Apocalyptic Eschatology And Pentecostalism The Relevance Of Johns Millennium For Today

Apocalyptic Eschatology And Pentecostalism The Relevance Of Johns Millennium For Today

Click to join the conversation with over 500,000 Pentecostal believers and scholars

Click to get our FREE MOBILE APP and stay connected

| PentecostalTheology.com

Apocalyptic Eschatology The Relevance of John’s

Huibert

Zegwaart*

I. Pentecostal Pentecostals

Premillenarianism

they hope costals look

Heavenly

Jerusalem,

are of Parousia

people

will

repent, acknowledging

3

and Pentecostalism: Millennium for

Today

Attacked.1

excited Christians.

kingdom.

Furthermore,

Pente-

scorned

them,

for them in the

denominations

to the

Israel

°

are well known to be eschatologically

They sing

of their future

reign

with Christ and about the thrones which

to

occupy

in His millennial

forward to the time in which

they

will be vindicated before the whole world that refused to believe their

message,

and at times showed itself

quite

hostile to them. But more than all that they expect

to live forever in the mansions

prepared

close to the heart of Him in whom

they believe, seeing

the face of the

Almighty.

Not

surprisingly

we find that most of the Pentecostal

a

pre-millenarian stamp.2 They

hold that

subsequent

an ideal

kingdom

will be ushered in

by

Jesus the Messiah in which

paradisiacal

conditions will

prevail.

The

saints, usually the small

in the

present age,

will attain to

power;

and

unbelieving

that Jesus Christ was its true Messiah after all. In the often terse

descriptions

of the

Millennium,

that the

Kingdom

of Peace is considered a this- worldly

established not

only

in the New

Creation, but also on the Old Earth that

of human

(sinful) history.

that the belief in the Millennium is

not .

nor that it is

original

to that movement.4 On

dominant and it is clear

concretization

of salvation.3

has been the

scenery

It hardly needs to be pointed out limited to Pentecostalism,

rural

imagery

is

The

Kingdom

of God will be

*Huibert

of Leuven in Zegwaart

completed

his academic work at the

He is

University hood of Pentecostal Churches Belgium. in

currently

a

the

pastor

with the Brother-

Netherlands.

lThe term “Pentecostal Premillenarianism” is not meant to suggest that the chil- iasm in Pentecostal circles differs from that current elsewhere. The term merely indi- cates the ecclesiastical context within which this article is to be situated. The author is himself a Pentecostal and the debate

concerning premillenarianism

which occasioned this paper is situated within Pentecostalism.

Pinkstergemeenten

1968),

2E.g. The Assemblies of God in the U.S.A. and Britain, the Broederschap

van

in Nederland en Belgie, the Church of God (Cleveland), the Ehm Pentecostal Churches, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. Not all Pentecostal denominations, however, are pre-millenarian. The Mulheim Association of Christian Fellowships in Gcrmany, for instance, is Amillenialist.

3M.A. Alt, Bijbeistudic voor ze/fonde”icht

(Velp: De Pinksterzending, 2e dr., z.j.

601-602; J. W. Embregts, Geen uitstel meer (Rotterdam: Gramma, 1978), 202-206; L. Steiner, Kommeniare zur Offenbarung (Basel: herausgegeben von dem Verfasser, oJ. 1982), 64-65.

4It appears that the pre-millenial views held by Pentecostals are carry-overs from

1

4

the

contrary,

it is shared with a large

segment

of the

evangelical world, as well as with a good number of

theologians

and

religious

movements throughout

the

history

of

Christianity.5

In recent

years,

however, some

aspects

of classical Pentecostal escha- tology

have come under attack from within the movement itself. In 1981 1 J. W.

Embregts,

for

example, signaled

that a number of

pastors6 ques- tioned the moment of the

“rapture.”

That is to say, he noted a crisis with respect

to

“pre-tribulationism.”

It is a well known fact that

large

sections of the movement believe that the Gentile Church will be taken into heaven before the Anti-Christ will

persecute

the

people

of God, or alter- natively

that the Church will be

raptured half-way through

the “Great Tribulation,”

before God’s wrath is poured out

upon

the world

(=

“mid- tribulationism”).

The fact should not

escape

us that in

many large Pentecostal denominations these ideas are not official doctrine,

despite the fact that these

teachings enjoy

considerable

popularity

within their ranks.7 In his

paper Embregts expressed

concern about the fact that increasingly

Pentecostals were

embracing

the so-called

“post-tribula- tionist”

position, according

to which the Church will have to go through

the convictions found in the traditions in which the Pentecostal movement has its roots. W. J. Hollenweger, The Pentecostals (London: SCM Press, 1972), 415 notes that the Pentecostal movement arose in an atmosphere of fervent of the return of Jesus. of the

expectation

Many early Pentecostals came from dispensationalist circles. This inherited dispensationalism is still dominant in large sections of the Pentecostal world.

In the discussion

following

the delivery of this paper at the “Conference for Pentecostal and Charismatic Research in Europe” held in Gwatt

(Switzerland), August

12-15 1987, Donald W. Dayton remarked that in America a similar is taken by Gerald T. Sheppard and D. William

position

Faupel who argue that even

is essential to

though eschatology Pentecostalism,

the historical form it

took, namely dispensationalism, is quite accidental; it happened to be the form of eschatology the early Pentecostals brought along from their former denominations.

5For a historical overview see K. Dijk, Het rijk der

in het verleden en het heden over het

duizend jaren: beschouwingen and for some of the more recent contributions duizendjarig rijk G. (Kampen:

Kok, 1933), 11-180;

see C. Berkouwer, The Return Christ

of

(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 291-322.

6J. W. Embregts, “Current Eschatological

Expectations

in the Mainline Pente- costal Denominations in Europe.”

Paper presented

at the Second Conference on Pentecostal

History

and

Theology

held in Leuven, December

28-29, 1981. A slightly

revised form of that paper was published in Parakleet 2:1 ( (182) 1-6 “Eschatologie

in de Europese Pirksterbeweging; huidige eschatologische verwachtin- gen

in de hoofdstromingen van de Pinksterbeweging in Europa.”

7Cf. the declaration concerning “the rapture” issued by the General Council of the American Assemblies of God, held in Baltimore (August, 1979). A Dutch translation of this document was published under the title “De opname van de gemeente” in Woord en Geest 2: 20 (1979), 6-8. It should not go unnoticed that the “Declaration of Faith” of the American Assemblies of God does not at all mention a pre-, mid- or post-tribulation rapture.

See W. W. Menzies, Anointed to Serve (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1971), 385-390.

2

5

the “Great Tribulation. “8

At the time the author did not

envisage

the

possibility

that the doctrine of the Millennium itself would come under attack within the Pentecostal movement. Yet this is precisely what seems to be happening at present, as

may

be inferred from the title of a

paper

read at the 1987 EPTA- conference.9 This

paper,

authored

by

David

Allen,

bore the

telling

title “The Millennium-an Embarrassment or a Fundamental of the Faith?” In it the writer noted that several of the pastors of the British Assemblies of God “… would like to see the references to the ‘Premillennial Second Advent’ deleted from the ‘Fundamental Truths’.”10

By way

of illustra- tion he

quoted

two statements made

by pastors

who feel that “Christ is not

going

to

reign any

more in the future than he does now,” and that “… this doctrine of the literal Millennium was an embarrassment-a leftover from the

pioneering days

that needed

quietly putting

to rest.” 11 I In the concluding section of his

paper

Allen admitted that “… whichever scheme

of eschatology

we

adopt,

there are

problems,” 12

and counseled avoidance of

rigid dogmatism concerning

the matter. The author con- cluded with a warm endorsement of the

healthy insight

that Jesus

reigns now and that believers

may enjoy

a “… foretaste of that

Coming King- 13 dom of

peace, prosperity, longevity

and

joy

in our churches now.” Yet,

all this does not

imply

that one should

give up

the doctrine of a literal Millennium. Indeed, Allen sees no compelling reason to do son. 14

II. The Basic Problem in Discussions of the Millennium. It is not our

primary

intention to defend

any

of the

dogmatic positions concerning

the Millennium in this

paper. Rather,

I would like to limit discussion at

present

to a number of considerations

pertaining

to the interpretation

of Revelation 20:1-10. The

problems surrounding

this

8 J. W.

Emregts,

“Current

Expectations,” 8-9,11 (= “Eschatologie,” 4-5),

mentions just a few groups.

9This conference was held at Continental Bible

College (St. Pieters-Leeuw,

Belgium), April 13-16, 1987.

IOD. Allen, “The Millennium-an Embarrassment or a Fundamental of the

Faith,” unpublished manuscript,

1. It should be observed that the issue is somewhat

confused by the fact that often no clear distinction is made between the question of

Chiliasm and that of Pre-tribulationalism. Of course there are good reasons for this

mix up, as within

(Pentecostal) Dispensationalist

into the latter. We see that in practice the issues of the

eschatology

the former is sub-

of the times” – and “the rapture” attract most attention. Whenever believers are fed “signs up with all kinds

merged

of schemas of end-time events and speculations concerning the rapture are

to

they happy

dispense

not

only with Pre-tribulationalism but with Pre-millenarianism as well.

And this is really not

11

necessary.

Allen, “The Millennium…,” 6.

l2Allen, “The Millennium…,” 14.

l3Allen, “The Millennium…,”

14.

l4A?len, “The Millennium…,” 1, 3-4, 6.

3

6

passage

are manifold.

They

situate themselves on both the

exegetical and

theological plain. Very

often in discussions of the Millennium no clear distinction is made between the

exegesis

of the

passage

and its theological

relevance. On the

contrary,

the two are

simply lumped together

and as a result Revelation 20:4-6 is interpreted

against

a theo- logical

horizon,

instead of

against

its historical and

literary

back- ground. 15

Of course, it is

always possible

to make sense of a text taken out of its context, but whether such a

procedure

leads to a correct understanding

of the

passage

is another

thing.

We contend that

only after

having

arrived at a proper

understanding

of the

text,

can it be used for

theological

reflection.

This means that first of all we have to recognize the circumstance in which the

only

New Testament

passage

that

unequivocally speaks

of the Millennium is found. 16 The Book of Revelation, or the

Apocalypse

of John,

is

unique

in the New Testament. It is the sole

representative

of a literary genre

that made its

way

into the New Testament canon. And if

Revelation is often little understood, then the

literary genre

named after it is a pure

mystery.

Nevertheless, some

knowledge

of that bizarre liter- ature and its eschatology is

germane

to the discussion of our

topic.

It is also

important

to remember that even if the Millennium is found in the New Testament in but one

place,

it does have

parallels

in a couple of extra-canonical

apocalypses stemming

from the same

period

as John’s book.

Moreover,

the antecedents of the

image lay

in the Old Testament as well as in a number of

apocryphal apocalypses.

It is our conviction that Revelation 20:4-6 must be understood in the

light

of its traditio- historical

background (both

Biblical and

extra-Biblical), and-of course – in relation to its immediate

context,

i.e. the

composition

and

theology of the Book of Revelation.

Though

we do not think that the

suggested approach

solves all of the many problems

connected with the Millennial

question,

we do think that it

provides

us with a more solid basis for

thinking through

the matter than when we

try

to do so on the

shaky ground

of a “decontextualized” exegesis

of the text.17

III.

“Apocalyptic”

Since the

image

of the Millennium occurs

exclusively

in

apocalyptic writings

we will do well to get better

acquainted

with this

literary genre

15A. G. Komet, De Pinksterbeweging en de Bijbel (Kampen: Kok, 1963), 97-154.

16G. C. Berkouwer, The Return of Christ, 301. As Kornet De Pinksterbeweging, 153 correctly points out, all other passages in Scripture which are said to refer to the, Millennium do so only when they are read in the light of Rev. 20:4-6.

17 So, e.g., Komet, De Pinksterbeweging en de Bijbel, 97-154;

and H. Thielicke, The Evangelical Faith

(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), vol. 3 :424-427. D. Allen, “The Millennium…,” 11, does mention the messianic and

Rev.

apocalyptic background of the notion of the Reign of Christ (I Cor. 15:25; I 1 : ls , but unfortunately he does not pursue this line of approach any further.

4

7

if we want to

understand Revelation 20:4-6.

However, given

the limitations of this

article it is impossible to give an adequate introduction to this

highly complicated type

of literature.

Therefore,

we will have to limit ourselves to a few

explanatory

remarks about some of the basic notions and some of the more

outstanding aspects

of this

phenomenon.

Classically

the

phenomenon

we are

speaking

about was labeled “apocalyptic”

as in the title of H. H.

Rowley’s

famous book The Rele- vance

of Apocalyptic. IS

Yet,

the use of this

adjective

as a noun was unfortunate,19

and in the

past

its use

seriously hampered

the under- standing

of this

type

of

writing.

In

fact,

it led to a “semantic confusion of the first order. “2°

Only

in recent times have scholars

begun

to realize that the term

“apocalyptic”

denoted not

one,

but three

phenomena:

a literary genre (apocalypse);

a particular eschatology (apocalyptic escha- tology) ;

and a socio-religious movement-or its

ideology (apocalypti- .cism).’

These

phenomena

are

closely

related to one another and nor- mally they

occur

together.

But this need not be so and was not

always the case in historical

reality.

There have been

apocalyptic

movements which

hardly produced apocalypses (e.g.

the

Qumran

sectarians who produced only

one

apocalypse, namely 4Q

Visions

of Amram).22 Conversely,

a movement like that of Gnosticism which did not

possess an apocalypdc

eschatology,

and which is not an apocalyptic

movement, did

produce apocalypses.23

Each of these

phenomena, then,

should be defined

separately.24

And for

methodological

reasons it is best to make the term

“Apocalypse”

the fundamental notion in relation to which the

18London: Lutterworth, 1944; (second edition 1947; third edition 1963).

19So already W. Bousset in his “Die religionsgeschichtliche Herkunft chen

der jiidis-

Apokalyptik,” in K. Koch und J. M. Schmidt (eds.), Apokalyptik (Wege der

365; (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1982), 132-145 (= Die jadische Apokalyptik, ihre religionsgeschichtliche Herkunft und ihre Bedeutung Forschung),

far das neue Testament (Berlin, 1903) 5-20, 52-64),

132.

20Thus M. E. Stone, “Lists of Revealed Things in the Apocalyptic Literature,” in F. M. Cross et al. (eds.), Magnalia Dei: The Mighty Acts of God (Festschrift for G. E. Wright) (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976), 414-452, 439.

2 1 D. E. Aune, Prophecy in Early

Christianity

and the Ancient Mediterranean World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 107.1 added the clause “or its ideology.”

22J. J. Collins, “The Jewish Apocalypses,” in J. J. Collins (ed.), Apocalypse: The Morphology of

a Genre (SEMEIA 14) (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1979), 21-59, 48- 49. That does not mean that the other writings of Qumran do not share the outlook of the apocalypses.

230n the occasional employment of this genre by the Gnostics see C. K. Barrett, “Gnosis and the Apocalypse of John,” in A. H. B. Logan and A. J. M. Wedderbum (eds.),

The New Testament and Gnosis (Festschrift for R. McL.

T. &

Wilson) (Edinburgh:

T. Clark,

1983), 125-137,

132.

24P. D. Hanson, The Dawn

of Apocalyptic:

The Historical and

Sociological Roots

of Jewish Apocalyptic Eschatology (Philadelphia:

Fortress Press, second edition 1979), 428-432.

5

8

other

phenomena

are to be defined.ZS This

procedure

does not solve all problems

of definition, but it does diminish the confusion that charac- terized

previous scholarship.

The most current definition of apocalypse in contemporary scholarship is that

given by John

J. Collins and runs as follows:

‘ ,

“Apocalypse” is a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative frame- work, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both tempo- ral, in that it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial, in that it involves another, supernatural world.26

This definition, which

pertains only

to form and content of the

genre, and not to its function, needed a compliment that would account for the functional

aspect

of this

type

of

writing.

Collins

provided

that

compli- ment in 1984. He stated that

(t)he genre functions to provide a view of the world that will be a source

of consolation in the face of distress and a support and authorization for

whatever course of action is recommended, and to invest this worldview

with the status of supernatural revelation

Within the

genre

it is

possible

to

distinguish

between two

subgen- res,28 one of

which has a definite

eschatological orientation.(=

the

25This principle is followed by J. J. Collins. He would argue that whatever one is

to say about the apocalyptic

genre, eschatology, imagery, movements, etc., should be based on a close

going

reading of the apocalypses themselves (See his “Intro- duction : Towards the Morphology of a SEMEIA 14

[1979] 1-20,

one has to work this genre,”

1-4).

Methodologically way, for whatever came first in historical reality (the apocalypses, apocalyptic eschatologies,

or apocalyptic movements), our primary

sources for the study of these phenomena are the apocalypses themselves. An analogy

to what is found in these other

writings may exhibit apocalyptic traits, which then may furnish us with further information about

and

apocalyptic eschatologies

movements, etc.

26J. J. Collins,

“Morphology,”

9. For an alternative definition, which is

to John’s

espe- cially applicable Apocalypse, see D. E. Aune, “The Apocalypse of John and the Problem of

Genre,” in Adela Yarbo) Collins (ed.), Early Christian

cism. Genre and Social

Apocalypti-

Setting (SEMEIA 36) (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1986), 65- 96, 86-87.

27J. J. Collins, Daniel, with an Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature

(FO?’L, 20) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984) 105-106. An alternative formulation is offered by

Adela Yarbro Collins, “Introduction: Early Christian Apocalypticism,” SEMEIA 36 (1986), 1-11, 7.

_

28J. Klatzkin and J. Kaufmann, “Apokalyptik,” in K. Koch and J. M. Schmidt (eds.), Apokalyptik,

228-248

(= Encyclopaedia Judaica. Das Judentum in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Berlin, 1928), Bd. 2 cols. 1142-1161), 228-229,

and the

already recognized two types of apocalypses: the prophetic (predictive)

descriptive

types, yet,

in the past did not take sufficient notice of their insight. In recent (speculative) years it was again a Jewish scholar (M. E. Stone) who brought to the attention of the inves- dgators

the fact that the apocalypses have a dual focus: eschatological and cosmolog- ical. Now Christian investigators have caught on.

Due to the circumstance that previous scholarship did not recognize the existence

6

“historical”

type

of

apocalypse),29

The

ogy.

When Paul D. Hanson his The Dawn of Apocalyptic very

fortunate-in

types

of

eschatology its

coming

lated the divine

plan

agency.

type),

however, human

activity.

For

9

while the other has a particular inter-

through

human

est in cosmological mysteries (the “otherworldly journey”

type

of

apoc- 1 alypse).3?

The two Biblical

apocalypses belong

to the first

subgenre.31

second

phenomenon

to be defined is that of apocalyptic eschatol-

in 1975 made this term the

key

notion of

he defined it-and this was

perhaps

not

contrast to

prophetic eschatology.

He

regards

both

as

perspectives

on the

future,

but

they perceive

of

in different

ways. According

to Hanson, the

prophet

trans-

revealed to him in terms of real

history

and concrete political

action. Thus the

plan

of God is executed

In the

apocalypses

(one might

add:

especially

in the “historical”

the divine

plan

is not translated in terms of

history

and

the

apocalyptists

it is the Lord Himself

(possibly assisted

by other supernatural beings)

who realizes His

plan.32 One of the

problems

with this definition

to the “historical”

“heavenly journey” type

is very

limited,

a

very prominent

role in these

apocalypses, although

pletely

absent.33 The notion of

apocalyptic eschatology

as such is useful

for the moment remains

problematic.

J. J. Collins defines it purely

formally

as the

eschatology

almost

exclusively

even if its definition

is the fact that it

pertains subgenre.

Its relevance for the since

eschatology

does not

play

it is never com-

found in the

apocalypses.34

nately lypses belong

of two types of apocalypses most of the older studies now appear to be quite confused and most of their conclusions primarily pertain to the “historical” apocalypse. Fortu-

for Biblical scholarship the situation is not so bad, since the Biblical

to the historical

apoca-

subgenre. _

29For a description of this subgenre see J. J. Collins, Daniel, 6-14.

301.J. Collins, Daniel, 14-22.

questions

judischen Apokalyptik,” tion has on the study of

lypses irrespective apocalyptic all, eschatology

unveiling

apocalypse

31 Most

evangelical

scholars

(e.g.

L.

Morris, Apocalyptic (Grand Itapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 76-81, 91-95; and G. E. Ladd, “Apocalyptic,” in J. D. Douglas et al.

(eds.), The New Bible Dictionary (London: IVP, 1962, 43–44, make a distinction between the Biblical and the extra-Biblical

sharp

apocalypses. One does well to realize that such a distinction is not based on

literary grounds but on

W. W.

Gasque, “Apocalyptic

in M.

Bibliology.

Literature,” C. Tenney et al. (eds.), The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), vol. I, 200-204, finds such a distinction not helpful, particularly not where is concerns

of genre. Already W. Bousset, “Die religionsgeschichtliche Herkunft der

133 drew attention to the detrimental effect that this distinc-

the apocalyptic literature.

the two definitions may be found on 11 and 12 respectively.

33John Collins insists that some form of eschatology is present in all apoca-

of the subgenre (Imagination. 5-6,9). Yet, the virtual equation of

and eschatology so common in the older studies should be avoided. After

is not the main interest of a good number of apocalypses (some of which

belong

to the earliest

specimen

of the genre). These books focus on the

of cosmic mysteries inaccessible for natural wisdom.

34J. J. Collins, Imagination. 9. Thus any form of eschatology that is found in an

is per definition “apocalyptic eschatology.” But one may ask if it really

7

10

But even

though

this definition is

logically impeccable

it is not

very informative. It

begs

the

question

as to which

types

of

eschatology may appear

in the

apocalypses.

In other

words,

which are the various kinds of

apocalyptic eschatology?

Adela Yarbro Collins lists three

types:

First that which has an

eschatological crisis,

as well as a cosmic or

political and a personal

eschatology. Second,

that which lacks an

eschatological crisis. Third, that which consists

only

of a personal

eschatology.35

For want of a better definition this will have to do for the moment.

The last term to be defined is that of

apocalypticism.

When Hanson introduced his now famous distinction between

apocalypse, apocalyptic eschatology,

and

apocalypticism,

he himself

already

admitted that the last notion in

particular

was hard to define. His own definition centered on the

concepts

of “codification of

self-identity”

and

“interpretation

of reality”

as

group

activities. He viewed

apocalypticism

as the

symbolic universe36 of an

emerging apocalyptic

movement.

Naturally,

the

partic- ular

shape

of various

symbolic

universes of different

apocalyptic movements in each case is determined

by

a number of

factors, among which the

past

traditions(of

the culture within which these movements arise) figure prominently.

But

socio-political conditions,

the ideas taken over from rival

parties

and from

foreign

cultures also

play important roles in the formation of the

symbolic

universes of the Jewish

apoc- alyptic

movements which flourished between 300 BC and the Bar Kochba

uprising

in AD 135.3? In this

way

Hanson introduced the social

makes sense to call the purely personal eschatology of the gnostic apocalypses (on these see F. T. Fallon, “The Gnostic Apocalypses,” SEMEIA 14

because these

(1979),123-158) “apocalyptic eschatology” simply writings are apocalypses? Of course, it is always possible to add more qualifying adjectives to the notion of

thus the

eschatology;

eschatology

in the

gnostic apocalypses

would be

“gnostic apocalyptic eschatology,”

but this is not really satisfactory. After all, who would be prepared to label the movement an “apocalyptic movement” simply on account of their occasional gnostic usage of the literary form of apocalypse for conveying their message?

It seems to me that we need a definition which is not merely formal, but which also takes the content of that eschatology into account. At minimum is should in- clude a canon which precludes the merely personal eschatology of the gnostic apoca- lypses

from being labeled “apocalyptic,” since the cosmic aspect of the eschatologies found in the other (not gnostic) apocalypses appears to be quite characteristic.

35Adela Yarbro Collins, “Introduction,” 5.

36For a treatment of the concept “symbolic universe” see Peter L.

Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality. A Treatise in the

IYY:

Sociology of Knowledge (Garden City, Doubleday, 1966), 88-104.

The concept may be circumscribed as the traditional ways of understanding reality in a given culture or subculture. Its origin must be sought in our objectification of social realities. Since man is essentially open to the world/reality (this is a basic anthropological datum)

he is continually

engaged

in “universe construction.” The universe he is constructing is “symbolic,” i.e, it concerns realities other than those of daily

life.

37p, D. Hanson, Dawn, 453. J. J. Collins (“Morphology” 4; Imagination, 10- 11)

has argued that just as there are different apocalypses there are different apoca-

8

11

sciences into the

study

of

“apocalyptic.”

Until

recently

not much work on the social function of

apocalyptic writings

has been

done, but

over the

past

few

years

some studies on this matter have been

published.

Yet, this area still

requires

further

investigation.38

One of the

major problems here is the scantiness of historical information on the basis of which scholars could draw a more

complete picture

of the circumstances in which

apocalyptic

movements were bom. As it is, the results of these investigations

are bound to be

quite speculative.

An

important

and much debated issue in the

scholarly

literature is the relationship

of the

apocalypses

to the Ancient Israelite

prophetic

tradi- tions.

Closely

bound

up

with this is the more

general problem

of the origin

of the

apocalypses.

The latter

problem

need not concern us

here, but the former has some

bearing

on our

topic.

Today exegetes

more or less

agree

that the Jewish

apocalypses

stand in a certain

continuity

with older Israelite traditions.

They usually

hold that the “historical”

apocalypses

are the continuation and

interpretation of the Ancient Israelite

prophetic

traditions,39 whereas

the

“heavenly journey” type

of

apocalypse

has its roots in the

(mantic)

wisdom tradi- tion. In

reality,

however,

the situation is much more

complicated

than this sketch

suggests.

For the

apocalyptists

made a considerable use of sources. From these

they

took over those elements that suited their own purposes.

Moreover, they employed

traditional ideas

quite freely,

lyptic movements. Quite obviously early Christianity was a different type of movement than the apoca- lyptic apocalyptic movement that produced Book of the Luminaries

Heavenly

38Thus J. J. Collins,

“Apocalyptic Literature,”

in R. A. Kraft and G. W. E. Nickelsburg (eds.), Early

Judaism and its Modern Interpreters (Philadelphia: Fortress Press/Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986), 345-370, esp. 362.

39H. H. Rowley’s famous dictum (Relevance, 15) that apocalyptic is the child of prophecy yet

diverse from it, is such a gross that is becomes

The situation is far too

oversimplification

misleading. complicated to be cast in a simple formula. The most outstanding differences between prophecy and the apocalypses (especially of the “historical” type) are:

– An oral phenomenon often in the form of poetry (prophecy) vis d vis a

almost

literary

phenomenon exclusively in prose form (apocalypse).

– Primarily the speaking-forth of God’s will (prophecy) vis 6 vis the revelation of

mysteries [cosmic

or future (apocalypse)].

.

The

standpoint

of the prophet in history is clear to his audience vis d vis a

concealment of the apocalyptists stand in history: the readership thinks that the

book comes to him from ancient times because of pseudonymity and/or ex

eventu prophecy.

The prophet is a public figure vis 6 vis the apocalyptist’s

anonymity (through

pseudonymity).

Prophets stress what man must do vis d vis stress on what is going to of the situation and God’s happen:

worsening judging/saving activity (apocalypse).

For another list of differences see e.g. T. S. Kepler, The Book of Revelation (New York: OUP, 1957), 5-6.

9

12

adapting

them to their own situation and

combining

them with materials stemming

from

foreign cultures,

etc.4? We

see, then, that the continuity of the

apocalypses

with the older traditions is a matter of

“ingredients,” of “elements of content.”41 In the case of the Jewish “historical”

apoca- lypses

these “elements of content” stem for the most

part

from Exilic and Post-Exilic

prophecy.42

But,

undeniably,

these books also have affinities with romantic wisdom traditions.43

On the other

hand,

the

literary genre

of

apocalypse

is

something

new as

compared

to the

prophetic

books. It is a new

type

of literature be- longing

to a new

phenomenon, namely

Hellenism.44 The

emergence

of Hellenism-in the late fourth

century

BC-as a cultural

phenomenon brought

with it a new set of

questions

and

problems. Along

with it a new

literary genre,

the

apocalypse,

comes into

being.

This

genre

deals with new

questions

and

problems

and makes the inherited traditions bear on them.45 Since the

genre

of

apocalypse

is basically a Hellenistic type

of

literature,

it is not

surprising

that the

apocalypses

are not limited to Jewish literature alone, but that there are Persian, as well as

Greek, Roman,

and

Egyptian apocalypses.46

Hellenism, however, was not

just a cultural

(and urban) phenomenon,

it also had a political aspect. In this connection Jonathan Z. Smith has

convincingly argued

that the emer- gence

of the

genre

is linked to the

conquests

of the Greeks and the Romans. He thinks that when these world

powers

subdued the nations around the Eastern basin of the Mediterranean, scribes in the

conquered

40j. j.

Collins, Imagination,

26. 41 J. J. Collins, Imagination, 28.

42This has been demonstrated

by

0.

Ploeger,

Theokratie und

Eschatolgie (1WANT, 2) (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener,

2nd edition

1962; P. Von der Osten-Saken, Die in ihrem

1959),

Apokalyptik

Verhdltnis zu Prophetic und Weis-

by heit

(ThExh, 157) (Munchen: Kaiser, 1969), [contra G. von Rad, Old Testament Theology (London:

SCM Press, 1965), vol. II 306ff.] ; and by P. D. Hanson, Dawn.

In the Anglo-American tradition the link between the and the

books was for the most part upheld since the

apocalyptic writings prophetic inception of this century, due to the

pervasive influence of R. H. Charles. See E. W. Nicholson, “Apocalyptic,” in G. W.

Anderson (ed.), Tradition & Interpretation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1979), 189-213.

43H. P. Mueller, “Mantische Weisheit und Apokclyptik,” in

Congress

Volume Uppsala Brill, 1972), 268-293, esp. 271. In

the fourth German edition of his Theologie

(VTSuppl., 22) (Leiden:

des alten Testaments

(Neukirchen-Vluyn:

Neu- kirchener, 1965), Bd. II 319, Gerhard von Rad moved somewhat closer to the views espoused by

Mueller. Note that already J. Klatzkin and J. Kaufmann, “Apokalyptik,” 231, signaled the proximity of the Jewish apocalypses to the mantic literature of paganism.

44J, J. Collins, Imagination, 28; idem, Daniel. 20. According to him the general matrix of the genre is Hellenism. This literary form was the privileged vehicle for expressing

the nostalgia for the past that characterized this era.

45So H. D. Betz, “Zum Problem des religionsgeschichtliche Verstandnisses der Apokalyptik,” Zeiischrififar Theologie

und Kirche 63 (1966) 391-409, 394.

46J. J. Collins, Imagination, 14-28.

10

13

nations began

to write

apocalypses

as a means of propaganda against the foreign

overlord.4? To this end

they

transformed the materials which were at their

disposal.

These materials consisted in the first

place

of their own national traditions-usually

those associated with the native

king- ship48-and

in the second

place

of

foreign

traditions. With these the apocalyptists

became familiar because of their

exposure

to Hellenist culture in which certain

ideas and sentiments

(stemming

from various cultures and

religions)

circulated

freely;

that is to

say,

cut loose from their

original

context.49 Thus the

apocalypses

have roots in many tradi- tions. Moreover,

they

fulfill

multiple purposes.

On one level the

apoca- lypses

serve as political propaganda, causing further alienation from and stimulating

resistance to the

occupier.50

On another

level,

and within another national literature

(e.g.

the

Jewish),

the

genre may

have served theological, pastoral

and even

apologetic

funcdons.51

We

may

conclude this section

by pointing

out that the

apocalypses were written in a period of

great change,

both

political

and cultural, but also

religious. Change, especially rapid change,

causes

feelings

of crisis. In

general,

then, it is correct to say

that

apocalypses

were written in response

to situations of

(perceived) crisis-persecution

and other- wise.52 _

IV. The

Apocalyptic Background

of John’s Millennium Amillenialistic writers are

usually quick

to

point

out that Revelation 20:4-6 is unique in the New Testament.53 Yet, the idea of a reign of the Messiah

preceding

the

Age

of Bliss occurs more often in the

apoca- lypses.

Several of these

writings

view the Messianic

Kingdom

as of this world and

preceding

the

Age

of Bliss

(which

is not of this

world).

Such an Interim

Reign (Zwischenreich)

is found in the

Apocalypse

of Weeks (I Enoch 93:1-10

and

91:12-19),

IV Esdras

(7:28-29),

II Enoch

(33); and II Baruch

(27-29, 40, 50-51).Sa

Z. Smith, “Wisdom and Apocalyptic” in P. D. Hanson (cd.), Dawn, 101- 120 (= B. A. Pearson (ed.), Religious Syncretism in Antiquity. Essays in Conversa- tion with Geo

Widengren (Missoula, 1975), 131-156, 1 IG-1 11. Cf. J. J. Collins, Imagination,

27-28.

0

48J. Z. Smith, “Wisdom and Apocalyptic,” 110-111.

49J. J. Collins, Imagination, 26.

50So also D. E. Aune, Prophecy, 110.

51 J. J. Collins, Daniel, 22.

52J. J. Collins, Daniel, 22. The perceived crisis can be a situation of

but

persecution,

may also situate itself on the level of culture shock, the injustice of history, the inevitability

of death, etc.

53So e.g. D. Guthrie, NT Theology, 873-874.

54D. Guthrie, NT Theology, 870, mcntions I En 91,93; Pss of Sol 17,18; II Esdr 7:28ff.; 12:34; and II Bar 29:1-8. Cf. R. W. Klein, “Aspects of Intertestamental Messianism,”

in J. Maier and V. Tollers

(eds.), op. cit,

191-203

(=

Concordia Theological Monthly,

43 ( 1972), 507-517, 198-201.

11

14

This doctrine is, on the one hand, a continuation of Ancient Jewish Messianic

expectations (cf. Ezekiel

37, 40-48 ; Isaiah 35, 60-bl; Zecha- riah

1-6;

Daniel 2, 7; I Enoch 6-36, etc.).55 These

expectations

were very

down-to-earth. On the other hand, it marks an

important develop- ment over

against

these in that the

apocalyptic writings

situate Final Salvation in the afterworld, in the

Age

to Come. Thus ultimate salvation is

something supramundane,

and the

Kingdom

of the Messiah

gradually becomes a

Heavenly Kingdom.56

Indeed,

in at least one

apocalypse (The Assumption

of Moses, 10) this

other-worldly Kingdom

is the sole locus of bliss. Yet, it seems that the

apocalyptists typically

retained some form of Messianic

Reign

in the

present

world.57 We

find, then, that even

though

the Jewish

Apocalyptists

stressed the transcendent character of salvation,

they

did not discard this world as a possible locus of salvation. This stands in marked contrast to (later) Christian

Apoc- alyptists

and Patristic

theologians

who–under influence of Gnosticism and

especially

Neo-Platonism-discarded the earth as locus for the consummation of-salvation. The

Apocalypse

of Peter, for

instance,

does not

speak

of a Millennium. It

simply

concentrates on the

blessings

that await the

righteous

and the

punishments prepared

for the wicked subse- quent

to the Lord’s

judgment.58

A similar

tendency

is

present

in the allegorical

and

spiritualistic interpretations

of John’s Millennium

by

the Fathers

(Origen,

Methodius,

and Ticonius followed

by Augustine).59 While the

apocalyptic

authors transcendentalized salvation

by

the

expec- tation that it could

only

be ushered in

through

Divine

intervention,

the later Christian

apocalyptists (Second century

AD and

after)

and Patristic authors

spiritualized

salvation

by making

it a matter of the soul. Accordingly

we find that the Ancient Christian belief in the resurrection of the

body

was more often than not translated into the Greek

philo- sophical

doctrine of the

immortality

of the souls

55D. S. Russell, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic (London: SCM Press, 1964), 286-290, esp. 287 n. 1; G. von Rad, II: 285-288 (ETr.).

56D. S. Russell, Method and Message, 290-291.

,

57D. S. Russell, Method and Message, 291.

58Adela Yarbro Collins,

“Early Christian Apocalypses,” 72-73:

C. Maurer and H. Duensing, “Apocalypse of Peter,” in E. Hennecke, W. Schneemalcher, R. McL. Wilson, New Testament Apocrypha, Writings Relating to the

and

Apostles, Apocalypses

Related Subjects (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965), Vol. II 663-683, 667.

591. T. Beckwith, 323-325.

60See W. A. De Pater, Immortality. Its tlistory in the West (Leuven: Acco,1984). This philosopher of religion shows that the Fathers wedded the Biblical teaching of the resurrection to the Greek doctrine of the immortality of the soul (100-109,

meant that the latter over the

esp. 106-109). Practically,

that

prevailed

former. In Medieval times the teaching concerning the resurrection of the body suffered under the disdain for the body that developed in the monasteries as a result of the popularity of (unchristianized)

Neo-Platonism (109).

12

15

In order to understand Revelation 20:4-6

correctly,

it is important to know whether John was

transcendentalizing

salvation or rather

spiritu- alizing

it. In other words, is John closer to the Jewish

thought-world

of the

apocalypses

or to the Christian authors of later times? We think that John is closer to the Jewish

Apocalyptists,

but that is not to

say

that he is merely saying to a Christian

readership

what

they

said to their fellow- Jews. On the

contrary,

John’s use of Old Testament and

apocalyptic materials is

constantly shaped by

his Christian beliefs.

Consequently, we

may expect

that John’s use of the traditional

apocalyptic image

of the Interim

Reign

has affinities to and at the same time

diverges

from that found in the Jewish

apocalypses.

When we have a closer look at the

apocalyptic parallels

to John’s Millenium,

we find that there is not a single strict

parallel.

In each in- stance there are

important

differences.

The

Apocalypse

of Weeks is the most ancient work that has a Zwis- chenreich.61 This “book” is

part

of I Enoch which is

generally

con- sidered to be a composite work of uncertain date.62 In I Enoch 93:1-10; and

91:12-17,

world

history

is divided into ten “weeks.” From the author’s

description

of the first six it becomes clear that he

perceives

of his own

days

as part of the seventh week, which is the

age

of

apostasy. He awaits the

eighth

week in which the

righteous

will

prevail [=

the Millennial

Age (91:12)].

In the

ninth,

the world will be

judged righ- teously,

and the tenth week

(91:15)

will

bring

the final

judgment.

Then follow countless weeks for ever

(= Eternity 91:16, 17).63

Notice that there is no mention here of the

binding

and release of

Satan,

neither does the author

speak

of an

eschatological

battle, for the

reign

of the victors and the final destruction of Satan.

Of

importance

for our

investigation

are the

parallels

found in II Esdras and II Baruch. These two Jewish

apocalypses

are

roughly contempo- raneous with Revelation. That is, the three of them were

composed some

thirty years

after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.64

.

.

61111is apocalypse is considered to be a product of pre-Maccabean times. See J. J. Collins, “Jewish Apocalypses,” 31-32.

62D. S. Russell, Method and Message, 51-53. For more up to date information see J. J. Collins, Imagination, 33ff.

63D. S. Russell, Method and Message. 291-292.

64D. S. Russell, afethod and

Message,

62-65. Cf. the study of P.M. Bogaert, “Les apocalypses contemporaines de Baruch, d’Esdras et de Jean,” in J. Lambrecht (ed.), L Apecalypse johannique

et l’Apocaiyptique dans le Nouveau Testament (BETL. 53) (Gembloux: Duculot,

Leuven:

University Press, 1980), 47-68.

The author stresses the importance of comparing John’s

Apocalypse

with these two Jew:ish writings. Unfortunately,

the article contains the similarities and dissimilarities in their conception of the Messianic nothing concerning Kingdom. See also Elisabeth Schlussler Fiorenza, Priester für Gott. Studien zum Herrschafts- und Priestermotiv in der Apokalypse (Münster: Aschendorff, 1972), 319-323.

13

16

In II Esdras 7:28-29 the Messianic

Kingdom

or Millennium is said to last four hundred

years.

When these will have

passed

all human

beings will die and so will the Messiah. Then, after seven

days,

a

general resurrection will take

place

which is followed

by

the last

judgment. Subsequent

to that comes a final “week” of

years

in which the Gentiles and the wicked will find themselves in the “furnace of Gehenna” while the

Jews,

i.e. the

righteous,

will

enjoy

the

“paradise

of

delight” (7 :30- 43).

This

particular passage

stands in

sharp

contrast to the so-called “Eagle

Vision”

(10:60-12:35),

in which the author

reinterprets

the Four- Kingdom

schema of Daniel

(chs. 2, 7).

In the

“Eagle

Vision” no mention is made of eternal bliss whatsoever. Here the

eschatological

event simply

consists in

the

deliverance of Israel and of

making

her

joyful until the

End,

i.e. the

Day

of Judgment arrives.65

II Baruch is best known for its materialistic

description

of the Mes- sianic

Age (29:5-7).66

But more

important

for our

investigation

is the circumstance that this work includes a variety

of eschatological

schemata. One of these is the classical

Four-Kingdom

schema of Daniel. In the view of the author, the Fourth

Kingdom

is the Roman

Empire

and after the Messiah has

destroyed it,

He will establish his

Reign

on Earth forever,

that is to

say,

for as

long

as the earth will continue to exist (39:3-40:3). Yet,

elsewhere

(chs 53-73)

the author

depicts

the Messiah as

defeating

all nations.

Thereupon

he

destroys

some of these nations but he

spares

others. Then will the

Age

of Bliss dawn

upon

the Earth. However, in

the same section of the book, in

59:10-11, the writer speaks

of a form of

punishment

that

goes beyond

mere

annihilation, for here he

speaks

of “Gehenna” and of “future tonnent.”67

Finally,

there are a number of passages in which the

transitory

nature of the Messianic Kingdom

is clearly stated, because it will be followed

by

a New World of Bliss

(40:3; 42:2; 44:12; 74:3, etc.).68

Traces of the doctrine of the Millennium

may

also be detected in the Book of Jubilees. This book-often dated in the Second

Century BC69-is is not itself an

apocalypse,

but it shares the outlook of the genre

and its 23rd

chapter

is

commonly regarded

as a short

apoca- lypse.??

A number of

passages throughout

the book

suggest

the establishment of a Messianic

Kingdom

on Earth. In contrast to most

65D. S. Russell, Method and Message, 296; J. J. Collins, “Jewish

33-34.

Apocalypses,”

66D. S. Russell, Method and Message, 294.

67D. S. Russell, Method and Message, 293-295; J. J. Collins, “Jewish

34-35.

Apoca- lypses,”

68D. S. Russell, Method and

Message, 294;

R. W. Klein,

“Aspects .of In- tertestamental

Messianism,” 200.

69D. S. Russell, Method and Message, 54.

S. Russell, Method and Message; J. J. Collins, “Jewish Apocalypses,” 32- 33.

14

17

apocalyptic writings,

in this book the Messianic

Kingdom

is not supernaturally

ushered in, but comes about as the result of a process of spiritual

maturation

(1 :29 ; 4:28; 23:26-28).

And unlike the

apocalypses it does not

perceive

of the

Age

of Bliss

coming subsequent

to the Millennium,

but sees them as

existing

side

by

side. Those

righteous ones that could not enter the Millennium because

they

were no

longer alive at the time of its establishment will be admitted into this

Eternity

of Blessedness

(1:17, 26, 29; 4:26; 23:11, 26-31).71

Our brief

survey

shows that the

eschatological teachings

of these writings

are far from

being congruous.

This state of affairs is not at all uncommon in the

apocalyptic

tradition. On the

contrary,

it looks as if the apocalyptists

knew

many

different

eschatological

schemata and felt at liberty

to reinterpret them in the

light

of the situation in their own times. In fact,they did not hesitate

simply

to juxtapose conflicting schemata in a single

work.

One of the elements which varies

enormously

from book to book is the duration of the Messianic

Reign.

We saw

already

that in II Esdras 7:28-30 that this

Reign

lasted

just

four hundred

years,

but in the Apocalypse

of Elijah

(Third Century AD)

it is said to last no more than forty years.73

In Rabbinic

eschatological speculations

one encounters a similar

variety. Here, figures

for the duration of the

Reign-of-the Messiah

range

from 40 to 365,000

years?4

John’s one thousand

years is also known from

(later)

Rabbinic

sources,

but more

important

is the fact that this

figure

is

suggested by an apocalypse

from the first

century

0 AD,75 namely

II Enoch 32-33?6 The author of this

apocalypse

sees the world as

existing

for a period of seven thousand

years (33:1). During the first six thousand the

history

of the human race runs its

course,

but then there will be a “rest”

(a Sabbath)

which will last for one thousand years.

This Sabbath is the

Kingdom

established

by

God Himself, for there is no Messiah in this

writing.

At the close of this

period

there will be a time of judgment, followed

by eternity (33:2).77

This is perhaps the closest

parallel

to John’s

conception

of the Millennium.

Yet,

here

too, there are considerable differences,

particularly

in that there is no

.

.

71D. S. Russell, Method and Message. 292-293.

72See the remarks of A. Roosen, De brieven van Paulus aan de Thessalonicenzen (Roermond: Pomen, 1971), 108;

O.

Kaiser, Isaiah 13-39 (OTL) (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1974), 177. illustration of the of

scenarios

may

be found in D. S. Ample

diversity eschatological

Russell, Method and Message, 286-297; and G. Harder, “Eschatologische Schemata in der Johannesapokalypse,” Theologia Viatorum 9 (1964), 70-87.

73G. B. Caird, The Revelation

of St. John the Divine (New

York:

Harper

& Row, 1966), 250.

74G. R. Beasley Murray, 288-289.

75J. J. Collins, “Jewish Apocalypses,” 40.

76G.R. Beasley Murray, 289.

77D. S. Russell, Method and Message. 293. 29.

‘ ‘

15

18

connection made between the Millennium and the

imprisonment

and release of Satan as in Revelation. 20:1-10.

From the above

presentation

it becomes clear that the Messianic

Age

is mostly regarded

as

something this-worldly.

And when this

Age

is essentially

an interim

reign,

it is

invariably presented

in terms of a mundane, future,

and

cosmo-political phenomenon.

It should be recognized, however, that Ezekiel 36-48 and Daniel 7 are also

very important

elements in the traditio-historical

background

of Revelation John is clearly

inspired by

these

chapters.

He more or less

faithfully

follows the schema of events laid down

by Ezekiel,

and makes numerous allusions to the Ezekiel

chapters (but

there is not a

single

verbatim

quotation).

The author also alludes to Daniel 7:10-11. But as in the case of the extra-biblical “sources,” here, too, the parallels

are not

very

closed This is

especially

true for Revelation 20:4-6,

because in the

parallel passage

in Ezekiel

(37:10)

the

prophet foresees the resurrection of Israel as a nation and a

spiritual entity, whereas John

speaks

of the

general

resurrection of the dead. Moreover,80

neither Ezekiel nor Daniel see the Messianic

Kingdom

as an Zwischenreich.

V.

John’s Millennium

In order to arrive at a correct

understanding

of Revelation 20:4-6 one must realize that John was influenced

by

both the Biblical and extra- Biblical books mentioned. Therefore, it is wrong to dismiss the

impor- tance of the

apocalypses

in favor of the Biblical books.81 On the other hand, one should

not think that

apocalyptic

messianism alone unlocks

78G. R. Beasley Murray, 289; Elisabeth Schlussler Fiorenza, Priesterflir Gott, 316-319; and J. Lust, “The Order of the Final Events in Revelation and in Ezekiel,” in J. Lambrecht, L’Apecalypse johannique,

179-183, esp. 180 n. 5, where the author gives

a list of allusions to Ezekiel.

79Elisabeth Shlussler Fiorenza, Priesterf4ir Gott, 317,

80EIisabeLh Shlussler Fiorenza, Priester fiir Gott, 313. If J. Lust’s contention that in John’s days the order of Ezekiel 37-39 was not yet fixed and that John’s of the book may have had the same order as is found in the Greek Papyrus 967 copy (namely 38-39, 37, 40-48) then John’s first resurrection/messianic reign has no parallel in Ezekiel. In that case Ezekiel 37 would not be a parallel to John’s first, but to his second, general resurrection (see 181 of Lust’s article).

8 1 So, e.g., D. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Downers Grove,

Ill: IVP, 1970),

3rd edition, 964-960, who tends to minimize the connections between Revelation and the extra-canonical apocalypses and to maximize the proximity to the Old Testament

John

prophets.

Collins, Imagination, 12, warns of the

of such a

reduce the of the dangers

position. He thinks that the attempt to

strange world apocalyptists to the more familiar world of the prophets seriously hampers our understanding of the

to

apocalypses.

We think that this warning also applies (perhaps a lesser extent) to the Apocalypse of John.

16

19

the meaning

of Revelation 20.82 Nor should one think that the traditio- historical background

all

by

itself determines the

meaning

of our passage,

for the

composition

of Revelation and John’s

theology

are determining

factors as well. Thus, John takes

up

the traditional doctrine of a messianic interregnum because

it is important for his vision of the future,$3

but he does not

simply juxtapose

it with other traditional es- chatological

elements. On the

contrary,

he remolds this doctrine to make it fit his Christian views and he weaves it as a red thread

through

the entire book.84

The limited

scope

of the

present

article does not allow for a detailed exegetical

treatment of Revelation 20:1-10 and so a few observations concerning

John’s

conception

of the Millennium will have to do.

M. De

Jonge

in an

important essay

entitled “The Use of the

Expres- sion ho Christos in the

Apocalypse

of

John,”85

gives

an

analysis

of those

passages

in Revelation that contain the

expression

ho Chris- toslauto, namely

11:15

( 11:15-19), 12:10 ( 12:10-12),

and 20:4, 6 (20:4–6).

The three text-units

(indicated

between

parentheses)

in which the

expression

is found

invariably

bear an

eschatological stamp.

The first contains a proleptic proclamation about the

kingdom

of the world which has become the

kingdom

of the Lord God and his Messiah. The second comments on the

eschatological

events described in Revelation 12:1-9. The

perspective

taken in vss 10-12 is that of the fulfillment of these

happenings.

Revelation 20:4-6 is

basically

a

visionary report which narrates the fulfillment of all

promises regarding

the Messianic Reign.

It also contains a makarism about the

martyrs’ co-regency

with the Messiah for one thousand

years.

But even the

expression

ho Christos auto

( 11:15; 12:10)

itself is a Messianic title86 and is reminiscent of the more familiar “the Anointed One of the

Lord,”

which is found in both the Old Testament

(Psalm 2:2; 18:51, etc.)

and some of the

apocalypses

where it denotes the ideal

king of the future

(I Enoch

48:10: 52:4; LI Baruch

39:7; 40 : 1 ; 72:2-the latter work also uses the

expressions

“the Anointed One” and

“My

Anointed One” 29:3; 30:1; 70:9; cf. IV Esdras

12:32).87

From this we

may safely infer that in John’s

Apocalypse

the title ho Christos autou also has eschatological

overtones. This is reinforced

by

the fact that in Revelation

:

82R. W. Klein,

“Aspects of Intertestamental Messianism,” 201, is rather one- sided on this point.

83G.B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, 250-251; T. Holtz, “Gott in der Apokalypse,” in J. Lambrecht (ed.), L’Apecalypse johannique, 247-265, 261.

84Elisabeth Schlussler Fiorenza, Priesterfilr Gott, 317-318, 323, 331.

85In J. Lambrecht (ed.), L’Apecalypse johannique, 267-281. The author leans heavily

on Fiorenza’s dissertation Priester fiir Gott (see supra n. 64).

86So also T. Holtz, “Gott in der Apokalypse,” 250.

87M. De Jonge, “The Use of the Expression ho Christos in the Apocalypse of John,” 268.

17

20

the title His/the Christ is

always

combined with ho theoslho

kyrios (used

for

God)

and the root basil. The

picture

that

emerges

is that of the Messiah

executing

the

reign

of God. Thus, we find that both the content of the

passages,

as well as the title which is found in them have an eschatological

orientation.

This is confirmed

by

the fact that

structurally speaking

these text-units are interludes.88 John

regularly interrupts

the semi-concentric narrative sequence89

of his book

by

a number of proleptic visions and auditions. These interludes all

speak

about the

eschatological

future and

express John’s conviction that there exists an intimate

relationship

between the eschaton and the

present.9? Obviously,

the

visionary report

of 20:4-6 is not

proleptic.

On the

contrary

it describes the fulfillment of the events mentioned in the other interludes. Nevertheless, the makarism of 20:fr- with its

implicit

exhortation to stand firm

against

the

pressures

of the present

evil

age-expresses

that link between future and

present.

Structural

analysis

shows furthermore that Revelation 20:4-6 inter- rupts

the narrative

sequence begun

in vs 1 and which is resumed in vs 7. The

pericope

it interrupts deals with the

captivity, release,

final revolt and destruction of Satan. Yet, in vs 1 we have a new

beginning (kai eidon).

But this new

visionary report

is linked on the level of content to the

passage

into which John inserted it. For

throughout

the entire section the

figure

“one thousand” is important.91

Further, the Messianic Interregnum

and the

imprisonment

of Satan seem to be two sides of the same coin. This was also maintained

by

A. G. Kornet. But for him Revelation 20:1-6 formed one text-unit which

(in

his

opinion)

does not refer to the future but to the

past.

He

regards

this

passage

as a brief review of the entire battle between God’s

people

and the

powers

of evil throughout

the whole

history

of salvation. Thus, the Millennium would span

the

complete period

which

begins

with the

promise

of salvation

88By means of interludes John interrupts the forward movement of his narrative. Elisabeth Schlussler Fiorenza, Priester

f4r Gott, 296, distinguishes

between vi- sionary

and hymnic interludes: 7:1-17; 11:1-14; 14:1-5 and 20:4-6 make up the former

group.

The latter consists of 5:9-14; 11:15-19; 12:10-12;

15:2-4; 16:7; 19:1-8.

89The problem of sequence in Revelation is notorious. Classically two solutions have been

forward, the first of which considers the

to be linear, while the second put

progression

holds that the data are best explained by a theory of recapitulation. Both views contain elements of truth as there is progression

not

though

not in a linear fashion, and there is recapitulation, but complete repetition.

On this problem see Elisabeth Schlussler Fiorenza, “The

Composition

and Struc- ture of Revelation,” in The Book

of Revelation:

Justice and

Judgment (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985), 159-180 (= Catholic Biblical Quarterly

39 (1977), 344-366),

esp. 174-177; and J. Lambrecht (ed.), L’Apecalypsejohannique, 77-104

90M. De Jonge, “The Use of the Expression ho Christos in the Apocalypse of John,” 273.

9lElisabeth Schlussler Fiorenza, Priester für Gott, 296, 299.

18

21

given

in Genesis 3:15 until the Parousia of Christ.92 In this view the Millennium

does not last one thousand

years,

but much

longer.

Indeed there is no

need to

suppose

that John

employed

such a highly symboli- cal

figure (10 x

10 x

10) merely

to indicate the duration of the Messianic Reign

in

years.

For the rest it hardly needs

pointing

out that in the

Light of the

preceding,

Komet’s view is

highly improbable.

The

passage

has an eschatological and not a retrospective character.

When Revelation 20:4-6 is seen in a wider context,

namely

in relation to the

judgment

scene of vss 11-15, a somewhat hidden link between these two text unit comes to

light. Upon

closer examination

they

share the motif of judgment and stand in antithetical

parallelism

to each other. In 20:11-15 the

judgment

is described, but in vss 4-6 the reader en- counters an

anticipatory judgment,

a rehabilitation of the victims of the persecution

of the two beasts

(chs 11-12):

the

martyrs

and

unyielding believers are

given

thrones, i.e. they receive royal dignity, glory,

and honor

(cf. 20:4).93

The first resurrection is

only

for these

co-regents, but “the rest:of the dead” (20:5) will

only

be raised at the end of the thousand

years.

Even

though

John mentions the

reign

of all believers in the New Jerusalem (22:5)

the real

emphasis

on the

reign

of the Messiah and His martyrs

lies

precisely

in Revelation 20:4-6. The

coming

of the Millen- nium

brings

the fulfillment of the

promises given

in Revelation

3:21; 5:9-10; 6:9-10;

and 12:11.94 This warrants the inference that Revela- tion 20:4-6

occupies

a place of

importance

in John’s

Apocalypse.

It is important

also because it stands in sharp contrast to Revelation 12-18 in which the world is pictured as under the dominion of Satan. But in our passage

this same world is placed under the dominion of God’s Messiah and the

martyrs.95

Thus for

John,

the Millennium is a special blessing for the

martyrs,96

that is to

say,

for those in whose lives Christ’s Lord- ship

had been

triumphant

in the

period

that His

Reign

was still hidden from the world.9? But when Christ’s

Lordship

will be publicly manifest during

the Millennium, these faithful witnesses receive thrones98 and

92Komet, Die Pinksterbeweging, 134-138, 153. Some limit the period to the time between the Ascension and Parousia of Christ (e.g., D. Guthrie, NT Theology, $70-871).

93Elisabeth Schlussler Fiorenza, Priester für Gott, 304.

94M. De Jonge, “The Use of the Expression ho Christos in the Apocalypse of John,” 275.

95M. De Jonge, “The Use of the Expression ho-Christos in the Apocalypse of John,” 278.

96Elisabeth Schlussler Fiorenza, Priesterfilr Gott, 308-309.

97G. E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament

(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 630.

98T. Holtz, “Gott in der Apokalypse,” 265, points out the image of the of

reception

thrones stands for the reception of royal dignity and honor rather than for the active exercise of government (contra Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, 251).

19

22

share His

Reign.

In a makarism John calls such believers “blessed and

holy” (20:6).

This beatitude is clearly meant as an exhortation for John’s

flock. It relates the eschaton to the

daily reality

of the Christians in Asia

Minor.

This link between

knowledge

of the eschaton and Christian

living

in

the

present

times is

congruous

with the fact that John himself labels his

apocalyptic

vision a prophecy

(1:3; 22:7, 10, 18, 19; 10:11).99

John

does not follow the normal

procedure

of the

apocalyptists

who attribute

their work to a hero of faith from the distant

past.

John

speaks

to his

contemporaries

like the

prophets

used to do. He

speaks

the authoritative

word of the Lord: he

publicly

denounces sin; he warns

people

lest

they

fall under God’s

wrath;

and he exhorts believers to remain faithful in the

face of

hardships.

And like the

prophets

John foretells what the Lord

will do in the near future in

response

to human conduct in the

present.

Thus John directs the attention of his flock to the future, but with an

eye , to the present. In this

way

John

attempts

to set the

present hardships

of

his churches in a broad

perspective

which involves both

cosmological

and

eschatological reality.

This enables them to understand their

struggle

in the context of a cosmic warfare, and to determine their course in the

light

of the eschaton.

The cosmic and

eschatological

realities John

depicts

with the

help

of .

traditional

imagery,

familiar from both the Old Testament and the

apocalypses.

Part of that traditional material is the

image

of the Mes-

sianic

reign

followed

by

the

Age

of Bliss. John takes it over, relates it to

Christ and the Church, and makes it relevant for his flock.

VI. John’s Millennium and Us

John

gave Christianity

a powerful image: the Millennium. He

gave

us an

image

that

unambiguously points

towards a

glorious

future for Christ’s

people.

This

image gives hope

to believers who are

socially deprived

and

politically helpless. 100

That the

image

of the Millennium is indeed

“dynamite”

is evident from the

many

Millennarianist movements it has

generated

within the Christian

sphere

of influence.101 These movements

usually

were a mixture of

religious

and

political

elements.

99That John’s Apocalypse belongs to the literary genre named after it need not be doubted

despite

the fact that it does not contain ex eventu

prophecy

and is not pseudonymous.

On the

ground

that the book is not pseudonymous B. W. Jones, “More About the Apocalypse as Apocalyptic,” Journal

of Biblical

Literature 87 (1968), 325-7,

concluded that Revelation is not an apocalyptic book. He was refuted by

1. J. Collins, “Pseudonymity, Historical Reviews and the Genre of the Revelation to John,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 39 (1977), 329-343.

10OYvonne Talmon, “Pursuit of the Millennium: the Relation between Religious and Social Change,” in L. G. Jansma and P. G. G. M. Schulten (eds.), Religieuze bewegingen (Den Haag: Nijhoff, 1981), 35-61 (= Archives Europdenes de Sociologie III, I ( 1962) 125-148),

50.

101 Talmon, “Pursuit of the Millennium…”,

50-51.

20

23

Sometimes

they

had a violent character, but at other times

they

were quietist.l? Obviously

the Millennarianism of the

Early

Pentecostals was of the latter

type. They

did not

try

to bring about the Messianic

Kingdom by

force,

for

they

believed that

only

Christ could

supernaturally

usher in that

Kingdom

of

peace

and

justice.

Nevertheless, Chiliasm was

an integral

and

important

element of the faith of Early Pentecostalism.

Some

eighty years

have

passed

since the

inception

of the Pentecostal movement.

Today

Pentecostal communities of the First and Second Worlds are not

any longer primarily

made

up

of the

underprivileged

in society.

That means that a large number of

today’s

Pentecostals

belongs to

sociological

strata that are

quite

“at home” in

society.

But more importantly, eschatological fervency

is

usually

short-lived. Yet it need not die out. It can flare

up

after a period in which it was

merely

smol- dering.103

On the basis of these facts we surmise that the Millenarianism of the

Early

Pentecostals was

qualitatively

different from that of most of us

living

near the close of the twentieth

century.

We

suspect

that the Chiliasm of the

Early

Pentecostals

possessed

a greater

motivating

force, whereas in later times it became

increasingly

an

object

of

dogmatic speculation

The Pentecostal literature like all Pre-ivlillenarianist literature tends to abound with

speculations concerning

the

“Signs

of the

Times,”

the “Great Tribulation,” and the

“Rapture.”

These

phenomena normally attract more attention than the

really important eschatological images

of the Millennium and the New Jerusalem. Moreover, this literature is not always

free from

escapism,

since is fails to relate the

eschatological realities to

present

conditions. In other words, in

spite

of the fact that one

attempts

to pry into the future, this literature lacks the

prophetism

of John’s

Apocalypse.

As a consequence, many Christians

begin

to

ques- tion the

spiritual

value of all these

speculations

about future events. They

fail to see the relevance of all that for

discipleship,

for

living

an authentically

Christian life in a secular-world-turning-religious.

In what follows we formulate a

possible strategy

to

remedy

this ailment. In it we

attempt

to restore the

prophetic quality

the

image

of the Millennium

possessed

in John’s

Apocalypse, by making

it relevant for Christian conduct. We

hope

that other Pentecostal

thinkers,

both

pastors and

laypeople,

will be stimulated to think

through

this doctrine and our dealings

with

it; and so come up

with alternative

approaches

for

making the eschatological images relevant for Christian existence.

Only

this will solve the problems of the pastors David Allen was reacting to in his

102Talmon, “Pursuit of the Millennium…”, 4’2-44, 54-57.

103Talmon, “Pursuit of the Millennium…”, 46-47. See also the article by J. F. Zygmunt, “Prophetic

Failure and Chiliastic

Identity:

The Case of the Jehova’s Witnesscs,”

in L. G. Jansma and P.G.G.M. Schunten (eds.), Religieuze

195-220

bewegingen,

(= American Journal of Sociology (1970), 926-948),196, 211, 213.

Cf. W. J. Hollenweger, The Pentecostals, 417.

104This subverts further investigation.

21

24

paper.105

The

beginning

crisis

concerning eschatology

within the Pentecostal movement cannot be warded off

by “putting

the doctrine of the Millennium

quietly

to rest” but

by studying

John’s

Apocalypse and by coming

to a fresh

understanding

of how John intended his visions to function in the

spiritual

life

(which

included the socio-economic and political realms!)

of his communities. We find that he was not interested in

eschatological speculations

for their own sake. He did not intend to give

a

“blue-print”

of the future. John was a

prophet

and like the Ancient Israelite

prophets

he

only spoke

about the future in so far as it was relevant for his

contemporaries.

His vision of the future was in- tended to be one

grand

exhortation for his

people.

He wanted to inspire his flock to remain faithful to the true “God and Lord” instead of

yield- ing

to the Roman demand to

worship

the

Emperor

Domitian as “Dominus et Deus.”

They

were to resist and to be disobedient to the Roman overlord, in order to remain faithful to Christ. This

implied transgressing

the law and

being

liable to severe

punishment.

In this situation John

paints

before the mind’s

eye

of the believers the

judg-

ments of God

upon

the Roman

Empire (=

the

world) 1°6

and the bless- ings

laid

up

in store for those who remain faithful. In this world

they seem to be the losers, as

they

are

persecuted, exiled,

and

perhaps

even killed. But in reality-that is in the

escharological future-they

will turn out to be the real

victors,

for in their lives and deaths Christ’s

Reign

was already

visible. In their lives Christ’s dominion was victorious107 and hence the

martyrs

will receive thrones.

John

paints

the future in a

highly imaginative manner, employing

a great many

traditional

images

of a highly emotive character. He

depicts the future bliss of the faithful in terms of

marriage,

the

eschatological banquet,

the beatific vision, God’s

tabernacling

with

humankind,

Par- adise

regained,

the New Creation, the New Jerusalem and the Messianic Reign

which lasts one thousand

years.

The last two

appear

to be the most

comprehensive

of these

images

and seem to overlap each other.108 These

images generate hope,

and are a real force in the life of the Chris- tian as

they place

the short and vulnerable life of the believer in a larger framework. These

images effectively

link the existential

present

to that

105Sce supra section 1.

I06See Adela Yarbro Collins, “Reading the Book of Revelation in the Twentieth Century,” Interpretation

40 (1986), 229-242, esp. 241.

107The same sentiment is expressed in a Gallic document from the last quarter of the second century AD concerning

martyrs. Reproduced by Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. V.1.27.

108The attempts to distinguish in Revelation 21 between the elements allegedly

to the Millennium (“Heavenly Jerusalem”) and those which belong to the New Creation (“New Jerusalem”) are misdirected. See L. Steiner and G. R. Beasley pertaining

Murray.

22

25

which is not

(yet). I’D9

Yet these

images

do not

only give hope they

also make

important statements

about the nature of Christ’s

Lordship (both

future and present).

John sees the Millennium as the

earthly-political

moment of Christ’s

Reign.110

Now Christ’s

Reign

is hidden from the

public eye.

It is

only

in the

political

acts of those who confess to Christ’s

Lordship that the

socio-political

nature of His

Reign may

become visible to the world. In short, John’s vision of the Millennium has a bearing on our political options, just

like in the

days

of John. In those

days confessing Christ as Lord was a

political

deed as well as a religious one. In our days,

it should have

political consequences,

too.

Note also that John’s vision shows a

great fidelity

to the earth. The earth is not written off as a

possible

locus for the consummation of salvation. On the

contrary,

Christ’s

Reign

is situated on this earth. Similarly

he locates the summit of

salvation, namely

God’s

dwelling with

humankind,

not in heaven but on a renewed earth

(21:1-3).

This suggests

that we too

may

show on/in a profound fidelity to the world on/in which we live.

Also the 21st

chapter

of Revelation contains

images

which

may

serve as directives for Christian conduct in other areas of our existence.

In conclusion, the

image

of the Millennium is far too

important

for our faith to be marginalized. Instead as a prime

symbol

of

hope

it may be the subject

of many of our

hymns;

as a model for

discipleship

it

may

func- tion in our

preaching

and

teaching;

and it may

figure positively

in our evangelism, attracting

not

only

those who are

hopeless

and who are marginalized,

but all those who

long

for a better life in a better world, both in the present and in the future. Maranatha!

109Cf. J. Moitmann.

Theology of Hope (London:

SCM Press,

1967), 15-36, esp.

26-32.

I 1 °ElisabetJl Schiussler Fiorenza, Priesterfiir

Gott, 331.

23

Facebook Comments

Be first to comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.