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.
It is always exciting to start a new chapter. We're still looking at the ethical stipulations of God's covenant communication with the church. Here we will begin to see the judgments as they are poured out upon the unfaithful Israel.
Before we actually broach the text itself, I am going to let Chilton comment on the similarities of this chapter with the Olivet Discourse,
St. John brings us now to the breaking of the Seven Seals of the Book (six of the Seals are broken in Chapter 6; the Seventh Seal is broken in 8:1, and is connected to the Seven Trumpets). We have seen that the Book represents the treaty document of the New Covenant, the opening of which will result in the destruction of apostate Israel (see on 5:1-4). What then does the breaking of the Seals represent? Some have thought this to signify a chronological reading through the Book, and that the events depicted are in a straight, historical order. This is unlikely for two reasons. First, the Seals seem to be on the outside edge of the Book (which is in the form of a scroll): one cannot really begin to read the Book until all the Seals are broken. The Seventh Seal, consisting of a call to action by the blowing of the Seven Trumpets, actually opens the Book so that we may read its contents.
Second, a careful reading of the events shown by each Seal reveals that they are not listed in chronological order. For example, in the Fifth Seal – after all the havoc wreaked by the Four Horsemen – the martyrs calling for judgment are told to wait. But the judgment is immediately poured out in the Sixth Seal, the entire creation “unseam’d from the nave to the chaps.” Yet, after all this, God commands the angels to withhold judgment until the servants of God are protected (7:3). Obviously, the Seals are not meant to represent a progressive chronology. It is more likely that they reveal the main ideas of the Book’s contents, the major themes of the judgments that came upon Israel during the Last Days, from A.D. 30-70.
R. H. Charles pointed out the close structural similarity between the Six Seals of this chapter and the events of the so-called Little Apocalypse recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. As his outline (adapted below) demonstrates, “they present practically the same material.”
1. War (v. 1-2)
2. International strife (v. 3-4)
3. Famine (v. 5-6)
4. Pestilence (v. 7-8)
5. Persecution (v. 9-11)
6. Earthquake; De-creation (v. 12-17)
1. Wars (v. 6)
2. International strife (v. 7a)
3. Famines (v. 7b)
4. Earthquakes (v. 7c)
5. Persecutions (v. 9-13)
6. De-creation (v. 15-31)
1. Wars (v. 7)
2. International strife (v. 8a)
3. Earthquakes (v. 8b)
4. Famines (v. 8c)
5. Persecutions (v. 9-13)
6. De-creation (v. 14-27)
1. Wars (v. 9)
2. International strife (v. 10)
3. Earthquakes (v. ha)
4. Plagues and famines (v. llb)
5. Persecution (v. 12-19)
6. De-creation (v. 20-27)
This is very perceptive of Charles, and of the many commentators who have followed his lead. What is astonishing is that they should fail to see St. John’s purpose in presenting “the same material” as the Synoptic writers: to prophesy the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem. While all readily admit that the Little Apocalypse is a prophecy against Israel (see Matt. 23:29-39; 24:1-2, 15-16, 34; Mark 13:2, 14, 30; Luke 21:5-6, 20-24, 32), few seem able to make the obvious connection: The Big Apocalypse is a prophecy against Israel as well!
I actually know of few reputable commentators today that neglect to draw these passages together. Most commentators from all walks of the eschatology field are beginning to link these passages together alongside Revelation 6. The major difference is that Chilton will tie it all the A.D. 70.
For obvious reasons it will be incredibly crucial to be familiar with the different variants of the Olivet Discourse. So let the reader read and understand! :-)