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Historicist Only The Influence of Hengstenberg on the True Structuring of the Revelation

Discussion in 'Eschatology - Endtimes & Prophecy Forum' started by Jerryhuerta, Dec 18, 2021.

  1. Jerryhuerta

    Jerryhuerta Historicist Supporter

    United States
    Ninetieth-century theologian Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg wrote the book Christology of the Old Testament and dedicated a chapter to the book of Joel that has relevance in interpreting the Revelation. In this chapter Hengstenberg holds a parallel view with another theologian, Karen H. Jobes, who maintains that the judgments of God are continually active in this age, commencing with the Church and reaching their consummate climax on the Day of the Lord. In the words of Hengstenberg that consummate climax is conveyed as “the last and highest manifestation” of that judgment,

    The day of the Lord is several times spoken of as being at hand, which may be explained from the circumstance, that God's judgment upon His Church is a necessary effect of His justice, which never rests, but always shows itself as active. When, therefore, its object—the sinful apostasy of the people—is already in existence, its manifestation must also of necessity be expected; and although not the last and highest manifestation, yet such an one as serves for a prelude to it. The day of the Lord is, therefore, continually coming, is never absolutely distant; and its being spoken of as at hand is a necessary consequence of the saying, “Wheresover the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together,”—a declaration founded upon the Divine nature, and therefore ever true.[1]

    Professor at Wheaton College, Karen H. Jobes, also affirms the same nature of God’s active judgment in this age in her book 1 Peter,

    Peter is saying that eschatological judgment, understood as the sorting out of humanity, begins with God’s house, defined in 2:4–5 as those who come to Christ and are built as living stones into a spiritual house. The contrast in 4:17b is between “those who reject the gospel of God” and “us,” a group in which Peter probably includes himself and all whom he considers to be genuine Christians. Those who profess Christ are the first ones to be tested in God’s judging action, and it occurs during their lives and throughout history. The Great Tribulation of the final days immediately preceding the return of Christ is the most severe form of this testing. The testing that persecution because of Christ presents, wherever it occurs, is of one piece with the final eschatological judgment, because persecution sorts out those who are truly Christ’s from those who are not.[2]

    The active judgments portrayed in the Revelation, starting with the seven churches, are confined to the mediation of Christ under the New Covenant, affirmed by the illustrations in the book. In Revelation 1:13, Christ is “clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle,” representing Christ’s mediation. This illustration was typified in the Aaronic office in Leviticus 8:7 that affirms Christ’s mediation in the Revelation. The seven candlesticks, instrumental in the typical mediation, also indicate Christ’s antitypical mediation. Consequently, the Revelation represents Christ’s antitypical mediation under the New Covenant typified by the Aaronic ministry. One cannot interpret the Revelation as a judgment upon a people under the Old Covenant. God used heathen nations to chastise the nation or dominion of Israel under the Old Covenant, such as in the preterist and futurist’s views. Nevertheless, the Church is not a nation with borders and a semblance of dominion as was Israel in the past. While Covenantalists hold the Church as Israel, its people abide in all nations. God’s use of the Romans to punish and scatter the Judaeans in AD 70 accorded with Deuteronomy 28:64 has no bearing with the Revelation.

    While it is true that Hengstenberg rejected the dominant Protestant historicism of his time, he inadvertently lends credence to it in his interpretation of the judgments in Joel and the Revelation. Hengstenberg held that the judgments by the locusts illustrated in Joel and the Revelation fall upon the Church and not the heathen, which fails to support his rejection of Protestant historicism. While the active judgment of God portrayed in the Revelation has been constant through the seven churches eras, Hengstenberg interpreted the locust judgment upon the covenant people as the highest and last, which cannot be restricted to the time of John,

    The prophet thereby indicates that he transfers the past, in its individual definiteness, to the future, which bears a substantial resemblance to it. What was then said of the plague of locusts especially, is here applied to the calamity thereby prefigured. From among all the judgments upon the Covenant-people (for these alone are spoken of), this judgment is the highest and the last; and such the prophet could say, only if the whole sum of divine judgments, up to their consummation, represented itself to his inner vision under the image of the devastation by locusts.[3]

    Hengstenberg’s interpretation of the locusts in Joel and John promotes the historicists reading of the Revelation and not the preterist or the futurist’s view.

    From the historicist’s point of view, Hengstenberg’s interpretation that God uses the locust army as the highest and last judgment against his covenant people for their apostasy renders the traditional view of the seven seals and trumpets untenable. The interpretations that the seals represent long past phenomena do not agree with the portrayal of the locusts as the highest and the last judgment upon God’s covenant people. Joel declares the locusts have “the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run” (Joel 2:4), which is precisely how the apocalyptic horsemen in the Revelation are depicted,

    And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. (Revelation 6:2)​

    There are several scriptural reasons why the apocalyptic horsemen represent God’s highest and last judgment upon the covenant people and not past phenomena, as traditionalists have thought. The nineteenth-century historicist Edward B. Elliott, for instance, held the first rider to represent the prosperity and triumph of the Roman Empire following the first advent of Christ. Moreover, Elliott’s contemporary, H. Grattan Guinness, held the first seal representing the depiction of the first century Church missionary exploits. However, a critical analysis of the symbolism and narration does not support the traditional interpretations. Firstly, horses as symbols are predominantly associated with apostasy for reliance upon their illicit power (Deuteronomy 17:16; Isaiah 2:6–7, 30:15–17; Amos 2:15), which is indicative of the end day covenant apostasy prophesied of in the New Testament (Matthew 5:13, 24:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12; 1 Timothy 4:1–3; Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). In Jeremiah, “horsemen and bowmen” represent God’s agent Babylon in judging Jerusalem because “as a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore, they are become great, and waxen rich” (Jeremiah 4:29, 5:27). We see this same condition met as an admonition to come out of mystery Babylon, as the highest and final event, and from a historicist’s perception.

    And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. (Revelation 18:2-3)​

    Furthermore, 2 Timothy 4:8 maintains we must await Christ’s next advent to receive a crown, using the exact word for crown we see in Revelation 6:2, which does not support the interpretation of the first seal as a first advent phenomenon.

    There is every indication that the symbolism and narration of the seven seals are associated with covenant apostasy in the final days. The association with apostasy is predicated on the warnings in final churches eras. The fifth church era, Sardis, conveys a major falling away brought on by the denunciation: “thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Revelation 3:1). The precedent for this judgment is in Amos: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes” (Amos 2:6). Sardis represents the fourth transgression of the seven churches, as Smyrna cannot be counted, and the punishment is that Christ comes as a thief,

    Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (Revelation 3:3)​

    The symbolism that this judgment will come unexpectedly, likened unto to a thief, is also part of the imagery of God’s locust army.

    They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. (Joel 2:9)​

    The warning of an impending, unanticipated and final judgment is also supported in the admonitions to the church in Philadelphia,

    And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name… Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (Revelation 3:7-8, 10)​

    The key of David is a reference to Isaiah 22:22 by which additional discovery can be garnered. Commentators convey the chapter in Isaiah pertains to a typical example of impending judgment at the hands of an invading army and the intervention of a Messiah type individual that determines who is fit or not to enter the city, signified by the open and shut door. Again, we see this imagery as the narration shifts from the seven churches to the seven seals.

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

    The progressive guideline “after this” and Christ’s trumpet-like voice gesturing to show us “things which must be hereafter” convey a contiguous, linear narration and that the phenomena that follow overlap the last era of the churches. John hears the same voice heard in Revelation 1:10 that announces the “Day of the LORD,” the voice that sounds like a trumpet. The sanctuary visions in Revelation 4–5 commences with the sound of the trumpet that represents the call to judgment and the release of the apocalyptic four horsemen that parallels the first part of Joel. Here we have the “hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Revelation 3:7-8, 10). As the time of the apocalyptic four horsemen draws near its end in Joel, it invokes a cry for mercy, a solemn assembly that parallels the fifth seal of Revelation (Joel 2:15-17). God answers the cries and turns back his locust army, while the Revelation conveys the next event as the sealing of his covenant people in chapter 7. This sealing precludes any further harm from the locust conveyed in the fifth trumpet of the Revelation. The forensic evidence that the apocalyptic horsemen represent God’s highest and last judgment upon the covenant people far outweighs the traditionalist view that the seals and trumpet are, for the most part, past eschatological events.

    The connection between the phenomena related as the open door in Revelation 3:7-10, the throne scene, and seven seals are overwhelming. The discrimination between them “which say they are Jews, and are not” and the true Philadelphian is figurative and not by blood, considering that the church is comprised of people of all nations. The intent is a parting of those who are indeed Christ’s from those who are not. Furthermore, this parting is accomplished by the trial related to the church in Philadelphia. The seven seals convey the trial, insomuch as the saints depicted in the fifth seal petition for relief from the trial at the hands of the four horsemen of the previous seals. Considering the impending judgments conveyed in the fifth and sixth seals, Historicist Jon Paulien recognizes the significance of said framework as it pertains to the judgment scene in Revelation 8:3–5 that introduces the sounding of the seven trumpets, at the opening of the seventh seal,

    The seven trumpets, like the churches and seals before them, are preceded by a view of the heavenly sanctuary (8:2–6)....

    Thus the prayers of the saints in Revelation 8:3–5 are probably cries for deliverance from the oppression visited by their enemies as depicted in the seven seals...

    Two basic ideas are portrayed in Revelation 8:3–5, mediation and judgment....

    This relationship is, perhaps, best understood by examining the apparent connection between the fifth seal. In the fifth seal (Rev 6:9–11) John sees martyred souls under “the” altar crying out “How long, O Lord, the Holy and True One, do you not judge and avenge our blood upon those who live on the earth....

    The spiritual connection between the trumpets and the fifth seal is made in Rev 8:3–5 where incense from the golden altar is mingled with “the prayers of the saints (tôn katoikountôn epi tês gês).”14 This scene symbolizes Christ’s intercession for His saints. He responds to their prayers by casting His censer to the earth, with frightful results.

    This connection between the altar of 6:9–11 and that of 8:3–5 indicates that the seven trumpets are God’s response to the prayers of the saints for vengeance on those who have persecuted and martyred them. The martyrs were anxious for the judgment to begin but it was delayed until all the seals had been opened.[4]

    Paulien conveys the very judgment that is to “come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 3:10) when one accepts the linear narration from Revelation 1 through 11. One cannot put the trail that is about to come upon the whole earth behind the throne scene in Revelation 4-6 if the scene overlaps the era of the final “church of the Laodiceans,” especially when one accepts “that judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17).

    [1] Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1871) 303.

    [2] Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter, (Baker Academic, 2005), 293.

    [3] Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, 314-315

    [4] Jon Paulien, “Interpreting the Seven Trumpets,” A Paper Prepared for the Daniel and Revelation Committee of the General Conference of SDAs (March 5-9, 1986), 6-7, 11-13. http://www.thebattleofarmageddon. com/7trumpets pdf/Interpreting%20the%20Seven%20Trumpets2.pdf
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2021
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