Riddlebarger: Man of Sin

Riddlebarger, Kim.  Man of Sin.

Riddlebarger advances the thesis that the Scriptures give us a typology of antichrists which will culminate in a future, individual Antichrist, or Man of Sin. This is an accessible read for the lay person.  Riddlebarger covers the necessary scholarship, but he never overwhelms the reader.  I agree with him on a personal, future Antichrist but demur at points concerning the exegesis of Daniel and Matthew 24. While I think “double-fulfillment” is plausible, I think a stronger case needs to be made for it.  To be fair to Riddlebarger, though, that wasn’t his main point.

The drama begins with the two seeds (cities) in the Garden.  From there Riddlebarger gives us a line up of OT types of Antichrist:
1) Nimrod
2) Pharaoh.  He even has magicians who are able to match Moses and Aaron.  This is demonic agency (Rev. 13:11-17).
3) Nebuchadnezzar: The Image of the Beast. Lots of connections with Nimrod.  Tower/Golden Image; Both in roughly the same area.

Antichrist and Daniel’s 70th Week.

I am just stating Riddlebarger’s argument.  I’m not endorsing or critiquing it.  He identifies the “covenant” in verse 27 with “the covenant of grace.”

Gog and Magog

Gog and Magog are symbols of all nations who come from the ends of the earth to war upon the saints.

Doctrine of the Antichrist in the New Testament Era

Much of Riddlebarger’s argument depends on “double-fulfillment.”  I’m iffy on this.  It seems like special pleading.  However, it does seem to work with the fall of Jerusalem and the Olivet Discourse.  It won’t convince heretical full preterists, but it can blunt some partial preterist arguments.

The Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet

Old Testament Background

He takes a somewhat unique line with Nero.  Pace Gentry, he doesn’t see Nero as the Beast.  Notwithstanding, Nero is important for revelation, for even on a late date reading, John utilizes (or his readers would have understood) the Nero Redivivus myth.

The section on Puritan eschatology goes through the standard arguments for historicism, which Riddlebarger isn’t buying. While we associate eschatological speculation with dispensationalists, it is the historicists who really own the game.  The English Civil war was a ready-made template. 

Most historicists date the beginning of the Papacy at 600 AD (for Edwards it was 606). From these calculations Edwards concluded that Antichrist would fall around 1866.  Unfortunately, for speculative purposes, Catholicism began to wane.  We see a moderating trend in Charles Hodge.  Actually, Hodge’s exposition of Antichrist is pretty good.

Figure of the Past or Future Foe?

1) A series of antichrists will arise from within the church and will be tied to a particular heresy.
2) A repeated manifestation of the Beast throughout history.

3) The final manifestation of Antichrist is state-enforced heresy.

Problems with Preterism

Arguments in favor:
1) Rev. 11 seems to mention a physical temple, which would imply it was still standing.
Response: The language in Revelation is symbolic.  If it is literal, then we have the odd case of the Gentiles’ occupying the outer court for 3 ½ years but leaving the inner court undefiled.

2) The seven heads and sevens clearly suggest Rome, so we have six kings before AD 70, the last of which is Nero. 
Response: With which emperor do you begin counting? If we start with Julius Caesar, then we get Nero.  But if we start with the first official emperor, Augustus, we do not get Nero.

3) Some preterists argue that Jerusalem is Babylon, since it was the “city in which our Lord was crucified.”
Response: That same city is also called “Sodom and Egypt,” so we probably aren’t dealing with literal terms.

4) He is coming with the clouds, and the reference in Zechariah clearly refers to the generation who pierced him.
Response: The reference in Zech. is to Israel’s final salvation, not her final judgment.

What does the Future Hold? (Pate)

Image result for what does the future hold pate

Pate, C. Marvin.  What Does the Future Hold?

This is a *very* basic primer on eschatology. Pate, however, does manage to add some insights that aren’t covered in Erickson and Grenz. He surveys all of the millennial options, noting where they agree on hermeneutics and noting difficulties in all of the options. He eventually sides with premillennialism, noting that the premillennial reading of chapters 19-20 makes the most sense of the lexigraphy and grammar, and I think he is right.

He made the strongest critique of postmillennialism. However, he seems to think that all postmillennialists are partial-preterists, yet this is not true. I suppose it doesn’t matter, since non-preterist postmillennialism is actually the weakest of all eschatological positions. He forces postmillennialist to logically accept the claims of hyper-preterism. There is no reason why a postmillennialist should stop the partial-preterist wagon at Revelation 18 and not say that Rev. 19 also applies to the destruction of Jerusalem. If, however, he does, the following absurdities arise:

1. The second coming actually happened in A.D. 70 and your position is now heretical.

2. If (1) we are no longer in Revelation 20, but actually chapters 21-22 (since 19-20 is the 2nd Coming/Millennium, which happened at the fall of Jerusalem). If that is the case, we are currently in the eternal state.

His take on amillennialism is actually the weakest in the book. Beside the critique based on Revelation 20, he doesn’t offer one. This is odd since premillennialist usually act like it’s open-season on amillennialism, yet he pulls all of his punches.

Pate ends his book with an analysis of the Jesus seminar and current gnosticisms in the American academy.

This book is fair, but suffers from a number of problems: the analysis isn’t always thorough and the style can be annoying.

Osborne, Revelation: chapter 1


Chapter 1

When Jesus says he is coming en tachy, does that refer to imminence or the manner of how he comes? The most natural way to read it is imminence.  Does this not prove preterism, then? Unless you are a full (heretical) preterist, no one believes all the events happened en tachy. Rather, Osborne suggests “It is better to see this as apocalyptic language similar to that throughout the New Testament on the “soon” return of Christ…Such language never means that there are no events yet to occur, for both Christ (Matt. 13:24-30; 25:1-13) and the Apocalypse itself (6:11) realize there will be a period of time before its fulfillment (55).  Rather, the language is supposed to draw the reader into a sense of expectation and responsibility.

Osborne on Revelation: Introduction


Grant R. Osborne. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002

Lord willing, I am going to blog through Grant Osborne’s magnum opus on Revelation.

Date of Revelation: 3:17 alludes to an earthquake in Laodicea, which happened around 80 AD.  That’s all that Osborne writes.  I wish he had spent more time onit.

Interpretation of Symbols

There is a false dichotomy between literal and symbolic (Osborne 15). A symbolic book can still communicate literal events.  For example, 12 is a symbolic number. That doesn’t mean, however, that there weren’t 12 tribes or 12 apostles.

Methods of Interpretation

While Osborne himself is a premillennialist, he points out that earlier premillennialists (Walvord, Ironside, Gaebelin) who read church history into the seven letters were wrong.  Recent dispensationalists such as Blaising and Saucy simply read them as historical letters.

Historicist: This could be anything from reading church history into the seven letters, or with the Reformers in seeing the Pope as the Antichrist.  Osborne critiques: “Because of its inherent weaknesses (its identification only with Western church history, the inherent speculation involved in parallels with world history, the fact that it must be reworked with each new epoch in world history, the total absence of any relevance for John or his original readers….) few scholars today take this approach” (19).

Preterist: the main problem with the Gentry/Chilton school is that it limits the universal language of the book to the Jewish people.  How do events in Jerusalem signify the end of the world for fringe believers in Asia Minor?

Idealist: the main problem is that the text itself suggests future fulfillments to the prophecies, which makes a “timeless truth” approach difficult.

Osborne wants a combination of futurist, idealist, and limited preterist views (21).

Nota Bene: Bauckham suggests that the book as a whole reflects the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: hallowing the name, the kingdom coming, and will done (Bauckham 1993b: 40).

Hal Lindsey and Biblical Prophecy

By Cornelis Vanderwaal.

Vanderwaal was attacked for his rhetoric, but is it any worse than Lindsey or Hunt’s saying that anyone who disagrees with them wants to exterminate the Jews (Lindsey, Road to Holocaust, 332)? Let’s get beyond rhetoric and into substance.  Having read the Left Behind stuff, I was surprised to see that they got their Ezekiel 38-39 material from Lindsey–you know the part where Russia (Gog) invades Israel, gets killed by an angelic meteor shower, and then 200 million Red Chinese (you have to say it like that) invade Israel?

Pic was just a coincidence

Key thesis: Revelation is a covenantal book through and through (Vanderwaal 10).

The book gives more of the context on why something like Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth became so popular, rather than in detailed refutations of Lindsey. Of course, Vanderwaal does show why Lindsey is wrong.

The book’s value is not in an earth-shattering refutation of dispensationalism (and there is a dated problem with the book, which I will mention at the end). Rather, it exposes some weird problems that must entail given Dispensationalism.

Odd problems in dispensationalism: if the church age will end, and if there will be believers in the Tribulation, then the church isn’t the mother of believers. We await another mother, a Jewish one (30).

I’m cool with pre wrath now

Another odd problem: One of the weirder problems in Gogology is that many Russians converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages, which means a lot of Jews in Eastern Europe have Russian blood. Now, Israel = Gog!

Key point: The church of the new covenant can never be viewed as part of Israel in the sense that it stands next to the Jewish people of our time, with the latter regarded as another part of Israel or the rest of Israel. The Bible stresses that the New Testament church is a continuation of Israel. The Jews who refuse to believe in the Messiah can no longer lay claim to the old covenant titles. This is the point on which everything hinges (30).

Vanderwaal’s main criticism of Lindsey’s use of biblical prophecy is that as prophecy relates to the future, it does so in a covenant context. This means that some of the predictions are conditional upon repentance (Micah 3:12). If this isn’t the case, then some biblical prophecies are simply false.

Israel in the bible means “people of the covenant” (56).

Argument: If Jesus is the Covenant Prophet (Dt 17), then anyone who does not listen to him is cut off from the covenant. Minor premise: Israel did not listen to him. Conclusion: Ethnic Israel is cut off.

Further, the desolating sacrilege = future apostasy on the part of the covenant people (60).

The Last Days

Vanderwaal, while firmly rejecting premillennialism, also distances himself from Augustine’s platonizing (66-67).

Vanderwaal’s Constructive Proposal

As Gary North said, you can’t beat something with nothing. Vanderwaal suggests Revelation is a covenant document detailing Yahweh’s coming destruction of Old Covenant Israel.
Babylon = Jerusalem. Summarizing Holwerda (106):

(1)It is apparent from Revelation 2:9 that John knows of a community that claims to be a congregation of the living God but is really a synagogue of Satan.

(2)Revelation 17 clearly echoes Exodus 16 and 23, where Israel is branded a harlot who fails to keep the covenant.

(3)The great city is also mentioned in Revelation 11:8, where a political-cultural interpretation is out of the question. This suggests that Babylon should not be identified as a political-cultural entity in Revelation 17 and 18 either.

(4)It is made clear in the book of Acts (see 2:23; 3:13; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52) that it was Jerusalem that opposed Jesus, although Rome did in fact carry out the death sentence. Jesus was crucified in the great city that is Spiritually called Sodom and Egypt.

(5) It is apparent from Revelation 18:20 that when the harlot is destroyed, God is squaring accounts because of what she has done to the prophets and apostles. Four verses later we read: “In her was found the blood of prophets and of saints.”

Admittedly, he makes a strong case. How can someone who is not Yahweh’s bride be a harlot to Yahweh? This is why Babylon must be Jerusalem, not Rome (or Masonic London). Nonetheless, if this isn’t a futurist document, then what do we make of Revelation 20:11ff to the end? Vanderwaal cannot take his preterist (though he never calls it that) conclusions to that point.