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The Writings of Meredith G. Kline on the Book of Revelation: Chapter 9, God, Heaven and Har Magedon (2006)

Danny E. Olinger

Meredith Kline’s God, Heaven and Har Magedon: A Covenantal Tale of Cosmos and Telos appeared in 2006.[1] He acknowledged in the preface that as an octogenarian this could be his last book, and there were things that he wanted to do. Specifically, Kline wanted to provide a primer in covenant theology for a wider readership than the academic crowd.

In his biographical sketch of his father, M. M. Kline testifies that the teaching of Geerhardus Vos was the biggest influence upon his father’s development of covenant theology. He writes:

Dad’s most significant influence for his covenant theology was Geerhardus Vos. Dad’s teaching responsibilities at WTS included a course on Old Testament Biblical Theology. That course of subsequent myriad names taught at multiple seminaries ultimately blossomed as Kingdom Prologue, a covenant theology in the tradition of Vos, whose Biblical Theology was always a required text for the course.[2]

Meredith G. Kline himself both acknowledged his indebtedness to Vos and elaborated upon the relationship of biblical theology and covenant theology in the closing paragraphs of the introduction to Kingdom Prologue. There Kline maintained that “for Vos, delineating the progress of special revelation is broadly the same as expounding the contents of the several divine covenants.”[3] Biblical theology in the tradition of Vos processes special revelation so that it contributes directly to the church’s task of theological formulation, a task undertaken in the interests of covenantal instruction, discipline, and witness. Further, the significant eras of special revelation are coordinated with the sequence of the covenant enactments in Scripture centered around God’s mighty works of creation and redemption. Said Kline, “The best example of this is the Bible itself with its major divisions into Old and New Testaments, the covenantal constitutions for the old and new covenants respectively.”[4]

Kline then confessed that in Kingdom Prologue he had borrowed from Vos’s biblical-theological program and applied it to the exegesis of the book of Genesis with a slight twist. Instead of making special revelation the central theme in a broad sweep, Kline focused on the historical drama of the covenant kingdom with its epoch-making events of covenant transaction and kingdom establishment. That is, in Kline’s words, “what is in Vos’s Biblical Theology the infrastructure, the particular historical pattern in which the periodicity principle gets applied, becomes here the surface structure.”[5] In its unfolding and developing of that infrastructure, Kline believed that Kingdom Prologue performed a prolegomenon function for the discipline of biblical theology that at the same time contributed very directly to the formulations of covenant theology.

In God, Heaven and Har Magedon, Kline expanded the scope of what he had done in Kingdom Prologue. He moved from a focus on kingdom developments recorded in Genesis to a comprehensive biblical-theological survey of kingdom developments from Eden (Genesis) to New Jerusalem (Revelation). He even suggested with this broader focus that the book could have properly been named Kingdom Come or Kingdom Consummation. He decided, however, to name the book God, Heaven and Har Magedon. He said that “though the covenants remain the theological foundation and heart of the matter, by its adoption as our narrative framework Har Magedon becomes the dominant surface theme.”[6]

In his judgment, the Har Magedon narrative revealed a covenantal tale that moved from creation to consummation and allowed for the exploration of such biblical doctrines as pneumatology, cosmology, eschatology, and common grace. Still more, Kline believed that the tracking in Scripture of the Har Magedon theme revealed an eschatological megastructure. This eschatological megastructure/Har Magedon paradigm consists in a complex of elements that includes: 1) the Lord of Har Magedon establishing a kingdom covenant; 2) the meritorious accomplishment and triumph in the Har Magedon conflict by a covenant grantee; 3) a common grace interim before the coming of the kingdom; 4) an antichrist crisis; 5) the last judgment victory of the covenant Lord in a final Har Magedon battle that results in the consummation of the Glory-Kingdom.

 As Kline endeavored to show the grand biblical vision of God’s heavenly kingdom in its eschatological movement from Alpha to Omega, he repeatedly returned to the book of Revelation. By my count, he cited verses and passages from Revelation 351 times in the book’s 222 pages.

God and Heaven

Kline believed that Revelation 1:8 and 21:6 support the view that the creation of heaven in Genesis 1 was a divine epiphany, “a beaming forth of the One who gives himself as Creator the name of Alpha.”[7] The king of heaven is the Lord God. His Glory-Presence is the supreme reality of heaven, sanctifying it as a holy heaven-temple. Heaven is also the focus of God’s sabbath, the seventh day (Gen. 2:1–3). What is signified by the divine sabbath—the everlasting session of the King of Glory—is the essential reality of heaven.

The prophet Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, amid the seraphim (Isa. 6:1). This royal imagery is repeated in Revelation 4:1–2. John, “in the Spirit,” sees a throne set in heaven. The one sitting on the throne arched with emerald glory, the Creator-Lord, is acclaimed by the heavenly retinue as worthy to receive the glory, honor, and power (Rev. 4:11). The vision of heaven and the great white judgment scene of Revelation 20:11 shows the radiant divine Judge seated on a fiery chariot throne. Kline said, “Consistently, the center of the unveiled heaven is occupied by the Majesty on high, the enthroned King of creation. Hence, architecturally, heaven is a palace, a royal court.”[8]

Because heaven’s King is the Lord God, the thrice holy one, affirmed both in Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8, the royal house of heaven is at the same time a temple. In Revelation 11:19, 14:15, 14:17, 15:5–8, and 21:11, 23, John designates the heavenly site of God’s judgment throne as a “temple” or the holy “tabernacle” of the covenant. Kline concluded, “The spatial-architectural nature of heaven is thus defined by its central, all-dominant feature, the God-King is resident there. By virtue of his holy Glory-Presence, heaven is a royal, sacred space, a palace-temple.”[9] But, the relation of the Glory-Presence to heaven goes beyond imparting a formal significance. “God, that is, the epiphanic manifestation of God, is the temple.”[10]

In Revelation 21:22, John affirms this identification when he declares that he saw no temple in the New Jerusalem, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple. The eschatological goal at creation was to dwell with God in the full revelation of his Glory-Presence in his heaven-temple, but Adam broke the creational covenant that God had established unto that end. Kline maintained “that the purpose of redemption is to bring to pass, in spite of the Fall, the realization of that eschatological goal of a consummate revelation of God’s Glory as originally set for creation.”[11] For Kline, this meant that redemption is subordinate to the revelation of the divine Glory. There is an “eschatological structure of creation history” where the ultimate goal of the divine plan is to bring creation to its omega-point in the consummation of heaven and earth.[12]

Having discussed the eschatological prospect presented to Adam, Kline then addressed the issue of the structural continuity and discontinuity of the pre-consummation and post-consummation cosmos. Kline observed in Revelation 21:1 and 20:11 that, when at the consummation all things are made new, the first heaven and the first earth will pass away for there will be no place for them. In Revelation 6:14 mountains and islands are uprooted, and the heavens rolled up like a scroll. But Kline stopped short of arguing that the present physical world would be destroyed. Some elements of this world will not appear in the world to come, namely, “the products of fallen man’s history” such as “the outward technology, material paraphernalia, and all the external expressions of man’s present cultural life” (cf. 2 Pet. 3:10), but “redemption is a recovering and restoring of the original.”[13] The incorporation of the gloried bodies of the saints (1 Cor. 15:51, 52) of the present world into the new heavens and new earth warrants a continuation of the original creation in some form. Still, he stated, “Certainty eludes us in our inquiry into the new earth’s spatial-cosmological likeness to or difference from the present earth.”[14]

What he did have great confidence about was the religious “holy place” character of the new earth. This New Jerusalem, the festal gathering place of God, Jesus, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven (Heb.12:22–24), which comes down to earth (Rev. 21:10–22:5), is the site of the enthroned triune Glory-Presence of God, the center of a cosmic holy of holies (Rev. 11:19; 21:16). It is the tabernacle of God where he dwells with men (Rev. 21:2–3; 22:3–4), that to which Jesus told his disciples he was going to prepare a place for them in the house of God (John 14:2, 3).

Kline’s closing sentence of the “God and Heaven” section tied this heavenly hope back to Har Magedon. He wrote, “The heavenly city of God on the high mountain, focal center of the eternal cosmic kingdom, recalls the mountain of God in Eden, focal cultic site for the projected global theocracy. Therein lies a tale—the tale of Har Magedon.”[15]

Heaven and Har Magedon

In part two of the book, “Heaven and Har Magedon,” Kline showed that the motif of God’s mountain and sanctuary in Eden runs through the Scriptures in biblical symbolism. In the old covenant, Israel in Canaan recapitulates the situation of Adam in Eden, including the presumption that Zion is a restoration of the original holy mountain in Eden. “Similarly,” Kline argued, “the New Jerusalem of the new heaven and earth is portrayed as a final, consummating restoration of Eden, as a garden with its tree and river of life and as a holy site of the throne of God (cf. Rev. 22:1ff.).”[16]

Ezekiel 28, however, moves one beyond presumptive indicators. There, the Judge of heaven and earth casts down the king of Tyre from his imagined heights as an enthroned deity (Ezek. 28:2) to the pit of death (Ezek. 28:8). This fall is likened to what transpired in Eden, “You were in Eden, the garden of God” (Ezek. 28:13). Kline then observed that Ezekiel 28:14, “You were on the holy mount of God,” makes clear that the mountain of God stood in the midst of Eden.[17] Reading Genesis 2 in light of Ezekiel 28 gives a clue to the flowing of the river of Eden into the surrounding terrain and is probably connected to Ezekiel 47:1, where the river of life is said to flow from the mountain sanctuary of the Lord. And, finally, the gemstones of Ezekiel 28:13 point back to the precious stones of Genesis 2:11–12 and forward to Revelation 21:18–21 and the heavenly city of God on his holy mountain that is adorned with every kind of jewel.

The mount of God in Eden, then, shared with the land of Eden the symbolic significance as the representation of God’s celestial realm. “Like its redemptive counterpart, Mount Zion, the mountain of Eden was to be the spiritual capital, the place to which from afar prayer would be directed, to whose summit the holy throng would ascend with tribute of worship and praise (cf., e.g., Ps. 43:3, 4; Isa. 27:13; 30:29; 56:7).”[18]

Sabbath, Eschatology, and Covenant

In part three, Kline noted that Genesis 1:1–2:3 reveals creation has a sabbatical form, the divine work of six days issuing into sabbath rest on the seventh day. Entry into perpetual sabbath rest was put before Adam with faithful performance of the probationary task of guardianship at Har Magedon. Kline wrote:

Diabolical evil had broken out in heaven. Satan had challenged the God of Har Magedon. And Adam was assigned the role of standing in the name of his Creator Lord and withstanding the assault of Satan at the mountain of God in Eden, the earthly projection of the heavenly mount of assembly . . . That was the probation task. It was by victory over the enemy of heaven in this battle of Har Magedon that Adam was to win the promised reward of everlasting glory.[19]

Satan’s treasonous disobedience, according to Ezekiel 28:14–17, originated in his pride over his exalted status attending God’s throne on the mountain of God. Such self-pride contradicts the praise and glory of the Creator, the prime objective of creation, and is tantamount to exchanging the creature for the Creator. In Satan’s approach to Adam and Eve, he calls into question God’s goodness, truthfulness, and supreme authority, which is the same as calling into question and blaspheming God’s Godness.

After the fall, Adam and Eve are confronted by God in Genesis 3:8. Concerning God’s appearance, Kline stated, “It was a stormy theophany, not a stroll through the garden ‘in the cool of the day’ (as Gen. 3:8 is traditionally rendered) but an advent ‘as the (Glory-)Spirit of the (judgment) day.’”[20] Then in Genesis 3:14–15, God pronounces a sentence of judgment against Satan that will be fulfilled in the Messiah, the seed of the woman. In John’s Gospel, when Jesus’s exaltation is imminent through the cross and resurrection, Jesus declares that the time has come for the prince of this world to be driven out (John 12:31). In Revelation 12:8–10, after Jesus’s exaltation, there is rejoicing in heaven for the great dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, has been thrown down and lost his place in heaven.[21] In fulfillment of his role as the second Adam, the true guardian of the holy mountain and champion of God, Jesus, crushes Satan’s head and casts him down from the heights to Hell.[22]

Kline exegeted the Har Magedon themes from the rest of Genesis with sparse comment upon its fulfillment in Revelation. He did, however, comment on the nations, especially Magog, that are listed in Genesis 10:2. These nations reappear in the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 and 39 associated with the antichrist figure of Gog in the battle of Har Magedon. There the point is that, in the final crisis, Satan is to be loosed as a deceiver of the nations, which Kline observes is foretold in Revelation 20:7–8. During that time when the thousand years are ended and Satan released, the state of affairs will be similar to that of Genesis 10 prior to Christ’s coming, “a world in which the covenant remnant was a small enclave of faith, with all the other encircling peoples of earth deceived by Satan’s deadly lie.”[23]

The Genesis 10 chronology also led Kline to remark that “even more distressing for God’s people than the success of Satan’s cause in the world outside the chosen family was his subtle penetration of the covenant community itself.”[24] For Kline, apostasy from the holy fellowship of God’s servants is a recurring theme throughout the Har Magedon warfare in both the old covenant and the new covenant. In the old covenant, nearly an entire generation of rebellious Israelites is sentenced to perish in the wilderness, and later the nation is repudiated as Lo-Ammi, “Not-My-People,” and exiled to Babylon. In the new covenant, there emerges a harlot-church, the great city Babylon, the apostate church that sheds the blood of the martyrs and prostitutes itself to the satanic Beast and the False Prophet. But Kline immediately stressed that the faithful, though persecuted by satanic powers from without and undermined by satanic deceivers within, are not forsaken by the Lord. As John declares in Revelation 1:9, the faithful find that their fellowship in the hope of the kingdom is one of patient endurance. In the midst of their suffering, they fight against the demonic powers of this world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world (Eph. 6:12).

Continuing in his movement through the Pentateuch, Kline noted that in the book of Exodus the Lord demanded through Moses that his people be set free that they might gather at the mountain of God to serve him.[25] Pharaoh, exhibiting antichrist vigor, scornfully replies in Exodus 5:2, “Who is Yahweh that I should obey him?” When Pharaoh and his army pin the Israelites against the sea in Exodus 14, a gathering of antichrist’s forces to besiege the community of faith, the final battle of Har Magedon is anticipated. God as divine King intervenes through his Glory-Spirit. The theophanic pillar of cloud and fire flashes fiercely (Exod. 14:20, 24) and brings judgment upon the Egyptians, representatives of the antichrist world; it also functions as a light to lead the Israelites to safety (Exod. 14:20–21).[26]

Then, in Exodus 15, the victory hymn Song of Moses signals the transition from the kingdom prologue of the Patriarchs to the coming of the kingdom and the occupation of the kingdom land. In Revelation 15:3, the victors over the Beast sing “the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb” as they stand by the sea of glass. Then, in Revelation 18, the taunt element is “especially pronounced in the Hallelujahs of the saints over the fall of Babylon (Rev. 18:1ff.), cast like a stone into the deep (Rev. 18:21), a judgment reminiscent of the fate of pharaoh’s armies (Exod. 15:1, 4, 5, 10).”[27]

But the parallels with Revelation are more pronounced than the shared doxological victory hymns sung in the face of vanquished foes. The transition marks a shift from Patriarchal common grace relationships and pilgrim politics to the waging of holy war in the Mosaic era that foreshadows the eschatological judgment of the wicked. The book of Numbers particularly details Israel’s mission to wage a holy war of conquest in the land of Canaan. Consequently, in Numbers, the priests perform the role as guardians of the tabernacle, an image conveyed in Numbers 2 with the situating of twelves tribes around the sacred tent.[28] Israel’s campaign of conquest is a priestly undertaking, the priests leading the procession carrying the ark of God’s Presence before them. In the final battle of Har Magedon in Revelation 19:11–14, the armies of heaven that follow the priestly-garbed Christ are a company of priests, clothed in white and clean linen. Until that last day, Har Magedon warfare for God’s people in every age is “at its core a wrestling against the spirit powers of darkness, a resisting of the challenge of the evil one against our Lord, the lord of the holy mount.”[29]

Kline turned to the book of Daniel to transition from old covenant typology to new covenant reality. He stated that prophetic visions of Daniel set forth both the closing of the old order in the destruction of Israel’s theocracy and the establishing of the new messianic order. In fact, in Kline’s opinion, the seventy-weeks prophecy of Daniel 9 alone “contains almost all the major elements of the pattern from the initiation of the New Covenant to the consummation of the kingdom, including a remarkably full revelation of the Messiah, the guarantor of the covenant.”[30]

Kline argued that the prophetic vision of the seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24–27 is conveyed to Daniel by Gabriel in 539 BC, the first year of Darius/Cyrus. The prophet Jeremiah had declared that the fall of Babylon would signal the seventy-year captivity of Israel (Jer. 25:11–12), and that the Lord would bring back his people from exile to their homeland (Jer. 29:10). In Daniel 9:23 and again in 9:25, Gabriel assures Daniel that the restoration decree has already been issued. The fulfillment of the promissory prophecy of Jeremiah and the evidence in verses 23 and 25 that the decree has already been issued “puts it beyond question that the seventy weeks of Dan. 9:24 began in that very year, 539 BC.”[31] Kline deduced that since the Messiah and the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 are part of the seventy weeks, the seventy weeks are figurative. The Messiah-Ruler spoken of in the vision is the one who fulfills all the objectives of the seventy weeks—the judgment of the old order, the inauguration of the new order, and the finishing of the house of God on Har Magedon.

The prophecies of Daniel provide an entrance into the Har Magedon paradigm of the messianic age. Christ is the Har Magedon way to heaven for his people as he triumphs in warfare against Satan, the archfoe of the holy mountain. As the divine warrior locked in mortal combat with Satan, Jesus is successful in his defense of Har Magedon from his temptation forward. His victory is a dispossessing of Satan, an expropriating of the kingdom of heaven, and ultimately a crushing of the serpent’s head, a slaying of the dragon. For a sketch of this conflict, Kline turned to Revelation 12 and 20.

Conquest of the Dragon: Revelation 12 and 20

The confrontation between Jesus and the devil in Revelation 12 is the decisive battle of the Har Magedon warfare. The passage opens with the satanic dragon’s unsuccessful attempt to devour the messianic child born to the glory-arrayed women. Emerging from the ordeal victorious, the child in Revelation 12:5 is exalted to the Har Magedon throne of God where he is destined to rule the nations with an iron scepter in fulfillment of Psalm 2:4–9. “The dominion Jesus refused to accept from the tempter,” said Kline, “he receives as the reward for his obedience to the Father.”[32]

The battle is pictured again starting in Revelation 12:7, Michael (the proper name of the messianic Angel of the Lord) and his angelic legions versus the dragon and his demonic hosts. Defeated, the devil is depicted as being thrown down to earth from the invisible heights of a celestial mountain, a mountain turned into a pseudo-Har Magedon built upon Satan’s lies (Rev. 12:9).[33] His casting down means the loss of his hitherto dark sway and the penetrating of the light of the gospel to the nations. This is confirmed in Revelation 12:10, where the defeat and casting down of Satan are attributed to the church’s witness to the blood of the Lamb. It is the work of the Lamb on the cross that silences Satan, the accuser of the brethren. “The crushing of the serpent’s head by the messianic seed of the woman is at the cost of the bruising of his heel. Hence the gospel that is heralded to the ends of the earth after Satan’s expulsion from on high is a message of Christ crucified, the Lamb who was slain.”[34]

Satan in Hebrews 2:14 is identified as the one who has the power of death. Death must be conquered, which is why the glorified Jesus reassures John in Revelation 1:18, “I am the living One; I was dead and behold I am alive for evermore. And I have the keys of death and Hades.” Kline proclaimed, “The gospel that advances across the earth as a result of the casting down of the devil is, accordingly, a preaching of Christ risen as well as Christ crucified.”[35] By the cross, Jesus turns aside Satan’s accusations, and by the resurrection he takes away the weapon of death from Satan. It is by way of Jesus’s double victory that Satan and his evil angels are cast down from the heights of Har Magedon.

According to Kline, Revelation 20 also presents an encounter between Christ and the devil where the messianic victory is seen as a casting down of Satan. The curtailing of Satan’s success as a deceiver of the nations is symbolized in the dragon’s binding and imprisonment in the Abyss (Rev. 20:1–3, 7). Isaiah 49 provides the background for this imagery. The Servant of the Lord will bring God’s salvation to the ends of the earth (Isa. 49:1–6), calling out of darkness the captives (49:9). He accomplishes the deliverance of the people by taking them as plunder from the adversary (49:24, 25).

The Three-and-a-Half-Year Symbol

In Daniel 9, the three-and-a-half-year period (the second half of the seventieth week) is the church age from the middle of the seventieth week (the end of the new covenant’s overlapping of the old order) to the end of the seventieth week (the consummation). Daniel 7:25 indicates that the three-and-a-half-year period is that time when the saints are persecuted by the little horn. The oppressive rule of this world power continues until the divine advent of the final judgment. Then the dragon-slaying Son of Man will destroy the little horn and establish the eternal kingdom.

Revelation 11 carries forward what was prophesied by Daniel. The equivalent of Daniel’s three-and-a-half-year period is the 1,260 days of Revelation 11:3. This is the period of activity of the two witnesses, who are symbolic of the church that carries out Jesus’s Great Commission. Kline argued that Revelation 11:7–10 teaches that it is evident that the mission of the two witnesses, though successfully completed, has met with opposition from the unbelieving world devoted to the Beast. They are overpowered and killed in the antichrist crisis at the end of the interim era, but subsequently, as Revelation 11:11–12 declares, they are restored to life and raptured into heaven.

But Kline also argued that the interim era—the interval in the messianic era between Christ’s coming and the inaugural of the new covenant and his return and the consummation of the kingdom of God—in Revelation 11 is marked by the presence of an apostate church. In Revelation 11:2, the apostate covenant community is symbolized as the outer court of the temple. It is not measured off as holy, like the inner sanctuary, the true Israel. In Revelation 11:8, this apostate church is pictured as the erstwhile “holy city” of Jerusalem, the “great city” where the Lord was crucified. “No longer sanctified by God’s Presence,” said Kline, “the great city is abandoned to profanation by the heathen. Such is the significance of the trampling, the opposite of the measuring action in verse 1.”[36]

Accordingly, the interim is an era in which the true church and false church co-exist. Ascribed, then, to the false church is the same judgment (“to be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,” Luke 21:24) of which Jesus warned apostate Jerusalem for their rejection of him.

Revelation 12 focuses on Christ’s victory over the dragon, but Revelation 12:6 and 14 with their three-and-a-half-year symbolism also speak to the experience of the church in the interadvental period. Both contexts are concerned with the situation of the church, symbolized by the woman, after the departure of the victorious Christ to his throne in heaven. Foiled in his attempt to do away with the offspring of the woman, the child now exalted beyond his reach, Satan, directs his fury against those who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Vulnerable and threatened, the covenant community is nevertheless protected and preserved during the interim, which is the point of Revelation 12:6 and 14. Kline wrote:

Rev. 12:6 says the woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she can be sustained for 1,260 days. Rev. 12:14 says the woman was given the two wings of a great eagle so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she is sustained for a time, times, and half a time. Such is the interim condition of the church—a fugitive existence in the wilderness, not yet come to the rest in the glory land. As faithful witnesses to the Lamb, God’s people are overcomers (Rev. 12:11, echoing the Revelation 11 identification of the interim as the Great Commission time) and they are indeed sustained in the wilderness. Yet at the same time they are warred against by the dragon (Rev. 12:17) and face martyr-death for their martyr-witness. It is as those who loved not their lives unto death that they overcome.[37]

The Millennium Symbol

The present church age interim is also pictured in Revelation 20:1–6 through the symbolism of the “thousand years.”[38] The millennium starts with Christ’s first advent, the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:2 launching the thousand years. The millennium ends, Revelation 20:7–10, with the return of Jesus to execute final judgment upon Satan and his forces at the battle of Har Magedon (cf. Rev. 16:12–16).

According to Kline, the key issue with respect to the nature of the millennium is the millennium’s relation to the coming of the Glory-Kingdom. In his judgment, there is no basis in Revelation 20 for the contention of the premillennialists and postmillennialists that the thousand years are a time of theocratic dominance for the people of God on earth. Such a terrestrial kingdom is not suggested in Revelation 20:1–3 by the binding of Satan, or by the granting of judicial authority to those on the thrones in Revelation 20:4, or by the first resurrection experience in Revelation 20:5–6.

Until Christ’s coming, all the world outside of Israel’s limited orbit was snared in the deception of the devil. But with Jesus’s binding of Satan there is deliverance from satanic deception and spiritual darkness, and consequently, God’s Word goes forth to the nations. During this time, those who follow after Jesus and do not worship the Beast or his image are not the politically exalted. Rather, their status is pictured in Revelation 20:4b as those who are beheaded for their testimony to Jesus.

Whether viewed from the earthly “three-and-a-half-year” perspective of Revelation 11 and 12 or the heavenly “thousand years” perspective of Revelation 20, the interim history of the church militant is a martyr age where the church witnesses to Christ and suffers for Christ. But Revelation 20:4a also pictures the session of a tribunal given authority to judge. This judicial session in Revelation 20:4a results in the vindication of the faithful in Revelation 20:4b, who would not therefore seem to be the occupants of the thrones.

The prospect of an earthly Glory-Kingdom would confront the reader in Revelation 20:4–6 if the first resurrection spoken of there were a bodily resurrection of believers who then reigned with Christ for a thousand years. However, the interpretation of the first resurrection as bodily is contradicted in the context by the meaning of “first.” “First” in Revelation 20 and 21 is not the first in the series of things of the same kind. Rather, it marks that which is of a different kind from what is called “second.” In Revelation 21:1 and following, for example, “first” marks the first world as passing away. This is in contrast to the new heaven and new earth, which do not pass away.[39]

Satan and Antichrist

Kline also took special interest in Revelation 13 and the relation between Satan and the Antichrist. Kline noted that in Genesis 3 (the serpent) and 2 Thessalonians 2 (the man of sin) Satan acts through an agent. Incarnation is not possible for Satan, but satanic embodiment in the man of sin amounts to a pseudo-incarnation. In terms of the symbolism of Revelation 13:2 and 4, the dragon gives his power, throne, and great authority to the Beast.[40] This transferal functions as an antichrist culmination of the Beast, the Antichrist being Satan’s vicegerent.

The man of sin, however, claims a name above all, which constitutes a rival claim in conflict with the one who has delegated his throne to him in Revelation 13:1–2. It is a rival claim because, in the satanic ordering of things, there is no place on the throne of Har Magedon for two. Kline explained:

Satan cannot replicate the trinitarian Father-Son (Messiah) relationship, one in which the Messiah-Son together with the Father and the Spirit occupies the Glory-throne of all creation. Hence by his claim to deity above all deities the messiah figure that Satan spawns becomes in effect a rebel against his father. Such contradiction and division is to be expected in Satan’s kingdom-house for he is the irrational spirit par excellence.[41]

Satan attempts to counterfeit Christ and his kingdom, but his attempts fail. The satanic enterprise has a pseudo-version of the biblical octave pattern with the Beast that has eight heads, the climax of seven heads. But this attempt to mimic Christ falls short in that it cannot bring to completion. Rather than the Beast ascending Har Magedon in victory, the Beast descends to perdition (Rev. 17:11). The true octave figure is Christ. His resurrection day, which the church celebrates on the Christian octave day, brings about the consummate perfecting of Har Magedon.[42] 

Har Magedon Gatherings

According to Kline, in the Old Testament, acts of divine gathering with Mount Magedon as the ultimate destination are prominent. As an example, the Noahic household was gathered into the ark, a sanctuary from the world-destroying divine judgment. Symbolic of the covenant community gathered out of a perishing world, the ark was bound for the Har Magedon mount of Ararat. Those outside the ark were doomed, the waters of judgment covering over them even as they sought higher ground.

With the coming of Christ, agricultural harvesting, military mustering, and the homecoming of dispersed people are among the images used in the New Testament to portray Har Magedon gatherings with dual judgments. An example of the agricultural, double harvesting motif is found in Revelation 14:14–20. The hundred forty-four thousand gathered in the grain harvest (Rev. 14:14–16) are the firstfruits of the harvest and followers of the Lamb (Rev. 14:1–5). They represent the attainment of all the servants of God promised to the martyr suppliants in Revelation 6:9–11 (cf. Rev. 14:13), the company portrayed in the double vision of the hundred forty-four thousand and the great multitude in Revelation 7 (i.e., the church depicted first in typological, then more literal fashion). Standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion, they sing the new song before the throne. Conversely, those gathered in the grape harvest in Revelation 14:17–20 are the worshipers of the Beast described in Revelation 14:9–11. They drink the wine of God’s wrath, and the smoke of their fiery torment goes up forever.

The great gatherer who orders and oversees the dual harvest of judgment is Jesus. Kline summarized:

Jesus himself declared in the kingdom parable of Matt. 13:24–43 that at the end of the age it is he who shall send his angels on their double harvest mission. Agreeably the dual gathering at Rev. 14:14–20 is conducted by Jesus and his angels. The passage opens with the epiphany of the Son of Man, with golden crown and seated on a white cloud, insignia of deity (cf. Dan. 7:13, 14; Rev. 1:13). He proceeds to harvest the grain while an associate angel gathers the vintage of the earth destined to be crushed in the winepress of divine wrath.[43]

Christ is the divine warrior, the ordeal-champion over Satan, but participating with him in the crushing of the serpent’s head are the saints (Rom. 16:20; cf. Rev. 2:16–17). The blood of the Lamb overcomes Satan, but the triumph is also that of the martyr witnesses (Rev. 12:11).[44] In Revelation 19:11, when the Faithful and True rides forth to judge and make war, those arrayed in the white linen of his righteousness follow him as the armies of heaven in Revelation 19:14. These saints are overcomers, those who share in the Messiah’s prerogative in shattering evil powers like a potter’s vessel (Rev. 2:16, 17; cf. Psa. 2:9).

These overcomers also are active in the final judgment as judges, which is in keeping with man’s Edenic assignment as guardian of Har Magedon to judge Satan and banish him from God’s holy presence. “In the Revelation 20 depiction of the resurrection-judgment a courtroom vision is juxtaposed to a battle vision.”[45] In Revelation 20:7–10, a recapitulation of Revelation 16:12–16, the forces of Gog besieging the city of the saints are consumed by fire from heaven. Then, in Revelation 20:11–15, the great white throne has on it the Judge from whom the earth and heaven flee away. Standing before the throne are the dead. They are judged according to what is written—sentenced to the lake of fire with the devil, Beast, and False Prophet are all whose names are not found in the book of life (Rev. 20:10).

Consummation of the Har Magedon Kingdom

In the last section of the book, Kline tied together once more God’s creation of man in his image, the prospect of eternal communion symbolized in the river and tree of life, and the glorious realization of that hope through the redemption found in Jesus Christ in the New Jerusalem where the river and tree of life reappear. The New Jerusalem is not just Christ’s bride, but is the cosmic plenitude of Christ’s bride, the church (Rev. 21:9–10). In filling this city, Christ, the second Adam, fulfills the commission given to Adam to fill the earth with his descendants.

But this fullness of the elect dwelling in the holy city is matched by the fullness of the Presence of the triune God in that place. Portrayed as a holy of holies in Revelation 21:16, the New Jerusalem is where God tabernacles with his people (Rev. 21:3). This holy city on the mountain has the Glory of God (Rev. 21:11), the site of his personal epiphanic Presence. Christ, the one in whom the fullness of deity dwells bodily, is also bonded with the Glory-Presence pleroma that fills the temple-city. Consequently, “the Apocalypse conjoins the Lord-Lamb with the enthroned King of Glory when identifying the latter as the temple, the fullness of the cosmos city (Rev. 21:22; cf. 22:1; John 2:19–21).”[46] The Lamb-Lamp then parallels the Glory-Light of God, the temple-city “having the glory of God” (Rev. 21:11, 23).

Blessedly joined in fullness to the Lamb in the temple-city shining with the glory light of God is his bride-wife, the church. “The church pleroma, the bride-wife of the Lamb (Rev. 21:9) is one with him who, himself incarnational epiphany, is one with the endoxate Spirit epiphany.”[47] Without blurring the Creator-creature distinction, the church shares in the epiphanies of the Son and Spirit. The wife of the Lamb shares with God in his identity as the cosmic holy city (Rev. 21:9–12, 22), the two simultaneously filling the cosmos. For to the overcomer Jesus promises, “I will grant him to sit with me on my throne even as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev. 3:21).

The mediator of this union between God and his church is Jesus Christ, the God-man. He is the successful covenant Probationer who accomplishes redemption for the erstwhile sons of wrath, bringing them into communion with the Holy One. In Eden prior to sin, the creational epiphanation of the Spirit was to the end of revealing God’s wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and love. But, said Kline, the full disclosure of the nature of God—the prime objective of creation—is to include the manifestation of a supreme love, “a love of God that we see in the compassion, mercy, and grace of our Redeemer, ‘the lamb that was slain’ (Rev. 5:6–13; 13:8).”[48]

The Gospel of Har Magedon

The glorious prospect of the divine and human fullness bound together in Christ comes as an invitation to an eschatological banquet on Har Magedon. In the good news of the Apocalypse, the Har Magedon banquet is the marriage supper of the Lamb. Those invited to come and enjoy without price (Rev. 22:17) are pronounced blessed (Rev. 19:9). In Christ, they will be assembled in fullness of joy before him on consummated Har Magedon, Mount of Gathering.

Endnotes

[1] The book’s dedication, editing and art testified to Kline’s love of his family. He dedicated the book “to our three sons—MEREDITH M. litterateur-theologian, STERLING architect, CALVIN musician-maestro.” He thanked his grandson Jonathan Kline for “his amanuensis assistance” in the whole editorial-publishing process. And, touchingly, he acknowledged in the closing sentence of the preface that the cover picture was a reproduction of an oil painting (53½ by 33) by Muriel G. Kline.

[2] M. M. Kline, “Meredith G. Kline: A Biographical Sketch,” in Essential Writings of Meredith G. Kline (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2017), xxiii.

[3] Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue (South Hamilton, MA: M. G. Kline, 1991), 4.

[4] Kline, Kingdom Prologue, 4.

[5] Kline, Kingdom Prologue, 5.

[6] Meredith G. Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon: A Covenantal Tale of Cosmos and Telos (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2006), xiv. 

[7] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 13.

[8] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 7.

[9] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 7.

[10] Kline, Kingdom Prologue, 7. Kline also identified the Glory epiphany with the Spirit. He wrote that “the Glory epiphany complex, though a fully trinitarian manifestation (see, e.g., Rev. 4:2, 5; 5:6; cf. 1:4, 5), is peculiarly identified with the Spirit. Accordingly, heaven is the Spirit realm and to enter heaven is to be in the Spirit (rev. 4:1, 2). This throws an interesting light on the atmosphere of the heaven-temple constituted by the Glory-Spirit. For the Spirit is the breath of life (Gen. 2:7; John 20:22) and hence the picture that emerges is that of heaven dwellers, those in the Spirit-atmosphere, breathing continually afresh the breath of life. That is the secret of immortality” (9).

[11] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 14.

[12] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 19. Kline determined to write God, Heaven and Har Magedon in a popular manner without footnotes. In my judgment, if he had footnoted the book there is the great possibility that he would have appealed to Geerhardus Vos throughout this section. Kline’s argument that redemption is subordinate to revelation is the same argument Vos expressed with the equivalent terminology that eschatology precedes soteriology. Both Kline and Vos believed that God created with an eschatological goal of communion with the creature in a heavenly estate that transcended the probation state of the garden. This was put forth in the covenant of works, which if Adam had obeyed would have resulted in a glorification-consummation, although its achievement, as Kline states, would have “required a supernatural intervention of the Creator-Spirit” (18). Adam transgressed and failed to fulfill the covenant of works, but the second Adam, Jesus Christ, has succeeded in fulfilment of the terms of the covenant of grace to bring God’s creation-kingdom to consummation. See, Geerhardus Vos, “The Interaction Between Eschatology and Soteriology,” in Pauline Eschatology (Philipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1986), 42–61, and “Pre-Redemptive and Redemptive Special Revelation,” in Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), 22–23.

[13] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 22–23.

[14] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 27. In a letter to James T. Dennison, Jr., Kline commented upon continuity and discontinuity of creation to the heavenly estate in my article “Vos’s Verticalist Eschatology: A Response to Michael Williams,” which appeared in the September 1992 issue of Kerux. In Dennison’s December 14, 1992, letter to me, he stated that he had received Kline’s permission to forward the remarks. Kline wrote, “I was very pleased that Kerux didn’t let the Michael Williams attack on Vos go unchallenged. Danny Olinger (I don’t think I know him) does well to show that—contrary to Williams—Vos did recognize the material dimension of creation as a component of the heavenly estate. A more specific notion held by Williams (appealing to H. Ridderbos) is that the earth (evidently in recognizable continuity with planet earth as part of the present solar-galactic-cosmic system) will still be the focus of human existence hereafter. That is not nearly so important nor so clearly demanded by Scripture—and, to my mind, underestimates the significance of the physical glorification of God’s people. There was, therefore, no urgency for Olinger to deal with that. However, there is another element included in Williams’ position that an adequate response must deal with: He contends that the world of the eschaton will not only have a material dimension and be earth-centered but will embody the fulfillment of the cultural mandate given to men in the garden (“we carry our culture into the eschaton” - Pro Rege 20:4 (June 1992), p. 20). I, of course, reject the Reconstructionist way that Williams works this out in history (He fails to distinguish the holy from the common grace spheres, confuses the common cultural program with the church’s great commission, and supposes the holy cultural task given Adam before the Fall is being fulfilled by our cultural endeavors in this present semi-eschatological age.) But I do stress the idea that the New Jerusalem produced by Christ is the fulfillment, via redemption, of the cultural mandate assigned in the Covenant of Creation. If it can be shown that Vos does not have a place for this in his teaching, that would be a defect in his position. Incidentally, the errors of Reconstructionism cannot be as effectually demonstrated from the standpoint of Vos’ Kingdom and the Church as from the position of my Kingdom Prologue.”

[15] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 28.

[16] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 45. 

[17] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 45–46. A typo appears on page 46 where Kline wrote, “Sharpening the focus of verse 12, which stated: “You were in Eden, the garden of God." One page earlier, Kline had correctly referenced “You were in Eden, the garden of God” as verse 13.

[18] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 47.

[19] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 65. In the context, Kline reaffirmed the importance of the Reformed doctrine of the covenant of works. He said, “It is then with good reason that the customary designation for God’s covenant with Adam as federal representative of mankind has been Covenant of Works, “works” signifying that the inheritance of the kingdom of glory was a reward to be earned by man’s probationary obedience” (64).

[20] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 70.

[21] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 66.

[22] Kline commented, “The obedience the Son must render under his commissioning as a second Adam had both active and passive dimensions. His active obedience consisted in his victorious prosecuting of the Har Magedon warfare. That was the probationary task whose accomplishment was prerequisite to gaining the eschatological blessing of consummated glory, the assignment which the first Adam failed to fulfil. It was by performing that ‘one act of righteousness’ (Rom. 5:18) as the second Adam that the Son would merit for the people he represented the sabbath inheritance originally offered in the creation covenant. Meeting the evil foe of the holy One of Har Magedon and overcoming him would at the same time be a redemptive act of deliverance by which the Son set his people free from their bondage to Satan, sin, and death. To this mission of redemptive judgment God the Son committed himself even though it meant he must undertake the burden of passive obedience, the ordeal of suffering unto the death of the Cross. As the prophetic declaration of Gen. 3:15 puts it, he would suffer the bruising of his heel in the trampling of the serpent’s head. He must undergo the curse that was incurred by the first Adam’s breaking of the Creator’s covenant with man in Eden. He must become a victim of death in order to become the Victor over him who had the power of death.” Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 73.

[23] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 106.

[24] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 106.

[25] Regarding the literary structure of the book of Exodus, Kline asserted, “The opening and closing sections of the account (Exodus 1–4 and 19–40 respectively) portray the divine Glory as present in the midst of the covenant people and the middle section (Exodus 5–18) recounts the mighty acts of redemptive judgment performed by the King of Glory.” Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 113. He also stated, “The coming of the typal kingdom begins with the redemption of the chosen kingdom people by their Great King (Exodus 1–18). Our analysis of the redemptive judgments against the antichrist power brought us to the national assembly of Sinai. There the official constituting of the kingdom by covenant took place (Exodus 19–34), concluding with the enthronement of the King in the royal tabernacle, constructed for him as stipulated in the treaty (Exodus 35–40).” Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 120. In Kline’s judgment, the book of Exodus was the Gospel of Moses, a covenant witness document which pointed forward to the coming of Jesus, the new and greater Moses, who as new covenant mediator redeemed his people by going to the cross and through his shed blood ratified the covenant with God. For Kline’s extended exposition, see his Structure of Biblical Authority (Philipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1972), 172–203.

[26] He further argued that it was “the King of Glory, the One beheld by Israel as a consuming fire on Mount Sinai (Exod. 19:18; 24:15–17), who was himself the ordeal power at the Egyptian Sea.” Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 116.

[27] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 129.

[28] Kline saw this ordering as an anticipation and type of the heavenly kingdom symbolized in Rev. 21 and 22 as the temple-city, New Jerusalem. Also in view was the holy mount of God’s heavenly enthronement in Rev. 4:4 and following where the twenty-four elders surround the four living creatures.

[29] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 132.

[30] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 145.

[31] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 147.

[32] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 159.

[33] Kline added that the language of Rev. 12:9 echoed Isa. 14:12. “The Isaiah passage describes the King of Babylon’s antichrist aspirations to the heavenly throne on the Mount of Assembly and his ultimate doom, cast down to Sheol (cf. v. 15).” Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 160.

[34] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 160.

[35] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 160.

[36] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 168.

[37] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 169.

[38] Kline stated, “Amillennialists and postmillennialists are in agreement that the millennium is the present church age interim, while the premillennialists locate it in a future age.” Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 171. He then suggested that the eschatological issues would be brought into clearer focus if these three main millennial positions were named in terms of the relation to the coming of the kingdom of God in consummation rather than in terms of the relation of the parousia to the millennium. One could then speak of the pre-consummation view held by postmillennialists and premillennialists, and the post-consummation view, held by the amillennialists alone. Kline also took pains to indicate that postmillennialists further fall in with the premillennialists in the erroneous view that the millennium is a time when God’s people are organized as a visible kingdom, exercising dominion over the earth. The difference between them is how they see the relation of the kingdom to the parousia prior to the consummation. The premillennialists regard the kingdom as post-parousia, which in Kline’s judgment was less objectionable than the postmillennialists, who regard it as pre-parousia.

[39] For Kline’s detailed argumentation at his point, see “The First Resurrection,” Westminster Theological Journal 37, no. 3 (Spring 1975): 366–75.

[40] In his article, “Har Magedon: The End of the Millennium,” Kline clarified the use of certain terms. He stated that in the Rev.16 Har Magedon crisis and Rev. 20 Gog crisis “antichrist” is used in the popular sense, as a designation of for the man of sin figure referred to in 2 Thess. 2:3–10. He also stated that “the antichrist identity of the dragon-like beast in the Har Magedon episode would be acknowledged by most, irrespective of their millennial preferences.” See, Meredith G. Kline, “Har Magedon: The End of the Millennium,” in Essential Writings of Meredith G. Kline (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2017), 267.

[41] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 182.

[42] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 198.

[43] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 201.

[44] The Scriptural reference on page 203 contains a typo as “Rev. 12:21” should be “Rev. 12.11.”

[45] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 207.

[46] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 219.

[47] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 219.

[48] Kline, God, Heaven and Har Magedon, 220.

Danny E. Olinger is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as the General Secretary of Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Ordained Servant Online, March 2022.

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Ordained Servant: March 2022

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