The Revelation: More Than Conquerors, Part 1 (Hendriksen’s theory of interpretation)

lion-dove-lamb-yeshuaAs I mentioned in the last post, a very influential book regarding the interpretation of the Revelation is William Hendriksen’s 1939 More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation.

Unlike Foy Wallace and the Gospel Advocate commentary by John T. Hinds, Hendriksen rejects any connection of the visions in the Revelation with particular historic events — pre- or post-AD 70. Rather, he sees the Revelation as a series of seven parallel prophecies speaking generally of the challenges faced by Christians and the church, each promising a triumphal ending.

I borrow this summary from UK Apologetics:

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SECTION ONE. Christ in the Midst of the Lamps (Rev. 1:1-3:22): THE AGE OF THE CHURCH.
The lampstands represent the 7 churches; these are typical of all churches throughout this church age. As in all of these sections, the narrative brings us to Christ’s return (3:20-22).

SECTION TWO. The Vision of Heaven and the Seals (Rev.4:1-7:17): THE CHURCH WILL BE TRIUMPHANT.
This is a picture of the entire Church triumphant and includes the first mention of the 144,000. Once again, the section closes in chapter seven with the return of Christ, but since the theme here is the Church triumphant, the focus is almost entirely on the saved.

SECTION THREE. The Seven Trumpets (Rev. 8:1-11:19): THE WORLD WILL BE PUNISHED FOR ITS REJECTION OF GOD.
This section describes the affects of the Seven Trumpets on both those who reject God and upon the saved. Dark and fearful things affect the world in chapters eight and nine, whilst chapters ten and eleven focus on the Church. Once again (as in all of the other sections), the narrative brings us to Christ’s return at the seventh trumpet (11:15). The message is clear: terrible things will come upon a God-rejecting world but God’s own people will rejoice!

SECTION FOUR. The Persecuting Dragon (Rev. 12:1-14:20): THE CHURCH MUST EXPECT PERSECUTION.
The woman and the Man-child are persecuted by the dragon and his helpers. The section starts with a clear reference to the birth of our Saviour (12:5), the dragon threatens to devour the Man-child (Christ), but He is caught up to heaven, so the dragon now persecutes the ‘woman’ (the Church) through the agencies of the ‘beast’ and the ‘harlot.’ This is why Christians must expect persecution. Yet again the section closes with the Second Coming and with impending judgment (14:14-20).

SECTION FIVE. The Seven Bowls (Rev. 15:1-16:21): FINAL JUDGMENT.
These seven sections progressively reveal a little more and now the entire focus is on the final judgment of this world, and Armageddon is mentioned (16:16). Indications are strong (as we will learn later in this article) that the seven bowls and seven trumpets refer to exactly the same events but from somewhat differing perspectives; Christ returns at the seventh bowl and seventh trumpet.

SECTION SIX. The Fall of Babylon (Rev. 17:1-19:21): BABYLON’S CONFUSION FINALLY REMOVED FROM THE WORLD.
The current Babylonian system is why people are currently blinded to spiritual truth and worship money, commerce and various satanic ideologies: Darwinism, Marxism, Pantheism (modern ‘environmentalism’ is clearly pantheistic), and all the false religions. Babylon said (and currently still says) that people can freely be wealthy and prosperous at the expense of others and that these people can have a religion of their choice to appease their souls; Babylon masked the truth about God and gave people a religion of their minds; Babylon truly offered a self-earned justification, bedecked in deceptive luxury, moreover, it may even be observed in modern evangelicalism. This section shows when Babylon will finally be destroyed for her evil works of deception. We again find the return of Christ occurring (19:11), these regular returns of Christ confirm that these are parallel sections, not consecutive occurrences!

SECTION SEVEN. The Great Consummation (Rev. 20:1-22:21): GOD’S KINGDOM SPREADS FROM HEAVEN TO THE EARTH AND TO THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE!
The final section which reveals such great spiritual truth begins by going back to the start of the Church age to show how Satan has been restricted during this age. We even see the saints in heaven awaiting the resurrection (20:4-5), then we learn more about a final great military battle and the final destruction of the beast, false prophet and Satan himself (20:7-11), next we are presented with an amazing glimpse of the Great White Throne of Judgment when everybody who has ever lived must stand before God! (20:11-15). Yet it does not even finish there: God has even allowed us a symbolic glimpse into the New Jerusalem and the New Heavens and New Earth (chapters 21-22).

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I find this very convincing. In fact, the victory of Jesus appears over and over in the Revelation, and it only makes sense to see the repeated accounts of the same event as parallels. And it’s certainly true that OT prophecy is often non-linear.

One of least linear books in the NT is 1 John — which goes in circles, covering the same points (love, faith, obedience, the Spirit …) over and over from slightly different angles. Hebrews is the same way. There’s just no reason to impose a Western, Enlightenment linearity on a book that gives every evidence of being more circular than linear.

Here are the parallel presentations of the victory of Jesus:

First Vision

(Rev. 3:20-22 ESV)  20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.  22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'”

Second Vision

(Rev. 7:9-17 ESV)  9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,  12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”  

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?”  14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.  16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.  17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Third Vision

(Rev. 11:15-19 ESV)  15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”  16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God,  17 saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.  18 The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”  19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. 

Fourth Vision

(Rev. 14:14-20 ESV)  14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand.  15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.”  16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.  17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle.  18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.”  19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.  20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia. 

Fifth Vision

(Rev. 16:15-17:1 ESV)  15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)  16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.  17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!”  18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake.  19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.  20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found.  21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.  

Sixth Vision

(Rev. 19:11-21 ESV)  11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.  12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.  13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.  14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.  15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.  16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.  17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God,  18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.”  19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army.  20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.  21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

Seventh Vision

(Rev. 20:11-15 ESV)  11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.  12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.  13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.  14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The Seventh Vision is, of course, followed by the magnificent chapters 21 and 22, describing the New Heavens and New Earth — recapitulating the blessings previously described and adding to them.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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6 Responses to The Revelation: More Than Conquerors, Part 1 (Hendriksen’s theory of interpretation)

  1. Ray Downen says:

    I agree with this analysis of John’s Revelation. It’s good to read about the glories that await us after we endure a sometimes unpleasant life on earth. The theme of Revelation is the need for us to be faithful in order to receive blessings from our Savior.

  2. Bob Brandon says:

    Jay, I’ve owned a copy of Hendrikson’s commentary on Revelation for many years, and it’s enjoyed a favorable reputation from a number of Bible teachers and professors I’ve been privileged to study under. To me, it puts the relationship between the Kingdom of God/Heaven and the Kingdom of the world in proper perspective.

  3. Jim H says:

    After all that has been said and written, the Revelation of John remains mysterious.

  4. Alabama John says:

    JIm, you’re right, and after all John had witnessed and experienced in his life, it might simply be a revelation of John himself.

  5. laymond says:

    AJ I’m pretty sure John had been influenced by reading Ezekiel . That causes me to have dreams too.

  6. Alabama John says:

    LOL

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