Category Archives: Revelation

Who is the Beast?

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Do you understand the Book of Revelation, or let someone tell you what it says? Be like the Bereans who studied the Scriptures to see what is true. A midweek Bible study of Romans might attract a few people, but if the pastor is teaching Revelation, why, the pews are packed full. I mean, it is curiously frightening to ponder a future age of tribulation during which the Antichrist reigns from the temple of God. (Reformers teach that the papacy is the beast of Revelation, and he was overthrown in the 16th century approximately 1260 [days] years after Rome had usurped the authority of Christ on earth.)

Well, the Pope is still in office, but the Romish system no longer wields power over, nor controls, the true remnant of God. Keep in mind that the force behind the beast is Satan who has, from the beginning, tried to deceive God’s people with counterfeit signs and wonders. The notion that the Pope is the successor to Peter amuses me. Kephas was a married Jew from Galilee. The current Pope is a celibate gentile from Argentina. That just strikes me funny.

Insofar as the Romish church can no longer carry out murderous inquisitions against Jews and Christians it is evident that, in this sense, Satan has been restrained.

But this is just one of many mysteries in the Book of Revelation. There is mention of great tribulation which I believe is the same affliction spoken of by Christ in the Gospel records (Matthew 24:21). Tribulation (thlipseōs, θλίψεως) is also translated distress, persecution, affliction, or anguish. I never hear pastors sound the alarm of the great anguish. It just doesn’t roll off the lips as well.

Christ said that it would be unequaled distress. Nothing from Creation to the end of the world could be compared. Not the Flood? Nor the Inquisition? The Holocaust? These events were calamitous and horrific, but I believe Jesus was speaking prophetically of the end of the Jewish system. His disciples did not ask about the end of the world, but the end of the age (aiōnos, αἰῶνος) which was fulfilled in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the holy temple.

Some might ask, “Was that the most terrible event ever?” May I refer you to the historical record of Josephus who was an eyewitness to the catastrophic events. The volume of his work is massive. A complete hardcover compilation of 13 volumes sells for $4000.00. I can only read paragraphs at a time because his graphic descriptions are so upsetting. I cannot look at pictures of the Nazi death camps nor can I stomach the atrocities committed by Rome during the Jewish War (66-70 AD). Yes, Jesus spoke prophetically, and it was fulfilled in that generation just as He said (Matthew 24:34).

Those who wish to discredit the authority of Christ, and the revelation of prophecy, will argue that Jesus was speaking of the end of the world; and because the world is still here they will claim that Christ was a false prophet. No, Jesus was speaking to His generation of things that would soon occur even as He revealed to John those events that must shortly come to pass (Revelation 1:1).

When you read Josephus it is evident that the judgements of Revelation were poured out upon Israel in a three and one-half year period from mid-66 AD to the fall of the city. For example, in Revelation 8:7 the first angel sounds his trumpet and a third of the trees are burned up. When the Jewish War began, Roman legions entered from the north through Galilee. During their southern advance towards Jerusalem they denuded the countryside. Israel was, in ancient times, heavily forested; but the Roman army cut down the trees for fuel, and to build siege works against defensive ramparts.

In Revelation 8:11, the third angel sounds a trumpet and the waters became bitter. Rome poisoned the wells and salted the fields so there would be no drinking water, and no crops.

When the third seal was broken in Revelation 6:6 one of the four living creatures said that it would cost a day’s wage to buy two pounds of wheat, or six pounds of barley.

Interestingly, Josephus wrote:

Many there were indeed who sold what they had for one measure; it was of wheat, if they were of the richer sort; but of barley, if they were poorer. [1]

With regards to buying and selling, Nero required that the Jews be marked in their forehand in order to buy or sell in the marketplace. Every year a Jew had to profess that Caesar was God in order to receive the mark. Was that the fulfillment of Revelation 13:16-18? Not according to charismatic preachers who sound the alarm with regards to implanted chips, or an electronic mark of the beast.

What is the meaning of 666? In Bible prophecy, the number “6” represents man. The number written three times represents a man of supreme authority like a Caesar, or a Pope.

The Talmud reveals Jewish thought that Nero was, in fact, the beast. To criticize the emperor meant certain death so he was simply referred to in code. In his book, The Jewish Unveiling of Revelation and the End, Al Garza wrote:

Every Jewish reader, of course, saw that the Beast was a symbol of Nero. And both Jews and Christians regarded Nero as having close affinities with the serpent or dragon. [2]

Garza noted that John, in making this reference, was writing and thinking as a Hebrew because his first century audience were Jews. Friends, we cannot let this simple fact escape us that the Bible was written to an ancient people. If we are so egocentric to study the Word of God as if it were revealed in this morning’s newspaper then we are essentially portraying Scripture as having absolutely no relevance to whom it was written as early as 2000 years ago.

The Talmud teaches that Messiah (ben Joseph) would come as a suffering servant. He would be killed followed by a long period of great tribulation. Then Messiah (ben David) would come to resurrect the nation. So, yes, Jews believe in two comings of Mashiach, but their hearts have been hardened until a number of Gentiles have been saved (Romans 11:25).

I don’t know what that number is — only God. Then Christ will return, the dead resurrected and the body of believers (Jew and Greek) will be raptured. Thus, all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26). This interpretation doesn’t tickle one’s ears like fanciful stories of being Left Behind, but it is orthodox Christian theology.

Pray for Joey.

Notes:

1. The Wars Of The Jews, Josephus, Book 5, chapter 10, paragraph 2, 75 AD.

2. The Jewish Unveiling of Revelation and the End, Al Garza Th.D, p. 54, Lulu Publishing, 2012.

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Ezekiel’s Temple: Study Notes

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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.

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Ezekiel’s (Millennial?) Temple

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Do we interpret the Old Testament in light of the New, or the New Testament in light of the Old? If Torah was only the shadow of things to come then the illumination would be that which followed — the B’rit Chadasha. To properly interpret the Bible, then, we must read the Old Covenant in light of the New.

Here is the problem. Dispensationalists do just the opposite. They read the Holy text as if it were written yesterday. We have to understand the Bible in the context of the time it was written, and to whom it was addressed — keeping in mind:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Ezekiel 40-48 is one of the most difficult sections of the Bible to understand. Ezekiel — יְחֶזְקֵאל (Yechezqel) meaning “Strengthened By God” — was a contemporary of Daniel and Jeremiah. All three were pre-exilic prophets sent by the LORD to warn the nation of coming judgement and restoration. Ezekiel was taken captive in 597 BC, eight years after Daniel was exiled during the first Babylonian invasion.

While living in Babylon, Ezekiel had a detailed vision of a grand temple in Jerusalem. Solomon’s temple was left destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and the post-exilic temple built by Ezra and Nehemiah was modest in comparison.

In the visions of God He brought me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, and on it to the south there was a structure like a city (Ezekiel 40:2).

A man like bronze, holding a measuring rod, then gave the prophet detailed measurements of a holy temple. The relevance of the vision was to bring shame to the people, and present the shadow of what John would see in the Apocalypse.

As for you, son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan. If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws (Ezekiel 43: 10-11).

Dispensationalists call Ezekiel’s temple the Third Temple, or Fourth Temple if you include the Tabernacle of Moshe (Moses), Solomon’s temple, and the post-captivity temple of Ezra and Nehemiah (Zerubbabel’s temple) which was later expanded by King Herod; and destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.

Because the post-exilic temple did not measure up to the grand design of Ezekiel’s vision, Dispensationalists will conclude that it must be an unfulfilled prophesy. They foresee Ezekiel’s temple as being the earthly throne of Christ during the Millennial kingdom.

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Reformed theologians have a problem with these passages because Ezekiel sees not only the restoration of the temple, but all of its attendant ceremonial functions including animal sacrifices. The Rabbin have a problem with Ezekiel’s temple because of all that is missing — the Ark, the Golden Candlestick and the Table of Showbread.

Dispensationalists will say that the animal sacrifices are a ceremonial observance — like the Lord’s Supper — and not for atonement. However, Ezekiel is clearly instructed that the priests will offer bulls and goats to clean, purify and make atonement upon the altar (Ezekiel 43:22-27). Neither orthodox Jews nor reformed Christians interpret Ezekiel literally.

And to suggest a resumption of blood sacrifices in the Millennial age is an affront to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His shed blood upon the cross.

To overcome this objection, Dispensationalists — who adhere to a literalist interpretation — have to spiritualize the text, “Oh, it’s only ceremonial like taking Communion.” 

What, then, is the meaning of Ezekiel’s vision? Orthodox Jews interpret visions symbolically, and Christians should do likely. Whereas the Rabbin have difficulty with Ezekiel, Christians possess the covenant that illuminates the substance of shadows.

Messiah is our (Ark) covenant with YHWH (Hebrews 7:22).

Christ is the (show)bread of life (John 6:51).

No candlestick in the light of God’s glory (Rev 21:23).

Dr. John C. Whitcomb presents the Dispensational argument:

Just because animal sacrifices and priests have no place in Christianity does not mean that they will have no place in Israel after the rapture of the Church; for there is a clear distinction made throughout the Scriptures between Israel and the Church … It is obvious that the Book of Hebrews was written to Christians, and we have no right to insist that Israelites during the Millennium will also be Christians, without priests, without sacrifices, and without a Temple … [1]

Dr. Whitcomb is imposing premillennial assumptions that are nowhere found in Scripture. Pre-trib rapture? Jesus said the hour is coming when all will hear His voice and be resurrected to life or judgement (John 5:28-29). Paul said there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile (Romans 10:12), and not all who are descended from Israel are Israel (Romans 9:6). To say that Hebrews was written to Christians is concealing the fact that the book was written to persecuted Jews who were thinking of returning to Judaism and its sacrificial system. If that was heresy then how much more apostate in a carnal kingdom still future?

When we shine the light of the New Covenant upon the Old it becomes evident that Ezekiel’s vision was a shadow of what was revealed to John. As Ezekiel saw his vision from atop a high mountain so, too, was John carried away in like manner. That both men saw a living river flowing from the throne of the LORD is evident that they had a shared vision.

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:10).

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).

By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing (Ezekiel 47:12).

As the scroll was sealed by Daniel (Daniel 12:4), but opened by the Lamb (Revelation 5:5) so we understand that Ezekiel and the Apocalypse (John’s vision) are bookends of typology and reality — shadow and fulfillment. Ezekiel and John saw not a carnal kingdom in a supposed Millennial age, but the New Jerusalem descending from heaven after this carnal world is burnt up. Peter wrote that this is the promise we look for — a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells  (2 Peter 2:13).

I have recently posted comments on another blog (thank you Selah) about misinterpreting Zechariah. Dispensationalists will read the book as if it were written yesterday, and apply it to Israel in the future. No, Zechariah was a post-exilic prophet writing to the remnant who returned from Babylonian captivity. He spoke of the coming Branch of David, and judgement (once again) upon the nation Israel.

To be a serious Bible student — one who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) — may require that we, like the Bereans, dig deeper into the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).

Notes:

1. The Millennial Temple of Ezekiel 40-48 (An Exercise in Literal Interpretation), Dr. John C. Whitcomb.

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Revelation: An Historic View

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The LORD awakens me every day with a song on my lips and a message in my heart. I pray, also, the courage to be faithful to His word.

At last night’s mid-week Bible study, the teacher made a comment — which I hear typically — that all of the Book of Revelation after chapters 3 or 4 is about the return of the Jews to Israel and the restoration of the kingdom.

This interpretation is heard all day on Christian radio and television. The ‘church’ will be raptured — after all, the church-age was only a detour from God’s original plan — and Jesus will return to reign for a thousand years on the earthly throne of David in fulfillment of  God’s promise to Israel.

The prophets of old did not foresee the church-age — they only saw the coming of Messiah. When Israel rejected Him, the LORD had to revise His plan of redemption. The ‘church’ became an interim solution — a stepchild, if you will — to make the chosen people jealous (Romans 11:11).

Jealous? The Inquisition and Holocaust generated horrific fear — not jealousy.

This interpretation suggests that the LORD did not foresee Israel’s rejection of the Anointed One so He had to scramble and devise a two-stage plan of redemption that included the Gentiles. No, the rejection and crucifixion of Messiah was unmistakably foretold by Isaiah, Micah and Zechariah. (Click on EMET tab for additional study.)

The church-age was not an afterthought.

Bible teachers who present this interpretation are typically pre-millennial with a Dispensational slant. They believe that the Book of Revelation was written towards the end of the first century, 96 A.D. Why is this important?

The dating of the Apocalypse (John’s vision) is critical to our understanding of Bible prophesy. I believe that the Revelation was written in the 60’s A.D. as a warning to the ‘church’ about the impending destruction of Jerusalem.

That singular event was cataclysmic as it brought an end to the age of Judaism, and was a fulfillment of Christ’s prophetic judgement against the nation Israel.

I listen daily to well-known pastors who lift scripture from the Old Testament to validate their interpretation of Revelation. For example, they will cite Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel — wherein the prophet speaks of a return from exile — as evidence that the LORD will fulfill his covenant with Abraham. We have previously cited Joshua 21:43 as literal proof-text that God’s land promise to Israel (through Abraham) was fulfilled 3500 years ago.

A very beloved pastor (who goes through the Bible) cited a passage from Amos as evidence that God will still fulfill His promise to Abram which the pastor sees as yet unfulfilled:

“In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old” (Amos 9:11).

Amos was a prophet from the southern kingdom of Judah who was sent, by the LORD, to warn the northern kingdom, Israel, of their imminent judgement. The Book was written circa 766 B.C. (Samaria fell to the Assyrians within a generation; and Judah fell to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, 134 years later.)

Amos concluded his prophesy on a hopeful promise of restoration which was fulfilled by the decree of Cyrus to return all captive exiles to their homeland.

We need to have a clear understanding that the pre-exilic prophets — when speaking of a return from exile — were prophesying of the return from Assyrian/Babylonian captivity as so ordered by Cyrus, king of Persia (Isaiah 44:28).

I am a Covenant (Reformed) Theologian. It is Historic Christianity which is derided as Replacement Theology — precursor of the Holocaust — say pre-millennial Dispensationalists who are literal to a fault except for passages which don’t align with their eschatology (such as that cited in Joshua).

We — that is, Reformers — are accused of spiritualizing scripture. That is, to say, we take Old Testament prophesy and apply it to the ‘church’.

However, the whole of New Testament canon is spiritualized — from the Gospels to Revelation. That’s why the Jewish people reject it!

Take, for example, our passage from Amos. Though it was written to Israel almost 2800 years ago, James quotes it in Acts 15:16 as having been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

This is the manner of New Testament writers to quote from the Old Testament and conclude, this was to fulfill what was written by the prophets. And it is in agreement with our Lord’s claim that He came to fulfill the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17).

One more example before we leave this thread. In Romans 9:25, Paul quotes from Hosea 2:23 a prophesy that was spoken to the northern kingdom (Israel) about thirty years prior to the Assyrian conquest:

As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”

James, Paul and Peter (1 Peter 2:10) apply these passages to the Gentiles not as an allusion, but fulfillment of Bible prophesy.

If you have time, please study Revelation 12. It carefully summarizes the history of the ‘church’, and will help you understand its meaning.

The woman (Israel) was with child (v.1). The Serpent comes to devour the child (v.4). The woman gives birth to a man-child who will rule the nations, and be caught up to God and His throne (v.5). Michael and his angels are at war with the dragon who was cast out of heaven, and thrown down to the earth (v.7-9) — a fulfillment of Christ’s prophesy:

I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven (Luke 10:18).

The brethren overcome the Devil by the blood of the Lamb (v. 11). The dragon persecutes the woman who flees into the wilderness (as did the remnant who survived 70 A.D.), and the chapter concludes with Satan, so enraged with the woman, that he goes to make war with her children (the ‘church’) who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus (v. 14-17).

Keep in mind that Revelation (and the Bible’s Apocalyptic books) were written with allegory, metaphor and symbolism. A great way to witness to a Jewish neighbor is to give them a copy of Revelation. They will see ‘Daniel’ throughout the book and, hopefully, the Messiah as well. 

The date of Revelation, once again, will color your understanding of its prophetic message. The most widely cited reference in favor of the late-date is a quote from Irenaeus — a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John, the book’s author. Irenaeus suggests that John (or the vision) was seen during the reign of Domitianou. This has been understood more recently to be a reference to Emperor Domitian who reigned in the 90’s A.D. However, for 1800 years the ‘church’ believed this to be a reference to Domitious Nero, the Emperor who presided over a brutal persecution of the ‘church’ in the late-60’s A.D. — leading up to the prophetic destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age.

Church tradition teaches that Paul was tortured and beheaded by Nero in 67 A.D., and John’s cryptic reference to the Beast (Revelation 13:18) was understood to be Emperor Nero. For John to mention Nero by name would have meant instant death.

Incidentally, Paul wrote to seven churches during his ministry as John (in Revelation) addressed the seven churches in Asia (Revelation 1:4). The Muratorian Canon documents that Paul wrote to seven churches in the like manner of John:

… the blessed Apostle Paul, following the rule of his predecessor John, writes to no more than seven churches by name … John too, indeed, in the Apocalypse, although he writes to only seven churches, yet addresses all.

If Paul died in 67 A.D. then the early-date of Revelation, without further debate, must be understood within the context of the time in which it was written as a warning to the ‘church’ of great tribulation. Indeed, as Josephus recorded, no city in the history of the world had suffered the catastrophic destruction that befell Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Prophesy of Christ fulfilled (Matthew 24:21).

With regards to great tribulation we do not preclude the loosing of Satan and his war against the saints.

Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

Is Satan Bound?

(Revised 08-31-14, 8:30 am)

Is Satan bound? We will answer that question at the end of this post which addresses, once again, the problematic theology of Dispensationalism. (See our post, Dispense the Truth).

A formerly disgraced pastor — indicted on federal charges of conspiracy and fraud (not including his inappropriate relations with the church secretary) — can be seen daily on Christian television preaching a gospel of fear.

Based on dubious financial data he warned of a stock market crash in March-April 2014 that would mirror the economic depression of 1929. When his doomsday scenarios do not play out he simply moves the apocalyptic date forward. A regular guest on his show recently predicted that America is facing an economic collapse by February 2015. Note that these soothsayers qualify their statements so that they can simply deny, or reset their prophetic date. They peddle fear in order to sell over-priced survival gear from which their ministry profits.

The Bible teaches, however, that God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7); but that is all this pastor serves up along with a Time of Trouble food bank — buckets of dehydrated meals — which he will send you for a $3,000.00 love gift to the ministry. If you watch this pastor for any length of time you’ll be so frightened that you’ll need to own everything he hawks including fuelless generators and water filters. This ministry has turned the Word of God into a marketplace of gizmos and gadgets, and 20-year shelf life foodstuffs that will surely outlast the seven years of tribulation that is soon to come.

This pastor believes the “church” will have to endure the Time of Trouble, but he misinterprets the following gospel passage (our Lord Jesus, here, speaking):

…for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened (Matthew 24:21-22).

Understand that Jesus said we will suffer tribulation in this life (John 16:33); but in Matthew our Lord is specifying a period of trial and hardship that is distinctly unique and overwhelming — an event so horrendous that it would try men’s souls to the point of not only spiritual, but physical death. Even the death of the faithful.

Dispensationalists believe that this Great Tribulation has not yet occurred — that it could not possibly have foretold the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (for that cataclysmic event certainly was not the most horrific event to befall mankind).

While the Holocaust will always be one of the most terrible events in modern history we must understand that the prophetic words of Jesus, in this context, were specifically relevant to first century Jerusalem.

The Jewish historian, Josephus (ca. 37 AD – 100 AD), observed that no city had ever suffered the destruction that befell the holy city of Jerusalem — a devastation that he witnessed at the age of 33. The scenes described by Josephus (in his volume, War of the Jews) are ghastly and bloody, and will not be reprinted here. The Romans executed such vengeful wrath upon the city and its inhabitants that Josephus wrote:

… all the miseries of men from the beginning of time were not so considerable … no other city ever suffered such miseries; nor was there ever a generation more fruitful in wickedness from the beginning of the world … In reality it was God who condemned the whole nation and turned every course that was taken for their preservation to their destruction … The multitudes of those who perished exceeded all the destructions that man or God ever brought upon the world. [1]

What Josephus described in his written account more than fulfilled the judgement of God as foretold in the prophecy of Christ, and recorded in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24). Key to understanding this chapter is a proper interpretation of what the disciples asked Jesus in verse 3:

As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)

At first read it seems as if the disciples are asking two — some interpret three — questions regarding what Jesus had just spoken of in verse 2:

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 (Matthew 24:2).

Jesus and His disciples had just left the temple, and while the disciples were admiring the grandeur of the buildings our Lord squelched their pride by telling them that the whole structure would be brought down — that not one stone would be left standing.

In the mindset of a first century Jew it was understood that Christ was prophesying the end of the Jewish polity, or age. The KJV interprets verse 3 as the end of the world, but the Greek phrase synteleias tou aiōnos is more precisely rendered completion of the age.

If we examine the parallel discourse in the Gospels of Luke and Mark we will see more clearly what the disciples inquired of regarding the destruction of the temple:

They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” (Luke 21:7

Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled? (Mark 13:4)

In these parallel accounts we see that the disciples are clearly asking two questions: When will the temple be destroyed — and what are the preceding signs of its destruction? There are no inquiries as to the return of the Lord, or the end of the world.

Matthew was writing to an audience, most likely, of Jewish converts who would understand the Messianic and apocalyptic significance of the temple’s destruction — and so his wording of the disciples questions reflected a Jewish sensibility of this Biblical passage.

There is no contradiction here. Sincere people stumble over the context while false teachers write books and build ministries upon suspect doctrines pertaining to the Rapture, Second Coming and 7-year tribulation — all constructed by an ear-tickling misinterpretation of Scripture (2 Timothy 4:3).

Jesus prophetically warned of famines and wars, nation rising against nation and earthquakes in diverse places (Matthew 24:6-8). All of these birth pangs are recorded in the historical archives of Josephus. The world was in an upheaval at this time. A greater interpretive challenge, though, are the following verses:

But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other (Matthew 24:29-31).

Note that this is apocalyptic imagery that is used throughout the Bible:

For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light (Isaiah 13:10).

And when I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud and the moon will not give its light (Ezekiel 32:7).

Jesus is using the prophetic language of the Old Testament to describe the impending destruction of Jerusalem, and the end of the Jewish age — language that was used in the days of the prophets to announce God’s ancient judgements upon the nations.

The sign of the Son of Man (appearing in the sky) can be understood as a pronouncement of coming judgement even as the Star of Bethlehem was a sign, or announcement of our Savior’s birth. Josephus recorded that there was a similar star (or comet) that brightly hung like a sword over the Holy City during the days of its siege and desolation.

They will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds parallels a vision seen by Daniel — a vision which symbolized the majesty and authority of Messiah:

I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).

The language in Matthew suggests the authority of Christ to execute the vengeance of God upon the city of Jerusalem — the city which killed the prophets and the Mashiach (1 Thessalonians 2:14-15) — a judgement that was delivered by His mighty hand in AD 70.

The gathering of the elect with the sound of a great trumpet is similar to this passage in Isaiah:.

It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD in the holy mountain at Jerusalem (Isaiah 27:13).

Our Lord is describing the gathering of the surviving Jewish remnant, and elect Gentiles, in a call to worship — not at the holy mountain, which has been left desolate, but in the temple of the Holy Spirit which is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19). Relevant here are the words of Jesus to the woman at the well:

Jesus said to her, Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father (John 4:21).

In the parable of the fig tree, Jesus proclaimed that His prophetic message would be fulfilled in that generation (Matthew 24:34thus precluding a dispensational gap of twenty-plus centuries, or more.

Examine the scriptures (Acts 17:11). If the exegesis of this writer seems agreeable then may it be so confirmed by your own diligent study (2 Timothy 2:15). There are always three sides of interpretation: your side, my side and God’s side. I’m sure the LORD will straighten us out when we get to heaven. If you believe in a pre-tribulation rapture — I don’t — we can still be brothers in Christ. And if the Lord does come early I’ll be ready with my bags packed. I hope you won’t mind the aisle seat ’cause I’ll be sittin’ by the window — shining in the light of His glory.

Is Satan Bound?

Dispensationalists teach that Satan will be bound during a future Millennium — which I believe is the fullness of time between the two advents of Christ:

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.  And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time (Revelation 20:1-3).

When Jesus sent out the seventy to preach the kingdom of God, cast out demons and heal the sick — upon their return He said to them, I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning (Luke 10:18).

When the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the ruler of demons (Matthew 9:34Matthew12:24), Jesus responded by saying:

Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house (Matthew 12:25-29). [2]

Jesus Christ has bound the strong man. Let him who has ears understand.

Peter said that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), but he is restrained from deceiving the nations. He cannot stop the advance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Word of God — through the power of the Holy Spirit — is pushing back the boundaries of darkness by illuminating the souls of men with light and truth. Yes, the devil is still an accuser and tempter, but his power over the nations has been muted. He cannot, at this time, summon the nations in a final war against God’s holy people — not until he is released for a little season.

These interpretations are not well-received by those who like to have their ears tickled with sensational doctrines, but they are historical teachings faithful to the understanding of the early church fathers who humbly permitted scripture to interpret scripture. May we be as wise — and humble.

Notes:

1. The Works of Flavius Josephus, War of the Jews, William Whiston, Translator [1737]

2. See also Hebrews 2:14 (Jesus rendered powerless him who had the power over death, that is, the devil.)

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Dispense the Truth

(Revised 08-25-14, 11:15 am)

In the comment board of Who is Israel?, I posted a supplemental thought which sort of morphed into this article detailing the problematic theology of  Dispensationalism. Those comments — with additional notes — are reprinted here:

A well-known Bible teacher made a comment on his widely listened to radio program that the Olivet Discourse — more specifically, Matthew 24 — has not been fulfilled. I listen to this man every day, and will continue to do so, but his comment raised my eyebrows. This beloved and highly regarded pastor graduated from the Dallas Theological Seminary (est. 1924) which teaches a dispensational brand of Christianity innovated by John Nelson Darby (ca. 1800 – 1882), and codified by the Scofield reference Bible (published 1909; revised 1917).

There are dispensational pastors who adhere to the essentials of Christian doctrine even while Darby’s tenets have been inculcated into the general assembly, and become common thought. Essentially, the “church age” is nothing but a parenthesis in God’s plan of salvation. When Israel rejected Christ, the church became God’s “Plan B”. To suppose that God did not foresee Israel’s rejection and, thus, had to alter His original covenant is at least suspect. It is popularly taught that when the fullness of the Gentiles is made complete, God will rapture the church and resume His dealings with Israel — a two-stage redemption (Romans 11:25-26).

No, I believe that God’s plan is unfolding according to Scripture. Certainly, the early church fathers did not subscribe to Darby’s interpretation. And to suggest that Matthew 24 is not yet fulfilled — at least in part, though I believe Christ foretold events that unfolded in that generation (Matthew 24:34) — is a glaring example of hyper-dispensationalism which adopts a futurist view of prophesy.

If the Book of Revelation, for example, is not understood within the context of the whole Bible one can interpret that the church will be removed, God will deal with Israel during a Millennial reign and there will be multiple comings of Christ. The radio pastor said he can see 3 or 4 comings of Christ. Several times in John’s gospel, however, Christ said He will return on the last day (John 6:40). He doesn’t come to rapture the church, then to establish His kingdom, then to reign for 1000 years, and so on. The Second Advent of Christ will bring judgement to both the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1). Few will be raised to eternal life (in the new heaven and earth), while many are condemned to everlasting punishment.

That the humble (God’s people) will inherit the earth was understood, even by the Jews during the time of Christ, as an inheritance of the land of Canaan. The Messiah would restore God’s kingdom at His coming. The disciples, not understanding, asked Jesus after His resurrection if He was going to establish the kingdom at that time (Acts 1:6). They still didn’t perceive that His kingdom was not of this realm (John 18:36).

The church fathers understood that the land of Canaan was a type of heaven — that Christ’s blessings were spiritual, not carnal. Paul spiritualized Old Testament promises when he said that not all who are descended from Israel are Israel (Romans 9:6). Under the New Covenant, Israel is not a geographic place, but a body of believers — both Jew and Gentile (in Christ) — who will inherit not the type (Canaan), but a regenerated, incorruptible earth.

While true Israel is anticipating the Second Coming, and looking forward to setting up residence in the New Jerusalem, our dispensational brothers are gazing at blood moons and expecting the restoration of Solomon’s Temple with all of its ceremony, rituals and animal sacrifices. Ephraimites hold to this doctrine. That is why this blog is not called by its original title, Ephraim’s Gate, because Christ is the unique focus of the Bible, not Israel.

At its core, Darby’s interpretation — not maliciously, I think — denies the power of the Gospel to save men’s souls as evidenced by the example of a well-known pastor in San Antonio who unashamedly preaches the dispensational slant that God has two plans of salvation — one for the Jews and another for the Gentiles.

Christ died for all people, or His sacrifice upon the cross was in vain.

Darbyism, Millerism, Mormonism, Adventism and the Witnessess all took seed in the 19th century — an age when the “church” was going through an identity crisis having become impatient waiting on the imminent return of Messiah. These doctrines — heresies to some extent — have sown confusion and dissension into the body of Christ.

The understanding of the church fathers — to which I subscribe — is profaned as Covenant, or Replacement theology. I have not replaced anyone, but I am fulfilled (as any believing Jew or Gentile) in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle Paul, in a letter to the assembly at Corinth, wrote that he decided to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul warned Timothy about those who teach strange doctrines that give way to speculation; and he exhorted the Romans to beware contrary teaching that sows division (1 Timothy 1:3, Romans 16:17). All of the Bible must be interpreted within the context of Jesus Christ — the revelation and fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption — notwithstanding the doctrines of men.

[Editor’s Note: Dispensationalism teaches that Daniel 9:27 is a prophesy of the future Antichrist making a covenant with Israel, breaking his promise and leaving the temple desolate. However, the church fathers (Clement, Origen, Tertullian, Augustine, Julius and Eusebius) adopted a Messianic interpretation of Daniel 9 — concluding that the prophesy was fulfilled in the first century. Interestingly, the Jews also held to this view until the temple was made desolate by the Romans in AD 70. Will the temple have to be rebuilt only to be left desolate once again? Read the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:38and as you study these passages in Daniel remember that Messiah is the subject, context and antecedent of this very difficult chapter. Ask yourself, who was the (anointed) Holy One that made an end to sin, finished the transgression, ushered in everlasting righteousness, and was made reconciliation for iniquity? The toughest question may be, who caused the sacrifices to cease? May the Holy Spirit give you wisdom to understand. See our post, 70 Weeks of Daniel.]

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The Preemie Gospel

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:20-21).

It is essential to one’s understanding of the Bible that you read, study and inquire of the Holy Spirit concerning the meaning of God’s Word. Study Bibles can be an effective tool if you are diligently aware that the author has inserted his theological bias into the margin notes and commentary.

We must allow for scripture to interpret scripture. A good example would be the Fifth Commandment which declares that we honor our mother and father (Exodus 20:12). But how do we interpret this command in light of the teaching of our Lord that we must hate our father and mother in order to follow Him? [Luke 14:26]

Beware of those who build a theology upon a false interpretation, or take a verse out of context in order to establish a dogmatic creed that may not be sound doctrine.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

The formerly imprisoned, disgraced pastor of a world-wide evangelical ministry appears daily on Christian television preaching a gospel of the Revelation. He predicts apocalyptic doom and gloom based on his 4-year prison study of the Book of Revelation. According to this pastor the Great Tribulation is about to befall both Christian and heathen. Yes, he believes that Christians will have to endure the pre-millennial judgement of God; and will not be raptured from the time of trouble that is near. But let not your hearts be troubled nor be afraid because this same pastor will sell you a host of survival equipment and food stores that should at least comfort you when the seven bowls of God’s wrath are poured out upon the world (Revelation 16:1-21).

In the mid-19th century some within the church became impatient waiting for the Lord’s imminent return. There was an explosion of End Times prophetic teachers who introduced variant gospel interpretations which suggested that Messiah would return by a certain date, or had already come in a spiritual sense. These doctrinal revisions which denied scripture (Matthew 24:36) became the creed of what are considered today to be fringe denominational, or cult assemblies disaffiliated from the mainstream body of Christ.

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).

Commonly taught within the general assembly is the Dispensational slant introduced by John Nelson Darby in 1830. Proponents of this interpretation insist that it was taught by the Apostle Paul:

That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him (Ephesians 1:10 KJV).

However, both the Greek (oikonomian) and Hebrew (pekudat) meaning of the word dispensation literally suggests stewardship or administration and not — as Dispensational preachers teach — an age or epoch. This popular eschatology was codified by the Scofield Reference Bible which became the authoritative source at evangelical seminaries and pastoral colleges in the 20th century.

Many contemporary pastors feed their flocks a pre-millennial brand of dispensation that is heavily weighted on the Book of Revelation. Rather than compare scripture with scripture they teach the Bible from the headlines of the daily newspaper. The Gospel of Jesus Christ becomes almost secondary, and the Revelation is non-relevant to the seven churches in Asia to whom it was written — we believe prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. (See our post, Has God Forsaken Us?)

Revelation was not even accepted until 100 years after the other Biblical books had been canonized. Four hundred years after the crucifixion of Jesus the church still had doubts as to the authorship and authenticity of the last book of the Bible. Dionysius of Alexandria [Bishop of Alexandria in Egypt; died ca. 264 AD] claimed that the Apocalypse was not written by John the Apostle — author of the Gospel of John — but by one of a number of other men called John who wrote a slew of apocryphal books:

Some before us have set aside and rejected the book altogether, criticizing it chapter by chapter, and pronouncing it without sense or argument, and maintaining that the title is fraudulent. For they say that it is not the work of John, nor is it a revelation, because it is covered thickly and densely by a veil of obscurity. And they affirm that none of the apostles, rend none of the saints, nor any one in the Church is its author, but that Cerinthus, who founded the sect which was called after him the Cerinthian, desiring reputable authority for his fiction, prefixed the name. 

For the doctrine which he taught was this: that the kingdom of Christ will be an earthly one. And as he was himself devoted to the pleasures of the body and altogether sensual in his nature, he dreamed that that kingdom would consist in those things which he desired, namely, in the delights of the belly and of sexual passion; that is to say, in eating and drinking and marrying, and in festivals and sacrifices and the slaying of victims, under the guise of which he thought he could indulge his appetites with a better grace. 

But I could not venture to reject the book, as many brethren hold it in high esteem. But I suppose that it is beyond my comprehension, and that there is a certain concealed and more wonderful meaning in every part. For if I do not understand I suspect that a deeper sense lies beneath the words. I do not measure and judge them by my own reason, but leaving the more to faith regard them as too high for me to grasp. And I do not reject what I cannot comprehend, but rather wonder because I do not understand it.

Having finished all the prophecy, so to speak, the prophet pronounces those blessed who shall observe it, and also himself. For he says, ‘Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book, and I, John, who saw and heard these things’ (Rev 22:7-8). Therefore that he was called John, and that this book is the work of one John, I do not deny. And I agree also that it is the work of a holy and inspired man. But I cannot readily admit that he was the apostle, the son of Zebedee, the brother of James, by whom the Gospel of John and the Catholic Epistle were written. For I judge from the character of both, and the forms of expression, and the entire execution of the book, that it is not his. For the evangelist nowhere gives his name, or proclaims himself, either in the Gospel or Epistle.

[Editor’s Note: Quotations from ancient text were sourced from the writings of early church historian, Eusebius; ca. 260/265 – 339/340 AD, in his volume titled Ecclesiastical History.]

One of the most challenging problems with Revelation is the style in which it was written — a composition of Greek that was poorly structured and in some ways illiterate. Conversely, the Gospel of John — and the epistles bearing his name — were written with a masterful command of Greek language and syntax. It is possible that a ghost writer fluent in Hebrew wrote down the vision as was seen by John.

Papias [Bishop of Hierapolisca; ca. 60 –130 AD] noted that there were two persons named John known to the churches in Asia — John the Apostle and John the presbyter. Indeed, at Ephesus there were two monuments found bearing the names of these two men. It was surmised by a few that the presbyter was the author of Revelation.

The most convincing evidence to authenticate Revelation is that the Apostle wrote that he saw the vision while on the isle of Patmos  (Revelation 1:9). Church tradition says that John was exiled to the island (which lies near the port city of Ephesus) by Domitian — if you believe the book was written in 95 AD, or Nero Domitius — if you believe that John saw his vision prior to the apocalyptic destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

End is Near preachers quite often assume a late-date authorship of the Revelation, and have distressed the body of Christ for 2000 years with false teaching, false prophecy and a false gospel message. Throughout the Bible faithful stewards are warned to beware the false prophets (Matthew 7:15).

Consider this: Israel rejected the Messiah because they were expecting Jesus to restore the earthly, Davidic kingdom; but our Lord said that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). After His resurrection the disciples were still asking Jesus if He would restore the kingdom at that time (Acts 1:6).

WHY, THEN, DO PRE-MILLENNIAL DISPENSATIONALISTS BELIEVE IN A SEVEN YEAR GREAT TRIBULATION FOLLOWED BY A THOUSAND YEAR REIGN OF CHRIST UPON THE EARTH?

When questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God would come Jesus replied that the kingdom was not coming with observable signs (Luke 17:20). Yet, those who teach the preemie gospel wake up every morning checking the newspaper headlines for rumors of war, earthquakes, famine, political and financial uncertainty — all harbingers of the End Times scenario.

What did Christ say?

You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end (Matthew 24:6).

But that is not yet the end. How embarrassing for the author who wrote 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.

Recall that there were some in the church who thought Cerinthus to be the author of Revelation. The Cerinthians were a sect who believed in the literal restoration of the Davidic kingdom ruled over by the Mashiach, or Messiah. What did John the Apostle think of Cerinthus?

Irenaeus [Bishop of Lyon in Southern France; ca. 130 – 200 AD] recorded the following incident:

And there are those that heard from Polycarp that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe in Ephesus and seeing Cerinthus within, ran out of the bath-house without bathing, crying, ‘Let us flee, lest even the bath fall, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.’ 

Integral to the dispensational interpretation of Revelation is the restoration of an earthly kingdom. But we also have problems with its doctrine of two resurrections, and multiple second comings. The preemie gospel teaches that Christ will return to rapture the church, return again to establish an earthly kingdom and return yet a third time to execute His final judgement upon the world. The first resurrection occurs before the thousand year reign when Jesus returns to raise the martyred saints (Revelation 20:4-6). Messiah will return the second time to establish an earthly kingdom that He reigns over with the resurrected saints. Question: If the resurrected saints are reigning with Christ then whom are they reigning over? Certainly not the church if you believe in the Rapture. All that will be left are sinners and unbelieving Jews who will go into the Millennium having survived the time of Jacob’s distress (Jeremiah 30:7) which we believe was fulfilled during the Babylonian exile. Presumably, Israel will have one last chance to accept Jesus as Messiah during the Millennial age. Not inconsequential is the fact that the second resurrection occurs at the end of Messiah’s thousand year reign at which time the wicked will be raised to face final judgement (Revelation 20:11-15) .

What did our Lord say about these things?

This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day (John 6:39). 

For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day (John 6:40). 

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:44).

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:54). 

He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day (John 12:48). 

Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29).

John the Apostle (to whom our Lord revealed the vision of the apocalypse) is quite clear in his gospel that there is a last day when all who are in the grave (both sinners and saints) will be resurrected either to life or judgement. There is no thousand year separation between these two events. Of the resurrection Daniel wrote: And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2). The Book of Revelation is an apocalyptic vision that is revealed in symbolism and troubling imagery much like the Book of Daniel. It needs to be interpreted with that in mind, and in harmony with the rest of scripture. [Cross reference: Paul’s confirmation of the resurrection in Acts 24:15, and Martha’s appeal to Jesus regarding her dead brother Lazarus in John 11:24.]

Those who adhere to the preemie gospel throw stones at our eschatology. Well known preachers say that we are heretics, ignorant, lazy and worse — anti-semitic. Our best defense, of course, is the Bible and the fact that Augustine (ca. 354 – 430 AD) subscribed to our interpretation as did other church fathers including Polycarp (ca. 69 – 155 AD), an associate of John the Apostle, and Origen (ca. 182 – 254 AD).

Roman Catholics, the autonomous churches of Christ, Lutherans, Methodists and reformed denominations still adhere to Augustinian thought which was widely held by the Medieval church and ratified by Protestant reformers in the 16th and 17th centuries as outlined by the Augsburg Confession and Second Helvetic Confession. Chialism, or pre-millennialism with its focus on an earthly kingdom was considered unscriptural and carnal.

Sadly, the stone that was a stumbling block for Jews 2000 years ago continues to be a roadblock for many Christians today.

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