Two House Chronicles

The Folding of the Seals, Trumpets and Vials in the Revelation of John (part 1)

The Folding of the Seals, Trumpets and Vials in the Revelation of John (part 1)

by Marsue and Jerry Huerta

copyright 2017

edited 2018

 

Historicists have perceived the structure of the four septets of the seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven vials in Revelation as considerably folding upon themselves or continually revisiting the period between the two advents of Christ.

 

A second significant phase of the structure of Revelation deserves careful scrutiny. It may be called the plan of recapitulation, or better, perhaps, parallelism. What is meant is this: the chief series of visions, e. g., the Seals, Trumpets, and Vials, do not succeed each other in historical and chronological sequence, but move side by side.1

 

This was certainly the position held by the nineteenth-century historicist E. B. Elliott who interpreted the opening of the first seal as the “triumph, prosperity, and health of the Roman empire” and the opening of first trumpet as the barbarian invasion in the fifth-century, and concluded that the first vial represented “that tremendous outbreak of moral and social evil, that mixture of atheism, vice, and democratic fury, which burst forth at the French Revolution.”2 Progressive revelation has certainly corrected Elliott’s misapprehensions of the vials, which will be affirmed presently. Nevertheless, with centuries of progressive revelation behind him, Elliott corrected the misapprehension of the then rising preterist model that the emperor Nero fulfilled Revelation 17’s eighth king, and by doing so also refuted this misapprehension by the early church, from whence preterists obtain such a notion. Elliott commences by refuting the preterist’s assertion that the kings in Revelation 17 are individuals and not kingdoms. 

 

The heads then, as they assert, mean certain individual kings. This is not surely according to the precedent of Daniel vii. 6, where the third Beasts four heads would seem … to have signified the monarchical successions that governed the four kingdoms into which Alexanders empire was divided at his death. – But, not to stop at this, the decisive question next recurs, What the eighth head of the Beast, on this hypothesis of the Præterists: Nero being the sixth; and, as they generally say, Galba, who reigned but a short time, the seventh? It is admitted (and common sense itself forces the admission) that this eighth head is the same which is said in Apoc. xiii. 3, 12, 14.… And, in reply, first Eichhorn, and then his copyists Heinrichs, Stuart, Davidson, all four refer us to a rumor prevalent in Neros time, and believed by many, that after suffering some reverse he would return again to power: a rumor which after his death took the form that he would revive again, and reappear, and retake the empire.65 Such is their explanation. The eighth head of the Beast is the imaginary revived Nero. – But do they not explain the Beast (the revived Beast) in Apoc. xiii., and his blasphemies, and persecution of the saints, and predicated continuance 42 months, of the real original Nero, and his blasphemies and his three or four years persecution of the Christians, begun November, 64, A.D. and ended with Neros death, June 9, A.D. 68? Such indeed is the case; and by this palpable self-contradiction, (one which however they cannot do without,) they give to their own solution its death-wound: as much its death-wound, I may say, as that given to the Beast itself to which the solution relates.3

 

Elliot’s refutation that the eighth king was Nero is founded on the perception of progressive revelation, which historicist Oral E. Collins conveyed in an essay on how to interpret prophecy.

 

It may be presupposed that the actual fulfillment of the prophecy in history will of­fer a correct alternative to previous misinterpretations. For this reason, it is to be assumed that the process of interpretation of historical prophecies is necessarily dynamic and progressive, ev­ery generation being respon­sible to study the prophe­cies and to discern the signs of its own times (Matt. 16:3).4

 

Collins credits H. Grattan Guinness for the presupposition (or hermeneutic) of progressive revelation, which was broached in the first chapter. Collins rightfully concludes that “the meaning of the prophetic text should be determined first,”5 which is merely stating that the use of the historical-grammatical presupposition takes precedence in interpreting prophecy. Yet, as stated in the chapter one, the prophets were not given to see all the implications or significance of what they were inspired to write, which is irrefutably affirmed by the two separate advents of Christ; the difference of the two advents was not seen until the prophecies of the first advent were fulfilled, which affirms progressive revelation. Futurist Daniel B. Wallace concurs that “there is ample evidence of progressive revelation within the NT about several themes—that is, certain themes are not developed/recognized until after some time.”6 Thus, it was progressive revelation that exhorted Elliot to refute the notion that Nero fulfilled the wounded head in Revelation 13 and 17. Futurist Mark L. Hitchcock also exposed the fallacies that ensue when preterist, like Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., maintain that the head that the wounded in Revelation 13:3 was fulfilled by the death of the emperor Nero in 68 A.D., and Vespasian’s reign represented its healing in 69 A.D., concluding that Nero was the beast in Revelation 17:14 that was destroyed at the theophany of Christ in 70 A.D.

 

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1. William G. Moorehead, Studies in the Book of Revelation, (The United Presbyterian Board of Pub., 1908, Kindle ed.), Kindle location 352.

2. Tucker, Brief historical explanation of the Revelation of St. John, According to the 'Horæ Apocalypticæ' of the Rev. E.B. Elliott, 11, 103.

 

3. E. B. Elliott, Horae Apocalypticae, (Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday, London SEELEY, vol. 4, 1862), 582–583.

4. Oral E. Collins, Ph.D, “The Interpretation of Biblical Prophecy,” Historicism.com, http://www.historicism.com/Collins/interp.htm

5. Ibid.

6. Daniel B. Wallace, Th.M., Ph.D., “New Testament Eschatology in the Light of Progressive Revelation: Special Focus on the Coming Kingdom,” Bible.org, https://bible.org/article/new-testament-eschatology-light-progressive-revelation