Restoring the Original Bible
The Rejection of the Apostle John
The principal book that all the apostles were relying on to give them a sequential account of prophetic events from their time to the second advent of Christ was the Book of Revelation. That book was written by the apostle John but the information in it purportedly came from none other than Christ himself (Revelation 1:1–2). Almost every chronological indication in that book suggested that Christ would return to earth to perform all the judgments recorded in the Book of Revelation within the generation of the original apostles.
Indeed, so soon did the readers imagine the second advent would occur that “they also who pierced him” (at Christ’s crucifixion) were thought to be remaining alive to witness his glorious second advent (Revelation 1:7). This reference, among several others, suggests that the Book of Revelation (at least its original draft) was written in the early or middle part of John’s ministry. We have given reasons for dating its initial composition somewhere between 56 C.E. to 60 C.E. Professor J.A.T. Robinson felt that the Book of Revelation was certainly composed prior to 70 C.E., and he was no doubt correct. 1 But all the events of the book did not then occur. A great disappointment set in. From the autumn of 63 C.E. onward the apostles were aware that the second advent would not happen in that generation. The visions of Revelation were to occur many centuries in the future.
The reputation of all the apostles, but especially that of John, went down considerably among Jewish Christians in the period after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. This decline in interest in the prophetic teachings of Christianity was widespread in Judaea in particular. There began to be an abandonment of Christian teachings by these Jewish Christians. There was an especially radical reappraisal of the chronology associated with the end-times. Many of them simply gave up interpreting historical events of their time in a prophetical manner and Peter’s Second Epistle deals with this.
While prophetic teaching became highly suspect, the apostle Peter said there was a concomitant reversal in ethical and moral character among the Christian population. This is what Peter and Jude in their epistles were upset with the most. The decline in respect for established authorities (whether human or angelic) became a disaster to the Jewish Christian congregations in Judaea. In a word, all of the teachings of Peter in his Second Epistle reflected on the great rebellion then developing among Jewish Christians in Judaea (from 63 C.E. to 70 C.E.). The primitive teachings of Christianity were being substituted by nationalistic ideas.
There was widespread teaching that it was perfectly proper to speak against constituted authorities and to resist them in order to obtain a liberty from political oppression. The main teachings of Peter and Jude in their epistles were to counteract the revolutionary spirit that developed from 63 C.E. to 66 C.E. among the Jewish Christians in Judaea (and among the ordinary and non-Christian Jewish populations) after the great disappointment took place about the autumn of 63 C.E. when the Roman Empire did not begin to crumble as they thought it would. Coping with this disappointment was a major theme of the epistle of Second Peter.
After 63 C.E. (and up to the start of the war with Rome in 66 C.E.) vast numbers of Jewish Christians in Judaea and surrounding areas began to flex their political muscles. They joined forces with the nationalists who wanted to war with the Romans and establish a Jewish state of their own in Judaea. Both Peter in his Second Epistle and Jude in his letter were describing the chaos then developing among the Jews of Judaea. Great numbers of them were Christian Jews who had experienced the great disappointment of 63 C.E.
The Christian Jews were now well aware that the events associated with Christ’s second advent were not developing as they expected them to occur. When one reads Second Peter and Jude with this historical environment in mind, a great deal of illumination is cast on what was happening in Jerusalem and Judaea among ordinary Jews and the great numbers of Jewish Christians. Their disappointment in the “failure” (or what they considered to be the failure) of the end-time events of Daniel and Revelation to occur in their generation caused them to change their minds about the teachings of Christianity itself. They began to consider the apostles as bearing false tidings about prophetic events. They were most especially upset with the apostle John whose visionary experiences as reported in what we call the Book of Revelation seemed totally wrong for their time.
The apostle Peter reflected on the common complaint expressed by Jewish Christians in Judaea; and he was trying to stop its spread to other Jews outside Judaea.
“This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior: knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”
2 Peter 3:1–4
Not only were the people to whom Peter was writing experiencing great disappointment, but many of the people were taking up hostile attitudes to the teachings of the earlier prophets and to the commandments of the apostles of Christ. They had expected the soon coming of the Kingdom of God on earth (which the visions given to John had taught would last for 1000 years, a period we call the Millennium), but now the majority of Jewish Christians in Judaea were giving up hope that the prophecies would be fulfilled at all. Both Peter and Jude were warning Jews in other areas of the Roman Empire not to follow them in their rebellious behavior.
The Old Testament reveals the duality principle of prophetic interpretation in several places and I have referred to it in a former section of this book. And in the Book of Revelation there is the teaching that prophetic events dealing with the time of the end were given to the apostle John in two phases of time. The exact length of time between the two phases is not revealed in the book itself, but it was made clear that the apostle John within his lifetime would experience two periods of time of prophetic revelation. This information is found in chapter ten of the Book of Revelation. Let us notice what it states.
About half way through John’s writing of Revelation, an interlude of time occurs in which the apostle John is informed by an angel that he would experience a second phase of understanding prophetic information at an undisclosed future time. In regard to this, he was told to take a small scroll from the hand of an angelic messenger and eat the scroll. It would be sweet to his mouth but bitter to his stomach. When this happened, the apostle John received further instructions about a future revelation dealing with the end-times that would be given to him. It would involve all nations. “And he said unto me, ‘You must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and many kings.’” (Revelation 10:11).
The fact is, John had already interpreted the teachings of the sixth trumpet up to the seventh seal of the scroll and there was yet the seventh trumpet still left for him to record as well as the seven last plagues. This future prophetic encounter (mentioned in chapter 10 of Revelation) could hardly have been written within the present scroll he was interpreting. It involved new information written on another scroll which he was required “to eat.” It was something different from the seven sealed scrolls that John was then interpreting up to and including chapter nine of our present Book of Revelation. This new prophetic message that John was to receive in the future could have been his final visionary experience when he was taken by the Spirit to the Isle of Patmos and where he put the final touches on the complete Book of Revelation.
By the time of chapter ten, John had already been given the teaching of the seven seals in the context of the present Book of Revelation through chapter nine (and then we have the pause of chapter ten concerning the future revelation to be given to him). It is noteworthy that John on the heels of this pause tells his readers that the seventh trumpet sounds (11:15). Then in our present Book of Revelation we find three out-of-context chapters (12, 13, 14) placed before the prophetic sequence of the seven seals recommences with chapter fifteen. It could well be that these insert chapters contained the revelation given at a later time (say in 96 C.E. on the Isle of Patmos) that John finally included in his updated version of the Book of Revelation. While this is possible, there is no way of knowing (with our present state of knowledge) to say this is definite.
It is interesting that the time when John at the pause in chapter ten was told he would be given another prophetic experience in the future, the angel mentioned that there would be “DELAY no longer.” 2 The angel was telling John about this future prophetic encounter he would have. It would help to explain the “delay” theme being mentioned by the angel. And, just as Christ stated in his Olivet Prophecy about the delay of his second advent, many people in Judaea in 63 C.E. began to say, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:2). With the delay, a great disappointment set in among the people and many began to distrust the teachings of the apostles. The apostle Peter in his Second Epistle said that the Jewish Christians in particular were beginning to revile prophetic teachings, and this would have included the first draft of the Book of Revelation which contained the seven seals (without the insert of chapters 12, 13 and 14).
Because of the great disappointment from the autumn of 63 C.E. to 70 C.E., the Book of Revelation had to be brought back into prominence near the end of the 1st century (with up-to-date additions written by John) in order for the prophecy to be accepted as divine scripture.
The truth was, even the first draft of the Book of Revelation, which was given to the apostle John somewhere in the period from 56 C.E. to 60 C.E., was not speaking about prophetic events to take place in the middle of the 1st century. They were designed to have fulfillment in the final generation just prior to the second advent of Christ. While some people began to understand the truth of this matter, there were still many people who gave up altogether on prophetic interpretations just prior to the Jewish/ Roman War of 66 C.E. to 73 C.E. The great disappointment that happened just before that time provoked many Jewish Christians and ordinary Jewish people to go to war with the Romans. It did not stop there. There were even hard feelings toward prophetic teachings in general with those who survived that holocaust.
Even in the period from 70 C.E. to 96 C.E., to the time when the apostle John received the final edition of the Book of Revelation, there were survivors of the late war with the Romans who continued to distrust any prophetic teachings whatever and especially to put any faith in an apostle like John who failed to tell them (or at least he apparently failed to tell them) that the prophecies within his visionary experiences were designed to be fulfilled some 2000 years in the future. Indeed, even the apostles themselves (apparently to a man) expected as late as 61 C.E. the soon coming of Christ back to this earth. John was teaching nothing more than what the other apostles believed and taught.
Thankfully, however, when 63 C.E. came and went without the expected prophecies starting to be fulfilled, Peter and Paul (and no doubt John) began to teach the people that there were yet many centuries ahead for the world before the second advent would take place. This is when they began to understand the teaching that the seven days of creation week were analogous to a period of seven thousand years in which God would essentially deal with mankind in teaching his truth to the world. Since only some 4000 years, according to Hebrew chronology, had passed from the first Adam to the time of Christ, it was then realized that a further 2000 years or so were still to be in advance of the world before the second advent of Christ and those end-time prophecies could be fulfilled. Some early Christians of the 1st century began to understand this point.
Instead of the “Day of the Lord” beginning to take place in that generation back in the 1st century, Peter at the very time of the great disappointment began to inform the people not to be weary with the unexpected developments because
“One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness ... but the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise.”
2 Peter 3:8–10
Since within the context of the third chapter of Peter’s Second Epistle there is Peter’s reference to the initial creation of God, this shows that he had in mind the first chapters of Genesis regarding the chronology of prophetic events. In Genesis there was the teaching that God created the earth (or at least planned it out) within a six day period. It became common in the 1st century for Christians to equate each of those days of creation with a prophetic day of 1000 years. This principle was already known 150 years before the birth of Christ.
“And he [Adam] lacked seventy years from one thousand years, for a thousand years are like one day in the testimony of the heavens”
Jubilees 4:30 3
A document written about the time of Jesus called Pseudo-Philo also states that mankind is destined to dwell on earth for 7000 years.
“And behold a voice was saying, ‘These will be a foundation for men, and they will dwell in them for 7,000 years.’”
Pseudo-Philo 28.8 4
This type of prophetic interpretation became the norm in Christian circles after the great disappointment.
In the Epistle of Barnabas (a non-canonical work written just before the close of the 1st century) is stated the common belief that God had prepared 6000 years for man to rule in his own manner while there remains a further 1000 years (which later was called a Millennium) in which God’s kingdom would be on earth and God would then be ruling in power and glory over all the earth. Even later Jewish rabbis took up the theme and adopted it into their prophetic beliefs. 5 Note the teaching found in Barnabas.
“He [Moses] speaks of the Sabbath at the beginning of the creation. ‘And God made in six days the works of his hands and on the seventh day he made an end, and rested in it and sanctified it.’ Notice, children, what is the meaning of ‘he made an end in six days’? He means this: that the Lord will make an end of everything in six thousand years, for a day with him means a thousand years. And he himself is my witness when he says, To, the day of the Lord shall be as a thousand years.’ so then, children, in six days, that is in six thousand years, everything will be completed.”
Epistle of Barnabas XV:3–4 6
This passage appears to be an attempt by a very early Christian author to properly interpret what the apostle John meant in his first version of the Book of Revelation when he stated that Christ would rule for a thousand years after his return. This 1000 year period was equated with the weekly Sabbath day of creation. The author of the Book of Hebrews about 61 C.E. also mentioned that there would remain in the future a “keeping of a Sabbath” (Hebrews 4:9 Greek) for the people of God after the return of Christ. This was not intended to be understood as a single weekly Sabbath day, but the seventh 1000 year period which we now call the Millennium.
Look what this understanding provides for the prophetic interpreter. If each of the six working days of creation which were mentioned by Moses was also prophetically understood
to mean a thousand years in length (as the apostle Peter indicated in his Second Epistle), then from the time of the first Adam (when our first parent was created and put in the Garden of Eden) unto the start of the Millennium when God’s kingdom would be in evidence for a period of 1000 years, there would elapse 6000 years for mankind to “work” at his own form of government and human society.
Since it was evident that Christ and the apostles lived at a time just a little more than 4000 years from the creation of Adam as shown in the Hebrew chronology of the Old Testament, then it became obvious to 1st century prophetic interpreters that the great anticipation for the commencement of the Kingdom of God on earth in the 1st century was about 2000 years too soon. This meant that the information in the Book of Revelation (even though it was first composed in its initial draft somewhere near 56 C.E. to 60 C.E.) was really referring to a generation at the time of the end some 2000 years future to the apostles. We ourselves are approaching the conclusion of that 2000 years of time.
But many Christians of the late 1st century were still smarting over the “failure” (as they conceived it) of what they thought John’s prophetic writings had formerly declared. Besides a hostility toward John for this, there was also the brash and uncompromising attitude of John that made his appeal for unity and brotherliness to fall on some deaf ears, especially since many interpreted John’s “brotherliness” as getting on his bandwagon or else!
John’s instructions to his representatives to take no financial support from Gentile Christians (3 John 7) was also a sore point with many people (especially Gentiles, and particularly those in Rome and Corinth). Clement of Rome simply avoided John altogether in any conciliatory actions involving the problems at Corinth. From John’s point of view, however, he was only following the agreement made at Jerusalem between Paul and the “pillar” apostles that Paul was to have responsibility to teach the Gentiles while James, Peter, and himself were to concentrate on teaching the Jews (Galatians 2:9). But this stern and uncompromising attitude and temperament of John (and with him being a stickler for staying within the letter of the law in the agreements made between Paul and the “pillar” apostles) was a deterrent to the Gentiles in even accepting his apostolic authority over their lives. But with time (and especially after John’s death), his literary works became more acceptable, and finally of equal value with the other apostles.
We find that the teaching of the apostle John in the Book of Revelation (though much suspicion was cast on it and John at the time of the great disappointment), was finally redeemed and acknowledged by many early Christians as divine literature after all. This meant that the Book of Revelation as well as John’s Gospel and his three epistles belong within the biblical canon. Since there were 22 books that were divinely recognized in the Old Testament canon, there were also 22 books placed inside the New Testament canon by John, plus his own 5 books which brought the complete number of books in the final Holy Scriptures to 49 (7 times 7 in number). This represents the complete canon of the Holy Scriptures. In the next chapter we will consider the meaning of the final canonization of the New Testament scriptures.
1 J.A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (London, SCM, , pp. 221–253.
2 Revelation 10:6 see Greek; just as the same message regarding the delaying of the Second Advent mentioned in Matthew 24:48 that Christ said in his Olivet Prophecy would cause many to wonder about.
3 Quoted from “Jubilees, A new translation & introduction by O.S. Wintermute,” in James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Psaudepigrapha, vol. 2 (New York: Doubleday, 1985), pp. 63–64.
4 Quoted from “Pseudo-Philo, A new translation and introduction by D.J. Harrington in James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Psaudepigrapha, vol. 2 (New York: Doubleday, 1985), p. 342.
5 See Tamid 7:4 and Sanhedrin 97a.
6 English translation by Kirslopp Lake in Apostolic Fathers (Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library, 1912).
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