The Avenging of the Apostles
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
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
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!