Thoughts on similarities between the premillennial and amillennial views

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Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Matthew, I do believe your pure idealism has distorted your view of the eclectic or modified idealist position. It makes your take on it as rigid as the “radical idealism” decried in post #25. It is simply intolerable to full idealism to see any historical referents. This intolerance bleeds into your critique. Though I know you mean well, and are gracious as well as scholarly. It is a matter of truth and fidelity for you, and I take it in that spirit.

At times Puritanboard serves as preliminary peer review for various theological theses; it gives the opportunity for the learnèd here to challenge a thesis, and for the proponent to defend it against challenges.

I will try to keep this “defense” pithy, as we none of us like bloat in a thread. I will respond to your points (in blue) head-on.

Your position is not eclectic, Steve. It is selectively historicist.

It is my contention that, barring the seven letters of chapters 2 and 3, Revelation is essentially idealist until chapter 9, with the exception of the sixth seal and its vision of the brief time of terror just before the Second Coming. At chapter 9 we have two symbolic events, first a demonic darkening of the air, blotting out the sun, with the creatures that make up the smoke coming out of the abyss likened to scorpions that torment men but do not kill them. The commentators agree that this is an image depicting deception by the influence of demons. The second symbolic event is generally understood as a further development of the first deception, more demons entering the human sphere and these causing killing, one third of humankind to be exact. Both of these symbolic events speak of things that take place on earth, among men. I will comment further on this below.

Chapter 10 idealist, and chapter 11 until we get to verse 7, where the beast kills the two witnesses. Some say this is the killing / overcoming of the witnessing members of the church throughout the gospel age, and that may be true in a minor way, yet when we get to vv 11 and 12 we see the witnesses raised to life and then caught up to heaven as a great voice says to them, “Come up here!” And at that command the seventh trumpet sounds, bringing to mind the “last trump” of 1 Cor 15:52, and 1 Thess 4:16, 17—the beginning of the resurrection of the dead, the elect first.

Rev 12 an idealist vision of pre-Christ Israel, His birth, and the age-long warfare. Rev 13 all idealist save one can see the finale in v 7, yet it is basically idealist. Chapters 14 and 15 idealist, and then we come to the bowls / vials of chapter 16. I acknowledge these vials are present through all the age, the wrath of God visited upon men through the centuries, and yet there is the fullness of the wrath of God (Rev 15:1) at the end of time, which is shown in the fifth and sixth bowls—the throne or seat of the Beast darkened—and the nations called, by means of deception, “to THE battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Rev 16:14) [emphasis added—commentators all remarking on the importance of the definite article].

Rev 17 we have the vision of the beast and the whore Babylon, Rev 18 the causes of and execution of the judgment of Babylon. Is this to be taken as idealist recapitulation or are we at the end, or very near it? Rev 19 shows THE battle again, as does Rev 20:7,8.9. I’ll tie things together in a moment.

…you repeatedly speak of the fifth and sixth in the series of visions taking place at specific points and periods of history. On this thread you have even said that it took fifty years for the fifth trumpet to fully manifest. There is nothing idealist about this. When you speak like this you have ceased to be idealist in any sense. You have adopted an historicist hermeneutic that eclectics themselves reject.

The amil commentators almost unanimously speak of the sixth bowl in terms of, not as a recapitulated event, but THE battle at the end of time. It is an historic thing. I suppose all these closet historicists have finally been outed, no? To the contrary, this is what the eclectic modified idealist school holds to. To radical idealists no doubt this is blatant historicism, but fortunately they do not call the shots or define the terms.

Okay, do I push the envelope? Yes, I do. And here are some of my reasons: It is understood that the sixth bowl and the sixth trumpet (Beale, Smalley) are connected, “indeed, the sixth trumpet and the sixth bowl seem to depict the same event from different points of view” (Smalley). Beale then says, “this means that the sixth trumpet is an escalation of the fifth by its introduction of death, but the sixth trumpet continues to unleash the affliction of the fifth against all the surviving nonelect.” (citations for quotes in above posts)

So when the commentators view the sixth bowl non-idealistically, but real on the earth, while connecting this bowl to the sixth and fifth trumpets, it says to me that this cluster of symbols are of a cloth, for how can the bowl be connected to the fifth and sixth trumpets, with the former being historic and the latter two idealist? Apples and oranges don’t mix. They are all of the same kind—historic. No doubt I will not convince my radical idealist brother, but perchance those less rigid will see it. There are historic events in the eclectic position, to wit, the sixth bowl, Armageddon; this final battle is not in the ether, but on the earth. I push it a little farther back in time—these earthly doings.

As for the fifty years for the fifth trumpet to fully manifest: I have spelled that out above in the paper, New Insights in Amillennial Eschatology.pdf. I will defend that also, but later—this is to be pithy!

You have boldly pronounced we are at the end. You have made statements about the destruction of nations. At this point you are not exercising any patience, but are hastily making identifications which have no basis in holy Scripture. You have made yourself a prophet, and it seems to me that time will make a false prophet of you, as it has done in the case of others.

You are getting a bit worked up and carried away here, Matthew. I have surmised that it could be decades, while reiterating the Lord’s warning that we are not to try to figure out the time of the end. It is not wrong—neither against the word of God—to seek to discern the times we are in. What I saw concerning the advent of the age of sorcery back in the sixties I stand by. We are now seeing, fifty years later, more and more killing, as though the spirit of man is becoming filled with it. No big deal nowadays to kill cops, Christians—whoever offends us. And heads of states rattling their sabers also. There is a madness in the air that bodes ill for humankind. And I haven’t even mentioned—concerning this America—the judgment we have called forth by our egregious wickedness.

Hasty identifications? Destruction of nations? Well, one third of humankind, as prophesied by Scripture (unless you want to idealize that into meaninglessness) would likely include nations, unless pandemics of disease were to be the means, though the violence implied by the demonic torrent seems to speak of war. Is Babylon to be destroyed? Of course, it is written. But what is Babylon? Could it be the U.S.? Identifications, yes. Hasty, no.

Do I make myself a prophet? In the larger book, in the booklet, A Poet Arises In Israel, I wrote,

The prophetic office in Israel closed when the last prophet, John son of Zebedee (Matthew 10:2), finished writing the apocalyptic vision and prophecy given him around 95 CE—the culmination of all Old and New Covenant prophecy—so what I write is not “immediate” prophecy given me, yet as a student of prophecies the prophetic word of those who came before us is in my mouth.​

I interpret the prophecies; in fairness I think the worst you could rightly say of me is that I am a poor interpreter of the prophecies. The prophecies of Scripture speak for themselves, at least when they are not silenced by effete systems of interpretation. I will continue my defense later. I must sleep.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Once again, Steve, you put up a rhetorical smokescreen and refer back to my position. I haven't made one statement relative to my position on this thread. I have conceded, for the sake of examining your position, what the eclectic idealists maintain. My statements entirely relate to your methodology. I have quoted the eclectic authors to show what they mean by their method. While acknowledging their view of an end time tribulation, I have shown that they take the series of trumpets and vials as an unity which applies throughout the age, and I have shown that your idea of relating specific trumpets or vials to specific events is contrary to their position. Your position on specific trumpets and vials relating to specific events is not eclectic idealism. You are misusing these authors in order to gain credibility for your position. A responsible use of authorities on a subject requires an author to be honest about points of departure from those authorities.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Matthew, I refer back to your idealist position though you haven’t openly promoted it in this thread, because how you handle both the other amil commentators and my own use of their methodology is influenced by it—in the rigidity of your assessments. Your comments that I “again…put up a rhetorical smokescreen” and I “misuse authors…to gain credibility” thus deliberately being dishonest in both instances are disappointing to me.

You appear to be not really interested in the implications of Beale’s (and the others’) remarks, but rather want to prosecute a case, which is hardly conducive to scholarly appraisal of possible nuances. Your charges and tone seem to indicate anger—have I in things I have said personally offended you?

You had said (post #16), “I am a little confused as to the use you are making of amillennial commentators. Do you think that they are speaking of 'intensification' in terms of a distinct time period? Or are they using this term in the context of recapitulation?” My answer to this drew forth from you actual accusations of premeditated wrongdoing! I will demonstrate that the charge you make that my “idea of relating specific trumpets or vials to specific events is contrary to their position” is not true. This ought to silence your attack in this area. When I show—in their own quotes—they attribute on-the-ground actions to a specific vial should be sufficient to do that. Their form of idealism is not belied by having historical referents at the end of the age when the symbols of seals, trumps, and bowl find their ultimate fruition in the violence of the final conflict. In the following I will show just this.


Beale on Rev 16:14b

The purpose of the deception is “to gather them together for the war of the great day of God Almighty.” The same expression occurs in chs. 19 and 20, where it refers respectively to the beast and the dragon gathering kings together to fight against Christ at his final coming . . . [Rev 19:19; 20:8]

The reference here is probably the same as in chs. 19 and 20: the confrontation between the forces of the beast and Christ at the end of the age. (his larger Commentary, pp 834-835)​

Beale on Rev 16:16

The thought of v 14 continues. The demonic spirits deceive the kings “and gather them together at the place” where the war is to occur. The outcome of the war is described in 17:14; 19:14-21; and 20:7-10, where the forces of the dragon and beast are portrayed as destroyed by Christ and God. The place where the battle is to be fought is called “Armageddon.” Like the place names “Babylon” and “Euphrates” so “Armageddon” does not refer to a specific geographical locale, but the whole world. (p 838)​

This is the actual war of the end, in physical and earthly manifestation.

Beale here connects the fifth and sixth trumpets

. . . the demons bring physical death on many whom they have held in a condition of deception, while tormenting and keeping the remainder in such a state. As noted, this means that the sixth trumpet is an escalation of the fifth by its introduction of death, but the sixth trumpet continues to unleash the affliction of the fifth against all the surviving nonelect. (p 517)​


William Hendriksen, Three Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Zondervan, 1949):

The Gospel Age will not last forever. It will come to an end: satan is going to be loosed out of his prison. In thorough consistency with what we have said about the binding of the devil for a thousand years the loosening must refer to the fact that, in God’s permissive providence, the period during which the church as a mighty missionary institution publishes the Gospel everywhere will end. This will happen very shortly before the second coming. That this final period during which satan will rage most furiously is going to be of brief duration is emphasized throughout Scripture. Revelation speaks of it as “a little time,” 20:3, and clearly indicates that it will be followed immediately by the second coming; verse 11. (p 26)

It is clear from the passage which we are considering—note especially such expressions as “the nations which are in the four corners of the earth,” and “they went up over the breadth of the earth,” Rev 20:8, 9—that in these final days which shall immediately precede Christ’s second coming the opposition to the church is going to be world-wide: the entire world, functioning as one great social and political unit under the leadership of antichristian government, will do its utmost to destroy the church. Unto the beast will be given “authority over every tribe and tongue and nation,” 13:7.

How far has this program advanced? Where are we today? In this connection one may well ask: has there ever been such a cry for One World? Think of the Atlantic Pact or of the seriously proposed political unification of the countries of Europe. Moreover, if antichrist should come to-day he would he would be able to make use of inventions which did not exist a century ago: airplanes whose velocity exceeds the speed of sound, the radio, television, etc. It may be later than we think. There are those who judge that at least for certain regions of the earth satan’s “little time” has already begun: think of religious conditions in Russia, for instance. And it should be pointed out that it is certainly not necessary to draw the conclusion that this season of great tribulation for the church of God will begin simultaneously in every part of the world. (pp 27, 28)​

As can be seen here, Hendriksen looks about his world (circa 1949) and surmises that what he is seeing is likely the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy. When I do this you shout dishonesty! falsity!

William Hendriksen, More than Conquerors:

…Har-Magedon is the symbol of every battle in which, when the need is greatest and believers are oppressed, the Lord suddenly reveals His power in the interest of His distressed people and defeats the enemy. When Sennacherib’s 185,000 are slain by the angel of Jehovah, that is a shadow of Har-Magedon. When God grants a little handful of Maccabees a glorious victory over an enemy which far outnumbers it, that is a type of Har-Magedon.

But the real, the great, the final Har-Magedon coincides with the time of Satan’s little season (see Rev. 11:7-11). When the world, under the leadership of Satan, antichristian government and antichristian religion—the dragon, the beast and the false prophet—is gathered against the church for the final battle, and the need is greatest; when God’s children, oppressed on every side, cry for help; then suddenly, dramatically, Christ will appear to deliver His people. That final tribulation and that appearance of Christ on clouds of glory to deliver His people, that is Har-Magedon. It is for this reason that Har-Magedon is the sixth bowl. (p 163)​

I need not even comment, but I will to draw attention to WH’s showing the physical, earthly manifestation of the sixth bowl.

Michael Wilcock, The Message of Revelation,

The following interpretation [of Rev 16:12-16 and the sixth bowl] is offered tentatively as being most in line with the general meaning of the book.

The pouring out of bowl 5 punished the unrepentant by the tribulations of a society thrown out of gear. Things are bad enough when the beast’s kingdom works properly; when its machinery runs amok, they are infinitely worse. Bowl 6 is the next and last stage of the divine punishment, and in it the purposes of God and Satan in a macabre way converge. Having seen his perversion of human society confounded, Satan says, ‘If I can no longer pervert, I will destroy’; and he and the beast and the false prophet inspire the kings of the earth, no longer able to maintain the inconstant balance they call ‘peace’, to a frenzy of mutual slaughter. Armaments multiply, armies march, and men die—not their kith and kin, but they themselves; for as Trumpet 6 was the last warning, bringing death before them, Bowl 6 is the last punishment, bringing death to them. But while Satan is saying, ‘I will destroy’, God is saying, ‘So you shall’. Satan’s purpose is to assert his power; God’s is to prosecute his justice. The result is the same: Armageddon.

Armageddon, therefore, is the end. When ‘the great day of God the Almighty’ comes, the powers of this world will find themselves suddenly confronted by their rejected Lord, coming as unexpectedly as the quotation of his words come into the chapter at verse 15. That battle will be the last: the torment of the fifth Bowl followed by the destruction of the sixth, as darkness in Egypt was followed by death, on the night of the first Passover.

But though it is to the last day that Bowl 6 chiefly refers, we ought not to forget that whenever destruction comes upon the impenitent sinner, that is for him the ‘last day’, the end of his world, and the final confrontation with Christ, who comes at all times like a thief, when men least expect him. (pp 149-150)​

Of these last two men quoted, Hendriksen and Wilcock, Greg Beale said,

The present commentary fits most within the overall interpretive framework of such commentaries as Caird, [A.F.] Johnson, Sweet, and above all Hendriksen and Wilcock. (Op. Cit., p 49) [emphasis added]​

Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism,

This is what is known as “recapitulation,” in which the same basic pattern is repeated in a variety of formulations. Put more simply, the visions [of Rev 19 and 20] were arranged topically, not chronologically. Although the cycles of judgment in Revelation increase in intensity as the return of our Lord draws near, the vision which was described in Revelation 20 might come to pass at the same point in history as previous visions in the book. Revelation 20 may, in fact, not be describing events which come chronologically after those recorded in Revelation 19 but events which are contemporaneous with them. (p 201)

As [R.F.] White concludes, “If John expected us to interpret the revolts in Revelation 19 And 20 as different episodes in history, we could hardly expect him to describe them in language and imagery derived from the same episode in Ezekiel’s prophecy.” Given the weight and strength of these two lines of evidence, it is clear that the battles in Revelation 19:11-21 and Revelation 20:7-10 are one and the same.

Yet one more line of evidence supporting recapitulation in the Book of Revelation remains to be mentioned. In Revelation 15:1 and 8 we are told that there are seven plagues to come which “complete” (etelesthē) God’s wrath on the earth. With the sixth bowl, the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet gather the kings of the earth together for battle (Rev. 16:12-14). (p 206)​

Kim Riddlebarger, The Man of Sin

John describes the current suffering of much of the church in Asia Minor when he writes, but the struggle Christians are facing at the hands of pagan Rome points ahead to the time of the end when the beast appears yet again. It is this end-times beast who is most often identified as Antichrist. (p 104)​


Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb,

With regard to historic timing – of the fifth trumpet in particular – I repeat the earlier quote of Dennis Johnson,

Though limited in duration and severity, this outbreak of demonic activity among the unbelieving carries the expression of God’s wrath in the course of history to a new level, a first woe. (p 149) [emphasis added]​

To repeat again your (really slanderous) charges:

While acknowledging their view of an end time tribulation, I have shown that they take the series of trumpets and vials as an unity which applies throughout the age, and I have shown that your idea of relating specific trumpets or vials to specific events is contrary to their position. Your position on specific trumpets and vials relating to specific events is not eclectic idealism. You are misusing these authors in order to gain credibility for your position.

The above quotes show your view of the commentators’ understanding of the vials to be inaccurate. And your accusations really unworthy a man of your standing.

Still, it is true that I go farther than they do in how I see trumpets and bowls, giving even more specificity—not to the sixth bowl—but to the fifth and sixth trumpets, which, however they (some of them) do connect to the sixth bowl. This ought to be a scholarly discussion, without the element of an inquisitorial spirit introduced.
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
Let's take a breather on this topic for the time being.

Thread closed for the Sabbath day.

Edit: Thread re-opened at 7PM (AZ time).
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Steve, I have no personal issue with you. I am not angered in the slightest. I have not accused you of anything. I have simply stated what I believe the situation requires in the way of honesty; at no point have I slanderously charged you with being dishonest. The New Testament epistles are filled with exhortations to moral action without implying immorality in the readers.

My consistent idealism has nothing to do with the critique I am offering your prophetic scheme. I state it again, I concede the end time intensification for the sake of the critique. Understanding the authors on their own terms, they clearly refrain from identifying individual seals, trumpets, or vials, with events in world history.

You use a number of authors to claim that there is a specific school of interpretation which supports your methodology. This is misleading. Dennis Johnson refers to the method of Hendriksen and Beale as “oversimplifying the relationship between the vision cycles in Revelation” (p. 362). He agrees with the suggestion of Wilcocks and Bauckham that the trumpets are intended to be separate from the bowls. That being the case, all these authors cannot be used to support a single line of interpretation. You quote Hendriksen and Beale in opposition to my critique, but one of your own authorities maintains that they make the very point I am establishing in my critique of your position.

I have already quoted Beale’s longer commentary to show how he understood the trumpets and plagues in terms of recapitulation. I have also quoted his shorter commentary to show that he regarded intensification as part of the recapitulation scheme. Your quotations from his detailed exegesis do not indicate he has separate events in view. Everything he says is naturally understood as being part of the vision he is describing. He is saying the visions relate to the same history, but there is a progression of emphasis within the visions. The same comments are applicable to Hendriksen.

Coming to Dennis Johnson himself, though he disagrees with Hendriksen and Beale, he specifically rejects your view and identifies your view with historicist methodology. On p. 361 he states, “Thus, while idealism agrees with historicism (over against futurism and preterism) that the visions symbolize the conditions confronting the church throughout the entire church age, idealists part company with historicists’ efforts to locate the judgment symbolized in the fourth seal or the fifth trumpet at a particular point in world history.”

Please note what he has said. Idealists part company with the historicist principle which locates “the fifth trumpet at a particular point in world history.” You locate the fifth trumpet at a particular point in world history. Your principle is historicist, not idealist. This is the judgment of one of your own authorities.

When you quote from Johnson’s explanation of the fifth trumpet you fail to give the whole sense. He immediately goes on to speak of the dissolution of Rome as an epitome of the trumpet, but also states it does not exhaust it. In other words, it refers to something which happens throughout history. He did not intend to refer the trumpet to a “particular point in world history.”

Moreover, Johnson’s disagreement with Hendriksen and Beale turns out to work against your method of drawing a parallel between the trumpets and vials. Johnson’s point is that these two series are not strictly parallel, and that they are framed in such a way that the trumpets are meant to be warnings whilst the vials are history-ending disasters. According to this scheme there is no basis for drawing a strict parallel between the fifth trumpet and the fifth vial. Nor is there any basis for singling out one vial as a specific historical event in distinction from the others. To the extent that Wilcock employs the same scheme of interpretation he would equally work against the idea of connecting the fifth trumpet and the fifth vial; all the vials would be seen as part of the final and total judgment in which no space is given for repentance.

Coming to Wilcock, he also interprets the fifth trumpet ideally, and applies it to all of history. He writes, “We have had ample indication already that Trumpets 1 to 5 at least, like Seals 1 to 5, prophesy in symbols, and what they declare has in fact come true again and again throughout the centuries.” Again, “Our interpretation means that whenever unbelievers suffer in this way, all the many-shaped ills which torment them, and which even kindly death will not come to relieve — chronic hardships, diseases, enmities, insecurities — these ills are the locusts of Trumpet 5, marshalled and led by the angel of the abyss, again perhaps Satan himself. Such is the warning of Trumpet 5, and the first of the woes directed against unbelieving men themselves, as distinct from their environment.”

Looking at Riddlebarger, I can only find one reference to the trumpets in a footnote in the Case for Amillennialism, and they come in the way of quotation from Beale’s commentary. I cannot find any example where he applies one of the trumpets or vials to a specific point of history. He is strong on a future antichrist figure as being a focal instrument at the end, so I doubt he would countenance any prophetic scheme which did not judiciously identify a future antichrist. And as I have pointed out, your scheme fails in this respect while it shows a kind of eschatological hastiness which Geerhardus Vos certainly would not have encouraged.

It is quite clear that none of your authorities support your method; one of them has positively stated that your method is historicist, and rejected it as such. Given this fact, it seems to me that the forthright thing for you to do is to admit that you are operating on another hermeneutical principle. The idealist scheme, eclectic or otherwise, provides no basis for your prophetic identifications.

I will leave it there. You may have the final word if you wish. I hope you can consider the facts I have presented without taking personal offence.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Matthew, you should take responsibility for the things you say:

"Steve, you put up a rhetorical smokescreen . . . You are misusing these authors in order to gain credibility for your position."

A “smokescreen” is well understood to mean subterfuge, hiding behind something to avoid detection. A “rhetorical smokescreen” is to do this with words and ideas in discussion, debate, or presentation. It implies deceitfulness. I do not need to have a smokescreen as I prefer to stand in the open, revealing what I think and see. As for doing this by “refer[ring] back to [your] position” of radical idealism, I do and have maintained it is most pertinent and not in the slightest a subterfuge, as your basic eschatological view affects the things you say and how you see. Your use of the eclectic amil commentators’ views is not born of love or respect for them—nor even belief in these teachings—neither the nuances of their views, but are simply tools in an effort to undo an opponent’s position. I myself wholeheartedly believe the things I assert and have no need for deceit and trickery. If I err in points I am certainly willing to concede them (better corrected here among friends than elsewhere!).

To state that I am "misusing these authors in order to gain credibility for [my] position" purports to know my motives, and attributes to them deliberate misrepresentation for the sake of gain. Please don’t seek to evade the clear import of these charges, which tend to the defaming of my character, notwithstanding your protestations to the contrary. Having said this I will let it drop—I will forgive it—even if you don’t own it.

You have been trying unsuccessfully to overturn my position for years (since 2010), and this is but a renewed attempt—with more depth than previously—and I do not mind defending it. In fact, I have always gained from our interactions in this area, having had to examine my material and views much more closely. It is better to be challenged by an astute brother than by an author I have misrepresented, or unscrupulous adversaries (which shall no doubt happen when I publish these things), so I welcome close and penetrating examination.

I have clearly said that the commentators disagree among themselves in relatively minor points, including the relationships between the seals, trumpets, and bowls, while agreeing in their overall hermeneutic approach. You are apparently familiarizing yourself with all this eclectic material for the purpose of beating me “on my own turf”, as it were; myself, I have been poring over and pondering it for years, seeking understanding. This is my home turf, on which I build, while you are just visiting a land you don’t like on an errand of demolition. I love this land—the eclectic Amillennial vision.

Perhaps the primary point I have been seeking to make in my statements above is that without doubt the majority of commentators, however they see the relationships between the seals, trumps, and bowls, agree that the last bowl is realized in an historical event in the world: the last battle, or Armageddon. If that is established beyond refutation I have established the foundation of my position. For it would show that these eclectic or partially idealist men—idealist in the main—countenance one of the symbols having an historical reality. You seem to gloss over this and focus strictly on their in-the-main idealism.

So when you say, “Understanding the authors on their own terms, they clearly refrain from identifying individual seals, trumpets, or vials, with events in world history”, if I can show that inaccurate I have invalidated the very basis of your critique, though in some minor points I will concede you are right—in minor points only, possibly regarding one commentator. All of the commentators have some disagreement with the others, though their basic hermeneutic unites them, and me with them, as I shall show.

Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism

With the sixth bowl, the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet gather the kings of the earth together for battle (Rev. 16:12-14). (p 206)​

KR affirms the sixth bowl having an historic reality, an actual battle on the earth before the return of Christ. And please note, that the deceptions preliminary to the battle—taking place before the battle, and who knows how long these deceptions were at work before they achieved their purpose; could they be years? decades?—were also part of Bowl 6.

Michael Wilcock, The Message of Revelation

Armaments multiply, armies march, and men die—not their kith and kin, but they themselves; for as Trumpet 6 was the last warning, bringing death before them, Bowl 6 is the last punishment, bringing death to them. But while Satan is saying, ‘I will destroy’, God is saying, ‘So you shall’. Satan’s purpose is to assert his power; God’s is to prosecute his justice. The result is the same: Armageddon.

Armageddon, therefore, is the end. When ‘the great day of God the Almighty’ comes, the powers of this world will find themselves suddenly confronted by their rejected Lord, coming as unexpectedly as the quotation of his words come into the chapter at verse 15. That battle will be the last: the torment of the fifth Bowl followed by the destruction of the sixth, as darkness in Egypt was followed by death, on the night of the first Passover.

But though it is to the last day that Bowl 6 chiefly refers, we ought not to forget that whenever destruction comes upon the impenitent sinner, that is for him the ‘last day’, the end of his world, and the final confrontation with Christ, who comes at all times like a thief, when men least expect him. (pp 149-150)​

Whatever else you may posit about MW’s views it is clear that he also places the final, historic battle on the earth against the church in the sixth bowl.

William Hendriksen, More than Conquerors:

But the real, the great, the final Har-Magedon coincides with the time of Satan’s little season (see Rev. 11:7-11). When the world, under the leadership of Satan, antichristian government and antichristian religion—the dragon, the beast and the false prophet—is gathered against the church for the final battle, and the need is greatest; when God’s children, oppressed on every side, cry for help; then suddenly, dramatically, Christ will appear to deliver His people. That final tribulation and that appearance of Christ on clouds of glory to deliver His people, that is Har-Magedon. It is for this reason that Har-Magedon is the sixth bowl. (p 163)​

Johnson may disagree with WH and with MW, yet WH confidently affirms that this terrific battle against the believers will be historic, on the earth. A bowl that is not ideal in its final realization, but earthly—although brought about by demonic spiritual forces, which are running rampant on the earth.

Beale on Rev 16:14b, the sixth bowl

The purpose of the deception is “to gather them together for the war of the great day of God Almighty.” The same expression occurs in chs. 19 and 20, where it refers respectively to the beast and the dragon gathering kings together to fight against Christ at his final coming . . . [Rev 19:19; 20:8]


The reference here is probably the same as in chs. 19 and 20: the confrontation between the forces of the beast and Christ at the end of the age. (his larger Commentary, pp 834-835)​

Beale on Rev 16:16, the sixth bowl

The thought of v 14 continues. The demonic spirits deceive the kings “and gather them together at the place” where the war is to occur. The outcome of the war is described in 17:14; 19:14-21; and 20:7-10, where the forces of the dragon and beast are portrayed as destroyed by Christ and God. The place where the battle is to be fought is called “Armageddon.” Like the place names “Babylon” and “Euphrates” so “Armageddon” does not refer to a specific geographical locale, but the whole world. (p 838)​

Part of this 6[SUP]th[/SUP] bowl is the gathering of the kings upon the earth to war against the church in which God dwells; our blood soaking the actual ground at that time is not idealist. Beale is bringing the ideal into history in this battle.

Leon Morris, Revelation, Revised Edition

The Sixth Bowl (16:12-16)

14…The three [‘demonic spirits’] have one real task to perform, namely that of the gathering of men together for the final battle.

16…John reverts to the activities of the dirty spirits. They gathered the kings (and, of course, their followers) to a place called Armageddon. (pp 191, 192, 193)​

Morris reiterates the view of the rest, that the 6[SUP]th[/SUP] bowl is historic.

R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of Revelation

On the sixth bowl:

[Rev 16] 14) [The ‘three frog-demons’] gather all the antichristian forces together, to form one vast army “for the battle of the day, of the great one, of God the Almighty.”. . . The antichristian hosts imagine this to be their day in which they, with one united effort, will destroy the kingdom of the Lamb root and branch and will laugh in triumph forever.

Although it is without a geographical location or even a satisfactory etymology, the name “Armageddon” has impressed itself upon the imagination as being the final battlefield against all evil powers to their utter defeat. This is about enough; we need to add only 19:11-21. (pp 478, 480)​

Lenski likewise sees the evil heretofore idealized brought into history to be defeated for all to see—in the sixth bowl.

Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb

I want to give special attention to D.E. Johnson, on two fronts, because of your focus on him. He also, despite his clear statements regarding idealism, sees the end battle as historic:

Sixth Bowl on the River Euphrates:

Gathering for the Battle (16:12-16)

The sixth bowl reveals preparations for the last battle, the final showdown between God and his enemies… (p 231)

…the drying of the Euphrates that John now sees signals the coming relief and release for the church and defeat for its enemies.

The enemies defeat, however will take them unawares. . . . In fact, they are assembling to meet their own destruction. (p 232)​

Johnson’s comments highlight the unusual mixture of symbolism and history in this account of the final battle and that which precedes it: symbols of the humans and spirits promoting the deception, and the actual humans deceived and mobilized to attack, and the historic earthly location (the entire earth) of the battle.

All these commentators affirm the historicity of the sixth bowl, as well the unusual melding of idealist imagery with history, as the objects of the demonic deception—the kings of the world and their followers—appear in history.

When you quote Johnson’s statement from page 361, “…idealists part company with historicists’ efforts to locate the judgment symbolized in the fourth seal or the fifth trumpet at a particular point in world history”, it should be realized that this is in reference to his earlier observation that “Some historicists viewed the locusts released from the abyss with the sounding of the fifth trumpet (9:7) as the Muslim invasions of Europe (e.g., the Moors in Spain).” (p 353)

You are right, however, that I “failed to give the whole sense” of his remark in my earlier quote of him (“the expression of God’s wrath in the course of history”)—its context in his discussion—and there may have misrepresented him, though I am not sure at this point. I will have to think on that.

Now, despite all your assertions to the contrary, I am not an historicist—such as Johnson is talking of—but a modified idealist using an historicist method in one instance, albeit this instance having immense repercussions, illumining—like a bolt of lightning in the nighttime sky—historic referents within other symbols. I am not talking about a supposed historical invasion of Muslims into Europe, but a spiritual dynamic that has existed through the gospel age—I am referring to sorcery, the opening and releasing of demonic power—which was the source of the spiritual plague of deception unleashed in the fifth trumpet. This plague of deception—of which Paul in 2 Thess 2:11, 12 says, “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”—what is the extent of it?

I realize you have little truck with mentions of “sorcery”, “demonic power” and such, as well this whole realm of eclectic / modified idealist thought—your visiting this realm only to take me down—not being a native here.

All this said, I am richer for your having interacted with me on this topic, and for that I thank you.
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
using an historicist method in one instance, albeit this instance having immense repercussions

Steve, I have thanked you for your post on the basis of this single acknowledgment.

Because you think I am out to "beat" you, and you take my challenges as a personal affront, I think it will be best if I do not discuss this matter with you anymore.
 
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