Each week, the professor posts a question submitted by a student. This was really good! These are only quick questions and answers, but I wouldn’t mind some suggestions:
The Passage: Revelation 19:11-21 and 20:1-6
The Problem: Some read Rev. 19:11-21 as depicting a vision of the second coming of Jesus Christ concluding the present age, however Rev. 20:1-6 describes events that seem to take place after Rev. 19. Thus, this ordering of events has lead to the primary claim of Premillennialism because based on this understanding the millennium would commence after the return of Christ and his presence on earth during the millennium.
My Question: How should the events described in these two passages be read? Should these events be read in chronological succession? Or as parallel accounts? Or other? Further, what type of impact would the reading of these passages have on the Asian churches that John is writing to regarding such future events?
I was never taught to look for premillennialism in Scripture, and as I grow in my studies, I am turned off by ‘new’ concepts, doctrines and viewpoints, but the question is raised in that as people lay aside premillennialism, how should we then read these verses. It is my opinion that while we may read 20.1-6 as an almost parenthetical pericope between 19.11-21 and 20.7-15, it rather serves as the cosmic vision of the battle described in 19.11-21. G.K. Beale, in his commentary on the Greek text, notes that the structure of 19.11-20.6 mimics that of Daniel 7 which involves the same sort of recapitulation we see in John’s writing (p982). He notes (p957) that given the language of 20.1 which included the descent of an angel, this must be, as Fee would agree with him, a ‘synchronous section’ with the preceding passage. Beale calls to our attention that elsewhere in Revelation (7.2; 10.1; and 18.1) mimics the same dual activity but rarely do commentators (and I must add that the more recent and dispensationally minded the commentators are, the less likely they are to follow a cohesive through process on John’s use of certain imagery, especially here) see 20.1 as anything but offering a sequential relationship to 19.11-21. He goes on to suggest, however, that 20.1-6 may in fact be prior to 19.11-21 and that 20.7-15 is actually parallel to 19.11-21. Regardless, it is safe to say that 20.1-6 is not a historical sequence of events between 19.11-21 and 20.7-15 but instead either offers a commentary of the cosmic view parallel to the battle (my view) or a prologue.
I cannot lend myself to believe that John was only writing to the seven Asian Churches mentioned in chapters 2 and 3, but instead is writing to the Church Universal wherever/whenever they are experiencing persecution. I believe that John was readying his receptive community (as like most prophets, I believe that John wasn’t exactly writing in his mind to the entire Church or foresaw his writings being used by us in the 20th century after his pen touched the paper, so to speak) for the divine promise that the coming persecution was only going to get worse before it go better. Further, these ‘synchronous’ versions, as Beale calls them, served to remind his readers that Christ was fighting the same battles in the cosmic realm which His Church was fighting here on earth. We do know that the persecutions ended after a season, and finally ended two centuries later, but does it hold to a bigger picture for us today? While I believe that we should separate the eschatological aspects of those such as Paul and the apocalyptic imagery painted by John from each other, I do believe that John’s final chapters, more so than the entire book, hold for us eschatological overtones so much so that John may be looking, in his mind, at the End of The Age which he believed was soon coming. Biblical writers were wrong about, writing perhaps with more hope than inspiration, but in the end, John’s closing chapters contain for us the promise that cycles of tribulation will close as Christ vanquishes the cosmic enemies.