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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Revelation as a Historical Narrative



THE REVELATION AS A HISTORICAL NARRATIVE

This article is essentially a "copy and paste" of information found in Dr. Stephen Jones book entitled The Revelation Book 3 which can be found at the following location:  http://www.gods-kingdom-ministries.net/teachings/books/the-revelation-book-3/ 

THE FIRST SIX SEALS

ROMAN GOVERNMENT
All four riders in Revelation 6 represent different stages of government in the history of Rome.  The horses were released to bring divine judgment upon the fourth beast empire which is the Roman Empire (refer to Daniel 7).

Seal #1
The white horse represents Rome at its height of glory, which began in 31 B.C. when it defeated Egypt in the battle of Actium.  A few years later, in 27 B.C., the Roman Senate conferred upon Octavian the title of Augustus Caesar.  Rome then ceased to be a Republic and became an Empire ruled by Emperors.  Roman emperors had begun to be deified, usurping the rightful place of Christ as King of the nations.

Seal #2: The Red Horse (193-282 A.D.)
The second seal brings forth the red horse of war, and Rome is in turmoil, having to fight many wars to put down revolts across the empire. The second seal covers the time after 193 AD, beginning with Emperor Commodus, whose debauchery and unjust rule caused a major shift in Roman politics. 

The time of relative peace and prosperity in Rome was broken in 193 A.D. after the murder of Emperor Commodus in 192 and the succession of three emperors in a single year. During the next 89-year period, Rome was plunged into one civil war after another.

In the next century, the empire would have 32 emperors and 27 pretenders resulting in a time of war and bloodshed.  The Red Horse beginning in 193 A.D. marked the shift from “civilian” power to military rule.

Seal #3: The Black Horse (250-300 A.D.)
The third seal brings forth the black horse of famine, and we see severe famines from 250-300 AD, mainly caused by war and other serious disruptions.

In the days of Valerian, the emperor of Rome from 253 A.D. to his Persian captivity in 260, the eastern part of the Roman Empire was in turmoil. The Goths came across the Black Sea from the north and invaded the cities of Asia Minor and Greece.

Soon afterward, the Persians invaded from the east, after destroying the Parthian Empire.  (This destruction of Parthia by the New Persian Empire is what drove the Israelite tribes (i.e. the ten northern tribes) living in that area to Armenia as refugees and then into Europe as pioneers.)

About the same time, Rome’s bread baskets, Sicily and Alexandria (Egypt), were ravaged by civil strife.  The Black Horse of famine was particularly devastating from 150-165 AD, and close to half of the people in the Empire died either from war or starvation.

Seal #4: The Fourth Seal (250-265 A.D.)
Death is the inevitable result of the famine that was revealed by the third living creature.  At least one-fourth of the population of the Roman Empire perished during this time from famine or famine-related causes, such as disease.  An estimate says that close to half of the population of the Roman Empire died of starvation in just a 15-year period!

The fourth seal not only brought death to numerous individuals in the Empire, but it also brought death to the Empire itself. After Diocletian came to power in 284, he divided the Roman Empire into East and West.  Though the empire was reunified by Constantine thirty years later, even that reunification was temporary. Diocletian thus set the stage for the empire’s permanent division a century later.

Galerius, the Caesar of the East, later induced Diocletian to persecute and to destroy the Church. The result of this legislation brought about the terrible “tribulation” upon the church (Rev. 2: 10) that lasted ten years (303-313 A.D.).

The two parts of the empire was later divided into four parts.  This division brought about a substantial increase in taxation.  The new taxes burdened the people further and added to the problem of famine that we saw earlier in the time of the third seal.

Summary Of The Four Horses
These four signs are patterns that are not necessarily limited to the decline and fall of Rome.  There have repetitions with a possible secondary fulfillment of sorts as of the present time.

This division of empire occurred just before its “Christian” phase under Constantine, beginning in 313.  When the persecution of Christians ceased with Constantine’s Edict of Toleration (313 A.D.), the church had almost unprecedented opportunity to spread the Gospel to all nations. By this time the church had a carnal mindset causing many leaders to seek political power and to destroy anyone who did not subscribe to their established creeds. Hence, for many centuries the opportunity to convert the world by the love of Christ and by the demonstration of His Spirit was largely lost.

Seal #5
The persecution, along with the earlier ten-year persecution under Diocletian, gave pause to the breaking of the seals to commemorate the souls whose blood had been poured out under the altar of sacrifice. Their voice is then heard crying out to God in the next few verses before the revelation of the three final seals.

Seal #6
Seal 6 depicts divine judgment upon the Roman Empire, which began in 310 A.D. when Constantine became Emperor.

This seal opens with “a great earthquake,” which, in prophecy, can represent either a literal quake or an event which emotionally or politically shakes the people and nations.
Such natural phenomena often depict political and social events. The sun represents the king, and the moon the political establishment who “reflect” (or carry out) the decrees of the king. After the change in government from Diocletian to Constantine, the moon represented (or included) church leaders who reflected the will of the new emperor.

This change in the political order of Rome also brought about a change in the church.  This is reflected in the change from the persecuted "Smyrna" church to the church of Pergamum which in turn runs parallel to the Old Testament "Balaam" church.

The sun being darkened depicts Constantine’s conquest of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the end of the pagan gods, particularly the god of the sun.  The great “earthquake” hit the entire political structure of the Roman Empire, and the pagan rulers fell from their positions of authority and were replaced by Christians. This was an unprecedented revolution in Roman history.

The moon is a symbol of the Church. This phase of prophecy began in 325 A.D. when the Church held its first Council at Nicea. The Emperor himself called for this Council in order to establish unity in the Church and in the empire itself after the controversy erupted over the nature of God and the trinity.

At the Nicean Council, some men believed that Jesus Christ was of the same essence as the Father while some said He was of like essence. Each side seemed more than willing to spill the blood of the other side over theoretical minutiae that really made no practical difference in one’s Christian walk.  The arrogance of men thinking that their carnal minds could precisely define an infinite God is truly astounding. They were willing to shed blood over the use or misuse of a single word shows the fanaticism of the carnally-minded rulers of the Church.

The Church came to be ruled by religious politics, and the Church Councils established “traditions of men” in the same way that the Jews had done in previous centuries.  The year 325 A.D. and the Council of Nicea marked the beginning  where the moon (Church) would begin to turn to blood.

Revelation 6:13: and the stars of the sky [ouranou, “heaven”] fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.

The stars were called metaphorically “the sons of God” (Job 38: 7).  John saw that the stars “fell to the earth.”  Among the casualties of the newly-empowered Church religion were the overcomers.  When the Church came to be ruled by the traditions of men, anyone having a genuine revelation from God was likely to find himself differing with official Church leaders both in doctrines and methods.  In like manner Jesus was always at odds with the religious leaders.  Anyone following His example, would always be among the “heretics” from that moment to the present day.

Revelation 6:14:  And the sky [ouranos, “heaven”] was split apart [“ parted asunder”] like a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

Heaven being rolled up as a scroll speaks of the revelation of God being rolled up like a scroll or like closing a book.  As time passed, the Church stopped teaching the Bible to the average Christians. In 663-664 Pope Vitalian of Rome mandated that the Church liturgy itself be spoken only in Latin, depriving more people from understanding anything other than to remain subservient to the Church leaders. Any real understanding of the Word of God dropped to a very low level for more than a thousand years. The Bible became a closed book, and did not begin to reopen until Gutenberg’s use of the printing press in 1452 A.D.  His first project was the Bible in vernacular German.

Revelation 6:15-17:  And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;  (16)  And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:  (17)  For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

*****  Refer to Isaiah 2:19-21, Haggai 2:5-7, and John 3:19-21 for further enlightenment of Revelation 6:15-17.

Events that occurred during the early part of the 4th century became a judgment upon the rulers and other great people of pagan Rome.  6:15-17 is a graphic way of describing the fear among the wealthy and powerful pagans, who were apprehensive about their own future under Constantine and the other Christian Emperors who succeeded him.  In 380 Theodosius declared the Roman Empire to be “Christian.” In 395 he banned all pagan animal sacrifices, closed the pagan temples, and prohibited pagan rites.

Roman senate saw that their political future hinged on their conversion to the religion of the Emperor.  The problem was that many remained secret pagans even while they maintained membership in the Roman church. In time, their secret paganism added perversions of Christianity, i.e. the worship of Mary Magdalene.  Catholicism included an overt and a covert religion under the same roof, which has only recently been uncovered.  Faith in Christ was replaced by faith in the church. The light of revelation waned; the artificial light of men’s traditions replaced it. The moon was darkened and turned red like blood.

Another instance of the political earthquake was seen in the transfer of the Empire’s capital to Constantinople— a new city, free of pagan temples— that Constantine built on the Black Sea at the border of Europe and Asia. This transfer occurred in 330 A.D.

After Constantine’s death, his policy of religious toleration was reversed by his sons.  Both sides of the empire (east and west) endured various flavors of Christianity and paganism through the years, depending upon the emperor in charge.  Theodosius in the East and Gratian in the West agreed to make Orthodox Christianity the official religion of Rome in 380 A.D.

The political upheaval (earthquake) did not take place all at once, but over a period of time from 313-395 A.D.  In 410 Rome was overrun and sacked by the Goths, and for the next half century, the Western half of the Roman Empire gradually disintegrated.

If we were to place a time frame on the sixth seal, it actually takes us all the way to the time of the end and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. But the seventh seal, with its trumpets and bowls, must also be given time for fulfillment. The sixth seal does not conclude the book of Revelation. Hence, it is clear that while the persecutions of the sixth seal are ongoing in the background, other events are also taking place.

We must therefore conclude that the sixth seal largely runs concurrent with the seventh. There is no strict linear time line that divides the two into distinct historical phases. The sixth seal has more to do with the long-running war (persecution) in which the saints find themselves, while the seventh gives us a more definitive time line of events that focus on the downfall of Babylon.

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