Presentation on theme: "Aleksandar S. Santrac, PhD, ThD (cand.) Associate Professor of Religion and Ethics/Philosophy Dean of the School of Religion & Theology (Ag.) University."— Presentation transcript:
Aleksandar S. Santrac, PhD, ThD (cand.) Associate Professor of Religion and Ethics/Philosophy Dean of the School of Religion & Theology (Ag.) University of the Southern Caribbean, Trinidad, WI
The SDA church endorses historicism and has always believed that the 7 churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are not just local churches in Asia Minor but, rather, historical dispensations in church history.
The names of the seven churches are symbolic of the church in different periods of the Christian Era. The number 7 indicates completeness, and is symbolic of the fact that the messages extend to the end of time, while the symbols used reveal the condition of the church at different periods in the history of the world. Acts of the Apostles, p And Manuscript Releases Vol. 1, p. 372.
Number 7 stands symbolically for all Christian communities anywhere in the world (all of them need reproof, correction, consolation). Hubert J. Richards, What the Spirit Says to the Churches: A Key to the Apocalypse of John, New York, P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1967, 37. The letters speak to all the churches today as they examine their conscience Daniel J. Harrington, Revelation: The Book of the Risen Christ, NY, New City Press, 1999, By generalization in the conclusion of each letter the message is driven home to all the churches G.R. Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation, London, Oliphants, 1974, 72.
The tension between the future and the present lies at the very core of the prophetic vision and is the key to our understanding it. The prophet says: “what is now and what will take place later” (1, 19). We must read the message to the churches contemporary to Yohanan also in prophetic perspective-as a message to the churches to come. Jacques Doukhan, Secrets of Revelation: The Apocalypse Through Hebrew Eyes, Review and Herald, Hagerstown: HD, 2002, p. 26.
Though John speaks about the future of the church we should not forget the “pastoral nature” of the letters. John speaks to the church in the period of tribulation Willfrid Harrington, Revelation: Proclamation of a Vision of Hope, California: San Jose Press, 1994, 20.
The key tenet underlying this paper: “ Scripture draws on the language of the past to speak about the future ”. Jon Paulien, Deep Things of God, 52.
“Historical background of the churches and the OT literary background mutually interpret one another” 1. OT is used as polemic against 1 st century pagan culture 2. OT sheds light on the reader’s situation so that they may know better how to respond to it 3. It sparks off the series of other associations with similar OT allusions 4. Answer to the question: why a particular OT allusion is selected! G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, p. 224
John’s work has been regarded as a purely Jewish original, “slightly modified by additions and interpolations to a Christian character”. It is always restorable to its original Jewish form. William M. Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches, Grand Rapids: Baker House, 1985, 71. Revelation is a “Jewish apocalypse with Christian addition” J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation: Introduction, Translation and Commentary, New York, Doubleday & Company, 1975,
The purpose of the elaboration of OT prophecies and motifs is to prove the fact that “the end will be as the beginning” with cosmic catastrophes and Paradise restored. Reference to current affairs (and future?) is based on bizarre allegories and symbols. J.P.M. Sweet, Revelation, Philadelphia, The Westminster Press, 1979, 2.
This belief is not based only on the evidence of the odd vernacular John uses that transcends the local historical situation of Asia Minor. It is, rather, based on the structure of the sequence of historical dispensations already present in the Old Testament (the language of the past that speaks about the future – the history of Christ’s church). The dispensations in church history revealed in the local messages to 7 churches apparently correspond to the experience of God’s people in the OT. Here I am not interested in the nature of the fulfilled prophetic aspects of the local churches’ message in the history of the Christian church. Rather, the focus will be on the confirmation of historicist sequence of the Old Testament periods as an evidence of historicist sequence of the Church history periods.
1 “To the angel[a] of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
1. Issue of testing 2. Consider how you have fallen! 3. Tree of life in the paradise of God
Testing by God 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” The Fall 21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side [e] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.e The Tree of Life 8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
These allusions to testing, the Fall of the human race, life in Paradise, and the tree of life are evidences that John draws on the language of the first dispensation of the Old Testament to reveal the nature of the first dispensation of the church history. Apostolic Church went through the experience of the first couple in Paradise.
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. 11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
1. Reality of death between Adam and Moses (dispensation of death Rom 5: 14) 2. Poor but rich (patriarchs) 3. Victory of the resurrection (no second death) – Genesis 22
Romans 5: 14 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. Genesis 22 and the resurrection (overcoming death) 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram [a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”a Hebrews 11 17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” [c] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.c
The key word in the message to the church in Smyrna is death (either first or second death). The church in persecution is the historical fulfillment of this prophecy. However, the prophecy draws on the language and experience of the second dispensation in the Old Testament, the Reign of Death between Adam and Moses to describe the future destiny of God’s people. The hope of resurrection is also implied in the promise.
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
1. Satan’s throne (oppression of the pharaoh) 2. Sword (the Word of God) 3. Enticement of Balaam 4. Hidden manna
Pharaoh-satanic figure, Exodus 5 6 That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: 7 “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. 8 But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.” Hebrews 4:12 12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Ephesians 6:17 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Numbers 31 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the LORD in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people. Exodus 16 33 So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD to be kept for the generations to come.” As the LORD commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it might be preserved.
The future period of “Exodus” from persecution and of compromise as the third dispensation of church history may correspond to the third dispensation of the history of Israel (namely Exodus and the compromising experience in the wilderness).
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’ 26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’[b]—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
1. Deep secrets of Satan and the cult of Baal 2. Jezebeel and Elijah 3. Until I come (early messianic prophets) 4. Messianic psalms (early prophet David)
1 Kings 18:18 (early prophet Elijah) 18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed the Baals. Early messianic prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah etc. “Until I come” reminds us on breathless expectation of God’s mighty acts Morning star is the rising of the Sun (early expectations of the Messianic kingdom) Psalm 2 (Early King David) 7 I will proclaim the LORD’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. 8 Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You will break them with a rod of iron [b] ; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”b
The language of the fourth period of the history of Israel, a period of apostasy of early prophets and kings, is used to depict the situation of a distant future of church history, a complete apostasy of the church in the period of the powerful ruling powers of medieval age.
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits[b] of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. 4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
1. Reputation of being alive (David and Solomon) 2. Wake up! (Joel 1) 3. Remember! (Malachi 4) 4. Dressed in white (Zechariah 3) 5. Book of remembrance (Malachi 3)
1 Kings 4:25 During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree. Joel 1 5 Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Malachi 4 4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. Zechariah 3 3 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” 5 Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the LORD stood by. Psalm 69:28 May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous. Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.
In the letter sent to the local church of Sardis, the language of dispensation of later prophets is used to describe the period of lax spirituality and the theology of reformation.
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
1. Key of David 2. Open door 3. Brotherly love 4. Little strength 5. Claim to be Jews but they are not 6. I am coming soon! 7. Pillar in the temple 8. City of my God, the new Jerusalem.
Isaiah 22: 22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. Open door, brotherly love, little strength reminds us on the remnant during the rebuilding of Jerusalem Nehemiah 2:19-20 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
Therefore, it seems evident that the message to the church in Philadelphia projected in the future as the church of mission and the advent revival of the nineteenth century is based on the language of the past, namely the language of the sixth dispensation of OT history-rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. 21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
1. Identity of Jesus, the Lamb and the Lion (Amen) 2. Lukewarmness of Israel, poverty and blindness 3. Messiah counsels them personally 4. Here I am! 5. Victory, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus
Jesus is both the Creator and the Saviour (Rev 4; 5) Indifference of Israel at the first coming of the Messiah (Mark 4) 10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that, “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’ [a] ”a Luke 4:20-21 (Here I am) 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Thus, the seventh period of church history as fulfillment of the message to Laodicea corresponds to the seventh and last period of OT history. The language of the prophecy is based on the language of past experience. The last period becomes the reality of the lukewarm Jewish nation at the time of Jesus Christ’s first coming. This proves the point that yet again Jesus, as he has done in the first century with his disciples, will create the remnant who will be faithful to His word and testimonies.
1. God always speaks about the future drawing on the language of the past. Likewise the 7 churches of Revelation point to the distant future as well as the 7 dispensations of church history. This view is supported both by traditional historicist evidence(s) and the language of the messages which is borrowed from the seven dispensations in the Old Testament. 2. Consequently, the language of the past also helps us to understand better the 1 st century local situation and different dispensations in Church history.
The model of prophetic predictions is based on the language of the past. The periods of the future (church history) correspond to the periods of the past (Old Testament). For that reason it seems plausible to conclude that the 7 churches in Revelation do not only provide the description of the local churches in Asia Minor but also point to the future following the sequence of dispensations in the Old Testament and its predictive elements, quotes, symbols, echoes, allusions and time periods.
“The appeal of Jesus Christ is not to the church at large; it is to the heart of every individual” William Barclay, Letters to the Seven Churches, SCM Press, London: 1957, 120.
There never has been a perfect Christian community Wilfrid J. Harrington, Revelation, Collegeville, MN, The Liturgical Press, 1993, 56. The great “I am” is a consolation for our church community. “Here I am” says Jesus to rebuke, discipline, reprove, correct and to encourage and console.