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Critique of Irvin Baxter's "Revelation Commentary," Part 8
by Karl Kemp
12/31/2015 / Bible Studies
We continue the discussion of symbolic numbers here in Part 8 of this eight part paper.
Regarding the symbolic number twelve and multiples of twelve (12,000; 144; and 144,000), I'll quote REVELATION 21:16, 17 (from the NASB) and then quote most of what I said on these verses in my paper on Revelation 20-22 on my internet site; I briefly commented there on the 144,000 of Rev. 7:4-8 and 14:1 (and 14:3) too: "(16) And the city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as its width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. [[(This double bracket goes on for three paragraphs.) As the NASB says in the margin, the Greek literally has "twelve thousand stadia." As far as I'm concerned, the NASB made a mistake by converting to miles here. (The NIV, KJV, and NKJV all keep the number twelve thousand.) The problem is that the NASB failed to keep the number "twelve thousand," which I believe is a symbolic number. The number twelve can symbolize completeness, even as there are twelve tribes of Israel, twelve apostles, and twelve months. Note that the number twelve was used repeatedly in 21:12-14, 21 ("twelve gates" with the "the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel" written on them; "twelve angels"; "twelve foundation stones [in the wall]" with the "twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" written on them; and "the twelve gates were twelve pearls").
When the number twelve is multiplied by a thousand, as it is here, it strengthens the idea of completeness. I believe the dominant idea here is that this city is sized to include/contain all the members of God's true Israel, true Israel in her glorious completeness. I believe it is very unlikely that the city will literally measure fifteen hundred miles. And, as I mentioned, I am quite convinced that the reality of our eternal home will far exceed the symbolic description pictured in Revelation chapters 21, 22.
Under the next verse (21:17) we'll speak further of symbolic numbers; in that verse the symbolic number is probably more obvious, and I'll mention two other very important examples of symbolic numbers related to the number twelve in the book of Revelation (Rev. 7:4-8 and 14:1 [and 14:3]). The next verse and those two examples strongly incline me to see a symbolic number here in 21:16 too. (I remind the reader of our discussion of the symbolic use of language in the book of Revelation at the beginning of Revelation chapter 21, including the obviously symbolic use of the number seven in Rev. 5:6.) A fifteen hundred mile city isn't at all impossible in the heavenly, glorified dimension, even one that is also fifteen hundred miles high. If we think of a literal shape, we probably should think of a cube (most commentators do, but some think of the shape of a pyramid); this was the shape of the holy of holies in Solomon's temple (1 Kings 6:20). There is some correspondence between God's dwelling in the ancient holy of holies and His dwelling in new Jerusalem (cf. Rev. 21:22). One last comment, if we take the fifteen hundred miles literally, and if the gates of the city are equally spaced, the distance between the gates is five hundred miles.]] (17) And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. [[As the margin of the NASB shows, the Greek reads one hundred forty-four cubits. The NIV, KJV, and NKJV all translate it that way, which is required. One hundred forty-four is twelve times twelve and can symbolize completeness, as I believe it does here, the completeness of God's people (true Israel) living within this wall, which is the boundary of the city. Taking these numbers in a symbolic sense in 21:16, 17 is the most common viewpoint that I have found in the commentaries, but many take the numbers literally.
It is significant that the number "one hundred and forty-four thousand" was used two other places in a symbolic sense earlier in the book of Revelation (Rev. 7:4-8; 14:1 [and 14:3]); at least that's the way I understand these numbers, in agreement with many. (As I mentioned, I'll quote these verses and comment on the details as we continue.)
The symbolic use of the number "one hundred and forty-four thousand" for these two distinct groups of people strongly influences me toward the use of symbolic numbers here in Rev. 21:16, 17 too (and vice versa). Here in Revelation chapter 21, the city bounded by the wall (the wall which has the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on its gates and the names of the twelve Christian apostles on its foundation stones) contains all the members of God's true Israel, which includes all the believers from Old Testament days (who are ultimately saved through Christ Jesus) and all true Christians, including those saved after the rapture (which centers in the elect end-time remnant of Israel).
If we took the one hundred forty-four cubits (seventy-two yards; two hundred and sixteen feet) literally, we would most naturally expect this dimension to be the height of the wall, which, to say the least, isn't very high compared to the height of the city. (It's reported that one of the several walls around Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon was three hundred feet high.) Anyway, new Jerusalem doesn't need a high wall, or any wall, for protection. The gates in the wall will never be closed (Rev. 21:25). Some say that the seventy-two yards is the thickness, with the height being fifteen hundred miles. (The NIV translates "144 cubits thick," but in the margin says, "or high.") I consider it very unlikely that we are to think of a wall fifteen hundred miles high and seventy-two feet thick. For one thing, that would be a very thin wall, considering its great height.]]
Now I'll Quote REVELATION 7:4-8 and we will discuss these verses:
"(4) And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: (5) From the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, (6) from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, (7) from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, (8) from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed." On the numbers "twelve thousand" and "one hundred and forty-four thousand," I agree with those who believe that these are symbolic numbers of completeness. We'll discuss this important point further as we continue. There are a few peculiarities in the listing of the twelve tribes of Israel here, but I doubt that there is any major significance. There are many differences in the various listings of the twelve tribes in the Bible, including the omission of the names of various tribes. For one thing, when the tribe of Levi is included, as it is here, there are thirteen tribes, because both of the sons of Joseph (one of the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel), Ephraim and Manasseh, became tribes of Israel. The tribe of Levi was different in that it wasn't allotted a tract of land in the holy land as the other tribes were; the high priest, priests, and Levites came from this tribe.
It's obvious why the tribe of Judah was listed first (e.g., Rev. 5:5). The tribe of Dan isn't listed. Rather than mention the reasons that have been suggested for the omission of the name of this tribe, I'll just mention that Dan was mentioned in the end-time-oriented listing of Ezekiel chapter 48. It's unusual that Joseph, the father of Ephraim and Manasseh, was listed along with Manasseh. It's possible that there was a conscious effort to omit listing Ephraim (and Dan), but I doubt it. Ephraim (which was a very important tribe) was also listed in Ezekiel chapter 48.
I believe that the 144,000 of Rev. 7:4-8 embraces all the elect people of Israel who will be living on the earth during the first half of Daniel's 70th week who will not be converted (become Christians) in time to be taken in the mid-week rapture. They will need this special seal for protection that will keep them alive throughout the events that take place throughout the first half of Daniel's 70th week, especially during the events of the sixth trumpet that will sound about a month before the rapture, about the time of the abomination of desolation. ((In Dan. 12:1 Michael stands up to protect the end-time remnant of Israel during the days of the short great tribulation, which will come to pass in the days that start with the abomination of desolation and come to an end before the Lord Jesus returns and the rapture take place in the middle of Daniel's 70th week (cf. Matt. 24:15-31). Daniel chapter 12 is discussed in some detail in chapters 10 and 11 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture."))
They will be sealed for protection about the time of the beginning of Daniel's 70th week. This sealing will be part of God's saving the elect end-time remnant of Israel that is so often mentioned in prophecy (cf., e.g., Deut. 32:19-43; Isa. 10:20-22; Ezek. 34:11-31; 36:22-37:28; Joel 2:32-3:21; Mic. 2:12, 13; 4:6-9; 5:3-15; much of the book of Zechariah; Rom. 9:27-29; 11:11-32; Rev. 11:19; 12:6, 13-17; 15:2-4). See under Rev. 7:1-3 in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," and in my paper on Revelation chapters 1-10 on my internet site for many VERY IMPORTANT details on this sealing.
The actual number of those sealed in Rev. 7:1-8 will be much higher than a literal 144,000. Based on Zech. 13:8, 9 it seems that two-thirds of the people of Israel will be cut off in the last days before the Lord Jesus returns and the rapture takes place; the end-time remnant of Israel will submit to the Lord Jesus, starting at the time of His return, but not in time to be taken in the rapture. The third that will remain and come into the refining "fire" (Zech. 13:9) of the second half of the seven-year period (when the devil and his angels have been cast down to the earth and Antichrist has begun his super-evil three and one-half year reign) will number in the millions, probably more than four million.
The end-time remnant of Israel will need this special seal because they will not become Christians until after the rapture, at the earliest. God knows who the elect are, very much including the elect end-time remnant of Israel, before they become Christians (cf., e.g., Rom. 8:28-30; Eph. 1:4; Rev. 13:8 and 17:8). (I assume that the elect Gentiles who will become Christians after the rapture will also be sealed for protection along with, or as part of, the end-time remnant of Israel of Rev. 7:1-8, but there is no need to be dogmatic on a detail like this. Those Gentiles will be part of God's true Israel, the woman of Revelation chapter 12, even as we Gentiles who become true Christians throughout this present age are grafted into, and become part of, God's true Israel, the woman of Revelation chapter 12.)
The Christians who will be living on the earth during the first half of the seven-year period (which could include most of us) will not need a special seal because they (we) have already been sealed through the Lord Jesus (cf., e.g., Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22; and Rev. 14:1). They will be protected during the days of the sounding of the first six trumpets and the other things that will be happening during those days; then they (unlike the end-time remnant of Israel) will be glorified and raptured at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet right in the middle of the seven years.
None of the events of the seven trumpets are coming against true Christians, and the end-time elect remnant of Israel will have been sealed for protection; none of them will die; it is important for them to remain alive to become Christians, starting at the time of the rapture, but too late to be taken in the rapture. At the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet our rapture and glorification will take place. Revelation 9:13 seems to indicate that the sounding of the sixth trumpet comes in answer to the prayers of the saints (on the golden altar of incense mentioned in Rev. 9:13, where our prayers are offered before God, see Rev. 8:3, 4), prayers like "Your kingdom come, Your will be done!" God's kingdom cannot fully come to the earth until after God fully takes over the earth, which will include the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls of wrath.
During the five-month period when the demonic locusts are stinging people under the sounding of the fifth trumpet (Rev. 9:1-11), they will not be able to sting those who are sealed, including all true Christians, but the seal will be especially needed under the events of the sixth trumpet (Rev. 9:13-21) when a third of mankind (but probably far less than a third of the total population of the earth) will be killed. The singling out of the people of God for protection will help amplify God's message to the world: There isn't much time left to repent and submit to the gospel before the Lord Jesus returns and the Day of Judgment officially begins right in the middle of the seven years. The two witnesses (prophets) will send forth this message with power, and they may announce the first six trumpets before they sound (even as Moses announced the ten plagues before they came to pass). If the two witnesses don't announce them they will certainly speak of them before the world. They may announce the seventh and last trumpet before it sounds too, but if they do, they will have to announce it at least three and one-half days before it sounds, because they will be killed some three and one-half days before that trumpet sounds.
As I mentioned, many take the 144,000 of Rev. 7:4 literally. I'll quote part of what Henry Alford said regarding this 144,000 ("New Testament for English Readers," Vol. 4 [Baker 1983 reprint; published in 1868 according to Wikipedia], page 1839, under Rev. 7:4). Alford (AD 1810-1871) was an English Christian scholar, who was well acquainted with early Christian writings. "The number is symbolical of fixedness and full completion, 12x12 taken a thousand fold. NO ONE THAT I AM AWARE OF HAS TAKEN IT LITERALLY [my emphasis]...." John Darby (AD1800-1882) would have been one exception. He took the number literally, as do those who follow him. Many consider him to be the originator of dispensationalism, which (for one thing) makes a continuing distinction between God's dealings with Israel and the Christian church. He was one of the first to ever teach the pre-week (pre-tribulation) rapture.
Now I'll quote REVELATION 14:1 and discuss this verse. I won't quote or discuss Rev. 14:2-5 here, but these verses go with 14:1 and are quite important, even as Rev. 7:1-3 are quite important, but getting into all those details goes beyond the scope of this paper. Revelation 14:3 mentions the same "one hundred and forty-four thousand" spoken of in 14:1. Chapter 23 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," is a verse-by-verse discussion of Rev. 14:1-5.
(Rev. 14:1) "Then I looked and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mt. Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads." Here we see the raptured, glorified saints in company with the Lord Jesus at a time shortly after the mid-week rapture. The raptured saints include all the true Christians who have ever lived up until the time of the rapture, and I believe it includes all of the believers from the days of the Old Testament. The number of these raptured saints will clearly exceed a literal 144,000. If the elect end-time remnant of Israel who are sealed in Rev. 7:1-8 includes the elect Gentiles who will be saved after the rapture (which is a reasonable assumption since those Gentiles will be part of God's true Israel, part of the glorious woman who is often mentioned in Revelation chapter 12), the 144,000 of Rev. 7:1-8 added to the 144,000 of Rev. 14:1-5 will embrace all the people of God's true Israel; they will all reign with Him forever. One thing they all have in common is that they were (when they lived on the earth) believers (God's people).
In REVELATION 12:5 we read of the large number of believers (including those who will have died before the Lord Jesus returns and the true Christians who will still be living on the earth at that time) being born into the fullness of eternal life and raptured at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet (Rev. 11:15). The "male child" of Rev. 12:5 equals the 144,000 of Rev. 14:1. (Revelation 12:5, along with all the verses in Revelation chapters 11-13, is discussed in substantial detail in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," and in some detail in my book, "Introduction to the Mid-Week Rapture." Both books are available at amazon.com.)
As we have discussed, we have already been given an early picture in the book of Revelation (before the all-important scroll has been opened) of the saints who have been raptured from the earth to heaven in the middle of the seven years in Rev. 7:9-17. It is significant that we can also see the glorified, raptured saints with the Lord Jesus during the second half of Daniel's 70th week in Rev. 17:14; 19:14, 19; and probably Rev. 14:14-16; cf. Rev. 13:6 (in 13:6 those saints are called "His [God's] tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven [after the rapture]").
Baxter discusses Rev. 12:5 on pages 70-72. He says, "It is obvious that the man child was Jesus Christ. Revelation 19:15-16 tells us who will rule the nations with a rod of iron." Revelation 19:15 speaks of the Lord Jesus ruling with a rod of iron as the judges the world at the end of this age. However, and this is extremely important, REVELATION 2:26, 27 SHOW THAT WE (the glorified saints) WILL RULE WITH A ROD OF IRON: We will be ruling with a rod of iron as we reign with Christ throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week, from the time we are born into the fullness of eternal life and glorified (which is pictured in Rev. 12:5). The words at the end of Rev. 12:5 ("and her child was caught up to God and His throne" speak of the rapture. The Greek verb "harpazo" translated "was caught up" was also used in 1 Thess. 4:17 of the catching up/rapture.
I BELIEVE REVELATION 12:5 IS THE MOST IMPORTANT VERSE IN THE BIBLE TO SHOW WHEN (in relation to Daniel's 70th week) THE LORD JESUS WILL RETURN AND THE RAPTURE WILL TAKE PLACE. The next verse (Rev. 12:6) shows that there will be three and one-half years still to go (the second half of the seven year period) after this birth and rapture of the saints into the fullness of eternal life and glory. Revelation 12:4 and the verses that follow all deal with things that will happen in the middle of Daniel's 70th week or afterward. Revelation 12:4, 7-9, for example, deal with the casting down of Satan and his angels right in the middle of the seven years (Baxter agrees with this detail [see his pages 74, 75]), and as I mentioned 12:6 shows that there are three and one-half years to go after the birth of the male child into eternal glory.
The only thing that Baxter says regarding "her child was caught up to God and His throne" (page 70) is that Satan and King Herod were not able to kill Jesus in Bethlehem - he says that Jesus is the man-child. Regarding the woman's (Israel's) fleeing in Rev. 12:6, Baxter says (pages 72, 73) that she will flee because of the short great tribulation that he believes will take place throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week. (As we have discussed, the short great tribulation will start a month before the middle of the seven years and be finished before the Lord Jesus returns in the middle of the seven years.) I believe she will begin to flee at the time the devil and his angels are cast down to the earth and Antichrist begins his super-evil three and one-half year reign, right in the middle of the seven years.
There is no way that Rev. 12:5 refers to the birth of the Lord Jesus or His escaping from Herod's attempt to kill all of the male children in Bethlehem: As I mentioned everything in the context of Rev. 12:4-17 refers to things that will happen at the end of this age. And we have the strong confirmation that we (who are part of the male child) will rule with Christ (from the time we are glorified and raptured (Rev. 2:26, 27), and the words at the end of Rev. 12:5 about the male child's being caught up to God and His throne perfectly fits our rapture (cf. 1 Thess. 4:16, 17). I should also mention that in my books, when discussing Rev. 12:5, I discuss some super-important cross-references (especially Isa. 66:7; Psalm 2:7; and Micah 5:3) that prophesy of the same birth into the fullness of eternal life that Rev. 12:5 prophesies about. Jesus was the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5; cf. Rom. 8:29), and we will all follow Him in that birth when He returns.
On the DVD that goes with Lesson 7, Baxter says that the war in heaven pictured in Rev. 12:7-9 takes place because Satan tries to overthrow God and launches this war in heaven. Actually, this warfare will take place because God will take the initiative and cast Satan and his angels down to the earth at the time the Lord Jesus returns in the middle of the seven years. This casting down of Satan is a significant feature in God's end-time judgment of the world. Three and one-half years later, Satan will be cast into the abyss for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3), and finally after being released from the abyss for a short while at the end of the millennium, he will be cast into the eternal lake of fire (Rev. 20:7-10).
The Lamb (the Lord Jesus) and the glorified, raptured saints are standing on Mt. Zion in Rev. 14:1 in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, right after the resurrection, glorification and rapture take place. Revelation 14:2, 3 help show that Mt. Zion is being used here in the heavenly, spiritual sense (cf. Heb. 12:22, 23; Gal. 4:26). It is also true, however, that the Lord Jesus (and the glorified, raptured saints with Him) will be very directly involved with the events taking place on the earth throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week as He judges the world, reigning from earthly Zion, Jerusalem (see Psalm 2:6; 110:2; and Zech. 14:3-7, for example; Psalms 2 and 110 and Zechariah chapters 12-14 are discussed in my "The Mid-Week Rapture"). He (and us with Him) will be reigning mostly, if not entirely, in the spiritual (invisible) dimension throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week. If He were visibly present on the earth throughout much of the second half of Daniel's 70th week (after He is visible at the time of His coming), it would detract from God's plan to use Antichrist throughout the second half of that seven-year period. (As I mentioned, God will use Antichrist to test mankind [cf. Rev. 3:10 on the "hour of testing"] regarding who they will worship, and He will use him to destroy Babylon the great harlot [cf. Rev. 17:16, 17], which is a major feature in His judging the world after Jesus returns. God devotes some three chapters of the book of Revelation to His judging and destroying Babylon the great harlot because it is a major feature in His end-time judgment of the world. First He will judge and remove Babylon, the devil's city, the devil's worldwide kingdom, through Antichrist and the ten horns (Rev. 17:16, 17). Then He will judge and remove Antichrist and those who follow him to Armageddon.
The 144,000 of Rev. 14:1 are clearly identified as the people of God the Father and God the Son by the words "having His name [the name of the Lamb (God the Son) and the name of His Father written on their foreheads." Compare Rev. 3:12; 7:2, 3. Contrast the mark (the name of the beast [Antichrist] or the number of His name) on the right hand, or on the forehead, in the verses right before Rev. 14:1 (Rev. 13:16-18).
There is a whole lot more that we could discuss here, but this is a good place to stop this paper. As I mentioned, there will be a second paper coming, "Irvin Baxter on the Harlot of Babylon; Trinity and Oneness."
May the will of God be fully accomplished through this paper and His people be blessed!
Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.
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