Review of Simon Kistemaker’s Dating of Revelation
A good while back, in the book When Shall These Things Be?, (Edited and produced by Keith Mathison, pub. 2004) the respected commentator Simon Kistemaker wrote a chapter in which he attempted to establish the late date of Revelation. The purpose of that book was to refute full preterism.
Edward Stevens asked me and several others to write chapters for a proposed book to respond to Mathison’s book. He even raised money to publish that work. Unfortunately, Stevens never published that book. Since Edwards never published the book I thought it would be good to go ahead and publish the chapter that I submitted to Stevens.
I will share with my visitors the chapter I wrote, with some editing and additional comments as we go along. This is article #1.
Review of Simon Kistemaker’s Dating of Revelation
One of the firs things that I noted in my original unpublished article was that Keith Mathison chose an author to write what he believes to be falsehoods, in order to refute a “false doctrine!” Is this a “the ends justify the means” mentality? There is something exceedingly strange here. Mathison, the editor and producer of When Shall These Things Be? is a Postmillennialist, espouses the early date of Revelation, and believes that the Apocalypse is applicable, in large part, to the demise of that Old Covenant World in A.D. 70. Yet, Mathison has chosen Simon Kistemaker to write the chapter on Revelation. What is so strange about that? Kistemaker is not a Postmillennialist, and rejects Mathison’s early dating of Revelation!
In other words, Mathison agrees in large part with the full preterists on Revelation. However, when it came to putting together a book against preterism, Mathison ignored what he considers to be one of the definitive works on Revelation, and chose a man that takes a late date for Revelation, and posits the book in our future, to refute Preterism! Put simply, Mathison does not agree with what Kistemaker wrote in Mathison’s book, but he chose Kistemaker to write about Revelation since the issue at hand is the refutation of Preterism.
Isn’t there something wrong here? Is this a “the end justifies the means” mentality? Those who are familiar with Mathison’s view of Revelation will undoubtedly be wondering why, although Mathison is a stout defender of Gentry’s excellent work on the early dating of Revelation, he chose a Historicist to write about Revelation. Could it be that Mathison knew that if had Gentry write the chapter on Revelation, it would actually help promote Preterism?
In what follows, we will critique Kistemaker’s presentation on Revelation, and we will use the writings of Mathison and Gentry, in addition to the Scriptures of course, to refute Kistemaker.
Kistemaker spends 5 ½ pages explicating the Postmillennial view of Revelation and eschatology. Exactly why he does this is not clear, since he is not supposed to be critiquing that paradigm. However, what is ironic is that in his critique of “hyper-preterism” Kistemaker is, in fact, arguing against Mathison’s Postmillennialism! Thus, once again the irony of When is emphasized. Mathison has invited a wolf into his barn to protect the lambs! Perhaps Mathison will come out with a book, intended for partial preterists only of course, to refute Kistemaker’s arguments found in When.
KISTEMAKER ON THE INTERNAL EVIDENCE OF REVELATION
Kistemaker says there are three major arguments, based on the internal evidence of Revelation, for an early date. He proceeds to address those arguments:
1.) The measuring of the Temple in chapter 11,
2.) The identity of the Great City of chapter 11:8,
3.) The identity of the 7 kings in chapter 17.
THE MEASURING OF THE TEMPLE
In Revelation 11, John was told:
And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
Historically, even many late date advocates admit that this passage is troublesome to their view. Kistemaker even says: “The apostle seems to indicate that the temple is still standing, and functioning normally.” (When, 2004, 220) However, after admitting this, he queries, “Is this chapter actually revealing a date for the book of Revelation?” Well, since John’s language “seems to indicate that the Temple was still standing,” the burden of proving that the Temple was not still standing falls squarely on Kistemaker.
Kistemaker’s first objection is, “Elsewhere in Revelation, the word Jerusalem occurs only three times (3:12; 21:2; 10). In each case, reference is to the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven.” (When, 220). He argues that while the word “Jerusalem” does not actually appear in chapter 11, “the reference is clear enough that the name of the city need not be named.” This is actually quite an admission since it admits that Revelation 11 is about one of the Jerusalems: either the Old or the New.
Kistemaker is arguing that since the word Jerusalem in the other verses means the New Jerusalem, that it must be that in chapter 11 as well. He is guilty of “illegitimate totality transfer.” To respond properly to this, we must take note of the other passages.
In Revelation 3:12 Jesus told the church at Philadelphia that he was aware that they lived where the Synagogue of Satan resided, and were being persecuted by those, “who say they are Jews, but are not, but are liars.” He promised them that if they persevered, that they would be given the name of the New Jerusalem that was going to come down from heaven.
The contrast here is between the Two Jerusalems! It is a contrast between the citizens of the Old City, the source of the persecution of the saints of the New City. The point is that while the Lord definitely spoke of the New Jerusalem, he contrasts it with the citizens of the Old! The Old City was destined to destruction and humiliation, vis a vis, the destruction foretold in chapter 11.
The very term “New Jerusalem” is highly suggestive of a contrast with the Old Jerusalem, and this is especially true in contexts such as Revelation 3. The conflict there is patently not between the “world,” but between Judaism and the body of Christ. It is a war between the Old Jerusalem and the New. This is precisely what we find in Revelation 11 and in chapter 21. In chapter 11 we find the judgment and destruction of the city “where the Lord was crucified,” and the triumph of the Messiah in his kingdom, i.e. the New Jerusalem. It is incongruous to say the least, to posit the New Jerusalem in contrast to a city totally unrelated thematically, contextually or temporally, to Jerusalem. The term “New Jerusalem” is a direct contrast with the Old Jerusalem.
Another factor that Kistemaker fails to note is that in Revelation the references to the New Jerusalem indicated that it was on the way down from God to man, or, as in chapter 21, it is depicted as arriving with the destruction of Babylon. However, this is not the picture of Revelation 11. There the city is already on earth (cf. Gentry, Beast, 150+). It is already present, and destined for destruction (Revelation 11:13)! Revelation 11:1-6 is not the victory scene promised in chapter 3, or that described in chapter 21. So, if the great city of Revelation 11 is the church, the New Jerusalem of chapter 21, then we must conclude that the church will be doomed to judgment after coming down from God! Where is a depiction of that in Revelation 3 or Revelation 21?
Chapter 11 depicts a city with the Temple in it. As Gentry says, “Revelation’s temple is located in Jerusalem.” (Beast, 150). However, in Revelation 21, there is no Temple in the city! The city is the Temple. In Revelation 11, both (outer) temple and city are judged, whereas in Revelation 21 there is no such judgment! This a conflict between visions, if we take Kistemaker’s view.
Kistemaker insists that since the Temple in Revelation 11 is called the naos, instead of the normal word heiron, and since, “the act of measuring the temple, the altar, and God’s people” indicates protection from harm, that John was writing of the church. In response, Gentry argues that John is in fact being given a two-fold vision. Naos, the word normally reserved for the Most Holy Place, is indeed used to speak of the church that would not come under the judgment, but that the outer court represents Old Covenant Israel that was about to be destroyed. (Gentry, Dominion, 2009, 169f).
Finally, in regard to Revelation 11:1-2, note the direct correspondence with Luke 21:20-24. Jesus said Jerusalem would be trodden under the feet of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles would be fulfilled (Luke 21:24). Kistemaker acknowledges that this is a referent to A.D. 70. John was told that “the great city” was to be trodden under foot for 42 months. John is all but quoting Jesus in Revelation 11:2!
Why is Kistemaker willing to go to other passages to determine the definition of the New Jerusalem, yet, he will not submit to the parallelism between Luke and Revelation? As Gentry says, “It is evident that John’s Revelation and Luke’s gospel look to the same events.” (Dominion, 176) To admit that Luke 21:24 gave rise to, or is parallel with Revelation 11 is destructive to Kistemaker’s paradigm.
Kistemaker argues that John’s 42 month referent, “does not entirely fit the historical record.” (When, P. 224). Gentry and Mathison disagree. Mathison says the 42 months, “apparently refers to the time from the declaration of war by Rome until the fall of Jerusalem, which was almost exactly 42 months.” (Hope, 151) Gentry says the 42 month allusion, “fits remarkably well with the time-frame of the Jewish War.” (Beast, 154), and suggests that the evidence that the great city of Revelation 11 is Jerusalem is “compelling.” (P. 149).
What we have seen then is that Kistemaker seeks to negate the language of Revelation 11 that he admits indicates that the Temple was standing when John wrote. He has failed to show that the language should not be taken as true. We have shown that contextually, Revelation 11 violates Kistemaker’s own view of the New Jerusalem, and his view of Revelation 11 is not consonant with what Revelation says about the New Jerusalem. His objections to Revelation 11, and the measuring of the Temple, are therefore invalid.
Stay tuned as we look closer at Revelation 11 and how it impacts Kistemaker’s claims. In the meantime, get a copy of my book, Who Is This Babylon? for a thorough and indepth study of the identity of Babylon in Revelation and how that identity proves that the Apocalypse was written before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, and foretold that catastrophe.