Category Archives: prophesy

Ezekiel’s Temple: Study Notes

treeoflife1

Michael left this comment on Ezekiel’s (Millennial?) Temple:

But because Revelation 21:1 says, “there was no longer any sea,” Ezekiel’s mention of two seas becomes a bit of a chin scratcher.

*** ***

More puzzling is that John, in the very next chapter, writes:

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1). 

If there are no seas what is the source of this river seen by Ezekiel and John? In both the Old and New Testaments, the LORD pours out (as a river) the Holy Spirit (Joel  2:28).

It is significant that the prophet and apostle were taken on high to see this vision of a tree-lined river as interpreted by Isaiah:

… till the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest (Isaiah 32:15).

Jesus said:

The one believing in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:38)

It seems that the most basic rule of hermeneutics is to not interpret figurative text literally. Water is clearly a symbol of God’s spirit. The river that flows from the temple is the Spirit of God. Into the sea it goes bringing life and restoration even unto the Dead Sea. Fish are plentiful and the fishermen will fill their nets. Jesus told His disciples that He would make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).

I wanted to discuss the two seas and river of life, but the original post was already too lengthy. So, today, I would like to follow-up with my notes. (It might be useful to read the original article.) This study has been a blessing to me and I pray that it edifies you, my readers.

The literal meaning of there was no longer any sea is the sea was no more denoting some greater truth. Ancient tradition is to interpret sea(s) prophetically. The Rabbin interpreted the sea as a symbol of tumult and separation (as it raged like a storm, dividing the nations). In the new earth there will be no turmoil and separation — from the LORD distinctly. 

Ellicott comments:

Among the more detailed features of the new earth, this obliteration of the sea stands first. It is strange that so many commentators should vacillate between literal and figurative interpretations of the chapter; the ornaments and decorations of the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10-21) are treated as symbolical; the annihilation of the sea is considered as literal. 

The sea has played an important part in the symbolism of the book: out of the sea rose the wild beast (Revelation 13:1); the purple-clad Babylon enthroned upon many waters (Revelation 17:1); the restless, tumultuous ocean is no more to be found on the face of that earth, or near that city whose peace is as a river, and whose inhabitants are delivered from “the waves of this troublesome world.” [1]

The Treasury of Scripture (Bible Hub):

A fountain producing abundance of water was not in (Ezekiel’s) temple, and could not be there on the top of such a hill; and consequently these waters, as well as those spoken of by Joel and Zechariah, must be understood figuratively and typically. These waters doubtless were an emblem of the gospel preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; and their gradual rise beautifully represents its progress, from small beginnings to an immensely large increase; and the latter part of the representation may relate to the times when it shall fill the earth … [2]

Dean Davis, Author: 

This is a vision of the Restoration of All Things. Very importantly, it pictures not only the final result of God’s redemptive work — the everlasting wholeness of the Land — but also the historical process by which that result is to be achieved.

The NT richly illumines all the symbols involved. The waters are the life-giving Spirit of God, long promised by his OT prophets. They flow forth from the Temple of God, which typifies both the Person of Christ, and the Body of Christ, his Church.

When at last Christ returns to raise the dead and renew the creation, the River of Life will entirely transform the Promised Land, even to the extent of healing the Dead Sea itself. Only the swamps and marshes — situated upon the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, and so typifying hell — will be left in salt; that is, under the judgment of God. [3]

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, Pastor/Author:

Dispensationalists believe that this vision is a prophesy of an earthly temple to be built within Israel during the millennial age. (They) base this interpretation upon their literal hermeneutic.

Advocates of the other main interpretations all agree that the context demands a figurative interpretation. I believe Ezekiel is giving us a picture of the new earth in the prophetic terms with which his readers were familiar. This is a picture of the new earth as the dwelling of God. Ezekiel prophesies it in earthly terms (complete with all the temple utensils), while John describes its fulfilled version (in eschatological terms).

The prophecy cannot be interpreted literally and still make any sense. This is confirmed in Revelation 21:10, where John is carried away “in the Spirit” to a high mountain from which he sees the Holy City coming down out of heaven. Obviously, the visions are related to each other as type — anti-type (earthly language, eschatological fulfillment). What Ezekiel promised, John sees as a reality, and yet the reality seen by John far exceeds anything in Ezekiel’s vision. 

It is obvious that Revelation 21 presents Ezekiel’s vision in its consummated fulfillment. In other words, John is given a vision of the same temple, but now from the vantage point of Christ’s death and resurrection and the dawn of the new creation — something which would have made no sense whatsoever to Ezekiel or his hearers. The new heavens and earth are now the holy of holies, as well as the new Jerusalem, and the new Eden. On the last day, all creation becomes the temple of God. [4]

Notes:

1. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, Charles J. Ellicott, 3 vols. (London: Cassell, 1884).

2. Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages.

3. Dean Davis, author and Founder/Director, Come Let Us ReasonExcerpt:  The High King of Heaven: Discovering the Master Keys to the Great End Time DebateRedemption Press, 2014.

4. Kim Riddlebarger, senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church and co-host of the White Horse Inn radio program, writes extensively on the subject of historic Christianity from an Amillennial, reformed perspectice. In this short essay he credits G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (New Studies in Biblical Theology)INTERVARSITY PRESS, 2004 and Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and Future, WM. B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING CO., 1994.

Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

70 Weeks of Daniel

daniel

(Revised 07-09-16, 2:40 pm)

This is part of a series examining the flawed exegesis of Dispensational theology. (See also: Who is Israel?, Dispense the Truth, Is Satan Bound? and Our High Priest).

The Seventy Weeks of Daniel (chapter 9) is one of the most difficult passages of Scripture. We will proceed with an assumption that many Bible students still aren’t sure of its meaning.

Dispensationalists believe that sixty-nine of the prophetic weeks have been fulfilled with the final week to be completed at some point in the future when all of these things will come to pass — rebuilt temple, man of sin, rapture, Great Tribulation and Millennium. Upon a more careful reading of Scripture we will see that the LORD decreed seventy weeks to fulfill, or complete the prophecy. The church fathers believed that Messiah appeared at the beginning of the 70th week, while Dispensationalists assert that Christ died in the 69th week with the final week having been put on hold 2000 years.

The implications of these divergent views are, metaphorically speaking, earth-shaking. Essentially, 19th century liberals overturned centuries of ecclesiastical teaching with the introduction of dispensational theology that adopted a futuristic interpretation of prophecy.

The church fathers believed that Daniel 9 was a Messianic prophecy that was fulfilled with the first coming of Christ. Rabbis also adhered to this interpretation, that is, until the temple was destroyed — and Messiah did not save them from the Roman army which, ironically, was sent in judgement by the LORD.

Though Dispensationalists cite the subsequent order of Artaxerxes, the commencement of the Seventy Weeks was historically understood by the church fathers to be the issuance of the royal decree by Cyrus which ended seventy years of Babylonian captivity. The terminus was the first advent of Christ which some proposed to be His birth, ministry or crucifixion. Though it extends the prophesy another 36 years, Clement saw the fulfillment of the seventy weeks in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This is so determined because Christ had already put an end to the oblations by His sacrifice upon the cross. The offerings of the people after the cross had no spiritual efficacy, and the desolation of the sanctuary was simply an exclamation mark of Messiah’s prophetic judgement that not one stone would be left upon another (Matthew 23:38, 24:2).

What are the Seventy Weeks?

v24 Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most Holy.

Church fathers clearly understood this to be a Messianic reference. We will discuss the seventy weeks later, but this was a mistranslation by the King James translators. The text is properly interpreted seventy “sevens”. As the Jews were coming to the end of their seventy years of exile (Jeremiah 25:11), the LORD spoke unto Daniel that another judgement of sevens had been decreed — see also Leviticus 26:18.

v25 So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (69 weeks); it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.

Messiah would come at the end of 69 weeks (7 + 62), and begin His ministry at the beginning of the 70th week — in contrast, as we have seen, with Dispensationalists who believe that Messiah was crucified in the 69th week with a parenthetic suspension of the final week.

v26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.

Remember, the prophetic timeline is segmented into seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks for a total of sixty-nine weeks. If Messiah is cut off after the sixty-two weeks, and we know that the first seven weeks have been fulfilled with the completion of the post-captivity temple, the prophecy foretells the crucifixion and desolation sometime after the 69th week.

v27 And he (Messiah) will make a firm covenant with the many for one week (70th week), but in the middle of the week (His ministry lasted 3 1/2 years) he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering (by His sacrifice upon the Cross); and on the wing of abominations (the Roman army) will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction (within that generation), one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate (the holy city).

He is not the future Antichrist nor the prince of verse 26. The prince is the object of the preposition. Neither are the people to be construed as the subject of the verse since the pronoun, in context of these passages, is unequivocally the Messiah.

We will revisit these verses later, but it might be helpful at this point to answer a couple of questions: When was the decree issued to restore the temple, and how do we interpret the seventy weeks?

There were, actually, several orders to restore the temple: Cyrus (539 BC), Darius (520 BC), Artaxerxes I (457 BC) and Artaxerxes (444 BC). It would take the length of this paper to examine the details of these royal decrees — as documented in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah — but one of the decrees fits the timeline better than the others. For example, the most obvious choice would be the first order issued by Cyrus though it preceded Messiah by 570 years thus exceeding Daniel’s timetable by 80 years — but only if we utilized the secular, historical records of Ptolemy which were incomplete, and viewed with uncertainty by ancient scholars.

Not only is (Ptolemy’s) method of procedure fundamentally wrong in that it tries to make events of Bible-history fit in with a man-made chronological scheme, but the fact is that every chronological System covering the period we have to do with (i. e., from the beginning of the Persian monarchy down to Christ) is largely a matter of guesswork. All those systems, without any exception, are based upon the “canon” of Ptolemy, that is to say, a list of supposed Persian kings, with the supposed length of the reign of each, which list was compiled by Ptolemy, a heathen astronomer and writer of the second century AD. But Ptolemy does not even pretend to have had any facts as to the length of the Persian period (that is to say, from Darius and Cyrus down to Alexander the Great). Ptolemy estimates or guesses this period to have been 205 years long. And this is what has caused all the trouble and uncertainty; for every one who has attempted to construct a Bible chronology has based himself on Ptolemy’s estimate. In a word then, there is no chronology in existence of the period from Cyrus to Christ except in the Bible. 

Concerning the dates given in Ptolemy’s table of Persian Kings, Martin Anstey (Bible Chronology, 1913) says: “They rest upon calculations or guesses made by Eratosthenes, and on certain vague floating traditions, in accordance with which the period of the Persian Empire was mapped out as a period of 205 years.” And he shows, by a great variety of proofs taken entirely from the Scriptures, that the period which Ptolemy assigns to the Persian Empire is about eighty years too long. It follows that all who adopt Ptolemy’s chronology, or any system based upon it (as all modern chronologists prior to Anstey do) would inevitably be led far astray. It is impossible to make the real Bible-events agree, within 80 years, with the mistaken chronology of Ptolemy. This single fact makes many modern books on Daniel utterly worthless, so far as their chronology is concerned; and the chronology is the main thing. [1]

Confirming that Cyrus is, indeed, the subject of the royal decree — the Bible has to be the authority:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying:  “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah’ (Ezra 1:1-2). 

It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.’ And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ And of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’ ” (Isaiah 44:28)

“I have aroused him (Cyrus) in righteousness and I will make all his ways smooth; He will build My city and will let My exiles go free, Without any payment or reward,” says the LORD of hosts (Isaiah 45:13).

Clearly, Jesus did not come within a literal seventy weeks of the royal decree. The Bible is using prophetic language — it is to be understood as seventy weeks of years. That is to say, one day equals one year  — one week equals seven years — and seventy weeks equals four hundred ninety years.

One might ask by what interpretive method do we understand a day for a year? To be sure, it is gleaned from ancient rabbinical text; but also from the Holy Scriptures:

For I have assigned you a number of days corresponding to the years of their iniquity … a day for each year (Ezekiel 4:5-6).  

You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years (Leviticus 25:8).

Daniel breaks down his vision into a period of seven weeks (49 years), sixty-two weeks (434 years) and one week (7 years). From the time the decree is issued to the completion of the (second) temple, 49 years … the coming of Messiah, 434 years … the fulfillment of Christ’s ministry and crucifixion, 7 years.

Christian commentators and Rabbinic teachers posited that Daniel’s prophecy began at the end of Jeremiah’s prophetic seventy years of desolation, or Babylonian captivity which ended with the decree of Cyrus.

Let us examine more closely the two verses that pose the greatest interpretive challenge:

v24 Seventy weeks have been decreed to finish the transgression, make atonement for iniquity, bring in everlasting righteousness, seal the vision and anoint the most Holy.

Seventy weeks: Skeptics will dispute 490 years between the decree of Cyrus and the coming of Messiah. However, when you factor in the 360-day lunar calendar, and sketchy records of Ptolemy, it is reasonable to agree with first century Christians and Jews that the prophecy of Daniel 9 (all 70 weeks) has been fulfilled.

Finish the transgression (atonement): Of course, it is not difficult to understand that Messiah finished the transgression (John 19:30) though modern Bible critics — liberal in their theology — will cast doubt upon the Messianic interpretation of this passage even as they question the Virgin Birth and bodily resurrection. How they can doubt that Christ made atonement for sin is, well, perplexing.

Everlasting righteousness: Obviously, Jesus Christ. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets (Romans 3:21).

Seal the vision: Daniel’s sealed vision would be opened by the One who fulfilled the prophecy as revealed to John.

I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:1-5)

Anoint the most Holy: This passage of Scripture was uniformly interpreted — by Jews and Christians — as one of the most revelatory Messianic prophecies in all of the Old Testament. There are interpretive variations regarding the most Holy. Some translations render the passage most Holy One, or place. If Holy One, it is a clear reference to the Mashiach; and if Holy place it suggests the anointing of the Most Holy Place with the sacrificial blood of the Messiah (Hebrews 9:12) — a selfless offering that permitted the Son of Man to open Daniel’s sealed prophecy. In either case, the Messianic connotations were clearly understood in the first century.

Verse 27 is challenging in that it lays down the Dispensational foundation regarding the Antichrist and end time scenario. (Be aware that they will link this verse with 2 Thessalonians 2:4.)

v27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

Who is he? The key that unlocks our interpretation of this verse is the word covenant ( bə·rîṯ) which does not convey a civil compact, but a holy one — ex. Genesis 9:13, 15-18. The Hebrew text suggests that he will make strong or establish a holy covenant with the many, or the faithful elect. There are no other subjects in chapter 9 that would have the authority to confirm such a covenant, but Messiah.

In Isaiah, chapter 42, the LORD presents His righteous servant. Careful study of these verses will open your understanding as to the identity of he who was sent to establish the holy covenant:

Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations … I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, and I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:1, 42:6).

Note that the LORD appointed His servant as a covenant. Messiah is the covenant spoken of in verse 27; and some Bible expositors will actually interpret that it was the covenant that caused the sacrifices to cease:

But bereeth ( bə·rîṯ) thus absolute, is used not of alliances, but of the Divine covenant … If bereeth is the Divine covenant, as by usage it is, then the prince whose people were to lay waste the temple and city cannot be he that confirms the covenant. We might take the last clause of ver. 26 as in a parenthesis, and regard the subject of the verb “confirm” as the Messiah who was cut off. It seems, however, preferable to take the construction as we have done above, and make bereeth the subject of the verb. And in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease. In accordance with our interpretation of the previous clause, we would interpret this, “The covenant shall cause offering and oblation to cease.” What covenant is this? The new Messianic covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:31. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 8:8) quotes this passage as Messianic, and as proving that sacrifice and offering had ceased with Christ’s sacrifice of himself. [2]

Messiah confirmed the (new) covenant and brought an end to sacrifices during the prophetic 70 weeks. Daniel 9 is not a prophecy to be fulfilled in a rebuilt temple amidst the political intrigue of a shaky peace agreement between Israel and the man of sin. That sells books and makes thrilling movies — but it is not Biblical.

Notes:

1. Philip Mauro. The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation; chapter 2, The Commandment to Restore and Build, 1921, Preterist Archive.

2. Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. Commentary on Daniel 9:27, The Pulpit Commentary, 1897, StudyLight.org.

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Our High Priest

(Revised 09-05-14, 3:03 am)

Editor: This article continues our examination of the flawed exegesis of Dispensational theology. (See also: Who is Israel?, Dispense the Truth and Is Satan Bound?)

Finding an evangelical seminary that is true to the historical interpretation of Scripture has been a daunting task — as hard, even, as trying to find a church that is faithful to the Word of God, and not to a Doctrinal Statement composed by an institutional hierarchy of deacons, or elders.

A noteworthy seminary in Southern California lists the following item in their Program Goals:

Upon successful completion of the Master of Arts in Biblical Studies Program students will be able to: Articulate dispensational theology and biblically defend their doctrinal position.

In their Doctrinal Position the seminary declares:

We believe that the Scriptures interpreted in their natural, literal sense reveal divinely determined dispensations or rules of life which define man’s responsibilities in successive administrations of God. These dispensations are divinely ordered stewardships by which God directs man according to His purpose. Three of these — the dispensation of law, the dispensation of the grace of God, and the dispensation of the kingdom — are the subjects of detailed revelation in Scripture.

The outline seems reasonable, but the finer points reveal a flawed doctrine that is somewhat responsible for division and denominationalism within the body of Christ.

In the 19th century, Dispensationalism was considered liberalism by the ecclesia. There are variations of the doctrine, but it essentially posited these climatic events: end of the age, rapture of the church, Great Tribulation, Millennial reign, and a rebuilt temple featuring the resumption of animal sacrifices. In fact, preparations are being made today, in Israel, to restore the Levitical priesthood.

If you examine dispensational theology with a discerning spirit it will become evident that the doctrine is supported by a liberal dose of eisegesis in that it imposes, or reads into, a literal interpretation of Scripture that is symbolic, metaphoric or allegoric.

Case in point: Why are animal sacrifices offered in the Millennial kingdom? Dispensational theologian John Walvoord answers:

The millennial sacrifices are no more expiatory than were the Mosaic sacrifices which preceded the cross. If it has been fitting for the church in the present age to have a memorial of the death of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, it is suggested that it would be suitable also to have a memorial of possibly a different character in the millennium in keeping with the Jewish characteristic of the period. [1]

Note, in keeping with the Jewish characteristic of the period, Walvoord reveals the dispensational scenario that once the church is removed from the world, Israel will again take center stage.

With regards to a memorial sacrament, the Eucharist was instituted by our Lord at the Last Supper:

And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me (Luke 22:19).

Walvoord liberally infers that because Communion is a memorial service during the dispensation of the church then it can be suggested that animal sacrifices might be a type of suitable remembrance in the Millennial kingdom.

Except there is absolutely no Scriptural validation for his assertion. To suggest that animal sacrifices will resume in a Millennial age is an offense to the sufferings of Christ.

If you examine the jots and tittles of dispensational thought you’ll discover multiple second comings, a couple of resurrections (separated by the Millennium), and two new covenants.

The well-known pastor of a mega-church in San Antonio preaches the hyper-dispensational slant that God has two plans of salvation — one for the church and another for Israel. After the church is raptured, God will fulfill all of His promises to the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The Texas preacher makes it sound as if Israel is the center of God’s plan of salvation, and the church of Jesus Christ is nothing but a footnote.

What does it mean, then, when our Lord said that He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17)?

Let’s review the historical teaching of the church. YHWH revealed Himself to Israel. They were disobedient, cast into exile, rejected the Messiah — and the LORD, in His judgement against the nation in AD 70, brought an end to the Jewish age (and the covenant of Moses).

Intellectuals — including some who are seminary taught — might say our summary is ignorant, or too simplistic. But we know that the covenant of Christ made obsolete the covenant of Moses  (Hebrews 8:13).

HaMashiach Yeshua fulfilled the New Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

A popular Bible teacher — who graduated from a dispensational seminary — stated on his radio program that the new covenant spoken of in Jeremiah is separate and distinct from the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. [2]

When I partake of Communion I always associate the covenant in Jeremiah with the proclamation of our Lord at the Last Supper:

And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood (Luke 22:20).

The covenant declared by YHWH in the prophesy of Jeremiah is the same covenant established by Christ our Lord, yet the radio pastor said that the former would be enacted with Israel during the Millennial age, while the latter was contracted with believers at the dispensation of the church age.

A study of the Book of Hebrews will yield a wealth of spiritual insight with regards to the priestly fulfillment of Jesus Christ. Particularly relevant to this discourse would be chapter 8 wherein the writer (we surmise the Apostle Paul) details how the Lord, having taken His seat at the right hand of God, has become our High Priest — and having obtained a more excellent ministry has become the mediator of a better covenant (Hebrews 8:1, 8:6).

More pointedly, the writer of Hebrews quotes the passage in Jeremiah to substantiate that Jesus Christ is the new covenant so prophesied in the ancient text. Yeshua, having appeared as our High Priest, entered the heavenly tabernacle — not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12).

The sacrificial system, in practice, ended when YHWH brought judgement upon Israel in AD 70 — leaving the temple desolate for 2000 years. And so it will remain until the last day when the dead are resurrected either to life, or judgement (John 5:28-29).

A question that needs to be asked (and is deserving of its own essay): Where do we read in Scripture the validation, or assertion of a Millennial temple? The dispensational interpretation is that Ezekiel’s temple (detailed in chapters 40-47) is the Third Temple. The LORD, however, instructed Ezekiel to reveal the plans of the temple to bring shame to the children of Israel for their iniquities (Ezekiel 43:10).

Like dangling a carrot — this is what you could have if it weren’t for your disobedience.

We cannot dismiss that Ezekiel’s prophesy was revealed before the construction of the second temple (which never approached the grand design of the prophet’s vision) — the dimensions of his temple being of a heavenly scale, thus suggesting it was but a spiritual type existing only in the New Jerusalem after this present world has passed away.

What the Bible does teach is that Jesus Christ is our High Priest, and chief cornerstone of God’s holy tabernacle consisting of a body of believers (both Jew and Greek) who are the temple of the Holy Spirit — a temple that exceeds the grandeur of Ezekiel’s vision.

A temple that is not millennial, but eternal — and a clear example of how our High Priest fulfilled the Law and Prophets.

Notes:

1. John Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (1983), p. 311-312

2. Walvoord was a contemporary of this popular radio preacher. They both graduated from the Dallas Theological Seminary where Walvoord served as president, and the preacher was a guest lecturer.

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The Literal Bible

Son of man, behold, the house of Israel is saying, The vision that he sees is for many years from now, and he prophesies of times far off. [Eze 12:27]

How do we interpret the Bible?

Literally? Yes, Jesus Christ was bodily resurrected. He did not vaporize, or rise a spirit creature. Figuratively? Yes, when Jesus said to pluck out your eye to keep from sinning (Mk 9:47), He was reciting a Jewish idiom much like a parent telling their child to wash their mouth out with soap. The Lord does not want you to mutilate yourself! Symbolically? Yes, the bread and juice we partake of at Communion are symbols of the body and blood of Christ (Mt 26:26-28). Allegorically? Yes, the parables of Jesus are perfect examples of allegory. To point, the sower of seed represents one who spreads the Gospel (Mt 13:23). Where we get into difficulty is when we don’t properly apply the correct interpretive method.

Hermeneutics is the method by which we study the Bible. Exegesis is the explanation, or interpretation of Biblical text. Many people interpret the Bible literally from Genesis to Revelation. In our examples above that would mean that Jesus is suggesting that you literally pluck out your eye, or cut off your hand to keep from sinning; or (as our Catholic friends believe) the sacramental bread and juice are literally transformed into the body and blood of Christ.

Interpretation of prophecy presents even greater challenges. A reader asked, “Don’t you believe in the double-fulfillment of prophecy?” We essentially believe in the literal fulfillment of prophecy. With due credit to Pastor David Jeremiah (in his essay on this topic) we quote from Milton S. Terry’s book Biblical Hermeneutics:

…the moment we admit the principle that portions of Scripture contain a double sense, we introduce an element of uncertainty in the Sacred Volume, and unsettle all (hermeneutic) interpretation. If Scripture has more than one meaning, it has no meaning at all. I hold that the words of Scripture were intended to have one definite sense and that our first objective should be to discover that sense, and adhere to it rigidly.

Prophecy is literally fulfilled, or not at all. Where people get confused is in the typology of the Bible. The Tanakh (Old Testament) is a type, or shadow of that which was to come. Moses was a type of Christ. Passover was a shadow of the unblemished Lamb who was slain for the sins of the world. Sabbath days, as well, pointed to our eternal rest in the Lord. What does it mean when Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law and Prophets (Mt 5:17)?

The Old Covenant is a contract between God and man. Jesus Christ fulfilled, or completed that contract. That is why our Lord spoke from the cross, It is finished (Jn 19:30). The statutes, prophecies, Feast Days, Sabbaths and priesthood were all fulfilled in Jesus Christ. At that point, the LORD executed a new contract (Covenant) that whosoever believes on the Son will be saved.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. [Jn 5:24]

Jesus Christ was the literal fulfillment of the Old Covenant, but what about the types and shadows? The Jewish people expected the prophet Elijah to precede the appearance of Messiah according to the prophecy of Malachi:

I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction. [Mal 4:5-6]

Recall that it was believed that Elijah did not die, but was taken up by a whirlwind into heaven (2Ki 2:11). [Editor: Elijah could not have been translated to the Third Heaven, or Throne of God.] It is a Jewish tradition to leave an empty chair at the Seder table for Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet) who is expected to return at Passover and announce the coming of Messiah. When John the Baptist appeared the people wondered if he was Elijah. Please examine the following passages of scripture regarding John the Baptist:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way—a voice of one calling in the wilderness. Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. [Mk 1: 2-3]

“…and he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” [Lk 1:17]

The Pharisees and Sadducees were very interested in John the Baptist because they knew quite well the prophetic writings concerning the appearance of Elijah. They even went down to the Jordan River to be baptized by John (whose response to them reveals the Bible’s sense of humor):

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? [Mt 3:7]

The scribes had every reason to believe that Elijah had returned. John the Baptist was described as a man who wore camel’s hair, a leather belt and ate a diet of locusts and honey (Mk 1:6). [Editor: The honey probably helped the locusts go down!] We read in the Tanakh that Elijah was a hairy man with a leather girdle about his loins (2Ki 1:8). 

Here is where we want to focus on the typology of John the Baptist. Was he the literal fulfillment of Elijah’s prophetic appearance, or simply a shadow of one of the two witnesses mentioned in the Book of Revelation (Rev 11:3) who will prophesy before the Second Coming of Christ?

The disciples wondered these things after having seen Elijah and Moses standing with Christ atop the Mount of Transfiguration:

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. And His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” And He answered and said, Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist (Mt 17:9-13).

So Jesus was saying that Elijah is coming, and has already come in the person of John the Baptist. We are left to consider that a type can be the shadow, not the literal fulfillment, of prophecy.

One other example to study is the prophetic sign of the abomination of desolation (Dan 11:31). When Jesus made future reference to this prophecy from the Book of Daniel it was understood by the Jews of His day that this event had at once been fulfilled during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 BC. From the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia:

A royal decree proclaimed the abolition of the Jewish mode of worship; Sabbaths and festivals were not to be observed; circumcision was not to be performed; the sacred books were to be surrendered and the Jews were compelled to offer sacrifices to the idols that had been erected. The officers charged with carrying out these commands did so with great rigor; a veritable inquisition was established with monthly sessions for investigation. The possession of a sacred book or the performance of the rite of circumcision was punished with death. On Kislew (Nov.-Dec.) 25, 168 BC, the “abomination of desolation” was set up on the altar of burnt offering in the Temple, and the Jews required to make obeisance to it.

Jesus, who knew Jewish history, said: So when you see (future tense) the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) (Mt 24:15).

To confuse matters even more, Dispensationalists apply this verse to the time of the Great Tribulation though this specific prophecy was certainly fulfilled in 168 BC, and 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem. Might these events have been only shadows of an event that is yet to be fulfilled literally?

It becomes clearer from this study why we believe that Christ literally finished His work save for His Second Coming. He was born of a virgin (literal); He died for our sins (literal); He was raised from the dead (literal); He ascended into Heaven (literal); He eternally sits on the throne of David at the right hand of the Father (literal); and He executed His wrath and judgement upon Israel for their rejection of Him (literal). In this age of grace, or New Covenant, He is calling men (both Jew and Greek) unto Himself before He returns on the last day to resurrect the body of believers, and pass final judgement upon the world.

A profitable study would be to examine the phrase Day of the Lord, or Last Day. Jesus mentions four times in the Gospels that He will raise up believers on the last day (Jn 6:39Jn 6:40Jn 6:44Jn 6:54). Is He talking about the Rapture, or a literal last day? If believers are not raptured until the last day then they must be destined to endure the Great Tribulation; but Paul wrote that we who have obtained salvation through Jesus Christ are not destined for the wrath that is to come (1Thess 5:9). Well, that would be a very good argument for the pre-trib rapture.

One final verse to ponder from Isaiah (Is 13:6): Wail, for the Day of the Lord is near! How do we interpret this? There are many references in the Tanakh to the Day of the Lord. They are always a reference to Israel, and a coming day of judgement which was executed in 722 BC when Assyria invaded Israel, 586 BC when Babylon invaded Judah and 70 AD when Rome destroyed the city of God; but there is yet one final judgement, according to Paul, in the day of Jesus Christ (1Co 5:5).

If we interpret Paul literally, the children of God will not have to face that day.

[Editor’s Note: According to the Book of Revelation there is a first (Rev 20:5-6) and second (Rev 20:14-15) resurrection, or what John calls a resurrection of life, and resurrection of judgement (Jn 5:29). There is (literally?) a thousand years separation between the two. A Preterist would say that the thousand years is figurative, or symbolic of a very long time, but that should not be a point of contention amongst those who seek life.]

Suggested Reading: Times of the Gentiles

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Times of the Gentiles

And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. [Lk 21:24]

This week we wanted to expound on our previous post, Have You Replaced Abraham?, regarding the topic of so-called Replacement (or Supersessionist) Theology that the “church” has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption. A Catholic reader had this to say:

“Replacement Theology” is an inaccurate term. We believe that the promises given to Abraham and his children were fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus ChristThe Catholic Church is the New Israelthe New Jerusalem. Christ’s Kingdom is His Church – on earth and in heaven (and in purgatory). The children of Abraham are all of those who are united with the Messiah, Christ. This has nothing to do with racial heritage. In the Kingdom of Christ, there is no longer Jew or Greek as far as having privilege. So it depends on how you define “replacement theology”, but the Catholic Church is the continuation and fulfillment of the religion given by God to Moses, through the Prophets, through the Messiah. The covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them, but we are living under a New Covenant. “Replacement Theology” is a derogatory term made up by dispensationalists to label anyone who believes in Covenant Theology.

There is some truth (as we have underlined) in this reader’s comment, although we question the idea that the Catholic Church is the New Israel in light of the assertion that the Mosaic covenant is eternally valid. The covenant with Moses includes the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai, but we will assume that the reader does not mean to suggest that Jews can be saved by the Law. It is true that the promises given to Abraham and his children were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, wrote: Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ (Gal 3:16)Paul, here, is referencing this passage in Genesis: In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice (Ge 22:18).

We learn from the Galatian letter that the Law does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise (Gal 3:17-18). The Law, priesthood, temple sacrifice, and Feast Days all pointed to, or were a shadow of, spiritual promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ (the seed of Abraham).

Paul wrote to the Roman assembly that they be not uninformed of this mystery—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Rom 11:25). We see the similarity of this passage with the fullness spoken of by Christ in reference to the times of the Gentiles, although in a different context.

The Apostle goes on to say that God’s choice (the Jews) are beloved for the sake of the fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob); for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Ro 11:28).  He is talking here about the spiritual gifts of election and redemption, or as Peter writes:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. [1Pe 2:9-10]

In this passage Peter paraphrases the prophet Hosea (as does Paul in Ro 9:25), and applies the contextual reference of the Old Covenant to both Jew and Gentile (a chosen people under the New Covenant).

In Paul’s epistle to the Romans he quotes from Isaiah (Is 59:20-21) that God has a covenant to remove ungodliness from Jacob (Israel) and take away their sins, but this will not happen until they call upon the name of Messiah (Mt 23:39). It is our faith if Israel confessed Yeshua HaMashiach that He would return immediately in power and glory. Because they rejected Him our Lord prophesied that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles, and her people led captiveIn the context of this discourse He was speaking of a cataclysmic event that was to take place in that generation (Lk 21:32).

[Editor’s Note: The phrase this generation will not pass away has been debated for over 1900 years. The word genea is used 17 times in the New Testament and always is translated generation. Some theologians will define genea as race in order to apply the phrase to an end time scenario. Their reasoning is that the Jews have been scattered, dispersed and exiled throughout history, and yet they still survive as a distinct race that will not pass away until all things have been fulfilled. Literally, the prophecy of Christ regarding the destruction of Jerusalem was fulfilled in the generation to whom He was speaking, and was probably witnessed by John the Apostle.]

We have been living in the times of the Gentiles since, at least, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Romans killed 1.2 million Jews out of a population (according to Josephus) of 2.2 million. The Christian population was scattered, the city razed, the temple burned to the ground and close to 100,000 captives were dispersed into the provinces, or taken to Rome to build the Coliseum. Christians were lit as human torches to light the avenue leading to the Coliseum. People of God had to burn a pinch of incense in the palm of their hand and confess Caesar as Lord in order to receive a license to buy, or sell in the marketplace. Mark of the Beast? Well, we know that Beast was the Jewish code name for Caesar, six is the number of man and three 6’s signified ruler, or authority.

It was most certainly a time of Great Tribulation for that first century generation. It is critical that we understand the historical context of Bible prophecy. For example, to whom was the Book of Revelation written: Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Adventists, Mormons? No, it was written to the seven churches in Asia who uniquely understood the symbolism and prophetic language of John’s apocalyptic vision. (Without a doubt the seven churches could decipher the cryptic message of Rev 13:18.) When was it written: Before, or after 70 AD? If it was written after 70 AD why doesn’t John mention the most terrible of events, that is, the destruction of Jerusalem which he surely witnessed? It would be as if someone wrote about the War on Terror and did not mention the attack on 9/11.

And why would John write to the seven churches about things that had no relevance to them? Things that weren’t going to happen for thousands of years, and things that Christ makes very clear will happen soon (Rev 1:1).

Times of the Gentiles? End of the age? Our trust is in the last day (there is only one). Christ said, Whosoever believes on Me, I will raise him up on the last day (Jn 6:39Jn 6:40Jn 6:44Jn 6:54). Prophecy writers can debate about the rapture and tribulation and Millennial Kingdom and Second Coming…

We’re just persevering to the last day.

[Editor’s Note: Messiah Gate does not hold to either Dispensational, or Supersessionist doctrine. We have problems with both. A radio preacher we listen to was naming 14 things that must happen before Christ returns. Well, some of the things he mentioned have already happened which is why you will hear prophecy teachers speak about partial, or double-fulfillment of prophecy. One of the 14 items listed by this preacher was the abomination of desolation (Mt 24:15). We know that this desecration was to occur in the holy place, or temple of God. While there are plans to build and furnish a new Jewish temple the Al-Aqsa Mosque currently sits on the site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. No, this prophecy of Christ was fulfilled in 70 AD.]

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Has God Forsaken Us?

The Word of our Lord:

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near (Rev 1:3).

Our post, Was Jesus a False Prophet?, compels some to ask:

If the prophecy of Matthew 24 was fulfilled in that generation where, then, is our hope for salvation; and how do we interpret the Book of Revelation in light of Old Testament prophecy?

When Christ prophesied the impending destruction of the Temple (Mt 24:2) the disciples imagined  the end of the age was near as Jesus made a matter-of-fact statement that this generation will not pass away until all these things take place (Mt 24:34).

Generation, or genea, has been interpreted by dispensationalists to mean race, or family, thus suggesting that the Jewish people will not pass away until all these things are fulfilled.

Recall that the disciples asked Jesus essentially three questions (Mt 24:3).

When will these things be? That is, the destruction of the Temple; and note that Christ says something very interesting:

for these things must take place, but that is not yet the end (Mt 24:6).

What will be the sign of Your coming? And Jesus answered that there will be wars, famine, earthquakes and tribulation:

But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs (Mt 24:8).

In Luke’s parallel account Christ emphasizes that the end does not follow immediately (Lk 21:9).

And of the end of the age? Here, Jesus uses the illustration of the days of Noah:

But of that day and hour no one knows…(Mt 24:36).

Jesus warns that many false Christs and false prophets will come performing signs and wonders saying that the end is near, but do not believe them.

We can see, then, that all of these things (tribulation and distress) will take place in that generation, but the end is not yet. Clearly, the Olivet Discourse can be very difficult to understand because the Lord jumps back and forth on the timeline of events, but one thing is very clear:

the one who endures to the end, he will be saved (Mt 24:13).

The Lord isn’t specifying here the end of the age necessarily, but to the end of one’s sojourn.

The writer of Hebrews exhorts that we: 

…run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross (Heb 12:1-2). 

It is a common theme throughout the Bible that we who endure shall be blessed. This is where Matthew 24 ties in with the Book of Revelation. To the seven churches of Asia our Lord promised blessings to those who overcome. Understand that Revelation is to the New Covenant what Daniel is to the Old Covenant. They are bookends, if you will, of the Bible’s prophetic message; and the Olivet Discourse (found in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21) is often referred to as the Little Apocalypse.

Now examine the following verse from the Book of Daniel:

But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase (Da 12:4).

Daniel is one of the richest prophetic books in all of scripture. The prophet speaks of everlasting life (Da 12:2) which makes one curious as to why the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Daniel uses prophetic symbolism to describe the end of times which will be marked by an increase in knowledge as occurring events offer clues of fulfillment. Indeed, how many books of the genre Late Great Planet Earth have predicted (falsely in all cases) the end of the age?

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible shares some insight:

And knowledge shall be increased – This would be one of the characteristics of these times, and this would be the means by which it would be accomplished. Our own age has furnished a good illustration of the meaning of this language, and it will be still more fully and strikingly illustrated as the time approaches when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole world.

For those who take an historicist view of Bible prophecy these things were seemingly fulfilled during the Maccabean revolt (167-160 B.C.) against Antiochus Epiphanes who desecrated the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. (Hanukkah celebrates the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple after the successful Maccabean uprising. Jesus celebrated the Feast of Dedication as recorded in Jn 10:22.) This abomination of desolation (Da 9:27) is referenced by Christ as a sign of great tribulation:

Therefore when you see the Abomination of Desolation which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains (Mt 24:15-16).

Antiochus was a blasphemer and persecutor who murdered over 100,000 Jews, but Christ was speaking of a yet future abomination which some historians believe was fulfilled in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem, burned the Temple (not one stone was left standing as prophesied by Jesus), murdered one million Jews and took captive tens of thousands to build the Coliseum in Rome.

Interestingly, we learn from these events that prophecy can have a double fulfillment, or history does repeat. That is something to keep in  mind as we go deeper in the study of God’s word. Some believe that the Dome of the Rock is an abomination of desolation in the present age.

Contrast the seal upon Daniel’s prophecy with the following passage from the Book of Revelation:

(The angel of the Lord) said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Rev 22:10).

Daniel’s prophecy was sealed because the time of fulfillment was not at hand, but John is told that the time is near:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ to show the things which must soon take place (Rev 1:1).

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it, for the time is near (Rev 1:3).

…the Lord sent His angel to show the things which must soon take place (Rev 22:6). 

For reference the Lord repeats the message of imminent return in the following verses: Rev 2:16Rev 3:11Rev 22:7Rev 22:12:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen, come Lord Jesus (Rev 22:20).

The caveat to this last verse is that Jesus said He will not come until the Jewish people say with conviction, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord (Mt 23:39).
 
We interpret that Daniel’s sealed prophecies are the very ones opened in the Book of Revelation; and it is revealing that the signs Jesus noted in Matthew 24 (false Christs, wars, famine, pestilence, tribulation, abomination) are all unsealed in John’s vision.

The interpretive challenge here is one of hermeneutics, or methodology. Is the Bible to be understood literally or figuratively? Well, both. Take, for example, the Gospel of John where Jesus teaches:

I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst (Jn 6:35).

I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever…(Jn 6:51).

John records that the Jews argued with one another:

How can this man give us His flesh to eat (Jn 6:52)?

The Bible is written with liberal doses of metaphor, allegory, and symbolism that we must understand contextually when a literal interpretation is not plausible.

When Revelation declares repeatedly that these things are soon to happen we have to understand that the book was written to the seven churches of Asia who were suffering terrible persecution in the midst of a Caesar cult that demanded they worship Caesar as Lord, or face death. The avenues of Rome were lit with the burning bodies of Christians who would not forsake their faith. The Jewish-Roman War (66-70 AD) certainly fulfilled portions of the Olivet Discourse and several chapters of Revelation; but the dating of the book is critical to a proper interpretation.

Dispensationalists believe that Revelation was written during the reign of Domitian (81-96 AD) — twenty-five years after the fall of Jerusalem. The external evidence to validate this claim is based on suggestive interpretation of a passage in Against Heresies (180 AD) wherein Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, wrote that John (or the vision?) was seen towards the end of Domitian’s reign (95-96 AD). Irenaeus recalled that he was told this as a boy by one of John’s disciples, Polycarp; and for 200 years the church quoted Irenaeus as the authority for the timing of Revelation. (In his discourse, the Bishop refers to the ancient copies of Revelation while the reign of Domitian was almost in our day.)

It is very probable that Irenaeus, as a child, misheard what Polycarp said. Nero, who served as Emperor of Rome from 54-68 AD (during the Jewish war), was known officially as Nero Lucius Domitius, or Nero Domitius. Nero thought himself to be a god, and he demanded worship. People could not buy or sell in the marketplace unless they pinched incense in the palm of their hand (mark of the Beast?), and bowed to him. In fact, Nero was thought of as the Beast, or man of sin. It would be easy to mistake Domitian for Domitius especially since Domitian (who had an equally brutal reputation) was known as the bloody limb of Nero.

Incidentally, Nero beheaded the Apostle Paul, and crucified Peter upside down which causes some to question why John was exiled and not murdered. That answer might be found in John’s gospel where we read, after Simon Peter is told by Christ his manner of death, that Peter inquires of John’s fate: Lord, what about this man (Jn 21:21). And Jesus answered:

If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me (Jn 21:22)!

This started a rumor that John would not die.

We believe that Revelation was written before the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple (or no later than 68-69 AD) for the purpose of comforting and girding the faithful who were enduring apocalyptic persecution and tribulation.

How much of Revelation was fulfilled in the first century depends, again, on your methodology. There essentially are four systems for interpreting the book:

Historicist is a classic viewpoint taught by John Calvin, Sir Isaac Newton, John Wesley, William Tyndale, C.H. Spurgeon and Martin Luther. It presents Revelation as a timeline of prophetic history. The interpretive challenge is that every generation can see the fulfillment of Revelation in their age. For example, World War 1 was thought to be the end of the age, that is, until the outbreak of World War 2; and every epoch before and after has been viewed by that generation as the end of time. One controversial aspect of this view is its identification of the papacy as the Antichrist. Its breakaway movements: the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists.

Preterist is a method that contends Revelation was written before 70 AD. This would make the prophecy relevant to the people it was written, that is, the seven churches of Asia. A later date for the writing of the book would invalidate this methodology. Protestant reformers were suspect of this viewpoint in that it was promoted by a Jesuit priest, Luis de Alcazar (1554-1613), although it was not a new idea having been taught  by the church since the fourth century AD.

Futurist is the mainstream viewpoint preached by media evangelists, and promoted by Hal Lindsey (The Late Great Planet Earth). Dispensationalism, a method of Futurist eschatology, was introduced by John Nelson Darby (1833), and promoted by C.I. Scofield (see Scofield Reference Bible). Dallas Theological Seminary (founded 1924) has turned out many dispensational preachers including J. Vernon McGeeDavid JeremiahChuck SwindollCharles Ryrie and Hal Lindsey. Futurists believe in a Great Tribulation, rapture, Armageddon and one thousand year reign. By this method Revelation has no specific relevance to the churches in Asia as its fulfillment is not expected until the end of the world. Futurists lean toward a literal interpretation of Revelation while recognizing that the symbolic literary style makes it extremely difficult to be dogmatic. Thus, dispensationalists can be in strict accord with fundamental Christian doctrine, but differ on non-essentials such as the timing of the rapture.

Idealist method spiritually interprets the Book of Revelation as an age-old story of the battle between good and evil. It is a symbolic, allegorical, metaphorical and timeless account of spiritual warfare in heaven and on earth. There is no specific fulfillment nor historical timeline, but simply a recurring loop of trials and tribulations that repeats itself from generation to generation, or at least until the LORD returns to claim His bride and judge the world.

As to the title of this lesson, Has God Forsaken Us?, may we offer these words of encouragement from Moses to Joshua:

The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed (Dt 31:8).

If the Lord tarries another thousand years what difference does it make for we can rest in His eternal promise:

I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Mt 28:20).

Whenever that might be.

Suggested Reading: Revelation Explained

Next: Was Jesus a False Prophet?

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Was Jesus a False Prophet?

The Word of Our Lord:

Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place (Mt 24:34).

We have, in the past, mentioned a thorn in our side who continually grieves us with the most vile and hateful criticism of God and faith. This person (known, henceforth, as Lara) is a perfect example of someone possessed by the spirit of antichrist. As John writes:

This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son (1 Jn 2:22).

Lara hates God. It is perplexing that someone could be so filled with hatred for something in which they do not even believe. The animus must certainly be a screen for deeply rooted fear and separation. Lara, and we suppose many like her, vainly attempts to fill the emptiness inside with drugs and alcohol, and the distractions of the world.

Lara’s most recent contention is that Jesus Christ is not, nor did He claim to be, the Messiah. Specifically, her point of argument is the Olivet Discourse (Matthew chapter 24) which she claims is full of unfulfilled prophetic claims thus making Jesus a false prophet. Unbelievers have a very difficult time with the Gospel of Mattityahu (Matthew). It helps us to better understand this gospel by knowing to whom it was written. Matthew (gift of the Lord) was written to a population of Hellenistic Jews who lived outside of Palestine. It provides a firsthand testimony with a Jewish sensibility. For example, Matthew often refers to the kingdom of heaven where the other gospel writers might speak of the kingdom of God as it was considered irreverent by the Jews to even speak the LORD’s name. [See comments below.] Matthew quotes from the Old Testament more than 60 times for the purpose of establishing that Yeshua was the fulfillment of the Messianic line thus he typically refers to Jesus as the Son of David. Whereas Luke traces the genealogical record back to Adam, Matthew specifically charts the lineage of Jesus forward  from Abraham to establish that Christ was, indeed, the Jewish messiah.

We might add that Matthew was the recognized author of this gospel as confirmed by the early church fathers Eusebius and Origen; and that his testimony may have been written as early as A.D. 50. (Keep that date in mind for later reference.)

Lara begins her argument back in chapter 16 where Matthew records what some study Bibles note is the prophecy of Christ’s Second Coming:

Truly I say to you, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom (Mt 16:28).

When Christians speak of the Second Coming of Christ they might suggest any number of things from the Rapture of the church to the Day of Judgment. This is a perfect example of interpreting a Bible verse out of context. We need to understand that Jesus was speaking to His disciples for He earlier asked them (Mt 16:13):

Who do people say the Son of Man is?

They answered Him, John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets; and Jesus said (Mt 16:15):

But who do you say I am?

And Simon Peter answered:

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt 16:16).

This testimony of Peter is one of the most declarative statements in all of scripture. He is establishing that Yeshua is the Christos: the Christ, Messiah, or Anointed One. His statement was so revelatory that Jesus warned the disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ (Mt 16:20).

What, then, can we say about the prophecy of His coming? Clearly, He was speaking to His disciples—some of whom would not taste death until this event came to pass; and it was fulfilled days later when Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ atop the Mount of Transfiguration as witnessed by Peter, James and John.

Moses represented the law, Elijah the prophets, and Christ was the fulfillment of both:

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill (Mt 5:17).

We need to understand Old Testament prophecy in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ. Are there prophecies yet unfulfilled, or did the New Covenant of Jesus Christ close the book on the Old Covenant of Moses and Elijah? What does it mean that He fulfilled the Law and Prophets? Be mindful that our understanding of scripture rightly or wrongly determines our interpretation.

Because we are 2000 years removed from the actual events it is somewhat curious that the disciples (who were taught by Jesus) still held to certain misperceptions regarding His earthly ministry. They expected the Messiah to defeat their enemies, restore Israel and establish His kingdom. The Transfiguration, as seen by the disciples, was a sign that these things were quickening.

As they were about to enter Jerusalem (Mt 20:17-19), Jesus told His disciples that He would be delivered to the Jewish leaders; condemned to death; handed over to the Gentiles; scourged; crucified; and raised up on the third day. This must have overwhelmed their comprehension.

Matthew then records a series of events and encounters leading up to the Lord’s pronouncement of seven woes upon the scribes and Pharisees which He concludes (Mt 23:33):

You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

The disciples viewed all of this as Christ exercising kingdom authority prior to taking His seat upon the throne of David when they figured to be ruling with Him over all of Judea:

You also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt 19:28).

The disciples failed to understand that Jesus was talking about a future period of regeneration (paliggenesia), or re-birth of the physical creation (the new heaven and earth); and that His kingdom was not of this world (Jn 18:36).

We come, then, to the controversial chapter 24. As Jesus is exiting the Temple, His disciples point out the beauty and splendor of the buildings, and He said to them:

Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down (Mt 24:2).

Luke records that the disciples supposed the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately (Lk 19:11); and, certainly, the destruction of the Temple would be an apocalyptic sign of the end times. As they sat with Jesus upon the Mount of Olives, they asked Him a probing question (Mt 24:3):

Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?

Study carefully these passages in Matthew for they have caused many people to stumble and lose faith particularly our opening verse of scripture that says this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Lara contends that all of these things did not take place within a generation so she concludes that Jesus was a false prophet.

Our friends at the neighborhood Church of Christ teach that this generation refers to the generation alive at the time these events unfold sometime in the distant future, or end of age. Well, no, Jesus Christ was referring to the generation of those alive during His earthly ministry.

The answer to the first part of the question, then, is these things (that is, the destruction of the Temple) would occur in their lifetime. Recall that Matthew wrote his gospel as early as A.D. 50. Twenty years later the Romans destroyed the temple, and leveled the city of Jerusalem. One million Jews were killed, and upwards of 100,000 were taken as slaves to build the Coliseum in Rome.

When Christ talks about the tribulation of their time, He uses metaphorical language and symbolic expression to reveal the wrath of judgement to come:

Wherever the corpse is, there the eagles will gather (Mt 24:8).

The eagle was a representation of the Roman Empire while the corpse was the remains of Jerusalem.

Secondly, the disciples asked Jesus what would be the signs of His coming; and of the end of the age. Again, there is an interpretive challenge to His answer:

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Mt 24:36).

It is bewildering that Christ (who is God) would not know the time of His return unless you are aware that the phrase nor the Son was not present in ancient Greek manuscripts; but appeared later in both Greek and Latin.

In addition, Jesus compares His coming with the days of Noah (Mt 24:37-41):

…and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be (Mt 24:39).

We are told that two men will be in the field, and two women will be grinding; one will be taken and one will be left (Mt 24:40-41).

Some teach that the ones taken refers to the rapture of the church; but read carefully what Christ said. The ones taken by the flood were the unsaved, while Noah and his family were left behind. Let the reader understand.

Exegesis refers to the critical interpretation of scripture, and hermeneutics is the method by which we interpret the Bible. Much of what is taught in the church today is based on the method of theology known as Dispensationalism, or the eschatology of end time prophecy. Harold Camping and Jack Van Impe are just two recent examples of false prophetic teachers.

Dispensationalism was not taught by the early church although adherents will argue that even the apostles believed in its doctrine. Our study of Matthew clearly reveals that the disciples expected an imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ. That does not make Jesus a false prophet, but it does belie the weakness of our interpretation. For 2000 years, false prophets have predicted His coming even as Christ warned:

For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect (Mt 24:24).

Whether the first century church believed in the doctrinal theory of dispensation is debatable; but it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that John Nelson Darby introduced what is taught today as Dispensationalism; that God has a separate plan of salvation for the Jews including the rebuilding of the Temple; that the 70th week of Daniel will be fulfilled during a seven year tribulation; and that the church will be raptured before the Great Tribulation after which God will deal with Israel, and Christ will reign for a thousand years.

There are so many things wrong with this reasoning. Supposedly, Christ fulfilled the 69th week of Daniel, but not the 70th which the LORD has put on hold for 2000 years reserved for some future tribulation even though Jesus said that we would have trials and suffering and tribulation in the present age (Jn 16:33).

Surely it is sacrilegious, even blasphemous, to suggest the rebuilding of the Temple, and resumption of animal sacrifice; that, somehow, the blood of Christ is not sufficient to cleanse both Jew and Gentile, and reconcile us to God the Father.

Do we ignore the Apostle Paul?

There is neither Jew nor Greek…for you are all one in Christ Jesus  (Gal 3:28).

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly…But he is a Jew who is one inwardly whose circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit … (Ro 2:28-29).

We believe essentially what the church taught for 1500 years; that when Christ proclaimed from the cross, It is finished (Jn 19:30), He fulfilled all of the law and prophets.

We are now living in the church age of the New Covenant as the LORD builds His spiritual temple upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. There will be a last day (which no one can predict, but many have tried) when the dead shall come forth to the resurrection of life, or to the resurrection of judgement (Jn 5:29). Those of us alive on that day will be transformed (1 Co 15:52).

Maybe there is so much agnosticism in the world because there is so much confusion in the church. Though we shall continue to pray for the unbeliever, it might serve the Lord more if we prayed for  spiritual enlightenment within the body of Christ.

Suggested Reading: 

What Matthew 24 Tells Us About “The End”

Next: I Knew You in the Womb

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