As you may have noticed with my recent interviews on Premillennialism, I’ve been running headfirst into the eschatology labyrinth, hoping in my adventure to avoid any minotaurs and excessive metaphors. In the latest twist, I purchased Symposium on Revelation from American Vision on a birthday-whim. This is not a review as such, but some collected thoughts.
Symposium on Revelation
Back in February of 2013 Gary DeMar, Jim Hamilton and Sam Waldron met to discuss the book of Revelation. Rather than tackling a common topic such as the Millennium, these talks were on something far less familiar, namely how to interpret Revelation. Is is primarily speaking of past events, future events, or is it symbolically depicting the entire time before Christ’s return? DeMar represented the partial Preterist position, Hamilton the Futurist, and Waldron the Idealist. As a quick primer, here’s a very general comparison of these views:
- A (partial) Preterist sees much/most of Biblical prophecy as having been fulfilled in the events surrounding the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in AD70. Hence, most/all of Revelation’s prophecy is already fulfilled.
- A Futurist sees much/most of Biblical prophecy, particularly that in the New Testament, as yet remaining to be fulfilled. Most of Revelation is not yet fulfilled, especially chapters 6-22. This is the most familiar view for Christians.
- An Idealist sees much/most of Biblical prophecy as symbolic of current realities, so most of Revelation refers to what God’s people will experience – its readers and us – until the Second Coming.
You may have noticed the profuseness of muches and mosts in my descriptions above. To complicate matters, these views aren’t completely cut and dry and each of the speakers take a different slant on their relative positions, particularly Hamilton and Waldron. This is where titles break down and why it’s best to let people speak for themselves rather than assuming we know where they stand.
For the rest of the post I’ll offer my thoughts on the included video and individual presentations themselves then give a conclusion on the package as a whole.
There are four different packages you can buy. You can simply stream the video, download the video, download the mp3s, or download the video and mp3s. All packages (except video stream) include the following:
- The three presentations, three responses, and discussion panel (4.7 hours).
- The mp4 video (74 mins).
- PDFs of Prophecy Wars and an outline of the Olivet Discourse by Gary DeMar and We Shall All Be Changed by Joel McDurmon, a critique of full-preterism.
- Most of the video is drawn from the presentations themselves, with some interviews and ‘behind the scenes’ shots. The video serves as a great introduction and summary of the presentations, yet it is more than a collection of clips; in its own right the video has a place.
- One clear strength is where it juxtaposes the different addresses. For example, there is a segment that jumps between Hamilton and DeMar interpreting sections of Matthew 24, highlighting their disagreements on the same verses. The editing here is brilliantly done and achieves something that the individual audio files couldn’t.
- Since the presentations were apparently filmed in their entirety, it’s unfortunate that the full videos weren’t released. Considering the cost of the package and the ease and affordability of digital distribution, why not release everything?
- The presentations was excellent. It was clear that much thought and care had been put into each one,
- Hamilton offered a summary of his approach towards Revelation before moving to the specifics of his defense of a futurist perspective by examining Matthew 24 and Revelation 6.
- Waldron’s presentation revolved around interpretative rules that favour his idealist approach, but what his idealist approach actually looks like throughout Revelation was not made clear.
- DeMar’s presentation of preterism was the best I’ve heard so far but he offered very little in terms of how a preterist reads Revelation and instead was quickly on the offense, arguing for a preterist understanding of Matthew 24.
- The symposium was supposed to represent three approaches to Revelation, but surprisingly, after DeMar’s presentation the rest of the material quickly turned to a debate between himself and Hamilton, particularly around Matthew 24. Now this was fascinating, but it’s not exactly what we were led to expect from a Symposium on Revelation!
- DeMar seemed determined to disprove futurism, so there wasn’t much discussion with Waldron. In fact, if Waldron seemed most out of touch with the debate it was because he actually stayed on task the most!
- Its a pity the dispensational view wasn’t represented. The reasoning makes sense – most believers are very familiar with the dispensational view but not others. However, are they really familiar with the best arguments the dispensational view has to offer? Also, each of the speakers take a few shots at dispensational approach, with no chance of offering a defense.
- It was a little surprising that during the discussion panel DeMar seemed less prepared and confident. There were a number of opportunities for him to give an understanding of a particular section of Revelation but most of the time he pulled back. I was left wondering how certain the preterist position can be in understanding Revelation. Sure it can be argued that Matthew 24 is entirely fulfilled, and that Revelation as a whole predicts AD70, but when it comes to specifics chapters and verses can the preterist offer compelling interpretations?
So is Symposium on Revelation worth the full
$19.95? $12.99 (today’s discount)? It depends what you’re after. If you want to learn more about the positions and issues, then this is an excellent resource. The presentations and discussion were excellent, a lot of great content is found within. The video is a great primer on the issues and discussion starter.
However, if you are really interested in how these positions interpret specifics within Revelation, you may be disappointed because of the rabbit trails. At times this could almost be called Symposium on Matthew 24!
I personally think it’s a little overpriced for what we get in the package, but I’m glad I have it. I plan to re-watch the video with others and re-listen to the talks a few times to make sure I haven’t missed anything. Each of the three speakers has a lot of great things to say and in the end this is a very informative package that I would recommend to anyone interested.
- Sam Waldron posted his understanding of Matthew 24. Part 1 / Part 2
- Gary DeMar’s ministry American Vision
- Jim Hamilton’s blog