"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Alternatives To The Resurrection (28:11-15) by Mark Copeland



Alternatives To The Resurrection (28:11-15)


1. There are certain facts of history that no one can deny...
   a. Many people testified they saw Jesus raised from the dead
   b. These same people suffered greatly because of their testimony
   -- Such facts support the actual resurrection of Jesus from the dead

2. From the beginning, there have been alternative theories to explain the empty tomb...
   a. Matthew records the earliest theory: the disciples stole the body - Mt 28:11-15
   b. Other theories have been raised as well

3. Because of the significance of the resurrection (described in a previous lesson)...
   a. Those opposed to the gospel know this event must be discredited
   b. We who believe in Jesus must always be ready to provide a defense- 1Pe 3:15
      1) Not only why we accept the testimony of the witnesses (see previous lesson)
      2) But why we find alternative explanations impossible to accept

[In this study, we shall consider various "Alternatives To The
Resurrection", and why they are inadequate to explain the empty tomb.
We begin with the first explanation...]


      1. The disciples stole the body, then claimed He rose from the dead
      2. This was the "official" theory offered from the very beginning - Mt 28:11-15

      1. The explanation defies logic
         a. If the soldiers were asleep...
            1) How did they know it was the disciples who took the body?
            2) How could the large stone guarding the entrance be
               rolled away without awakening the soldiers?
         b. The soldiers guarding the tomb were Romans - Mt 27:62-66
            1) They were professional soldiers
            2) Charged to guard the tomb with their lives
            3) The punishment for falling asleep on duty was death
      2. This would make those who testified they saw Jesus liars and frauds
         a. As we saw in the previous lesson, they claimed empirical evidence
         b. Suppose just a few disciples stole the body, unbeknown by others...
            1) Such as Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, or the women
            2) Others still say they saw Jesus, ate and drank with Him
         c. You have to explain why they were willing to lie and die knowing it was a lie

[The likelihood of timid disciples stealing the body of Jesus out from
under the noses of highly disciplined and skilled Roman soldiers while
they slept (an offense punishable by death) is hard to believe! Perhaps
that is why those who refuse to believe in the resurrection have
proposed alternative explanations, one being...]


      1. The women went to the wrong tomb, and found it empty
      2. They erroneously concluded that Jesus had risen, and their story spread

      1. The women had been to the tomb before - Mt 27:61
      2. The religious and political leaders could have easily silenced the apostles' claim
         a. If the women went to the wrong tomb, then the right tomb
            was still sealed and guarded by the Roman soldiers
         b. When the apostles' created an uproar with their story of
            the resurrection of Jesus (cf. Ac 4:1-2; 5:27-33), the
            Jewish leaders could have directed people to the right tomb
            and presented the body of Jesus!
      3. You still have the testimony of the apostles to contend with

[A more popular explanation in some circles is...]


      1. Jesus did not actually die on the cross, He only swooned
         a. Suffering from shock, pain, and loss of blood, He fainted
            (swooned) from exhaustion
         b. Thinking that He was dead, the Roman soldiers took Him down
            and buried Him in the tomb
      2. In the coolness of the tomb, Jesus revived
         a. Somehow He left the tomb
         b. Appeared to His disciples, then lived in obscurity to die years later

      1. Jesus would have had to revive sufficiently enough to:
         a. Break through the burial garments that bound Him, including
            a hundred pounds of spices used in preparing His body for burial - Jn 19:38-40
         b. Role away the large stone that sealed the tomb
         c. Fight off the Roman guards protecting the tomb
         d. Walk the seven miles to Emmaus where He was seen by the two disciples
         e. Walk back to Jerusalem where He was seen by the apostles
         -- All within the same day!
      2. Every effort was made to prove He was dead
         a. The Roman soldiers at the cross pierced His side - Jn 19: 31-34
            1) Out of which flowed blood and water
            2) An indication He was already dead, having died of a ruptured heart
         b. Pilate made sure He was dead - Mk 15:43-45
            1) When Joseph of Arimathea wanted the body
            2) The Roman centurion confirmed that Jesus was dead
      3. Not only would this make the apostles liars and frauds, but
         Jesus also for allowing a lie to spread for years!

[Another popular alternative explanation is...]


      1. All of Christ's post-resurrection appearances were only supposed appearances
      2. Those who claimed to see Jesus had hallucinations

      1. Remember that the appearances were not just to individuals, one at a time
         a. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus claimed to see Him - Lk 24:13-35
         b. Ten apostles claimed to see Him - Jn 20:19-25
         c. He appeared to over 500 people at once - 1Co 15:6
      2. The hallucination theory contradicts laws and principles which
         psychiatrists say are essential to hallucinations:
         a. Only certain kinds of people have hallucinations
            1) These are usually high-strung, highly imaginative, and very nervous people
            2) Usually only paranoid or schizophrenic individuals have hallucinations
            3) The appearances were not restricted to people of any
               particular psychological make up
         b. Hallucinations are linked in an individual's subconscious
            1) An individual may have an hallucination
            2) But hallucinations do not appear to groups of people
         c. They occur in people when there is a spirit of anticipation or hopeful expectation
            1) The disciples had no such anticipation - Lk 24:13-21
            2) They were prone to disbelieve even after they were told
               of the resurrection - Jn 20:24-25

[Then there is the theory that...]


      1. The appearances were not really Christ at all, but someone  impersonating Him
      2. This is evident because in some cases they did not recognize Him at first

      1. The disciples were reluctant to believe in the resurrection
         a. Some were doubtful, such as Thomas - Jn 20:24-25
         b. It would have been hard to convince them unless it was really Him
      2. It would have been impossible to impersonate Christ's wounds
         a. This was Christ's proof it was really Him - Jn 20:26-27
         b. Which convinced doubting Thomas - Jn 20:28-29
      3. The apostles traveled with Jesus for three years
         a. It is incredible that anyone could have gotten away with an impersonation
         b. Which is why the apostles were witnesses of the resurrection - Ac 10:39-41
      4. The one claiming to be Jesus performed miracles
         a. Suddenly appearing in locked rooms - Jn 20:19
         b. Directing them how to catch fish - Jn 21:1-7

[Closely related to this would be the theory that...]


      1. The disciples simply mistook for Jesus someone who looked like Him
      2. For example, the women mistook the gardener for Jesus - Jn 20: 14-15

      1. The same problems as with the impersonation theory
         a. Disciples reluctant to believe in the resurrection
         b. Impossible to recreate the wounds of Jesus
         c. Ample time with Jesus to verify His identity
      2. While Mary may have mistaken Jesus for the gardener, she was
         able to look through her grief and recognize who He was

[Finally, here is an alternative proposed by some theologians who just
cannot accept the idea of a physical, bodily resurrection...]


      1. Christ's resurrection was not a real physical resurrection
      2. Christ's body remained in the grave and His real resurrection was spiritual in nature
      3. It was only told this way to illustrate the truth of spiritual resurrection

      1. If it was only a spiritual resurrection, what happened to the body?
         a. The enemies of Christ were never able to produce a body
         b. Which they would have gladly done to discredit the apostles
      2. Again, the nature of the apostles' testimony is empirical:
         they ate and drank with Him, touched Him - Lk 24:36-43; Ac 10:39-41; 1Jn 1:1-2
      3. Paul argued a bodily resurrection of Jesus as evidence for our own bodily resurrection - 1Co 15:12-58


1. The resurrection of Jesus has been variously interpreted as...
   a. A great hoax (the resurrection is false)
   b. Mythology (the resurrection is fiction)
   -- Therefore various alternatives have been proposed to explain the empty tomb

2. But there is only one interpretation worth accepting...
   a. It is the supreme event of history (the resurrection is fact)
   b. Supported by empirical testimony provided by reliable witnesses
   c. With implications of great significance for both unbeliever and believer alike

When you consider the strength of the apostles' testimony, and contrast
it with the weakness of the alternative explanations that have been
proposed, it leads an honest person in only one direction:  to faith in
Jesus Christ as the Son of God...

   "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His
   disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are
   written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son
   of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."
                                                     (Jn 20:30-31)

Are you willing to believe in Jesus, that you might have life in His
name?  Then heed the words of the apostle Peter proclaimed in the first
gospel sermon:

   "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God
   has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
   Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said
   to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what
   shall we do?"  Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every
   one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the
   remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy
   Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to
   all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
                                                       (Ac 2:36-39)  
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Witnesses Of The Resurrection (28:1-10) by Mark Copeland



The Witnesses Of The Resurrection (28:1-10)


1. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ really took place, it has great significance...
   a. For those who have yet to believe in Christ
   b. For those who are Christians - Which we examined in another lesson

2. Upon what basis should one believe Jesus actually rose from the dead?
   a. The evidence presented in the New Testament involves eyewitness testimony
   b. Ten distinct resurrection appearances of Christ are recorded in the New Testament
   c. One such case is that found in Mt 28:1-10

3. It is clear from the Scriptures that our faith in Jesus is based upon such testimony...
   a. As Jesus intimated in His prayer, and John in his gospel - Jn 17:20; 20:30-31
   b. Jesus expected His apostles to be His witnesses - Jn 15:27; Ac 1:8
   c. Especially concerning His resurrection - Ac 1:22; 2:32; 3:15; 4:33; 10:39-41; 13:31

4. Since our faith rests upon the testimony of these witnesses...
   a. Were they credible witnesses, that we should take them seriously?
   b. How strong is their testimony?
   c. How do we know they did not make it up, or were simply deluded?

[As with any event alleged to have occurred, there are a number of
factors to consider before we accept the event as a historical fact. One such factor is...]


      1. The strength or weakness of any testimony is affected by the number of witnesses
      2. The Law of Moses required at least two or three witnesses - Deut 17:6
      3. Today, the number of witnesses also plays a crucial role in our justice system
      -- The more witnesses you have, the stronger your evidence!

      1. Paul lists many of these witnesses in 1Co 15:3-8
         a. Jesus was seen by Cephas (Simon Peter) - Lk 24:34
         b. Jesus was seen by the twelve (apostles) - Lk 24:36-43; Ac 1:2-3
         c. He was seen by five hundred people at one time (probably in
            Galilee) - cf. Mt 28:10,16-17
         d. He was seen by James, the Lord's brother
         e. He was seen by Paul, on the road to Damascus - Ac 22:6-10
      2. Other appearances are recorded in the Scriptures
         a. To Mary Magdalene - Mk 16:9; Jn 20:14
         b. To other women returning from the tomb - Mt 28:9,10
         c. To two disciples on the road to Emmaus - Lk 24:13-33
         d. To the apostles, Thomas absent - Jn 20:19-24
         e. To the apostles, Thomas present - Jn 20:26-29
         f. To seven disciples by the Lake of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) - Jn 21:1-23
         g. To the apostles at the ascension - Ac 1:3-12

[So for a period of forty days (Ac 1:3), over 500 people had ample
opportunity to see Jesus, and determine for themselves if He was really
raised from the dead.  They were convinced, but are they reliable
witnesses?  How do we know they were not simply gullible, believing
whatever they wanted to believe?  This leads us to consider another
factor important to accepting the testimony of witnesses...]


      1. Like His brothers in the flesh - Jn 7:3-5
      2. They even thought Him crazy - Mk 3:21
      -- But seeing Him after His resurrection, they became His disciples! - Ac 1:14

      1. Thomas would not accept the words of others - Jn 20:24-25
      2. Not until he had empirical evidence would he believe - Jn 20:26-28
      3. This demonstrates witnesses who were not gullible or easily deceived
         a. Which is why the Lord appeared to select witnesses - Ac 10:40-41
         b. Witnesses qualified to know if it really were Jesus

      1. Saul of Tarsus, who later became known as Paul the apostle - Ac 9:1-2
      2. Until he saw Jesus raised from the dead, he believed it to be
         God's will to oppose Jesus and His followers - Ac 26:9-11

[These were not gullible witnesses, ready to believe any hint that
Jesus had risen.  They required overwhelming evidence to convince them
that Jesus was truly raised from the dead.  Now let's consider...]


      1. Their testimony appealed to empirical evidence
         a. Evidence derived from experiment and observation rather than theory
         b. For forty days they were given infallible proofs - Ac 1:3
         c. They ate and drank with Jesus - Ac 10:41
         d. They saw, heard, and touched Him - Jn 20:24-28; 1Jn 1:1-2
      2. There is no way they could have been deceived or deluded
         a. If all they had were individual dreams, visions, or hallucinations...perhaps
         b. But they testified that Jesus appeared to them in groups as well as to individuals

      1. Prior to the resurrection, Jesus' disciples were afraid and without hope
         a. They fled at his arrest - Mk 14:50
         b. Peter cowardly denied Him three times - Mk 14:66-72
         c. The women mourned His crucifixion - Lk 23:27
         d. After His death, the disciples were sad - Lk 24:13-17
         e. After His death, the disciples hid behind closed doors, for
            fear of the Jews - Jn 20:19
      2. But after the resurrection, they fearlessly praised God and proclaimed Jesus!
         a. Praising God in the temple - Lk 24:52-53
         b. Proclaiming Christ, despite persecution - Ac 5:28-32,41-42
      3. This transformation in their lives is strong evidence for the
         resurrection, as admitted by one Orthodox Jewish scholar:
         a. "If the disciples were totally disappointed and on the
            verge of desperate flight because of the very real reason
            of the crucifixion, it took another very real reason in
            order to transform them from a band of disheartened and
            dejected Jews into the most self-confident missionary
            society in world history." - Pinchas Lapide, former
            Chairman of the Applied Linguistics Department at Israel's
            Bar-Iland University (TIME, May 7, 1979)
         b. He concluded that a bodily resurrection could possibly have
            been that reason!

      1. They taught others to live holy lives - 1Th 4:1-7; Ep 4:25
      2. They lived their own lives in unimpeachable way - 1Th 2:3-12
      -- Does this sound like people who propagate lies when they know better?

      1. The apostles endured much suffering because of their testimony - 1Co 4:9-13
      2. All but one died a martyr's death because of their testimony
      3. Even Jesus' brother, James, was thrown off the temple and then
         clubbed to death for his testimony
      -- There was no motive for them to persistently lie about Jesus' resurrection!


1. The nature of their witness does not allow for the option that they
   were simply deceived or deluded...
   a. Again, they professed empirical evidence
   b. They claimed to eat and drink with Him, touch Him, see Him

2. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, there is only one alternative...
   a. These witnesses were liars, deceivers
   b. Even Paul admits this is the only alternative - 1Co 15:14-15

3. Is it reasonable to believe they successfully propagated a lie?
   a. Too many people attested to the same fact
   b. They were not the kind of people to fabricate such a falsehood
   c. They lived noble lives, and were ALL willing to suffer and die for their testimony!

When we carefully examine the lives and testimony of "The Witnesses Of
The Resurrection", the only reasonable conclusion to draw is that
they really saw what they claimed:  Jesus is risen!

And His resurrection from the dead is assurance from God that Judgment
is coming and we must repent:

   "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands
   all men everywhere to repent,  because He has appointed a day on
   which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He
   has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising
   Him from the dead." - Ac 17:30-31

Are you ready for that Day?  
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Was Mary Sinless? by Moisés Pinedo



Was Mary Sinless?

by  Moisés Pinedo

No woman in all of history stands out more than Mary. Her fame is due to the fact that God chose her to bring into the world the long-awaited Savior and Messiah, Jesus Christ. Since Jesus Christ was the greatest Person ever to set foot on the Earth—the Teacher of teachers, the Man Who has changed more lives than any other throughout the centuries, and the One Who gives mankind the opportunity to be free from the bonds of sin—everything associated with His life, His character, and His teachings has been a source of great interest to many. The desire to know more about the Lord has led many to place excessive emphasis on those who were close to Him and uninspired traditions about them.

Questions arise: Who would have been the closest to God Incarnate? Who could tell us, in profound detail, about His nights of infancy, His adolescent anxieties, and the afflictions of His ministry? Obviously, the woman who held the Savior of the world in her arms from the time of His birth, calmed His crying with her lullabies, healed His childhood wounds, and watched Him grow and become a man, would have been closer to Him than any other human being. So, by virtue of her relationship to Jesus, some argue that Mary is deserving of greater honor than anyone else who ever has obeyed God.

Catholics have elevated Mary to a higher level than God ever intended. The supporters of human traditions have united their forces to make Mary not just a “maidservant of the Lord” (Luke 1:38), but rather the “Mother of God.” We will open the Bible to examine the things related to this special woman who “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30).

Many assertions have been made about Mary, and many religious traditions surround her. One prominent Catholic declaration about Mary states that she was sinless (see Catechism..., 1994, 491). In reality, this statement implies two things that even some Catholics do not know or understand: (1) Mary was the only person (apart from Jesus Christ) who came into the world without the contamination of “original sin,” and (2) Mary was the only person (apart from Jesus Christ) who never committed sin. We will consider these two assertions briefly.

We agree (in part) with the first assertion. Mary was born free of the contamination of Adam’s sin, but she was not the only one. In fact, everyone arrives in this world without the contamination of original sin. The Catholic doctrine, which teaches that all people inherit Adam’s sin (which led to the requirement of infant baptism), originated from a misinterpretation of some biblical passages. It is an example of great familiarity with tradition and very little understanding of the Scriptures. The doctrine of “original sin” has caused many problems for Catholicism. It undermined the high level to which Catholics had elevated Mary, as well as the image of her they created. They had to find a way to preserve the sinless image of Mary that they had created. So, in 1854, policymakers within the Catholic Church “liberated” Mary, stating that she was born without original sin (see Herbermann, 1913, 7:674-675). This allowed her to wear the title “Most Holy.”

Romans 5:12 has been used extensively to support the Catholic doctrine of “original sin.” In this passage, Paul wrote: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” At first glance, this text may seem to support the idea of original sin; however, a proper study of this verse will show that this is not the case.

First, Paul said that “through one man sin entered the world.” Paul did not say that sin entered into every person at birth. Rather, sin became a part of the world in general. Second, Paul said that death entered through sin. This refers exclusively to the death that Adam and Eve experienced in the beginning. Third, Paul noted that “death spread to all men, because all sinned.” The text does not say that death spread to all men because Adam sinned but because all sinned. It is clear that humanity is the recipient of the consequence of Adam’s sin (i.e., death), but is not the recipient of the guilt of Adam’s sin. Each accountable person dies for his or her own sin (Romans 3:23).

Ezekiel 18:20 declares: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (cf. Deuteronomy 24:16; Jeremiah 31:30). Since the Bible emphatically affirms that the son does not bear the guilt (or iniquity) of the father, this means that Cain, Abel, and Seth did not carry the sin of their father, Adam. How, then, can we possibly carry Adam’s sin? The truth is that children are born without sin. This is why Jesus said that in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven, one should become like a child (Matthew 18:3). But if children come into this world “dragging” the sin of the first man and, therefore, are contaminated, what sense would it make for Jesus to encourage us to be like them?

A just and righteous God would not (and will not) condemn all humanity for the sin of one man. No man on Earth bears the sin that Adam committed. Mary, just like everyone else in this world, was born without the contamination of any original sin.

But what about the assertion that Mary was the only person (apart from Jesus Christ) who never committed sin? No Bible verse explicitly declares that Mary committed any sin (just as there is no verse which declares that Seth, Enoch, Stephen, Philemon, etc., committed sin), but many Bible verses explicitly state that everyone sins. Therefore, Mary sinned. We should not belittle the impressive biblical record of Mary. But she, like any other human being, needed a Savior to take away her sins.

Paul was very emphatic about this subject: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, emp. added). Paul allowed no exceptions. He wrote that all have sinned. There is no doubt that the word “all” includes Mary. Paul agreed with the psalmist’s inspired assessment of humanity: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10; cf. Psalms 14:3; 53:1-3). But if Mary never committed sin, the text should read: “There is none righteous, except Mary.”

It is important to note that the Bible places emphasis on what all, except Jesus, have done (i.e., sinned). One of the major differences between the sons of men and the Son of Man is that we succumb to sin, but Jesus never did. Hebrews 4:15 notes: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (emp. added; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). What praise or honor should be given to Jesus Christ (our High Priest) if He achieved that which a mere human had already achieved? If Mary never sinned, why did God give the high priesthood of the church to Jesus instead of her? In fact, the declaration of the Hebrews writer would lose its power if someone else had already achieved sinless perfection.

Mary herself acknowledged this great doctrinal truth, i.e., that all have sinned and are in need of a Savior. She declared: “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47, emp. added). This fits with what the angel told Joseph about Mary: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, emp. added). Jesus came to save mankind from the bondage of sin. When Mary recognized God as her Savior, she also recognized that, just as any other human being, she needed salvation. If Mary lived and left this life without committing sin, it follows that she would not have needed a Savior. Why, then, did she refer to God as her “Savior”? If she was sinless, from what was she saved?

Finally, God’s grace for Mary was not earned—but given. Advocates of the doctrine of the Most Holy Immaculate Conception argue that when the angel called Mary the “highly favored one” (Luke 1:28), he implied that she was pure in the highest sense of the word and, ultimately, without any vestige of sin. Nevertheless, the expression “highly favored one” is not intended to emphasize some sort of unique nature of Mary, but rather the nature of God’s immeasurable favor. Verse 30 states: “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’” The great peculiarity of Mary’s life is not some sort of unique moral nature that she achieved, but rather the greatness of divine favor and grace that she received from God. Mary understood this point very well and declared: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, emp. added).

If Mary was not exempt from sin, how was Jesus born without sin? As we already indicated, no child bears the iniquity of his or her parents (Ezekiel 18:20). If it were necessary for Mary to have been sinless, in the absolute sense of the word, in order to have a sinless child, then sinlessness also would be required of Mary’s parents, in order to conceive a “sinless” Mary. In turn, all Mary’s ancestors logically would have had to meet the same requirement.


We conclude from the Bible: (1) Like every other person ever born, Mary was born without any kind of original sin; (2) like every other person ever born (apart from Jesus Christ), Mary was not exempt from sin and its consequences; and (3) like every other person ever born (apart from Jesus Christ), Mary was in need of a Savior. These biblical facts do not minimize the importance of Mary’s role in fulfilling God’s divine plan to save man. Because of her godly life, God chose this particular young Jewish virgin to bring forth the Messiah. However, she was not sinless. Throughout history, God has used ordinary, imperfect men and women to accomplish extraordinary things, bringing them closer to “perfection” through His Son, Jesus Christ.


Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), (Mahwah, NY: Paulist Press).

Herbermann, Charles G., et al., eds. (1913), The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: The Encyclopedia Press).

Was Mary a Virgin Her Whole Life? by Moisés Pinedo



Was Mary a Virgin Her Whole Life?

by  Moisés Pinedo

The idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity is critical to Catholic Mariology (see Herbermann, 1913, 15:459-472). Catholics maintain that Mary was a virgin, not only before and during the conception of Jesus, but also afterward, for the rest of her life. This idea is known as the “Perpetual Virginity” of Mary. But, was Mary a virgin for the totality of her life?

All Christians (or at least those who believe the biblical record is inspired) agree that Mary was a virgin when God’s angel informed her that she was with child of the Holy Spirit. Matthew is plain when he states: “Be­­fore they [Joseph and Mary] came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (1:18, emp. added). Luke records Mary’s question upon hearing that she was to bring forth a son: “Can this be, since I do not know a man?” (1:34, emp. added). The word “know” in Luke 1:34 obviously was used not for “having an idea or notion about a man,” but in reference to “having conjugal relations.” [Mary thought it was impossible for her to have conceived a child since “she did not know a man.”] The word “know” comes from the Greek ginosko and, in the context of Luke 1:34, is “used to convey the thought of connection or union, as between man and woman” (Vine, 1966, 2:298). The Bible clearly teaches that Mary was a virgin at the time of Jesus’ conception (cf. Isaiah 7:14). But what about after giving birth to the Savior?

First, consider Catholicism’s ideas about virginity itself. If they define virginity as “the intact conservation of a woman’s hymen” (the membrane located in the vulva), naturally Mary would have “lost her virginity” at the moment of Jesus’ birth. The Bible records that Mary’s conception was miraculous (Matthew 1:18), but to say that her pregnancy, as well as her delivery, were miraculous would be a forced interpretation of the text.

Second, consider the word “till” in Matthew 1:25 (“and [Joseph] did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son”), in connection with the word “before” in Matthew 1:18 (“before they [Joseph and Mary] came together”). The Greek phrase heos hou, translated “till,” does not necessarily imply that Joseph and Mary had sexual relations after Jesus’ birth. However, as Lewis noted, the rest of the New Testament bears out the fact that where this phrase is preceded by a negative, it “always implies that the negated action did take place later” (quoted in Miller, 2003). Most probably, Matthew’s use of the words “till” and “before” emphasizes an opposite post-condition to a virgin state. Also note that Matthew wrote his gospel account (between A.D. 40 and A.D. 70) after the events of his record had transpired. Thus, if he had wanted the reader to understand that Mary was a virgin for all her life, surely he would have been very clear on that matter. But his wording leads to an opposite conclusion.

Third, as Joseph pondered Mary’s sudden pregnancy (although they had not yet “come together,” according to Matthew 1:18), “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife’” (Matthew 1:20, emp. added). This phrase (“to take to you Mary your wife”), as Barnes noted, means to “recognize her as such, and to treat her as such” (2005, p. 6, emp. added). God’s angel encouraged Joseph not only to take Mary, but to take her as his wife, not as a sister or a roommate for life. The truth is clear: Mary became Joseph’s wife in the absolute physical sense of the word.

Fourth, both Matthew (1:25) and Luke (2:7) record that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. “Firstborn” comes from two Greek words: protos, meaning first, and tikto, meaning to beget (Vine, 1966, 2:104). In these verses, Jesus is referred to as Mary’s first son, which may imply that Mary had more children after Jesus’ birth. It also is worth mentioning that while Luke referred to baby Jesus as Mary’s firstborn (prototokos; 2:7), one chapter earlier he referred to the infant John (the only son of Zacharias and Elizabeth) as Elizabeth’s son (huios; 1:57). This does not prove that Mary had other children, but adds to the weight of the case against Mary’s perpetual virginity.

Other passages in the New Testament provide evidence to conclude, beyond any doubt, that Jesus had half-brothers and half-sisters who were born to Joseph and Mary sometime after they “came together” (Matthew 1:18). For example, Mark 3 tells us about a disturbance that arose while Jesus was teaching a crowd of people. “Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him” (Mark 3:31, emp. added; cf. Matthew 12:46-50). Mark also noted that the people around Jesus “said to Him, ‘Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You’” (3:32, emp. added). Not only did Mark identify these people as Jesus’ direct relatives, but he recorded that the multitude (who knew Jesus) identified the same group of people as His family. Additionally, when pointing out the superiority of His spiritual family over His physical family (who was looking for Him), Jesus said: “For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). Jesus’ statement emphasizes the unique and intimate relationship between Christ and His followers. He did not intend to convey that those who do the will of God are His spiritual cousins, but His spiritual brothers and sisters!

Matthew 13:53-58 is similar to Mark 3:31-35. Matthew records Jesus’ arrival in His hometown, Nazareth of Galilee, where He taught the people in their synagogue (13:54). When the people heard Jesus’ teaching, “they were astonished and said, ‘Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?’” (13:54-56, emp. added).

Various theories attempt to avoid the fact that Joseph and Mary had children together. One of the theories maintains that the “brothers” mentioned in Matthew 13 were His apostles. This theory fails to recognize that Jesus did not arrive at just any country but “to His own country” (13:54, emp. added). Those who identified Jesus’ brothers and sisters knew very well who Jesus was and who His close relatives were, as evidenced by the fact that they identified Jesus’ family members by name. One reason they marveled at His teaching was the fact they knew His earthly family consisted of ordinary people. It is ironic that many Catholics accept that the phrase “carpenter’s son” literally identifies Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, and that the phrase “His mother called Mary” literally identifies Jesus’ mother, while they deny that the phrases “His brothers” and “His sisters” literally identify Jesus’ half brothers and sisters. What kind of interpretation is that? Furthermore, even though the names James, Simon, and Judas (listed by the multitude) may remind us of the names of three of Jesus’ apostles (Matthew 10:2-4), no apostle was named Joses (Joseph—Matthew 13:55). It is clear that these “brothers” were not Jesus’ apostles. If “His brothers” refers to the apostles, pray tell, to whom does the phrase “His sisters” refer?

Luke offers more evidence that the men referred to as Jesus’ brothers could not be His apostles. In Acts 1:13, he identified the apostles (at this time only eleven) by name. Then, in verse 14, he added: “These all [the apostles of verse 13] continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (emp. added). Paul made the same distinction when he asked, “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5, emp. added). There can be no doubt that “the brothers of the Lord’ about whom Luke and Paul wrote were a different group from the apostles.

Due to the weight of the biblical evidence, few Catholics maintain that Jesus’ brothers were His apostles. Rather, many of them have suggested that these “brothers” and “sisters” were His disciples or followers. But, again, the biblical evidence is overwhelming.

When the people identified Jesus in Matthew 13:53-58, they connected Him with a family composed of a “carpenter,” “Mary,” “His brothers” (James, Joses, Simon and Judas), and “His sisters.” Why would the people refer to Joseph and Mary and then connect them to His “spiritual family” (followers) in order to establish Jesus’ identity? Why would they have named only four of Jesus’ “followers”? John helps us to conclude that these “brothers” and “sisters” were not Jesus’ disciples or followers. In chapter seven of his gospel account, John tells us that “His [Jesus’] brothers therefore said to Him, ‘Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing’” (vs. 3, emp. added). John made a clear distinction between Jesus’ brothers and His disciples or followers. He went on to state that “even His brothers did not believe in Him” (vs. 5). By this time, Jesus’ brothers were not counted in the group known as “His disciples,” those who believed in Him. Luke also makes a distinction when, in Acts 1:14, he identifies a group known as Jesus’ brothers, while in verse 15 he gives the number of the disciples: “[A]ltogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty.” Although by the time the event of Acts 1 transpired, Jesus’ brothers believed in Him and were counted in the number of His disciples, they still were described as having been closely related to the Savior. Truth be told, these “brothers” and “sisters” were neither Jesus’ disciples nor His followers during His ministry.

Is it possible that these “brothers” and “sisters” were Jesus’ cousins or other near relatives? In trying to defend this theory, a Catholic apologist turned his attention to Joses (Joseph), one of Jesus’ brothers listed in Matthew 13:55. He argued that the Jews “never name their sons after their parents.... Therefore, Joseph cannot be the son of Joseph [the carpenter—MP]” (Zavala, 2000c). This conclusion is unfounded. First, tradition may reflect what a majority of people do, but it cannot accurately represent every individual case. It cannot be said that Jews “never name their sons after their parents.” Second, by Jesus’ time, Hebrew tradition had been influenced greatly by Greek and other cultures (e.g., Babylonian, Persian, etc.). As it happens with modern influence (e.g., Latin children called by English names), by this period Jewish tradition was a mixture of different customs. Third, Luke shed light on the Hebrew tradition of naming babies by Jesus’ time. Concerning the immediate time after the birth of John the baptizer, Luke recorded that the “neighbors and relatives...called him [John] by the name of his father, Zacharias” (1:58-59, emp. added). Why would Hebrew relatives and neighbors do so if it was not an accepted tradition? Luke further informs us that when Elizabeth (John’s mother) responded that the child “shall be called John” (vs. 60), they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name” (vs. 61). The conclusion is clear (and shows the lack of Bible knowledge of some Catholic apologists): By Jesus’ time it was acceptable to name a son after his father. Therefore, Joseph (Joses—Matthew 13:55) refers to the son of Joseph the carpenter.

It is true that the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew) uses adelphos (brother) with a broader meaning to refer to a near relative or kinsman who is not technically a brother. However, this use does not establish the meaning “cousin” for adelphos in the New Testament. As Walther Gunther has indicated, “In no case in the New Testament can adelphos be interpreted with certainty in this sense [i.e., as cousins—MP]” (see Brown, 1975, 1:256). Lewis declared, even more emphatically, “‘Brothers’ (adelphos) never means ‘cousins’ in New Testament Greek” (1976, 1:181, emp. added). Therefore, interpreting adelphos as “cousins” only in New Testament passages that make reference to Jesus’ brothers is an arbitrary exegesis that lacks contextual and/or textual basis (see Miller, 2003).

Paul offers additional circumstantial evidence. When defending his apostleship before the Galatians, he declared that when he arrived in Jerusalem, he “saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother” (1:19, emp. added). This information fits perfectly with Matthew 13:55, where James is identified as one of Jesus’ brothers. Further, when Jude wrote his epistle, he introduced himself as “a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James” (vs. 1, emp. added). As a way of confirmation, Matthew identified James and Jude as Jesus’ brothers. [NOTE: Contrary to what some Catholics have declared (e.g., Tapias, 2006; Arráiz, n.d.), this James, brother of Jesus, was not James the apostle (cf. Galatians 1:17-19) and, therefore, was not the son of Alphaeus, but the son of Joseph the carpenter. As far as we know, neither of the two apostles with the name James had a brother named Jude (cf. Matthew 10:2-3).]

If Jesus, indeed, had physical half-brothers, why did He commend the care of His mother to one of His disciples while on the cross (John 19:25-27)? Does this show that Jesus had no brothers who could take care of His mother? No. Jesus’ brothers disbelieved in Him during His ministry (John 7:5). [Apparently they became Jesus’ disciples after His resurrection.] This may have been the principal reason why Jesus trusted one of His apostles to take care of His mother instead of one of His physical brothers. Jesus always prioritized His spiritual family above His physical family (Matthew 12:48-50).

One last point should be discussed. It has been argued obstinately (as a “last ray of hope” for Mary’s “perpetual virginity”) that Mary had no more children after Jesus because the Bible never mentions “children of Mary” (see Salza, n.d.). Why is the specific phrase “children of Mary” needed when so many biblical passages, which we have mentioned previously, clearly indicate that she and Joseph had children together after Jesus’ birth? Do they need the specific phrase “children of Mary” to come to this conclusion? It is interesting to note that while some Catholic apologists refuse to believe that Mary had other children because the Bible does not record the phrase “children of Mary,” they accept and promote ideas and phrases, such as “Most Holy Immaculate,” “Ever Virgin,” “Mother of the Church,” and “Mother of God,” that the Bible does not mention, much less support.

Demonstrating that Mary had more children does not, in any way, impugn her dignity. But to justify their worship of Mary, Marianists have looked for a way to distinguish her from any other woman and elevate her to the level of “sublimely pure”—which, they think, is obtained by means of her “virginity.” When God created man and woman, it was His pure and sublime desire that the two would come together to produce descendants (Genesis 1:28). Since Mary was a creation of God, we know that she could enjoy that blessing from Him. The Hebrews writer tells us that the conjugal relationship between a husband and wife is honorable (13:4), and Paul wrote that such a relationship is necessary for those who are married (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). From all we are told about Mary in Scripture, it is reasonable to believe that Mary, as an obedient servant of our Lord (Luke 1:38), also was obedient in this respect.


Arráiz, José (no date), “An In-depth Study of Mary’s Complete Virginity” [“Estudiando la Virginidad Completa de María a Profundidad”], [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticacatolica.org/Maria/MariaN01.htm.

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

Brown, Colin, ed. (1975), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

Herbermann, Charles G., et al., eds. (1913), The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: The Encyclopedia Press).

Lewis, Jack P. (1976), The Gospel According to Matthew (Austin, TX: Sweet).

Miller, Dave (2003), “Did Jesus Have Fleshly Half-Brothers?,” [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/articles/2318.

Salza, John (no date), “Mary: Evolving Doctrine or Eternal Truth?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.catholicintl.com/catholicissues/marysalza.htm.

Tapias, Anwar (2006), “Did Mary Have More Children?” [“¿Tuvo María Más Hijos?”], [On-line], URL: http://www.apologetica.org/maria-hijos.htm.

Vine, W.E. (1966), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell).

Zavala, Martín (2000), “The Virgin Mary” [“La Virgen María”], [On-line], URL: http://www.defiendetufe.org/Maria.htm.

Was Jonah Swallowed by a Fish or a Whale? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.



Was Jonah Swallowed by a Fish or a Whale?

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The book of Jonah reveals that “[t]he Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (1:17, emp. added). About 800 years later, Jesus alluded to this amazing event (Matthew 12:39-41). According to the King James translation of Matthew 12:40, Jesus referred to Jonah being “three days and three nights in the whale’s belly” (emp. added). Since fish and whales are different creatures, skeptics accuse Jesus and the Bible writers of making a mistake (cf. Wells, 2012). Longtime Bible critic Dennis McKinsey alleged that Matthew 12:40 is “[p]robably the most famous scientific error by Jesus” (1995, p. 142). “Apparently Jesus hadn’t read the Old Testament very closely… Anyone with even a minimum of biological knowledge knows that a whale is not a fish and a fish is not a whale” (pp. 142-143).

Such a criticism of Jesus and the Bible writers epitomizes the impotence of skeptics’ attacks on God and His Word. McKinsey bases his criticism solely on an English translation made nearly 1,600 years after Jesus spoke these words. The skeptic never bothered to compare translations. He never asked about the word that Jesus originally spoke or that Matthew recorded. He did nothing but make a cursory criticism that might sound sensible on the surface, yet with only a little investigation, is easily and rationally explained.

What was the underlying Greek word that is translated “whale” in the KJV (as well as a few other versions)? A brief look in various respected Greek dictionaries quickly reveals that the word is ketos and is defined broadly as a “large sea creature” (Newman, 1971, p. 100), “sea monster” (Danker, et al., 2000, p. 544), or “huge fish” (Vine, 1952, p. 209). Jesus indicated that Jonah was swallowed by a “large sea creature,” which was not necessarily a whale, but may have been.

Nearly 300 years before Jesus spoke of Jonah being swallowed by a ketos (Matthew 12:40), translators of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) used this same Greek word (ketos) to translate the Hebrew word (dahg, fish) found in Jonah 1:17, 2:1, and 2:10. The fact is, as Hebrew and Greek scholar Jack Lewis concluded, both dahg and ketos “designate sea creatures of undefined species” (1976, 2:178). In no way did Jesus, the Creator of all things (John 1:3), make a mistake about what kind of animal God “had prepared” to swallow Jonah. The animal was a great sea creature, and not necessarily a great “fish” according to our modern, more limited, definition of the word. It may very well have been a type of fish (e.g., shark), water-living mammal (e.g., whale), or extinct, dinosaur-like, water-living reptile. We simply cannot be sure. As Dave Miller concluded: “Both the Hebrew and Greek languages lacked the precision to identify with specificity the identity of the creature that swallowed Jonah” (2003).

Finally, one crucial truth that many (especially the Bible critics) miss in a discussion about God and the Bible writers’ naming and classifying of animals is that God did not classify animals thousands of years ago according to our modern classification system. As far back as Creation, God divided animals into very basic, natural groups. He made aquatic and aerial creatures on day five and terrestrial animals on day six (Genesis 1:20-23,24-25). Just as God sensibly classified bats with “birds,” since they both fly (Leviticus 11:13-19; see Lyons, 2009), He could classify whales as “fish,” since they both maneuver by swimming. To accuse Jesus or the Bible writers of incorrectly categorizing an animal based upon Carolus Linnaeus’ 18th-century classification of animals, or any other modern method of classifying animals, is both illogical and unjust.

[NOTE: For more information on the Hebrew and Greek words dahg and ketos, see Miller, 2003.]


Danker, Frederick William, William Arndt, and F.W. Gingrich, (2000), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).

Lewis, Jack P. (1976), The Gospel According to Matthew (Austin, TX: Sweet).

Lyons, Eric (2009), “Did the Bible Writers Commit Biological Blunders?Reason & Revelation, 29[7]:49-55, July.

McKinsey, Dennis (1995), The Encylopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).

Miller, Dave (2003), “Jonah and the ‘Whale’?” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=69.

Newman, Barclay M., Jr. (1971), A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (London: United Bible Societies).

Vine, W.E. (1952), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).

Wells, Steve (2012), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/whale.html.

Are You Willing to Die for Jesus? by Ken Weliever, The Preacherman



Are You Willing to Die for Jesus?

A Kenyan policeman walks inside the African Inland Church after an attack in Garissa

(During the Holiday season we are reblogging the top 9 post of 2013.  Based on the number of “hits” this one came in at #8)

From Pakistan to Egypt.  From Kenya to Syria.  And all across the Muslim world it has been an “open season on Christians.”  Seventy-eight people professing Christianity were slaughtered Sunday by twin suicide bombers at a church in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.

In a Kenyan shopping mall, a gang of Islamic extremists from Somalia murdered at least 68 workers and shoppers.  Reportedly they shouted for “Muslims to get out-of-the-way so they could specifically kill Christians.”

The Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters have targeted Believers in Egypt.  Many have fled Iraq and the West Bank where church buildings were bombed and Christians were threatened.

In Syria conditions are as bad or worse after attacks by militant groups linked to al-Qaeda such as Jabhat al-Nusra.“If we stay in Syria, they will kill us. It is that simple,” explained 36-year-old Rami Sammaan, after worshiping with his wife, Sally, and her mother, father and sister.

In America we enjoy the freedom of worship.  We assemble each Sunday in our respective church buildings free from fear of intrusion. Attack. Or deadly assault.  We can openly express our faith.  Follow our faith. And share our faith.

Yet, there is no guarantee that Christians will always enjoy this privilege.

It raises the question, are you willing to die for Jesus?

We casually read of first century Christians who suffered persecution.  Stephen was stoned to death.  James was slain by the sword.  Both Peter and Paul were imprisoned.   Secular history records the terrible atrocities committed against Christians by the Roman authorities.  Christians were tortured. Mutilated. And maimed. Believers were burned at the stake.  Thrown to the lions. And crucified like Christ.

Jesus plainly told the disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt 16:25-26).

In the second century  many Christians were martyred for their faith in Christ.  One of the early “church fathers,” Polycarp lived during this period.  He was born about AD 69. He became a Christian and was later appointed as one of the bishops in the church at Smyrna   For almost his entire life he escaped persecution.

However, at age 86 he was suddenly a target of the Roman government. Friends urged him to flee and go into hiding.  Polycarp refused.  When the soldiers came to his door, he let the them in and said, “God’s will be done.”  Historians record that he  was brought before the local proconsul, Statius Quadratus, who interrogated him in front of a curious crowd of bystanders.

By all accounts the aged saint seemed unfazed by the interrogation and the threats of being thrown to wild beasts or burned at the stake.  Polycarp just told Quadratus that while the proconsul’s fire lasts but a little while, the fires of judgment, “reserved for the ungodly cannot be quenched.”

“Swear,” urged the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.”

“86 years have I have served him,” Polycarp declared, “and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

Quadratus then commanded Polycarp to be tied to the stake.  The fire was set.  And as the flames consumed him, this faithful disciple died praying to God.

As the fires of persecution burn around the world, how soon before they envelop the United States?  One day we may be faced with the decision to deny Christ or die.  In the meantime, let us be strong in the faith. Courageous. And loyal to the Lord.

And may we be fortified, assured and guided by God’s promise, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

THE "MILLENNIUM" IS NOT . . . by David Vaughn Elliott



by David Vaughn Elliott

    The very thought of a thousand-year reign of Christ excites the imagination. Usually this period is termed "the millennium" from the Latin meaning "one thousand years." This much-talked-about thousand years, or millennium, is named only six times in Scripture. Moreover, all six times are in the same text: Revelation 20:1-7. With such scant mention in the Bible, students should be very careful in trying to reach a conclusion regarding the meaning of this period of time. 


    Before examining what Revelation 20 does say, it is very enlightening to notice what it does not say: 
1 - It does not say where Christ is during this period, whether in heaven or on earth. 
2 - It does not say where the martyrs are during this period. 
3 - Although it does mention "the first resurrection" and "the second death," it does not mention "the second resurrection." 
4 - It does not say that Satan is powerless during the thousand years. 
5 - It does not say that the thousand years is a period of great peace with no persecution. 
6 - It does not even mention the Jews, Jerusalem or any temple. 
7 - It does not say that everyone on earth is in subjection to Christ during the thousand years. 
8 - It does not offer any "second opportunity" for salvation. 
9 - It does not say that the "reign" is a physical, earthly one, like David's reign.  

    There is so much that Revelation 20 does not say, one wonders where all the ideas about "the millennium" come from. The reply is simple: they come by connecting other texts to Revelation 20 (not to mention the addition of ideas that are not found anywhere in the Bible). However, before proceeding to other texts, there are further considerations to keep in mind. 


    The claim is made that the "thousand" years, and what is connected to the thousand years, must be understood literally. However, the text is admittedly filled with symbols, thereby placing in question a literal interpretation of those parts of the text that are not as clear.  

    No one understands that the dragon/serpent is literal. In fact, the book itself very specifically and very clearly says otherwise. In both 20:2 and 12:9, the inspired writer says that the dragon, the "serpent of old" is Satan, the Devil. 

    No one understands "the beast" mentioned in 20:4 as a literal four-legged animal. The reference, of course, is to chapter 13, which in turn is based on Daniel 7. Daniel 7:23 says, "The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth." Most interpreters recognize that the beast represents Rome at some time in history. Even those who do not apply it to Rome understand that the beast is a symbol of some anti-Christian power.  

    Then there is the chain, the key and the seal. Does anyone see them as literal? Is not Satan a spirit being, albeit an evil spirit? Can a physical chain bind an evil spirit? Would a literal, physical seal be any deterrent to him?  

    The book of Revelation is a highly symbolical book. Jesus himself explains that the seven lampstands are the seven churches and the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches (1:20). Whether one understands "angels" here as heavenly beings or earthly "messengers," Jesus confirms what is seen in other Bible prophecies--namely, that stars in prophecy often represent outstanding individuals, just like "Olympic stars" today.  

    Symbols continue throughout Revelation to the very last chapter, where Jesus calls himself "the Bright and Morning Star" (22:16). The next verse speaks of "the bride," a reference to Christ's church. With all this figurative language throughout the book and in chapter 20 itself, there is no inherent necessity that other elements in the chapter be interpreted literally.  


    English dictionaries give these definitions for "thousand": "a very large number," "a great number or amount." This use is very common in our daily language. Mom says, "I told you a thousand times to clean up your room." Or consider the "Thousand Islands" in the Saint Lawrence River, which include more than 1,500 islands.  

    There are several prophecies in Daniel and Revelation with numerical values: 3 1/2, 42, 62, 69, 1260, 1290, 1335. Such numbers are quite definite and specific. The number "1,000," however, is a very "round number," frequently used to express an indefinitely large amount, whether in English, or Spanish or Russian--or in the Bible. 

    In Deuteronomy 1:11, Moses expresses to Israel: "May the LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times more numerous than you are." Israel at that time consisted of 600,000 men of war, not counting women and children. A very conservative estimate would be that, with women and children, they totaled two million. A thousand times two million is two billion! Was Moses literally wishing they would number two billion? Or was he simply using "thousand" like we often do? 

    In Psalms 50:10, God says: "Every beast of the forest [is] Mine, [And] the cattle on a thousand hills." How about the rest of the hills? Would anyone dare limit God's ownership to a strict 1,000 count? Certainly not. 

    Consider also Psalm 105:8,9: "He remembers His covenant [to Abraham] forever, The word [which] He commanded, for a thousand generations." A generation is the average span of time between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring, about 30 years. A thousand generations would be 30,000 years! Literally, the text says that God commanded (or remembers) His covenant for 30,000 years. But wait. There are no "generations" in eternity. Thus, if we force 1,000 here to be an exact number, the world must continue for 30,000 years from the time of Abraham, which is 26,000 years into our future. Unless you can accept that Jesus will not return for 26,000 years, you are forced to understand "thousand" in Psalm 105 as an unspecified large number. 

    In short, in the Bible, just as in common-every-day English, 1,000 is often used as an indefinitely large number. There is no reason why the same cannot be true in Revelation 20.  


    From all the above, it is very clear that Revelation 20:1-7 cannot possibly be understood by itself. It raises too many questions. Everyone's explanation is based more on other Scriptures than on Revelation 20 itself.  

    There are at least two major views of the matter. On the one hand, there are those who connect "the millennium" to all the Old Testament kingdom prophecies. They say that Jesus did not fulfill those prophecies at His first coming. They say that because the Jews rejected the kingdom, Jesus had to postpone the kingdom's arrival. They believe in a literal future one-thousand-year reign, in which all the Old Testament prophecies will be literally fulfilled via an earthly kingdom centering around Israel, Jerusalem and a rebuilt temple.  

    On the other hand, there are those who also say that the "thousand years" is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of the kingdom. However, they say that those prophecies are not something yet to be fulfilled in our future. They say that Jesus was not a failure--that He accomplished the work He came on earth to do. They say that God set up His kingdom on schedule just as Daniel and Jesus had prophesied. They say the kingdom of God is not a physical kingdom, nor a Jewish kingdom. They say the kingdom is spiritual, it is for Jew and Gentile alike and it is here now. They say that the expression "a thousand years" is a general term expressing an indefinitely long period of time.  

    It is clear that a person's understanding of "the millennium" is very much influenced by his understanding of the kingdom prophecies and their fulfillment. That is why the present Insight is not the first, but rather the sixth, in a series. A consideration of many facts about the kingdom, as examined in five previous long Insights, is absolutely necessary as a prerequisite to delving into something as difficult as Revelation 20.  


    A superficial glance at Revelation 20 would appear to uphold the idea that there are two future resurrections, separated by one thousand years. It seems to say that there will be a "first resurrection," that of the righteous, before the thousand years, followed by a "second resurrection," that of the wicked, after the thousand years. 

    Such a concept, however, does not harmonize with Jesus' teaching on the subject. For example, Jesus taught that on "the last day," the righteous will be raised from the dead and the wicked will be judged. It will be the end. There is no room in Jesus' "last day" teaching for one thousand years to follow the resurrection of the righteous. Likewise, in the parable of the tares, Jesus clearly taught that saints and sinners must live together in this world until the end. Not only so, but He adds, "First gather together the tares." There is no way to harmonize this parable with the concept of taking the wheat out first, allowing the tares to continue in the world after that. (For greater detail on Jesus' teaching regarding "the last day" and the parable of the tares, see Insight #78: "The Rapture.")  

    The Judgment, as taught by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46, leaves no room for two resurrections separated by a thousand-year reign. Verses 31 and 32 clearly identify the time of the judgment as taking place when Christ returns: "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides [his] sheep from the goats." This judgment pronounces who will enter the kingdom (in its future phase) and who will not. "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'... Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels' " (verses 34,41).  

    What did Jesus mean by "inherit the kingdom"? Not a mere thousand years. Listen to His final words regarding both goats and sheep: "These will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (verse 46). No millennium here. According to Jesus, the judgment is followed by eternity. According to Jesus, the future phase of the kingdom is equated to "eternal life." 


    In the January, 1999, issue of "Midnight Call," Norbert Lieth offered an amazing admission of what has just been said. Discussing the writing of 1 Thessalonians 4, he says, "Until then, the doctrine of the first resurrection had been a mystery. It wasn't taught in the Old Testament, nor in the Gospels." Referring to the writing of 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians, he says, "Only in them was the mystery of the Rapture revealed (1st Corinthians 15:51-53). Until then, it was believed that the resurrection of all the dead would take place on the last day (Daniel 12:2 and 13, John 5:25-29 and 11:24)." Mr. Lieth thus admits Jesus taught "the resurrection of all the dead would take place on the last day"!  

    According to the "Midnight Call," the Rapture was a new doctrine revealed 20 or more years after Jesus' ascension. There is no inherent problem with that--the Spirit was leading the apostles into all truth (John 16:12,13). The problem is that the supposed new revelation contradicts the clear teaching of Jesus. Mr. Lieth admits the contradiction. He admits that Jesus taught the opposite of two future resurrections. When Mr. Lieth says, "it was believed," according to his own context, he is saying, "Jesus believed." In other words, Jesus did not believe Mr. Lieth's doctrine.  

   It is plain for all to see that Jesus' doctrine says all the dead will be resurrected the same time, on "the last day." Therefore, the doctrine of two future resurrections, separated by "the millennium," is a doctrine that opposes the clear teaching of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  


    Previous Insights offered detailed evidence of the existence of the kingdom of God in the first century A.D.--evidence in the four Gospels, in the book of Acts and in the epistles of Peter and Paul. Now it is time to examine the book of Revelation, outside of chapter 20. 

    In the opening verses of the book (1:9), John says: "I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ." John was already "in the tribulation"! John was already "in the kingdom"! 

    In 1:5,6, John speaks of "Jesus Christ... who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father." Some Greek manuscripts read "kings" while others read "kingdom." There is little difference in ultimate meaning. Revelation 20:6 says, "they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." "Priests and reign." That is practically a repeat of 1:6 "kingdom and priests" or "kings and priests." Moreover, 1:6 reads, "has made us." That is past tense. It expresses an accomplished fact, a present reality. We are reigning now!  

    Revelation 2:11 promises, "He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death." Avoiding the second death is thus a blessing for all faithful Christians. Therefore, Revelation 20:6 is neither stating a new truth nor a truth reserved for a special group of Christians when it says, "Blessed and holy [is] he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power." This is speaking of all Christians. 

    Verse 1:5 also says, "Jesus Christ... the ruler over the kings of the earth." Jesus is ruler now! We all know what type of ruler He is: a King. Jesus is king now! In 3:21, Jesus says of himself, "I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." Jesus is on the throne now! Under the seventh trumpet (11:15), there are "loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become [the] [kingdoms] of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" Whatever historical date one places on the fulfillment of the seventh trumpet, notice that Jesus' reign is "forever and ever." It is eternal, as Daniel 2:44 prophesied. Any interpretation of Revelation 20 that limits the kingdom of God and Christ to one thousand years is simply not in harmony with the rest of Scripture. 


    Revelation 12, regarding the woman, the dragon, the male child and war in heaven, is not without its difficulties; but consider verses 10 and 11: 

    "Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, 'Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.' " 

    First, note that salvation and the kingdom arrive at the same time--at the time Satan is "cast down" out of heaven. What is the earliest possible point in history for the arrival of salvation and the kingdom of God? Verse 11 says that the war was won "by the blood of the Lamb." So all of this must necessarily have taken place after Calvary.  

    A more difficult question: what is the latest possible point in history for the arrival of salvation, the kingdom and the casting down of Satan? Verses 13 and 14 say that, after Satan was cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman and she fled into the wilderness, where she remained for "time and times and half a time." Therefore, salvation and the kingdom had to arrive some time before the persecution of the woman for "time and times and half a time."  

    It is generally understood by all that the "time and times and half a time" is a reference to 3 1/2 years, or 1260 days as stated in 12:6. Whether this is 1260 literal days, or a figurative day-for-a-year interpretation, is a question for another study.  

    The prevailing view among futurists is that the 3 1/2 prophetic years refers to the second half of "the tribulation," which is followed by the arrival of the kingdom in "the millennium." However, this does not agree with Revelation 12. Revelation 12 says that at the moment Satan is cast out of heaven, a loud voice in heaven declares, "Now salvation... and the kingdom of our God... have come." The persecution of the woman for 3 1/2 years comes after Satan is cast down, thus after the arrival of the kingdom. Futurists, however, teach that the 3 1/2 years take place before the arrival of the kingdom in "the millennium." Such an interpretation of Revelation 20, that places the 3 1/2 years before the arrival of the kingdom cannot harmonize with Revelation 12. 

    Chapter 12 clearly points to three events as simultaneous: the casting down of Satan, the arrival of salvation and the arrival of the kingdom. If the kingdom is not here yet, then salvation is not here yet. By the same token, if salvation is here now, the kingdom is here now! All this agrees exactly with what John had already affirmed in 1:9: "I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom." John, in 95 A.D. declared that he was already in the kingdom.  


    Most of the beliefs that anyone has about "the millennium" are not based on Revelation 20. Beliefs about the millennium are derived from other sources. 

    Based on other Scripture, it has been shown that:  
1 - The millennium is not a period of time between the bodily resurrection of the righteous and the bodily resurrection of the wicked. 
2 - The millennium is not a yet future arrival of Jesus' kingdom in which he will fulfill what He failed to fulfill when He first came. 
3 - The millennium is not some time yet future when Jesus for the first time will sit on His throne and reign as King. 
4 - The millennium is not a period of time that will arrive 2,000 years after salvation arrived in the world.  

    What then is the millennium of Revelation 20? Future long Insights, Lord willing, will explore how the expressions of Revelation 20 can be harmonized with the rest of the New Testament. In particular, there will be a study on what the rest of the New Testament teaches about the first resurrection and another study on what it teaches about the binding of Satan.  

(Scripture in the preceding article is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)