Recapitulation Revisited

revelationRecently I had a commenter drop some challenges to one of my posts on eschatology. Specifically, my post addressing the concept of whether Revelation 20 is sequential or a recapitulation.

I thought I would bring a few of them to the front page and interact with the arguments for a broader audience.

First, let me remind everyone of the basics of what I was discussing.

Briefly stated, the idea of recapitulation is “to repeat in concise form.” As I noted in my article, amillennialists and postmillennialists generally interpret the book of Revelation as a series of prophetic visions the Apostle John was given that describe the church age. With each new vision, the reader is returned back to the beginning of the church age and is provided new revelation describing it further or filling in more details of a previous vision.

The events in Revelation chapter 20, rather than following in chronological sequence to chapter 19, is a vision that returns John’s audience back to the beginning of the church age. In other words, the events revealed in chapter 20 comes before those revealed in chapter 19. The concept of the millennium described in chapter 20 is merely meant to convey the ideal conditions of Satan being bound and the church triumphantly proclaiming the Gospel throughout the world. Only at the end of that time will Satan be released before Christ returns to consummate this age.

I argued that the book of Revelation is for the most part sequential. Now that is not to say that some of the visions overlap and build upon each other by revealing newer content to previous content. By sequential, I mean that the prophetic events described in major sections generally follow one after the other and that any notion of recapitulation is forced upon the text by one’s eschatological system. That is especially true regarding how chapters 19 and 20 relate to each other.

I presented my case centered around three key arguments: The context of chapters 19 and 20 in the larger whole of the book, John’s repeated use of “and I saw” presents a chronological progression of events, and the purpose clause in 20:3, “any longer,” brings the reader to the conclusion that the events of chapter 20 follow closely after chapter 19.

So with that background in mind, let me interact with a few of the comments from my challenger,

1. The question of whether Revelation as a whole is recapitulative in structure is essentially different than the question of whether chapt 19 and 20 are recapitulative. That is, it is possible that Rev as a whole is recapitulative but 19 and 20 are not; it is also possible that Rev as a whole is not recapitulative but Rev 19 and 20 are. Yet you seem to address these two issues as if they are essentially the same.

I would agree with his premise. I wasn’t, however, directly addressing the concept of recapitulation in other portions of Revelation. In fact, as I noted above, I believe a few overlapping, recapitulatory style visions are in the book of Revelation, but that is irrelevant to my thesis.

The focus of my article explored whether or not the events of chapter 20 are a vision of recapitulation or do they follow in sequential, chronological order to chapter 19. Much of the foundation of non-premillennial theology stands upon a recapitulatory interpretation of chapter 20. I believe the exegesis of chapter 20 will only bring one to the conclusion that the events recorded in the chapter follow immediately upon those of chapter 19.

I am at a loss why my challenger thinks I conflated two issues. Because he mistakenly thinks I am conflating two issues, the possibly of recapitulation existing in the book with the focus of my post, exploring whether Revelation chapter 20 is a recapitulation of events, he proceeds to set up a series of strawman arguments.

2. You say that the context demands that they are chronological, however the evidence you provide in support doesn’t provide a sufficient logical basis for that claim.

It would have been helpful if he provided some key examples as to how my take on Revelation 20 not being a recapitulation is lacking in sufficient evidence.  Instead, he provides an example comparing Revelation 6:13 where it says how the stars of the sky fall to the earth, with Revelation 8:12, where the stars seem to be still in the sky since a third of them are made not to shine. But again, even if 8:12 is a recapitulation of 6:13, it has no relevance to chapter 20 being a recapitulation. There needs to be more refinement with his challenge.

He then moves to suggesting how eschatology discussed in other books in the NT contradict a sequential interpretation of Revelation 20. I am then directed to a couple of passages,

1 Cor 15 has a pretty specific chronology, yet no room is left in it for a literal 1000 year reign between the Second Advent and the New Heaven and Earth.

Sure there is room for a millennium. In fact, Michael Vlach’s little book on Premillennialism devotes an entire chapter to interacting with that basic objection. Additionally, portions of the book, Three Views of The Millennium, are available online and the premillennial response of Craig Blaising to amillenniallist Robert Strimple’s exact same objection as my commenter can be read HERE, and he also shows no difficulty existing for the possibility of a millennium kingdom.

The primary problem is the chronology of the stages of resurrection in 15:23,24.

1. “Christ the first fruits”
2. “after that those who are Christ’s at His coming”
3. “then comes the end.”

eschatologyMy detractor (and most non-Premillennialists) thinks no time exists between those who are resurrected at Christ’s coming and the end. But if there is a space of at least 2,000 years between Christ, the first fruits, and those who are resurrected at His coming, there really is no difficulty understanding that a space for a millennial kingdom can exist between those who are resurrected at His coming and the end. That is especially true if we have additional revelation from the Apostle John telling us a millennial kingdom will happen.

Moreover, the words epeita and eita, which are translated as “after that” and “then” can be understood as relating an interval of time between those resurrected at Christ’s coming and the end. The word eita is specifically used in other NT passages where the contexts shows us that an interval of time exists between two events. See for an example Mark 4:17; 4:28 [2x]; 1 Corinthians 15:5, 7; and 1 Timothy 2:13.

My commenter then moves to a second passage from Matthew 24:29 and states that because the cosmological signs are similar to those found in Revelation 6:12-14, Revelation cannot be chronological. Yet once again, the focus of my post is that the events of chapter 20 is sequential to chapter 19, and hence this example is entirely irrelevant to my thesis.

Finally, he comes to my key arguments.

First he interacts with my argument that says John’s use of “and I saw” (kai eidon) in 19:11, 17, 19; 20:1, 4, 11; 21:1 indicates a series of chronological visions.

At this point you seem to make a claim with no supporting evidence. Yep, the phrase indicates a series of visions, There is nothing about the phrase however which requires that these visions are showing chronological events. …. BOTH sides must already be committed to a particular view before they can make any claims about how this phrase is used.

I would argued that the supporting evidence is much stronger than he lets on with his complaint. I would refer readers to one of the original papers I used when writing my article, Premillennialism and An Exegesis of Revelation 20, in which the author lays out a tight, exegetical case for a sequential chronology of events from chapters 19 through 20.

Furthermore, most non-premillennial commentators disagree with my challenger’s assessment and affirm that John received the visions in chronological order. Where they may differ is that they would deny the progress of history revealed in those vision is in chronlogical order. That conclusion is of course driven by one’s theological and hermeneutical precommitments brought to the text as my detractor rightly notes. Thus, there really isn’t any serious difficulty with understanding the sequence of events between 19 and 20 as being in chronological, historical order unless you are insistent on disproving premillennialism.

He then moves to critiquing my final point that says how the purpose clause “any longer” in Revelation 20:3 indicates an interruption of something already taking place. In chapter 20, it would be the interruption of Satan deceiving the nations “any longer.”

This is a case of begging the question. It requires an interruption of something already taking place *only if one already presumes a chronological reading*!! How do you know it requires an interruption? Because 19 and 20 are chronological. How do you know they are chronological? Because otherwise it would require an interruption.

The clause “any longer” doesn’t stand on its own subjected to the whimsy of one’s theological presuppositions. There are other exegetical factors that draw us to the conclusion “any longer” means an interruption of something going before it. Regarding chapter 20, it is the the binding of Satan and all of the ramifications of what it means for him to be bound. I go into more detail about that binding in a separate article in my overall study on eschatology.

While I appreciate the sharpening effect of my commenter’s challenges, I find them a bit strained and the least bit persuasive. I still think the only way to make sense of the the events found between Revelation 19 and 20 is to see them as chronological in sequence.

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