Friday, September 7, 2012

Prophetic Perfect; the Four Horsemen

I have two items for my write-up today on G.K. Beale's The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text.

1.  On page 363, Beale states the following:

"...it is apparent that [Revelation] 5:10a speaks of the saints already reigning in a present kingdom.  Although some might want to view...'he made them to our God a kingdom and priests'...from a prophetic perfect perspective, the analogy with 1:5-6 and its continuation of the inaugurated context of 5:9 make this improbable (see further on 1:6, 9)."

I'll take the liberty of posting these references in the King James Version:

Revelation 5:9-10: "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;  And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth."

Revelation 1:5-6: "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

Revelation 1:9: "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ."

Beale's perspective is that the Book of Revelation is about the church age, which is between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ, not just the future.  Consequently, Beale believes that the Book of Revelation has a lot of realized eschatology, which means that it maintains that elements of the end-times were already in the process of being fulfilled in John's day and actually began their fulfillment with the redemption that Jesus Christ effected at his first coming.

But I've wondered: When the Book of Revelation refers to certain things as having occurred, could it be using the prophetic perfect----it describes what will take place in the future as a past event?  Beale does not believe that holds for Revelation 5:10a, which says that God has made us kings and priests.  His reason appears to be that Revelation 5:10a continues 5:9, and the effect of both verses is that Christ inaugurated the believers' rulership and priesthood through his death and the redemption that came out of that.  For Beale, Revelation 1:5-6 has the same message, and Revelation 1:9 affirms that the kingdom is (in some sense) present in John's day.

I'm still not entirely clear as to how Beale thinks that the believers were kings and priests in John's day.  Perhaps Beale believes that they were priests in the sense that they worshiped God and witnessed to others, for witness (according to Beale) is a salient theme in Revelation.  Regarding kingship, Beale does say more than once that Revelation envisions the saints conquering through their faithfulness amidst suffering.
Could Revelation 5:9-10 mean that God has already made believers kings and priests, even though they are not officially ruling in those offices yet?  V 10, after all, says that we "shall" reign.

2.  Revelation 6 has the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  Beale's position is that the four horsemen were evil angelic forces that God inflicted on the earth during the church age----to punish the idolatrous and to purify believers.  I don't know how to reconcile that with another point that Beale makes: that the judgments by the horsemen are somehow an answer to the Christian martyrs' cry in 6:10 for God to avenge their blood (page 393).  That, to me, would imply that the judgments from the four horsemen are specific and special and are not not all of the wars, famines, etc, that have existed throughout the church age. (UPDATE: On page 463, however, Beale states: "whereas the first five seals were not formally a response to the saints' plea of 6:10, the first six trumpets are part of such a response.  This suggests that God is beginning to answer the saints' prayer for retribution even as they are praying and before the climactic and fundamental answer of the Judgment Day."  Beale's argument seems to be that God will fully answer the saints' cry after the number of martyrs has reached completion, but that God is partially answering it before then----through the seals and also the trumpets.)

The first horseman has long been a subject of controversy.  I remember a history professor who could identify what the other three horsemen represented (war, famine, and death), but she was not sure what the first one represented.  Within Armstrongism, I was taught that it represented false Christianity----that the first horseman was a counterfeit Christ.  Similarly, if I recall correctly, Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins said in the Left Behind series that the first horseman was the Antichrist.  I learned of other interpretations: that the first horseman was Jesus Christ or John the Baptist, or was a good figure who was setting the stage for God's judgments.

Beale says that the first horseman represents conquest, but he later argues that "the first rider represents a satanic force attempting to defeat and oppress believers spiritually through deception, persecution, or both" (page 377).  Beale offers a variety of arguments for this: that "Satan and his minions" imitate Christ's appearance in Revelation, as does the first rider when he wears a crown and is associated with white; that seeing the first horseman as religious deception coincides with Mark 13, which starts with religious deception in discussing the woes that will precede Christ's second coming; that the other horsemen are evil, and so the first one must be, too; etc.  Moreover, Beale on page 378 refers to the view that the first horseman related to Apollo, who had a bow and a crown, and was "a god closely associated with the inspiration of pagan prophecy and was well known in Asia Minor, especially Smyrna and Thyatira."

I guess my question would be why God would judge the inhabitants of the earth by sending religious forces that are hostile towards believers.  Perhaps the answer to my question is that religious deception is a judgment on unbelievers----for Revelation 13 says that the whole world will follow the Beast, and II Thessalonians 2:11 presents God sending a delusion on those who choose not to believe the truth and be saved. 

Something else that Beale says a few times is that God in Revelation protects believers spiritually, in the sense that God safeguards their faith.  Beale says that those who leave the faith did not have faith to begin with.  Conversely, Beale appears to argue on page 426, those with the mark of Satan on their head are insulated from believing in Christ.  I wonder how Beale would reconcile this with his speculation on page 191 that Revelation 21:24 could be saying that some of the kings Christ defeated will be converted and will come into the heavenly city.  How could this be, if there are only two groups of people----those with God's mark and those with the mark of the Beast----and the latter are insulated from belief?  (UPDATE: On page 496, Beale says that unbelievers who become believers have been "'sealed' beforehand by God's decretive will.")

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