Thoughts on “Puritan Eschatology”

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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor

Thoughts on “Puritan Eschatology”, from Joel Beeke’s, A Puritan Theology

I’m going to be commenting on eschatology in this thread, but I want to start with a brief consideration of a couple of portions of Beeke’s book. First, from chapter 48, “ ‘The City on a Hill’: The American Puritans’ Optimistic View of the End Times”, in the section titled, A Historicist Hermeneutic:

In the midst of great political and ecclesiastical upheavals, they saw themselves living in the last days, as Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) contends: “We are fallen into the latter end of the world.” Geoffrey Nuttall rightly concludes, “Many Puritans believed themselves to be living in a remarkable age, a new age, perhaps the last age.”

The Puritans therefore, interpreted these signs of the times and the unfulfilled prophecies of the Old and New Testaments (particularly Daniel and Revelation) within their own historical context. For them, Scripture was referring to the times in which they lived. While the Puritans were largely cessationists, believing that special revelation ceased after the New Testament, they did not preclude the idea of mediate prophecy and at times would make predictions about future events as fulfillments of scriptural prophecy. Mediate prophecy is not the revelation of new truth from God but the Spirit-enabled interpretation of biblical prophecies and application of those prophecies to unfolding history. Garnet Milne suggests, “It is a belief in mediate prophecy, in which Scripture plays the central role, which explains why the cessation of immediate prophecy was not seen to nullify the availability of insight into the future for those who lived by the written Word of God.” The Puritans maintained that Scripture was given to the church for learning and instruction (Rom. 15:4). Thus, in discerning Scripture, we can discern the providence of God, for “God’s our line, able to reach unto all particular affairs of the churches.” Thomas Manton (1620-1677) summarizes this saying, “Yet now in the times of the gospel, he does not altogether fail his people; for though they can have no certain knowledge of future contingencies, yet he begets some strong instinct in the mind of his children, puts it into their hearts to avoid this and avoid that: we have no infallibility of the event, yet we may discern much of the providence of God.”

For Puritans, the cessation of special revelation does not imply that God left His church without a seasoned word for the present hour. Rather, by working through the Word, believers find all they need to make fallible predictions about their own times. (pp 774, 775)​

Beeke and Jones go into the history of those times, as when Mary I (1516-1558) became queen and manifested her intense hatred of Protestants, many of whom fled to the Continent to escape her reign of terror. “For many,” Beeke writes, “this exile mirrored Daniel’s exile in Babylon, and John’s on the Isle of Patmos.” (p 776)

When Mary I died in 1558 and Protestantism was restored, they began to see the political events of the times in an apocalyptic light. Some saw the advent of a glorious millennium approaching, especially with the migration to the New World, America.

Later in the book, in chapter 50, “How History Informs the Historicist: Thomas Goodwin’s Reading of Revelation”, Beeke writes,

For Goodwin, history corresponded perfectly with his exegesis of Revelation. Indeed, one might argue that history practically informed his exegesis of Revelation to the point that, upon adopting the historicist interpretation of Revelation, exegesis became subservient to history. (p 809)​

He concludes the chapter, after reviewing the failure of Goodwin’s interpretation, with these wise words,

The lesson is not that men should refrain from trying to make sense of Revelation, but only that all interpreters need a healthy measure of self-awareness and should take care not to read prophecy strictly in terms of their own knowledge of history and current events or in terms of their own personal hopes and dreams. The danger of imposing our own meanings on the sacred text is all too real. (p 818)​

[end Beeke]

* Please be aware that I have not cited Beeke’s footnotes; see the book to access those.


On a different tack now, John Calvin saw the LORD giving prophecy so that His church might be strengthened through being forewarned of upcoming judgments. Speaking on Daniel 8:9-11 he goes on at more length concerning the LORD’s care for His people in severe troubles by letting them know they were coming. I believe this particular sort of warning is still part of prophecy's purpose. Here is an excerpt from his commentary:

9. And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.

Now God shews his Prophet what peculiarly concerned the welfare of his Church. For it was of very great importance to warn the Jews of the calamities which were about to oppress them. There is nothing which more torments the minds of men than their becoming bewildered in false imaginations, and thinking the world the sport of chance, while they never ponder over the providence of God nor reflect upon his judgments. Hence, with this design, God wished to teach the Prophet and all the pious the nature of their future afflictions, since they would thus understand how events never happened by chance, but all these scourges proceeded from God; for the same God both determines and executes his decrees, as he also predicts future events. For if nothing had been predicted, the pious would have glided gently downwards to despair in consequence of their heavy afflictions. . . . Antiochus, indeed, who is here alluded to, advanced with cruel tyranny against the people of God. If this had not been predicted, they would have thought themselves deceived by the splendid promises concerning their return. But when they perceived everything occurring according as they had been opportunely forewarned, this became no slight solace in the midst of their woes; they could then determine at once how completely it was in the power of God to relieve them from so many and such oppressive evils. With what intention, then, had God predicted all these things to his Prophet Daniel? clearly that the Jews might look forward to a happy result, and not give way to despair under events so full of anxiety and confusion. This, then, was the utility of the prophecy, with reference to that particular period.​

[end Calvin]

Reading Beeke’s earlier analysis is quite edifying, giving me a perspective I had not realized on the development of eschatological views in the church. It makes the historicist view sort of quaint from our 21[SUP]st[/SUP] century vantage, yet we’d best take heed ourselves lest we seem “quaint” to future generations if our own assessment of the times vis-à-vis Scripture is off.

I was also surprised to learn that Joseph Mede (1586-1638) espoused a form of premillennialism which was very influential among some of the Puritans.

I can now appreciate how William Milligan’s idealist approach (“consistent idealism” it is called by Matthew Winzer, though I prefer “full” or “pure” idealism) served as a tonic and mighty corrector to the earlier historicism of Reformation and post-Reformation times.

And yet “pure idealism” is also unsatisfactory as it’s rationale is – as regards the Book of Revelation – “To keep the beauty, poetry, and drama of its timeless truths, one must not degrade them – make them earthbound – with reference to temporal events.” Keep it sanitized from the corruptions of historical times. It has been said of this form of Idealist Amillennialism, “Any reference to real space and time events in the continuum of history must apply to ALL history” – but no particular history. Thus many discard the amil view based on their associating it with Milligan.

To be preferred is the “modified idealist” or “eclectic” approach argued by G.K. Beale and many other contemporary amils (an edifying discussion of these competing “idealisms” here, and a continuation of that, here). It has been alleged by some that even this view which allows a bare minimum of historical referents as still a form of historicism, a rather egregious exaggeration and error. To compare, here are two brief definitions of Historicism:

Historicism is a method of interpretation in Christian eschatology which associates biblical prophecies with actual historical events and identifies symbolic beings with historical persons or societies. The Historicist school of prophetic interpretation results in a progressive and continuous fulfillment of prophecy and contained the viewpoint of almost all Protestant Reformers from the Reformation into the 19th century. . . .

Historicists claim that prophetic interpretation reveals the entire course of history of the church from the close of the 1st century to the end of time. Historicist interpretations have been criticized for inconsistencies, conjectures, and speculations. There is no agreement about various outlines of church history. Historicist readings of the Book of Revelation have been revised as new events occur and new figures emerge on the world scene. (source: wiki article)


It is a misunderstanding found both in the ‘historicist’ tradition of interpretation, which reads Revelation as a symbolic account of the whole history of the church from the time of the writings to the parousia . . . and in the ‘futurist’ tradition of interpretation, which reads Revelation as a symbolic account of the last few years of history prior to the parousia . . . (Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, p 150, fn 6)​

At any rate, these “Eschatology Wars” are, on the one hand, detrimental to the church, as the continuing fog of contending claims confuses many, yet on the other, it does force folks to clarify and distill their views – which is to the benefit of those who studiously ponder these things and the true sense of Scripture.

For example, the old cavil that the pope and the Roman Catholic organization must respectively be the antichrist, beast and/or Babylon because the old Confession says so, while the Scripture is not at all clear this is the case, should be at least be held in suspended judgment while other views are considered.

So here we are in Century the 21[SUP]st[/SUP], and we see an emerging police state developing its tools, powers, and armaments, but of even greater seriousness, aggravating the heart of Providence itself is the escalating sheer wickedness of the Western world, and its financial, cultural, and military headquarters nation, the U.S.

We are able to observe the tightening of the screws against the Christians, especially in the U.K. and increasingly in America. When the first drops of blood hit the ground, Christian blood, and that spilled by the American government – either directly or by tacit permission – Babylon will be seen to acquire the taste for it, and loving this new intoxicant, proceed to become drunk on it, fulfilling Scripture.

But wait a minute, someone might say, such wickedness and blood-letting has happened many times, and previous generations have thought the same as is opined here. True. Yet there is one significant difference in these times.

Never before the 20[SUP]th[/SUP] and 21[SUP]st[/SUP] centuries has the widespread – as in global – emergence of the pharmakeia / psychedelic drug phenomena appeared on the human scene. I argue the point here: The Fate of Babylon, in the section “The Significance of ‘Pharmakeia’ References in Identifying 21[SUP]st[/SUP] Century Babylon in Revelation” (download or read from my Dropbox folder – if anyone wants their own 2 GB+ free version of Dropbox that can be synced with computer and smartphone or tablets, for storing and/or sharing stuff easily, see here: ). These drugs are in the NT (and OT LXX) termed sorcery. Marijuana is one of these drugs.

Two astute Reformed writers on the fulfillment of prophecy, Oswald T. Allis and Geerhardus Vos, comment thusly,

[The prophecy of Antichrist] “belongs among the many prophecies, whose best and final exegete will be the eschatological fulfillment, and in regard to which it behooves the saints to exercise a peculiar kind of eschatological patience.” (Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, p. 133)​

Although widespread sorcery is not “Antichrist” per se, the principle Vos states – the “best and final exegete will be the eschatological fulfillment” – applies here as well. O.T. Allis in his book, Prophecy and the Church, wrote similarly to Vos when he said,

The usual view on this subject [“the intelligibility of prophecy”] has been that prophecy is not intended to be fully understood before its fulfilment, that it is only when God “establishes the word of his servants and fulfills the counsel of his messengers,” that the meaning and import of their words become fully manifest. (p 25)​

We now in the year 2014 find ourselves in the unusual position of being able to observe – in hindsight – “the eschatological fulfillment” of a portion of the Babylon prophecy, that being the section ending Rev 18:23, “for by thy sorceries (pharmakeia) were all nations deceived”, and for which she would later be judged.

I see the influential NYTimes has just finished publishing a powerful series urging the nation-wide legalization of marijuana (which has immensely increased potency these days), so this is eventually going to be a done thing (to address this afresh in the precincts of the Church of God, I aim to write an essay, “The Scourge of Marijuana in the Church: A Swift Witness Against the Sorcerers” (Cf Malachi 3:5).

The conversation in America will become newly charged with a psychic energizing that shall not be friendly to those whose consciousness is illumined and empowered by the Spirit of Christ. Actually, it has for the most part already happened, but it will increase.

This development, flagged in Scripture, is a kindness shown us by our Lord that we may have a basic understanding of where we are and what is forthcoming. Were it not for this sorcery phenomena, we could not be sure these times are not but another historical cycle of wickedness and eventual return to righteousness.

One might wonder also at Revelation 9:21 where, despite lethal judgments in the world, men repented not “of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts”. If you go to the trouble to look at the paper, The Fate of Babylon, you may understand better where I’m coming from. Evidently, there is widespread sorcerous drug activity in the times referred to by Rev 9:21, and despite the church bearing strong Biblical witness against this (and the other sins), men heed not the word of God.


To sum what I have so far written, I think the “modified idealism” of contemporary Amillennialism is the maturest reflection on both the Scriptural data we have, as well as an appropriate application of what is clear in Revelation to the lives we are living in the 21[SUP]st[/SUP] century in our respective nations. This current amil view is not “confession-driven” – meaning driven by past historical circumstances and theological interpretations of same – but Scripture-driven.

From this basic eschatological foundation we may seek to discern where we are in the general scheme of Biblical eschatology, and what our attitudes to our respective cultures ought to be in light of God’s word.


Speaking of maturer reflections on eschatology, I want to enter for consideration some of Richard Bauckham’s thoughts from his book, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, on the significance of martyrdom in bearing witness, and on what he calls “eschatological excess” in prophecy. I quote from his book,

Thus what John foresees of history before the End itself is that there will be the great conflict, the life-and-death struggle between the beast and the church, in which God's secret strategy for the followers of the Lamb to participate in the coming of God's kingdom is to take effect. Of course, even this is less a prediction than a call to the church to provoke and to win the conflict by persevering in faithful witness. But certainly no sequence of events within this final period of history is predicted. The kaleidoscope of images with which John depicts it are concerned with its nature and meaning. They explore the character of the beast's power and deceit, the ineffectiveness of mere judgments to bring about repentance, the power of suffering witness to convince of truth, the relationship of the church's witness to that of Jesus, and so on. Above all, they give the church the heavenly perspective on the meaning of the conflict and the nature of victory in it that the church will need in order to persevere in its costly witness throughout.

To anyone who accepts the perceptive element in John's prophecy it is obvious in what a remarkable sense the predictive element proved true in the two centuries after it was written. By the end of the period of the persecutions, on the eve of the Constantinian revolution which dramatically changed the church's relation to the Empire, Christians, though still a minority, had become a sizeable minority to be reckoned with. Persecution for much of the period was local and sporadic, but in the third century the growth of Christianity provoked the series of great persecutions which were determined attempts to stamp it out. Christianity was not perceived as just another degenerate eastern cult, but as in conflict with the whole pagan view of the world and in particular with the absolutist claims of the Roman imperial ideology. Throughout the period martyrdom played a major role in the success of the Christian Gospel. Of course, the historical evidence is not available to weigh it against other factors. But it is clear that not only was martyrdom frequently the way in which the claims of the Christian God were brought to inescapable public attention, but also that the fact of the martyrs' willingness to die and the way in which they died were seen to cohere with the nature of the religious message they believed. Moreover, John's own prophecy played a role, as it was intended to do, in providing the church with the vision that made martyrdom possible and meaningful.

The nature of Christianity's eventual historical victory over the pagan Empire is, of course, far more ambivalent. In the Christian empire and its successors the beast constantly reappeared in ever new Christian disguises. The reader of Revelation need not be surprised, since the beast and Babylon have their counterparts and agents already within the seven churches of Asia. But clearly the conversion of the Empire was not the coming of the eschatological kingdom. History, with all its ambivalence as the scene of struggle between truth and deceit, in which God's kingdom is present only in hiddenness and contradiction and the devil's power to deceive the nations with the idolatries of power and prosperity is by no means abolished, continued and continues. Moreover, the history we have sketched is a small, though significant, part of world history. Even for John, who must have known of many nations, not only the Parthians, far beyond the boundaries of the Empire, the statements that the beast rules all the nations of the world (13:7-8) and that all nations have drunk Babylon's wine (14:8; 18:3, cf. 23-34; cf. 17:18) must have been deliberately hyperbolic, but for us they seem very much more so. The church's struggle with the Roman Empire not only was not, but could not have been the last stage, short of the parousia, in the achievement of God's universal kingdom on earth.

Thus John's prophecy was remarkably fulfilled, but not by the coming of the kingdom. It retains, as it were, an unfulfilled, eschatological excess. Here it is important to revert to the nature of biblical prophecy in general. Biblical prophecy always both addressed the prophet's contemporaries about their own present and the future immediately impending for them and raised hopes which proved able to transcend their immediate relevance to the prophet's contemporaries and to continue to direct later readers to God's purpose for their future. Historicizing modern scholarship has sometimes stressed the former to the total exclusion of the latter, forgetting that most biblical prophecy was only preserved in the canon of Scripture because its relevance was not exhausted by its reference to its original context. Conversely, fundamentalist interpretation, which finds in biblical prophecy coded predictions of specific events many centuries later than the prophet, misunderstands prophecy's continuing relevance by neglecting to ask what it meant to its first hearers. It is important, as we have done in this book, to understand how John's prophecy addressed his contemporaries, since they are the only readers it explicitly addresses. This does not prevent us from appreciating but helps us to understand how it may also transcend its original context and speak to us.

Two features of the way biblical prophecy proved to have continuing relevance to later readers are relevant. In the first place, in the biblical tradition God's purposes in history were understood to be consistent, and therefore his great acts of salvation and judgment in the past could be understood as models for what he would do in the future. This is why, for example, the imagery of the exodus came to play so important a part, not least in Revelation, in depicting the eschatological events of salvation and judgment. But it also meant that prophecies which had been fulfilled could be reinterpreted and reapplied to new situations. When John echoed the Old Testament prophecies of the doom of Babylon and the doom of Tyre, using them to compose his own prophecy of the fall of Babylon, he was not ignorant of their original reference to the great pagan powers contemporary with the prophets who pronounced those oracles. But he saw Rome as the successor to Tyre in its economic empire and the successor to Babylon in its political oppression. Since the evil of these cities was echoed and surpassed by Rome, how much more must God's judgment on them fall also on Rome. The city which the prophetic cap fits must wear it. Such a principle allows prophetic oracles to transcend their original reference, without supposing that somehow when Jeremiah referred to Babylon he really meant Rome. The same principle validates the way in which Revelation has inspired prophetic critiques of later systems of political and economic oppression throughout the church's history and still does so today.

Secondly, prophetic promise frequently exceeded fulfilment. For example, the restoration of Israel after the Babylonian exile did not match up to the terms in which the great prophets of the exile foresaw it. In one sense their prophecies were vindicated, but in another sense they continued to inspire hopes for a much greater salvation event in which God would be vindicated universally as the God both of his people and of the nations of the world. In this excess of promise over fulfilment lay the roots of much apocalyptic eschatology. John's own vision of the New Jerusalem has developed from the visions of the prophets of the exile which the actual rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple after the exile fell far short of realizing. There is a sense in which much of the biblical prophetic tradition has an eschatological tendency. That is, the contemporary situation is brought into direct relationship with a final resolution of history in the coming of God's kingdom. Isaiah already envisages the paradisal rule of universal peace and justice by the messianic shoot from the stump of Jesse as the critique and imminent replacement of the militaristic oppression of the Assyrian empire, just as John expects the victory of the martyrs and God's judgment of the Roman system of power to mean the arrival of the universal kingdom of God at the parousia of Jesus Christ. In the later prophets and the apocalyptic tradition this eschatological tendency only becomes more explicit and defined. It seems to be intrinsic to the biblical prophetic tradition of perceiving God's will for the immediate situation in terms of his ultimate purposes of righteousness and grace for his whole creation. That it was a non-problematic feature of the tradition is shown by the way such prophecy was not rejected as false but taken up into the tradition of Jewish and Christian hope. Fulfilments of prophecy were real and recognized, but fell short of the eschatological excess of expectation which the prophecies raised and which could be satisfied only by God's final victory over all evil. The delay of this final victory was problematic for the same reason that the problem of evil itself is necessarily problematic for all theistic believers. But the prophecies themselves were evidently not problematic. Their provisional fulfilments, within the ambiguities of history, sustained hope for the coming of the eschatological kingdom itself.

There is a sense in which Revelation, as the culmination of the biblical prophetic tradition, is peculiarly able to transcend its original context of relevance. It gathers up and re-envisions many of the strands of biblical prophecy which had most clearly surpassed their own original contexts and inspired the continuing hopes of God's people. Moreover, in doing so it combines a contextual specificity of relevance to its first readers with a kind of eschatological hyperbole that intrinsically transcends their context. As we have already observed, it constantly uses emphatically universal language both about the power and dominion and worship of the beast and about the mission and witness of the church. The church is drawn from every nation (5:9) and constitutes an innumerable multitude (7:9). Its witness, symbolized by the angel's proclamation of the eternal gospel, goes out to all nations (14:6). The expected period of trial under the rule of the beast is coming on the whole world (3:10). The beast has authority over every nation and is worshipped by all the inhabitants of the earth (13:7-8). The second beast enforces his worship by a system of totalitarian control of economic life (13:12-17) which, though it fulfils the logic of the beast's kind of power, far exceeds not merely the realities, but the possibilities of the first century: The dragon, the beast and the false prophet assemble the kings of the whole world for the final battle at Armageddon (16:14). Babylon deceives all the nations (14:8; 18:3, 23) and is guilty of the blood of all who have been slaughtered on earth (18:24). Even allowing for the limitations of the geographical horizon of first-century people, all this must be deliberately hyperbolic. It depicts the impending conflict between the church and the beast in terms which are eschatologically universal rather than historically realistic. It superimposes the vision of the coming of God's universal kingdom on the immediate future which John and his readers confront.

This does not mean that John predicts, in some distant future, centuries later than the Roman Empire, a truly universal, totalitarian, anti-Christian state. The hyperbole is of the same kind as another we have noticed in chapter 4 above: the way John writes as though all Christians are to suffer martyrdom. The hyperbole makes clear what is at stake in the conflict between the church and the Empire. That conflict truly concerns the coming of God's universal kingdom. But the hyperbole also shows that what is at stake in the conflict of that time is what is alway at stake in the church history. The beast as the Roman Empire never held truly universal power, but what the beast represents, in a thousand other historical forms, contests the control of God's world until the coming of his eschatological kingdom. Therefore also the street of the great city, in which the witnesses to God's truth lie dead at the hands of the beast, need be neither in Jerusalem nor in Rome nor even in the cities of Asia. It may also be wherever the unprecedented numbers of Christian martyrs in our own century have died. The eschatological hyperbole gives these symbols intrinsic power to reach as far as the parousia. Furthermore, it is not only the hyperbole that gives the images this power. Because John's images are images designed to penetrate the essential character of the forces at work in his contemporary world and the ultimate issues at stake in it to a remarkable extent they leave aside the merely incidental historical features of his world. There are enough of them to make the reference unmistakable: Babylon is built on seven hills (17:9) and trades in a very accurate list of the imports to first-century Rome from all over the known world (18: I 1-13). But they are sufficiently few to make the reapplication of the images to comparable situations easy. Any society whom Babylon's cap fits must wear it. Any society which absolutizes its own economic prosperity at the expense of others comes under Babylon s condemnation.

Thus Revelation, in its predictive element, found fulfilment in its own immediate future and also finds a continuing relevance that transcends its original context and may still inspire and inform hope for the coming of God's kingdom. In this combination of fulfilment and eschatological excess John's prophecy proves true to the tradition of biblical prophecy, and for those who find that tradition’s vision of the world convincing it proves true. (pp 150-156)​

[end Bauckham]


While I do not agree with everything Bauckham posits, I find his thoughts edifying. It is this sort of reflection on eschatology – and Revelation in particular – that may contribute to our having greater understanding both of God’s final prophetic statement and our own times within it.


Puritan Board Junior
Interesting. So you do not take issue with folks seeing current events as possible fulfilments of the prophecies leading up to the final day? Daniel's book was "sealed up" until the end times. In Revelation the Lamb opens the seals, which ushers in the last disastrous events. Might the seals opened be those of the prophet Daniel? I'm not aware of anything else in the OT being sealed.

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Hi Mary,

I don’t believe the sealing of Daniel’s book is the same as the seals of the book Jesus receives in Rev 5:7 and opens in Rev 6 and 8; Stuart Olyott in his book, Dare to Stand Alone: Daniel Simply Explained, writes this,

‘Seal all this up, Daniel,’ says our Lord in verse 4 [of chap 12]. ‘These are the things I have unveiled to you in the vision. Now seal it up.’

This does not mean that the things revealed to Daniel were to remain a secret. The old Persian custom was that once a book had been copied and publicly circulated, one copy was sealed and placed in the library. This was so future generations could read it. It is important to note that this was done only once the book had begun to enjoy a wide readership. (p 163)​

E.J. Young in his commentary on Daniel (12:4) concurs with this (cf p 257).

The seals Jesus opens signify His sovereignty over the unfolding events and dynamics He governs for the NT church age. He is the one who controls all things that happen in in this age. Revelation reveals many of these things in symbolic images. They are mostly dynamics of the church bearing witness, being persecuted, and warning judgments and then severe judgments meted upon the persecutors. The great care of the risen and almighty Christ for His people is often depicted in the vision scenes John shows. Of course there is much more to Revelation.

I may well “take issue with folks seeing current events as possible fulfilments of the prophecies leading up to the final day”, at least as depicted by the historicist and futurist schools.

I see one event – or dynamic, if you prefer – flagged in Scripture and tied to an historic event, and that is the emergence of the sorcerous drug culture in the latter half of the 20[SUP]th[/SUP] century, which profoundly affected the spiritual and mental realms throughout the world. In these realms it was as a nuclear detonation loosed, and its ravaging effects continue to this day.

For those – especially my amil colleagues – who differ, how would you exposit the reference to Babylon’s sorceries deceiving the whole world in Rev 18:23?

I like what Olyott writes in his little Daniel commentary:

We must realize that some of the Bible’s teachings relating to the very last days will not be understood until we are in those days. That is why it is both unwise and dangerous to draw up detailed timetables of future events. Some parts of the Word of God will not become obvious in their meaning until the days of which they speak have dawned. (Op. Cit. p 166)​

I believe Revelation’s sorcery flag IDs Babylonian headquarters and give a general indication that we are far along the path to the denouement of things pertaining to this age, though how far I would not venture to say, save to say, quite far.

Again, I say to those who doubt this take, is the sorcery connection written of four times in Revelation just empty words, or but vague references to deception? I think I have demonstrated in the aforementioned paper (TFOB) that it is not deception but something much more specific, though deception may indeed result from that which is specified.

All of Scripture is written with great economy; the language is spare; and there is no fluff, no mere fill, but all in it is of potent significance. The Greek pharmakeia used in Revelation has very clear lexical meaning in the New Testament. Are we as reluctant to think out-of-the-box of traditional thought as we are to see that the comfort and peace of our lives in the West are rapidly evaporating and soon our Christian professions will be quite costly?


Puritan Board Junior
Thank you, brother Steve.

I do not know exactly where I stand in the historicist, idealist, futurist, preterist distinctions (although I think as of now I lean more historicist). I find what you have to say about sorcery particularly apt. I began looking into Babylon some time ago so I look forward to reading your piece.



Puritan Board Doctor
Interesting. So you do not take issue with folks seeing current events as possible fulfilments of the prophecies leading up to the final day? Daniel's book was "sealed up" until the end times. In Revelation the Lamb opens the seals, which ushers in the last disastrous events. Might the seals opened be those of the prophet Daniel? I'm not aware of anything else in the OT being sealed.

Christ as the Great Mediator of the Covenant isn't unsealing Daniel's prophecy but by His unsealing the book of New Testament redemptive history we are reminded that He has all power in Heaven and in Earth. As He unseals it we see various previews of its contents.

Daniel's prophecy was to be sealed because the events were not to immediately unfold, whereas John's prophecy - which included the symbol of the scroll of history being unsealed by the Lamb of God - was not to be sealed because it was about to begin to be fulfilled in the unfolding of NT events. See e.g. Revelation 22:10. :2cents:

I would think with Fairbairn that Babylon represents the apostate Church in all ages, quintessentially Rome, but not Rome only. Christians are being warned about compromise with the world and unfaithfulness to Christ by the symbol of Babylon, so Steve's theme of the apostate West being Babylon and the Church being warned by that can be can be accomodated in Fairbairn's view. Christians must be careful not to compromise so that the Church becomes more like Babylon and less like the Woman, who will ultimately be presented as the Bride of the Lamb, the New Jerusalem. The more the Visible Church becomes like Babylon, the more ungodly wider society becomes. :2cents:

I think the idealists are onto something, in that the preterists, historicists and futurists can become very specific about e.g. this vial or that vial, and not want to generalise the teaching for Christians of all ages. But I think that there is a general pattern of progress of God's unfolding plan in "the things that shall be hereafter" from chapter 6 onwards.

Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter (1:19)

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.(4:1)
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