.”
Where does Revelation 20 say that there is no persecution during the Millennium? Where does Revelation 20 say that Satan does not deceive the church during the Millennium?
In Revelation 11–13 Satan isn’t deceiving the church, he’s deceiving everyone BUT the elect (13:8). This is what results in believers being persecuted and killed.
This deception is what ends during the millennium, as Revelation 20:3 says, “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended.” When Satan isn’t deceiving the nations, they are not lead to the conclusion that Christians are evil and should be persecuted.
I hope this helps,
RE your link, consider:
Revelation 20 cannot be a recapitulation of Revelation 12 because the details of the two passages are too different–in Rev 20 Satan is alone, in Rev 12 he’s with all his angels; in Rev 20 he’s thrown into a pit, in Rev 12 he’s thrown down to earth; in Rev 20 he’s bound, in Rev 12 he has the free roam of the earth; in Rev 20 he’s locked up for 1,000 years, in Rev 12 he knows his time is short; in Rev 20 he can no longer deceive the nations, in Rev 12–13 he is deceiving the nations (see 13:14). Revelation 12 and Revelation 20 are not talking about the same thing.
I consider them presenting complementary perspectives. I think they are each highlighting the extreme ends of the spectrum of theological truths concerning the realities of the church age.
Do you think if we highlighted all the differences between Rev. 11 and Rev. 12-13 we would also have to conclude that these texts are “too different” to be parallel?
“In Revelation 11–13 Satan isn’t deceiving the church, he’s deceiving everyone BUT the elect (13:8).”
Well, if we’re emphasizing differences, in Revelation 13 Satan is said to have authority over the people of the earth so that they might worship him (v. 8), but the deceiving activity that Satan is bound with respect to in the Millennium has the distinct purpose of gathering the nations for battle (20:8).
It seems that you want to absolutize Satan’s binding in Revelation 20 in a way that removes Revelation’s intentional paradoxes: Satan is both able to deceive and is not able to deceive. He conquers the saints, and yet the saints are the true conquerors. These are the complexities of the already/not yet existence of the church until the eschaton.
In Rev 11–13, Satan deceives the nations with a fake christ and a fake version of the holy spirit (false prophet) and he sets himself up as the fake god, and then the false trinity goes to war on Christians, putting them to death (Rev 11:7; 12:11; 13:7). The Christians conquer by being conquered. Right.
Then Satan’s ability to deceive the nations into thinking that he’s god and therefore what he says is right is right and what he says is wrong is wrong is brought to an end for 1,000 years.
At the end of that 1,000 years, he’s let loose, deceives the nations again, and goes to war again.
You’ll have to get the book for this, but I think there’s a chiastic structure to the whole book of Revelation that juxtaposes chapters 11–13, inviting these sections to be interpreted in light of each other . . .
I’m sure you’re familiar with Beale’s presentation of the chiastic structure of ch. 17-22 (arguing against ch. 19 chronologically preceding 20) in his commentary (p. 983).
Anyway, I won’t belabor this exchange. Thanks for giving time to this interaction! I look forward to getting a copy your commentary.
You are premil. Are you historical, dispensational,… ?
In response to Evans citation to Beale, here’s an article that goes into some detail as to the exegetical problems with the amillennialist recapitulation and the claim Rev. 20 repeats chapter 12.
I’d like to direct you to a cogent article on the consecutive-progressive nature to the three septets:
“Recapitulation and Chronological Progression in John’s Apocalypse: Towards a New Perspective” by Marko Jauhainen. _New Testament Studies_ Vl49 Oct 2003, pp 543-559.
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