Revelation Not to the Ekklesia? Part 4 – The Son of Man

E. W. Bullinger
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With all that’s going on in the Middle-east bringing my news-junkie side out, I’ve been neglecting the Scriptural side of this blog of late. Hopefully, this will help to make up for it.

So far, we’ve analyzed E.W. Bullinger’s assessment that the Ekklesia, or Church, is not the subject of the Book of the Revelation. We’ve looked at how his ultra-dispensationalist theology has played into this view, rejected his argument about the Hebraic character of the book, and shown in a couple of different posts that the Ekklesia is indeed prophesied in the Tanakh.

We’ll skip over his argument based on the phrase “the Lord’s Day,” since it pretty much boils down to “the equivalent Hebrew phrase is the Day of the Lord, ergo Revelation must be a book of prophecy.” His objection here can only be understood in the context of his objection to the Church being the subject of prophecy, which we have already debunked.

Instead, we’ll move onto the much more interesting argument from “The Titles of Christ”: “The titles used of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Revelation afford further evidence as to the Church of god [sic] not being the subject of that Book” (p. 7). He goes on to list seven titles used:

  1. The Son of Man
  2. The Almighty
  3. Lord God
  4. The First and the Last
  5. The Prince of the Kings of the Earth
  6. Who Is to Come
  7. The Living One

We must again note that Bullinger’s peculiar way of radically dividing the Scriptures is to blame for his confusion. After all, “Son of Man” is Yeshua’s favorite term for Himself, and appears many times in the New Testament. However, since Bullinger sees every event and teaching before Pentecost as belonging to a different dispensation, to him this is evidence that Revelation is a post-Ekklesia book:

It is most remarkable, and so remarkable as to make it practically conclusive, that this title, while it occurs eighty-four times in the New Testament, is never once used in the Pauline epistles addressed to Churches; thus proving that this title has nothing whatever to do with the Church. But while it has no connection with the Church, in the Epistles, it occurs no less than eighty times in the four Gospels and Acts, because there we have Christ on the earth, and the presentation of the King and the Kingdom. (p. 8)

The reason Paul does not use “Son of Man” in his letters is simply that this title is one that was only familiar to Jews through the prophet Daniel and the apocryphal book of Enoch. Paul’s audience was comprised of Gentiles and Hellenized Jews who may have misunderstood him had he used it. E.W. Davies persuasively demonstrates in Paul and Rabbinic Judaism that while Paul’s theology was in line with the general consensus of Pharisaic Judaism, he made a point of expressing this theology in the terms known to his audience. So, for example, to people used to the mystery cults and their promises of union with a god, Paul frequently uses the phrase “in Messiah” to explain that such union is to be found truly in Yeshua.

Now Bullinger does get closer to the truth when he writes:

It will be found, therefore, that wherever this title occurs, it always refers to the Lord Jesus in connection with His dominion in the earth. And, when used of His second coming, it refers to the judgment which He is then and there to exercise. . . . Thus we are pointed to the fact, and told (if we have ears to hear), that the Apocalypse relates to the coming of “the Son of Man” to exercise judgment in and assume dominion over the earth. (ibid)

To this, we have no objection; however, the assumption that this somehow separates the events of the Revelation from the Ekklesia does not follow. Are we not to return with our King to rule with Him? And if that’s the case, why should a title that Bullinger believes specifically refers to that earthly rule create a problem?

There comes a point in setting up an argument where a person goes beyond the core points and just starts throwing in everything they think will support the core points–whether they’re particularly good or strong arguments or not. Clearly, by the time we hit “The Titles of Christ,” Bullinger has reached that point.

I’ll hit the rest of the titles in the next post or two. Sorry for the delays in getting this out.

Shalom

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