Thursday, March 25, 2021

Apocalyptic? #21: Thy Kingdom Came! (Rev. 6-20)


“The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15 NKJV)


“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.” (Rev. 11:17 NKJV)


“Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.” (Rev. 12:10 NKJV)


“Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” (Rev. 19:6 NKJV)


“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”  (Rev. 20:4 NKJV) 


Here’s the BOTTOM LINE thrust of Revelation:  The Kingdom of Heaven has come!

Have you ever noticed the primary message of John the Baptist before Jesus came on the scene?  “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven/God is at hand” (Mt. 3:2).  Did you also notice the message of Jesus during his earthly ministry?  “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven/God is at hand” (Mt. 4:17, Mk. 1:15, Lk. 11:20).  Did you also notice the message of Jesus’ disciples in the Gospels?  “The Kingdom of Heaven/God is at hand” (Mt. 10:7, Lk. 10:9 & 11).  Several of his parables begin with the words, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like . . . .”  Virtually all Christians know the Lord’s Prayer, sometimes called the Model Prayer or the Our Father.  Did you ever notice that we seem to be praying for a “future” event—the future coming of the Kingdom of God/Heaven?  “Your kingdom come” (Mt. 6:10, Lk. 11:12).  It was certainly a future event at the time John the Baptist, Jesus, and his disciples preached it and prayed it, but is it still future?

Why, following the death and resurrection of Jesus, does NO ONE ever refer to the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven as a future event again?  After Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus tells his disciples: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18 NKJV).  Was he proclaiming the BEGINNING of the Kingdom of God/Heaven at that point? Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, “He also presented Himself alive after His suffering [to his apostles} . . . during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).  Later, the deacon “Philip . . . preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” to the Samaritans (Acts 8:12).  In Acts 19:8 plus 20:25 plus 28:23 and 31, Luke reports that Paul preached about Jesus and the Kingdom of God throughout his journeys, but nowhere does Paul’s teaching suggest a “future” kingdom.


There is, however, something about “inheriting the kingdom” in Paul’s teachings.  I Cor. 6:9-10 and 15:50, Gal. 5:21, Eph. 5:5, and I Thes. 2:12 (along with James 2:5 and II Pet. 1:11).  In his clearest exposition of this “future inheritance of the kingdom,” Paul explains in I Cor. 15:50-53 (NKJV): 


Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Paul does not suggest, here, that the Kingdom of God was not in existence at the time he wrote these words—only that mortal bodies could not inherit the Kingdom.  Jesus corroborated Paul’s assertion in John 18:36-37 (NKJV): 

Jesus answered (Pilate), “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”  Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king.”

Jesus is already reigning.  Paul is pointing forward to a time when Christians would join him in reigning (at his Parousia), as John describes in the Revelation 20:4 citation quoted at the first of this blogpost. Just as Jesus was, in Paul’s time, currently reigning from an immortal/incorruptible location, John and Paul were predicting that Christ’s followers (or, at least, the “souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands”) would “inherit” the kingdom.  For John, that Parousia (Paul’s “twinkling of an eye”) and, as both Paul and John are agreed, “at the last [7th] trumpet (Rev. 11:15-17),” would occur “soon” after John’s Revelation was written.

This is not rocket science.  This is precisely what Jesus predicted in the gospels—that his Parousia would occur within one generation from his prophecy.  Those who try to twist Jesus’ words into some other meaning—to make his Parousia promise point to later in time are contorting the scriptures.  Other Christians are clearly seeing this, simply from their own personal Bible study, apart from theological commentaries.  Here’s an example from a website, appropriately titled , from Don K. Preston, D.Div., a preterist:

The biblical views I have come to hold are shared by a growing number of very conservative brothers and sisters in the body of Christ who have also studied these things long and hard and have come to the same conclusions. The Bible very clearly declares that Christ and his disciples prophesied and expected his return in their generation in the 1st century. To suggest otherwise is to hold Christ to be both a liar and a false prophet not to be believed. Like R.C. Sproul, I am willing to accept that someone, a lot of someones, got it wrong for 2000 years. I am not willing to accept that Christ and his inspired apostles got any of it wrong.

Incidentally, I am not borrowing someone else’s phrase.  I discovered this website comment, just today, after I had already titled this blogpost.  I and others (many of them preterist) have independently reached the same conclusion.  I am not personally a preterist—I subscribe to what R. H. Charles called the Contemporary Historical approach, as do most critical scholars.  I have personally held these views for decades.

I began my studies of this matter in the 1960s and, in 1971, had the privilege of studying Jewish rabbinic literature at Indiana University, with Henry A. Fischel as my major professor.  I was struck by the fact that the Jewish world of Jesus’ time was fascinated by the expectation of the arrival of the Kingdom of God/Heaven.  They even calculated how long this “kingdom” would last.  On pages 128-129 of my book Revelation:  The Human Drama, I list the major rabbinic theories concerning how long the Kingdom of God/Heaven would last: 

·         Rabbi Eli`ezer ben Hyrkanus (c. 90 CE) taught that it would last 1000 years, based on Psalm 90:15.

·         Rabbi Yehoschua (c. 90 CE), taught "2000 years," based on the same text.

·         Rabbi El`azar ben Azarja (c. 100 CE) taught "70 years," based on Joshua 23:15.

·         Rabbi Akiba (c. 135 CE) taught "40 years," based on Deuteronomy 8:3 and Psalm 90:15, or on Micah 7:15 and Psalm 95:10.

·         Other proposals by rabbinic sources were:  60 years, 600 years,

400 years, 100 years, 365 years, 365,000 years, 354 years, 4000 years, and 7000 years. 


They all used scripture texts to support their various views.

Most rabbis based their calculations and views upon the 90th Psalm, as I related in my blogpost Apocalyptic? #4. I report in my book Revelation:  The Human Drama, page 24:

The school [of Elias] based its interpretation of history partly upon the Biblical formula found in Psalm 90:4 that "a thousand years in [God's] sight are like a day that has just gone by."  According to the various calculations of the school, the Jewish people had been punished by God (i.e., had been under the domination of foreign powers) for a total of one thousand years.  . . . Rabbi Yehoschua . . . [a]long with other rabbis . . . observes that Psalm 90:15 petitions God:  "Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble."  Yehoschua finds it striking that . . . the Jewish people had been "afflicted" or had "seen trouble" for one thousand years--the formulaic "day" of the Lord.

These rabbis expected the Kingdom of God/Heaven to last at least one thousand years (just as John did, in Revelation 20), by calculating—beginning with the children of Israel becoming subject to and enslaved by Egypt and then adding Israel’s other subjugations. It makes perfect sense, then, that John in Revelation mirrors the prophets (especially, Daniel’s) chronology from the Beast (Roman Empire) backwards through the Greek Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, and the Babylonian Empire, and culminating in the very first political power to enslave the Jews—Egypt. 

In my second-most-read blogpost of all time (
Angels & Demons 20: Jacob’s Ladder, with the Guardian Angels of Each Nation—Rising and Falling) which can be easily accessed by clicking on the link under “Popular Posts” to the right of this post, I provide an account of the rabbinic teaching concerning the Kingdom of Heaven/God.  To summarize, the rabbis taught that each nation (Rome, Greece, Media/Persia, Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, etc.) has a national guardian angel, just as Israel has Michael (see Revelation 12:7, Daniel 10:13 and 21 and 12:1).  Using Jacob’s Ladder, the rabbis suggested that these national guardian angels took turns climbing the ladder to rule the world.  However, each national guardian also experienced a descent down the ladder, as their specific nation lost power.  Specifically, the rabbinic story mentions Babylon, Media (Persia), Greece, and Rome, the same powers Daniel called the “Beasts” that would rise before God would establish an eternal kingdom that would never descend.  That would be the Kingdom of Heaven/God that THIS post is all about.  As I say in THAT blogpost (also to be found in my book Angels and Demons:  The Personification of Communication, page 130):

It is striking that Jewish scholars of the First to Fifth Centuries after the birth of Jesus who continued a tradition that suggests a plan of God to establish an eternal kingdom with a Jewish leader at the helm following the fall of the Roman Empire, failed to recognize that such a kingdom was developing.  With the Roman Empire effectively “Christianized” by Constantine, shortly after 300 A.D., this tiny sect, led by a Jewish teacher (Jesus)—a child of Israel—was finally catapulted to a position of international repute.  It was not until the Renaissance of a thousand years later that Greco-Roman literature would begin to rebound from a situation in which Judeo-Christian literature and thought dominated much of the world.  One can almost envision the scene of Jacob’s Ladder:

“The Holy One—Blessed be He—said to him (Jacob), ‘Jacob, you are ascending, too.’  In that hour, Jacob, our Father, was afraid, and he said, ‘Would you say that just like what happened to these—a descending—will also happen to me—a descending?’  The Holy One—Blessed be He—said to him, ‘You will not come down, Israel’ (Jeremiah 30:10).  If you go up, there will never be a descent for you.’”

Is there a contradiction between the calculation (in both Revelation and the rabbinic sources) that says that the messiah should reign (i.e., the Kingdom of God/Heaven should last) for 1000 years and the clear indication (in both Revelation and the rabbinic sources) that the messiah would reign “forever and ever” (“If you go up, there will never be a descent for you [Israel]”)?  No.  Revelation 20:2-3 indicates only that the Dragon/Devil/Satan (the entity who raised up other “Beasts”—the one who deceived “nations,” such as Babylon, Media (Persia), Greece, and Rome) would be bound and sealed for a thousand years, not that the messiah’s reign would stop at the end of the thousand years.  Even though the Dragon will “deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished,” the Lord and His Christ (as the Kingdom of God/Heaven) will reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15—the Hallelujah Chorus).  This promise of the Lord and His Christ reigning “forever and ever” is repeated in the last chapter of Revelation (22:5), so, therefore, AFTER the heavens and earth have passed away (Revelation 21:1). 

Amazing, isn’t it!  Two thousand years after the great Roman Empire, not a soul on earth worships Roman gods!  Two thousand three hundred years after the great Greek Empire of Alexander the Great, not a soul on earth worships Greek gods!  Two thousand five hundred years after the great Persian Empire, not a soul on earth worships Persian gods!  Three thousand years after the great Babylonian Empire, not a soul on earth worships Babylonian gods!  Four thousand years after the great Egyptian Empire, not a soul on earth worships Egyptian gods!  Yet, the deity long associated with people whom the Egyptians enslaved, who occupied a tiny little strip of land in the Middle East, not much bigger than the State of Rhode Island, who were progressively subjugated by Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome is now worshiped by Egyptians, Babylonians (Iraq), Persians (Iran), Greeks, and Italians/Romans.  The God of Abraham is the King of the World!  Even when humans world-wide take the word “God” in vain, there is that subtle consciousness in the back of their minds that it is He to whom they are referring.  His Kingdom came!

Returning to the Lord’s Prayer, parallel to the words “Thy Kingdom come!” are the words “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”  His Kingdom is not “OF this world (i.e., not based in this world)” (John 18:36), but his rule is OVER this world/earth.  If you have been praying “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” it is time for you to look around and see whose will is governing the world.  The Christian, Jewish, and Muslim laws (with some admitted interpretive mistakes) govern most of the world.  People still “break the laws,” but world-wide the “laws” are largely set by the Law of Moses.  Revelation 15:4 (NKJV) states: “Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
  . . . For all nations shall come and worship before You.”  This is precisely what the Old Testament prophets predicted concerning the Kingdom of God/Heaven:

Psalm 22:7, 86:9, and Isaiah 66:23, predict that all nations of earth will bow down/worship God.  Daniel 7:27 (NKJV) says:

Then the kingdom and dominion,
And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven,
Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’

Micah 4:1 (NKJV) says:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house

Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And peoples shall flow to it.

Isaiah 2:2-3 (NKJV) says:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house

Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

God is NOT JUST ruling in Heaven.  He and Jesus are ALSO RULING ON EARTH!  They began their earthly reign about 2000 years ago.  When I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I sometimes make adjustments:

“Our Father who reigns in Heaven, Your Name is holy.  Your Kingdom has come.  Your will is being done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  You give us each day our daily bread.  You forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  You do not lead us into temptation, but you deliver us from our own Evil inclinations.  Because Yours is the KINGDOM, and the power, and the glory, FOREVER.  Amen.”

With Jesus’ ascent into Heaven and his enthronement at the right hand of God, we proceed in the next several chapters of Revelation to see how his Kingdom came into existence—by mirroring the prophets—how it became a reality on Earth.  I’m looking forward to this adventure.  I hope you are, as well.

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