A Brief Overview of the Book of Revelation

March 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Eschatology

The Book of Revelation was not written in code or with the intent of being obscure and virtually impossible to understand. It was a revelation that was meant to be understood, especially by those to whom it was originally written — seven local, first century churches in what is now eastern Turkey. For us today, although quite complex, it is understandable.

Question? Is there a “thread” or “threads” that we can pull so as to unravel and see the complete big story of this book? Yes, in fact I think there are basically two key threads:

Interpretative Thread One: The understanding that the gospel of the kingdom of God is the major theme in Revelation and is key to interpreting the message of the book.

It is so easy to overlook the centrality of the gospel in Revelation due to the magnetic attraction of the weird and wonderful, the strange, scary, and other-worldly type creatures, as well as the convulsive, catastrophic heavenly and earthly events that we find throughout the book.

However, if we keep before us the reminder that Jesus said all Scripture had Him for its central and supreme subject matter, we will see Him as the Star of the Story. We are confronted with the reality of the gospel from the very outset of the book. In Rev.1:5, we see Jesus, the faithful witness unto death, the first born from the dead in His glorious resurrection, and ruler of kings on earth in His ascension rule and reign. This is the good news of the gospel–the death, resurrection, and subsequent ascension and reign of Christ over all. Just as Jesus Christ is the focus of the Book of Revelation, clearly it is the theme of the gospel that runs throughout the book as we are brought over and over again to Jesus atoning death and triumphant resurrection and reign.

Not only do we see the facts of the gospel, but we see the effects of the gospel, beginning in the very first chapter. In Rev. 1:5b-6, we read, “…to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Here we see what Jesus’ work has accomplished on behalf of His people. Because of His death, He has freed us from our sins by His blood. Because of His glorious resurrection, He is the One who is continually loving us. Because of His ascension and reign, He has made us a kingdom and priest to God. In the gospel of Christ, we are given all that we need to be overcomers in dark, deadly, difficult situations that are about to overtake us. We can stand against the onslaughts of Satan and all of His followers because of Jesus’ final and complete work, and His continual work in us today by the Holy Spirit.

And the thread of the gospel works its way throughout this book. In spite of scenes of intense judgment and destruction, we see the glorious picture of Christ and His great redemptive work as the Lamb having been slaughtered (Rev. 5:9).

Graeme Goldsworthy said, “…if we lose the gospel in Revelation, we lose the whole book.” He went on to say, “The Lion-Lamb tension shows that the Gospel is the only key to the understanding of the book of Revelation.” This title, “the Lamb” occurs 28 times in the book of Revelation. In Rev. 5:6, John sees the “Lamb standing, as though it had been slain …” The Greek word used 28 times in Revelation for “Lamb” is, “arnion.” It means “little lamb” and expresses endearment, namely, the endearing relationship in which Christ now stands to us, as the consequence of His previous relation as the sacrificial Lamb. This is gospel truth. The perfect sinless, Lamb of God has taken our sins upon Him and become our Passover Lamb that bore our shame, dishonor, and debt to God that would have consumed us for all eternity. But the Lamb was standing, having risen from the dead and is now the king/priest of glory. That’s good news!

And of course the Book of Revelation takes us to the glorious end, the consummation of all things, which for the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes, to the ones who conquer in Christ, the final destination of a New Heaven and Earth awaits them, where there is no longer the presence of sin, we will be in our glorified state, and God will be in our immediate presence forever). Notice how this scene is portrayed in Rev 22:1-3, Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.”

Interpretive Thread Two: The Fact of Covenant and the Execution of a Biblical Covenant Lawsuit.

The Book of Revelation has a prophetic and contemporary focus — not about the Second Coming, but about what Christ’s First Coming had already accomplished. Remember, to the First Century Church, the message from chapters 4-19 were still future, but to us they are fulfilled prophecy and past history. Revelation is written in the distinctive form of a Biblical Covenantal Lawsuit. We are introduced to the throne room of Heaven, where the Judge is seated. The term throne occurs 84 times in the book of Revelation. If you took time to read the assignment I gave you — to read the terms of the Old Covenant in Lev. 26 and Dt. 28 — you saw the pattern in which the negative sanctions of Revelation are executed upon covenant breaking Israel by way of the series of judgments multiplied seven times.

As a whole, the Book of Revelation is a prophecy of the end of the old order and the establishment of the new order. Another way to say this would be the obsolescence of the Old Testament gives way to the operation of the New Testament. It is a message to the church that the terrifying convulsions coursing throughout their world in every sphere comprised the final “shaking of heaven and earth,” ending once and for all the Old Covenant system, announcing that the kingdom of God had come to earth and broken Satan’s hold on the nations. (Read Hebrews 12:18-29)

The Seven-Sealed scroll or book introduced in Rev 4-5 is the New Covenant, which Christ obtained at His glorious Ascension and “(opened” during the period of the Last Days, climaxing in the destruction of Jerusalem. It represents God’s execution of the negative sanctions upon His covenant-breaking, unfaithful OT wife, Israel. It is my persuasion that one aspect of this covenant scroll’s contents is that of a legal divorce decree against Israel. Divorce in the Bible is always by execution, either literal or covenantal.

In Revelation 6-19, the judgment of Israel is portrayed in cyclical fashion. The Seven-Sealed Scroll seems quite certainly to represent in great part, God’s “bill of divorcement” handed down by the Judge on the throne against Israel for her spiritual adultery and harlotry, which is in essence, idolatry.

The following outline provides merely a thumbnail sketch of the primary message of the Revelation.

Chapter One

We are introduced to the subject of the prophecy, which is the Lord Jesus Christ: Rev 1:7-8, Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The theme of Revelation is set forth in Rev 1:7: “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.” This is a cloud-coming of Christ in judgment reminiscent of Old Testament cloud-comings of God in judgment upon ancient historical people and nations. God “comes” upon Israel’s enemies in general (Psa. 18:7-15; 104:3), upon Egypt (Isa. 19:1), upon disobedient Israel in the Old Testament (Joel 2:1, 2), and so forth. It is not necessary that it refer to His Last or Second coming to end history.

The translators of most of our English Bibles reveal the presuppositions they were bringing to the translators desk by the way they translated the Greek word “ge” as “earth.” This creates the impression that the events occurring were global in nature, rather than local. Notice the coming will be witnessed by “those who pierced him.” This refers to the guilt of the Jews that used their pull with the Roman government to get Jesus unjustly executed. They are called “all the tribes of the earth.” Here the “earth” (ge) should be translated “land,” i.e. the Promised Land. One example of this is seen in Luke 21:20-23,But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people

The same word that Luke used in reference to Judea is the one that John used 67 times in the book of Revelation.

So, regarding the judgments of Revelation, John pictures them being poured out upon a particular location and not upon the entire planet.

Chapter One ends by assuring the readers that Christians are now ruling, even in tribulation, as kings and priests. It closes with a majestic vision of Jesus Christ, as the sovereign, sublime, majestic, mighty Lord of all by making use of some key symbols which appear later in the book.

Chapters Two and Three

These two chapters contain messages from the Lord to seven churches in Asia Minor. The letters deal with the major themes of the prophecy, particularly the problems of Judaism, Roman Caesar Lordship challenges, and persecution.

Revelation is written to comfort, instruct, encourage, and embolden the churches that are plagued and oppressed by an occult, Gnostic, statist form of apostate Judaism which had captured the religious hierarchy of Israel. John calls this movement various symbolic names – “Nicolaitans,” “Balaamites,” “Jezebelites,” and “the Synagogue of Satan” — but all these expressions refer to the same cult. The bottom line in the letters to these churches is, “every problem existing in their congregations is traceable to their getting out of line with the gospel!

Christ declares that His church is the true people of God, the rightful inheritor of the covenant promises, and encourages His people to “overcome,” to conquer and reign in His Name. Although these letters tend to be hurried past to get to the “good and exciting part of the book”, they actually comprise the central section and the primary reason of the prophecy.

Chapters Four and Five

Ken Gentry writes: “These chapters give the Biblical philosophy of history: all things are seen from the perspective of the throne of God. In the first part of Revelation (Rev. 1-5), John and his audience are prepared for the terrifying judgment scenes to follow.  Despite the turmoil, Christ is seen among the seven churches as their Defender (Rev. l:12ff). He knows their tribulation and will cut it short for the faithful (Rev. 2-3; especially: 2:10; 3:10). Then John and his readers are steeled against the storm of God’s Judgment by a vision of the heavenly role in the upheaval and devastation. Almighty God is seen in glorious, serene, sovereign control seated upon a throne of judgment (Rev. 4).  The Lord Jesus Christ is seen as the Judge of Israel. In Rev. 5, we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Matt. 26:64: Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven’“).

Rev 5:4-6, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals. And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” This is gospel truth! The little Lamb had been slain but was now alive forever more. Christ is revealed as the Conqueror, worthy to open the book of God’s judgments; creation and history are centered in Him.

Chapters Six and Seven

Here we are shown the breaking of the seven seals on the scroll, symbolizing the judgments about to fall upon covenant-breaking, Christian-persecuting, apostate Israel. These judgments are specifically shown to be divine responses to the imprecatory prayers of the Church against her enemies. The priestly/kingly, worshipful actions of the church are the means of changing world history. (Rev 8:3-5: And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.”)

As the seals are opened, the judgments begin. At the opening of the first seal (the white horse) we have a picture of the Roman army victoriously entering Israel toward Jerusalem (Rev. 6:1-2). This cannot be Christ, because the white horse is the only similarity with Revelation 19:11, and Christ is opening the seals in heaven. Also, the Living Creatures would not command Christ to “come!” This one is God’s “avenger” upon Israel. The white horse indicates victory, not holiness. God often uses the unjust to bring His judgments in history.

The second seal (the red horse) speaks of the eruption of Jewish civil war (Rev. 6:3-4). In Greek, “the peace” is emphasized. It refers to the famous Pax Romana covering the Roman Empire. Hence, the significance of “rumors of wars” (Matt.  24:6) in such a peaceful era. Josephus notes that the civil war in the Land was worse than the carnage wrought by the Romans themselves. The third seal (black horse) portrays famine plaguing Israel (Rev. 6:5-6). Black symbolizes famine (Lam 4:8; 5:10). One of the most horrible aspects of Jerusalem’s woes was the famine caused by civil strife. The fourth seal (pale horse) witnesses the death of one-fourth of Israel (Rev. 6:7-8). The pale horse is death personified. The animals devouring the dead indicate covenantal curse (Deut. 28:15, 26).

With the opening of the fifth seal, we get another look into heaven. We see the altar in heaven and hear vindication promised Christian martyrs (Rev. 6:9-11). This vindication is to occur in “a little while” (Rev. 6:10). It comes through the final collapse of covenant breaking Israel.

The sixth seal (all kinds of stellar phenomena) symbolizes the fall of Israel’s government (Rev. 6:12-17). Such symbolic phenomena are often associated with the collapse of governments: Babylon (Isa. 13:1, 10, 19); Egypt (Ezek. 32:2, 7-8, 16, 18); Idumea (Isa.  34:3-5); Judah (Jer. 4:14, 23-24). Josephus mentions that the Jews actually sought refuge underground during the A.D. 67- 70 war, as per the symbolic imagery. Christ warned that this would happen to that generation (Luke 23:27-30).

At Revelation 7:1 there is a gracious interlude between seals (Rev. 7:1-8). The “four angels” temporarily hold back the “winds of destruction” and counter the four destroying horse men. This providential halt in the judgments allows the minority population of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem to flee as the Roman General Vespasian is distracted (with the fall of Nero and the Roman Civil Wars) before he reaches Jerusalem.22 There is a prophecy (Luke 21:20-22) and an historical record that Christians would be preserved through Jerusalem’s tribulation.

Here we are introduced to the 144,000 sealed saints of God. It should be noted initially that the figure “144,000” is a perfect number composed of exactly twelve squared times 1,000. The numerical figure itself is obviously stylized symbolism. But of  what? The 144,000 saints seem to be representative of Jewish converts to Christianity who dwelt in Israel.

Chapters Eight and Nine

In chapter 8, the seventh seal is broken and the sound of the seven trumpets begins. Like the seals, each trumpet initiates judgment. The judgment of the first four trumpets reflect those poured out upon Egypt in Exodus 7-11.

In chapter 9, the judgments of the fifth and sixth trumpets are revealed. When the 5th trumpet sounds, Jerusalem is given over to Satan and his demonic legions, which flood the city to possess and consume its ungodly inhabitants, until the entire nation is driven into suicidal madness for a period of five months. With the fifth trumpet, we witness an outbreak of demonic torment (Rev. 9:1-21). The fallen star here is Satan, “the angel” of the pit (9:11). The demons confined to the pit (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6; Luke 8:31) are loosed to torment Israel (vv. 2, 3; cf. Rev. 18:2), just as Christ warned (Matt. 12:43f). The period of torment is “five months,” which indicates the final siege of Jerusalem by Titus, when the Jews were driven mad as they were hopelessly trapped.

Chapters Ten and Eleven

Chapter 10 introduces a mighty Angel, which most commentators think is Christ. He is standing on the sea and the land, as if to survey the full sweep of all human powers, Roman and Jewish, the angel proclaimed that there should be time no longer. The time for the seventh angel to sound the seventh trumpet was near, and the culminating events would be no longer delayed. The Angel’s proclamation did not refer to the end of all time, but rather to the end of the events signified in the vision. The word time here means delay, the time, or delay, of these events was about to end.

This was clearly the culminating end of the Old Covenant Age, which was just in front of the biblical writers (Hebrews 8:13). It was never to be the “end of time,” as many Christians think, but rather the “time of the end”—the end of the Old Covenant Age, which ended in finality in AD 70.

In Matthew 23:29-39 Jesus told the Jews of his day that they were the target of his wrath. The blood of all the prophets ever in Jewish history would become their accountability, fulfilling the prophecy from Deuteronomy 32:43 and echoed by the other Old Testament prophets!

Revelation has several direct references to Matthew 23 — Revelation 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:2.

It should be clear that the wrath upon Jerusalem in Matthew 23 (and elsewhere) would be fulfilled in Jesus’ generation as He so stated in Matthew 23:34-36. (Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous bloodshed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.)

In chapter 11, we are introduced to the two witnesses. This serves to remind the Bible student that under the Mosaic law, two witnesses were necessary to put any man to death; so, in that sense, God was providing two witnesses against Judah, Jerusalem, and the Temple. These two witnesses would prophesy against Jerusalem and warn the people for 3.5 years. The two witnesses comprise one set of two olive trees and one set of two lampstands. (Rev 11:4, These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.) So what or who do these trees and stands represent? This is derived from Zechariah 4:1-12 where the reader finds that one olive tree represents the anointed king, and the other represents the anointed priest — thus king and priest; the idea here seems to be that Christ’s church (made up of Christians who were/are both kings and priests, Rev. 5:10) would be witnesses of God against Judaism.

Sam Storms says, “The two witnesses are not real or historical individuals, but symbolize the Church in its missionary and prophetic role during the present age and particularly at the close of history.”

Ken Gentry suggests that, “The “two prophets” probably represent a small body of Christians who remained in Jerusalem to testify against it. They are portrayed as two, in that they are legal witnesses to the covenant curses.”

With the destruction of Jerusalem and the overthrow of the Old Covenant scaffolding, the completion and filling of the new and final Temple are revealed to the world.

Chapter Twelve

In Rev. 12:1-9, we are shown three key players in the cosmic conflict:

1. The Woman — The Woman in Revelation 12 is a symbolic picture of the faithful covenant community. She represents the people of faith in OT Israel (for she is associated with the sun, the moon, and twelve stars, per the imagery of Joseph’s dream in Genesis), the Church (for her “other children” are those who keep the testimony of Jesus the Messiah), Eve (for she is involved in a three-way conflict between the Woman, her Seed, and the old serpent), and Mary (for she is the mother of Jesus).

John is announcing the birth of the male child, the warrior king, foretold by Isaiah. He thus brings together all the Woman-imagery of the Bible for this composite portrait of the covenant community, laboring to bring forth the Messiah.

2. The Male Child — Jesus — The birth of this male Child on the day we now call Christmas was God’s D-Day — the Great Invasion — The Visitation from on High for the purpose of Liberation — A Declaration that the Final War was about to be fought and won by a Big God who would succeed by becoming incredibly little and dying horribly on a cross, rising triumphantly from the grave, and ascending victoriously to the place of absolute authority in Heaven!

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get a Christmas card with a picture on it of a screaming pregnant women clothed with the sun and standing on the moon; with a seven headed, crowned fiery red dragon standing before her waiting to kill and consume her baby! Yet Revelation 12 is a behind the scenes look at what Christmas was all about. It lets us peer into the world of ultimate reality – the spiritual realm of the heavenlies. It shows us what was really happening at the birth of the Son of God. This action portrayed in Rev 12 is the reason the gospel is the power of God unto salvation; that even though the spiritual war goes on today, the decisive battle has already been fought and won by the Man-Child, Warrior-Shepherd, King-Messiah – The Lion/Lamb Jesus!

3. The Dragon — who is identified as Satan — Rev.12:9, So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Satan’s primary weapon has always been legal accusations that result in a slandering of reputations and a dividing of relationships. But with the victory of the Lamb of God in His sinless life, substitutionary death on the cross, burial, resurrection and ascension to heaven, the accuser has been disbarred from access to the Judge’s throne. There is now no condemnation to those that are in Christ!)

The victory over the Dragon, according to John, does not take place by means of a cataclysmic event at the end of history, but by means of the cataclysmic event that took place in the middle of history: the sacrifice of the Lamb.

The casting out of Satan and his demons from Heaven in the Holy War between Michael and the Dragon isn’t a portrayal of the final battle of history at the end of the world. It cannot be future at all. It is not a battle that will take place at the Second Coming. The Bible declares in 1 Jn. 3:8b, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

Chapter Thirteen

In this chapter we are shown the all-out warfare which was approaching between the faithful Church and the pagan Roman Empire (the Beast). We read in Rev 13:1: Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. The beast out of the sea represents Rome in general and Emperor Nero in particular. The Roman Empire is symbolized in Revelation as a ravenous, ferocious animal, untamed and under the curse. John says its appearance was like a leopard, a bear, and a lion (Rev. 13:2)

Then the end of the chapter introduces us to the infamous number 666. Rev 13:18: Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” This numerical value of 666 corresponds to Nero Caesar, the head of the Roman Empire of the day. An ancient Hebrew spelling of Nero Caesar perfectly fits the value: “Nrwn Qsr.”

Rev 13:11: Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth ( ge=land), and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.

This beast arises from the land of Israel and is identified in Rev 16:13 and 19:20 as the false prophet. It represents the Jewish leaders who enforced submission to Rome and persecuted Christians violently and vigorously, using the authorization of Rome to do so.

God’s people are warned that the religious forces of apostate Judaism will be aligned with the Roman State, seeking to enforce the worship of Caesar in place of the worship of Jesus Christ. With confident faith in Christ’s lordship, the Church is to exercise steadfast patience and not attempt to instigate a counter-revolution.

Chapters Fourteen, Fifteen, and Sixteen

In these three chapters we are shown the victorious army of the redeemed, represented by 144,000, standing on Mount Zion singing a song of triumph. Rev 15:1: Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete. Christ is seen coming in the Cloud of judgment upon rebellious Israel, trampling on the ripened grapes of wrath. The Temple is opened, and while the Glory-Cloud fills the sanctuary the divine judgments are outpoured from it, bringing Egyptian plagues upon the apostates.

We are told in Rev 16:15-16, “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon — literally the Mountain (valley) of Megiddo. So much blood was shed in this valley of Jezreel or Megiddo that it became a synonym for slaughter, violence, bloodshed, and battlefield, as well as a symbol for God’s judgment (Hos. 1:4-5). In our day, Armageddon has also become synonymous with and a symbol for the ultimate in warfare and conflict.

In a similar fashion, the word “Waterloo” has garnered a symbolic use. Back in 1815, this town in Belgium was the battleground and scene of Napoleon’s final defeat. Today, we have a saying that someone or something has met their “Waterloo.” We don’t mean they have met that city in Europe. We mean, by way of comparative imagery, that they have met a decisive or crushing defeat, or their demise. I suggest Revelation employs the word Megiddo in this same manner. History records that a great slaughter took place on a mountain in Palestine within the lifetime of the original recipients of the book of Revelation. In A.D. 70 the Roman armies of Titus totally destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. According to Eusebius, 1.1 million Jews were killed.

Chapters Seventeen and Eighteen

Just as the New Jerusalem is not a literal city but a community of people (the bride, the new covenant community) so Babylon was not a literal city but a community of people (the harlot, the unfaithful old covenant community). The “city” that God was telling His people to come out of was not Jerusalem (they were out of that city, they lived in Asia) but the old covenant temple system. Again, Babylon was not simply first century Jerusalem, it was a symbol of the old covenant temple system. Yet Babylon, the Harlot was centered in Jerusalem because that is where the Temple was located. So the citizens Jerusalem, as well as all of unfaithful Israel that were rejecting Jesus for the temple system, is symbolized in Rev 17-18.

We are told that she is “the great Harlot…with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication” (Rev. 17:1-2). This striking picture of a Harlot-city, temple/religious system fornicating with the nations comes from Isaiah 57 and Ezekiel 16 and 23, where Jerusalem is represented as God’s Bride who has turned to harlotry. The people of Jerusalem had abandoned the true faith and had turned to heathen gods and ungodly nations for help, rather than trusting in God to be their protector and deliverer.

So Revelation exposes the essence of the unfaithful old covenant people as found centered in Jerusalem and its Temple, as being guilty of the sin of spiritual adultery. She has forsaken her rightful husband and is committing fornication with pagan rulers, worshiping Caesar, “drunk with the blood of the saints”; the holy city has become another Babylon. God issues one final call for His people to separate themselves from Jerusalem’s harlotries, and abandons her to the ravaging armies of the Empire. At the sight of the utter ruin of apostate Israel, the saints in heaven and earth rejoice.

Chapter Nineteen

Keith Mathison writes: “Revelation 19:1-6 is a glorious vision of rejoicing in heaven over the judgment of God upon Jerusalem. In verses 7-9, John reveals that even as the harlot is being judged, the Bride of Christ is preparing herself for the wedding feast. With the destruction of the old temple comes the establishment of the new temple (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21). The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple was the final redemptive act in the entire complex of events which inaugurated the present age. Jesus was born as the King (Matt. 2:2); He was identified as the King at His baptism and transfigura­tion (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; cf. Ps. 2); He was demonstrated to be the Davidic King by virtue of His resurrection (Acts 2:30-31); He was of­ficially crowned at His ascension (Dan. 7:13-14); finally, the destruction of Jerusalem was the definitive sign that He was the promised messianic King, whose kingdom will grow until it fills the earth (Matt. 24:30).

“Revelation 19:11-21 is a vision of the King of kings going to war against His enemies. This is a vivid description of the fulfillment of Psalm 110. Now that Christ has been seated at the right hand of God as the King of kings, His reign will include His triumph over all His enemies” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:25-26).

This chapter that began with the joyful wedding feast of Christ and His Bride, the Church, shifts to reveal the coming worldwide dominion of the gospel, as the King of kings rides forth with His army of saints to wage holy war for the re-conquest of earth. The agent of victory is His Word, which proceeds from His mouth like a sword.

Chapter Twenty

Keith Mathison: “Revelation 20 describes a vision of the Millennium (vv. 1-10) and the Great White Throne judgment (vv. 11-15). John tells us three things that characterize the Millennium. First, at its inception and for most of its duration, Satan is bound. Second, Christ is reigning with all Christians. Third, at its conclusion, Satan is briefly released to lead a rebellion and is then cast into the lake of fire. The Millennium is the pres­ent age between the two advents of Christ.

“The New Testament resounds with the truth that Satan was de­cisively defeated and restrained at Christ’s first advent (Matt. 12:29; Luke 10:18; John 12:31; 1 John 3:8). Hebrews 2:14 is abundantly clear on this point: “Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” This binding of Satan does not entail the cessation of his activity (cf. 1 Peter 5:8), but it does mean that he is no longer able to prevent the spread of the gospel to the nations (Rev. 20:3). Scripture also declares that Christ was given His kingdom at His first advent (Daniel 2, 7; Matt. 2:2; Acts 2:30-31; 17:7; Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:5), and that Christians now reign with Him (Rom. 5:17; Eph. 2:6; Rev. 1:6). Revelation 20 also tells us that at the end of this millennial age, Satan will be released and will lead a rebellion against Christ. This is a reminder for those whose vision for this present age tends toward utopi­anism. Satan, sin, and death will not be completely destroyed until the final consummation at the second coming of Christ.”

Here we are given a summarized, concise history of the new world order, the kingdom of God, from the first coming of Christ until the end of the world. The Lord binds Satan and enthrones His people as kings and priests with Him. Satan’s final attempt to overthrow the King is crushed, and the Last Judgment is ushered in. The righteous and the wicked are eternally separated, and God’s people enter into their eternal inheritance.

Chapters Twenty-one and Twenty-two

In these two final chapters, we are given a vision of a new heaven and a new earth and a new Jerusalem. This is the fulfillment of Isaiah 65:17-25 and numerous other OT prophecies. The new heavens and the new earth are not totally future or totally present. They are here in one sense, i.e. we are a new creation (2 Cors 5:17), but not yet in their curse-removed finality. The whole creation will not be set forever free from corruption until the Last Advent of Jesus.

In these two chapters we are given a vision of the Church in all its glory, comprehending both its earthly and its heavenly aspects. The Church is revealed as the City of God, the beginning of the New Creation, extending a worldwide influence, drawing all nations into itself, until the whole earth is one glorious Temple. The goals of Paradise are consummated in the fulfillment of the dominion mandate.

We have seen that in this book that we call Revelation the beloved disciple John was given a multidimensional view of God’s Great Glory Story from the last chapter of the old earth and old heaven, to what C.S. Lewis called, “Chapter One of the Story that Never Ends.” This is the never ending great story of the new heavens and the new earth. Someone said, “On a clear day you can see forever.” For John this was truly a very clear day. If we had been with John on the isle of Patmos at the time of his vision, we would have shouted from down below to him on the lonely pinnacle of his vision, “John, what can you see from there?”

And to borrow the answer in the words of Philip Greenslade, John would shout down to us, “I can see a sparkling new world; a whole new creation! What does it all look like? It looks like a city but stretched out in all directions. It’s like a new Jerusalem, teeming with people from every nation, as if up for an international festival, enjoying the presence of God.”

What else can you see? “I can see that no one is crying, there are no cemeteries, no prisons; I can see no one is suffering any disease; and I see… I think I can see… I can’t believe it… I feel sure I can see God! I can see God’s face! And yet everything is radiating such a glorious light that I’m not sure what I see: Yet when I stare at the face of God, more often than not I see a face I know so well, the human face of Jesus!”

“And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” The greatest story ever told is also the oldest story on earth – boy meets girl; boy falls in love with girl; boy loses girl; boy sacrifices and wins girl and then takes her home to Father! The Chapter One Begins!

Why not make a choice to live like Jonathan Welton suggests: “What if you chose to believe optimistically about the endtimes, raise godly kids, plan long-term,  reject thoughts of fear, and work as a member of the Bride making herself ready? Even if you are wrong and suddenly get raptured out, what have you lost? You will have been a good steward of what God put in your hands rather than sitting on your hands, burying your talents, and waiting for a rapture that may not come in your lifetime! If you spend your life in fear, trying to figure out dates and guess who the antichrist is, you will be held accountable for all that wasted living.”

 

An Introduction to the Book of Revelation

March 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Eschatology

Ambrose Bierce, the American editorialists, journalists, and satirists, defined Revelation as, “a famous book in which St. John concealed all that he knew. The revealing is done by commentators who know nothing.”

One of the ironies of Scripture is that the most difficult book to interpret is called, “The Revelation.” The Greek word for Revelation is, ” apokalupsis” which mean “to uncover or open up.”

Martin Luther said that the inspiration or the Holy Spirit was not perceptible in Revelation and that it is neither apostolic nor prophetic.
Charles Spurgeon’s published sermons fill 69 volumes with 3,561 messages but there are only 74 messages preached from the Book of Revelation because, he said, “There is too much in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and the epistles that I have some light on rather than to preach on something in which I have very little understanding.”

Someone well said, “… not having understanding has not prevented our modern preachers and writers from coming up with fantastic views of the end times. Millions of people spend millions and millions of dollars on books and movies about the end times that have very little or no biblical support. But they are sensational, curiosity arousing and entertaining.

David Chilton said, “The Book of Revelation is a revelation – it was meant to be understood. It will not, however, be understood by lazy-minded and undisciplined thrill-seekers, who are in such a hurry that they have no time to study the Bible. Many Christians treat it as little more than a book of hallucinations, and have not “studied to show themselves approved, able to rightly divide the Word of God.”

The early church likely did not have the problem understanding the book we do today. They were well acquainted with the style of apocalyptic literature. They were living at a time when the symbols of the book were likely familiar to them (similar to how a picture of a donkey fighting an elephant would be understood by us as depicting conflict between the Democratic and Republican parties).

I believe the book was originally intended to be understood by an ongoing public reading of the book in the hearing of the believers, as implied by the opening beatitude: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (1:3)

1. Different Views of Interpretation:

Different views of interpreting the book generally fall into four categories:

The “preterist” (full/partial) view — The Latin term “preterists” means past. The book refers to events that were fulfilled in the first century A.D., or shortly thereafter. There are two proponents of this position: “full-preterist,” who believe all things, period, were fulfilled by 70AD. The second position is called “partial preterist” which to some extent is held by everyone. This view believes a major portion of the book of Revelation was fulfilled in the First Coming of Christ and by the 70AD destruction of the Temple and the nation of Israel. It was written primarily to encourage the original readers. Its value for today would therefore be didactic (teaching the value of faithfulness to God).

The “historicist” view – The book provides a panoramic view of the future of the church as it goes continues throughout all the ages of history. This view finds in the book such events as the rise of Catholicism, Islam, the Protestant reformation, world wars, etc., ending with the return of Christ. As such it would encourage Christians no matter when they lived.

The “futurist” view – Apart from the chapters 1-3, the book depicts events which immediately precede the second coming of Christ. Therefore most of the book has yet to be fulfilled (or is being fulfilled now), and its value is primarily for Christians who will be living at the time Jesus returns.

The “idealist” view — The book does not deal with any specific historical situation. Instead, it is simply enforcing the principle that good will ultimately triumph over evil. As such the book is applicable to any age.

2. The Type of Literature:

The book of Revelation is comprised of two types or genre of literature. One is called prophetic (Rev. 1:3; 10:11; 22:7, 10, 18-19). The prophets told the future only to stimulate godly living. Prophecy is primarily a message from God’s lawyers (prophets in the OT were God’s prosecuting attorneys), within the framework of the Covenant, addressed in terms of the stipulations and sanctions as set forth in the law.

The other type of literature used in Revelation is called apocalyptic. Sam Hamstra elucidates: Scholars describe this pictorial presentation or truth as apocalyptic, a style of communication and writing characterized by bold colors vivid images, unique symbols.. a simple story line, a hero, and a happy ending, Thus, in Revelation you meet angels, animals, and numbers. You see lightning and hear thunder. You witness earthquakes and battles. You see the sparkle of jewels and a woman clothed with the sun facing a terrifying dragon. You see a rider on a white horse with a sword in His mouth and hear the lyrics of the Hallelujah chorus.”
As a whole, the Book of Revelation is a prophecy of the end of the old order and the establishment of the new order. It is a message to the church that the terrifying convulsions coursing throughout the world in every sphere comprised the final “shaking of heaven and earth,” ending once and for all the Old Covenant system, announcing that the kingdom of God had come to earth and broken Satan’s hold on the nations. In the destruction of Jerusalem, the old kingdom, and the Temple, God revealed that they had been merely the scaffolding for His eternal City, His Holy Nation, and the most glorious Temple of all.

The book of Revelation is John’s equivalent of the Olivet Discourse as found in Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21). This discourse prophesied the ‘great tribulation’ Matthew 24:21). This great tribulation was a period that occurred in a 3½ year period from April 67 A.D. to September70 A.D., when the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple were destroyed by Roman forces led by General Titus. During this 3½ year period, Jerusalem was under siege by the Romans, as God poured out His judgment upon His harlot wife, apostate Judaism. When the city was eventually devastated, and the temple destroyed, Judaism (as practiced until then) came to an end.

I am firmly convinced that if we will interpret Revelation with this first-century backdrop, rather than looking to the newspaper, or the latest prophecy book for insight, we will get a much more correct and encouraging understanding of God’s Word and will.

3. Determining Factors in Interpretation:

A. The Original Audience Factor

We must always asks, who was this letter written to? Remember, Scripture was not written to us but for us! If we overlook the original audience factor, then Revelation’s message becomes totally irrelevant to them. John is obviously writing to particular historical churches about their current, crucial, and worsening circumstances.

We must understand that in Revelation John is writing to specific, historic, individual churches that existed in his day. Revelation 1:4 provides a common Bible letter opening: “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace [be] unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come.” In Rev. 1:11 he specifically names the seven churches to whom he writes: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. These cities are historical places located in modern day Turkey.

In his first chapter John also notes that he and the seven churches are already in “tribulation,” which anticipates the major focus of the book: the “great tribulation” (Rev 7:14). “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in the tribulation” (Rev 1:9a). Revelation 2 and 3 contain allusions to greater problems brewing on the world scene.

In the face of current persecution, and in the foreshadowing of even more intense persecutions ahead, the church needed to see (as recorded by John) that God was in control, Christ was on His throne, and the adulterous, Old Covenant wife of Jehovah’s judgment was soon to happen. Jay Adam’s puts it this way: “The Church was on the verge of massive persecution, indeed it had already begun. Where would it all end? Was God really in charge? Did He really care? Would the righteous be vindicated and the wicked punished? [Quoting another author] “Widespread persecution was breaking out everywhere; greater still was yet in the offing. Lest there be any doubt in the Christian’s mind, the Savior graciously draws back the curtain of heaven (or to use the exact figure of the text, opens the door in Rev. 4-5) and gives John a reassuring glimpse of the Divine control and care.”

B. The Generational Time Factor

Dr. Ken Gentry observes, “One of the most obvious, yet most overlooked features of Revelation is John’s expectancy. The events in Revelation are urgent and impending. The “time is at hand”; the events “must shortly come to pass.” John strategically places this temporal expectation: it appears twice in the opening, introductory chapter (Rev 1:1, 3) and four times in the final, concluding chapter (Rev 22:6, 7, 12, 20). We also discover similar temporal expectations scattered throughout the prophecy: Revelation 2:16; 3:11; 6:11; 10:6; 12:12; 16:17.”

J. Stuart Russell asks: “Was a book sent by an apostle to the churches of Asia Minor, with a benediction [blessing] on its readers, a mere unintelligible jargon, an inexplicable enigma, to them? That can hardly be. Yet if the book were meant to unveil the secrets of distant times, it certainly would be unintelligible to its first readers – and not only unintelligible, but even irrelevant and useless! Is it conceivable that an apostle would mock the suffering and persecuted Christians of his time with dark parables about distant ages? If this book were really intended to minister faith and comfort to the very persons to whom it was sent, it must unquestionably deal with matters in which they were practically and personally interested.”

C. Date of the Writing of Revelation

Again to quote Dr. Ken Gentry, “There are two basic positions on the dating of Revelation, although each has several slight variations. The current majority position is the late-date view. This view holds that John wrote Revelation toward the close of the reign of Domitian Caesar—about A.D. 95 or 96. The minority view-point today is the early-date position. Early-date advocates hold that Revelation was written by John prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70.

“I hold that Revelation was produced prior to the death of Nero in June, A.D. 68, and even before the formal engagement of the Jewish War by Vespasian in Spring, A.D. 67. ”

Pastor Wade Burleson writes: “The internal textual evidence reveals that Revelation was written in A.D. 68, just “a short time” (Rev. 1:3) before the destruction of the Temple. For example, the Temple is mentioned three times in Revelation as still standing, something that would not have occurred had John written Revelation after the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. The Apostle John urged these early Christians, most of whom were Hebrews, to look to the resurrected and reigning King Jesus and not to any standing Temple or city for their strength and comfort.

“A solid interpreter of the Bible always reads the Scriptures the way the original readers would have read them. When one understands that the biblical prophets were pointing to the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New Covenant, then one begins to see the power of the Gospel in fulfilled prophecy.”

My position (WT) is that of the early date for the writing of Revelation.

D. The Covenant Structure of Revelation:

The Components of Biblical Covenants

Revelation is structured as a covenant document as are all the prophetic books of the Scriptures:

The number seven is used 54 times in Revelation. It is the number of covenant, (the Hebrew word for seven, “sheba”, is the root of the word ‘nishba’ which means to take an oath, to swear, or to covenant; To swear or covenant means literally “to seven oneself.”

The number “seven” which signifies “completeness” or “perfection” in the scriptures.

We have listed some of the 54 occurrences of the number seven in Revelation:

3.1.1. Seven Churches (Rev. 1:4, 11, 20)
3.1.2. Seven Spirits (Rev. 1:4, 3:1, 4:5, 5:6)
3.1.3. Seven candlesticks (Rev. 1:12, 13, 20; 2:1)
3.1.4. Seven stars (Rev. 1:16, 20; 2:1, 3:1)
3.1.5. Seven lamps (Rev. 4:5)
3.1.6. Seven seals (Rev. 5:1, 5:5)
3.1.7. Seven horns (Rev. 5:6)
3.1.8. Seven eyes (Rev. 5:6)
3.1.9. Seven angels (Rev. 8:2, 6)
3.1.10. Seven trumpets (Rev. 8:2, 6)
3.1.11. Seven thunders (Rev. 10:3, 4)
3.1.12. Seven thousand (Rev. 11:13)
3.1.13. Seven heads (Rev. 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 7, 9)
3.1.14. Seven crowns (Rev. 12:3)
3.1.15. Seven angels (Rev. 15:1, 6, 7, 8; 16:1; 17:1; 21:9)
3.1.16. Seven plagues (Rev. 15:1, 6, 8; 21:9)
3.1.17. Seven vials (Rev. 15:7; 17:1; 21:9)
3.1.18. Seven mountains (Rev. 17:9)
3.1.19. Seven kings (Rev. 17:10, 11)
3.1.20. Seven be-attitudes, beginning with “blessed” (Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14)
3.1.21. Seven years of judgments (Rev. 11:3; 12:6, 14; 13:5)
3.1.22. Seven divisions to each of the letters to the seven churches
3.1.23. Seven “I am’s” of Christ (Rev. 1:8, 11, 17, 18; 21:6; 22:13, 16)
3.1.24. Seven doxologies in heaven (Rev. 4:9-11; 5:8-13; 7:9-12; 11:16-18; 14:2, 3; 15:2-4; 19:1-6)

Dennis Johnson says: “Covenant” is the biblical way to say “relationship.” But “covenant” refers to a particular kind of interpersonal relationship. There are all sorts of interpersonal relationships in society: superficial acquaintance, business contracts, employment agreements, international treaties, friendship, casual dating, marriage, and more. Biblical covenants between the Lord and human beings are like some of these in some respects, and radically different from others. Although the covenants in the Bible differ in some details, I believe that this simplified description captures what they have in common:

“A biblical covenant is a bond of interpersonal commitment and exclusive loyalty between the Lord and his servants, sovereignly instituted and structured by the Lord, expressed through mutual obligations, and enforced through life-or-death consequences (adapted from Robertson, Christ of the Covenants).”

Another simplified definition of a Biblical Covenant is: “A bond in blood sovereignly administered.”

A covenant is, first, a committed relationship, a relationship of exclusive loyalty. The bond between the Lord and his people is intimate and affectionate, so it is compared to marriage. And like a good marriage, the covenant partners are committed to be faithful to each other exclusively.

This bond is also legal and structured, so often biblical covenants have formal features that make them resemble international treaties among Ancient Near Eastern. Words—written words—are crucial to God’s covenants, for through his words God binds himself in promise to his people and binds his people to himself through command.

Biblical covenants are bonds that are sovereignly instituted and structured by the Lord. They are not negotiated contracts between equals, but commitments imposed by the Lord whose powerful prior actions make the covenant possible in the first place. Covenants begin with what God has done (creation, exodus, cross), and from God’s actions flow the motive, rationale, and form for our response as his servants (Exod. 20:1-2).
Every covenant has five points:

1. PREAMBLE—identifies the lordship of the King, stressing both his
transcendence and his immanence.
2. HISTORICAL PROLOGUE—surveys the lord’s previous relationship to the vassal,
especially emphasizing the blessings bestowed.
3. ETHICAL STIPULATIONS—expounds the vassal’s obligations and his citizenship
in the covenant.
4. SANCTIONS—outlines the blessings for obedience and curses for
disobedience.
5. SUCCESSION ARRANGEMENTS—addresses the continuity of the covenant relationship
over future generations.

Gary North puts this structure in the form of five questions:
1. Who is in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey (disobey)?
5. Does this outfit have a future?

The book of Revelation borrows many of the images for its judgments from the covenant curses that God said would come on His Old Covenant people when they broke the covenant. These covenant curses are recorded in the books of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28-29; 30-32.

In Leviticus chapter 26 God told the children of Israel that if and when they broke the covenant He would set His face against them (Lev. 26:14-17). If Israel did not repent God spoke of four sets of plagues and punishments He would visit on them (Lev. 26:18, 21, 24 and 28). Each one of these sets of punishments was to have a seven-fold fulfillment.

1. Leviticus 26:18: “if you do not obey Me I will punish you seven times more for your sins”
2. Leviticus 26:21: “Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins.”
3. Leviticus 26:23-24: “And if by these things you are not reformed by Me, but walk contrary to Me, 24. Then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you yet seven times for your sins.
4. Leviticus 26:27-28: “And after all this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.”

This pattern of covenant punishments provides an outline of the plagues and punishments found in the book of Revelation, four sets of punishments each with a seven-fold fulfillment.

The four sets of seven-fold punishments in Revelation are

I. The seven seals (Rev. 6:1-17; 8:1).
II. The seven trumpets (Rev. 8:2-10:7).
III. The seven thunders (Rev. 10:3-4).
IV. The seven bowls (Rev. 16:1-21).

E. Old Covenant Israel’s Destruction is the Focus of Revelation.

Israel’s judgment is set forth in covenantal fashion.

The following is a very lengthy quote from Dr. Ken Gentry as he writes: “We must remember that in the Old Testament Israel was graciously taken by God to be His covenantal wife. Oftentimes the prophets mention the covenantal marriage relation between God and Israel.

“Jeremiah 3:14: “Return, O backsliding children,” says the LORD; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.”

Ezekiel 16 portrays in beautiful poetic imagery, the husbandly love of God for Israel. Ezekiel 16:8: “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine.”

“Other passages alluding to the marriage covenant between God and Israel include: Isaiah 50:1; 54:5; 62:4; Jeremiah 3:20; 31:32; and Ezekiel 16:31-32.
“As a covenantal action, Israel’s marriage was formally established with proper witnesses. Deuteronomy 31:28 reads: “Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them.” See also: Deuteronomy 4:26; 30:19.
“But as an unfaithful wife Israel chased after foreign gods, committing spiritual adultery against the Lord. This adulterous infidelity is portrayed in many Old Testament passages. The old covenant prophets served as God’s lawyers. As VanGemeren expresses it: “The prophets had spoken as God’s covenant prosecutors, bringing God’s charge and stating God’s verdict.” On the basis of God’s Law and before witnesses, they legally called upon her to return to her covenantal husband, the Lord God. They often brought a “case” against Israel, calling heaven and earth as witnesses in this heavenly court-room drama and as per the public confirmation of the covenant.

Isaiah 1:2: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” Isaiah laments: “How is the faithful city become an harlot!” (Isa. 1:21a).
Micah 6:2: “Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth, for the LORD has an indictment against his people, and he will contend with Israel.”
Hosea 12:2: “The LORD has an indictment against Judah and will punish Jacob according to his ways; he will repay him according to his deeds.”
“Ultimately, the prophet’s work was futile in that Israel finally demanded the crucifixion of the Son of God, crying out: “We have no king but Caesar!”

1. The Divorce Decree Against Israel

“The dramatic visions of Revelation are framed in such a way as to represent God’s judicial divorce decree against Israel. Following upon that we witness her capital punishment for all sorts of sins, which flowed from her spiritual adultery.

“In Revelation 4 God is seen seated on His judicial throne. Interestingly, God’s throne is mentioned in eighteen of Revelation’s twenty-two chapters. In fact, of the sixty-two appearances of the word “throne” in the New Testament, forty-seven of these are found in Revelation. The judicial element is strong in this book, including references to judgments, witnesses, and the like.

“In Revelation 5 a seven sealed scroll is seen in God’s hand, while He is seated upon His throne of justice. The seven sealed scroll seems to represent God’s “bill of divorcement” handed down by the Judge on the throne against Israel. It is known that divorce decrees were written out among the Jews in the biblical era: Deuteronomy 24:1, 3; Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8; Matthew 5:31; 19:7; and Mark 10:4. It is equally certain that marriage was understood in terms of a covenant contract: Proverbs 2:17; Ezekiel 16:8; and Malachi 2:14. That the scroll in Revelation 5-8 would be a bill of divorcement is suggested on the following considerations.

“First, in Revelation we have prominent emphases on two particular women, two women that obviously correspond as opposites to one another. The two women are the wicked harlot of the Beast (Rev. 17-18) and the pure bride of Christ (Rev. 21). They correspond with the earthly Jerusalem that was the scene of Christ’s crucifixion (Rev. 11:8) and the heavenly Jerusalem which is holy (Rev. 21:10). The flow and drift of the book is the revelation and execution of the legal judgment (Rev. 15:3; 16:5-7) on the fornicating harlot.

“Following this we witness the coming of a virginal bride (Rev. 21), obviously to take her place after a marriage supper (Rev. 19). This fits well with the imagery Paul used in Galatians 4:24ff, where he speaks of the casting out of the one wife (Hagar who is representative of the Jerusalem below) and the taking of the other wife (Sara who is representative of the Jerusalem above).

“Second, the apparent Old Testament background for this imagery is found in Ezekiel and Leviticus. In Ezekiel 2:9-10 Israel’s judgment is portrayed as written on a scroll on the front and back and given to Ezekiel. This corresponds perfectly with the scroll in Revelation 5:1.

“The reason for seven seals is found in covenantal imagery, as well. The seven seals on Revelation’s scroll reflect the seven-fold covenantal judgment God forewarned Israel about in Leviticus 26:14-33. These judgments are threatened against Israel, if she should forsake God. The seven-fold judgments in Leviticus have a strong influence on the judgment language of Revelation. When these seals are opened, the preliminary judgments begin.

“Third, following the “divorce” and judgments associated with it, John turns to see the coming of a new “bride” out of heaven (Rev. 21-22). It would seem that the new bride could not be taken until the harlotrous wife should first be taken care of legally. John imports the imagery of the harlot, bride, and marriage feast; this is not being read into the text from outside. Thus, the imagery of divorce well fits the dramatic flow of the work.

2. The Execution of the Judgments

Gentry continues his insightful commentary: “The punishment in God’s Law for adultery is death (Lev. 20:10), which in biblical law was by stoning. So we discover huge hailstones raining down on Jerusalem in Revelation 16:21: “And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.” This was accomplished historically by the tenth legion of the Roman armies: The engines [i.e., catapults], that belonged to the tenth legion threw darts and those that threw stones, were more forcible and larger than the rest, by which they not only repelled the excursions of the Jews, but drove those away that were upon the walls also. Now, the stones that were cast, were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was a white colour. (Josephus — Wars 5:6:3)

“Now Israel is not only Jehovah’s wife in the Old Testament, but she is to serve Him as a kingdom of priests ministering to the nations. Thus, she is represented in Revelation as being a harlot in priestly garments. Being such, another Old Testament Law comes to bear. Leviticus 21:9 warns, “The daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the harlot, she profanes her father, she shall be burned with fire.” Consequently, we see reference to Israel’s being burned with fire in Revelation 17:16: “And the ten horns which you saw upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.”

“Then, having legally disposed of Israel as an harlotrous, priestly wife, Revelation turns to consider a new bride. In Revelation 21 we see a city coming down out of heaven adorned as a spotless virgin bride for her husband. This new city is a New Jerusalem. This “New Jerusalem” is the Church, according to Galatians 4:21ff. and Hebrews 12:18ff.

“Thus, the theme of Revelation is the execution of God’s divorce decree against Israel, her subsequent capital punishment and cremation, followed by His turning to take a new bride, the Church.

The essence of Revelation is the unveiling of a bride. It is a wedding covenant from beginning to end — from first to last — from Alpha to Omega. It begins with seven love letters to a Persecuted Bride — the true Israel. It continues with the noxious vision of a Prostituted Bride — apostate Israel. In graphic Old Testament pictures, we see the judgment of God written on a seven-sealed scroll, announced by seven angels with seven trumpets, and depicted through the seven plagues that befall a prostitute in bed with a beast. It concludes with the unveiling of a Purified Bride — true Israel. She is carried by the bride¬groom over the threshold of Jordan into a New Jerusalem that “comes down out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:10).

To sum up our introduction, just as was primarily for First century believers, we as followers of King Jesus need to be constantly mindful of the truths set forth then and throughout the future in Revelation 4-7:

Chapters Four and Five give the Biblical philosophy of history: all things are seen from the perspective of the throne of God. Christ is revealed as the Conqueror, worthy to open the book of God’s judgments; creation and history are centered in Him.

Chapters Six and Seven show the breaking of the seven seals on the scroll, symbolizing the judgments about to fall upon apostate Israel. These judgments are specifically shown to be divine responses to the imprecatory prayers of the Church against her enemies; the governmental and worship, warfare, witness and work activities of the Church are the means of changing world history.

Revelation 5:8, “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

Revelation 8:3-5, “And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.”

Prayer, viewed from on earth, seems so simple, so innocent, so silent, and for most people so harmless and helpless. But when we see how it’s viewed in Heaven and how it’s treated — WOW! The prayers of the saints ascends to heaven where they are mixed with fire from off the altar and hurled back down to the earth in the form of voices, earthquakes, thundering and lightening.

Worship-based, warfare-concentrated prayer is Smoking Up Heaven with the Incense of Words and the Groanings of Faith Offered from a Praise-filled Heart of Love!

The Church cries out to God in Prayer:

A. Thy Kingdom Come and Destroy the kingdom of Satan –– Rev. 12:9 10; Ps 68:1, “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate Him flee before Him.” Roms 16:20, “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.”

B. Incense of Prayers Goes into Heaven Calling for the Gospel to Freely and Powerfully Spread –– Acts 4:30-31, “By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”

C. The Church Smokes up Heaven with Her Prayers and Praises in Situation of Brutality and Injustice — Acts 16:25-26, “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands.”

D. The Church Smokes up Heaven in Calling on God for needed reinforcements (Matt 9:38).

E. The Church is to be Smoking up Heaven for the miracle of healing for the wounded soldiers (James 5:16, “…the prayer of faith will save the sick.)

F. We are to be Smoking up Heaven with the Call for Justice and Judgment — Rev. 6:9-10;11:15-19

G. We are to be Smoking up Heaven calling for the Kingdom of Glory to Come Finally

Father, hasten the day when your will is done on earth as it is in Heaven. When the kingdom is finally and fully come in the person of King Jesus. Hasten the day when Your will is being done on this earth constantly without failure, universally without exception, joyfully without weariness, humbly with glory to none but Jesus!

Not only was the uniquely privileged, unfaithful, OT wife of God divorced and executed for her harlotry, but the Roman Emperors who persecuted the Christians were devastatingly judged as well:

Of thirty Roman Emperors, governors of provinces and others in high office, who distinguished themselves by their zeal and bitterness in persecuting the early Christians, one became speedily deranged after some atrocious cruelty, one was slain by his own son, one became blind, the eyes of one started out of his head, one was drowned, one was strangled, one died in miserable captivity, one fell dead in a manner that will not bear recital, one died of so loathsome a disease that several of his physicians were put to death because they could not abide the stench that filled the room, two committed suicide, a third attempted it but had to call for help to finish the work, five were assassinated by their own people or servants, five others died the most miserable and excruciating deaths, several of them having an untold complication of diseases, and eight were killed in battle or after being taken prisoner.
Among these was Julian the Apostate. In the days of his prosperity he is said to have pointed his dagger to heaven, defying the Son of God whom he commonly called the Galilean. But when he was wounded in battle, he saw that all was over with him, and he gathered up his clotted blood and threw it into the air, exclaiming, “Thou has conquered, O thou Galilean.”

The Last Coming of Christ!

March 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Eschatology

Matthew 24:36-51

Perhaps no passages of Scripture have been as misinterpreted and misapplied as those of Matthew 24 and the parallel accounts found in Mark 13 and Luke 21.  The misinterpretation of these passages basically centers around what Jesus was referring to when He said the end would come and He would come to end it. The end He was coming to accomplish wasn’t the end of the world — but a judgment-type coming to end the old world order of the old covenant.

In an alarming reaction to Jesus’ declaring that the Temple would be totally destroyed, the disciples urgently asked: “When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” The disciples had one concern, and their questions revolved around one single issue: the fact that their own generation would witness the close of the Old Testament era and the coming of the new age promised by the prophets. All they wanted to know was when it would come, and what signs should they look for in order to be fully prepared.

Jesus responded by giving the disciples not one, but seven signs that would indicate the end of the Jewish age, the end of the Temple, the sacrificial system, the covenant nation of Israel, and the last remnants of the Old Testament order of things. These seven signs as Jesus set forth in Mt 24:1-34, was the subject of our last study time together.

In this study, we will look at the Last or Final Coming of Christ. I use the terms last or final, rather than the Second Coming of Christ in order to delineate from the numerous ways in which Jesus is said to come in the Scriptures, e.g. coming in the Theophanies of the OT, coming in judgment, coming in the Holy Spirit, coming to the Father, coming at Bethlehem, etc. In our previous study of Mt 24:1-34, we considered how three major thoughts unfold from these scripture references:

  1. False Expectations of the End — 24:4-13
  2. Firm Observations of the End — 24:14-15
  3. Final Devastation at the End — 24:21-34

 IV. Future Culmination and the Eternal Ages — Mt. 24:36-51

In these verses, Jesus is answering His disciples question concerning the final end of human history. How would He have His followers view the end of human history and the inauguration of the Eternal Ages? How shall we today view the end of the world that will usher in the Eternal state? Some would say, “Like T.S. Eliot, who wrote, ‘This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper?'” By this Eliot meant that the world sort of  “oozes” away in moral rot and material pollution. Shall we view it with a spirit of fearfulness of what’s coming, or with gleefulness in that the wicked are going to finally get what’s coming to them? Should it be eat drink and be merry for tomorrow the world may end at any moment? How then shall we think of the future culmination of history and the Eternal Ages?

A. We Should Think of the End and Christ’s Coming as a Time After a Great Future Harvest — Mt. 24:32-35

“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

The illustration of the fig tree has two points of promise:

  1. The Budding Fig Tree is Sure Proof of Coming Destruction of the Old Order (OT).

The “fig tree” (v. 32) does not refer to the nation Israel (some argue that the budding of the tree refers to the rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948). Jesus said, Learn a parable from the fig-tree.” What He is means is, “These signs which I have given you will be as infallible a proof of the approaching destruction of the Temple, the old world order, or old covenant, and the Jewish state, as the budding of the fig tree is a proof of the coming of summer.”

  1. The Budding Fig Tree is a Sure Promise of the Coming Fruition of the New Order (NT).

The promise of the fig tree parable is that the best, not the worst is ahead! There will always be periods of awful tribulation, but the Great Tribulation is past, the abomination of desolation, or Antichrist, and the Roman Beast is history. The old world order is obsolete and the new world order of the kingdom of God is present now and growing extensively.

Summer has come in my understanding of Biblical eschatology. My confidence is not based upon things getting better, or intelligent men fixing everything, but upon the successful labors of Christ at His First Advent; upon the power of the gospel of God; and upon the present ministry of the Holy Spirit in His empowering the People of God with the Word of God, so they are expecting to see the ever-increasing victories of the kingdom of God as it grows more and more.

D.A. Carson notes: “The apostle Paul states in the eleventh chapter of Romans that the fall of the Jews was a blessing to the rest of the world (Roms 11:11-15). He speaks of it as the enriching of the Gentiles and the reconciling of the world. The catastrophe of Jerusalem really signalized the beginning of a new and world-wide kingdom, marking the full separation of the Christian Church from legalistic Judaism. The whole system of worship, so closely associated with Jerusalem and the Temple, received, as it were, a death blow from God himself. God was now through with the Old Covenant made at Sinai: holding full sway was the sign of the New Covenant.”

The Last Coming of Christ will occur at that juncture in redemptive history when Jesus gets up from His throne in heaven at the Father’s right hand in complete satisfaction, not in total disgust, for what His kingdom people have accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Big Story of the Gospel throughout the ages of history. When He leaves His throne, it is not to make His enemies his enemies his footstool, it is because they have already been conquered by the glorious gospel, either by way of conversion or by judgment, and disciples have been made of all people groups on the face of the earth!

B. We Should Think of the End and Christ’s Coming as Being a Sudden and Sign-less Event — Mt 24:36:

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”

Dr. Ken Gentry says, “In Matthew 24:36 we come upon an subject-matter transition device: “But of that day and hour no one knows.” The introductory phrase here in the Greek is: “peri de” (“but of, concerning, regarding”). This grammatical structure suggests a transition in the passage involving a change of subject. We may see this phrase frequently marking off new material, as in Matthew 22:31; Acts 21:25; 1 Thess 4:9; and 5:1.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul uses “peri de” which is translated, “now concerning” several times to indicate a change of subjects. For example in 1 Cors 7:1, “Now concerning (peri de) the things which you wrote…” 1 Cors 7:25,Now concerning (peri de) virgins…” 1 Cors 8:1, “Now concerning (peri de) things sacrificed to idols…” 1 Cors 12:1,“Now concerning (peri de)  spiritual gifts…”

Dr. R.T. France notes that verse 36, “marks a deliberate change of subject.” Thus, in Matthew 24:36 “peri de” reaches back to the disciples’ second question of the two that were raised in Mt 24:3. Having dealt with their first question in vv 4–35, he now returns to consider their second one. By this structuring of the passage we see that v 36 introduces new material differing from vv 4–35. At this point he moves away from his AD 70 prophecy and begins speaking of his second or last advent at the “end of the age,” which he will cover in 24:36–25:46.

The Last Coming of Christ will be unsuspected, unpredictable and unforeseen. Remember, all those signs in Matthew 24:1-35 are not about Christ’s Last Coming, but of His coming in judgment upon apostate Israel in 70AD.

After Matthew 24:34, Jesus drops all mention of signs and predictability. Instead he includes statements emphasizing absolute surprise and total unpredictability:

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (24:36)
“they did not understand” (24:39)
“you do not know” (24:42)
“if the head of the house had known” (24:43)
“coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (24:44)
“he does not expect him” (24:50)
“you do not know” (25:13)

This indicates that Mt 24:36-25:46 involves an event that is coming at an altogether unknown and indeterminable time. He is no longer speaking of the destruction of the temple in AD 70, but his last or second coming in the distant future.

C. We Should Think of the End and Christ’s Coming by Seeing Ourselves as Subjects of the Kingdom who know the King’s Return will be Totally Unexpected — Mt.24:36-44

The Lord delights in not returning when so many of His people are arguing that he will — 24:39, “As the days of Noah were….” These were days of relative peace and prosperity. Days of business as usual.

Pastor Sam Storms asks, “Did Jesus provide any information at all of what the last days would be like?” Yes. He does describe some of the features of that time.

“There will NOT BE unprecedented global catastrophes, unparalleled calamities, that will point people to the impending return of Jesus. Rather, humanity will be immersed in the routine affairs of life. It will be like it was in the days of Noah. The world will be caught completely off-guard by the coming of Christ. People will be engaged in normal, routine occupations of life: farming, fellowship, marriage, etc.(Cf. Luke 17:28-301 Thess. 5:3.)

“Jesus will come at a time of widespread indifference, normalcy, materialistic endeavors, when everyone is thoroughly involved in the pursuit of their earthly affairs and ambitions. His coming will occur at a time so unexpected, so unannounced, that it will catch people in the middle of their everyday routines. When will Jesus come? Jesus will come at a time when his coming is the farthest thing from people’s minds!

D. We Should Think of the End and Christ’s Coming as a Time When Our Lives will Stand Alone — Mt. 24:40-41:

“Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.” This is not about one being raptured and another left behind. It is about final and eternal distinction between the saved and the lost.

On the day of Christ’s Last Coming, it will not matter who you are with, what you are doing, or what neighborhood or whose home you are in, or what country you’re in, all persons will be divided into two groups: those who truly know Christ and those who don’t know Him. It doesn’t matter what your parents believed or whom you are married to, or what church you attend — your life will stand alone — either In Christ or Outside Christ.

E. We Should Think of the End and Christ’s Coming by Seeing Ourselves as Stewards in the Kingdom who Realize That We must Give an Account for Our Service — Mt 24:45-51

In view of His last coming, Christ gives three parables to instruct His people on their attitudes and behavior until He comes: (1) the parable of the faithful and wicked servants (Mt. 24:45-51); (2)parable of the ten virgins, and (3) the parable of the talents. These parables are very important because they emphasize the importance of watchfulness and readiness the way Jesus expects us to exemplify in light of His last coming.

Remember the childhood game we probably all played called, “Hide and Seek.  There was a base and somebody was “it” and while “it” close their eyes, everyone else ran and hid and the game was sort of triggered when the person who was “it” said, “Here I come”what’s the rest?“ready or not.”  Well, that statement, if referred to the Lord Jesus Christ, has great and profound eschatological implications. And the text in Matthew 24:45-51 could be summed up by saying, “Here I come, ready or not” because that’s exactly what it teaches.  It is a text that deals, not with the imminence (likely to happen any moment), but with the suddenness and the unexpectedness of the coming of Christ.

After Jesus exhorts the disciples to “keep watch,” to stay awake, he illustrates what he means. We stay alert not by artificially and perpetually stirring expectation that he will come at a given time, but by living, working, and serving as kingdom men and women in such a manner that we would have no cause for shame if he did come at any time.

Theologian Oscar Cullmann said, “The Christian exists in a tension between what is already and what is not yet.” We have already experienced salvation; we have not yet experienced the fullness of salvation, that is, the redemption of our bodies.  We have already received the power of the Holy Spirit; we have not yet seen the fullness of that power in bringing us to full glory.  We have already received life eternal; we have not yet participated in the bodily resurrection.

And so we are in a sense caught between the already and the not yet, and we live in that tension.  Looking back to the cross, looking forward to the last coming of Christ.  Every believer, then, lives with a sense of what is already true and what is not yet come to pass.

This wicked servant, spoken of in Mt. 24:48-50, only gave intellectual assent to Christ and his Christianity was only superficial and external.  He was a servant or leader, but a false professor proven by his un-kingdom like actions — beating others and partying with the drunkards. Apparently he fooled a lot of people for a long time, but the seeds of his apostasy came when he began to deny the final coming of Christ. What was the thing he gave up?  He gave up the conviction of the return of Christ. Many who claim to be teachers, ministers, elders and pastors have given up hope of the belief in a literal and bodily second or last advent of Christ.

The late controversial Bishop Pike, who was a minister in the Episcopal Church, gave up any belief in the return of Christ and stated that “only 24% of Episcopalians, by survey, believe it.

So we need awareness, alertness, readiness, and faithfulness. We need a continuous awareness that comes by living Coram Deo — before the face of God.

F. We Should Think of the End and Christ’s Coming by Seeing Ourselves as Spirit-filled Servants who must Make all the Necessary Preparations for a Long Delay before the Celebration — 25:1-12.

We must Wait with Preparation Appropriate for Long Delay in Jesus’ Coming

Disciples should not lose heart if Jesus does not return as quickly as we expect him to. All the virgins would have been ready for the groom had he arrived when they expected, but grooms’ delays were common enough that they should have anticipated it. This provides clear warning that the “parousia” may be delayed. The term used for the meeting or rendezvous with the bridegroom (meet, Mat_25:6) often suggested a party going out to meet someone and forming his escort to a place where he would be honored (as in 1Th_4:17).

Those unprepared for Christ’s banquet insult him and warrant judgment. The wise virgins’ unwillingness to share their oil reflects their concern for their friend’s wedding; since they had only enough for their own torches, sharing would cause all the torches to be extinguished, ruining the whole procession. Bridal processions were so important that later rabbis even suspended their lectures so they could hail a passing bride; for the groom and (some held) for the attendants, weddings even took precedence over some ritual obligations, so a breach of etiquette was serious.

Thus the foolish virgins were not excluded simply because the door was locked (Mat 25:10-11), nor because the host actually did not recognize them (Mat 25:12), but because they had insulted the bride and groom as well as all their relatives! They would never be allowed to forget such an offense.

The simple and genuine meaning of the whole parable of the ten virgins is just this: it is not enough to have a lively zeal and hot-heart for a while. We must have in addition a perseverance that never gives up, gives out, or burns out.

G. We Should Think of the End and Christ’s Coming by Seeing Ourselves as Servants Commissioned to Improve the Master’s Assets — Mt. 25:14-30

This is the second of two companion parables. The first is the parable of the five wise and five foolish young women.  The theme of that parable is to watch for the Lord’s coming.  The theme of this parable is to work while you watch and wait for His coming. The theme of the first is, Look for His Coming; the theme of the second is, Labor in His cause.  The parable of the young women may be interpreted from a salvation standpoint; the parable of the talents is a service parable.

During this entire age the Master, i.e., Jesus,  leaves all His goods to His servants for a long while. While Jesus is absent we find ourselves serving, not under His thumb, but always under His eye. He gives us great liberty in our on?the?job apprenticeship for doing ministry. What we do when we are alone reveals what we think of our Master!  We can be wise investors or wickedly non?involved. We can be enthusiastic workers are lazy shirkers. We can be daring excursionist or daily excusers. We can be movers and shakers or sitters and soakers ?? the lost man’s bread or pew?potatoes, that sit, soak, and sour!

You see, every human being uses the capital that God gives him to make of himself either a minus, a zero, or a plus.  He is either a blight, a blank, or a blessing. And remember, these terms are assessed from God’s point of view, not man’s.

H. We Should Think of the End and His Coming by Seeing Ourselves as Sheep whose Lives are Unconsciously Being Transformed by the Power of Kingdom Life — 25:31-46

Sheep do what comes natural to other sheep! A sure sign of being in God’s flock is how I treat the other sheep! And a great deal of what we do comes unconsciously out of our new sheep nature! When the kingdom has come into our hearts in the presence of the King, we will be experiencing a continual interior renovation that releases kingdom life and love, and so amazes us that we are humbled and puzzled when anyone points out something we did for someone else.

Matthew 25:34-40, “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: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?‘ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'”

Eventually, ultimately, and finally, King Jesus will return literally, bodily, and visibly. When he returns at His Last Coming:

His Glory will be Fully Revealed — Mt 25:31, “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. ”

His Government will be Finally Revered — Mt 25:32, “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.” Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

His Grace will be Fruitfully Realized — Rom 8:18-23, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

When the King of Glory shows up at His Final Return, the last battle with worms, bugs, briers, salty seas and barren desert sands will be fought and the last pesticides bought — for the curse of sin will be fully, finally, and forever removed and the desert shall blossom like a rose and the lion and the lamb shall lie down together.

When the King of Glory shows up at His Last Coming, there will be no more congressional hearings on aging, disability, or social security, because everyone will have Eternal Security. Sin and sickness will be gone forever, and the lame shall leap as the deer, and blind shall see, the sick will be made well and the dead in Christ raised in incorruptible, glorified bodies!

When the King of Glory shows up at His Last Coming, there is a new heaven and a new earth. It is the home of the righteous and the land of the sin-free. It is a land that is fairer than day and by faith I can see it afar! In this land there are no tears, sorrow, suffering, hate, pain, nor death. There are no energy shortages there because all the power comes from the S-O-N! The hillsides of this land will never be marred and scarred with battlefields, graveyards, hospitals, and nursing homes. The harmonious singing will have shifted from the minor, mournful keys to the Major keys of joy and triumph. The number one song in this new heaven and new earth is: “Salvation belongs to our Lord who sits on the throne, and unto the Lamb! Blessing and glory, and honor and power, and wisdom and strength, be unto our God forever and ever.”

And with every ounce of my being, I cry out with the church militant on earth and the church triumphant in glory — “Even so come Lord Jesus!”

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel awoke one morning to read his own obituary in the local newspaper: “Alfred Noble, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in war than ever before, and he died a very rich man.”

Actually it was Alfred’s older brother who had died; a newspaper reporter had bungled the epitaph. But the account had a profound effect on Nobel. He decided he wanted to be known for something other than developing the means to kill people efficiently and for amassing a fortune in the process. So he initiated the Nobel Prize, the award for scientists and writers who foster peace.

Nobel said, “Every man ought to have the chance to correct his epitaph in midstream and write a new one.”

God is giving us a chance to write our epitaph. If written now, what would yours say: (1) Weighed in the balances and found wanting. (2) I being of sound mind and judgment, spent all the capital given me for investment upon myself.  If Jesus were to interrupt history tomorrow with His personal return, would you be a wise servant or a lazy one; a wise investor or a wicked one; a wise servant or a foolish one?

 

 

The End of the Old World Order

February 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Eschatology

Matthew 24:1-35; Mark 13; Luke 21

Introduction — D.A. Carson, a New Testament scholar, begins his commentary on Matthew 24 with the following words: “Few chapters of the Bible have called forth more disagreement among interpreters than Matthew 24 and its parallels in Mark 13 and Luke 21. The history of the interpretation of this chapter is immensely complex.”

As Jesus and His disciples left the temple in Jerusalem, some of His men remarked about what a magnificent temple it was and how splendid were its stones. But Jesus’ response must have shocked them to the depths of their souls as they heard Him say that the time would come when one stone would not be left upon another that would not be thrown down! Immediately following their traversing the Kidron Valley and getting seated directly across from the temple, upon the Mount of Olives, they asked Jesus when these things would happen and what sign would be given when these things were about to be fulfilled. In answer to these questions, Jesus spoke about deceivers, wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, world-wide gospel proclamation, the abomination of desolation, and the great tribulation, etc.

Interpretation of Matthew 24, typically referred to as “The Olivet Discourse,” generally falls into two positions:

One — The FUTURIST interpretation:

As a whole, they interpret most of the verse in Mt. 24 about deceivers, wars, earthquakes, famines, and pestilences, etc. as “signs of the times”  that will lead up to the great tribulation period which they believe will be the last seven years of this church age (after the rapture). The abomination of desolation is regarded as an idol of the Antichrist (or the Antichrist himself) which will be set up in the holy of holies of a rebuilt Jewish temple at Jerusalem. When this happens, according to this position, the Jews will flee into the mountains. From that time until Christ returns again (the second stage of the Second Coming) will be especially the great tribulation.

Two – The FULFILLED interpretation:

Those holding this interpretation of Mt. 24. Mk 13, and Lk. 21, believe that the deceivers, wars, earthquakes, famines, and pestilences, etc. were things which Jesus said would soon happen before the destruction of the temple. The abomination of desolation, by comparing the parallel accounts, is seen to refer to Gentile armies which would surround Jerusalem and bring the city to desolation. When these armies would be seen the disciples of Christ were to flee from Jerusalem and Judea. What Jesus called “great tribulation” referred to the judgment that fell upon the Jewish nation, city, and temple in 70 A. D. By the first coming of Jesus, this was to be the end of the old world order of a holy land and holy places. Jerusalem, representative of the nation of Israel and Judaism, with its temple, sacrificial system, priesthood, special feast days, etc, became obsolete by fulfillment and the New World Order or New Covenant of the kingdom of God , was established. (Hebrews 8:13: “In that He says, “A NEW COVENANT,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”)

These two interpretations — the FUTURIST and the FULFILLED — are poles apart from each other and there are dear brothers and sisters on both sides. Labeling and name-calling is unacceptable from either side if the consensus is firm on one truth — Jesus will at some point in history return, literally, bodily, and visibly.

Before we begin to investigate the events prophesied in Matthew 24, we must first consider what I believe to be the interpretative key to understanding Jesus’ prophecy: Mt 24:34, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”  From this we then understand that the majority of what is prophesied, took place within the lifetime of the generation which was then living. It was this generation which Jesus called “wicked and perverse” (Matt. 12:39, 45; 16:4; 17:17); it was this “terminal generation” which crucified the Lord; and it was this generation, Jesus said, upon which would come the punishment for “all the righteous bloodshed on the earth” (Matt. 23:35).

The questions the disciples asked Jesus was actually due, not just to what they had heard Him say about the temple, but to a culmination of statements He had made about His coming. In fact, Jesus had spoken of His coming twice already in Matthew’s account. In Matthew 10:23, Jesus made this very interesting statement: “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

In Matthew 16:27-28, He was even more descriptive about what His coming would accomplish, and within what timeframe it would take place: “For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person for what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Matthew 24:34, “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

C.S. Lewis said concerning Mt 24:34, “It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.” The brilliant atheist, Bertrand Russell, in his essay, “Why I Am Not A Christian” said basically Jesus was deceived and thus morally untrustworthy because He believed and taught that He would return in the First Century. Great numbers of liberal scholars, Jewish and Christian alike, have interpreted Mt 24 literally and came to the conclusion that Jesus was mistaken because the end did not come as He predicted.

Did any of the writers of the New Testament proclaim that the time was near? Consider these statements:

“…For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand…” (Romans 13:11-12).

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5).

Yet a little while, and the coming One will come and will not delay” (Hebrews 10:37).

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8).

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (I Peter 4:7).

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour” (I John 2:18).

From these statements we see that Paul, James, Peter, and John all proclaimed that the time was near. Did they become the very false prophets Jesus had warned about in Luke 21:8, since they uttered the very statement that Jesus warned His followers not to believe? If the signs of the Olivet Discourse are still future and unfulfilled, as futurists insist, then they certainly did become those false prophets. We know, however, that this is not the case. This is actually one more indication that the events predicted by Jesus came to pass within His own generation. They witnessed the predicted signs coming to pass, and on this authority they announced that the end was near. Soon afterwards, that end came, the end of the Old Covenant world and age. Jesus kept His word and His promise.

Professor Craig Keener observes: “Matthew uses the Greek word for “generation” (“genea”) in Mt 24:34 for the 10th time, so his use of the term has a range of emphases — it consistently refers to the time span of a single generation. All the alternative senses proposed here (the Jewish people, humanity, the generation of the end times signs, wicked people) are artificial and are based on the need to protect Jesus from error. This generation is Jesus’ generation of contemporaries.”

We will approach this first section of Mt. 24:1-35 by noting it in this manner: (1) False Expectations of the End; (2) Firm Observations About the End; (3) Final Devastation at the End.

  1. False Expectations of the End — 24:4-13

Mat 24:3, “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Mat 24:6, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

(I am indebted to Dr. Sam Storms for many of the following thoughts.)

The misinterpretation of Mt 24 centers around what Jesus was referring to when He said the end would come and He would come to end it. The end He was coming to accomplish wasn’t the end of the world — but a judgment coming to end the old world of the old covenant. Earlier in His ministry Jesus had said: “An hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father…. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in Spirit and truth” (John 4:21-23). Now Jesus was making it clear that the new age was about to be permanently established upon the ashes of the old.

The disciples urgently asked: “When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” The disciples had one concern, and their questions revolved around one single issue: the fact that their own generation would witness the close of the Old Testament era and the coming of the new age promised by the prophets. All they wanted to know was when it would come, and what signs they should look for, in order to be fully prepared.

Jesus responded by giving the disciples not one, but seven signs that would not indicate the end. (We must remember that “the end” in this passage is not the end of the world, but rather the end of the age, the end of the Temple, the sacrificial system, the covenant nation of Israel, and the last remnants of the Old Testament order of things).

Matthew 24:4-13

These verses are designed to prevent premature excitement and speculation about when the events of v. 3 would occur. “Don’t jump to any hasty conclusions,” says Jesus. The main point is that these are not signs of the impending destruction of Jerusalem nor are they signs of Christ’s second advent. These events are only the beginning of birth pains. They serve no purpose at all in telling us when or how soon Jesus is coming back. They are events which will characterize the period 33 to 70AD.

  1. Religious impostors and Messianic pretenders(v. 5)

See Acts 5:36-378:9-1013:621:38. Josephus reports that during the reign of Nero deceivers and false prophets were arrested on a daily basis. In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius refers to the prevalence of false messiahs in this period.

  1. Increased military conflict(v. 6)

The period 33-70 AD witnessed countless military disturbances. An uprising in Caesarea took 20,000 Jewish lives; at Scythopolis (modern Beit Shean in Northern Israel) 13,000 Jews were killed; in Alexandria 50,000 were slain; 10,000 were killed in Damascus. Josephus reports that when the Emperor Caligula ordered his statue to be erected in the temple at Jerusalem (40AD), the Jews refused. As a result, they lived in a state of fearful anxiety over imminent war with Rome and were in such distress that they even neglected to till the land.

The Annals of Tacitus, which describes events from AD14 to AD68 describes the turmoil of this period with phrases such as “disturbances in Germany,” “commotions in Africa,” “commotions in Thrace,” “insurrections in Gaul,” “intrigues among the Parthians,” “the war in Britain,” and “the war in Armenia”.

The “end” (v. 6) refers to the end or termination of Jewish national existence; the end of the city; the end of the temple.

  1. Political upheaval and turmoil(v. 7a)

Before the fall of Jerusalem, four Emperors came to violent deaths within the space of 18 months. According to the historian Suetonius (who lived during the latter part of the first century and the beginning of the second), Nero “drove a dagger into his throat.” Galba was run down by horsemen. A soldier cut off his head and “thrusting his thumb into the mouth”, carried the horrid trophy about. Otho “stabbed himself” in the breast. Vitellius was killed by slow torture and then “dragged by a hook into the Tiber river.” We can understand that such fate falling on the Emperors would naturally spread distress and insecurity through the Empire.

  1. Natural disasters(v. 7b)

The famine described in Acts 11:28 occurred in 44 AD. It resulted in the disciples at Antioch mounting a huge relief effort to ease the burden of the Christians in Judea (Acts 11:29). Three other famines occurred during the reign of Claudius. The Roman historians Tacitus and Seutonius both mention the prevalence of famines in this period of history (in particular the widespread famine in Rome in AD51).

Earthquakes were also common. See Acts 16:26. There were recorded earthquakes in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Apamea, Campania, and Rome. The cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossae were devastated by a quake in 60 AD. In 58 AD Seneca wrote: “How often have the cities of Asia and Achaea fallen with one fatal shock! How many cities have been swallowed up in Syria! How many in Macedonia! How often has Paphos become a ruin. News has often been brought to us of the demolition of whole cities at once.”

(In Luke 21:11 we read about “terrors and great signs from heaven,” which when taken in the immediate context of famines and earthquakes probably refers to natural phenomena. In particular, we know that a comet appeared around 60 AD during Nero’s reign, leading to public speculation that some change in the political scene was imminent. Then Halley’s Comet appeared in 66 AD. Not long after this, Nero committed suicide. Josephus wrote in The War of the Jews that “there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year” [6:5:3,7:42].)

Josephus records that “On the eighth of the month of Zanthicus, (before the feast of unleavened bread) at the ninth hour of the night [3 AM], there shone round about the altar, and the circumjacent buildings of the temple, a light equal to the brightness of the day, which continued for the space of half an hour.”

Josephus adds even more examples of strange activity in and around Jerusalem before the final siege by the Romans:

“About the sixth hour of the night, the eastern gate of the temple was seen to open without human assistance.” When the guards informed the Curator of this event, he sent men to assist them in shutting it, who with great difficulty succeeded. — This gate, as hath been observed already, ‘Was of solid brass, and required twenty men to close it every evening. It could not have been opened by a “strong gust of wind,” or a slight earthquake;” for Josephus says, it was secured by iron bolts And bars, which were let down into a large threshold; consisting of one entire stone.”

[5] “Soon after the feast of the Passover, in various parts of the country, before the setting of the sun, chariots and armed men were seen in the air, passing round about Jerusalem.”

(As v. 8 makes clear, none of these “sorrows” were meant at any time to mislead Christians into thinking that either his second coming was imminent or that God’s judgments against Jerusalem were about to begin.)

  1. Persecution and Martyrdom(vv. 9-10)

Mark’s version reads as follows: “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them” (13:9). The reference to “courts/councils/synagogues” indicates that Jesus has in mind first-century fulfillment. After 70 a.d., when the Jewish religious and political systems ceased to exist, there were no councils or synagogues. We see fulfillment of this word in Acts 4:1-185:17-40 (synagogues); 12:1; 23:24; 24:27 (governors and kings). See also Acts 8:1.

Mark and Luke also both speak of Jesus’ followers being handed over to the synagogues, and Mark adds that they would be flogged there. This clearly speaks of persecution at the hands of the Jews, just one strong indication that this was to take place in the first century. Jewish persecution is not a mark of our time, but it was a mark of that time (In fact, it only prevailed up until Israel’s destruction in 70 AD, for after that the surviving Jews were persecuted together with the Christians by the Roman Empire). For example, Paul said this to the Thessalonian believers (I Thess. 2:14-16):

“For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved – so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!”

The city of Smyrna had the largest Jewish population of any Asian city, and Jesus commended the church there for their patient endurance in the face of Jewish persecution (Revelation 2:9): “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” A very similar statement was made to the church in Philadelphia in Rev. 3:9.

The reality of v. 10 is caused by the pressures and pains of v. 9 (cf. 1 Jn. 2:192 Tim. 1:15 [“all those in Asia have turned away from me”]; 4:10 [“Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world”], 16 [“at my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me”).

  1. False prophets(v. 11)

One need only remember that much of what we read in Galatians, Colossians, 2 Corinthians, 2 Timothy, 2 Peter, 1 John, and Jude was written to counter the activity and influence of false prophets in the early church. See especially Paul’s warning in Acts 20:29-30Rom. 16:17-182 Cor. 11:13Gal. 2:4; and Peter’s in 2 Pt. 4:1; and John’s in 1 John 4:1.

  1. Religious insurrection and indifference(v. 12)

(Perseverance, according to v. 13, is the proof of eternal life. The “end” may mean, “right through, all the way, perhaps to the end of one’s life”.)

  1. Firm Observations of the End — 24:14-15
  2. The Preaching of the GospelWorldwide (v. 14)

Futurist argue this never took place. How could this possibly have occurred in the period 33-70 AD.’ It may at first seem strange, but “fundamental principles of interpretation lead us to bear in mind contextual clues: the time indicator (‘this generation’), the audience (the disciples who ask about the temple), the specific concern (the destruction of the temple), and the harmony of the preceding signs with the first-century experience. All of these should dispose us to seek a first-century fulfillment of this verse” (Gentry, The Great Tribulation, 44). Note two important facts:

The words “whole world” (NASB) are a translation of the term oikoumene, which literally means an inhabited area, a standard term at that time for the Greek world, then for the Roman empire, and subsequently for the then known world. The same Greek word is used in Luke 2:1 – “Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” This means all “the inhabited earth (oikoumene). In Acts 11:28 we read that “one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.” Again, in Acts 24:5, “For we have found this man (Paul) a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” Ken Gentry notes, “a surface reading of these texts suggests global events. Yet we know these ‘world’ events happen within the Roman empire of the first century” (44). The reference to the “nations” also indicates that the point is not that every geographical area on the globe must be covered but that all the nations, i.e., Gentiles, must be reached. Did this occur? This leads to the second point.

Writing before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, Paul says to the Colossians: ” … the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Colossians 1:5b-6).

Again, Paul refers to the gospel, ” . . . that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister” (Cols. 1:23). “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8; cf. 10:18). Thus, prior to 70 AD the inhabited earth had indeed heard the gospel, precisely in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24.

This was a firm sign that the end of the old world order was imminent, very near.

  1. The Presence of the Roman Armies in Jerusalem — Mat 24:15:

“Therefore when you see the ‘ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” 

With v. 15 we come to a critical juncture in the discourse. To this point Jesus has referred to general signs that would characterize the period preceding Israel’s collapse. Here in v. 15, though, he refers to one sign that unmistakably signals that the prophesied destruction is at hand. It would serve to alert the people of that generation as to the proximity of Jerusalem’s ruin. In response to the question, “When will these things be?” Jesus now answers “When you see . . .” (v. 15).

Abomination of Desolation is literally, the abomination that causes desolation. In the OT, “abomination” = an object of disgust, hatred, something that causes revulsion; an idolatrous offense or affront to the true worship of God.

So what, then, was the Abomination of Desolation to which Jesus referred? I think it is Titus and the armies of Rome. While the city of Jerusalem was still burning the soldiers brought their legionary standards into the temple precincts and offered sacrifices there, declaring Titus to be victor. The idolatrous representations of Caesar and the Roman eagle on the standards would have constituted the worst imaginable blasphemy to the Jewish people. We read in Josephus: “the Romans upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings lying round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple, and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator, with the greatest acclamations of joy” (Book 6, Ch. 6:1). Thus, although the Abomination of Desolation involves the destruction of Jerusalem (beginning with its several encirclings by Cestius, Vespasian, Simon, and Titus), it culminates in this final abominable act within the temple itself” (Gentry, 50).

Note, to those reading these signs, there was an opportunity to escape this great tribulation — Mt 24:16-20. No Christians perished during this period of great tribulation of Jerusalem’s destruction.

III. Final Devastation at the End — 24:21-22:

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”

  1. The Magnitude of the Tribulation — 24:21

In v. 21 Jesus describes this event to be “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.” Many insist that this “great tribulation” cannot refer to the events of 70 AD because worse and more severe tribulations have since followed (WW II and the Holocaust, Stalin, etc.). Response:

(1) Assuming Jesus is speaking in strictly literal terms, it is unlikely he is referring to a time of tribulation at the end of the age, because of the phrase “nor ever shall be.” In other words, this phrase envisions a time following this tribulation in which other, albeit less severe tribulations, might occur. But if the supposed future tribulation is followed immediately by the millennium or the eternal state, it would be pointless to say that a tribulation of such magnitude will never take place again, for there would be no remaining time to prove the assertion.

(2) Once one grasps the dimensions of what occurred in 70 AD, one realizes that the savagery, cruelty, and the monstrosities that occurred were beyond comparison. Also, never so high a percentage of one city’s population was destroyed. Everyone was either killed or sold into slavery. As noted earlier, approximations are that 1,100,000 people were killed and 100,000 were enslaved. Add to this another 350,000 were killed all over the nation during this 3 1/2 year period.

The war that broke out in 66AD between Rome and the Jewish people was simply an intensified continuation of hostilities that had been brewing for years. Jerusalem, the last Jewish stronghold, was the focus of Rome’s most brutal rage. Multitudes of thieves, zealots, and murderers had flocked to the city seeking refuge. The city was without law and order. Chaos and anarchy reigned. The city divided into warring factions who took turns attacking each other. In one incident, more than 12,000 of the city’s nobles and leading citizens were tortured and killed by the zealots. Those who tried to escape had their throats slit and their bodies were left to rot in the streets. Burial became an impossibility. Huge piles of cadavers filled the streets or were thrown from the city’s walls. In addition, the civil war raging inside the city walls of Jerusalem during the Roman siege resulted in the different sides burning and confiscating most of the food reserves, so that before it was all over, masses of people starved to death.

“Any tribulation the Jews experience in other countries is not in view here.  The death of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis did not take place in the land of Israel.  The great tribulation is a description of what happened to Jews living in Israel in the first century.  Over one million Jews died at the hands of the Romans.  Nothing will ever compare to it because of Israel’s special covenantal status.  Her sin was great, therefore her judgment was great.”  (Last Days Madness, p. 129, n 22.)

“Furthermore, the tribulation period cannot be global because all one has to do to escape is flee to the mountains.  Notice that Jesus says “let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matt 24:16).  Judea is not the world; it’s not even the nation of Israel!”

Thus Jesus basically said in Matthew 24:23-28: “Don’t look for the Second Coming of Christ in the chaotic events surrounding Jerusalem’s fall. Such troublesome times would prove to be a golden opportunity for false prophets to lead people astray with false expectations of Christ’s appearance. But Jesus says, “Don’t be swayed by their miracles or their message” (24:24).”

  1. The Manifest Exaltation of the Son of God- 24:29-31:

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

Phenomenal events involving sun, moon, stars, and the powers of heaven don’t sound to the 21st century mind like a description of what happened in 70 AD. The reason for that is because we mistakenly seek to interpret and understand prophecy by reading the New York Times or Newsweek or watching the evening news rather than by reading the Bible. Remember, Jesus was speaking to a people saturated by Old Testament language, concepts, and imagery. From the earliest days of their lives they memorized and were taught the OT. Thus, when Jesus spoke to them of things to come he used the prophetic vocabulary of the OT which they would instantly recognize.

Consequently, if we are to understand the meaning of Mt. 24:29-31 and its parallel in Luke 21:25-26, we must read and interpret them through a biblical (i.e., OT) lens.

Luke refers to “signs” in sun, moon, and stars. Matthew says “the sun will be darkened, the moon lose its light, and the stars will fall from the sky.” Are these literal, physical, astronomical events that one might see with the naked eye? I don’t think so.

In the OT, such language was used to portray not what is going on in the heavens but what is happening on the earth. Natural disasters, political upheaval, turmoil among the nations, etc., are often described figuratively through the terminology of cosmic disturbances. The ongoing and unsettled, turbulent state of affairs among earthly world powers is portrayed symbolically by reference to incredible events in the heavens. In other words, astronomical phenomena are used to describe the upheaval of earthly dynasties as well as great moral and spiritual changes. As one author has put it: “In prophetic language, great commotions upon earth are often represented under the notion of commotions and changes in the heavens” (Adam Clarke). As we shall see, when the sun and moon are darkened or the stars fall from heaven, the reference is to the disasters and distresses befalling nations on the earth.

Some examples of how cosmic events are used as symbolic portrayals of earthly realities (whether blessing or cursing) include Isa. 60:20Amos 8:2-9Zeph. 1:4,15Isa. 5:30Jer. 4:23,28;13:16Joel 2:10.

In Isaiah 13:9-10 we read of the impending judgment of God on Babylon, which he describes in this way:

The stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light.”

R.T. France notes, “Jesus is using Daniel 7:13 as a prediction of that authority which he exercised when in AD 70 the Jewish nation and its leaders, who had condemned him, were overthrown, and Jesus was vindicated as the recipient of all power from the Ancient of Days….Jesus, exalted after his death and resurrection to receive his everlasting dominion, will display it within the generation … by an act of judgment on the nation and capital of the authorities who presumed to judge him. Then they will see … for themselves that their time of power is finished, and it is to him that God has given all power in heaven and earth”

I believe that a mistranslation of v. 30 has contributed to a misunderstanding of what Jesus said. Literally, Mt. 24:30 reads as follows: “And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then will mourn all the tribes of the land and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

In other words, Jesus was not telling his disciples that He would appear in the sky. Rather, “He told them that they would see a sign that proved He was in heaven, sitting at His Father’s right hand (Acts 2:30-36). Those who would witness Jerusalem’s destruction would see the sign of Jesus’ enthronement when they saw Jerusalem’s destruction” (Demar, 159). In other words, the “sign” of the Son of Man being enthroned and vindicated in “heaven” is the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple “on earth”. It is the sign that appears, not the Son of Man. What does the sign signify? It signifies that the Son of Man is in heaven, exalted, vindicated, and enthroned at God’s right hand.

Dr. R.C. Sproul summarizes the import of the 70Ad coming of Christ in judgment: “The coming of Christ in A.D.70 was a coming in judgment on the Jewish nation, indicating the end of the Jewish age and the fulfillment of a day of the Lord. Jesus really did come in judgment at this time, fulfilling his prophecy in the Olivet Discourse” (The Last Days According to Jesus, p. 158, 1998). “The most significant, redemptive, historical action that takes place outside the New Testament, is the judgment that falls on Jerusalem, and by which judgment the Christian Church now [clearly] emerges as The Body of Christ”

  1. The Marvelous Prospects of the Future — 24:32-35

“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

The “fig tree” (v. 32) does not refer to the nation Israel (some argue that the budding of the tree refers to the rebirth of the nation in 1948). But there is nothing in the context to indicate he is equating the fig tree with Israel. This line of thinking is based on the assumption that Mt. 24 is future.

  1. The Budding of the Fig Tree is a Promise that Summer, not Winter is Coming! – Luke 21:29-31

“Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.”

The promise of the fig tree parable is that the best, not the worst is ahead! The great tribulation is past, the old world order is obsolete and the new world order of the kingdom of God is present now and growing extensively.

The New Covenant is operative because the final, complete, decisive, lasting act of divine salvation happened when Jesus, the Messiah, came into the world. He was the final Adam (Romans 5:12-21), and the final prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22; 7:37), the final and ultimate Israel (Matthew 4:1-11), the final high priest (Hebrews 7:23-24), the final Passover sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5:7), the final manna from heaven (John 6:31-32), the final suffering servant of Isaiah 53 (Mark 10:45), and the final Son of Man of Daniel 7 (Matthew 24:30). His blood was the blood of the promised final new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31 (Luke 22:20). He therefore was the final, decisive “Yes” and “Amen” to all God’s promises (2 Corinthians 1:20).

As “kerux” or heralds of the King, we announce that through the death, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement of King Jesus in Heaven, a new order of things has come into being.  Not just something in an individual’s heart, but a new reality in history. The fullness of time has come; a new creation has been birthed; the long-anticipated age of the Spirit foretold by Joel has arrived. Now the last days of this present evil age has come as well as the new world order of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The reason to believe and repent isn’t just to go to heaven when you die, get peace in your heart now, or a have happier marriage and better kids.  The reason to repent and believe is quite simple, “God made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” and this being true there are no other options other than rebellion and more religion; repent or perish!

For too long, Christians have been characterized by fear of the future, despair, defeat, and retreat in the present because of the way they have been taught about the future.

For too long, Christians have heeded the unbiblical doctrine which teaches that we are doomed to failure, that Christians cannot win – the notion that, until Jesus returns, Christians will steadily lose ground to the enemy. The future of the Church, we were told, is to be a steady slide into apostasy. Some of our leaders sadly informed us that we are living in a “Laodicean age” of the Church (a reference to the “lukewarm” church of Laodicea in which Jesus is seen on the outside knocking to get in, spoken of in Rev. 3:14-22).

Any new outbreak of war, any natural upheavals such as earthquakes, floods, droughts, different colors of the moon, etc, any rise in crime statistics, any new evidence of the breakdown of the family, has often been oddly viewed as progress, a step forward toward the expected goal of the total collapse of civilization, a sign that Jesus might come to rescue us at any moment.

Summer has come in my understanding of Biblical eschatology. My confidence is not based upon things getting better, or men fixing everything, but upon the successful labors of Christ at His First Advent, the power of the gospel of God, and the present ministry of the Holy Spirit in His empowering the People of God with the Word of God, so they are expecting to see the ever-increasing victories of the kingdom of God grow more and more.

In Christ, we are truly the people of the New World Order; the people of a New Age, a New Heaven and New Earth, a New Israel, a New Kingdom, a New Jerusalem, a New Sanctuary, and of a New Inheritance! Because resurrection life is abundantly available and powerfully active, our uplook to King Jesus can be rightly focused and our outlook for ministry can be fruitfully exercised! When resurrection power fills me this hour, our obedience will be active and our outreach will be progressive, our prayers will be effective, our joy will be contagious, and our hope will be motivating!

 

The Kingdom of God — Postponed for a “WEEK”? Part 2

February 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Eschatology

Daniel 9:24-27; 7:13-4; 2:34-35

Well known author, pastor, radio personality, and seminary president, Dr. Chuck Swindoll says that “the vision of the seventy weeks revealed in Daniel 9:24-27 is undoubtedly, “the backbone of Biblical prophecy” concerning Israel, Christ, and the Antichrist.”

Dr. John Walvoord, former president of Dallas Theological Seminary, comments that the “interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 is the “key” to prophecy and, consequently, “one of the most important prophecies of the Bible.” Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost, who taught at DTS for many, many years, agrees that Daniel 9 gives us “the indispensable chronological key to all New Testament prophecy.” Thus, the importance of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in Dispensational teaching can hardly be exaggerated.

What makes the 70 weeks of Daniel 9 so crucial is its modern day interpretation. The most significant implications of the dispensational, premillennial interpretation is its assertion that the kingdom of God has been postponed and will not be fully operative until Jesus returns to sit on a literal throne in a literal rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, where He will reign with a rod of iron for 1000 years. Kingdom postponement theology has pervasive and massive personal and cultural implications.

The Kingdom Has Been Established (Not Postponed) Definitively in History — Daniel 9:24-27; 2:44

Genesis 29:27  Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” 29:28 Jacob did so, and completed her week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29:30 So Jacob …served Laban for another seven years.

Ezk. 4:6 And when you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah. Forty days I assign you, a day for each year.

The grand theme of Daniel 9:24-27 is not about what will be done at the 2nd Coming of Christ, but about what was to be done at His 1st Coming. It’s not about a covenant made by a future Antichrist, but about a new covenant made effectual and operative by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not about the rebuilding of a future Jewish Temple, but about the final destruction of the existing one in 70AD. It is not about Kingdom postponement for 2000 years and then after the WEEK, i.e. 7 years, the Kingdom is established for the Millennial or 1,000 year reign of Christ. It is about all that has been done and continues to progress through the successful accomplishments of the Messiah’s Glorious Work at His First Advent or Coming when His kingdom was established.

The Timeline of Christ’s WEEK’s Work — Dan. 9:24-27

The Relatively New View — The Dispensational Premillennialism View

Kingdom of Heaven Postponed — NOT!!!

Is there a distinction to be made between the KINGDOM OF GOD or the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN? Some Dispensationalists teach the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of Heaven are entirely different kingdoms. They believe the Kingdom of Heaven was to be the Old Testament kingdom of David restored, but was postponed to the Millennium after the Jews rejected Christ as their king. However, the two phrases are synonymous as proved by their interchangeable use in parallel passages in the Gospels.

The kingdom of heaven informs us of its origin; the kingdom of God reveals the owner and operator of the kingdom.

The Standard Literal View for Centuries of Church History

Stoning of Stephen and the Conversion of Paul — Gospel goes to the Gentiles —

Acts 13:46, “…It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.”

Dispensational Premillennialism is a return to Judaism, a re-establishment of national Israel and the types and shadows of the Old Covenant, which the writer of the book of Hebrews is warning against throughout the whole book of Hebrews.

  1. From the blood of Christ back to the blood of animals.
  2. From Christ our High Priest back to the Old Testament priesthood .
  3. From the substance back to the shadow.
  4. From the better New Covenant back to the Old Covenant.
  5. From that which makes alive back to that which kills
  6. From freedom back to bondage.The Two-fold Character of Christ’s Work

    The Overthrowing of Evil

    “to shut up sin” — Dan 9:27a — “to finish the transgression” means in Hebrew to “shut up, hinder, or restrain.”

    “to seal up sin” — Dan 9:27b, “and to make an end of sins” —Marginal reading = “to seal up.”

The idea in the passage before us is, that the sins of our nature will, as it were, be sealed up, or closed, or hidden, so that they will not be seen, or will not develop themselves;

c.”to cover up sin — Dan 9:27c, “to make reconciliation for iniquity,”– More literally, “and to cover iniquity.” Psalm 32:1, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”

The Setting Up of Righteousness

“causing to come an everlasting righteousness — Dan. 9:24d — “to bring in everlasting righteousness.” This is, “the righteousness, or righteous One, of ages;”

“authenticating all God had promised“– Dan. 9:24e –“to seal up vision and prophecy,”

“anointing the Most Holy.” — Dan 9:24f — He came to anoint the most holy, that is, himself, the Holy One, who was anointed (that is, appointed to his work and qualified for it) by the Holy Spirit, that oil of gladness which he received without measure, above his fellows.

The Means of Accomplishing His Work –Dan 9:26a, “and after the sixty-two weeks (plus the previous 7) Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;” To be “cut off” in the OT meant to be killed violently.

Notice that this does not say “AT” but “AFTER” the 69 weeks that Messiah will be cut off. What is after 69? 70! This shows that this occurrence had to take place during the 70th week. Scriptures and history agree with that for they show that Jesus was crucified after 31/2 years of ministry. That would have made Him cut off in the midst of the 70th week.

The Two-fold Consequence of Christ’s Work

 Justification — Dan. 9:27a –“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;”

The Fulfillment: “HE” refers back to the dominate noun, “MESSIAH,” not the subordinate noun, prince who is to come, JESUS ANNOUNCED THE NEW COVENANT WHICH IS THE “FIRM COVENANT” MADE WITH THE MANY. “MAKE A FIRM COVENANT”TRANSLATES AS “CONFIRM” OR “CAUSE TO PREVAIL” OR “STRENGTHEN” A COVENANT.

Judgment — Dan. 9:27b, But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”

The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple –9:26b — And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.”

The cessation of the sacrifices — 9:27c –“But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.”

The abomination that makes desolate –9:27d, “And on the wing (or overspreading) of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”

And for the overspreading (or wing) of abominations,] i.e.,  For the abominable outrages committed by the seditious Jews, those zealots, as they called themselves, who filled the temple with dead bodies. Others, from Mat_24:15-16 cf. Luk_20:20-21, think the Romans to be meant, who set up their eagles (their ensigns) in the temple, together with the images, first of Caligula, and then of Titus, their emperors.

The King Has Been Enthroned (Not Awaiting Inauguration) Permanently and Victoriously — Daniel 7

Dan 7:13-14, “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, 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.”

Somehow we have gotten the impression that Daniel 7:13-14 will not be fulfilled until Christ’s Second Coming, but the text clearly states that the fulfillment takes place when the Son of man comes to the Ancient of days, and is brought near before Him. This took place at Christ’s Ascension, after His resurrection. It could not possibly refer to Christ’s Second Coming, since Christ at that time will depart from the immediate presence of the Ancient of Days, rather than being brought before Him.

These verses predict that the Messiah will come and set up a Kingdom and a dominion that is everlasting, and will never be destroyed. It is very important for us to know just when this event takes place. If Christ set up His everlasting dominion and kingdom at His first advent, then we are in that kingdom now. If He failed to set up the kingdom the first time around, and we are waiting for Him to try again at His Second Coming, then we are not yet in the kingdom.

Psalm 110:1, “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.'”

1 Corinthians 15:25-28, “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”

III. The Kingdom is Being Extended Aggressively, Progressively, and Universally — Daniel 2:34-35, “You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

The Unshakeable Kingdom of Christ is Historical in its Establishment — Dan. 2:44 –“And in the days of these kings (Roman Empire) the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”

The Unshakeable Kingdom of Christ is Supernatural in its Origination –2:44a, “the God of heaven will set up.” 45a

The Unshakeable Kingdom of Christ is Eternal in its Duration — 44b. “shall never be destroyed”

The Unshakeable Kingdom of Christ is Powerful in its Operation — Dan 2:34, “You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.”

The Unshakeable Kingdom of Christ is Successful in its Outcome — 2:35, “…And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”

This verse gives a clear prophetic declaration of an ever-increasing Kingdom of God that begin like a small stone that demolished the Roman Empire and then continually grew into a great mountain that filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:31-45)

Historic census show an ever-increasing Kingdom through a continuous growth of the numbers of believers through-out the centuries from the time of Christ – to be expected with the continuous increase of population – BUT it also shows a continuous increase of the PERCENTAGE of that population who are Christians throughout the centuries. At 100  A.D. there was 1/360th of the world wide population that were Christians. By 1,000 A.D. there was 1/220th of the population that were Christians. By 1500 A.D the number rose to 1/69th of the world wide population and by the year 1900, it had risen to 1/27th of the population. (worldwide population had, by that time, reached 1.6 billion) By 1990, within most of our lifetimes, the figure rose to 1/7th of the world wide population who are Christians.[1]  It is now estimated that there are 7 billion people on planet earth and that a full 1/3rd of them, or 1 out of every 3 people world-wide, are followers of Jesus!

The Unshakeable Kingdom of Christ is Universal in its Extent — Dan. 2:35, “filled the whole earth.”

The kingdom postponement view has had and continues to have powerful effect because:

What we Expect from Future Life Determines how we Perceive Present Life, which Determines what we Receive and Achieve from Daily Life!

A major issue for our generation is does Jesus reign over the earth or is the devil in charge? Can His kingdom be powerfully present and Him not be sitting on a literally throne in Jerusalem?

If He has already established His kingdom and expects us to be His kingdom ambassadors and kingdom extenders, what are His expectations?

Is He expecting a harvest for His labors that will satisfy the price He paid on the cross? Isaiah 53:10-12 says, “…it pleased the Lord to bruise Him’… ‘He shall see the travail of His soul and be satisfied’… and ‘He shall divide the spoil with the strong….”

Is He expecting that Psalm 2 reveals what the Father had in mind?– “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.” Jesus has asked and sits expecting to get what He asked for! For this reason we are to be:

Expecting with Great Expectations that are the Same as Those of Our Expecting King

Gaze with the eyes of faith upon an enthroned Christ, whose confident and consistent expectation is that of ultimate victory. See our Sovereign Savior sitting in confidence, not standing, wringing His hands in fear and worry that His work will fail to be successful. No fear agitates His mind, no doubt breaks His rest. In His view, nothing hangs in uncertainty or remains in jeopardy. To Him the fulfillment is as sure as though it were already realized.

Our eyes are too often fixed upon the evening news, the morning paper, the latest word from the conference of experts, or the latest from up to minute Prophecy reports, and as a result we suffer from low-level expectations. We expect “just a few more weary days and then I’ll fly away.” But King Jesus looks right on through present conditions and conflict to see an ongoing blood-bought people who are marching from victory unto victory unto victory; He knows there can be but one result, “There shall be a people who are as the sand of the sea in number that gladly own Him as their King. He knows that by gospel advance that, “All Kings shall fall down before Him and all nations serve Him and all His enemies will become His footstool.”

 Are your expecting what King Jesus is expecting? Are your expectations of the future filled with fear of what you think is coming upon the world instead of being filled with faith in who has already come into the world and aligning your expectations with us? Do you believe that the prospects of your future are as bright as the promises of God?

Expecting an Increasing Measure of Kingdom Reality and Vitality Now

In Jesus, the Kingdom of God has been definitely established, is being progressively extended, and will be ultimately embraced by all nations!

In the redemptive work of Christ, the kingdom of God is available and accessible and upon entering it by the miracle of the new birth, we have access to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, all the hosts of elect angels, the company of the redeemed of God – to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant who are ministering spirits to those heirs of salvation (Hebs 1:14) everything is new. – a new standing – a new approach – a new name – a new sacrifice – a new priest – a new law – there is a new kingdom, a new body, a new covenant. In chapter 10, we are told that He has perfected forever those who come to Him, and the Holy Spirit has brought us into the covenant and then brought the covenant into us – writing in our hearts and minds (Hebrews 10:15-17)!

We declare that the kingdom of God is here!

If we the people of faith, start believing the gospel of the kingdom and proclaiming it with the same expectations that King Jesus has, we will begin to see greater works than He did happen around our world!

Expecting an Impacting Ministry of Kingdom Authority and Visibility Globally

All authority in Heaven and earth has been given Him, and He has extended that kingdom authority, which flows from His throne, unto His own.  For this reason, Christianity will overcome all opposition and overtop all competition.

Expecting an ever Increasing Enlistment of Kingdom Volunteers

Matthew 13:33, “Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”

Jesus reveals in this parable of the kingdom that “There is a Process at Work in the Kingdom of God that Produces an End Product that is Far in Excess of Natural Expectations.

In this parable yeast represents the positive, powerful, penetrating influence of the kingdom message as expressed through the lives of the redeemed. The power of the kingdom works imperviously — it’s hidden in the flour; it works powerfully – leavening the whole; and it works persistently.

Kingdom personnel operate by faith in an unseen but ever present Commander. The man of faith is not guided by what he sees. He doesn’t despair when the odds are against him.

I am moving from being back on my heels to standing on the tiptoes of expectation, not based on what I see with my eyes, but by what I’m seeing by the eyes of faith from the Word of God. I believe that God is about to visit his people once again with power and glory. I see an army marching through the land, deliverance is their song, healing is in their hands, everlasting joy and gladness are in their hearts, and multitudes are joining up — and in this army I’ve got a part!”

Charles Spurgeon encouraged a gathering of missionaries with these words: “I myself believe that King Jesus will reign, and the idols be utterly abolished; but I expect the same power which turned the world upside down once will still continue to do it.  The Holy Ghost would never suffer the imputation to rest upon His holy name that He was not able to convert the world.”

As the Father said to the Son, in planning the Covenant of Redemption in Isaiah 49:6, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant; To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make of You a Light to the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

One of every ten people on the planet is of the Bible-reading, Bible-believing stream of Christianity. The number of believers in what used to be “mission fields” now surpasses the number of believers in the countries from which missionaries were originally sent. In fact, more missionaries are now sent from non-Western churches than from the traditional mission-sending bases in the West.

Expecting an Enforcing Kingdom Victory as a Great Commandment People, Carrying Out the Great Commission Under Our Great Commander!

John Owens, chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, lived in violent and trying times, yet he was an expectant believer and his confidence was rooted in the assured promises of Scripture rather than believing the circumstances around him. Even in a time of death, disease, decline and despair, his confidence in the promise of God stood firm: “Though our persons fall, our cause shall be as truly, certainly, and infallibly victorious, as that Christ sits at the right hand of God.  The gospel shall be victorious.  This greatly comforts and refreshes me.”

Why don’t we see more kingdom authority demonstrated in our lives and churches in America. The reason is because we have truncated the gospel message from a proclamation to repent and be re-birthed into the triumphant, all-pervasive, God-big, kingdom of Heaven, where we learn how to reign in life as devotion-givers, disciple-makers, and dominion-takers, to a go-to-heaven-when-you-die-in-order-to-miss-hell type message that says the best you can expect losing in history; expect to be the tail and not the head; expect to be like a little band of soldiers of the cross who somehow manage to hold the fort until Captain Jesus comes back and kicks them all into hell! — but remember, Heaven will make up for it; No wonder no one wants to join up! This is “rabbit-hole”, fortress mentality type living, not kingdom living!

Charles Spurgeon “Do not say of any man that he cannot be saved. Do not say of any district that it is too sunken to be redeemed. Believe in Christ crucified, and preach boldly in His name, and you shall see great things and gladsome things. Do not doubt the ultimate triumph of Christianity. The cross must conquer; it must blossom with a crown commensurate with the person of the Crucified, and the bitterness of His agony. His reward shall parallel His sorrows. Trust in God, and lift your banner high, and now with psalms and songs advance to battle, for the Lord of Hosts is with us, the Son of the Highest leads our van. Onward with blast of silver trumpet and shout of those who seize the spoil. Let no man’s heart fail him! Christ hath died! Atonement is complete! God is satisfied! Peace is proclaimed! Heaven glitters with proofs of mercy already bestowed upon ten thousand times ten thousand! Hell is trembling, Heaven adoring, earth waiting. Advance, ye saints to certain victory! You shall overcome through the blood of the Lamb!”

Because in the Lord Jesus Christ we have an Intercessor who can never be disqualified; a revelation that can nev­er be destroyed; a Victor who can never be vanquished; a resurrection that can never be hindered; a hope that can never be disappointed; a glory that can never be dimmed; a king who is expecting a world bowing in worship at His feet!

Charles Wesley wrote: “My gracious Master and my King, assist me to proclaim, to spread through all the earth abroad, the honors of Thy name!”

The Kingdom of God — Postponed for a “WEEK”?

February 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Eschatology

Daniel 9:24-27

This study in Biblical prophecy is not being given by an expert. Someone defined an expert as “one who knows more and more about less and less, until they know nothing about everything!” Someone else said, “The Millennium is a 1,000 years of peace about which Christians constantly fight.”

My particular understanding of Bible prophecy is not intended to attack, argue, or label fellow believers with derogatory terms, but to assert a theological position that I have come to a firm, but teachable, persuasion concerning (meaning there is a whole lot that I still don’t understand!). I believe that all those who begin to interpret Scripture from this perspective that I have come to embrace will begin to be surprised, stunned, exhilarated and emboldened as they realize they see themselves as called to be co-partners in the Family Firm of Almighty and Sons, in Kingdom Enterprises Unlimited — simply known as the Kingdom of God! Which is God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule!

However, I am very much aware that the most popular, well-known, teaching on Bible prophecy in America is done from a position called dispensational premillennialism. This relatively new and novel interpretation (circ. 1830) has become so widely held and taught, that anyone who dares question it is given pejorative names such as “anti-Semitic,  replacement or super-cessationists teachers, robbers of Israel, etc. Hank Hanegraff commented from personal experience on this: “Those who dare question the notion of a pretribulational Rapture followed by a Holy Land holocaust in which the vast majority of Jews perish are shouted down as peddlers of godless heresy. The ultimate pejorative phrase has even been coined for those who deny the heart of dispensational eschatology. They are dubbed “replacement theologians” and are said to be guilty of spreading “the message of anti-Semitism.” Popular dispensationalists, such as John Hagee, are blunt and belligerent in their denunciations. He shouts, “Replacement theologians are now carrying Hitler’s anointing and his message.” These are indeed uncharitable remarks by those who say that God has two distinct people with two distinct plans and two distinct destinies, and two ways of salvation.”

One dispensational website adds, “There is a demonic cancer coursing through the life blood of the Church of Jesus Christ and its name is REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY.”

Pay close attention to what I am about to say. Next to the centrality and supremacy of the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, “covenant and kingdom of God” are the two most important and all-encompassing truths of Scripture. Yet, both truths, especially those of the kingdom of God remains, the most misunderstood, misconstrued, misapplied, confused, and contested realities in Christianity. Most churches today rarely mention the kingdom, let alone teach and obey its established and present-day truths. For centuries, there has been much division over its presence or postponement, as well as its nature. All the confusion and differences have led to a number of responses, ranging from selling all an heading to the hills, to sitting back and doing nothing other than winning souls for heaven because the world is headed for hell by divine, prophetic decree!

Yet, the kingdom of God was the central teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and at the heart of his earthly ministry. It was also central to his worldview and that of his first followers, the New Testament writers, and the early Church. From the first chapter of Acts (1:3) to the last chapter and verse (Acts 28:31) the message of the gospel of the kingdom of God was the very essence of New Testament Christianity.

But today, by far, the most popular view of biblical prophecy declares that the kingdom of God has been postponed, now for almost 2,000 years, waiting for the WEEK spoken of in the book of Daniel, Chapter 9 to be fulfilled. This is referred to as the 70th week of Daniel and is actually a week of years, or a 7 year period called by those who hold this position — The Great Tribulation.

A majority of American evangelicals believe that Jesus’ offer of the kingdom of God or heaven, to the Jews of His day was rejected outright. (Read John 6:15) When this happened the kingdom was postponed and only exists now in some sort of mystery form that is basically operative only in the hearts of believers and in heaven. Jesus is declared to be the soon coming King who will rule the world.

This view asserts that in order for the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of Christ, to be truly established and totally successful, we must await for the original plan of God to be put back into operation. The prophetic clock of the original plan of God for Israel — the kingdom age — is said to be stopped, and the kingdom put on hold since the Jewish nation rejected its offer by Jesus. As a result, there has been 2,000 years of an alternative plan supposedly unknown in Old Testament times.

This plan, or dispensation is referred to as the great parenthesis, called the Church Age. And as soon as the Church is used of God to save a number of souls for Heaven, and in the process, lets the world, (by its belief that the world is prophesied to be so) become increasingly and tragically corrupt, Jesus will suddenly and surprisingly rapture the Church. This will prepare the way for the big WEEK in which Antichrist will rule the world, make a peace treaty with Israel, then break it after 3 1/2 years of the 7 year tribulation. During this time millions upon millions of those left behind on this earth will die horrible deaths and the greatest holocaust yet for the Jews will occur.

A period in which two thirds of them will be killed. (This is based on a misinterpretation of Zech 13:8). At the end of this WEEK, Jesus returns and destroys the enemies of Israel at the battle of Armageddon, then implementing His original Plan of His kingdom reign, with the remnant of Israelis ruling with Him over the Gentiles. Oh yes, one other cameo, during this Big WEEK, he spares, saves and appoints 144,000 Jewish evangelists (Rev. 7), who, without the aid of the Holy Spirit, will do in 3 1/2 years what the Church couldn’t do in 2,000. Then Christ will set up his Davidic throne in Jerusalem and rule with a rod of iron for 1,000 years.

This is what I was taught, and what I believed, preached and taught myself, for the first 20 years of my Christian life. I now believe that the kingdom postponement view of dispensationalism is an erroneous interpretation that has done more to harm to, and halted the progress of the gospel of the kingdom of God to impact the course and culture of the nations, than any other teaching.

Just one case in point out of 100’s of similar examples comes from prominent dispensational author and pastor Dr. John MacArthur: “‘Reclaiming’ the culture is a pointless, futile exercise. I am convinced we are living in a post-Christian society — a civilization that exists under God’s judgment.”  He also argues that “getting people saved is our only agenda. It is the only thing that we are in the world to do.”

Where does this idea of a WEEK , 7 years in length, come from? It comes from Daniel 9:27.

  1. The Kingdom Has Been Established (Not Postponed) Definitively in History — Daniel 9:24-27; 2:44

The chronology or timeline provided in Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks is a key player in the dispensational argument, although it is not crucial to any of the other millennial systems. Dr. John Walvoord, former president of Dallas Theological Seminary, comments that the “interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 is of major importance to premillennialism as well as pretribulationism.” Being such, he goes on to say, “it is the “key” to prophecy and, consequently, “one of the most important prophecies of the Bible.” Dr. Alva J. McClain, the founder and first president of Grace Theological Seminary and Grace College, suggests that “no single prophetic utterance is more crucial.” Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost agrees with McClain that Daniel 9 gives us “the indispensable chronological key to all New Testament prophecy.” Thus, the importance of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in Dispensational teaching can hardly be exaggerated.

Dr. Kenneth Gentry writes, “The number seven is familiar to students of Old Testament sabbatic (Sabbath= seven) law. The prophecy of the Seventy Weeks is clearly framed in terms of sabbatic chronology (cf. Lev. 25). The very Hebrew word “shabua”, which is translated “week,” literally means, “sevened.” This prophecy was given to Daniel in the first year of Babylon’s fall (Dan. 9:1), as he contemplated the soon conclusion of the seventy years captivity (9:2). The Babylonian Captivity was caused by Israel’s failure to observe Levitical Sabbaths for the land (Lev. 26:43; 2 Chron. 36:21). In his ninth chapter, Daniel wonders what the future holds for Israel, now that Jeremiah’s seventy years prophecy is about to be completed. God’s answer to Daniel’s prayer is the presentation of a new period of seventy that will issue forth in six primary results (Dan. 9:24). In this prophecy Israel is given a renewed period of time framed by the number seventy: a period of “seventy weeks.”

“The first phase of the Seventy Weeks is “seven weeks,” or (literally) “seven sevens” (Dan. 9:25). This period of “seven sevens” results in a value of forty-nine. This interval of forty-nine years (as we shall see), reflects the time-frame leading up to the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:8ff). This is of strong covenantal significance, and directly related to the redemptive meaning of the passage.

The total period of “seventy sevens” is also covenantal. Seventy represents ten seven week periods, thus ten jubilees. The imagery associated with the use of the number ten is generally conceded to be completion (accomplishing the full number of digits on a man’s hand). Thus, the seventy sevens (weeks) would appear to point to a complete redemptive Jubilee. It would appropriately point to Christ, who brings in that ultimate Jubilee (cf. Luke 4:17-21; Isa. 61:1-3; Matt. 24:31), and who is the leading feature of Daniel’s prophecy. Consequently, the time-frame revealed to Daniel defines the period in which “the Messianic redemption was to be accomplished.”

The grand theme of this Daniel 9:24-27 is not about what will be done at the 2nd Coming of Christ, but about what was done at the His 1st Coming. It’s not about a covenant made by a future AntiChrist, but about a new covenant made effectual and operative by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not about the rebuilding of a future Jewish Temple, but about the final destruction of the existing one in 70AD. It is not about Kingdom postponement for 2000 years and then after the WEEK, i.e. 7 years, the Kingdom is established for the Millennial or 1,000 year reign of Christ. An all of this has been done and continues to progress through the successful accomplishments of the Messiah’s Glorious Work at His First Advent or Coming when His kingdom was established.

  1. The Timeline of Christ’s WEEK’s Work — Dan. 9:24-27
  2. The Relatively New View — The Dispensational Premillennialism View
  3. The Standard Literal View for Centuries

The Bible says nothing about an Antichrist in Daniel 9. Men have added this idea to the Scriptures.

The Bible does not say anything about a gap between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel. This gap thinking contradicts the consistency of the scriptures that deal with Israel’s 70 years of captivity in Babylon, of which Daniel used to determine the timeframe for his people’s freedom.

There is not one scripture that teaches the Lord God will ever reject grace and Jesus’ blood and return to His Law and animal sacrifices for the atonement for men’s sin, which was never the means of salvation for the Jews or any other person who has ever lived!

The Bible teaches in Galatians 3:19 that the Law was given because of transgressions till the seed [Christ] could come to whom the promise was made. This shows that the Law was the parenthesis in God’s plan for man, and not Jesus’ New Covenant.

There is not one scripture in the Bible for a pre-tribulation rapture of the church. The Bible teaches a last day resurrection of all.

There is not one scripture in the Bible for a future seven-year tribulation period, yet this period is the basis for most of the modern day teachings of prophecy. This time was created by putting a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel’s prophecy and claiming it applies to a future time period of Law keeping.

  1. The Two-fold Character of Christ’s Work
  2. The Overthrowing of Evil
  3. “to shut up sin” — Dan 9:27a“to finish the transgression” means in Hebrew to “shut up, hinder, or restrain.” When Messiah finished His work, sin would be unable to exercise the power it once possessed. Sin shall no longer have dominion over us. He has broken the power of cancelled sin and set the prisoners free!
  4. “to seal up sin” — Dan 9:27b, “and to make an end of sins” — Marginal reading = “to seal up.”

The idea in the passage before us is, that the sins of our nature will, as it were, be sealed up, or closed, or hidden, so that they will not be seen, or will not develop themselves; that is, “they will be inert, inefficient, powerless.” PTL! My sins not in part, but the whole, were nailed to the cross and I bear them no more!

c.”to cover up sin” — Dan 9:27c, “to make reconciliation for iniquity,”– More literally, “and to cover iniquity.” The word which is rendered to “make reconciliation “ Hebrew word, “kaphar” – properly means “to cover” (from our English word cover); to cover over, to overlay, as with pitch or tar Gen_6:14; and hence, to cover over sin; that is, to atone for it, pardon it, forgive it.

Psalm 32:1, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”

  1. The Setting Up of Righteousness
  2. “causing to come an everlasting righteousness” — Dan. 9:24d — “to bring in everlasting righteousness.” This is, “the righteousness, or righteous One, of ages;” that person who had been the object of the faith of all persons of true faith, and the subject of the predictions of the prophets through all the ages of the world. He has been made unto us Righteousness. His righteousness has been put to our account. We are clothed in His robe of righteousness. His robe of righteousness cannot be tarnished , torn, tattered or taken away from His own!
  3. “authenticating all God had promised”– Dan. 9:24e –“to seal up vision and prophecy,”

“Not to shut it up out of sight; rather to set a mark or an official seal, on it, by which it might be more clearly known; to consummate and fulfill it. All prophecy is sealed up in Christ, and by him; he is the sum and substance of it. The visions and prophecies of the Old Testament relate to him, and have their accomplishment in him. He is God’s final word (Hebs 1:1) In Him all the promises of God find their yes and amen.(1 Cors 1:20).

  1. “anointing the Most Holy.” — Dan 9:24f — He came to anoint the most holy, that is, himself, the Holy One, who was anointed (that is, appointed to his work and qualified for it) by the Holy Spirit, that oil of gladness which he received without measure, above his fellows. Or it can meant to “anoint the gospel-church, his spiritual temple, or holy place, to sanctify and cleanse it, and appropriate it to himself (Eph_5:26), or to consecrate for us a new and living way into the holiest, by his own blood (Heb_10:20), as the sanctuary was anointed, Exo_30:25, etc. He is called Messiah (Dan_9:25, Dan_9:26), which signifies ChristAnointed (Joh_1:41), because he received the anointing both for himself and for all that are his.
  1. The Means of Accomplishing His Work –Dan 9:26a, “and after the sixty-two weeks (plus the previous 7) Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;” To be “cut off” in the OT meant to be killed violently.

Notice that this does not say “AT” but “AFTER” the 69 weeks that Messiah will be cut off. What is after 69? 70! This shows that this occurrence had to take place during the 70th week. Scriptures and history agree with that for they show that Jesus was crucified after 31/2 years of ministry. That would have made Him cut off in the midst of the 70th week.

In order to accomplish all the aforementioned, the Messiah must be cut off, must die a violent death, and so be cut off from the land of the living, as was foretold, Isa 53:8. Hence, when Paul preaches the death of Christ, he says that he preached nothing but what the prophet said should come, Act_26:22, Act_26:23. And thus it behoved Christ to suffer. He must be cut off, but not for himself – not for any sin of his own, but, as Caiaphas prophesied, he must die for the people, in our stead and for our good, – not for any advantage of his own, but to atone for our sins, and to purchase life for us, He was cut off.

  1. The Two-fold Consequence of Christ’s Work
  2. Justification — Dan. 9:27a –“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;”

FULFILLMENT: “HE” refers back to the dominate noun, “MESSIAH,” not the subordinate noun, prince who is to come, JESUS ANNOUNCED THE NEW COVENANT WHICH IS THE “FIRM COVENANT” MADE WITH THE MANY. “MAKE A FIRM COVENANT”TRANSLATES AS “CONFIRM” OR “CAUSE TO PREVAIL” OR “STRENGTHEN” A COVENANT.

Matt 26:27-28, “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave {it} to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

Heb 12:24, “and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,”

Luke 1:72 [of Jesus Messiah’s coming ] To show mercy toward our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant,

Heb 8:6-9, “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first {covenant} had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.  For finding fault with them, He says, “BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH;  NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS…”

Hebrews 8:13, ” When He said, “A new {covenant} ,” He has made the first obsolete. But

whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.”

  1. Judgment — Dan. 9:27b, But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”
  1. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple –9:26b — And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.”
  2. The cessation of the sacrifices — 9:27c –“But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.”
  3. The abomination that makes desolate –9:27d, “And on the wing (or overspreading) of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”

And for the overspreading (or wing) of abominations,] i.e.,  For the abominable outrages committed by the seditious Jews, those zealots, as they called themselves, who filled the temple with dead bodies. Others, from Mat_24:15-16 cf. Luk_20:20-21, think the Romans to be meant, who set up their eagles (their ensigns) in the temple, together with the images, first of Caligula, and then of Titus, their emperors.

  1. The King Has Been Enthroned (Not Awaiting Inauguration) Permanently and Victoriously — Daniel 7

Dan 7:13-14, “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, 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.”

Psalm 110:1, “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.'”

1Corinthians 15:25-28, “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”

III. The Kingdom is Being Extended Aggressively, Progressively, and Universally — Daniel 2:34-35, “You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

  1. The Unshakeable Kingdom of Christ is Historical in its Establishment — Dan. 2:44 –“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”
  1. The Unshakeable Kingdom of Christ is Supernatural in its Origination –2:44a, “the God of heaven will set up.” 45a
  1. The Unshakeable Kingdom of Christ is Eternal in its Duration — 44b. “shall never be destroyed”
  1. The Unshakeable Kingdom of Christ is Powerful in its Operation Dan 2:34, “You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.”
  2. The Unshakeable Kingdom of Christ is Successful in its Outcome — 2:35, “…And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”
  3. The Unshakeable Kingdom of Christ is Universal in its Extent — 2:35, “filled the whole earth.”

The kingdom postponement view has had and continues to have powerful effect because:

What we Expect from Future Life Determines how we Perceive Present Life, which Determines what we Receive and Achieve from Daily Life!

A major issue for our generation is does Jesus reign over the earth or is the devil in charge? Can His kingdom be powerfully present and Him not be sitting on a literally throne in Jerusalem?

If He has already established His kingdom and expects us to be His kingdom ambassadors and kingdom extenders, what are His expectations?

Is He expecting a harvest for His labors that will satisfy the price He paid on the cross? Isaiah 53:10-12 says, “…it pleased the Lord to bruise Him’… ‘He shall see the travail of His soul and be satisfied’… and ‘He shall divide the spoil with the strong….”

Is He expecting that Psalm 2 reveals what the Father had in mind?– “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.” Jesus has asked and sits expecting to get what He asked for! For this reason we are to be:

Expecting with Great Expectations that are the Same as Those of Our Expecting King

Expecting an Increasing Measure of Kingdom Reality and Vitality Now

Expecting an Impacting Ministry of Kingdom Authority and Visibility Globally

Expecting an ever Increasing Enlistment of Kingdom Volunteers

Expecting an Enforcing Kingdom Victory as a Great Commandment People, Carrying Out the Great Commission Under Our Great Commander!

John Owens, chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, lived in violent and trying times, yet he was an expectant believer and his confidence was rooted in the assured promises of Scripture rather than believing the circumstances around him. Even in a time of death, disease, decline and despair, his confidence in the promise of God stood firm: “Though our persons fall, our cause shall be as truly, certainly, and infallibly victorious, as that Christ sits at the right hand of God.  The gospel shall be victorious.  This greatly comforts and refreshes me.”

Why don’t we see more kingdom authority demonstrated in our lives and churches in America. The reason is because we have truncated the gospel message from a proclamation to repent and be re-birthed into the triumphant, all-pervasive, God-big, kingdom of Heaven, where we learn how to reign in life as devotion-givers, disciple-makers, and dominion-takers, to a go-to-heaven-when-you-die-in-order-to-miss-hell type message that says the best you can expect losing in history; expect to be the tail and not the head; expect to be like a little band of soldiers of the cross who somehow manage to hold the fort until Captain Jesus comes back and kicks them all into hell! — but remember, Heaven will make up for it; No wonder no one wants to join up! This is “rabbit-hole”, fortress mentality type living, not kingdom living!

If we the people of faith, start believing the gospel of the kingdom, praying for it to come more fully daily, and proclaiming it with the same expectations that King Jesus has, we will begin to see greater works than he did happen around our world!

Principles of Interpretation

February 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Eschatology

Introduction: The way we interpret Scripture has great life-impacting consequences:

If you are convinced that at any moment you will joyfully slip away to heaven and escape the worst this world has to offer, you tend to discount future planning. Why get an education? Why try to pass on an inheritance for future generations when we are the terminal one? Why bring children into this mess that the world is in? Why try to change the world if things are only going to go from bad to worse? Why not dismiss most efforts to fight against sin and evil here and now. What good is a struggle against perversion, poverty, hunger, and homelessness, against the culture of death, against the propaganda of immorality’s champions, if we are soon to be snatched away? Why bother, if the fate of the world we will leave behind has already been signed, sealed, and determined to be under the control of the devil and his followers? Why not refocus all our efforts on flying away to heaven as soon as possible?

For this reason we are going to begin this series of studies on eschatology by looking at biblical hermeneutics or principles of interpretation.

Hermeneutics) — is defined in one dictionary as “the art of finding the meaning of an author’s words and phrases, and of explaining it to others.”

  1. The Bible was not written to me but for me!
  1. A text can have only one primary interpretation but many applications.

Each book of the Bible was written by someone to specific readers in a specific historical, geographical situation for a specific purpose. Since the books of the Bible were written to people who lived in certain locations and times we must first seek to understand what the words meant to those initial readers before we can know how they apply to us today. Thus we must always ask, “What did this passage mean to the original readers?”

We live in a time when the thinking of many people is colored by the idea that all truth is relative—that what is true for me may not be true for you. Thus, when someone prefers a doubtful interpretation of Scripture, he may justify himself by saying, “Everyone is entitled to his own interpretation,” as if any interpretation is as good as another. The rule of authorial intent shows this thinking to be in error. The only correct interpretation is the one faithful to the author’s intent.

Ralph Woodrow gives an illustration of making a text mean toy you what it could have never meant to those to whom it was written: “When a husband grew weary of wiping dishes each night after dinner because in his opinion, ‘It was not a man’s job,’ his wife found a verse to use that would keep him next to the sink. It was 2 Kings 21:3, “And I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipes a dish.’”

John Calvin (1509-1564) said, “It is the first business of an interpreter to let his author say what he does say, instead of attributing to him what we think he ought to say”

  1. A text cannot mean what it never could have meant to its author or readers. (audience relevance)

Let me tell you an interesting fact: End times prophetic words have a success rate of exactly 0% and a failure rate of exactly 100%. 

When interpreting any biblical book of the Bible it is important to understand the audience to which it is directed. The evangelical interpreter should understand a passage’s grammar in light of its historical context, not despite it.

An Example from the Book of Revelation

At least three factors in Revelation emphasize the original audience and their circumstances.

Historic Churches

First, in Revelation John is writing to particular, historic, individual churches that exist in his day. Revelation 1:4 provides a common epistolary opening: “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace [be] unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come.” In verse 11 he specifically names the seven churches to whom he writes: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. We know these cities as historical places containing actual churches.

Revelation 1:4 does not read: “John to the many churches which are in America in the Twenty-first century.”

Concerned Communication

Second, we learn that John writes to those churches in order to be understood. The first sentence of John’s work contains its title. And from that title we know John fully intends that his work be a “revelation” so that he might “show” his readers what must take place. The Greek word for “revelation” is apokalupsis, which means an “opening up, uncovering.” John intends for his book to open up divine truth for his original audience.

Furthermore, in Revelation 1:3 we read: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” John expects the members of the seven churches to hear, understand, and keep the directives in Revelation. Revelation calls upon each church to give careful, spiritual attention to its words (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).

Revelation 1:3 does not read: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and pray for those who will live 2000 years from now so that they might keep those things which are written in it.”

Suffering Audience

Third, in his first chapter John also notes that he and the seven churches are already in “tribulation,” which anticipates the major focus of the book: the “great tribulation” (Rev 7:14). “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in the tribulation” (Rev 1:9a). Revelation 2 and 3 contain allusions to greater problems brewing on the world scene (Rev 2:10, 22–23, 25; 3:9–11).

So then: John is obviously writing to particular historical churches about their current, grave, and worsening circumstances. We must not overlook the original audience factor; Revelation’s message must be relevant to them. This is especially significant since, as noted in my previous email, Revelation is filled with notes stating the prophecies will occur shortly (e.g., Rev 1:1, 3).

Revelation 1:9 does not read: “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in relatively comfortable times.”

  1. Interpret Scripture Christologically and not Just Literally, Common Sense Based, or Based on a Man’s System of Theology

The modern and very popular position of interpretation known as dispensationalism, states, scripture must be interpreted literally and when plain sense makes the best sense, seek no other sense. This is not sound hermeneutics. The Bible must be interpreted by the Bible and Biblical truth, not common sense or wooden literalism must be the standard.

The dispensational position claims to take the bible literally. But in reality they do so only when it fits in their predetermined form and works in their favor. When it doesn’t, they take scripture figuratively or symbolically. The clearest example is in Matthew 24. Here Jesus makes two clear statements that if you were to take literally would destroy the whole dispensational position. Due to this, they choose to drop their literalism for the sake of upholding their positions. In Matthew 24 Jesus states very clearly that: (1) this generation will not pass away before these things happen (these signs which are often said to accompany the rapture. For example, wars, earthquakes, famines, blood moons, etc); (2) that these things will all take place regionally, not globally. These statements are found in Mat 24:34, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” and in Mat 24:16, “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” If taken literally, they destroy their dispensational premillennial theory. But that’s the problem, they only prefer and use literal interpretations of the Bible when it supports their preconceived theories.

Not literalism, symbolism, or allegorism, but Jesus must be the criterion by which all Scripture is read and interpreted. (Read Lk. 24:25-27;44; Jn. 1:45; 5:39; Acts 10:43;28:23,31) In other words, the Bible has only one Big Story and one exclusive Star and it is not Israel, the Church, legal or life principles, or any other person or thing. It is Jesus the Messiah!

Jesus fulfills and interprets all the Bible for us. He said, in essence on that day in the synagogue in (Luke 4:21  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”): “I am going to fill up with meaning everything you read here. I am it. Without me in your life, this book is locked shut.” Jesus full-fills OT expectation and the OT fills out our knowledge of Christ!

  1. 5. The Old Testament is interpreted by the New Testament.

The key to the O.T. is Christ in the N.T. The unfolding unity of scripture is from shadow to substance, from the natural to the spiritual, from the ritual to the reality.

What was racial Israel’s primary mission? It was to present the Messiah to the world. In the birth of Jesus from the tribe of Judah, Israel fulfilled that mission exactly as God planned, even though as a whole the nation rejected their native Son!

Jesus fulfilled in His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and ongoing ever-presence in the person of the Holy Spirit, all the covenants of the O.T.! Jesus is the true Son of Abraham (Mt. 1:1) and believing in Him makes us children of Abraham (Gals. 3:29); Jesus kept the whole law for us, including its curses (Gals 4:4-5); He is our law, our sacrifice, our temple priest, and prophet. He is the Son of David and the Son of God who now sits as the eternal king upon the throne of David (Mt.1:1; Acts 2:29-35). The full theological meaning of the O.T. can be grasped only by those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, that God’s covenant with the twelve tribes is fulfilled and completed – not postponed in Christ’s covenant with His twelve apostles. The Jewish nation of the old economy failed in many ways, but they didn’t fail in the main way, i.e., they brought forth the Messiah! The writers of the N.T. recognize Christ as the perfect fulfillment of God’s promises to the patriarchs and Israel: Acts 26:6-7, “And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me.” (NIV)

Acts 13:32-33, “We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers, he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’”

Gal 3:29, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

The first 39 books of the Bible are shadows that Predict the Son, (who is the cause of the shadows) is coming. In the gospels the reality of all the OT rituals, the substance of all its shadows, the fulfillment of all its types and pictures, comes fulfillment as they Present the SON! In the book of Acts Jesus is Proclaimed as Present in the Spirit. In the epistles, He is the Precious Possession of the saints (The Treasure and Pleasure of the Christian’s life – in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge). In the Revelation, He is the Predominate Potentate who Controls the Destiny of all men and nations.

  1. Identify the type of literature.

Remember, the Bible is a collection of diverse books. Or to say another way, unlike most literature, the Bible is not one book written by one author during one time period. Rather, the Bible is a collection of sixty-six distinctive books composed by numerous writers over hundreds of years.

As you think of the Bible more as a collection or library of different books, recognize that each book was written under unique circumstances and for unique reasons. This means that the writing styles and types of literature included therein are extremely diverse. In fact, scholars categorize the different types of literature in the Bible into several genres (a genre is a category):

  • Historical narrative: stories about historical people and events.
  • Poems or songs: lyrics, songs, and prayers that express emotions and ideas using distinctive language, literary styles, and rhythm.
  • Prophecy: poetic messages conveying divine blessing or judgment on people and calling for a response from them.
  • Letters: written by one or more individuals to others, often addressing specific issues.
  • Proverbs and wisdom literature: pithy sayings or discourses about living life well and making wise choices.
  • Legal codes: laws—both general and specific—for ordering a just society.
  • Parables: imaginative stories that relate to life and illustrate a point.
  • Apocalyptic literature: writings that have to do with end times, including vivid portrayal of the cosmic battle between good and evil.

The Bible contains passages and whole books in each of these distinctive genres, which explains why some parts are boring (legal codes) and others beautiful (poetry). But how does it all fit together?

How are to view and read the Bible?  For some the Bible is a sort of philosophical treatise; for others it’s a systematic theology; for some it’s a guideline for making positive confessions of faith; for others, it’s the Owner’s manual that tells them how to operate their lives, or a book of success formulas that reveals how to make it big in life. Nor is it a collection of moral tales, or a series of personal-psychology studies of Great Heroes of Long Ago.

The Bible is God’s Big Story Book about the Covenant, Christ, and the Community of Faith. The Old Testament is 40% narrative and the New Testament is over 60% narrative.

God’s Glory Story is not designed to just inform us about God, but to suck us into the story and involve us a never-ending love-relationship with the True and Living God. The Bible is God’s written revelation of Himself, the story of His coming to us in the Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ; and it is the story of the Church’s relationship to Him through the Covenant He has established with her.

The Bible is essentially a thrilling, action-packed drama with God as the main actor and in which we can play a part. It is not a pick-and-mix catalogue of religious goodies or spiritual recipes. It is not an occult code to be deciphered by elite disciples. And the Bible most definitely is not a compendium of texts which we can use to buttress our own theological position.

The written Word – the Bible, is designed to get us to the Living Word – Jesus. It’s designed to transform us and not just inform us; to stir our hearts and not provide us with a lot of charts; to satisfy our minds, fire our imaginations, fuel our emotions, kindle the flames of worship, and be a lamp of for our feet and a light for our path!

We squeeze the life out of it and render it a “flat” book, a bland moral mandate with passionless principles. But this is not the way the Bible came to us.

In Jesus all the promise-plans of God converge. The Israel story is conclusively redrawn, the world’s story is redeemingly rewritten and the story of God is fully revealed to us.

Meeting God like this in His own story we find a God who is involved, intimate, wild, passionate, unpredictable, utterly faithful, powerful, unmanageable, and persuadable – a tough and tender God who travels and travails with Israel with genuine emotions.

This is a story that must be told, understood, believed, received, acted upon, passed on to others, and a story that must give glory to God its author!

  1. Maintaining the Unity of Scripture in the Light of its Great Diversity

The Bible is really one book with sixty-six chapters, (i.e. books). It isn’t two books, about two peoples, two plans, two ways of salvation, and two destinies, but one book with and one main story, one people of faith and grace and not a favored race, one plan, one way of salvation and one final destiny and all of this finds its fulfillment in ONE PERSON – THE LORD JESUS CHRIST!

According to dispensationalism, there are two distinct programs of God, two distinct peoples of God, and two distinct dispensations for Israel and the church. The church belongs to God’s ‘mystery’ program for this dispensation only. The dispensation of the ‘church’ is seen as confined to the period between Pentecost and the rapture. In their view, the concept of the mystery removes the church from anything anticipated in O.T. prophecy.

However, the Star of the Bible’s Grand Unfolding Drama of Redemption is not racial Israel, for they were but frail, fallen, and failing sons of God. Jesus was the True Son and the Final Israel.  What commenced as death in the First Adam culminates in life in the Last Adam. In the First Adam Paradise was lost (Gen 3:23), in the Last Adam – Jesus – Paradise is Regained (Rev 21:1); in the first part of the Story, Satan is victorious (Gen 3:1-7), in the final chapter, Satan is defeated forever (Rev. 12:10-11); in the first chapter a curse is pronounced (Gen 3:17) in the final chapter of the Story the curse is removed (Rev. 22:3); in the first chapter the gates to the Garden are shut (Gen 3:24) in the final chapter the Gates to God are forever opened (Rev 21:25); in the first chapter we see death descending and reigning (Gen 2:17) in the final chapter death is destroyed (Gen 21:4).

Jesus Christ: The True Israel

If we stand within the field of prophetic vision typical of Israel’s prophets after the exile and captivity, and with them we look to the future, what do we see?  Israel’s prophets clearly anticipate a time when Israel will be restored to its former greatness.  But will that restoration of the nation of Israel to its former glory mirror the days of the monarchy?  Or does the monarchy itself point us to the monarch?

Such a prophetic vision includes not only the nation, but the land of Canaan, the city of Jerusalem, the throne of David, as well as the temple in Jerusalem.  Since the nation had been divided and the people were hauled off into captivity in Babylon some five centuries before the coming of Jesus, the magnificent temple destroyed and the priesthood gone, such prophetic expectation related to Israel’s future quite naturally spoke of a reversal of fortune and the undoing of calamity which had come upon the nation.

But with apostolic hindsight Peter speaks of how “concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.  It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10-12).

In Isaiah 41:8-9, the prophet spoke of a future restoration of Israel in these terms.  “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, `You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off.’”  The same promise is reiterated in the next chapter of Isaiah (42:1-7), when the LORD declares of his servant, “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations”( v. 6).  Isaiah continues to speak of this servant in chapters 44 (vv. 1-2) and 45 (v. 4).

Dispensationalists, given their so-called “literal hermeneutic,” are bound to interpret such passages literally, thereby assign the fulfillment of these prophecies of Isaiah to a future earthly millennium in which Israel co-exists with Gentiles under the reign of the Davidic king (See Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, 302-304; and Pentecost, Things to Come, 503-508).   In effect, this amounts to the restoration of the monarchy as Jesus takes his place on David’s royal throne and rules the nations from this restored Israel.

But is this how the New Testament interprets these messianic prophecies regarding the servant of the Lord?  Who is this servant of the Lord?  It is the nation of Israel, or is it Jesus, Israel’s Messiah?

In order to answer this questions, we must see that the gospel writers interpret these prophecies from Isaiah as fulfilled in the messianic mission of Jesus.

First, in Matthew 12:15-21, for example, when Jesus withdrew from the crowds who had followed him, Matthew reports that this event fulfilled what had been spoken in Isaiah the prophet.  This event serves to demonstrate that Jesus is the true servant of the Lord.

Second, as Jesus cast out demons and healed the sick, Matthew saw in this the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies of a suffering servant who would take upon himself our infirmities and carry our diseases (Matthew 8:17 with Isaiah 53:4).

Third, in Luke’s gospel, Luke speaks of both Israel (cf. Luke 1:54) and David as the servant of God (Luke 1:69).  Yet in Acts, Luke pointedly speaks of Jesus as the servant of God (Acts 3:13).  After his crucifixion, God raised Jesus from the dead so that people everywhere might be called to repentance (3:26).

Fourth, when the Ethiopian eunuch hears a reading from Isaiah 53:7-8 and asks Philip about whom this prophecy refers, Luke tells us that Philip informed the Ethiopian that this passage does indeed refer to Jesus (Acts 8:34-35).

But this is not all that is in view here.  In Hosea 11:1, Hosea predicted a time when “Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”  But in Matthew 2:15, the evangelist tells us that Hosea’s prophecy was fulfilled when his parents took Jesus to Egypt to protect him from Herod’s “slaughter of the innocents” (Matthew 2:3-18).  Yet, after Herod had died, God called Jesus and his family to return to Nazareth.  Matthew takes a passage from Hosea, which clearly refers to Israel, and tells his reader that this passage is now fulfilled in Jesus Christ!  He does this to prove to his largely Jewish audience that Jesus is the servant of the Lord, foretold throughout the Old Testament (especially Isaiah).

By now it should be clear that according to many New Testament writers, Jesus is the true servant, the true son and the true Israel of God.  Recall too that it was Isaiah who spoke of Israel and the descendants of Abraham as the people of God.  It as through the seed of Abraham that the nations of the earth would be blessed.

Therefore, even as Jesus is the true Israel, he is the true seed of Abraham.  This is the point that Paul is making in Galatians 3:7-8, when he says “know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, `In you shall all the nations be blessed.’”

 

 

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