Interpreting Biblical Apocalyptic (29): Conclusion

Even in apocalyptic prophecy God meets people where they are.  Although He knows the end from the beginning, He does not choose to express Himself beyond the comprehension of the original writer and audience.  Historicism, therefore, is built on passages where the time element is not explicit at the point of first reception.  Events can be portrayed as a long time in the future (Dan 8:26-27: 12:11-13) or extremely near (Rev 1:3; 22:10).  Whether the sequence of Daniel 2 would take a lifetime or thousands of years was not evident in the vision itself, but becomes evident with the passage of time.

So it is also with Revelation 12.  The vision clearly begins with the generation of Jesus and John and moves to the final events of earth’s history.  But the great length of the intervening period is not obvious from markers in the text, being hidden in the use of days instead of years among other things.  As history progresses and the time of fulfillment comes, the sequences and their historical fulfillment become more plain (John 13:19; 14:29).

It is probably true that none of the biblical writers foresaw the enormous length of the Christian era.  The passage of time has opened up new vistas in terms of the Lord’s patience and purpose.  Having foreseen such a delay, would not God prepare His people to understand the great events by which He is bringing history to its climax?  Historicism is grounded in the conviction that God knows the end from the beginning and cares enough for His people to share an outline of those events.  While it is only from the perspective of the Parousia that history will speak with perfect clarity, each generation must make the attempt to understand biblical apocalyptic or risk being surprised by God’s final acts (Rev 16:15 cf. 1 Thess 5:1-6).

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