Saturday, January 17, 2009
Revelation Bonanza - Part 4: Stuckenbruck on the Millennium
There are some very good Revelation commentaries out there: Beale is near encyclopedic, Caird is an oldie but a goodie, Keener is great on application, and I'm also partial to Witherington. In terms of short commentaries in one volumes whole Bible commentaries, I am a great admirer of Loren T. Stuckenbruck in the Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. This is what he says about Revelation 20:
The scenarios in 20:1-3 and 4-6 are patterned, respectively, after two Jewish apocalyptic traditions: (1) the notion of a temporary abode for evil powers in anticipation of the final judgment (cf. Isa 24:21-22; 1 Enoch 10:12; 21:1-10; Jub. 5:10; 4Q203 7, 8) and (2) the expectation of a period of messianic rule before the final judgment (cf., eg., 1 Enoch 91:12-16; Sib. Or 3:635-701; 4 Ezra 7:27-35; 2 Bar 29:3-30:5). The combination of these traditions allows John to split up the eschatological judgment into two stages or resurrections, one which stresses the reward of the martyred righteous ("first resurrection") and another which stresses the judgment of the wicked ("the second resurrection"). This, in turn, throws the spotlight on the privileges afforded to loyal Christians during a millennial reign.
Read in sequence, 20:4-6 and 11-15 could be read as an eschatological judgmnt occurring in two stages. What may seem to be successive stages could actually be a literary device used by John to focus singly on the vindication of the righteous martyrs and on the eradication of the wicked and evil. It is, therefore, misleading to insist that John was simply interested in chronology. Many have deliberated whether the millennial reign precedes or follows the final judgment. So formulated, this question has produced traditions of interpretation which, respectively, are labeled "premillennial" and "postmillennial". Whereas the former [I think "latter" is meant] regards the millennium as the culmination of a gradual improvement brought about by the church in the world, the latter [I think "former"] expects that the world will only be changed decisively when God's activity intervenes in a world in a downward spiral of evil. While it might be possible to read 19:11-20:15 either way, the passage in its prsent form is inconsistent. The impression is left that John, rather than being concerned primarily with the order of events to be, was attempting to draw attention to the ultimate destinies of the righteous and the wicked that is, to show in sharprest relief that God will vindicate the faithful ones and annihilate those who are allies of Satan.