“The only problem I see with the position you guys take saying the angels are symbolic, as you take Rev. as a whole, is that you pick and choose what sections, just like you did above with Rev. 12:7 saying that is literal. I am not being disrespectful, but that seems inconsistent with your hermeneutic.”
Perhaps you do not really understand our hermeneutic for you to say such a thing. In a nutshell it is, We take – by warrant of the text itself – most of the imagery of Revelation as symbolic, except where the text and the context indicate otherwise. You are the reverse: You take most of the imagery of Revelation as literal, except where it cannot be literal, and then you take it as symbolic. There is nothing inconsistent with our approach. Below (see *) I show what the contemporary “eclectic” or “modified idealist” approach is.
What kind of premil are you, Historic or Dispensational? And what is your view of the rapture with respect to the tribulation?
With regard to my hermeneutic, the “modified idealist / eclectic” is in the main idealist, that is, the primary interpretive approach sees the seal, trumpet, and vial (or bowl) vision cycles not as chronological sequences of progressing events, but as recapitulated visions of the gospel age from differing angles, or focuses. This means that Revelation would be as pertinent to the situation of the church in the first and second centuries – and the churches up through the entire gospel age – as it would to the church at the very end. There are repeated warnings, judgments, and fully outpoured wrath upon the wicked all through the age, although this will exponentially intensify at the very end.
When in Rev 13 the apostle writes of the mark of the beast, the premil school would take this as referring to the very end only, but the amil school sees it as applicable to John’s day as well as all through the age, as well as the very end. There may indeed be implanted microchips in some nations where RFID technology is abundant, but the mark of the beast existed in the time of John the apostle. See ** below for more on this.
I do see some historical markers within the symbols pertaining to the end of the age.
Perhaps I have a slight advantage over you, Paul, as I was premil (Dispensational) for some years as a younger Christian, and am familiar with both its views and its failings, but I don’t think you have a grasp of what the amil school believes. There was an older amil school of early in the last century and the 19th century – the “consistent idealist” view of Wm Milligan et al – where there were no historical referents to the symbols, but that is not what I hold.
* Here are two brief explanations of the “eclectic” or “modified idealist” school. The first is from Vern Poythress:
Combining the Insights of the Schools
All the schools except the historicist school have considerable merit. Can we somehow combine them? If we start with the idealist approach, it is relatively easy. The images in Revelation enjoy multiple fulfillments. They do so because they embody a general pattern. The arguments in favor of futurism show convincingly that Revelation is interested in the Second Coming and the immediately preceding final crisis (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1-12). But fulfillment in the final crisis does not eliminate earlier instances of the general pattern. We have both a general pattern and a particular embodiment of the pattern in the final crisis.
Likewise, the arguments in favor of preterism show convincingly that Revelation is interested in the seven churches and their historical situation. The symbols thus have a particular embodiment in the first century, and we ought to pay attention to this embodiment.
Finally we have a responsibility to apply the message of Revelation to our own situation, because we are somewhere in church history, somewhere in the interadvental period to which the book applies. Here is the grain of truth in the historicist approach.
We can sum up these insights in a single combined picture. The major symbols of Revelation represent a repeated pattern. This pattern has a realization in the first-century situation of the seven churches. It also has a realization in the final crisis. And it has its embodiment now. We pay special attention to the embodiment now, because we must apply the lessons of Revelation to where we are. (Vern Poythress, The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, p. 37)
The next is from G.K. Beale’s, New International Greek Testament Commentary: Revelation, pp 48, 49, the section of the Introduction, Major Interpretive Approaches:
The Idealist View
The idealist approach affirms that Revelation is a symbolic portrayal of the conflict between good and evil, between the forces of God and Satan. The most radical form of this view holds that the book is a timeless depiction of this struggle. The problem with this alternative is that it holds revelation does not depict any final consummation to history, whether in God’s final victory or in a last judgment of the realm of evil. The idealist notion encounters the opposite problem facing the preterist and historicist views, since it identifies none of the book’s symbols with particular historical events.
The View of This Commentary: Eclecticism, or a Redemptive-Historical Form of Modified Idealism
A more viable, modified version of the idealist perspective would acknowledge a final consummation in salvation and judgment. Perhaps it would be best to call this fifth view “eclecticism.” Accordingly, no specific prophesied historical events are discerned in the book, except for the final coming of Christ to deliver and judge and to establish the final form of the kingdom in a consummated new creation — even though there are a few exceptions to this rule (E.g., 2:10, 22 and 3:9-10, which are unconditional prophecies to be fulfilled imminently in the specific local churches of Smyrna, Thyatira, and Philadelphia). The Apocalypse symbolically portrays events throughout history, which is understood to be under the sovereignty of the Lamb as a result of his death and resurrection. He will guide the events depicted until they finally issue in the last judgment and the definitive establishment of his kingdom. This means that specific events throughout the age extending from Christ’s first coming to his second may be identified with one narrative or symbol. We may call this age inaugurated by Christ’s first coming and concluded by his final appearance “the church age,” “the interadvental age,” or “the latter days.” The majority of the symbols in the book are transtemporal in the sense that they are applicable to events throughout the “church age” (see the section below on “Interpretation of Symbolism”).
Therefore, the historicists may sometimes be right in their precise historical identification, but wrong in limiting the identification only to one historical reality. The same verdict may be passed on the preterist school of thought, especially the Roman version. And certainly there are prophecies of the future in Revelation. The crucial yet problematic task of the interpreter is to identify through careful exegesis and against the historical background those texts which pertain respectively to past, present, and future.
The present commentary fits most within the overall interpretive framework of such past commentaries as Caird, Johnson, Sweet, and above all Hendriksen and Wilcock.
** On Micro-chips
With regard to the implanting of a micro-chip under the skin of the hand or forehead, and this being the "mark of the beast" of Revelation 13: a good interpretive approach to understanding that book is that almost everything in it should be understandable to and applicable to the churches in the first century (and early second), for it was initially written to them (the seven letters of chapters 2 and 3, for example). The Lord gave the prophecy of Revelation to comfort the young churches, many of whom were under persecution of some sort by the Roman authorities or their proxies in the local governments of Asia Minor, or the local trade guilds. Back then slaves were often branded or tattooed on the forehead or hand as a sign of ownership, so it was understood back then that such a mark meant one was owned by someone. But it should also be considered symbolically, even for those who were not branded or marked somehow: a “mark on the forehead” would signify one's thoughts and mental allegiance were given to a certain person or entity; a “mark on the hand” would signify one's actions were in behalf of that person or entity. So a person who gave their allegiance – both in their minds and by their actions – to the "beast" of the Roman Empire (a persecuting antichristian government) would be considered in the sight of God to have the mark of the beast, and to be its follower, even if they had no outward mark. God, on the other hand, did not "mark" His people, but set a seal upon them of protection and ownership; this mark is also invisible – but God sees it! There is a big difference between the mark of the beast and the seal of God!
My point is, what is written in the book of Revelation would have to make sense to the churches John wrote to, and micro-chips would not have been understood in the 1st and 2nd centuries. The relevance of the book to the early church cannot be ignored. Now is it possible that – accepting what I have already written about the early church – a government could require the implanting of such chips in our day? It is possible, and the technology does exist. The RFID technology is being pushed by some. However, if one thinks that having a chip is the only way to have the mark of the beast, then one has been deceived into looking out for the wrong thing – for one may not have a chip and yet have the mark of the beast in their mental allegiance and their actions! There is a danger in thinking it is only the literal thing and not the often unseen realities of the heart and actions!
Every Christian, having read Revelation, will be wary of ever receiving an implantable chip. However, if one does receive one, and then believes it an offense to God, He will very likely be able to just have it cut out and removed. They are right who say that a chip does not cancel our salvation by Christ – nothing can separate us from Him, or snatch us out of His hand. Though His followers will be very careful about where our true allegiance lies, and what signs we may give that confirms or denies it. Back in the Roman days, the authorities would make one burn incense to Caesar and call him Lord – and this was understood by the church as in one's heart having the mark of the beast. Some professing Christians – from fear of death or torture – would deny Christ and sacrifice to Caesar, but later repent. The churches had different views of this: some would forgive and receive such again, and some would not. We need to be on guard so as not to betray our Lord in a moment of weakness. While there is repentance, some Christians will be doubtful as to its sincerity. Especially if those who did not deny Christ paid with their lives. Some who did deny, and later repented, went back to the authorities and said they were Christians after all – and paid the price (but were glad they did).
There may be some things in Revelation that were not at all clear to the early churches, such as things pertaining to the end of the last days – which may be the times were in now (not stating that dogmatically, though). There was a manifestation of Babylon then (Rome, and also the God-opposing cultures), and there is a present-day manifestation. As the time draws nearer to the end, we may have insights into the symbols of Revelation that they did not have then.
Perg, I don’t think this statement of yours is accurate: “the majority of the early church seemed to be chiliasts”. That is a great overstatement! I’ll quote Cornelis Venema’s summary of this:
In the early history of the church, a number of the church Fathers advocated a form of premillennial teaching. Among the second-century apologists or defenders of the faith, Justin Martyr taught that the return of Christ would inaugurate a one-thousand-year period of peace and righteousness upon the earth, with the Old Testament prophecies regarding Israel’s restoration and future blessing literally fulfilled. This view was shared by many other influential teachers, among them Ireneaus, Hippolytus, and Lactanius. Support for this understanding was often derived from the Epistle of Barnabas and the teaching that the time of creation, subsequent to the creation week, spanned a period of six days, each one thousand years duration.1 In this understanding, the millennium would occur six thousand years after creation and represents the seventh day, or the last period in history of one thousand years.
Due to a variety of factors, most prominently the influence of Augustine’s view of the millennium, this early form of Premillennialism largely disappeared during the Middle Ages.
1 The Epistle of Barnabas is one of the earliest Christian writings (possibly early second century) that we have, and it exercised a considerable influence among many of the early church Fathers. Though this letter clearly teaches the idea of history comprising ‘days’ of one thousand years duration, it is not so clear that it actually teaches Premillennialism, as many assume. Two useful surveys of the early history of Premillennialism are: D.H. Kromminga, The Millennium in the Church; and Charles Hill, Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Future Hope in Early Christianity (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992). The study of Hill is especially interesting, as he convincingly challenges a common claim that the preponderance of early church teachers espoused a premillennialist view. (The Promise of the Future, pp 195-196)
I think that this has to be hashed out by Scriptural proof, i.e., exegesis of the texts, rather than claims to historical precedents.