Revelation

Peter and Revelation: A Comparative Study

 

The dating of Revelation continues to be of great interest and importance to Bible students. Clearly, if Revelation was written after AD 70 then the preterist paradigm is suspect, to say the least. I am glad to share with our visitors a guest article by my friend Doug Wilkinson. This article develops some of the correlations between Peter’s epistles and the book of Revelation.

Most scholars accept 1 Peter as pre-AD 70, and most conservative scholars accept 2 Peter as pre-AD 70. In his article, Wilkinson shows that Peter is almost assuredly drawing directly from Revelation.Clearly, if Peter was echoing Revelation, then Revelation was written prior to AD 70.

I have developed some additional connections between Peter and Revelation in my Who Is This Babylon book, and recommend that for further study.

With the caveat that I do not believe Peter affirmed that God does not see time like man does– which I develop extensively in my Babylon book, I highly recommend Wilkinson’s article. It will challenge any thoughtful student to rethink a committment to the late date of Revelation.

Don K. Preston

 

 

Peter’s Final Message:

Don’t Let the Book of Revelation Get You Down

Doug Wilkinson


The epistle of 2nd Peter is one of the last books of the New Testament to be written. Presuming that Revelation was written in about 66AD, 2nd Peter was likely written a year or two later. Peter expects to be martyred in the very near future, so his final letter is to pass on last minute advice and reinforce the basics. I think that a topical outline of the epistle will demonstrate that Peter has recently read the book of Revelation, and he wants to pass on his ideas on the important points.

Peter opens with a seven point progressive sanctification scheme, the final stage of which is love. This program of progressive sanctification, if followed, will be successful in ensuring the salvation of his readers. His first substantive topic matches perfectly the crisis in the first church addressed in Revelation. In Ephesus, Christ criticizes them for not having love. Peter has considered this, and is giving his audience an antidote to make their “call and election sure.”  Just like Revelation, Peter promises salvation for those who endure and destruction for those who fall away.

Peter then moves on to talk about the Transfiguration as a prophetic vision of the parousia. He reassures them that his is a reliable prophetic understanding. He warns his audience against false prophets who have existed since the Old Testament. Peter makes reference to Balaam as a typical false prophet who uses immorality in his ministry.  In the letter to Pergamum (the third letter to the churches), Christ scolds the church for having fallen under the spell of the teaching of Balaam, an Old Testament prophet. Balaam taught the enemies of Israel to turn Israel from God by seducing them with foreign women. Peter incorporates this by declaring that the false prophets in his day had “eyes full of adultery” and that they were “enticing unstable souls”. Just like Christ’s admonition to Pergamum, Peter makes sure that his audience knows that God will punish these immoral people at his coming, while at the same time rewarding the faithful followers.

Peter then moves on to important, confusing information from the end of Revelation. Just as the prophets had predicted, Paul warned about in 2nd Timothy, and Jude acknowledges, the last day scoffers were on the scene in the first century. They were saying that God would not come through on his promises. Peter reminds his readers that just like the creation of old was judged, God was preparing to judge that creation. He points out that from God’s point of view, a day is as a thousand years and vice versa.  So, Peter argues that regardless of the rhetoric involved, God will be faithful in his promise to bring judgment.

In Revelation 20, the judgment would come after a one thousand year reign of Christ from heaven. In that reign, martyred saints and unnamed characters on thrones would participate in determining the destiny of the earth. In Revelation 6-7 we see those martyred saints actually participating in the reign described in Revelation 20. The martyrs are crying for vengeance. Christ is telling them to wait just a bit longer until the maximum number of people are brought into the kingdom. Back in 2nd Peter, he makes the same point by saying that Christ is longsuffering, trying to give as many people as possible a chance for repentance. A bit later, Peter describes the result of the prayers of the saints in Revelation 6 and the conclusion of the thousand years in Revelation 20: Fire from heaven.

But, what about the thousand years? When Peter read Revelation he learned that the ongoing heavenly reign was going to last a thousand years. This obviously contradicts the teaching he’d received, and that he and all of the New Testament writers had passed on, in which the promise of the return of Christ was to be within that generation. So, Peter clarifies the point made in Revelation by reminding the reader that from God’s point of view a thousand years might just mean a day. Why then did John call it a thousand year reign? The reason was to imply something about the kingdom itself. The term “thousand” in scripture is meant to define a large, though indefinite, quality as well as quantity.  In the sense of quality, we’re talking here about the Kingdom of God.  We’d have to in some way describe it as the maximum kingdom.  Symbolically, the term “thousand” can take on this meaning.  In the sense of quantity, we have a very hard time quantifying what time looks like from God’s point of view. Given the assumption from a human point of view that God, and thus in some way heaven, is either timeless or has an altered experience of time, the “thousand year” descr
iption of the heavenly kingdom going on during the first century was meant simply to imply that the kingdom itself was on “God time.”  Peter makes sure to clear up how to reconcile “God time” with “human time” by saying that they essentially have no relation to each other.  The use of “thousand” in this way precludes the kingdom from being an earthly one.

After clarifying this, following the chronology of Revelation 20, Peter continues with the description of the events surrounding the Day of the Lord. He says that it will happen with suddenness and fire. This description matches the climax of the Gog and Magog revolt in Revelation 20. In Revelation 20, Jerusalem is surrounded by armies immediately before fire comes from heaven. It is usually assumed that this fire destroys the invading Gog and Magog army. However, the nearest antecedent to the destruction in the passage is actually the “the camp of the saints (or holy ones, hagios) and the “beloved city.” In a matching passage, Daniel 12:7, we find that the end of eschatology is defined as the shattering of the power of the holy people (hagios in the Septuagint). With this additional witness it is clear that the fire coming from heaven is against the “hagios” and the city, which is exactly what happened in the sacking of Jerusalem in 70AD.

By comparing the synchronized passages about this destruction of the holy people we learn that the “elements” that are destroyed in 2nd Peter are tied directly to the city that is destroyed. A quick look at the seven uses of the Greek term that is described here as elements (stoicheia) shows that in every clear case, it is talking about components of the Mosaic/Levitical Law worship system. The few ambiguous examples can easily be interpreted in the same way, shining light on the meaning of those passages. As the city is metaphorically destroyed by fire from heaven (which was literally accomplished by the armies surrounding it) the Mosaic/Levitical Law worship system is destroyed as well. This makes way for a new paradigm in which actual righteousness can be accomplished.

Peter then reemphasizes that the Christian’s responsibility is to put maximum effort into his personal holiness in order to be worthy of the New Heaven and New Earth “in which righteousness dwells”. In Revelation 21, John describes the definition of the New Heaven and New Earth, and the characteristics of the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem is described several in several places as a city in which no sin can be found. Sinners of various types are said to not be able to enter and are explicitly left outside of the gates.

Peter finishes by admonishing people to read Paul’s letters in light of what he has said in this one (and by extension, Revelation). Paul had written quite a bit about eschatology, with some of his oldest writings (and some of the oldest of any Christian writings) being the letters to the Thessalonians. Christians of the era would only have heard the phrase “as a thief” in 1st Thessalonians until 2nd Peter and Revelation were written. It’s Paul’s understanding of eschatology that people are encouraged to study, though it is confusing to some because they are “untaught and unstable.”

In comparing 2nd Peter and Revelation we find that Peter does not significantly vary from the sequence of events in Revelation. He took the high points of Revelation and expanded on them when necessary for admonishment and edification. He sees personal holiness and endurance as critical to taking advantage of the promise of salvation. He is clear that failure of endurance by his readers will jeopardize their salvation. He then switches to the promise itself: The Day of the Lord and The New Heaven and New Earth. He makes it clear that regardless of the use of the term “thousand”, Christ is faithful to his promise to judge his enemies within that generation. When he does so, just like Revelation, he’ll do so through sudden fire. The final result is a Kingdom in which righteousness dwells.

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