More on the Order of Revelation
William Arnold III
(original article: 3. Order and Scope of the Book of Revelation)
Though the book of Revelation can make historical dialogues which seem to go out of order, the reasons given here to explain why Revelation is not chronological I do not believe to be valid. These are the valid answers to the points you have made:
The Return of Christ takes place as follows: he first goes to the mount of Olives in response to a Jewish prayer meeting in Jerusalem (Joel chapter 3, Acts chapter 1 and Zechariah chapter 14). He does this before going to Armageddon. Therefore the vials of wrath (which burn the harlot, or Babylon, see Rev 17) can take place between this event and Armageddon.
Response:The problem with this is that Revelation 19 is definitely the second coming (see question 7).
Question 2:Revelation 11:15-19 is a generalized statement which spans 1,000 years because the "dead are judged." This is a heavenly choir simply stating that the end of the age has come.
Response:If Pre-Millennialism is true (and I believe it is) then every passage in the Bible outside of Rev. 20 overlooks this thousand years. This passage is no exception. For instance, Jesus said believers will be resurrected on the "last day," not 1,000 years before the last day (John 6:39-54; 11:24; 12:48). Acts 24:15 seems to teach a single resurrection for both the just and the unjust (as do Isa. 26:19; Daniel 12:2 & John 5:28,29). This is a problem all Pre-Millennarians must wrestle with and the only plausible explanation I have heard is the prophetic "gap" theory.
Question 3:I believe that the instance in Revelation 7 of the multitude in heaven is the rapture (pre-trib) and the instances prior to this when traced back to Zechariah 6 refers to "the seven spirits of the heavens" which according to Ezekiel 37 are the forces that resurrect Israel as a nation.
Response:Since this takes place after six of the seals have been opened, I hardly see how it could be considered pretrib. At best it could be midtrib. However since Jesus stated that the events of the sixth seal take place "immediately after the tribulation" I would take this rapture as after the tribulation (compare Matt. 24:29-31 to Rev. 6:12-17. Notice also that they see his face, verse 16).
Response:Many things are called a "mystery" in scripture. However, Babylon is not called the mystery of God. It simply says that the name was a mystery. But even if this were they case it would only support my position that Revelation is not in chronological order if both the mystery of God in 10:7 and chapters 17&18 are about Babylon's destruction.
Question 5:The Beast coming out of the sea is an alliance of the Antichrist with all nations to specifically divide Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:2).
Response:I see no support for interpreting this passage this way, however I can not disprove it either. All that John records is a creature coming from the sea. If this is not the introduction of the antichrist on to the scene then I guess it could be him going to do just about anything. I see nothing in this passage that would lead me to interpret it the way you have.
Question 6:Revelation 12 does take place in eternity past, but the Jews being displaced in the wilderness by the "earth that helps the woman" (all nations helping Israel) is in sequential order. The history of the woman is given to Identify Israel (who was being dispersed from Palestine at the time of this writing).
Response:Well if we agree that at least part of this chapter takes place in eternity past then we both agree that the book of Revelation is not completely in chronological order. Our difference is only then what parts are in order and what parts are not. I believe I agree with your overall assessment of chapter 12.
Question 7:The "harvests" in Revelation 14 start with Jesus returning to Jerusalem (the first harvest of the Jews who call on him) and end with the battle of Armageddon. If Rev 14 through 19 take place within hours or even days, the chronology is not broken in terms of a statement made regarding which will soon occur. The same is true regarding the fall of Babylon in the statements of Revelation 14:8 and 18:2, if Jesus returns to Zion and Babyon is destroyed within hours of his return.
Response:Virtually every scholar I have ever read agrees that Rev. 19 is the second coming (except for some post-mills). You seem to be agreeing that Rev. 14 pictures the second as well. If both are the second coming then the chronology is broken. I do not see how it is possible to interpret chapter 19 as taking place some deal of time after the second coming, since the scripture specifically states that he is in heaven preparing to return (19:11, 14).
Question 8:The cosmic signs which would take place "after the tribulation," is "after the tribulation of those days." This is not using 'tribulation' as a theological word of the last seven years, but to all the signs of his return.
Response:I'm sorry, but I must believe that the book of Revelation is prophesying about the future and not some event which took place before it was even written. Isaiah 34:1-5 does mention Edom specifically, but it also says that this judgment is coming on "all nations" (verse 2). Besides, a localized event does not fit the context of Rev. 6, since this event effects the kings of the earth . . . every slave, and free man (6:15).
Question 10:The "parallels" in rev 6 and 8 and 14 I believe to be three nuclear strikes, and the language where "all of the islands" are removed are understood only in the areas where these strikes occur. These places are Edom., a third part of the earth, and Babylon. The similarity occurs in the same way the similarity of disasters occurred both in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We could write of Nagasaki "every eye was melted out of the socket" and if we did not mention the exact areas, a repeat of this phrase in the same document would seem as though we contradicted ourselves. The Book of Revelation in chapter 6 quotes Isaiah regarding Edom. and it's surrounding areas, but John being a Jew does not mention this, because as a Jew he knew the Scriptures. In Revelation 8 he specifically mentions "one-third of the earth" and Revelation 14-18 specifically mentions Babylon.
Response:Of course, I cannot prove that when the Bible uses the same phrase that it must refer to the same event. My point is simply that that is more likely, especially considering all of the similarities I have pointed out together. See comment above regarding Edom.
Question 11:The first three and a half years is not "the beginning of sorrows." This passage in the Greek means "the beginning of birth pangs." These are the earthquakes and wars and pestilence's intensifying as a woman in labor both prior to and during the tribulation period.
Response:I do agree that "birth pangs" is a better translation (so NET, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NJB). But I do not see how this has bearing on either position. The "birth pangs" take place before the hard labor. I understand the first 3 ½ years to be the birth pangs and the second 3 ½ years to be the Great Tribulation, or "hard labor."