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The Avenging of the Apostles & Prophets

Author: Arthur M. Ogden

Book Review By Ken Davies

Ogden, Arthur M. The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets. Somerset, KY: Ogden Publications, 1985. Hardbound, 405 pp.

Arthur Ogden and his wife, Flo, have five children: Vickie, Gina, Alex, Lori, and Nancy. They reside in Somerset, Kentucky, where Arthur is preacher at the Southside Church of Christ.

This commentary on Revelation was written as a result of a study that the author led at the Southside Church. After studying for several months, he came to the conclusions upon which this book is based.

In the first section, Ogden presents introductory remarks having to do with the date of Revelation's composition, its author, theme, and different methods of interpretation. In the next section, he presents the Old Testament background of the images found in Revelation. According to Ogden, the Old Testament is referred to 300-400 times in the Book of Revelation. He points out that the first century Christians probably had less trouble understanding the symbols of John's book than we do because they possessed the gifts of the Spirit unique to that time, which enabled them to interpret the symbolic language of the book, and because they lived at a time when "Jewish thought was still current, and their history was familiar to them." This made the "application of the language to its historical setting" easier (p.5). Ogden insists, and rightly so, that a correct understanding of and easy familiarity with the OT Scriptures is essential to understanding Revelation.

In his treatment of the differing methods of interpretation, Ogden misrepresents the preterist position, saying, "to the preterist, the book [of Revelation] has little, if any, meaning for the Christian of today" (p.6). The position he apparently argues for is what he calls the "early historical" view, which states that Revelation was "fulfilled for the most part in the events of the first two centuries. " According to Ogden, it is this position that "seeks to derive a message from those events that are applicable for all times." He claims to hold to both the early historical and the preterist views, since the events portrayed in Revelation "actually occurred and were fulfilled unto the people of John's day. " We can certainly agree with his statement that "the message that brought joy, comfort, and hope to Christians then is still as fresh and meaningful to us today, and every Christian needs that message" (emphasis his).

Ogden examines evidences for the late and early dates of composition, concluding that the bulk of the evidence favors the early date (65-66 A.D.). He refutes the arguments for the late date (pp.10 ff.). "The interpretation we place upon the book critically affects its credibility and integrity" (p.17). In his introductory remarks, Ogden asserts that Revelation is "concerned [with] the desolation of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem" (p.19). The theme, he says, is the avenging by God of the prophets and apostles.

Next, Ogden examines the phrase, "the mystery of God" (pp.25 ff.), and concludes that in the New Testament a "mystery" is not "knowledge withheld," but "truth revealed." In looking at this "mystery," Ogden goes first to the O.T. prophecies relating to the "latter end" of Israel, Deut.28-32, and compares that theme with what is found in the Revelation. The correspondence is startling, and must be dealt with by those who hold to the idea that the present state of Israel is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. A consistent interpretation of Scripture and an attention to harmonizing the Scriptures will prevent such a distortion of the Bible's teaching about Israel. Ogden then examines the history of Jerusalem, from its beginnings as the "Holy City" during the reign of David, to its downfall as the "Whore of Babylon" in A.D. 70. Its "latter end" was tied in with the "mystery of God" (p.51). Especially interesting in this regard is Isa.65:17-25: "You shall leave your name for a curse unto My chosen: for the Lord God shall slay you, and call His servants by another name."

In his discussion of Dan. 8-12 and Zech. 12-14, Ogden compares these prophecies with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels and demonstrates that they all deal with the same subject: the end of Israel as a physical nation and the elevation of a fleshly nation to the spiritual plane.

In the third section of his book, Ogden presents the historical background and setting in which the prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled. He shows that Rome, with its armies, was God's "instrument of wrath," just as Babylon was God's chosen means of punishing Israel in 586 B.C. The difference between the O.T. stories of judgment on an unrepentant nation are no different than what we find in Revelation. The history of Rome is studied including its rulers and form of government. Ogden relates the "deadly wound that was healed" (Rev.13:3) to the continuance of emperors following the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. Also included is the history of the Jews during this time, their various conflicts with their Roman overlords and (citing many passages from Josephus) their final destruction under Titus in A.D. 70.

In his exposition of the text, Ogden maintains a preterist perspective, except in a few cases. In some respects he is a futurist, speaking of a "final return of Christ" and the destruction of the physical universe (citing 2 Pet.3 as "proof," of course). He alleges that statements of Jesus in such places as Lk.17:22-37 (where Christ speaks of the "days of the Son of man") show that there was to be more than one "day of the Lord," and that "the principles contained in Matthew 24:36-51 apply to any day of the Lord..." (pp.68-69). He unfortunately seems to accept a multiple-fulfillment explanation for the obvious teaching of certain Scriptures. Ogden's interpretation of 2 Pet.3 is rather inconsistent with his application of the "collapsing universe" imagery found in Mt.24 to the destruction of the Jewish nation. He also acknowledges that "all things written were fulfilled" in A.D. 70 (p.70). Yet, on p.172, he says, "...God has spoken to us in these last days...." Regarding Rev.1:7 ("behold He comes with clouds," etc.), Ogden insists that this refers, not to Christ's "second personal coming which we look for today" since that coming will be "not with clouds but, with angels, saints and in flaming fire...." (p.104). Is this not that which was predicted by Jesus to occur within the lifetime of "some of these standing here" (Mt.16:27-28; Lk.9:26-27)? Yet Ogden insists: "The coming Jesus described [in Mt.24] was not His second coming, but His coming in the destruction of Jerusalem" (p.105). He rightly states that the image of clouds was used "to symbolize His coming with great strength and power in war," and that they "foretell a gloomy day at hand." Ogden admits that "the Lord made His appearance in the events that took place during the Roman-Jewish War and the final destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D." (p.105), but still looks to the future for a "final" coming of Christ to destroy the universe and resurrect the dead. If only these writers would look deeper and find the consistency of a strict preterist interpretation of eschatology!

Ogden teaches that the temporary holding places for the dead, paradise and hades, are still being used by the Lord: "The second death is the eternal separation that shall take place at the end of time when the wicked are cast into the lake of fire and brimstone" (p.132). He believes that the first resurrection is "the victorious resurrection of the soul in paradise where [it] continues to live and reign with Christ until the end of time" (p.133). He states that a final judgment is yet to come, of which the judgment on Jerusalem is characteristic (p.150). Death, according to Ogden, is still reigning, awaiting defeat by Christ at some future date, though Revelation declares it to be defeated (20:14). He may do well to recall his statement on p.194: "[T]he events shortly to come to pass centered around the desolation of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem....Realizing that the purpose of the Revelation is to reveal those events, our understanding of the symbolic language should be tapered to fit that specific application." The author should also harmonize the express time limitation in which the events of John's vision would be fulfilled, revealed by the angel himself (see Revelation 1:1,3 and 22:7,12,20). This is convincing, though ignored, evidence that ALL the events of the book were to come to pass SOON.

In spite of the futurist slant of some of this commentary, it has much to offer for anyone doing a serious study of Revelation. Ogden's many references to Josephus are valuable and time-saving. We can agree when he says: "Our faith should...be strengthened in the realization that the book of Revelation is not a conglomerate of unintelligible absurdities, but rather an orderly presentation of the throne of God active in the establishment and solidification of His redemptive scheme" (p.260). "Let us, too, rejoice that God rules and reigns!" Amen!

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