6/24/20

"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Difficult Way To Life (7:14) by Mark Copeland


"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

The Difficult Way To Life (7:14)

INTRODUCTION

1. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus spoke of two ways...
   a. The way to destruction - Mt 7:13
   b. The way to life - Mt 7:14

2. In describing these two ways, He pointed out the contrasts...
   a. The way to destruction is broad, and many chose to follow it - Mt 7:13
   b. The way to life is difficult, and there are few who find it - Mt 7:14

[If we desired to be saved, to experience eternal life, there will be
hardship along the way.  As we use this lesson to contemplate "The
Difficult Way To Life", we note first that...]

I. WE SHOULD NOT BE SURPRISED

   A. WE HAVE BEEN WARNED...
      1. By Jesus in our text and elsewhere - Mt 7:14; Jn 15:18-20;16:33
      2  By Paul to his fellow disciples - Ac 14:22; 2Ti 3:12
      3  By Peter in his epistle - 1Pe 4:12
      -- Jesus and His apostles have given full disclosure that the way
         to life is difficult

   B. WE HAVE MANY ENEMIES...
      1. Satan himself, who seeks to devour - 1Pe 5:8-9
      2. People who think us 'strange', who may ridicule and ostracize
         us - 1Pe 4:3-4
      3. The lust of the flesh, with its bad habits - 1Pe 2:11
      -- Without and within, there are forces at work making the way to
         life difficult

[Forewarned, what should our attitude be?  Though the way to life is difficult...]

II. WE SHOULD NOT BE RESENTFUL

   A. WE ARE TOLD TO REJOICE...
      1. By Jesus in His sermons - Mt 5:10-12; Lk 6:22-23
      2. By James in his epistle - Jm 1:2
      3. As did the apostles, when persecuted - Ac 5:41
      -- Jesus and His apostles say that we should rejoice.  Why?

   B. BECAUSE IT MAKES US STRONGER...
      1. Which is why Paul gloried in his tribulations - Ro 5:3-4; 2 Co 12:10
      2. Which is why James told us to rejoice in our trials - Jm 1:2-4
      3. "In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work
         on us." - Rainer Maria Rilke
      -- Can we begin to see why God would allow the way to life to be
         so difficult?

[So rejoice, not resent, when trials and tribulations befall us on the
way to life.  What may appear to be stumbling blocks may in fact be
stepping stones to victory.  Especially as we consider why...]

III. WE SHOULD NOT BE DEFEATED

   A. WE HAVE GOD ON OUR SIDE...
      1. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to endure
         - 1Co 10:13a
      2. He will provide a way of escape, enabling us to endure - 1Co 10:13b
      3. This includes strength to stand strong
         a. His Spirit to empower the inner man - Ep 3:16; cf. Ro 15:13
         b. His armor to protect, and fight the good fight - Ep 6:10-13
      -- Through God's providence and provision, we have the ability to
         be victorious!

   B. WE HAVE JESUS TO INSPIRE US...
      1. He provided an example of suffering, for us to follow - 1 Pe 2:21
      2. We should look to Him, as we seek to endure - He 12:1-4
      3. Even as Stephen did, emulating His forgiving spirit - Ac 7:54-60; cf. Lk 23:34
      -- Through Jesus' example, we have the inspiration and motivation
         to succeed!

CONCLUSION

1. This is not to say we will never misstep along the way to life...
   a. As Christians we sin - 1Jn 1:8,10
   b. When we stumble, we have mercy and forgiveness - 1Jn 1:7,9

2. So as we travel on the way to life, finding it at times to be difficult...
   a. Let's not be surprised
   b. Let's not be resentful
   c. Let's not be defeated

But as the writer to the Hebrews penned in his epistle...

   "Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble
   knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is
   lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed."

   "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no
   one will see the Lord:"

   "Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God;
   lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by
   this many become defiled;"
                                                   - Heb 12:12-15

And as Paul confessed in his epistle...

  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." - Php 4:13

Note:  The idea and main points for this study came from a daily
devotional written my cousin and brother in the Lord, Gary Henry.  Visit
his website at WordPoints.com to find lots of good material!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

eXTReMe Tracker

Lessons Learned from the Practice of Law: Interpretative Aids by Kevin Cain, J.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=10

Lessons Learned from the Practice of Law: Interpretative Aids

by  Kevin Cain, J.D.

When interpreting a statute, courts adhere to general canons of construction to aid in the proper interpretation of that statute. The first and most important rule of statutory interpretation is that the resolution of a dispute over the meaning of a statute begins with the language of the statute itself (United States v. Ron Pair Enterprises, Inc., 1989). In other words, the cardinal rule of statutory construction is “that a legislature says in a statute what it means and means in a statute what it says there” (Connecticut National Bank v. Germain, 1992). As such, “[i]f statutory language is plain, permitting only one construction, there is no occasion to seek out congressional intent by reference to legislative history or other extrinsic aids” (Lapine v. Town of Wellesley, 2002). However, if the statute’s language is not plain, courts may rely on the legislative history of the statute to help interpret that statute (United States v. Fields, 2007). Legislative history is comprised of the comments and statements of senators and congressmen made while a bill is being debated.

Occasionally, a judge will cite a statement made by a legislator to help explain or support a particular interpretation of some statute. For example, when trying to determine the exact meaning of a less-than-clear statute, the judge may look to a record of statements made by various legislators while the bill is being discussed and ultimately passed into law. These statements may help clarify the meaning or purpose of a particular law.

Not all scholars think that legislative history is a proper tool in determining the interpretation of a statute. One of the most outspoken scholars on this subject is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He has clearly identified himself as one who does not favor the use of legislative history when interpreting a statute. In one of his more colorful explanations of this view, Justice Scalia recalled the statement of Judge Harold Leventhal who once compared arguments from legislative history to “entering a crowded cocktail party and looking over the heads of the guests for one’s friends” (Conroy v. Aniskoff, 1993). The point being, everyone can find a friend in that setting. Likewise, everyone can research and find some remote statement made by a legislator that supports his subjective interpretation of a statute. Accordingly, many scholars and judges believe that there may very well be a good reason why such language was left on the legislative floor and never made its way into the statute itself. Simply put, if it is not in the statute, it should not resolve the meaning of a statute. Accordingly, the law says what it means and it means what it says.

The same comparison can be made with God’s holy Word. We have many extrinsic aids: books, commentaries, research tools, historical statements, church fathers, and scholarly interpretations of God’s Word. These can be both a blessing and a curse, depending upon how we use them. However, we often turn to these aids not because we cannot understand what God has revealed through His Word. Rather, we often turn to these extra-biblical sources because we are either (1) lacking in diligence to study the Bible for ourselves, or because (2) our judgment is clouded by our preconceived ideas about what we think that passage should mean.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed this problem. During the lifetime of Jesus, just like today, people were prone to listen to scholars, religious leaders, and other sources outside the Bible, and consider them just as important and binding as God’s word. Jesus says no less than six times in that sermon, “You have heard that it was said...” (Matthew 5:21,27,31,33,38,43). Jesus is contrasting the true word of God with what the people have heard their religious leaders teach over the years (see Lyons, 2009). Scholars and religious leaders may teach one thing, but of infinitely greater importance is the pure and simple Word of God. When Jesus continues in the Sermon on the Mount and says, “but I say to you,” he is turning our attention from scholars, commentators, and “legislative history,” and is directing our minds and hearts toward the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I have heard the phrase before that the Bible is its own best interpreter (Miller, 2003). In other words, when we come to a passage that we do not clearly understand, rather than turning to non-inspired sources to help us understand the Bible, we should be turning to other passages in the Bible to help us understand more clearly.

For example, we can literally see the Bible interpreting itself through a literary style called Hebrew parallelism. This beautiful style of writing involves the repetition of a thought, but expressed in different terms. The author makes a point, and then emphasizes that point by repeating it, but in different language that adds further depth, meaning, and application to the first phrase. For example, Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Then, that same verse goes on to repeat itself in Hebrew parallelism when it declares, “And the firmament shows His handiwork.” How do the heavens declare the glory of God? They demonstrate the fine work of God’s own hands. The last half of this verse helps us interpret the first half. A little later in this same psalm, the psalmist writes, “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart” (Psalm 19:8). That same verse then interprets itself when it states, “The commandments of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes” (Psalm 19:8). These two phrases are not distinct and unrelated. This is parallelism; the Bible interpreting itself through thoughtful reiteration.

An understanding of the “whole counsel of God” will cause us to dig deeper into the Scriptures and less into what others have to say about the Bible. When Paul addressed the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20, Paul declared that he had not hesitated to declare unto them the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). No doubt, a person familiar with the whole counsel of God will spend more time in the Bible and less time studying other sources. But how do we become a person who is more inclined to turn to the Word of God rather than the words of men?

Paul gave some excellent advice to the young preacher Timothy describing the nature of how we become more familiar with the Bible, so that we can preach the “whole counsel of God.” Paul wrote, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV). Other translations replace the word “study” with “be diligent” (NASB, NKJV), “make every effort” (NCV), and “do your best” (NIV, ESV). All these translations are accurate. Study is designed to be hard, arduous work by its very nature. To study God’s Word in such a way that we can rightly divide the word of truth, we must make great effort and work hard at familiarizing ourselves with the Word of God.  Certainly devotional reading for the pure pleasure of God’s Word has its place, but we must also roll up our sleeves, work hard, and apply ourselves to the diligent study of God’s Word so we can answer those who question us about our faith and our hope (1 Peter 3:15).

We must be people of the Book—people who are drawn to and guided more and more by the word of God, and less and less by what others say about the Word of God. Commentaries, treatise, scholarly writings, and other uninspired works can be useful and have their place in a Christian’s life. But this “legislative history” can only be helpful after we have plumed the depths in ardent study of the way, the truth, and the life—God’s holy Word (John 1:1, 14: 14:6).  You have heard that it was said, “I read a good book recently.” But I say unto you, “Read the good book.”

REFERENCES

Connecticut National Bank v. Germain, 503 U.S. 249, 253-54 (1992).

Conroy v. Aniskoff, 507 U.S. 511, 519 (1993) (Scalia, J., concurring).

Lapine v. Town of Wellesley, 304 F.3d 90, 96 (1st Cir. 2002).

Lyons, Eric (2009), “This Is the Law and the Prophets,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=526.

Miller, Dave (2003), “The Bible Is Its Own Best Interpreter,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1242.

United States v. Fields, 500 F.3d 1327, 1330 (11th Cir. 2007).

United States v. Ron Pair Enterprises, Inc., 489 U.S. 235, 242 (1989).

Left Behind—or Left Bedazzled? (Part II) by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=5061

Left Behind—or Left Bedazzled? (Part II)

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

An examination of Dispensational premillennialism (Part II)

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the November issue. Part II follows below and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended.]

Revelation 13

A second passage that is used to support the notion of an “Antichrist” is Revelation 13:1-10. Several points regarding the context of the book of Revelation and its proper interpretation lead to the understanding that the seven-headed sea beast was a symbol for the then monstrous emperor of Rome who was responsible for unleashing horrible atrocities upon Christians of Asia Minor in the latter years of the first century A.D. (Summers, 1951, pp. 173-178). The two-horned land beast (Revelation 13:11-18), who enforced worship of the sea beast, refers to the official governmental organization known as the Roman Concilia that was responsible for supporting and regulating all details relative to emperor worship (Summers, pp. 178-179; Swete, 1911, pp. xci-xciii,168ff.). This evil legal entity was authorized to instigate economic sanctions against those who refused to appropriate the “mark” of the beast, “mark” being a symbol for the tokens of proof of their submission to Caesar worship (vs. 17). With this understanding of Revelation 13, it is unscriptural and unbiblical to identify the sea beast in Revelation 13 with some revived Roman dictator or “future fuehrer” (Lindsey, 1970, pp. 87ff.) known as the “Antichrist.”

2 Thessalonians 2

A third passage used to foster belief in an “Antichrist” is 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Whatever interpretation is placed upon this passage, its use to refer to a future personage is doomed to failure since Paul explicitly stated that he was referring to a person who would be the product of the circumstances of his own day, i.e., “already at work” (vs. 7). How could Paul have had in mind a future dictator that still has not arisen, though 2,000 years have transpired? One need go no further to know that 2 Thessalonians 2 does not refer to a future Antichrist.

History is replete with a variety of interpretations of this passage, the most prominent one likely being the view that the papacy is under consideration (see Workman, 1988, pp. 428-434; Eadie, 1877, pp. 340ff.). Another possibility is that the “falling away” (vs. 3), or apostasy, referred to the Jewish rejection of the “new and living way” of approach to God (Hebrews 10:20). The Jews were the single most adamant opponents to Christ and the infant church (John 8:37-44; Acts 7:51-53; 13:45-50; Romans 10:20-21; 11:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). This rebellion, or falling away, would not reach its “full” (Matthew 23:32) climax until the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and the resulting dispersal of the Jewish people. Paul had already alluded to this Jewish apostasy in 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16. The pouring out of God’s wrath was the logical consequence of the first-century Israelite failure to make the transition to Christianity.

According to this viewpoint, the “man of sin” or “son of perdition” (vs. 3) would have referred to the personification of Roman imperialism, and would have been equated with “the abomination of desolation” that Jesus, quoting Daniel 9, alluded to in Matthew 24:15 and Luke 21:20. Verse 4 would refer to the Roman general who introduced his idolatrous insignia into the Holy of Holies in A.D. 70 (cf. Swete, p. xci).

That which was “withholding” (vs. 6), or restraining, this man of sin, at the time Paul was writing 2 Thessalonians in approximately A.D. 53, would have been the presence of the Jewish state. The ingenious design of God was that Christianity would appear to the hostile Roman government to be nothing more than another sect of the Jews. Thus Christianity was shielded for the moment (i.e., A.D. 30-70) from the fury of the persecuting forces of Rome, while it developed, spread, and gave the Jews ample opportunity to be incorporated into the elect remnant—the church of Christ (cf. Romans 11:26). Thus the nation of Israel was rendered totally without excuse in its rejection of Christianity, while at the same time serving as a restraining force by preventing Christianity from being perceived by the Romans as a separate, and therefore illegal, religion (religio illicita). Once the Jewish apostasy was complete, and God’s wrath was poured out upon Jerusalem, Christianity came to be seen as a distinct religion from Judaism. Increasingly, Christians found themselves brought into conflict with the persecution from “the wicked” or “lawless one” (vs. 8). In fact, after A.D. 70 (when the withholding effect of Judaism was removed), Roman opposition to Christianity gradually grew greater, culminating in the fierce and formidable persecution imposed by Caesar Domitian in the final decade of the first century.

Once the shield of Judaism was removed (vs. 7), and Christianity increasingly found itself subject to the indignities of governmental disfavor, the Lord was to come and “consume with the spirit of His mouth” the one responsible. This terminology is not an allusion to Christ’s second coming. Rather, this verse refers to Christ’s coming in judgment on the Roman power. Such a use of the word “coming” to describe the display of God’s wrath upon people in history is not unusual (cf. Isaiah 19:1; Micah 1:3). Paul alluded to the government’s use of counterfeit miracles (vs. 9), and thus deceit (vs. 10), that is reminiscent of the Concilia’s employment of tricks and illusions to deceive people into worshipping the emperor (Revelation 13:13-15) during the last decade of the first century A.D. (Summers, p. 178; Swete, pp. 170-172).

Summary

When studied in context, these passages render the notion of an “Antichrist” and the entire dispensational scheme without scriptural support. Those in bygone days who applied these passages to Nero,  Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, etc. have been proven wrong. Yet the pattern continues unabated among those who have not learned from the sad mistakes of the past.

will there be an armageddon?

The next feature of the dispensational scheme insists that world history will culminate in a cataclysmic global holocaust known as “Armageddon” (followed by the “Millennium,” a 1000-year reign of Christ on Earth). They say that current events in the Middle East and elsewhere are arranging themselves in such a fashion that the second coming of Christ is imminent. Of course, this claim has been made repeatedly for many, many years—with no fulfillment forthcoming.

The term “armageddon” occurs only once in the New Testament: Revelation 16:16. In keeping with the literary genre of the book (i.e., apocalypse [“revelation”]—vs. 1), the term is unquestionably used with figurative connotations. The Holy Spirit capitalized on the meaning which this location possessed for those who would have been familiar with the Old Testament (as Asia Minor Christians would have been). In Hebrew, the term “Harmageddon” means “mountain (or hill) of Megiddo.” Was there a hill of Megiddo? Yes. In fact, Jews were only too familiar with this prominent battlefield and vicinity. Many bloody encounters stained the soil of this region. It was here that Deborah and Barak defeated the Canaanites (Judges 5:19). Gideon was victorious over the Midianites in this area (Judges 7). These positive accomplishments were etched into the Israelite consciousness. But there were other, more vivid, images evoked by Megiddo, for it also served as a place where national tragedy had occurred. Ahaziah died there after being pierced by Jehu’s arrow (2 Kings 9:27). And it was there that good King Josiah perished tragically at the hands of Pharaoh Necho (2 Kings 23:29).

With this long historical background, Megiddo came to occupy a place in the minds of believers similar to places which immediately bring to the American mind definite and strong impressions: the Alamo, Pearl Harbor, the Twin Towers, etc. This significance was then utilized by the Holy Spirit to convey to struggling, persecuted Christians of Asia Minor near the end of the first century the sure outcome of the conflict then being waged between the forces of evil (Satan and imperial Rome) and the forces of righteousness (God, Christ, and faithful saints who were enduring). These Christians were certainly in no need of assurance that some future global holocaust would occur which Christ would bring to an end 2,000+ years removed from their suffering. These Christians were in dire need of assurance that Christ would come to their aid soon. They needed encouragement to hang on, and to remain steadfast in the face of inhuman mistreatment. The symbol of armageddon provided that assurance. Christians were given the solace that the outcome of the battle would soon be realized. The enemies of God and His People would be punished, while suffering saints would soon be comforted. Thus “armageddon” is purely symbolic and in no way relates to dispensational dreams of a future world war centered in or emanating from northern Palestine.

Will there be a millennium?

Dispensationalism also insists that when Jesus returns (for a third time!) to terminate “Armageddon,” He will then usher in the “Millennium”—an alleged thousand-year reign of Christ on Earth in which He will establish a literal, physical kingdom, and rule from Jerusalem. Four contextual indicators militate against a literal 1,000 years in Revelation 20:1-6. First, the events of the book of Revelation were to “shortly take place”—an expression that occurs near the beginning as well as near the end of the book (1:1; 22:6). “Shortly” (en tachei) meant quickly, at once, without delay, soon, in a short time (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 814; Mounce, 2006, p. 1288; Hengstenberg, 1851, 1:47-49). Moffatt gave the meaning as “soon” and noted: “The keynote of the Apocalypse is the cheering assurance that upon God’s part there is no reluctance or delay; His people have not long to wait now” (n.d., 5:335, emp. added).

Other passages where the term is used, confirm that a brief length of time is intended—not merely the rapidity with which the designated events occur, as some have suggested. Regarding those disciples who cry out to God night and day for His intervention, Jesus assured: “He will avenge them speedily (en tachei)” (Luke 18:8). What comfort would be afforded if Jesus intended to convey the idea that relief may be long delayed, but when it finally did come, it would come in a quick fashion? When Peter was asleep in prison, bound with two chains between two soldiers, and an angel awoke him by striking him on the side and instructed him to “arise quickly (en tachei)!” (Acts 12:7), would Peter have understood the angel to mean that he could continue resting or sleeping for as long as he chose, just as long as when he did get ready to get up, he came up off the prison floor with a rapid motion? When Festus insisted that Paul be detained in Caesarea rather than be transferred to Jerusalem, since “he himself was going there shortly (en tachei)” (Acts 25:4), would anyone have understood him to mean that he may delay his visit to Caesarea by years? Paul even used the term in contradistinction with being “delayed” (1 Timothy 3:14-15; cf. White, n.d., 4:117). When Paul wrote to Roman Christians, informing them that “the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly (en tachei)” (16:20), did he mean “in the near future”? Or did he mean that God’s action on their behalf may not come for centuries or millennia, but nevertheless wanted them to be assured that when God finally did act, He would do so in a swift manner? Additional occurrences of the expression further underscore the meaning of “soon” (Acts 10:33; 17:15; 22:18).

A second contextual indicator within Revelation itself is the occurrence of the phrase: “for the time is near” (1:3; 22:10). Thayer said “near” (eggus) refers to “things imminent and soon to come to pass” (1901, p. 164; cf. Arndt and Gingrich, p. 213). Such a reference would necessarily pertain to the first century—not the twenty-first. Two or three thousand years would be too late for the desperate Christians of Asia Minor (see Summers, p. 99). Those who get caught up in “millennium mania” seem oblivious to the fact that the book was written to an original, immediate audience. Revelation was, in fact, written to the seven churches of Christ situated in Asia Minor (1:4). All seven are even named (1:11)! If the book was written to them, and if it was their spiritual condition that was the concern of the book, millenarians are incorrect in their contention that the book is devoted primarily, if not exclusively, to predictions of the end times. Though the Old Testament prophets predicted future events on occasion, their primary message was relevant to their immediate audience. Dispensationalists have trouble finding in Revelation a relevant message for a first-century audience. The apostle John recognized their need, and identified himself as their “companion” in the terrible tribulation they were then enduring (1:9). Not only was this tribulation going on at that time, but John further referred to himself and his readers as being in the kingdom at that time (1:9). Thus, Christ’s kingdom was already set up, in existence on Earth, and in full operating mode.

Third, there is the statement of the angel to John: “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:10). What did the angel mean? What he meant becomes apparent when one reflects upon the fact that Daniel was told to do the exact opposite of what John was told to do. After receiving a remarkable series of detailed prophecies, Daniel was told to “shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4, emp. added). Furthermore, he was instructed: “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (vs. 9, emp. added). The reason Daniel was told to seal the book was because the fulfillment of the prophecies that had been revealed to him were hundreds of years off in the future—far from his own day. The predictions, therefore, would be of no immediate value to the initial recipients of the book. The book could be closed and placed on the shelf until those who would be living at the time of their fulfillment could appreciate the relevance of its predictions. In stark contrast, John was ordered: “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book” (22:10, emp. added). Why? The text answers—“for the time is at hand”! These words can hold no other meaning than that the bulk of Revelation was fulfilled in close proximity to the time they were written—2,000 years ago.

Fourth, consider the use of the impersonal verb “must”: “things which must shortly take place” (1:1). Baptist Greek grammarian Ray Summers explained:

The verb translated “it is necessary” or “must”…indicates that a moral necessity is involved; the nature of the case is such that the things revealed here must come to pass shortly…. The things revealed here must happen shortly, or the cause will be lost…. They were in need of assurance of help in the immediate present—not in some millennium of the distant and uncertain future (p. 99, emp. in orig.).

Indeed, the downtrodden, persecuted Christians of Asia Minor needed assistance right away. The dispensational framework would rob those first-century saints of the very comfort and reassurance they so desperately needed, deserved—and received.

Fifth, note the use of the term “signified”: “And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John” (1:1, ASV, KJV). This term (seimaino), as is evident from the English translation, means “to show by signs” (Mounce, 2006, p. 1268;  Moulton and Milligan, 1930, p. 572; Vincent, 1890, 2:564; Summers, p. 99; Perschbacher, 1990, p. 369; Robertson, 1960, 6:284). The term, along with the Greek word translated “revelation” (apocalupsis), introduces the nature of this book. The book of Revelation reveals or unveils God’s message through signs or symbols. Placing a literal interpretation on the numbers, animals, objects, colors, and locations of Revelation—as dispensationalists routinely try to do—does violence to the true intent of the book. John’s Revelation declares itself to be a book of symbols, filled with figurative language, and not intended to be taken literally. In fact, as Swete observed, “much of the imagery of the Apocalypse is doubtless not symbolism, but merely designed to heighten the colouring of the great picture, and to add vividness and movement to its scenes” (p. cxxxiii). A genuine recognition of this self-declared feature of the book excludes a literal interpretation of the number 1,000.

In addition to these preliminary contextual details, chapter 20 contains specific features that assist the interpreter in pinpointing the meaning of the symbol of a “thousand year reign.” It is surely noteworthy that in the entire Bible, the only allusion to a so-called thousand-year reign is Revelation 20:4,6—a fact that is conceded even by dispensationalists (e.g., Ladd, 1972, p. 267; Mounce, 1977, pp. 356-357). Yet an entire belief system has been built upon such scanty evidence. An examination of the setting and context yields surprising results. For example, a simple reading of the immediate context reveals that the theme of Revelation 20 is not “the thousand-year reign of Christ.” Rather, it is “victory over Satan.” Each of the symbols presents concepts that, when put together, relieve the fears of oppressed Christians regarding their outcome. The key, abyss, and chain (vs. 1) are apocalyptic symbols for the effective limitation or containment of Satan in his ability to deceive the nations in the specific matter of emperor worship enforced by the government (see Swete, pp. xxxi, civ-cv). The symbol of one thousand years (vss. 2-7) is a high multiple of ten, representing ultimate completeness (see Summers, pp. 23). John’s readers thus could know that the devil was to be completely restrained from deceiving the nations into worshipping the emperor. The thousand years symbolized the extended triumph of God’s kingdom on Earth over the devil who was then operating through the persecuting powers of Rome. A thousand symbolic years of victory would lessen suffering in the minds of persecuted Christians.

“Loosing for a little season” (vs. 3) represented the revival of persecution under later emperors like Aurelius, Diocletian, and Julian the Apostate. “Thrones” (vs. 4) represented the victorious power of the oppressed. The persecuted saints were pictured on thrones judging because of the victory of their cause. “Souls” (vs. 4)—not resurrected bodies, but disembodied souls—represent those who were martyrs of the Domitianic persecution. Their refusal to “receive the mark” meant they refused to worship Caesar or to manifest those marks that would identify them as adherents of the false state religion of emperor worship. The “first resurrection” (vs. 5) referred to the triumphant resurrection of the cause for which the Christians of 20:4 had lived and died. Gog and Magog were symbolic of the enemies of God and Christ, imagery drawn from Ezekiel 38 and 39. The “beloved city” (vs. 9) is spiritual Israel, the church (John 4:20-21; Galatians 6:16).

Some allowance may be granted in the interpretation of these highly figurative symbols, without doing damage to other Bible doctrines, or reflecting adversely upon the Gospel system and the broader will of Deity. However, the 1,000 years must not be perceived as a yet-future period. There is simply no biblical support for doing so. The figure represents an important concept for those to whom it was first directed. It has meaning for people living today only in that context. There will be no 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ on Earth.

Is the kingdom yet to be established?

Dispensationalists further claim that the kingdom is yet future, and that Jesus is not reigning now, but will commence His reign in His kingdom when He returns in the future to establish it in Jerusalem. However, several passages cannot be harmonized with such a view. First, the Bible teaches that the kingdom exists now and has existed since A.D. 30. While Jesus was on Earth, He went to Galilee, “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15). He also stated that “there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1). In fact, God “has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13, emp. added). To insist that the kingdom is yet to be established is to fail to recognize that the Bible plainly declares that the kingdom already exists on Earth.

Second, the words “kingdom,” “Israel,” and “church” all refer to the same group of people—the saved, Christians, the church of Christ, spiritual Israel. Jesus predicted that He would build His “church” and give to Peter the keys of the “kingdom” (Matthew 16:18-19). Jesus did not build one institution and give to Peter the keys to a different institution that would be established on Earth 2,000+ years after Peter’s death. Paul told the Galatian Christians: “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.… And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:7,29; cf. 6:16). He told Christians in Rome: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart” (Romans 2:28-29). Spiritual Israel is the church of Christ which is the kingdom.

Third, Jesus is reigning now in heaven and has been since A.D. 30. Peter referred to this reign when he explained that Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him” (1 Peter 3:22). Daniel predicted over four centuries prior to fulfillment:

One like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed (7:13-14, emp. added).

This prophecy was fulfilled at the ascension of Christ: “while they watched, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Jesus returned to heaven where He was given rule over His kingdom.

Peter made this fact clear in his remarks on Pentecost: “God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke of the resurrection of the Christ.... This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God...” (Acts 2:30-33, emp. added). So Jesus was reigning at that moment over His kingdom. Paul expressed the same truth: “He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet” (Ephesians 1:20-22). Hence, when Jesus returns a second time, it will not be to reign on Earth. Rather, “[t]hen comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:24-25, emp. added).

Fourth, Jesus completed His work on Earth and, consequently, has no reason to return to the Earth, itself, to do any additional work. He explained to the disciples: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34, emp. added). Shortly before His departure from the Earth, He prayed to the Father: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You gave Me to do” (John 17:4, emp. added). He reiterated this fact on the cross when He declared: “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Dispensationalists say that Jesus came with the intention to be King, and to set up an earthly kingdom, but that the Jews unexpectedly rejected Him. But this claim is in direct conflict with the facts. On one occasion, after feeding thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish—a feat that would constitute a tremendous advantage should war with Rome be forthcoming—John noted that “when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to a mountain by Himself alone” (6:15, emp. added). If Jesus intended to establish a physical kingdom on Earth, that occasion would have been the perfect time to do so—with the support of the masses. So why did Jesus refuse to be made a king on Earth on a physical throne? He gave the reason to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). The dispensational claim that Jesus is coming back to be a king on Earth on a physical throne is the very thing first-century Jews tried to get Him to do—but which He refused to do—and which He denied before Pilate. Did Jesus lie to Pilate?

but what about the promises to Israel?

Many these days insist that God made clear promises in Scripture to physical Israel that are yet to be fulfilled and which absolutely must be fulfilled, and that they play a prominent and continuing role in God’s scheme of things. This contention has had a profound impact upon U.S. foreign policy and in the way people around the world—especially in the Middle East—perceive America. It is surely a shock to find that the Bible depicts no such favored status. All people stand on level ground at the foot of the cross of Christ. God is no respecter of persons and makes no distinctions between people on the basis of ethnicity (Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:11,28-29; Galatians 3:28). The promises that were made to physical Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled long ago.

For example, God announced to Abraham that He would give to his descendants (the Israelites) the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1; 15:7). This promise was fulfilled when Israel took possession of Palestine in the 15th century B.C. (Joshua 21:43-45; 2 Chronicles 9:26). What so many people today fail to recognize is that Israelite retainment of the land was contingent upon their continued obedience (Leviticus 18:24-28; Joshua 23:14-16; 1 Kings 9:3-7). But, sadly, they forfeited retention of the land due to their incessant disobedience and continual rejection of God’s guidance. The complete and final cutoff of physical Israel took place in A.D. 70—as Jesus mournfully announced: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).

Further, the reestablishment of national Israel, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple (i.e., the national promises of Deuteronomy 30 and Zechariah 12-14) were literally fulfilled in the returning remnant after the Babylonian captivity (Nehemiah 1:8-10; Isaiah 10:22; Jeremiah 23:3; Ezra 3:1-11). The establishment of the modern state of Israel in May of 1948 cannot supplant this already achieved fulfillment and has nothing to do with the original promises made to Abraham and his descendants.

Many of the Old Testament prophecies that predicted the return of the Jews after captivity were laced with predictions of the coming Christ to the Earth to bring ultimate redemption. Hence, the national promises were spiritually fulfilled in the church of Christ wherein both Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ. For example, premillennialists are fond of calling attention to the concluding prophetic remarks of Amos: “‘On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ says the Lord who does this thing” (Amos 9:11-12). They insist that the fulfillment of this prophecy is yet future. They say the Temple, which was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans (Matthew 23:37-24:35), will be rebuilt on the Temple platform in Jerusalem (a site currently occupied by the third most holy shrine of Islam—the Dome of the Rock). They say that Jesus will return, set up His millennial kingdom, and reign on a literal throne for a thousand years, incorporating the Gentiles, in addition to the nation of Israel, into His kingdom. On the face of it, this prophecy certainly possesses terminology that fits the millenarian spin placed upon it.

However, two Bible passages correct this mistaken interpretation, and settle the question as to the proper application of Amos’ prophecy. The first is the great Messianic prophecy uttered by the prophet Nathan to King David regarding David’s future lineage and royal dynasty (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Nathan declared that God would establish and sustain the Davidic dynasty. Even though he also noted that a permanent form of the Tabernacle (the one God refused to allow David to build—2 Samuel 7:1-7) would be built by David’s son (i.e., Solomon), God, Himself, would build David a house, i.e., a dynasty, a kingly lineage. It is this lineage to which Amos referred—not a physical temple building.

The second passage that clarifies Amos’ prophecy is the account of the Jerusalem “conference” (Acts 15). Following Peter’s report regarding Gentile inclusion in the kingdom, James offered the following confirmatory comment: “Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written” (Acts 15:13-15). James then quoted Amos 9:11-12. In other words, on that most auspicious occasion, James was noting two significant facts that had come to pass precisely as predicted by Amos: (1) after the downfall of the Jewish kingdom, the Davidic dynasty had been reinstated in the person of Christ—the “Son of David” (Matthew 22:42)—Who, at His ascension, had been enthroned in heaven, thereby “rebuilding the tabernacle of David that had fallen down”; and (2) with the conversion of the first Gentiles in Acts 10, as reported on this occasion by Peter, the “residue of men,” or the non-Jewish segment of humanity, was now “seeking the Lord.” [NOTE: Also, study Ezekiel 37:15-24 and see Jesus’ application to Himself in the first century (John 10:11,16).]

In light of James’ inspired application of it to the integrated church of the first century, the Amos prophecy, like all others in the Old Testament that dispensationalists wish to apply to the future, find their ultimate and final climax in the momentous advent of the Christian religion on the planet—2,000 years ago. The premillennial treatment of prophecy, in the final analysis, demeans and trivializes the significance of the Gospel, the church of Christ, and the Christian religion as the final revelation from God to mankind.

Conclusion

A careful and consistent appraisal of Bible teaching forces one to conclude that all promises made to physical Israel have either been fulfilled or forfeited through disobedience. All who wish to be acceptable to God must submit to Jesus Christ now (John 3:5; 8:24). [NOTE: Compare the use of “now” in Romans to refer to the Christian age which began at Pentecost: 3:26; 5:9,11; 8:1,18; 11:5; 13:11; 16:26.] Christians need not fear any of the political, economic, or military developments of today or tomorrow. God has given us simple instructions on how to become a Christian, how to live the Christian life, and the need to urge others to do the same. God deals with all human beings today on the same basis and on the same grounds—obedience to Christ’s will. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The sensationalism and hysteria associated with the ongoing attempt to apply long since fulfilled Bible prophecy to the current events of today is seductive. But it only serves the purpose of diverting people’s attention away from their daily responsibility to live obediently and faithfully now.

The Bible portrait of the end times is much simpler and succinct. The Bible teaches that at some point in the future, unknown even to the angels (Matthew 24:36), Jesus will return in flaming fire (2 Thessalonians 1:8). He will hover among the clouds without ever setting foot on the Earth (Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:17). At that point, all who are in the graves will be resurrected (Luke 14:14; John 5:28-29) and changed (1 Corinthians 15:52-53). The righteous will rise to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Then all people who have ever lived, both good and evil, will stand in judgment before God (Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-13; 2 Corinthians 5:10). The wicked will be consigned to hell, while the righteous will be welcomed into heaven (Romans 2:5-10).

When one is willing to remove from his mind all preconceived and complex theological concoctions, and simply let the Bible paint its own picture of the end of time and the second coming of Christ, the dispensational viewpoint is seen to be convoluted, concocted, and unfounded. There will be no “Rapture.” There will be no “Antichrist.” There will be no “Great Tribulation.” There will be no “Armageddon” or “Millennium” on Earth.

REFERENCES

Arndt, William and F.W. Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).

Eadie, John (1877), Commentary on the Epistles to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979 reprint).

Hengstenberg, E.W. (1851), The Revelation of St. John, trans. Patrick Fairbairn (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark).

Ladd, George E. (1972), A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Lindsey, Hal (1970), The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

Moffatt, James (no date), The Revelation of St. John the Divine in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ed. Nicoll, W. Robertson  (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Moulton, James and George Milligan (1930), The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 1982 reprint.

Mounce, Robert (1977), The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Mounce, Robert (2006), Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

Perschbacher, Wesley (1990), The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).

Robertson, A.T. (1960), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman).

Summers, Ray (1951), Worthy Is the Lamb (Nashville, TN: Broadman).

Swete, Henry (1911), Commentary on Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1977 reprint).

Thayer, Joseph H. (1901), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977 reprint).

Vincent, M.R. (1890), Word Studies in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946 reprint).

White, Newport (no date), The First and Second Epistles to Timothy in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Workman, Gary (1988), Studies in 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Philemon (Denton, TX: Valid Publications).

Additional Works Consulted

Bales, J.D. (1972), Prophecy and Premillennialism (Searcy, AR: James Bales).

Barclay, William (1960), The Revelation of John (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster).

Hailey, Homer (1979), Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Harper, E.R. (no date), Prophecy Foretold Prophecy Fulfilled (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).

Jackson, Wayne (no date), Premillenialism: A System of Infidelity (Stockton, CA: Christian Courier).

Turner, Rex (1979), The Premillennialists’ Abuse of the Prophecies of Daniel (Memphis, TN: Getwell church of Christ).

Winkler, Wendell, ed. (1978), “Premillennialism, True or False?” (Fort Worth, TX: Winkler Publications).

Left Behind—or Left Bedazzled? (Part I) by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=5051

Left Behind—or Left Bedazzled? (Part I)

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

[EDITORS’ NOTE: This article is the first installment in a two-part examination of Dispensational Premillennialism. Part II can be found in the December issue.]

The American Heritage Dictionary defines bedazzled: “To dazzle so completely as to make blind” (2000, p. 159). A significant portion of Christendom has been bedazzled by the sensationalism of Dispensational Premillennialism. Events in the Middle East continually evoke a steady stream of fundamentalist outcries that the end of time is near, the Rapture is about to occur, the Antichrist, Armageddon, and the Tribulation are all imminent. Does the Bible really teach these doctrines? Does the Bible really speak about Iraq, Russia, China, the modern state of Israel, and the Middle East?

The claim that “the end is near” is certainly not new. Indeed, such claims have been incessant since Jesus left the Earth. Periodically, a religious figure will capture national attention, announcing the impending return of Jesus, even to the point of setting a date, only to fade into the anonymity from which he arose when his claim falls flat—but having achieved his “15 minutes of fame” (see Whisenant and Brewer, 1989). The sensationalism sells well and tweaks the curiosity of large numbers of people. Incredibly, this pattern has been repeating itself literally for centuries. Hal Lindsey achieved nationwide attention over 40 years ago with his national best-seller The Late Great Planet Earth (1970). With the approach of Y2K, outcries of doom, global disruption, and Armageddon were widespread. More recently, a prominent repackaging of the dispensational brand of premillennialism is the popular 12 volume Left Behind book series first published from 1995 to 2007 by Tyndale House (Left Behind, 2008). The book series spawned three movies starring Kirk Cameron between 2000 and 2005, and the newly released (October, 2014) remake starring Nicolas Gage (“Left Behind: The End…,” 2014).

introduction

Unlike postmillennialism (the view that Jesus will return after the world is Christianized following a long period of peace and righteousness), and amillennialism (the view that the Bible predicts no worldwide period of peace and righteousness, with good and evil continuing until the end), premillennialism is the view that Jesus will return before a 1,000 year period of peace and righteousness and reign in person as king on Earth. The dispensational brand of premillennialism is a system of Bible interpretation that was advocated in the early 19th century through the writings of John Darby (Stokes, 1885, pp. 537-552), which were popularized in the early 20th century in the Scofield Reference Bible (Gaebelein, 1943; Mangum and Sweetnam, 2009). According to this view, history is divided into seven dispensations with the “church age” preceding the arrival of the kingdom. Briefly, the basic planks of dispensationalism are as follows:

  1. At some point in the near future, Jesus will secretly “Rapture” the saved, both living and deceased, from the Earth, taking them to heaven to receive their reward.
  2. A seven year period of intense “Tribulation” will then ensue on Earth.
  3. During the seven year period of “Tribulation,” the “Antichrist” will appear.
  4. Worldwide turmoil will escalate, culminating in the battle of “Armageddon.”
  5. Jesus will return with His saints in order to end “Armageddon” and usher in His 1,000 year reign (the “Millennium”) on a literal throne in Jerusalem, at the end of which, eternity will commence with some going to heaven and the rest to hell.

Consider the following evaluation of each of these five planks.

WILL THERE BE A RAPTURE?

The word “rapture” comes from the Latin word “rapere” which means “to seize, snatch out, take away.” Dispensationalists apply this word to the idea that Christ will come suddenly and secretly in the air to snatch away from the Earth the living saints and the resurrected bodies of those saints who have died. This “Rapture” is supposed to occur just prior to the seven-year “Tribulation” period.

Proponents allege that families will be shocked by the strange disappearance of a mother, father, or child. Driverless cars will collide in the streets (cf. bumper sticker: “In case of rapture, this vehicle will be unmanned”). A man and wife will be in bed; she hears a noise and turns her head to find him gone. Planes will crash with no pilots found. The “Rapture” is represented as an invisible coming of the Lord for His saints leaving visible results of chaos and confusion among the remaining unbelievers.

In reality, the word “rapture” is not found in the Bible, though it is claimed to be the Latin equivalent of harpadzo translated “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (NKJV). Lindsey admitted, “[i]t is not found in the Bible” (p. 126), and noted that the word “translation” is just as suitable. Yet the word “translation” does occur in the English New Testament. Paul referred to the fact that God “delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Colossians 1:13, ASV). So when an unbeliever obeys the Gospel, receives forgiveness of sins, and is added to the church of Christ, he is taken out of the world and transferred to Christ’s kingdom. This use of the term conflicts with the idea that it refers to Christians being “raptured” from the physical Earth to meet Jesus in the air.

Actually, the Scriptures use three terms to refer to the return of Christ. First, parousia is translated “coming, presence, or advent.” Second, epiphaneia is translated “appearing, manifestation, or brightness.” Third, apokalupsis is translated “revelation.” Dispensationalism claims that “coming” (parousia) refers to the “Rapture” which occurs seven years before the “Appearing” (epiphaneia) or “Revelation” (apokalupsis). Accordingly, at the “Rapture,” Jesus will come for the church only, while at the “Revelation,” Jesus will return with the church and put an end to the “Tribulation” and “Armageddon.”

The primary passage used to support the idea of the “Rapture” is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. But this passage was not given to deal with the return of Christ, but to clarify the status of Christians before the return of Christ. Its purpose was twofold. First, it was designed to reassure Christians that their deceased loved ones would be able to share in the Lord’s return, and second, it informed Christians that those who are still living when Christ returns will have no precedence or advantage over those who have already died. This dual function of the text constitutes a very different emphasis from that imposed upon it by dispensationalists.

The dispensational distinctions made between the three terms referring to Christ’s return are simply untenable (see Boettner, 1957, pp. 163-165). Dispensationalists assert that the “coming” (parousia) in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1 refers to the “Rapture.” Yet the same word is used in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 to speak of Jesus coming “with” His saints and therefore coincides with the dispensational concept of the “Appearing” or “Revelation” seven years after the “Rapture.” Dispensationalists apply 2 Thessalonians 2:8 to the “Antichrist” and therefore must understand this verse as a reference to the “Appearing” (epiphaneia). Yet the verse uses the expression “the manifestation (brightness—epiphaneia) of His coming (parousia).” Thus the term “coming” is used in the New Testament to refer to both dispensational concepts of the “Rapture” and the “Appearing,” and the two expressions are even combined in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 to refer to one and the same event.

The term “Revelation” (apokalupsis) in 1 Corinthians 1:7 is descriptive of what the dispensationalists call the “Rapture” since Christians await it. But in 2 Thessalonians 1:7, it clearly refers to the “Appearing” (epiphaneia). The term “appearing” (epiphaneia) is used in 1 Timothy 6:14 as the event that terminates Christian activity on Earth and thus fits the “Rapture” concept. But in 2 Timothy 4:1, the reference to judgment fits the “Appearing.” Paul stated: “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). Observe that dispensationalists would have Paul translated into heaven at the “Rapture” before he receives his crown of righteousness—which he says he will receive at Jesus’ “appearing” (epiphaneia).

In view of these observations, it is evident that the three words relating to Christ’s return are used in the New Testament synonymously and interchangeably. The New Testament simply makes no distinction between the coming of the Lord for His saints (“Rapture”) and the coming of the Lord with His saints (“Appearing” or “Revelation”). The dispensational dichotomy is not supported by the language of the New Testament.

Additionally, if Christians are to be removed seven years before the “Revelation,” then no passage should admonish them to live their lives expecting to remain on Earth until the “Revelation.” However, many passages do just that. For example, in Titus 2:13, Paul refers to the “blessed hope” and the “appearing” as one and the same event, i.e., Christ’s coming. Boettner observes:

In the original Greek the two substantives hope and appearing are closely united with the common article. They are not two separate events, as if it read, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing,” but simply, “looking for the blessed hope and appearing.” The one explains the other. “The blessed hope” of Christians is “the glorious appearing” of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (p. 166, italics in orig.).

Another example is 1 Peter 2:14 and 4:13 where the grace that the Christian is to set his hope on is to be received at the revelation (apokalupsei) of Christ, at which time the Christian may rejoice. But, according to dispensationalism, the Christian may rejoice seven years earlier at the “Rapture.”

Further, the word “end” (sunteleia) means “completion, consummation, close, the full end” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 799; Thayer, 1901, p. 606; Nicoll, n.d., 1:202; Moulton and Milligan, 1982, p. 613). Used six times in the New Testament, it refers to the end of the world (i.e., the last of life on Earth). Noted Presbyterian commentator Albert Barnes explains that the term as used in Hebrews 9:26 refers to “the last dispensation or economy; that under which the affairs of the world will be wound up” (1971, p. 215). The term parallels the expression “last days” which likewise refers to “the closing period of the world” (Barnes, 2005, p. 31). Lutheran commentator R.C.H. Lenski describes the word as “‘the completion’ when all things shall reach their goal and end” (2001, p. 538).

In Matthew 28:20, Jesus promised to be with the disseminators of the Gospel message to the very “end.” Such a promise implies that the church will remain on the Earth, preaching the Gospel, until the Judgment day. But if the church is raptured away seven years before the end, she cannot fulfill what Christ commanded her to do. In Matthew 13:39-49, no removal of the saints occurs before the “full end.” The righteous and the wicked grow together until the very end. The separation of the two comes at the end (not seven years before the end). The dispensationalist claims that the righteous will be taken out from among the wicked. But the Bible says just the opposite: the wicked will be taken out from among the righteous (Matthew 13:39-40).

The same concept may be seen in the New Testament use of “the last day.” The doctrine of the “Rapture” asserts that believers will be raised seven years before the “Revelation” and 1,007 years before the end of the “Millennium.” But Jesus Himself stated four times that believers will be raised “at the last day” (John 6:39,40,44,54). How can there by additional days after the last day? Dispensationalism contradicts Jesus’ own statements that He will raise believers at the last day, implying that believers cannot be raised before the last day.

A final observation on the “Rapture” is its alleged secretive nature. The second coming of Christ is nowhere depicted as secret. In fact, just the opposite is true. Christ’s coming will be accompanied by “blazing fire” (2 Thessalonians 1:7), the sound of a trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:52), a “shout,” the “voice of the archangel,” and the “trump of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). In fact, “every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7). Clearly, all persons will witness this incredible occasion. In fact, the very passage upon which the doctrine of the “Rapture” is founded (i.e., 1 Thessalonians 4:16), far from describing a quiet and secretive event, is as Boettner notes, “about the noisiest verse in the Bible!” (p. 171).

WILL THERE BE A TRIBULATION?

Dispensationalists also believe that when Christ comes secretly and snatches away the saved at the “Rapture,” He will take them to heaven where they will receive their reward. They say Revelation chapters four and five describe this heavenly scene. During this period, a seven year Tribulation will rage on Earth, as described in Revelation chapters 4-19, that will culminate in the battle of Armageddon. Various passages are sprinkled here and there in this elaborate theory of the end times. But Matthew chapter 24 is perhaps the most prominent passage that is offered in an effort to prove an alleged “Tribulation.” Hence, an exegesis of this central proof-text is necessitated.

Matthew 24

In Matthew 23, Jesus pronounced multiple woes upon the Jewish authorities of His day. In verse 38, He declared that the Jews’ house would be left to them desolate. He then left the immediate confines of the Temple complex, but paused at a distance with His disciples to continue the same line of thought. He referred their attention to the Temple and said: “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be torn down” (Matthew 24:2). Such a declaration would have been shocking, if not horrifying, to these “dyed-in-the-wool” Jews that took great pride in the Temple. Privately, the disciples asked Jesus two questions: (1) “When will these things (the Temple disruption—DM) be? and (2) “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus proceeded to answer these questions in such a way as to distinguish between the destruction of the Temple on the one hand, and the end of the world on the other. He showed that they are completely separate events.

Jesus began His response by delineating numerous signs that would take place prior to the toppling of the Temple. First, many would come claiming to be the Christ (vs. 5). As a matter of fact, near the time of Jerusalem’s fall in A.D. 70, many false messiahs arose, claiming to be the Christ. Josephus, a Jewish historian, said that such messiahs became more numerous before the siege of the city (Antiquities..., XX.V.1; XX.VIII.6; The Wars..., II.XIII,4). Gamaliel also alluded to such figures during that time period (Acts 5:34-37). And Paul warned of false “apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13).

Second, Jesus said that “wars and rumors of wars” would circulate, “but the end is not yet” (vs. 6). Numerous wars were engaged in by the Romans against various smaller nations as Rome continued her trek toward worldwide domination. At the same time, Rome had to cope constantly with revolt and rebellion among her conquered peoples. Josephus verified this fact (e.g., Antiquities..., XX). The “end” referred to in this verse applied to the end of the Temple, not the end of the world.

Third, Jesus predicted that famine, pestilence, and earthquakes would occur (vs. 7). It is documented historical fact that during the years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, famines and earthquakes occurred. There was a massive famine during the reign of Claudius Caesar before the destruction of Jerusalem (Acts 11:28; cir. A.D. 47; see Bruce, 1962, 4:309). An unusual number of great earthquakes occurred during the reign of Nero in A.D. 60-70, destroying many cities of Asia Minor (Tacitus, Annals, XII.43/58; XIV.27; XV.22). The occurrence of these signs between the time of Jesus’ word (A.D. 30) and the destruction (A.D. 70) would be seen as the direct fulfillment of Jesus’ statements. But if Jesus’ words apply to a yet future event, His words make no sense for there have been earthquakes and famines all over the world for the last 1,900 years, and the occurrence of them today is no sign at all.

Fourth, Jesus further stated that the apostles would be hated, persecuted, and even killed (vs. 9). Peter, Paul, James (Acts 12:2), and James the Less were all put to death before the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus said that false prophets would arise, many Christians would stumble, and evil would abound (vss. 10-13). As the pressure of persecution increased during the early decades of Christianity, so the faith of many decreased. Apostasy became prevalent. It is during such turmoil that false teachers make their mark by capitalizing on spiritual confusion, doubt, and weakness (cf. Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29-30; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1-2).

Fifth, Jesus said that the Gospel would be preached in all the world (vs. 14). It is also historical fact that the Gospel was preached to all the world prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Paul wrote to Christians in Rome (A.D. 58) and said their faith was spoken of “throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8). When Paul wrote to the church of Christ at Colossae (A.D. 62), the Gospel was “bearing fruit and increasing” (Colossians 1:6) in the entire world, which can only happen if the seed is first sown “in all the world.” In fact, Paul flatly stated that the Gospel had been preached “to every creature which is under heaven” (KJV), or “in all creation under heaven” (NASB—Colossians 1:23). The point is clear: The Gospel was preached to the world prior to A.D. 70 as Jesus predicted.

Once all of these signs (i.e., false Christs, wars/rumors of wars, famines/earthquakes, persecution, death of the apostles, the apostasy of many, the rise of false prophets, and worldwide proclamation of the Gospel) came to pass, Jesus said the “end” would come (vs. 14). That is, the end of Jerusalem, the end of the Temple, the end of formal Judaism, and the end of the Old Testament economy would occur. Jesus said this end would come about with the presence of the “abomination of desolation” in the holy place (vs. 15). He applied Daniel 9:27 to the presence of the Roman army at the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (cf. Luke 21:20).

Consequently, Jesus urged the faithful in Judea to “flee into the mountains” (vs. 16). History records a remarkable factor concerning the fall of Jerusalem. With the approach of A.D. 70, Jewish Christians took the invasion of the Roman armies as the appointed sign which Christ had given. Upon seeing the Roman military machine in full march, Jewish Christians dropped everything and made their escape to Pella, a village east of the Jordan in Perea about 15 miles south of the Sea of Galilee (Boetnner, p. 201; Keener, 1993, p. 113; Wilson, 1989, p. 76; Eusebius, Church History, 3.5.3; Sheppard, 2013, pp. 10-14; Gichon, 1981, 113:56; Epiphanius, De pond, et Mens, 15). Thus, while God was bringing due wrath upon unbelieving Jews, He made provision for those Jews who had become Christians to escape.

Jesus pronounced woe on those who, in facing the hardships that would occur, would have the added difficulties associated with protecting and nursing children—especially if it occurred in winter or on the Sabbath (vss. 19-20). Bearing and caring for children is a difficult task in and of itself. But such functions become incredibly difficult when one is “on the run.” Likewise, escape from the onslaught of a ruthless military force would be complicated by the conditions that accompany the wintertime. The cold and hunger would constitute hardship on children and adults alike. The allusion to the Sabbath refers to the fact that Jewish authorities would still be enforcing observance of the Sabbath with closed city gates (Nehemiah 13:19). Thus, these two verses deal with hindrances to flight from the besiegement of Jerusalem.

Jesus further stated that “great tribulation” would be associated with these events, comparably worse than at any time and resulting in the loss of many lives (vss. 21-22). We who live subsequent to A.D. 70 have difficulty fathoming the magnitude of the tribulation experienced during the destruction of Jerusalem. At that time, Jews were crowded together from all over the world to observe Passover. The mass misery that resulted from the Roman siege was extensive. Josephus, an eyewitness, alluded to the atrocity in the words, “neither did any other city suffer such miseries...from the beginning of the world” (The Wars..., V.10.5). The phrase “nor ever shall be” shows that Jesus had in mind a time near His own day with much time to come after the event. If He was alluding to some period near the end of time (as per dispensationalism), He would not have added such words since there would be no future time left for such an occurrence. God could have easily permitted every single Jew to be wiped from the face of the Earth. But for the sake of His church (which included converted Jews), the period of tribulation was shortened (vs. 22).

Next, Jesus warned that during the period leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, false Christs and false prophets would come forward and display magical tricks to deceive people into thinking they were authentic representatives of God (vss. 23-26). When people face severe and intense disruption to their lives, they tend to become easy prey for those who seek to exploit the hardships of others. Jesus warned of this phenomenon as the time for Jerusalem’s destruction grew nearer. When any individuals, even in our own day, seek to seduce people into believing that the Lord’s final coming is imminent, Jesus says, “Don’t believe it!” (cf. vs. 26). Why? Because when Jesus comes at the end of time, everyone will know it. The second coming will be as visible and as evident as a blinding flash of lightening that covers the entire sky (vs. 27).

In contrast with the ultimate return of Jesus, the coming of Jesus in judgment on Jerusalem would be discernible on very different grounds: “For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together” (vs. 28). Typically classified as a type of vulture due to its carrion feeder traits, the eagle was the symbol of Roman power. It was carried by the different units of the Roman army wherever Roman authority was being exerted (Lightfoot, n.d., 24:28; cf. Arndt and Gingrich, p. 19—“eagle symbol of swiftness”). The contemporaries were readily familiar with this fact. Thus, in A.D. 70, the Roman vultures swarmed over Jerusalem and devoured the carcass of apostate Judaism (cf. Wallace, 1960, p. 252).

Next, Jesus resorted to the use of several highly figurative phrases which are based upon Old Testament apocalyptic language: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (vs. 29). The phrase “after the tribulation of those days” means after the horrible events that occurred during the siege of the city, which history records began on August 10, A.D. 70 and lasted some two months. In that short period, 1.1 million died in unspeakable anguish, and 97,000 were taken as slaves (Josephus, The Wars..., VI.9.3). After the tribulation of the siege, the final destruction occurred. Jesus described this destruction in symbolic, apocalyptic terminology reminiscent of the description of the destruction of Babylon recorded in Isaiah 13: “The day of the Lord is near” (vs. 6); “For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil” (vss. 10-11); “I will shake the heavens, and the earth will be shaken from its place” (vs. 13). All one need do is read Isaiah 13 to see that these statements referred to the military onslaught of the Medes in the sixth century B.C. that brought about the downfall of the Babylonian empire. Similarly, Isaiah depicted the destruction of Edom in terminology that spoke of the cosmos being dissolved and the sky rolling up like a scroll (34:4). Ezekiel portrayed the fate of Egypt in terms of the darkening of the stars, Moon, and Sun (32:7). There is no question that such language is highly figurative, hyperbolic, and designed to make an impression, to create an effect in the mind of the hearer, and not intended to be taken literally. If God can discuss the overthrow of Babylon, Egypt, and Edom in such extravagant, dramatic terminology, surely He can do the same when discussing the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

At this point would “appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven” (vs. 30). In other words, the darkening of the Jewish temple, the shaking up of the Jewish commonwealth, and the fall of Jewish authority through the instrumentality of imperial Rome was the sign or signal that Christ had come in judgment on Israel. He was the One responsible for the misery that would shroud the Jewish nation. Jesus had done exactly what He had told Caiaphas he could expect to witness personally: “the Son of man is coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64). Jews knew that such language was completely normal when describing God’s execution of wrath in history. When God punished Egypt in the long ago, He “rode on a swift cloud...into Egypt” (Isaiah 19:1)—a graphically appropriate way to envision God’s vengeance. (NOTE: The use of the term “tribes” refers to the Jewish families that mourned the fall of national Judaism—all the Jewish tribes of the Earth.)

Next, angels would go forth with a great trumpet sound and gather together the elect (vs. 31). Historians report that once Jewish opposition to Christianity (reflected throughout the book of Acts) was removed in A.D. 70, the true nation of God (i.e., the church of Christ—the “holy nation” [1 Peter 2:9]—the Christian elect) began to experience unparalleled effectiveness. The sound of the Gospel trumpet was heard more clearly than ever before. The word for “angel” is the normal Greek word for “messenger.” In this passage it refers to the emissaries of the Gospel who, by means of the preached Word, gathered individuals into the elect fold from all over the world. Such phraseology is reminiscent of the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25) in which every 50th year, the believing community sounded a ram’s horn all through the land, and proclaimed the year as a year of release or liberation.

Jesus next uttered a brief parable about a fig tree (vs. 32-33). Tender branches and new leaves on a fig tree function as signs—signals that summer is near. Likewise, the signs that Jesus delineated pinpointed the time when Jerusalem was to be destroyed. Once faithful disciples began to observe the unfolding of these signs, they would realize that the city was about to be besieged by the Roman armies. They could then “look for their redemption” (Luke 21:28), i.e., act upon their providentially prearranged escape plan and receive deliverance from the persecutions of Jewish authority. The repetition of the second person plural pronoun is further proof that Jesus was referring to His own generation, not a generation centuries in the future: “So you also, when you see...” (vs. 33).

Jesus brought to a close His response to the first question asked by His disciples with the words: “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (vs. 34). The generation to whom He was addressing Himself would still be living when “all these things” would occur. Thus every single sign that Jesus pinpointed would occur during that generation. Some, however, suggest that the Greek word for “generation” (genea) may also be translated “race,” in which case Jesus was simply saying that the Jewish race would not pass out of existence before all these things happened to them. But if this be true, then Jesus is put in the position of telling the Jews what would happen to their race, and then saying that their race would not pass away until everything that was going to happen to their race happened—an absurdly redundant notion. Why would God declare a group’s fate, and then assure the group that they would still be around to suffer that fate? Obviously, God would never have told them the specifics of their fate if they were not going to be present to experience those specifics. The fact of the matter is that the word “generation” is used repeatedly in the Gospel of Matthew, and it designates those who are living at a particular point in time (cf. Matthew 1:17; 11:16; 12:39-43; 23:36). In fact, in Matthew 23:36-39, where the context is the same as Matthew 24, Jesus spoke of the contemporary population of Jerusalem as the “generation” that He had in mind—the one that He sought to “gather” and whose house would be “left desolate.”

Verse 35 functions as a transition verse. Then Jesus turned His attention to dealing with the disciples’ second question. He emphatically distinguished between the destruction of Jerusalem, that He had been discussing, and the end of the world or second coming. Even if the disciples had not asked about “the end of the world,” it would have been appropriate for Jesus to have dealt with the matter since He would not want the two to be confused. So He alluded to “that day,” i.e., the day heaven and earth will pass away (vs. 35), the world will end, and Christ would come again (vs. 3). Thus, verses 36-51, as well as chapter 25, refer to the end of time. Jesus’ first point was that, whereas those who give proper heed to the signs can pinpoint the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, no one can pinpoint the day of Christ’s return. There will be, in fact, absolutely no signs to alert men to the second coming. Verses 37-39 clearly show that life on this Earth will be going on as it always has with “business as usual.” Jesus’ ultimate return will be totally unexpected with no signs to warn of its approach (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

When studied carefully in context and in light of history, verses in Matthew 24 that dispensationalists claim refer to the end times are seen to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. Without a doubt, there will be tribulation in the world. Christians are, in fact, assured of such (2 Timothy 3:12; John 16:33; Acts 14:22). Christians always have and always will endure tribulation. But there will be no future period of tribulation from which saints will be exempt as the dispensationalists describe. The world may well experience World War III. Horrible atrocities may well be unleashed upon humanity. But such future events will in no way result as the fulfillment of biblical teaching. The Bible simply does not teach that there will be a future seven year “Tribulation” on Earth that will culminate in a battle of Armageddon.

will there be an antichrist?

Moving to the next prominent doctrine of dispensationalism, we consider the alleged appearance during the “Tribulation” of the “Antichrist.” The term “antichrist” occurs only five times in Scripture, only in the writing of John, and only in two of his five books: 1 John 2:18,22; 4:3; 2 John 7. The implications are significant. Dispensationalists do not go to 1 and 2 John when they discuss the Antichrist. They go to Revelation, 2 Thessalonians, or Daniel. They go to passages that do not even use the word “Antichrist.”

In stark contrast to current claims, John applied the term “antichrist” to more than one individual, and to individuals who were living then—in the first century. First John 2:18 states that numerous antichrists had arisen in John’s day, and he therefore contended that “it is the last hour” (i.e., the final period of religious history commonly referred to as “the last days” as in Acts 2:16-17). He then described their behavior as “not of God” (1 John 4:3). “Antichrists” were simply all those who denied Christ (1 John 2:22). John, therefore, labeled any such deluded soul as “the deceiver” and “the antichrist” (2 John 7). Notice the use of the article. John was saying that people living in his own day who denied the incarnation of Jesus were to be regarded as the antichrist! Not just an antichrist—but the antichrist! The idea that the term “antichrist” is to be applied to some “future fuehrer” (Lindsey, 1970, p. 87) who will draw the world into a global holocaust is totally out of harmony with John’s inspired use of the term.

Daniel 9

The first passage which some say predicts an “Antichrist” is Daniel 9:24-27. Observe carefully the content of this marvelous prophecy. During the prophetic period that Daniel identified in terms of 70 symbolic weeks (vs. 24), transgression, sin, and iniquity would be “finished,” “ended,” and “reconciliation provided for.” This terminology clearly refers to Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross (Hebrews 9:26). The effect of Christ’s atoning work was that “everlasting righteousness” was ushered in. As Paul stated: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21; cf. Jeremiah 23:5-6). Because of what Jesus did, individuals may now stand before God completely righteous through obedient faith (Romans 1:5; 16:26). Likewise, “vision” and “prophecy” would be “sealed up.” This refers to the inevitable termination of Old Testament prophecy and its fulfillment in Christ’s appearance in human history: “Yes, and all the prophets from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days” (Acts 3:24; Hebrews 1:1-2). Finally, the phrase in Daniel 9:24 that speaks of the “anointing” of the “most holy” refers to the public ministry and subsequent official crowning of Jesus as He took His place upon His throne to rule in His kingdom. Isaiah said: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor” (61:1, emp. added). On the day of Pentecost, Peter said: “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God” (Acts 2:33). Notice that Daniel summarized the entire 70 week period by including all of these factors in the 70 weeks.

Next, Daniel broke the 70 week period into three segments: 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and 1 week. Verse 25 pertains to the first two sections of the 70th week period. During these two periods, that is during 69 of the 70 prophetic weeks, a decree would go forth calling for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the reconstruction of the Temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians (cf. Nehemiah 2:7-8; Ezra 1:1-3). Daniel made clear that these 69 weeks of the prophetic period, during which the Temple would be rebuilt and national Israel reestablished, would take one up to the appearance of the Messiah.

Verse 26 speaks of the final week of the 70 week prophetic period, for he said “after the 62 weeks” (which already followed the initial 7 weeks). “After” puts one into the final or 70th week of Daniel’s remarks. Two significant events were to occur during this final week. First, the Messiah would be “cut off.” This definitely refers to Jesus’ death upon the cross: “He was cut off from the land of the living” (Isaiah 53:8). Second, a “prince” and his people would come and destroy the city and the sanctuary—an obvious allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple edifice in A.D. 70 by Titus and his Roman army.

Verse 27 alludes to the activation of the new covenant between the Messiah and “many,” that is, between Christ and those who are responsive to the demands of the new covenant. As the Hebrews writer said: “Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (8:8; cf. Acts 3:25). The New Testament teaches that the cutting off of the Messiah—the crucifixion—was the act that confirmed the covenant (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:15-29), and brought an immediate end to the validity of the Old Testament practices of sacrifice and oblation (Colossians 2:14; Luke 23:45; Hebrews 10:18-20). Then Daniel alluded to the ruthless invasion of Jerusalem in the phrase “abomination of desolation” (interpreted by dispensationalists to be the “Antichrist”). Jesus quoted this phrase in Matthew 24:15 and Luke 21:20, and applied it to the Roman desecration and destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in A.D. 70.

Thus, the fundamental purpose of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy was to show God’s final and complete decree concerning the Israelite commonwealth. All of the events described in the prophecy were literally fulfilled nearly 2,000 years ago. As far as God is concerned, the logical end of the Old Testament and Judaism has occurred. Now He deals only with the spiritual children of Abraham, whether Jew or Gentile (Romans 4:11-12,16; 9:8)—the church of Christ which is the actual “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

[to be continued]

REFERENCES

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.

Arndt, William and F.W. Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).

Barnes, Albert (2005), Notes on the New Testament: Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Barnes, Albert (1971), Notes on the New Testament: Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Boettner, Loraine (1957), The Millennium (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed).

Bruce, F.F. (1962), “Christianity Under Claudius,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 44:309-326, March.

Eusebius, Pamphilius (2005), Church History, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.toc.html.

Gaebelein, Arno (1943), The History of the Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Our Hope Publications).

Gichon, Mordechai (1981), “Cestius Gallus’ Campaign in Judaea,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 113:56.

Josephus, Flavius (1974 reprint), Antiquities of the Jews, trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Josephus, Flavius (1974 reprint), The Wars of the Jews, trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Keener, Craig (1993), The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press).

Left Behind (2008), Tyndale House Publishers, http://www.leftbehind.com/.

“Left Behind: The End Begins” (2014), Left Behind Movie, Stoney Lake Entertainment All, http://www.leftbehindmovie.com/.

Lenski, R.C.H. (2001), The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers).

Lightfoot, John (no date), A Commentary of the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Philologos.org, http://philologos.org/__eb-jl/default.htm.

Lindsey, Hal (1970), The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

Mangum, R. Todd and Mark Sweetnam (2009), The Scofield Bible: Its History and Impact on the Evangelical Church (Colorado Springs, CO: Paternoster Publishing).

Moulton, James and George Milligan (1982), The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Nicoll, W. Robertson (no date), The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Sheppard, Si (2013), The Jewish Revolt AD 66-74 (Long Island City, NY: Osprey Publishing).

Stokes, George (1885), “John Nelson Darby,” The Contemporary Review, 48:537-552, October.

Tacitus, Cornelius (1805), The Works of Cornelius Tacitus, trans. Arthur Murphy (London: John Stockdale).

Thayer, Joseph H. (1901), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977 reprint).

Wallace, Foy E. (1960), God’s Prophetic Word (Oklahoma City, OK: Foy E. Wallace, Jr., Publications).

Whisenant, Edgar and Greg Brewer (1989), The Final Shout Rapture 1989 Report (Nashville, TN: World Bible Society).

Wilson, Marvin (1989), Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).