Note: This is a continuing evaluation of the book The Days of Vengeance written by David Chilton. Chilton at the time of writing this was a partial preterist who later in life (after a massive heart attack) turned to full preterism. Sections will be taken from the book and commented on to the fullest extent possible. A PDF of the book can be found here.
As the title has often implied, this was suppose to be a "survey". So let us see if I can make some better progress through "The Preamble" section of Chilton's book. The first thing that must absolutely be mentioned is Chilton's quoting of Rushdoony on Jesus Christ as the "true witness",
In the Bible, the witness is one who works to enforce the law and assist in its execution, even to the enforcement of the death penalty. ‘Martyr’ has now come to mean the exact reverse, i.e., one who is executed rather than an executioner, one who is persecuted rather than one who is central to prosecution. The result is a serious misreading of Scripture . . . The significance of Jesus Christ as ‘the faithful and true witness’ is that He not only witnesses against those who are at war against God, but He also executes them . . . Jesus Christ therefore witnesses against every man and nation that establishes its life on any other premise than the sovereign and triune God and His infallible and absolute law-word. (DOV, 37)
The major value to this re-understanding would be our taking back of the word "testimony" from the common church culture. There is absolutely nothing wrong with talking and testifying to where God found you and from what He has saved you. But it really is meant to be a time spent describing your faithful participation in God's faithfulness in the work of Christ. The best witness and testimony shouldn't be equated with the most entertaining but the most like Christ. A testimony of humble submission to the Father is the best echo of Jesus Christ. We should keep this in mind as we evaluate this word later in Revelation.
The second thing that stands out is Chilton's emphatic tone when speaking of Christ as "the Ruler of the kings of the earth" (pg 38). While I will quote a lot of Chilton, it is worth noting that I am typing this up on the heels of the Ligonier conference and can still hear the final message by R.C. Sproul in my head. The practicality of "Jesus is Lord" should not be reduced to some Gnostic "Lord of my heart". While the later is true, it is not the full truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
This, in fact, is precisely the reason for the persecution of Christians by the State. Jesus Christ by the Gospel has asserted His absolute sovereignty and dominion over the rulers and nations of earth...Such an audacious, uncompromising position is an affront to the dignity of any self-respecting humanist – much more so to rulers who are accustomed to thinking of themselves as gods walking on earth. Perhaps this Christ can be allowed a place in the pantheon, along with the rest of us gods; but for His followers to proclaim Him as Lord of all, whose law is binding upon all men, whose statutes call into judgment the legislation and decrees of the nations – this is too much; it is inexcusable, and cannot be allowed.
It would have been much easier on the early Christians, of course, if they had preached the popular retreatist doctrine that Jesus is Lord of the “heart,” that He is concerned with “spiritual” (meaning non-earthly) conquests, but isn’t the least bit interested in political questions; that He is content to be “Lord” in the realm of the spirit, while Caesar is Lord everywhere else (i.e., where we feel it really matters). Such a doctrine would have been no threat whatsoever to the gods of Rome. In fact, Caesar couldn’t ask for a more cooperative religion! Toothless, impotent Christianity is a gold mine for statism: It keeps men’s attention focused on the clouds while the State picks their pockets and steals their children. (DOV, 38)
If you aren't saying "ouch" then I'm not sure you fully understood what he just said. If you aren't in disagreement with him, congratulations! You are on your way to a full postmillennial view (or at least an optimistic amillennial view)! The church has attempted to work religion and morals through politics. But Christ's gospel stands over politics. Do we really believe that? Do we believe it the same way Joshua believed the walls of Jericho would fall? Do we believe it the same way Daniel and his friends trusted God's sovereignty over foreign governments and their attempts at punishment?
A minor third thing of importance comes when Chilton makes a great little injection on John's habit of writing that he "heard...and saw",
This minor detail establishes a pattern that is repeated throughout the book – John hears first, and then he sees. At the end of the prophecy (22:8) he tells us: “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw . . .” This pattern is not always followed in the book, but it happens often enough that we should be aware of St. John’s use of it – for it is occasionally important in understanding how to interpret the symbols (cf. 5:5-6): The verbal revelation is necessary in order to understand the visual revelation. (DOV, 41)
The final thing worth mentioning is Chilton's expansion of understanding of Christ holding "the seven stars",
The symbolic use of the seven stars was quite well known in the first century, for the seven stars appeared regularly on the Emperor’s coins as symbols of his supreme political sovereignty. At least some early readers of the Revelation must have gasped in amazement at St. John’s audacity in stating that the seven stars were in Christ’s hand. The Roman emperors had appropriated to themselves a symbol of dominion that the Bible reserves for God alone – and, St. John is saying, Jesus Christ has come to take it back. The seven stars, and with them all things in creation, belong to Him. Dominion resides in the right hand of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Naturally there will be opposition to all this. But St. John makes it clear that Christ is on the offensive, coming forth to do battle in the cause of His crown rights: out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, His Word that works to save and to destroy. (DOV, 42-43)
This is possibly one of the better insights provided in this section. It provides an opportunity for a lot of discussion concerning the political nature of Christ's rule. Fundamentally this is where the church has failed to go far enough. We have not behaved as if Christ is above our government. We have merely professed it with our mouths. How have we done this? By relying on "horses and chariots" (e.g. senators and presidents) to do the work of protecting God's people.
We will finish off the Preamble with the next post! Then we get to enjoy the wealth of the seven churches!