REVIEW AND RESPONSE TO SIMON KISTEMAKER’S REVEALING CHAPTER ON REVELATION #4
Don K. Preston (D. Div.)
THE NAME AND NUMBER OF THE BEAST IN REVELATION
This is article #4 in response to a chapter written by Simon Kistemaker, in a 2004 book edited and produced Keith Mathison entitled When Shall These Things Be? (The book is available on Amazon). That book was intended to be a definitive refutation of Full Preterism. The respected commentator Simon Kistemaker wrote a chapter in which he attempted to establish the late date of Revelation.
Edward Stevens asked me and some other authors 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, after such a time, that I submitted to Stevens.
THE SEVEN KINGS OF REVELATION 17
Kistemaker notes that Revelation 17 speaks of the woman sitting on “‘many waters (17:1, 15), the beast (17:3), and seven hills (17:9). These places must be interpreted symbolically.” (When, 230) He concludes that instead of the 7 hills referring to seven men i.e. seven individual kings of Rome, “the symbolism of the seven hills points to world powers that are directed by the woman against the kingdom of God.” (230). He continues, “Many scholars interpret the word ‘kings’ symbolically and assert that it means ‘kingdoms,’ as, for example, in the Aramaic text of Daniel 7:17.” (When, 231) He concludes with the statement: “Although he could have identified the seven hills with Rome and the seven heads with seven emperors, he (John, DKP), refrains from doing so.” (232). Kistemaker has failed to honor the inspired text.
Kistemaker claims that the angel’s words “Here is the mind that has wisdom” (Revelation 17:9), means that he is giving more symbolic references. Thus, “the seven hills are seven kings” really means “seven hills are seven kings that are really seven kingdoms.” He says that the five kings/kingdoms that had fallen already were Babylonia, Assyria, Neo-Babylonia, Medo-Persian, and Greco-Macedonia.”(231). (Why such a count of kingdoms would omit the Egyptian kingdom is never explained by Kistemaker. However, if Egypt were counted, it falsifies the historicist posit). He then proceeds to abandon his identification of the seven hills as historical kingdoms, and claims that the eighth, “is a personification that embodies the totality of evil that is in the other seven.” (231).
What is Kistemaker’s evidence for changing hermeneutical horses in midstream? And, it is strange that whereas the first five, indeed six, kings are historical kingdoms that he identifies, he makes no effort whatsoever to identify number 7! John says, “five are fallen, one is, and one is yet to come, and remain for only a little while.” Now, if we are to understand the first six as actual, historical kingdoms, why is not the seventh, and indeed the eighth not also a historical identifiable kingdom. It is not enough to simply claim that the eighth is a personification that embodies the other seven. There must be some concrete proof, and Kistemaker offers none.
Would not an eighth historical kingdom not be able to “personify” the previous seven historical kingdoms? There is no justification for changing the hermeneutic here. Yet, if Kistemaker stays with his hermeneutic, i.e. that the kings represent kingdoms, then he would be forced to take the view that Revelation, while not fulfilled in A.D. 70, was indeed fulfilled long ago. The fact that he is totally silent in regard to the identity of the seventh king / kingdom, and changes his hermeneutical approach to identify the eighth king/kingdom reveals the inherent fallacy of his view.
Gentry correctly notes that in Revelation 17:7 the angel expressly says, “I will tell you the mystery of the woman and the beast that carries her.” In other words, verse 9f “is the angelic exposition of the vision.” Thus, “that which is stated in verses 9 and 10 occurs in the expository rather than the visionary portion of the passage…Consequently, as we approach Revelation 17:9 and 10, we should not expect to be more perplexed…It would appear then, that the expression ‘here is the mind that has wisdom’ is introducing the interpretation of a vision so that he who follows the angelic interpretation has wisdom.” (Before, 148+, his emphasis) In contrast, Kistemaker makes the angel guilty of actually saying, “I am not going to explain the vision I just gave, I am going to add more enigma to it!”
The evidence proves that the reference to the seven kings in Revelation 17 is truly to seven men who served as kings. Gentry maintains that a first century reader, upon reading the referent to the “seven hills” would think of Rome. Are we to believe, as Kistemaker asks, that the “Revelation” was so far removed from the world of the first century readers that they would not even think of their world, and the events happening in their world, and would instead project themselves thousands of years into the future?
The fact that John was told that the interpretation of the seven hills was seven kings, (not kingdoms) invalidates Kistemaker’s objections to the dating of Revelation. The most natural and historical count of the emperors of Rome begins with Julius, and when one honors the countdown beginning there, you arrive at Nero, and the early dating of Revelation.
For more on whether Julius was considered the first of the Roman emperors, see my Who Is This Babylon? In that book I give a good bit of historical testimony from both Jewish and Roman authorities.