The farther we get from Revelation’s composition, the more conflicting the interpretations. Of the four major schools of interpretation: preterist, futurist, spiritual, and allegorical, the futurist interpretation is, today, the most widely accepted. It was popularized by Hal Lindsey in the 1980’s and now by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, whose thirteen-volume series “Left Behind” has sold millions of books. Their adding fictional characters and presenting the interpretation as historical fiction very effectively popularized the futurist interpretation.

     But is it correct? The notion that righteous people are suddenly taken during the proposed rapture, no matter what they are doing, even flying airplanes or driving cars, exposing those left behind to plane crashes, train wrecks, and highway accidents makes one wonder. How many righteous pilots do we have? How many unrighteous would die in crashes while the righteous are raptured? The authors propose that infants and young children are raptured because they are too young to sin. However, the people left behind have children who are just as innocent. Why are those children not raptured? Might the original visions be more symbolic and not written to be understood so literally? For example, the description of locusts as huge mechanical grasshoppers seems far-fetched.

     Preterists claim many of the predicted visions were meant for people who first heard them preached. This position makes more sense. To recognize how plausible the preterist theory is compared to the futurist theory, we would have to be as familiar with the events of that time period as we are with our own “current events.” Curious, I spent many years studying the “current events” of the early Christian era to see if there are reasonable connections between those early events and the visions. I found compelling connections.

     In 2004, Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer co-authored “The Last Disciple,” series, published by the same publishing house that published the “Left Behind” series. “The Last Disciple,” and “The Last Sacrifice” are the first two volumes in a series of historical fiction novels that propose a preterist interpretation. Hanegraaff and Brouwer have generated much interest and debate among readers over which interpretation makes more sense. “Revelation: The Fall of Judea, The Rise of the Church” will present a fresh preterist interpretation of Revelation. It will start by examining the conflicting opinions of highly trained Biblical scholars. It will scrutinize Scripture verses relevant to the original intent of Revelation and compare them to available historical documents.

     Although many Biblical scholars claim that John the Evangelist wrote all of Revelation at Patmos in A.D. 96, some Biblical scholars claim that the Evangelist did not compose chapters 4 through 11. John the Baptist was the source of those chapters. J. M. Ford in the Anchor Bible’s commentary, in the volume entitled Revelation, argues that the visions in chapters 4 through 11 came from John the Baptist (Ford, pp. 3, 28). She concurs with Boismard, Hopkins, and others that Revelation falls into two distinct parts, chapters, 4-11, and 12-22. Ford suggests that chapters 4-11 were the oral preaching of John The Baptist and reflect his own and, later, his disciples’ understanding of “He that cometh” before Christ began his public ministry (Ford, p. 3).

     If Ford is correct, these visions were not composed after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, but were, as Ford states later, composed before Christ began his ministry (Ford, p. 50). This seems to be supported by Scripture. “John (the Baptist) beareth witness of him, and crieth out, saying: This was he of whom I spoke: He that shall come after me, is preferred before me: because he was before me.” (John 1:15). The big question is whether John preached only a few sentences, or did he preach chapters 4 through 11. I think John preached a very clear explanation of who and what Christ is. Chapters 4 through 11 contain that clear explanation.

     Ford suggests that chapters 12-22 were composed at a later date (in the mid 60’s) but still had their initial origin from the Baptist’s disciples who predicted the Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Ford suggests that chapters 1-3 (the letters to the seven churches) were added last by a Jewish Christian disciple who knew Jesus Christ (Ford, p. 3). There is no doubt that disciple was John the Evangelist. Ford cites a nine-page “General Selected Bibliography” of many books and articles supporting her position (Ford, pp. 58-66)

     Without getting into too much detail, the evidence Ford cites shows that the Greek writing style in the Evangelist’s Gospel, his epistles, and the letters to the seven churches is very much different from the Greek writing style in chapters 4 through 11 (Ford 43). The possibility that chapters 4 through 11 originated with John the Baptist before Christ began his ministry is the key I used to relate those visions to events when Christianity first started. If John the Baptist preached chapters 4 through 11, then these visions were meant for first-century Judeans, not for Gentiles living twenty centuries later.

     What a simple yet eye-opening insight! If this is true, then these visions were meant for Judeans before they heard Christ’s preaching. They are the final revelation of the Old Testament, given by John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet, whom Christ said was the greatest of the prophets. These visions exemplified how the Baptist understood Christ. They include the last warning to the Judeans to be ready when the Anointed One arrives. The warnings seem stern, but the Messiah is already on earth. It’s too late to reject the Messiah. Within a few years of the Baptist’s ministry, the Messiah will appear in person. These visions in chapters 4 through 11 (the four winds and three woes) weren’t meant for latter-day Christians; they were meant for first-century Judeans.

     Researching this book included reading many history books to see if Revelation could compare to historical events of first and second cent¬ury Judea. There is a point-by-point relationship for chapters 4 through 16. Chapters 17 through 20 predict what Christ’s Church will experience from its inception to the final judgment. Chapters 21 and 22 describe how the Church and God’s heavenly kingdom will be in eternity. When John the Evangelist put all the visions into writing, many events and disasters the Baptist warned about had already taken place. John the Evangelist was an eyewitness to them. The Evangelist’s written text also warns us Gentile nations that we will face similar disasters if our nations are not ready when Christ comes the second time just as the Judean nation was not ready when Christ came the first time. That does not, however, diminish the primary application of the four winds and three woes to first century Judea. Here is how these visions compare that time period.

     The real tribulation started when Christianity started, and it struck the Judean people who tried to destroy Christianity. That tribulation literally destroyed the Judean nation. With Judea no longer a threat, Christianity survived. The four winds and three woes took place during the first and second centuries. Nero sent Vespasian to subdue Judea. His son, Titus, destroyed the Temple. Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius and other early historians describe the historical events. The destruction of the Temple and the events preceding it fulfilled the four winds and two of the three woes. The third woe took place in A.D. 131-5 when Bar Kochba was accepted as the Messianic King. He liberated Judea, and established “The First Jewish Commonwealth.” The present Israeli government, incidentally, is “The Second Jewish Commonwealth.”

     Hadrian assigned Severus to crush the revolt. Severus invaded Judea and utterly destroyed Bar Kochba’s army and the nation of Judea. The Judeans not killed were deported to other lands and foreign people were brought in. For many centuries, the Jews were a small minority in their ancestral homeland. For example, in 1856, out of a total population of a few million, only 10,500 Jews resided in their ancestral homeland (Harel, in Oesterreicher, p. 147). I contend that Judea’s destruction by Severus was the historical fulfillment of the Third Woe.

     Revelation also predicts the rise of the Church, and the release of Satan one thousand years later to deceive the nations. Deception is the key issue. I think the deception occurred during the events leading to the Reformation. These events occurred approximately one thousand years after the Church became the universal religion of the converted Roman Empire. The Reformation marks the beginning of a serious splintering of the Church and Christian beliefs into the thousands of conflicting beliefs and dissenting churches we have today. This deception has become so entrenched today, that many formally Christian nations tell us that we are now in the post-Christian era. The same nations, today, promote and encourage many non-Christian beliefs and practices, presenting them as a more modern approach to religious expression. This book will explore the release of Satan and the deception of the nations.

     Shifting from the above brief introduction, let us imagine John the Baptist when he began his ministry. Coming from the hot desert, he might seek the cooler areas along the Jordan. He would, perhaps, set down his walking staff, motion to attract attention, and start describ¬ing his visions. This last prophet of the Old Testament provided vivid clues showing the relationship between the people God created and their creator. God sent an angel, even before John's birth, to an¬nounce John's special mission. After his birth, when John was still a child, he went to the desert. There he began preparation for his mission. Angels taught him through visions. His visions probably clarified what he should say when announcing the coming Messiah. Symbols and images within visions can easily teach concepts that are true about God, not as the concepts are themselves because John would not have understood them that way, but in a symbolic way that John could understand. Like, for example, the way we represent water by the symbol H2O.

Everyone knows that H2O is a molecule of water; yet, the visual symbol only partly resembles a molecule of water. One could go further and draw a symbol showing the nucleus of an oxygen atom surrounded by eight electrons. The oxygen nucleus lies between two nuclei of hydrogen atoms, each with one additional electron. All three nuclei share the ten electrons, which align to form two orbits around the oxygen. Two electrons are in the inner orbit, eight in the outer orbit. Now we have a more meaningful visual symbol that shows more detail about a molecule of water. Even if it is more meaning¬ful, however, this new symbol is still not exactly like a molecule of water because the human eye cannot see a molecule of water. This is a limita¬tion of our human nature. We cannot see things that are that small. Even if we became small enough to see them, a molecule of water would still not look like the visual symbol. It would look more like the solar system with immense space between the electrons and the nuclei of the atoms.

     In spite of our human limitations, however, God has no problem infusing knowledge into prophets' minds. Nor do prophets have problems getting the knowledge across to their listeners. All we need do is listen with an open heart. John the Baptist is the Messiah's herald, the one sent to make the Messiah's arrival known so that people might recognize him. This voice in the wilderness, speaking with Elijah's spirit, saw visions similar to what earlier prophets had seen. John's visions made it clear that the Awaited One had finally arrived. The visions showed John what the Awaited One's arrival portends for the Judean people and for the whole world. Let us examine the Baptist’s first vision, a magnificent mental image, showing what God is like and the relationship between God and the promised Messiah.

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