Tag Archives: Second Coming

Daniel 7: Past and Future?

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptural quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version

Earlier in this series of posts, we looked at Daniel Chapter 9, and examined the prophecies of “70 weeks,” the temple’s rebuilding, the Messiah’s ministry, and the eventual destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. I made the case that all of those prophecies were fulfilled by 70 A.D.

Daniel Chapter 7 is a place where similar events are described, and many commentators believe that Chapter 7 depicts the same time period as Chapter 9, although there is disagreement as to whether the fulfillment is past or future.

I believe there is sufficient evidence to say that most of Daniel 7 had a literal fulfillment in the first century. There is a thorough explanation of the first-century interpretation on the Revelation Revolution website, in their article “Daniel 7: A Preterist Commentary.” In this post, I will bring out some key points of that article, but I would recommend reading the whole commentary if you are interested in this subject.

If you want to jump to the section where I discuss a possible future fulfillment, skip down to the section with the heading “Potential Future Fulfillment.”

 

First Century Perspective

Daniel 7:24-27 – Ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them. This one shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. He shall speak words against the Most High, shall wear out the holy ones of the Most High, and shall attempt to change the sacred seasons and the law; and they shall be given into his power for a time, two times, and half a time. Then the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and totally destroyed. The kingship and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.

The Ten Kings in the prophecy could be the leaders of the ten cohorts operating under General Titus and Emperor Vespasian in the destruction of Jerusalem. Alternatively, the Ten Kings could be ten Caesars of the Roman Empire. The king who arose after them in the prophecy could be General Titus, the son of the tenth Caesar, Vespasian. The prophecy says that the new king would put down three other kings.

After the death of Emperor Nero, there was a battle for the emperor’s throne, and Titus and Vespasian defeated three other contenders (Galba, Otho and Vitellius), each of whom briefly ruled in 69 A.D. After that victory, Titus and Vespasian co-ruled the empire, with both of them having the title Caesar. Titus committed blasphemous acts in the temple and sought to alter Jewish customs as described in the prophecy.

Thus far, the first century interpretation makes sense. However, at the end of the passage quoted above, we encounter the same “problem” that we had with 2nd Thessalonians in the last post. Daniel describes the coming of the Messiah and the new Kingdom Age in the same context as the aforementioned war – “the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and totally destroyed. The kingship and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High.”

Obviously, this did not happen in a literal sense during the first century. In my post on the Olivet Discourse of the Gospels, I described a way in which the Bible allows us to infer a prolonged gap of time between the first century events and the future return of Christ. The big question is whether the Bible prophecies a specific recurrence of conflict between the Jews and surrounding kingdoms that will take place right before Christ returns.

 

Potential Future Fulfillment

In Daniel 7:1-8, four animals are described (a lion, a bear, a leopard, and an ambiguous creature). Those four animals could represent four religious-backed alliances (a Buddhist alliance, a Hindu alliance, an Islamic alliance, and a Christian alliance). This was the view held by A.E. Knoch, the founder of the Concordant Publishing Concern. His views are outlined in the book Concordant Studies in the Book of Daniel. Key points and quotes from his commentary on Daniel 7 can be found in the article “The Four Great Beasts” by Lorraine Day, M.D.

Also, on the website of the Concordant Publishing Concern, there is an article by A.E. Knoch titled “The Three Eastern Beasts” from his series “The Mystery of Babylon,” which addresses describes Daniel 7 in conjunction with Revelation.

The first animal, the Lion, could represent a Buddhist alliance. The Concordant Literal New Testament describes the Lion as an “eastern animal.” Of the four major religions in the world, Buddhism is the easternmost religion. The Lion was described as having “eagle’s wings,” implying an ability to spread across regions. This may represent the spread of Buddhism from its origin in India to East and Southeast Asia. The Lion was also given a “human mind.” This may symbolize Buddhism’s focus on humaneness and ethics (Concordant Studies in the Book of Daniel, p. 222, quoted in “The Four Great Beasts” by Lorraine Day, M.D.).

Looking to the future, it is very conceivable that an Asian alliance of nations could form with China as its head, given China’s dramatic rise in economic and political power. If this relates to Daniel’s prophecy, the alliance is likely to have the backing of Buddhist leaders in Asia.

The second animal described is a bear. Given that the Lion was the “eastern animal,” it makes sense that the Bear would be slightly west of the Lion. If you start in East Asia and travel west, the next major religion you will encounter is Hinduism in India.

Daniel wrote that the Bear “was raised up on one side” and “had three tusks in its mouth” (v. 5). A.E. Knoch believed that this passage depicts the Caste System. In this interpretation, the part of the bear “raised up” is the Brahman priestly caste. The three tusks in the Bear’s mouth are the three castes beneath the priests. Note that unlike the Lion, there is no mention of wings on the Bear. This could symbolize the fact that Hinduism’s spread beyond India has been very limited (Concordant Studies in the Book of Daniel, p. 222, quoted in “The Four Great Beasts” by Lorraine Day, M.D.).

Today, India is another country that is rapidly growing economically. With a population of 1.3 billion, more than one sixth of the world’s population, I could imagine India as a stand-alone, Hindu-backed empire to compete with the other three in the prophecy.

Continuing westward, the next religion we encounter is Islam, in the Middle East. Islam may be represented by the Leopard in Daniel’s prophecy. The Leopard had “four wings” (v. 6). If wings symbolize spread of a religion, Islam’s rapid spread, both historically and in the present day, is noteworthy. Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world today, according to a 2015 Pew Research study. The world’s Muslim population is projected to have a 70% increase by 2050, and Muslims are expected to comprise 10% of Europe’s population by then.

Daniel wrote that dominion was given to the Leopard (v. 6). We know that the Middle Eastern nations play a major role in global politics and economics. The “four heads” of the Leopard (v. 6) could represent four Islamic nations that will form an alliance near the end of this age.

Continuing westward, we encounter the parts of the world that A.E. Knoch refers to as “Christendom,” Europe and the Americas (Knoch, “The Three Eastern Beasts”).  Now, the obvious question would be, if we believe that Christianity is the one true religion, why does the prophecy group Christianity in with other religions, and why does it describe the fourth animal as evil and violent?

First, I believe this prophecy is NOT talking about individual practitioners of any of these religions. Knoch describes the relationship of religions to kingdoms in Daniel 7 as follows:

The fourth beast is repeatedly called a kingdom and it includes ten kings. If then, these are kingdoms, what relation do they sustain to the temple and to Israel as the priest nation? In ancient times religion was a matter of state. Nebuchadnezzar was neither the first nor the last to demand religious as well as political submission. As the wild beast, or its head, the anti-christ of the future will demand more than political fealty. He will have the worship of all mankind. His image will be the object of divine honors far above that accorded the most exalted potentate. The clash between Israel and the nations at the time of the end will arise out of their refusal to worship the image, rather than a breach of political faith. All of this leads us to the conclusion that the beasts of Daniel and the composite beast of Revelation are kingdoms in which religion is directly or indirectly a matter of state (“The Three Eastern Beasts”).

Thus, the prophecy deals with characteristics of nations that claim a particular religion as their basis, not the spiritual status of the religions at their core. Note that, what we see from European history is that church-run governments have the potential to turn violent and oppressive. The problem is not the true Christian religion, which is founded upon Scripture, but rather, faulty ideas about God and man’s role that corrupted the church. Similar corruption of the Christian faith could occur in a future Christian confederation.

What Daniel’s prophecy seems to indicate is that a Christian alliance of nations will eventually form in the Western world. The current European Union is a secular union. This is why I believe that if this future interpretation of Daniel comes to pass, the current European Union will be dissolved. The United Kingdom’s recent exit could be the start of this. What would eventually form is a new, religious European Union, that could very well include the Americas too. In the prophecy, the fourth animal had “ten horns” (v. 6). This could represent leaders of ten nations forming the new union.

The prophecy later says that a new horn rose up in place of three that fell off, and that the new horn had defeated those three. This could symbolize some sort of new leader arising and exposing political scandals involving three other leaders of the new union, forcing them to step down. However, as the prophecy will later reveal, this new leader himself is far from righteous.

With this political conflict in mind, it is worthwhile to consider the increasing tendency for countries to meddle with each other’s political processes. Organizations like Wikileaks are creating new platforms for such interference.

The new, Western leader depicted in the prophecy, and its supportive organizations, could be privately affiliated with any religion, or no religion at all. However, if this future scenario comes to pass, I think the leader will be guised as Christian in some way or another.

Once this leader gets into power, he or she will likely get the world’s other three alliances (East Asia/Buddhist, India/Hindu, Middle East/Islam) to cooperate with the Western alliance on common objectives for the world. This persuasion is likely to be made by finding common ground across the world on issues of both politics and religion. This absorption of the other alliances is implied by Revelation Chapter 13, which depicts a beast resembling that of Daniel 7, but with all four animals combined into a single creature (Knoch, “The Three Eastern Beasts”).

It is likely that the Western leader would act supportive of Israel at first, and may even support Israel in reconstructing the Jerusalem temple. However, the Western leader will eventually turn on Israel and go to war against them (Dan. 7:24-25). This leader may also persecute Christians who do not support his or her agenda, or whatever form of Christianity is favored by the government. If the “time, two-times, and half-a-time” of Daniel 7:25 is to be literal, this war would last for 3.5 years.

However, the prophecy continues to say that this leader’s reign will be stopped (v. 26). It is not said exactly how this will happen. It is possible that it will occur through the actual return of Christ, or perhaps, shortly before Christ returns, there will be a political revolution that removes the leader from power.

I do not necessarily believe that the aforementioned war will involve global destruction. Using the period of 66-70 A.D. as a precedent for fulfillment, there was some sporadic violence throughout the ancient Roman empire as well as natural disasters, but the only severely affected areas were Jerusalem and surrounding regions. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica that the Rapture would come at a time when people are saying “peace and security” (1 Thess. 5:1-2). The Thessalonians were within what is modern-day Greece. Thus, while there could be some elevated violence and other crises throughout the world in the final years of this age, most people will likely, for the most part, be carrying on as usual in the years right before the Rapture.

It is after the Rapture, during a brief period before Christ’s arrival on earth, that it appears disasters will severely affect the entire world (1 Thess. 5:1-3, 2 Thess. 1:5-10). However, if you look at the passage from 2 Thess. 1, note that the destruction is directed toward those who are rebellious against God. Even though the Rapture only includes believers who are in the Body of Christ, there are people outside of the Christian faith who are striving to do what is right in accord with their conscience, are resisting their selfish passions, and live according to the principles which Jesus taught. I feel that there is good reason to think that these people will be protected on earth during the period right before Christ’s arrival on earth. In Jesus’ many parables about His coming kingdom, those granted access are those who do good works in accord with love for others.

On the other hand, the significance of being a believer, as described in Paul’s writing, is about entering into a special kind of relationship with the Lord based on justification (Rom. 3 – 8), being made a new creation spiritually (2 Cor. 5:17), and having a special role in the coming ages (Eph. 2:7). However, I do not believe this is the baseline message of salvation in Scripture. Rather, it is a special salvation for believers in this age.

The advantage of being a believer is that, through the Rapture, there is absolute assurance of protection from the calamities that will occur right before Christ arrives on earth to establish a new eon for the world.

 

Concluding Thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, this entire future fulfillment of Daniel 7 is not something that I am absolutely sure will happen. However, in light of the fact that prophecy is not confined to a particular era, but instead, is being continually fulfilled throughout human history, I found it worthwhile to consider possible clues in Daniel about a future fulfillment to take place shortly before Christ returns and the present age comes to a close. The interpretation of Daniel 7 described in this article makes sense to me based on the spiritual perspectives on the world and religions that I have arrived at through thematic analysis of Scripture in general.

I want to close this article by saying that, I am not encouraging people to completely separate themselves from institutional Christianity due to anything I have written. Furthermore, I am not saying that it is wrong for religion to play a role in politics. Rather, what I am writing against is enslavement to religious systems. This enslavement can manifest itself in forms such as, feeling guilty to differ on points of doctrine, feeling obligated to pledge support to various missions or political agendas, or feeling obligated to stay with a church even when that fellowship is not yielding anything beneficial to one’s life. If you can be a member of a church without being chained to the system in this way, then that is perfectly fine, and you are not at risk of religious deception.

Having looked at prophecies contained within the Bible itself in recent posts, the next matter to discuss would be, what to think of prophecies that Christians claim to receive from God today. I believe that our examination of Biblical prophecy will provide a helpful framework for thinking about modern-day claims of supernatural revelation.

 

Works Cited

Knoch, A.E. Concordant Studies in the Book of Daniel. Concordant Publishing Concern, 1968.  qtd in Day, Lorraine, M.D. “The Four Great Beasts: What or Who Are They?” The Good News About God. Spencer Publishing. 2006.     http://www.goodnewsaboutgod.com/studies/current_news/home_study/daniel7.htm

Knoch, A.E. “The Three Eastern Beasts.” Concordant Publishing Concern, n.d., Web.                 http://concordant.org/expositions/the-mystery-of-babylon/13-three-eastern-beasts/

Morais, Daniel. “Daniel 7: A Preterist Commentary.” Revelation Revolution. n.p., n.d., Web. http://revelationrevolution.org/daniel-7-a-preterist-commentary/

“The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050.” Pew Research Center, 2 April 2015, Web. http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/

2nd Thessalonians and the Future of this Age

As I have written in preceding posts, I believe the prophecies of Daniel and Jesus had a fulfillment during 0 – 70 A.D. But, as I showed in the most recent post, prophecy is not confined to a particular period of time. The spiritual factors at play in the first century are still at play today, and will continue to be so throughout this age. So, the question becomes, in addition to the first century fulfillment, are there any other fulfillments prior to Christ’s return that are specifically addressed in Scripture? Although I am not really dogmatic about this matter, I do find some evidence for a future fulfillment.

First, let’s revisit 2nd Thessalonians.

As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming (2 Thess. 2:1-8).

There are several things important to note here. The first is that Paul opens the chapter by mentioning the “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” and then tells the church not to worry about rumors that the “day of the Lord” had already come. Thus, the context seems to indicate that the “day of the Lord” is synonymous with the Rapture and associated events,  described in Chapters Four and Five of First Thessalonians.

Paul writes that two events must precede the Day of the Lord. The first is “the rebellion.” I consider this rebellion to have been fulfilled in the first century. Many of the late-New Testament writings describe a serious departure from the Gospel taking place in their day. For example, in 2nd Timothy Paul writes,

You are aware that all who are in Asia have turned away from me (1:15).

Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will pay him back for his deeds. You also must beware of him, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! (4:14-16)”

Also note some passages from the epistle of Jude:

Jude 4: “For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

16-19: “These are grumblers and malcontents; they indulge their own lusts; they are bombastic in speech, flattering people to their own advantage. But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; for they said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.’ It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions.

But now, what about the “man of lawlessness” that Paul describes, who “takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.” In light of all the other prophecies we have looked at, and the events of 66-70, it is tempting to say that the man of lawlessness was the Roman General Titus, who led the destruction of Jerusalem and was worshipped in the temple by other Roman officers. However, a “problem” for this interpretation comes in Paul’s statement that the man of lawlessness would be destroyed at the time of Christ’s return. Since Titus did not die in 70 A.D., and Christ did not physically return, could these prophecies be awaiting a future fulfillment?

First, keeping in mind that Bible prophecy is not strictly confined to certain eras, I consider it a valid interpretation to say that, while the physical person known as the man of lawlessness lived and died in the past, the spirit which drove that person to do the things he did is still alive today, and has infected various individuals throughout history. That spirit will not be destroyed until Christ returns and establishes a new spiritual order.

I also find Scriptural evidence for this interpretation. For example, the Apostle John wrote,

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world (1st John 4:1-4).”

John depicts the antichrist as a spirit that was alive in his own day, inspiring false prophets. This suggests that the concept of antichrist in Scripture is not limited to a single, physical individual. Undoubtedly, this spirit will find its way into some evil individuals at the time Christ returns, just as it has throughout history. Now, the big question is, does the Bible say anything about a specific person who will be possessed by this spirit at the time Christ returns? I believe that evidence of such a person may be hidden in the text of Daniel 7. In the next post, we will examine that in detail.

Prophecies of the Olivet Discourse

Scriptural Quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version

The Olivet Discourse is a name which Biblical commentators often give to the prophecy that Jesus spoke to his disciples on the Mount of Olives. The prophecy is recorded in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21, and it discusses the future of the world as it was known to Jews of that era. We will look at Matthew’s account first.

Jesus’ prophesy starts at the beginning of Matthew 24.

Matthew 24:1-3 – “As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’ When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’”

There are several important things to note. The disciples were admiring the temple that was standing in their own day. Jesus then warned them not to get too attached to it by predicting that it would be destroyed. That must have worried the disciples, because they privately asked Jesus for more information about three things:

  1. When would the temple be destroyed?
  2. What is the sign of Christ’s return?
  3. How would they know when the end of the age was near?

If the disciples asked these questions, obviously they were familiar with the passages of Daniel that we looked at earlier. Daniel indicated that the destruction of the temple would happen near the end of the “seventy weeks,” which also meant the end of the Biblical age in which they were living. The tricky part is Christ’s return. Daniel’s writing appeared to say that the Messiah would come around the same time that the temple was destroyed and the seventy weeks concluded (Dan. 7:25-27, 12:9-12). That is why the disciples also asked about Christ’s second coming.

The critical points are that the disciples were staring at the temple of their own day and asking about it, and Jesus’ prophecy was given as a 2nd person narrative, indicating that the events prophesied were events that the disciples themselves would live to see (if they were not martyred first).

In Matthew 24:6-8, Jesus said,

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

The Roman Empire went into a state of unrest when Nero became emperor as described in the following commentary from Revelation Revolution,

During Nero’s reign Rome went to war with the Parthians, there was a war in Britain and there were various other rebellious disturbances across the empire. All these uprisings and wars immediately preceded the Jewish War in fulfillment of vs. 6-7. Then in A.D. 66, toward the end of Nero’s reign, the province of Israel revolted against Rome. While the Israelites fought the Romans, they also turned their weapons against each other; and civil war broke out all over Israel between those wanting peace and those seeking sovereignty. Then in A.D. 69, the disease of civil war spread to the rest of the Roman Empire” (quoted from Matthew 24 Fulfilled)

The commentary also describes earthquakes and famines taking place in that era,

“During the reign of Claudius Caesar, the emperor immediately preceding Nero, a colossal famine struck the Roman world. Concerning this famine, James Stuart Russell writes, ‘In the fourth year of his [Claudius] reign, the famine in Judea was so severe, that the price of food became enormous and great numbers perished.’ One example of the earthquakes mentioned in v. 7 is the earthquake that struck Laodicea sometime between A.D. 60 and A.D. 64 during the reign of Nero. It is interesting to note that one of the churches addressed by John in the Book of Revelation was a church in this city (Revelation 3:14-22). Prior to A.D. 70 there were also earthquakes in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Hierapolis, Colossae, Campania, Rome and Judea” (quoted from Matthew 24 Fulfilled).

So far, everything seems to fit the first-century interpretation. However, the next part of the discourse creates a little difficulty. Consider verses 15-18:

When you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; the one on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat.

The reason this is a bit difficult for the first-century interpretation is that, if this refers to Roman officials committing an abomination in the temple, such occurrences are not known to have happened until shortly before the temple’s destruction in 70 A.D., at which point the war was already near peak intensity. For many people, it would have been too late to evacuate as Jesus said to do. However, Luke’s account of the prophecy is a bit different and seems to resolve this issue.

Many Biblical historians think that Mark’s Gospel was written first, and that Matthew and Luke’s incorporated Mark’s writing in addition to other sources (Mark Introduction, Harper Collins Study Bible, p. 1724). In Luke’s introduction to his Gospel, he wrote that many accounts of Jesus’ life had been written and that his writing was a compilation of recorded events in Jesus’ life, based on Luke’s personal examination of many sources and discussion with eye-witnesses (Luke 1:1-4).

I bring things matters up because the stories of Jesus’ life circulated in oral tradition long before the Gospels were actually written. When a story is perpetuated via oral communication, it is natural for some variations of the same story to emerge. As a result, there is some variation in the accounts of certain events among the Gospels. If Luke’s Gospel was one of the later Gospels, then he would probably have selected versions of prophesies that best aligned with actual events that occurred. My theory, based on comparison of the Olivet Discourse among the Gospels, is that Matthew and Mark were written pre-70 or else very shortly after, whereas Luke was written well beyond 70.

Luke’s account of the Olivet Discourse in Chapter 21 starts out like Matthew and Mark, but there are a couple of key differences later on:

Luke 21: 21-24, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

In Luke’s Gospel, Jewish Christians were told to flee Jerusalem when they saw the city “surrounded by armies.” If they followed this instruction, they would have left in 66-67, before the worst of the violence. Historical records show that beginning in 66, many Christians who knew Jesus’ prophecy left Jerusalem.

A commentary from John Denton of PreteristArchive says that Roman armies appeared in Jerusalem around 66-70 A.D., but then largely withdrew. However, after the Roman withdrawal, different Jewish factions in Jerusalem broke out into civil war. Denton wrote,

“After the withdrawal of the Roman armies and for the following three years, those listening to ‘Jesus voice’ by means of his disciples, separated themselves from the inhabitants of Jerusalem and fled the city. According to Josephus’ historical account, during this time, internal anarchy within the city of Jerusalem was continually churning away. Civil war was continuing without let up within the walls of Jerusalem . . . Living in the city of Jerusalem had become a nightmare, it was so full of violence and misery, the citizens desperately wanted to get rid of these fanatics. Famine and food shortages had become an everyday problem, there seemed no let up or end to these factions burning hatred for each other. Daily the fighting continued and the casualties mounted.”

Several other prophecies of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse are reflected in the events just described, including famines, hatred of people toward each other, and anarchy.

Note that Jesus said that after the Jews saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies, those in the city must leave, and those in surrounding Judea must flee to the mountains. Even though, after an initial approach, Roman armies had withdrawn from Jerusalem during 67-70, historical records indicate that during this 3.5-year interval, Roman armies were still attacking surrounding regions, as described in the following commentary from Revelation Revolution,

“‘A time, times and half a time’ [Dan. 7:25] is three and a half years.  This is the interval between the arrival of Titus and Vespasian in Israel to lead the Roman army during the Jewish War in March of A.D. 67 to the fall of Jerusalem in September of A.D. 70.  Rabbinic tradition confirms the fact that Titus and Vespasian assaulted Israel for three and a half years.  According to the Midrash Rabbah Lamantations 1:12, Vespasian was expected to be punished in Gehenna for three and a half years because that was the length of time in which he besieged Israel” (quoted from Daniel 7 Fulfilled).

Thus, it appears that the only way to be completely safe would be to hide in the mountains during this 3.5 year period.

Also, recall that Jesus said that during the Tribulation, false messiahs would arise (Luke 21:8). An example of such a false messiah was John Levi, an apostate Jew who claimed to be sent by God to help the Jews fight off the Romans. Larry T. Smith wrote that John Levi “took over the control of the Temple, set himself up in the Temple as the Jewish savior, looted the vessels of the Temple for their Gold, and caused the daily animal sacrifices to cease” (quoted from The 70th Week of Daniel).

Having considered all of the evidence for the first-century fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecies, we still need to address the “problem” of Jesus not returning to earth in 70 A.D.

Matthew wrote that Jesus would return “immediately after the suffering of those days” (Matt. 24:29). Luke, however, does not use the word “immediately.” This is what makes me think that Luke was written after 70. We do not know exactly what Jesus said, given that historians have not found any transcripts known to be written during His earthly lifetime. Early Christians who believed Christ would return in their lifetimes may have shaped their oral communications of Jesus’ prophecy in light of that expectation, and Matthew and Mark may have picked up those versions which conveyed a greater degree of imminence.

I think that Luke’s Gospel, on the other hand, conveys a hint of an extended interval before Christ’s return. Luke writes,

For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

This passage about the “times of the Gentiles” may be significant. Luke was a disciple of the Apostle Paul, and the era of the Gentiles is a theme in Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

Romans 11:25-27: “So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, ‘Out of Zion will come the Deliverer; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’ ‘And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’

In the Old Testament era, God’s working with humanity was centered on Israel. However, what Paul describes in Romans and Galatians is God’s new way of working with humanity in which “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek” (Romans 10:12). In the passage above, Paul wrote that Israel has been “hardened” during this era, but that when all the Gentiles called to salvation in this era are brought into the faith, Christ will return, and then Israel as a nation will be brought to faith in Him as the Messiah.

Paul writes in Ephesians 3:5-6, “In former generations this mystery was not made known to        humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

Paul writes that the mystery of this age was not made known to previous generations, which could explain why the prophecies of Daniel (such as Dan. 7:23-27), and even Jesus’ prophecies during his earthly lifetime, seemed to skip over it. So, even though specific Tribulational prophecies were fulfilled in the first century, the era of the Gentiles has continued up to the present day, and in a general sense, the Tribulation has as well, if you consider the persecution of Jews which has been a grave problem throughout the past two millennia.

Before I close this article, I want to mention one more passage from the Olivet Discourse that has generated much debate. In Matthew 24:34 and Mark 13:30, Jesus said, “This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

However, Luke once again generalizes the statement: “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place” (Lk. 21:32).

In Luke’s account, the NRSV translation omits the word “these” from the phrase “all these things have taken place.” “These things” would specifically include the physical return of Christ to the earth, something that did not happen in the generation Jesus spoke to. The difference in wording is also reflected in the underlying Greek. Luke’s account does not have the Greek word “tauta” that was translated “these” in Matthew and Mark.

By saying that “this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place,” it is obvious that we cannot interpret the passage literally. Even if Christ had returned in 70, that would not have been the last thing that ever happened in the world!

So, I believe what the prophecy really means is that, in principle, all things would be fulfilled in that generation. In the case of Christ’s return, He returned on the day of Pentecost through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of believers (Acts 2). Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:6 that God “made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

Being made alive in Christ and seated with Him in the heavens is a spiritual fulfillment of the Rapture, and this came upon believers in the same generation that Jesus spoke about.

I want to tie this idea into the overarching theme of this series of posts, which is that, we should not approach Bible prophecy by getting fixated on events of the future (or the past, for that matter). All prophecy is, in some sense, true of the present. Thus, the goal of prophecy is not to predict the future, but rather, to understand the present. Seeing how certain prophecies were fulfilled in the past can help us understand what the same prophecies say about the present. If we live in light of what is true now, we will be prepared should prophecies that were fulfilled in the past play out again. The next post will examine how the prophecies we have been discussing apply to the present, and I will share some views on what implications these prophecies may hold for the future.

 

Works Cited

“Matthew 24 Fulfilled.” Revelation Revolution. n.p., n.d., Web. 18 July 2016.

“Daniel 7: A Preterist Commentary.” Revelation Revolution. n.p., n.d., Web. 18 July 2016.

Adela Yarbro Collins, Ph.D. The Gospel According to Mark Introduction. The Harper Collins Study Bible. Ed. Harold W. Attridge. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. 1722-1724. Print.

John Denton. “Prophetic Day or Year: Jerusalem’s Destruction and the Seventy Weeks.” The Preterist Archive. The Preterist Archive, n.d., Web. 26 July 2016.

Smith, Larry T. “The Seventieth Week of Daniel.” Rightly Dividing The Word. Rightly Dividing The Word, 2002. Web. 17 July 2016

My Views on End-Times Matters

I have decided not to do a long exposition on this subject because, for each of my key points, there are a lot of resources available online by famous authors. In this post, I just want to share what I consider to be the most reasonable interpretation of end-times prophecies based on my reading of the Bible and commentaries from various Christian eschatologies. I have combined what I feel are the best parts of different end-times doctrines. If you would like to discuss any of these points in greater detail, feel free to post a comment.

• I think that most prophecies of the Tribulation (including the war, destruction of the temple, and antichrist), were fulfilled during a war between the Jews and the Romans during 63-70 A.D. The antichrist was most likely the Roman General Titus who led the attack on Jerusalem (Daniel 7:24-25 & 9:24-27, Matthew 24, Luke 21). In a general sense, the Tribulation and spirit of the antichrist have continued up to the present day (1 John 4:3, Luke 21:24). See my notes at the end about the Tribulation.

• We are currently living in an era known as the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24, Romans 11:25-56). This era was not known to the Old Testament prophets, which is why many Biblical prophesies skip over it.

• The present age will conclude with a literal rapture in which all believers are caught up to the celestial realms (1 Thess. 4:13-18). There is no world event to signal that the rapture is near; it will happen at a seemingly ordinary, peaceful time (1 Thess. 5:1-3, Matthew 24:36-41).

• After the Rapture, there will be a brief period of catastrophic events on the Earth (possibly lasting only a few days or weeks – “as in the days of Noah”) (1 Thess. 5:3, Matthew. 24:36-41).

• After this brief crisis phase, Jesus will return to earth to establish a new Kingdom in the world, centered in Israel. Nations will be judged to determine their circumstances at the start of this new era (Matthew 25).

Notes:
The majority view in Christianity is that the Tribulation is a future period of time, and that the events of the Tribulation are described in the Book of Revelation. This view is expressed in the writing of Futurist commentators such as Hal Lindsey, Tim Lahaye, and Robert Gundry. My reasons for thinking the Tribulation took place in the first century are too complicated to explain in this brief post, but if you’re interested let me know and I’ll write in more detail about it. My reasoning on the Tribulation mostly follows the Preterist rationale although I do not agree with Preterists’ allegorical view of Christ’s Second Coming.

Also, regarding the Book of Revelation, I do not agree with the Preterists that Revelation is prophesying about first-century events in particular. I feel that Revelation has many indications of symbolic literature (though still of Divine revelation). Revelation also came from an ancient culture which had its own symbolic meanings for imagery and numbers. I tend to think that Revelation is a depiction of the spiritual warfare taking place in this age, using symbolic imagery that first-century readers would have understood.

Christians who believe in the Divine inspiration of the Bible often have the motto “literal if possible” to describe their approach to Scripture. I believe in this approach if a book establishes itself as a historical or practical work. For instance, the Four Gospels and the Book of Acts are historical commentaries on the life of Jesus and the apostolic ministry to show the world why Jesus is the Messiah. The epistles are a combination of expository theological writing and practical writing to deal with everyday issues in the Church. Obviously, these writings are meant to be taken literally as much as possible. However, Revelation, right from the start, establishes itself as a very different kind of writing, and I’m not sure that “literal if possible” still applies.

Having said that, I do not advise approaching Revelation with an imaginative mentality as if it’s a fairy tale. If there is a symbolic meaning, it would have to be spiritually revealed to a person. For an example of what a serious, spiritual meaning might look like, you can read J Preston Eby’s “Revelation Series” at http://www.kingdombiblestudies.org.

Lastly, I should emphasize that I do not rule out the possibility of anything happening in the future, including the events of Revelation literally playing out. If the Futurist commentators are right about world events, that doesn’t disprove anything in this article. The difference for me is that I don’t live in expectation of those events, and if they happen, that may or may not mean that the Bible prophesied them.

So, that’s my overview on Bible prophesy. Like I said earlier, if there is anything you would like to discuss in more detail, let me know and I’ll either give some more writing of my own or give links to other material.