I. Howard Marshall's chapter on Revelation in terms of Dogmas, Doctrines, Distinctives, and Details.*
Dogmas. Marshall balances hotly debated topics well and remains firm on the essentials, including God as the primary actor. Christ has “immense significance in the accomplishment of God's purpose for the world and for his people, but always under God” (550). Marshall affirms what he sees as a full Christology, that Christ is the “first and foremost witness and therefore the pattern and inspiration for his followers in the church,” resurrected from the dead, ruler of kings, the recipient of doxological address, and the redeemer/liberator by means of his blood (death on the cross) who will come again (550-551). Christ also receives language reserved for God pointing to his divine nature (561-562).
Doctrines. Marshall seems to give reluctant support to the key theological presupposition of prophecy (548) to ask does Revelation tell the same story several times or a chronological account of history? Either way, the situation remains the same in principle (549), Revelation is heavily dependent on the meaning of Old Testament imagery (549) to show that in the end God won before time begun.
Marshall skirts the issue of hell as eternal torment vs. destruction (likely supports latter (565)).
Distinctives. Marshall affirms the purpose of the book clearly as preparing God's people for the difficult future and “to issue an evangelistic appeal to those who have not yet responded to their witness” (548, 560). He concludes with the fact that “the time of the end remains unknown” (566).
Marshall's Arminianism (despite affirming God's control of history) surfaces in his analogy of the end as a stronger opponent vs. a weaker opponent knowing he will win, but not necessarily (549). Again, the calls for unbelievers to repent and warnings to believers against apostasy are seen as genuine in that membership in the two groups are not “fixed by divine fiat,” but Marshall balances this with followers being sealed by God and having their names in the book of life since creation (563).
Details. Marshall gives his preferred interpretation on the many images, but solid believers disagree on many of these points including: the varied images promised to believers all express eternal salvation for every believer and not “special rewards for first-class Christians” (552). Others include questions believers have asked for centuries: Who are the 12 tribes of Israel depicted here? Marshall believes it is symbolic for the 144,000 (554). Who are the 144,000? He states a symbolic group of God's people before and after their deaths (555). Who are the two witnesses? Marshall believes they represent the church due to their affinity to Moses, Elijah, and Christ who were resurrected. Regardless, “the vision takes it for granted that the nature of the church is to bear witness during this period” (556) (as it is suppose to do at all times since it is a Dogma level issue). Who is the woman who gave birth to Christ and flees from the dragon? Old Israel is promoted since she produced the Messiah, but then New Israel consisting of Christ's followers that the beast wages war against (556). Who/what is the beast? Marshall understands it as superhuman imagery for the devil who increases the suffering and persecution on earth through his totalitarian empire (557). Where is Babylon? Israel's old nemesis now symbolizes Jerusalem, Rome, and all the earth per Marshall, but this regime is to be judged (558).
The millennium is a much larger question. Marshall does a good job of identifying thorny issues with the millennium doctrine and proposes two viable solutions: either Amillennialism, where the millennium is the present age, or the millennium as a “proleptic or parallel image” for the new earth. Marshall sees a literal or temporary millennial kingdom as “more problematic” and thus “should probably be dropped from the discussion” (559). As a result, the rapture and various tribulation positions are absent, since the tribulation is either assumed for all as either “now” or “future.”
Other parts of the book are largely enigmatic as well. The angelology and the “beastology” trumps all other New Testament books in usage and complexity (562-563). Yet, Marshall affirms that both “remain under God's control” in that God allows or gives them permission to act (563).
*Dogmas are theories directly impacting God's mission to reconcile all people to Himself (orthodoxy & orthopraxy required).
Doctrines indirectly impact God's mission (and are thus vitally important), but people can fail to interact with or understand them accurately (essential to orthodoxy, not orthopraxy).
Distinctives don't affect the orthopraxy of salvation, but will impact the orthopraxy of a church.
Details have little to no effect on orthodoxy or orthopraxy.
Brett Yardley: Warrior for Christ. Devoted Husband. Proud Father. Martial Artist. Hopeful Philosopher & Theologian. Aspiring Teacher & Writer.