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Dominoes Falling (5)

Dispensationalism Goes Down

Responding to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

Debate 5: Ron Rhodes asks, ‘How Are We to Understand the Book of Revelation?’

 

Rhodes specifically asks: Can We Identify Babylon? Who Are the 144,000, and What Is Their Ministry? Who Are the Two Witnesses?

Firstly, for those who are new to this series, in my previous post, Interpreting Revelation Part 1 – Taking Issue with Futurism, I explained that once the genre of Revelation is identified then the correct method of interpretation can be applied and the original meaning can be established. The questions in this post that Rhodes has put forward are therefore to be considered in the light of Revelation having been determined to be apocalyptic literature, which is filled with figurative language.

Can We Identify Babylon?

Futurists suggest that this will be either a rebuilt Rome or a rebuilt Babylon. However, having determined that Revelation is full of figurative language, why should it be referring to a specific literal place at all? And, furthermore, consider that the text doesn’t speak of it being rebuilt, but of its existence.

When we consider that this book was written to a 1st century audience using apocalyptic terms like dragon, beast, etc., we should ask what they would have understood by the term Babylon in a figurative context. And, in order to understand the figurative meaning behind the term, we need to first understand the literal significance of the term in their minds.

Babylon had been an empire in the Old Testament that had exercised dominion over other nations. They had enforced their worldview, created unfair trade and exploited people. Among those affected were God’s people. In the first century, Rome was doing exactly the same and so it was figuratively referred to as Babylon. It appears in 1 Peter 5:13 where Peter speaks of the church in Rome by calling it the ‘church in Babylon’.

Now, though there’s little doubt that the term Babylon referred to Rome in the book of Revelation, it clearly went beyond Rome too, because this Babylon goes on to exist until it is judged at the end of time. Therefore Babylon should be seen as an continuing world system that was merely being represented by Rome in the 1st Century and that continually exists through various governments and economic systems throughout the ages until it gets destroyed.

Babylon in Revelation is therefore not literally a rebuilt place sometime in the distant future, but an ongoing worldly system manifest in power, wealth and abuse. It’s one of the constant enemies that the Church faces. However, she faces Babylon in the light of the revelation of Jesus Christ, who guides His church in the context of it being allowed to exist.

Essentially Jesus tells the Church to “Come out of her”, echoing His words elsewhere in the New Testament like “love not this world” and “where your heart is there your treasure will be also”. Such an interpretation would have been meaningful to a 1st century audience and has been to the Church ever since.

Who Are the 144,000, and What Is Their Ministry?

‘And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel’ (Revelation 7:4).

Because Revelation is comprised of figurative language throughout, we should consider that the numbers are being used symbolically too. In my post, Numerology in The Revelation, I argue that numbers should be considered figuratively if –

  • the literature is apocalyptic (a genre that uses symbolic and allegorical language)
  • there is clear use of numerology
  • numerology is used at the outset
  • numbers associated with Biblical numerology are used
  • numbers associated with Biblical numerology are used throughout
  • only numbers associated with Biblical numerology are used throughout
  • credible Biblical meaning is consistently the outcome of interpretation
  • multiple cases make chance meaning an impossible explanation

Revelation ticks all of the above, therefore we ought to consider the figurative meaning behind the number 144 000:

12 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10 = 144, 000

12 = covenant people

10 = quantitative fullness

3 = God

2 = both Old and New Testament eras

‘one hundred forty-four thousand’ – 10 x 10 x 10 (or 103) x 12 x 12 (or 122) depicts the fullness (10) of God’s (3) people of both (2) the Old (12) and New (12) Covenant eras.

‘sealed’ – this is not a literal sealing, but is figurative of a spiritual truth.

‘tribe’ – note that this isn’t the traditional tribal list. This suggests meaning behind why some are listed and others omitted. Also of significance is the order in which they appear. Obviously Judah being listed first has meaning. Furthermore, the exact number from each tribe suggests meaning outside of the literal, as some tribes were much larger.

‘Israel’ – figuratively, Israel represents the true people of faith of both Testaments, not the literal people of whom Paul said ‘not all Israel are Israel.’

The 144000 are therefore the people of God of both Testament eras. The original audience would have recognized that they were being included and referred to by this symbolism. And, such an interpretation would have encouraged not only them, but the Church throughout history. This is in contrast to a literal interpretation of 144000 Jews after the Rapture, which clearly is a total misrepresentation that comes from applying a literal method of interpretation to what is clearly figurative language.

Who Are the Two Witnesses?

‘And I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth’ (Revelation 11:3-4).

2 = Double witness

Context:

  • Witnesses = Lampstands = Olive Trees
  • Lampstands = Churches

Some allusions to consider:

  • Olive Trees = Kingly & Priestly authority (Zerubbabel – governer, Joshua – high priest
  • Elijah and Moses at the transfiguration
  • Jesus sent disciples out in 2’s
  • 2 Churches = Old & New Testament churches
  • 2 Churches = Smyrna & Philadelphia as ideal churches
  • Two witnesses required to establish truth
  • God’s house on foundation of the apostles and prophets

The two witnesses with authority to prophesy are “those who worship in the temple” (Revelation 11:1), i.e. God’s people of both Old and New Testament eras.

This is a far cry from the Futurist view of an actual two persons well beyond the first century church and after the church era, who will be literally killed in Jerusalem and their bodies left in the middle of the street, and the whole world will look upon them via a video gone viral over the Internet. Who then, three days later, will stand up and be taken up to Heaven.

Such a view is based on a wooden literal interpretation in the face of the clear need for figurative interpretation. Its outcome has no relevance to the 7 churches, the audience of the prophecy, or to the Church throughout time.

In contrast, however, the Church in the 1st century would have received comfort from the vision if they saw the slaying and resurrection of the Two Witnesses as a figurative depiction of the Church of the Old and New Testament eras who lay down their lives (not necessarily literally) in service to God. And, we too should receive this comfort and encouragement in our service of the Lord.

Rob Morley

Other Responses So Far To the ‘8 Debates’:

  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
  4. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
  5. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
  6. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?
  7. The Signs of the Times – Is America in Bible Prophecy?
  8. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 1 – Israel regathered from Many Nations
  9. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 2 – Russians and Muslims to Invade Israel on Horseback?
  10. When Will The Rapture Occur?
  11. Taking Issue with Futurism – Interpreting Revelation Part 1
  12. Daniel’s Seventieth Week and the Book of Revelation – Interpreting Revelation Part 2
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Dominoes Falling (5)

Dispensationalism Goes Down

Responding to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

Debate 5: How Are We to Understand the Book of Revelation?

Ron Rhodes asks, ‘How Does Daniel’s Seventieth Week Relate to the Book of Revelation?’

The 70th Week in Context

24Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.25Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27And he shall confirm a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator” (Daniel 9:24-27).

Introduction

Dispensationalists like Rhodes assign the 70th week, that is a 7 year period that is prophesied in the book of Daniel, to a time in Israel’s’ future that they interpret will occur only after the Church has left the earth. They, therefore, place the 70th week within the multiple chapters of Revelation that they have likewise allocated to such a period.

In my previous post, Taking Issue with Futurism – Interpreting Revelation Part 1, I contend that Futurists have wrongly aligned Revelation to a future beyond the Church age, when, in fact, it has everything to do with the Church. Now, in this post I will show that though the 70th week was a prophecy specifically given to Israel concerning a 7 year period in their future, it was realized when Jesus, their Messiah, died, rose and ascended in the middle of the week.

By the end of the article it will be clear that Daniel’s 70th week is about the simultaneous end of God’s Covenant with His people and the inauguration of a New Covenant with them in Christ, bringing about the Church age. Consequently, it will be clear that like Revelation, it too has nothing to do with some distant future for Israel that Futurists will have you believe.

The Intention of the 70 Weeks

Firstly, the 70th week forms part of a prophecy about 70 weeks and the intention of the entire 70 weeks is stated up front in verse 24. Consequently, because the 70th week is part of the 70 weeks, its purpose is included too. Consider:

“70 weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.”

  • “70 weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city”

It’s about Daniel’s people, the Jews and Daniel’s holy city, Jerusalem.

  • “to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin and to atone for iniquity”

Jesus finished the transgression by taking all mankind’s sin – ‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross’ (1 Pet 2:24). In so doing Jesus satisfied the Law’s requirement for their transgression by baring their sins and iniquities. When dying Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). ‘He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2).

  • “to bring in everlasting righteousness”

Consider ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Cor 5:21) and ‘For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more’ (Heb 8:12).

  • “to seal both vision and prophet”

to completely satisfy what was prophesied through Daniel’s vision.

  • “and to anoint a most holy place”

The anointing of the Spirit is within believers, God’s new Holy Place. Consider, ‘But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and … his anointing teaches you about everything’ (1 John 2:27).

It’s obvious that the purpose of the 70 weeks was entirely satisfied through Jesus Christ’s ministry through the cross on behalf of His people. Therefore, the 70th week, which is part of the 70 weeks, has to do with His ministry.

The Structure of the 70 Weeks

The 70 weeks are divided into 3 series of weeks as follows: 7 weeks followed by 62 weeks followed by 1 week.

A judgment principle of a year for every day as in Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:4-6 was used. In this way 70 weeks = 70 x 7days = 490 years.

Each series of weeks has particular related activities:

  • 7 weeks = 7 x 7 = 49 years: “From the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks.”
  • 62 weeks = 62 x 7 = 434 years: “Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.”
  • 1 week = 1 x 7 = 7 years: “And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. And he shall confirm a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

The plain understanding has a single unit of 70 weeks divided into 3 parts. Consider:

7 weeks (49 years) – refers to a period of 49 years between getting a word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to an anointed one (no doubt to allow or lead them in that endeavor).

62 weeks (434 years) – refers to a 434 year period of being established as a city, yet “in a troubled time”.

7 weeks (7 years) – refers to a 7 year period “after the sixty-two weeks”

  • in which “an anointed one” is “cut off”,
  • over which He confirms “a strong covenant”
  • and in the middle of which He and puts “an end to sacrifice and offering.”

Inserting any time within the 70 weeks makes the plain understanding of 70 weeks redundant (unless of course the text speaks of such an insertion, which it plainly doesn’t). But, that’s precisely what Dispensationalists would have you believe. They maintain that after the 69th week God suspended completing the 70 week program concerning Israel, delaying the 70th week. However, the text clearly states that “after the sixty-two weeks (which is the 69th week), an anointed one shall be cut off”. Clearly, “after” the 69th week is the 70th week.

The delay, Dispensationalists say, is an interlude in God’s working with Israel, now being filled with almost two thousand years of Church history. However, there is clearly no interval mentioned anywhere in the text concerning the 70 weeks. It’s therefore especially ludicrous to believe that the decreed 490 year period has an inserted 2000 year period.

They believe that God has suspended His governing of Israel as a nation because of their national rejection of Christ. While this is true, it is not according to their construct of the 70 weeks. Furthermore, they maintain that this suspension is temporary and that God will once again restore His direct governance of Israel. This is where the views depart once again, because the 70 weeks makes no mention of this.

From Nation to Spiritual Nation

Instead, the 70 weeks leads to a New Covenant for Daniel’s people (and whosoever believes) that is no longer is about God’s governance of a natural nation in their land, but concerns God the governing of a spiritual nation regardless of where they are. Jesus, who confirmed the covenant, said, “…the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24).

This bizarre insertion of a so-called separate Church age not only makes a mockery of interpreting the intention and structure of the 70 weeks, it’s clearly a slap in the face of the Messiah’s purpose for His people. Furthermore, it discards the fact that a huge remnant of Israel believed at the time of the apostles and that many have continued to come to faith ever since. (For more see The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel).

The 70th Week

26 “And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing.”

  • “after the 62 weeks” implies it’s in the 70th week.
  • “anointed one” – Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) means anointed one.
  • “cut off” – Consider this prophecy concerning Jesus: ‘For he was cut off out of the land of the living’ (Isaiah 53:8).
  • “shall have nothing” – He was rejected, even stripped of his clothes.

27And he shall confirm a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering.

  • “he shall confirm a strong covenant” – Jesus “is the mediator of a better covenant” (Heb 8:6).
  • “for one week” –
  • “for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering” – 31/2 years into His ministry Jesus ‘entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus securing eternal redemption’ (Heb 9:12) and putting an end to the need for sacrifice and offering.

Dispensationalists believe that the making of ‘a strong covenant’ and the putting of ‘an end to sacrifice and offering’ in Daniel 9:27 refers to a future Antichrist instead of to Christ. However, didn’t the Messiah institute a ‘better covenant’ and end the need for sacrifice and offering by dying ‘once for all’? Sadly, their interpretation of the 70 week period has no mention of the Messiah’s work on the cross. Surely, the single most significant event in Israel’s history would have been included in the 70 weeks!

From Old to New

In the final week of the 70 weeks God, through the Messiah, ends the Old Covenant and at the same time establishes a ‘better covenant with better promises.’ However, many rejected Him and, as a result, Israel for the most part missed receiving the kingdom of God. This was preempted by Jesus when He said to those who were rejecting Him, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”

Israel as a nation failed to produce fruit, rejected their Messiah and were cut off, however, it is not as though they were forsaken. A remnant of Jewish believers repented and became part of His new people, His Church that produces fruit. Also, any who had been cut off could be grafted in again if they repented. Only now it wasn’t to the old physical promises that relate to this world, but to better spiritual promises and promises of a New Heaven and New Earth.

There was only ever a remnant of faith in Israel. As Paul says, not all Israel is Israel. And, even the wholesale national rejection of their Messiah did not stop God’s purposes, for a remnant of Israel has continued to believe and the promises and covenants remain available to those who might still repent.

God’s working with Israel was not suspended temporarily after 69 weeks for their rejection of the Messiah as Dispensationalists contend. Instead, they have been invited into the New Covenant that was instituted by their Messiah in the 70th week. The fact that only a remnant have believed is as it’s always been. As Paul explained, a ‘partial hardening has come upon Israel’.

Desolation Beyond the 70 weeks

The description of the 70th week completes the full description of an uninterrupted 490 year period over 3 phases. Throughout the text there is no indication of any time period to be inserted within the 70 weeks (490 years) so as to delay any part of it. However, while that deals with Futurist claims for an interlude, there is an interchange of text in the final 3 verses describing the 70th week that includes information of desolation beyond the 70th week.

A description of the Messiah being cut off in the final 70th week and of the covenant He will make is described in interchange with a final desolation of the Temple. No doubt this is because the outcome of Messiah’s cutting off and strong covenant had a direct effect on the necessity of the Temple.

This, however, is not the same as inserting a time period within the actual 70 weeks, but is simply a reference to a time period outside of the 70 weeks that is being referred to because of its connection to the 70 weeks.

Here’s The Interchange:

A: And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing.

B: And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.

A: And he shall confirm a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering.

B: And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator”

The outcome of the 70 weeks is that Christ ended the Old Covenant and instituted the New. In relation to that the Temple’s desolation was to occur, however, this would be outside of the completed and uninterrupted 70 weeks (490 years). In the middle of the final 70th week Jesus predicted it too, warning His disciples and citing Daniel saying, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination of desolation,’ described by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains (Matt 24:15-16).

Futurist’s Squeeze and Sever

Rather than seeing the Church as God’s intended extension and outcome of Israel’s promises, Dispensationalists keep Israel and the Church distinct. This, along with a completely different understanding of the characters and happenings in the 70th week, requires Dispensationalists to squeeze 2000 years of Church history between the 69th and 70th weeks.

As I have outlined previously, Dispensationalists do the same when it comes to the description of the fourth beast. Between the beast and its horns they maintain that there is a great separation of time. Yet, by doing this they completely sever the intended unity of what is pictured and the immediacy of the timing that was meant. (See The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?).

The severing off of the 70th week from the 70 weeks, and of the horns from the beast, along with the squeezing in of the Church age, so as to maintain a future outcome for Israel, is extreme eisegesis, laughable and sad. Especially sad is that Bible seminaries and colleges have doctors in theology who actually teach this. Let alone the million dollar industry of selling books on this subject!

This idea of a delayed period of 1 week is further fueled by misunderstandings and manipulations of other texts. For example, futurists have a false understanding of Romans 11, presuming that the text implies that the Jews have a future after the time of the Gentiles. For more on that you can read Jewish Salvation.

In Conclusion

By disconnecting the 70th week from the first 69 weeks, Dispensationalists throw any reasonable interpretation of the intention and structure of the 70 weeks under the bus. This is clearly a big delusion and a sham of an interpretation, because the plain understanding is that the three series of weeks follow immediately after one another. Any idea that the decreed 70 weeks is disconnected at any point is simply abusive interpretation of the intended unity of the 70 weeks.

As for Revelation, it has to do with the Church’s existence in the knowledge of Jesus Christ at her side as she faces various troubles in this world. Daniel’s 70th week, on the other hand, has to do with the Old Covenant being satisfied and the Church’s beginnings through Israel’s Messiah, Jesus, in a New Covenant. So, Revelation and the 70th week are not directly related to each other.

More importantly, in the light of this debate, Revelation and the 70th week have nothing to do with Israel’s future as a nation governed by God. Sadly, Futurists miss the intention of the 70 weeks for the Jewish people, and, in so doing, fail to see that the Messiah’s Church is Israel’s destiny.

Rob Morley

Other Responses So Far To the ‘8 Debates’:
  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
  4. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
  5. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
  6. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?
  7. The Signs of the Times – Is America in Bible Prophecy?
  8. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 1 – Israel regathered from Many Nations
  9. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 2 – Russians and Muslims to Invade Israel on Horseback?
  10. When Will The Rapture Occur?
  11. Interpreting Revelation Part 1 – Taking Issue with Futurism
Dominoes Falling (5)

Taking Down Debate 5

Responding to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

Debate 5: Ron Rhodes asks, ‘How Are We to Understand the Book of Revelation?’

Rhodes asks, ‘Which Interpretive Model Is Correct – Historicism, Idealism, Preterism, or Futurism?’

Spiritual Warfare

For starters, though Rhodes calls it a debate, he is not attempting to give you a fair representation of the various views. Instead, his intention is to lead you into his belief of Futurism. I am writing to counter his view and to warn you of what you can lose by believing futurism and, on the other hand, of the great gain in believing the truth.

Your Sword is at Stake

Chapter 4-22 of The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave, is at stake. That’s 19 out of 22 chapters. That’s 86% of a book that was designed to strengthen you in times of trouble that futurists say doesn’t belong to you. They say it’s about another people; Jews who they believe will remain on earth after the rapture.

This futurist thinking is partly based on the gross misinterpretation of words, “Write those things which shall be hereafter.” The term “hereafter,” however, was not meant for some 2000 years hereafter, but hereafter to the day in which John was living. They were to be words of prediction and comfort for that generation as they faced their enemies, Babylon, the Beast and the 2nd Beast, under Satan. These words, in turn, have become a book to comfort countless generations as they have faced the same enemies.

Discovering the Interpretation Model

Firstly, the method of interpretation that one uses for a book is not an outside tool that unlocks the text, but is instead a tool that’s interpreted from the text. The ‘interpretive model’ is therefore something that is discovered by observation. With that in mind we can determine what method of interpretation that should be applied to the book of Revelation by observing the genre of the book, the intended audience and any evidence of timing related the audience or any predictions.

The Genre is Prophecy

In the opening lines of the book we read, ‘Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.’ This book is therefore no doubt a prophecy. But what is prophecy? Is it just a bunch of predictions?

Prophecy in the Old Testament and also here in The Revelation was primarily a form of feedback from God as to how well His people were doing in light of their covenant relationship with Him. Then, in light of His evaluation of His people, God sometimes predicted various judgments as warnings. These, however, were preventable through changed behavior.

Such prophecies often spoke of the enemies of His people Israel and how God was going to deal with them too. In the case of The Revelation, it speaks likewise of the enemies of His people the Church, and how God will deal with them. Based on their behavior, the prophecies often predicted their inevitable judgment.

So, prophecy dealt in part with behavior and in part with an associated prediction of judgment. In The Revelation, God begins judgment with His people to bring about repentance where needed. This is appropriate because judgment begins in the household of God. He then deals with their enemies, the world (Babylon), world power (the beast), false religion (the second beast), and Satan (the dragon).

The Genre is Apocalyptic

The book is filled with symbolic terms in phrases, names and numbers that need to be interpreted. The initial audience would have had the keys for the interpretation. Firstly was to note what John said concerning the symbols as he often interpreted his own writing.

Secondly, was recognizing the reuse of terms that had previously been used in Scripture. Here the original context leant meaning to the newer context, however, determining whether it was symbolic or literal required further consideration.

Once a pattern of figurative or literal interpretation is identified, barring clear internal changes, then that becomes the normative method for the whole text. This is because the author would not chop and change as this would be confusing to his audience.

In Revelation, John is most helpful by setting us off in the direction of figurative interpretation, interpreting his references to Old Testament images with figurative meaning. For example, ‘Gog and Magog’ (Rev 20:7), the traditional foes of the people of God, are interpreted by John as ‘the nations in the four corners of the earth’. That makes sense as this world is at enmity with the Church, God’s people; just as Gog and Magog had been with Israel.

Another example is where he interprets the image of ‘the ancient dragon’ as ‘that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan’. Though he interprets for us in many cases, he also leaves the readers to interpret terms based on their knowledge of the Scriptures.

For some reason, many stubbornly hold on to a literal meaning when it comes to the numbers, even in the face of them clearly being used symbolically. Remember, however, that consistency is the key. Therefore, if in the case of numbers figurative language has been clearly and repeatedly used, we should assume that all the numbers are most likely figurative too.

With this in mind, consider how the Spirit of God is introduced to the Churches at the beginning of the letter as the 7 Spirits. We know it’s the Holy Spirit, but 7 is used do display the figurative meaning of omnipresence, i.e. that He is with each Church. This sets the scene for numbers having meaning.

Throughout Revelation distinct numbers are used that were previously used in God’s word, only now with figurative meaning. Revelation uses an apocalyptic style that embraces figurative language with clear evidence of symbolically represented numbers. (See Numerology in The Revelation).

Sometimes the numbers are used literally and figuratively, for example the 7 churches, but never only literally. However, even in the case of the churches, the selection of a literal seven out of many churches in Asia was intentional toward the figurative meaning behind the number 7. It was a comment on God’s church.

Often the numbers that are used are combinations of the distinct numbers of Scripture which adds to the meaning. With that in mind, any literal interpretation of the 144000 of the tribes of Israel or of the 1000 years in chapter 20 is nullified. This dismantles any Futurist notion of 144000 Jews after the Rapture or of a literal future 1000 year reign of Christ.

The Genre is a Letter

The book is a letter that was written to a specifically named audience. It had a purpose. It was prophetic, i.e. correctional and predictive. Like other New Testament letters it was instructional and encouraging. Be assured, all 22 Chapters were meaningful and relevant to the audience.

The Genre is a Drama

The structure of the book is a series of visions within a drama. This is to be expected as the main Church was Ephesus (where John was from) with a large amphitheater and they would have been used to this form of communicating. The scenes are repetitions of the same time frame only dealing with how Jesus is pictured and how the Church is seen in context to different opposition. This form of presentation emphasizes that it was a message firstly for the audience of that time and place.

Audience

Through interpretation we can see that the initial audience was very much in mind. For example, the audience is stated as ‘the seven churches in the province of Asia’. Yet, based on assumptions around the change of scenes between chapter 3 and 4 (or 5 and 6 in some cases), Futurists interpret chapters 4-22 as being applicable to an end-time audience. In so doing, they rob us of applying in our lives what is clearly interpreted for John’s generation.

Prediction

The phrase, ‘what must shortly/soon take place’, is stated as the reason for the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It forms part of the reason for the book. The alternative, ‘what must quickly take place’, i.e. whenever it happens it will be ‘quickly’, is debunked by the intended audience having been clearly identified. Unless, of course, “quickly” is used with regard to the initial audience and not some future audience. Furthermore, the phrase “for the time is near/at hand” (Rev 1:3) establishes the imminent nature of what is prophesied, especially that it is part of the introduction to the book as a whole.

The number of the mark of the beast, 666, clearly identifies as Nero, yet the beast ‘had the wound by a sword, and did live’. Therefore, though Nero had died, the beast was predicted to manifest through another leader as it had through Nero. History shows us that Domitian was the leader that was like Nero in his persecution of the Church, a reincarnation of the beast that they were being warned about.

Though they appeared in human form in John’s day as the world, false religion and ungodly governmental power (all under Satan), these enemies, including Satan, are written about in such a way that they are seen to transcend the generations. So, though they are definitely interpreted with a Preterist model, i.e. for the 1st century churches that were addressed, nevertheless, their longevity before their destruction lends to an intended Idealist model too, i.e. to the broader Church and the ongoing Church.

The end of these enemies who afflicted the churches that John wrote to (mainly Preterist), and who afflicted other churches then and many more throughout the Church age (also Idealist) will be sentenced to the Lake of Fire at the end of the Church age (briefly Futurist).

Preterist Model is Correct

In Conclusion, the Revelation is Preterist in the main with Idealist and Futurist parts. However, the evidence in the text points to a Preterist interpretation. This Preterist interpretation was intended for John’s audience, but as application for the Church throughout the ages. Preterism is the correct interpretive model. Preterism does not imply that there isn’t any mention of idealistic or futuristic elements.

Idealism for Application

Idealism is a great way to apply the Preterist truth for all generations. It was obviously not Idealist for the original audience, however, as evidence points to that audience being addressed along with certain specific issues of their time.

Historicist Error

As for Historicism, this is the view that the Revelation is of events that would unfold in history. The same objection exists as was given to the Idealist model. Parallels in history are better considered as application of Preterist interpretation rather than the text specifically predicting these latter events. Identifying the papal system in Revelation during the Reformation is an example of this. To the extent this was true, its only by way of application of the timeless truths and principles found in Preterist interpretation.

Futurist Deception

Don’t let the Futurists steal Chapter 4-22 from you. Beware of those who inadvertently make Israel more important than Jesus Himself. God became man and said He was going to build a Church and the Futurists make it a parenthesis. Some will dance with a blend of these beliefs, but, the extent to which the Church is diminished, they diminish the very purpose of Christ and therefore of God Himself.

Revelation 4-22 is for the Church

The Church has replaced Israel. Now, I do not mean by that that the Jews are forsaken. Rather, the Church is the fulfillment of the New Covenant that the Jews were promised. Their own Messiah is building His Church in which He includes any who believe. His is the blood of the New Covenant. The Apostles were among the first of multitudes of Jews who have believed. To the Jews belongs this covenant. It’s their New Covenant by which I, a Gentile, am grafted into their heritage of covenants and promises that are fulfilled in Christ, the Son of God.

Gentiles are grafted into the Jewish faith. The Church comprises Jewish believers in their Messiah (Christ) and Gentile believers in the same. It is the Jewish Messiah’s plan for Israel and the world. It’s the New Israel that God has established for any of Israel to participate in (through faith) and also for anyone else in the world.

New Covenant Replaced the Old

Concerning God’s promise to Israel, the book of Hebrews reads: “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: … For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:6-13).

The last generation to live under the old covenant still existed at the time of the author. Hence, it was vanishing until the destruction of the temple.

The Fig Tree

‘Seeing a fig tree by the road, he (Jesus) went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered’ (Matt 21:19).

What did the fig tree represent? Israel. What did he mean by ‘never’? Never.

The Kingdom Given to the Church

To the Jewish leaders Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit” (Matt 21:43). Compare that with God’s word says to His Church, comprising Jews and Gentiles, ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light’ (1 Peter 2:9). How about to the Church in Revelation where it says ‘He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father’ (Rev 1:6)?

Conclusion

Besides robbing the Church of most of the book of Revelation, the Futurist lie is that the Jews have a future mapped out for them after the Rapture. They interpret a hope for Israel outside of their Messiah’s Church and the New Covenant in His blood being offered now. (Here’s my post on Jewish Salvation).

By teaching that Revelation 4-22 belongs to a future generation of peoples after the Rapture, Futurists lose the validity, purpose and impact that it was meant to have in our lives. It’s sadly a lie that my brothers and sisters believe, which Satan has brought into the Church in order to blunt the sword of the Word of God in the lives of believers and the Church as a whole.

Rob Morley

My Other Responses So Far To the ‘8 Debates’:

  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
  4. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
  5. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
  6. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?
  7. The Signs of the Times – Is America in Bible Prophecy?
  8. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 1 – Israel regathered from Many Nations
  9. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 2 – Russians and Muslims to Invade Israel on Horseback?
  10. When Will The Rapture Occur?
Dominoes Falling (4)

Debate 4 – Tumbling

A Response to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

DEBATE 4: Which View of the Rapture Is Correct?

The Rapture

Firstly, when it comes to the Rapture, though Rhodes considers a case for Pretribulationism, Midtribulationism, Posttribulationism, the Pre-wrath view and the Partial Rapture view, these don’t reflect of what many believe. He apparently only sees those that somehow relate to his futuristic concepts as relevant to the debate. As a result, he has failed to include the most fundamentally basic and Biblically obvious view, which is simply that when Jesus returns He will rapture the believers from the earth immediately before destroying it with fire and beginning His final judgment.

For example, Wiki – Rapture says: ‘Many Christians do not subscribe to rapture-oriented theological views… but do believe in the phenomenon—primarily in the sense of the elects’ gathering with Christ in Heaven after his Second Coming. These denominations do not believe that a group of people is left behind on earth for an extended Tribulation period after the events of 1 Thessalonians 4:17.’

That brings me to my second issue that I have with Rhodes’ partiality. Each of the views that he has put forward assumes that there is a 7 year period called “The Great Tribulation” that occurs around the time of the Rapture. However, this is simply futurist eisegesis imposed on Daniel 9:27 and on certain texts where the term “great tribulation” is used in the Bible. By connecting the notion of a 7 year Great Tribulation to the Rapture, futurists have complicated what is quite simple and have created what is actually an unnecessary in-house debate. However, by removing the false interpretations around the texts that refer to “great tribulation” we can quickly dismantle this.

Tribulation, The Tribulation, Great Tribulation and The Great Tribulation

As we all know, as in all literature, terms in the Bible are interpreted in context. For example, though the term ‘lion’ is used in connection with the Devil, it is also used in reference to Jesus. Therefore, context informs our interpretation so that the ‘lion of the tribe of Judah’ is not understood to be the Devil, and ‘the Devil… prowling like a roaring lion’ is not likening him to Jesus.

Similarly, the term ‘tribulation,’ whether used simply as ‘tribulation,’ ‘the tribulation,’ ‘great tribulation,’ or ‘the great tribulation,’ needs to be considered in context. In understanding their contexts we will find that they are not necessarily always synonymous periods of tribulation. Consider the following:

The Church Age – An Age of Tribulation

In John 16:33 Jesus says to his disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Though this was specifically spoken to his immediate disciples, we understand these words to be applicable to all believers throughout the Church Age.

In fact, throughout the Bible and the book of Revelation in particular we see the Church experiencing tribulation in the world in which it finds itself. This is no doubt the main reason for God giving The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Church as an encouragement to her, revealing Jesus Christ’s promises, proximity and power in relation to all her troubles.

Revelation 7:14 specifically refers to a “great tribulation” or “the great tribulation” where it reads; “These are the ones coming out of great tribulation/the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” This too refers the tribulation over the broader Church Age rather than their specific period of trouble, because the words “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” are true of all believers and not a specific few.

With this in mind, the term “great” in “the great tribulation” in this passage refers to the extent of the tribulation. It is the sum magnitude of tribulation experienced during the Church Age in a world called Babylon that is hostile to her, whose citizens are under Satan’s power, and where the Beast reincarnates itself, along with the False Prophet.

The Early Church – Tribulation

In Revelation 1:9, John describes the time that he was already living in as ‘the tribulation.’ He was no doubt referring to the persecution that he and the Church were under, however, he certainly would have understood that to be part of the general “tribulation” that Jesus had promised in John 16:33. Regardless of whether John was referring to their current troubles and/or to the general tribulation that Jesus had promised, the occasion warranted the use of the term.

The Destruction of Jerusalem – A Time of Tribulation

The term “great tribulation” is used in Matthew 24:21 where Jesus says, “For then shall be great tribulation”. The context is found in the preceding verses. He says, “…let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.”

Clearly, “on housetop” describes an ancient home and custom, not a modern scene that one would expect in a futurist tribulation. Also, to “flee to the mountains” is hardly a strategy that will help anyone in the future. Furthermore, being in a “field” and wearing a “cloak” is a common description for 1st century Judea, not modern Israel. And, why would “winter” be a problem in the modern world?

From the description, this prophecy was to be fulfilled in that era and not some end-time futurist one. Jesus is describing the looming scenario and associated possibilities around the destruction of the temple. Corroborating this are Jesus’ words in relation to this passage: “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

It had to do with the Jewish War of 66-70 AD and Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem. More than a million Jews were killed and the temple, which their lives revolved around, was destroyed. It was gruesome, with in-fighting, starvation, cannibalism, slaughter and destruction. The nature of it was so horrendous that Jesus said of it, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

Christ’s Threat – A Threat of Tribulation

Finally, the term “great tribulation” in Revelation 2:22 is used in an admonition by Jesus to members of the church of Thyatira. He says, “Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works”. This was a warning of impending troubles, to people in a church who were contemporary to the apostle John, if they would not repent.

Bizarre Outcomes

Clearly this threat of “great tribulation” had nothing to do with the “tribulation” of John 16:33 that describes the troubles in this life that Jesus said the disciples would face as their part in “the great tribulation” of Revelation 7:14. Neither does it concern the Roman period of persecution that John referred to as “the tribulation” in Revelation 1:9. Nor has it anything to do with the “great tribulation” of Matthew 24:21 that describes what the unbelieving Jews in 1st century Judea faced during the Jewish war.

You can only imagine what concoctions people come up when they simply assume that the word “tribulation” implies the same event. Bizarrely, there are some who will try and connect most if not all of the above into one event. I’m not sure that Rhodes has taken it that far, but he does connect at least two of the above tribulations. However, sadder is that he gives neither their proper interpretation to start off with.

Firstly, he sees the “great tribulation” of Matthew 24:21 and “the great tribulation” of Revelation 7:14 as the same period. Secondly, he places this period in an end-time future. He then further distorts this by linking this end-time “great tribulation” period to a prophecy in Daniel 9:27 that speaks of a 7-year period in which an abomination that causes desolation occurs. Instead of seeing this in relation to Jesus prophecies regarding 1st century Jerusalem, he interprets ‘The Great Tribulation’ as a 7 year period in the future when the desolation will occur. It is with this futurist mind that he asks when the rapture is to occur.

Debate Answer

The Rapture will happen at the end of this Church Age at the second coming of Christ when every Jew and Gentile who has ever believed in the Messiah will receive their glorified bodies and be caught up in the air (raptured) with Jesus to forever be with Him. Immediately thereafter the earth and all who are in it will be judged with fire and all will face final judgment.

So, in conclusion, there is no Rapture in relation to a 7-year period called ‘The Great Tribulation’. However, there is one that ends ‘the great tribulation’ that the Church has always existed in and in which the church experiences “tribulation” upon “tribulation”.

My Responses So Far To the ‘8 Debates’:

  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
  4. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
  5. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
  6. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?
  7. The Signs of the Times – Is America in Bible Prophecy?
  8. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 1 – Israel regathered from Many Nations
  9. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 2 – Russians and Muslims to Invade Israel on Horseback?

Rob Morley

Dominoes Falling (3)
Debate 3 Falls

A Response to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

Debate 3: Ron Rhodes asks, “What Can We Know About the Signs of the Times?

(My response is also to Rhodes’ teachings in his book, “The Popular Dictionary of Bible Prophecy”.)

 

***********

 

In this post I answer, with PART 2, the 3rd of the following questions put forward by Rhodes:

    1. Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment?
    2. Is America in Bible Prophecy?
    3. Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur?

 

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Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur?

Obviously, Rhodes’ question implies that he believes that this prophecy is still to be fulfilled. The particular passages regarding the re-gathering of Jews and the invasion of Israel that Rhodes refers to are found in Ezekiel 36-38. He argues that the contemporary re-gathering of Jews from many nations back to Israel “appears” to be setting the stage for the inevitable prophesied invasion. Though, he covers his back saying “Of course, it is always possible for things to reverse course, in which case the invasion could still be a long way off.”

In terms of the invasion forces, Rhodes says that Ezekiel refers to Russia heading up a coalition from the north of Muslim states including Iran, Sudan, Libya and Turkey. Firstly, though arguably possible, it seems highly unlikely that Libya to Israel’s west and Sudan to their South would form part of a “northern assault force.” Secondly, consider how the account of the armies in Ezekiel 38:4-5 don’t describe a modern army: ‘And I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great host, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords. Persia, Cush, and Put are with them, all of them with shield and helmet…’ Rhodes wants us to believe that ‘…horses… horsemen…in full armor… with buckler and shield, wielding swords…shield and helmet.’

Russians and Muslims to Invade Israel on Horseback?

Using Rhodes’ literal method of interpretation, we end up with Russians and Muslims in an army fighting on horseback against Israel sometime in the future, which is most improbable. However, rather than acknowledge that the description of the armies is obviously historical and not futuristic, Rhodes instead goes against his anti-allegory dispensational stance by using an allegorical interpretation of these armies. This is most unusual coming from someone who is adamant that prophecies are to be literally understood. Yet, in order to make his end-time view work, Rhodes is forced to dismantle his dispensational view by either having a ridiculous notion that these armies are a literal description of the future or by acknowledging the armies as allegorical, thereby undermining the literal interpretation method that he demands.

Which is it, dispensationalism with an improbable future of armies on horseback, or an admission to the use of non-literal interpretation? (See my response to Ron Rhodes’ question, “Should Bible Prophecy Be Interpreted Literally or Allegorically?” in Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical).

Rob Morley

Other posts in this series so far:

  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
  4. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
  5. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
  6. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?
  7. The Signs of the Times – Is America in Bible Prophecy?
  8. The Signs of the Times – Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur? PART 1 – Israel regathered from Many Nations
Dominoes Falling (3)

Debate 3 Falls

A Response to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

Debate 3: Ron Rhodes asks, “What Can We Know About the Signs of the Times?

(My response is also to Rhodes’ teachings in his book, “The Popular Dictionary of Bible Prophecy”.)

***********

In this post I answer, with PART 1, the 3rd of the following questions put forward by Rhodes:

    1. Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment?
    2. Is America in Bible Prophecy?
    3. Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur?

 

***********

Israel regathered from Many Nations

Firstly, Rhodes says that the re-gathering of Jews from “many nations” that precedes the invasion in Ezekiel hasn’t happened before. This, however, is not true. After Solomon’s sin, Israel had been divided into the two Kingdoms of Israel in the North, consisting of 10 tribes, and Judah in the South along with Benjamin. The Northern Kingdom, called the House of Israel, constantly displeased God and was eventually overrun by the Assyrians who spread the Israelites from the 10 tribes all over the Assyrian conquered territories. Mixing the various conquered tribes was the Assyrian way of keeping resistance in check.

Then, several generations later, Judah had their turn in experiencing God’s judgment as they too failed to keep the covenant wholeheartedly. By this time Babylon had overtaken the Assyrians as the world power and Judah was taken as a unit into Babylon. At the end of 70 years, as God had prophesied through Jeremiah and confirmed through Daniel, the people of Judah were allowed to return. By then Babylon had fallen to the Medes and Persians who granted Judah’s right to return.

Prophetic Return of Judah and Israel

Among the returnees were not only those of Judah, but also remnants of those from the Northern Israelite kingdom whose families had previously migrated to Judah because of their own kingdom’s apostasy. Also, God’s providence toward Judah had created opportunity for all Israelites to return. This is clear because in Acts 26:6-7 Paul refers to the existence of the 12 tribes in the land. He says, “And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day.”

Furthermore, in Acts 2:5-11 Luke says, ‘Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”’

Surely these texts are evidence of the re-gathering from many nations!

Further Confirmation

According to Barnes: ‘There were dwelling at Jerusalem – The word rendered “dwelling” – κατοικοῦντες katoikountes – properly means to have a fixed and permanent habitation, in distinction from another word – παροικοῦντες paroikeountes – which means to have a temporary and transient residence in a place. But it is not always confined to this signification; and it is not improbable that many wealthy foreign Jews had a permanent residence in Jerusalem for the convenience of being near the temple.’

Clarke says: ‘Devout men, out of every nation – Either by these we are simply to understand Jews who were born in different countries, and had now come up to Jerusalem to be present at the passover, and for purposes of traffic, or proselytes to Judaism, who had come up for the same purpose: for I cannot suppose that the term ανδρες ευλαβεις, devout men, can be applied to any other. At this time there was scarcely a commercial nation under heaven where the Jews had not been scattered for the purpose of trade, merchandize, etc., and from all these nations, it is said, there were persons now present at Jerusalem.’

Finally, Ellicott says : ‘There were dwelling at Jerusalem.—The phrase is one of frequent occurrence in St. Luke’s writings (Luke 13:4Acts 1:19Acts 4:16). As a word, it implied a more settled residence than the “sojourning” of Luke 24:18 (see Note), Hebrews 11:9, but was probably sufficiently wide in its range to include the worshippers who had come up to keep the feast.’

It is evident that Israel has already experienced the literal re-gathering referred to in the passages in Ezekiel 36-38. It is not something of the future. And, more significant are the references in these passages to a second and more significant regathering. This is their spiritual regathering into Christ that began at Pentecost.

To further dismantle dispensationalism as presented by Ron Rhodes, I will show in my next post that just as the regathering of Israel from ‘many nations’ is a past event, so too is the corresponding so-called ‘Ezekiel invasion’. Can you imagine Russians and Muslims fighting Israel in the future on horseback? Probably not! However, if not, the texts are either allegory, or history (and not with Russians), but certainly not an end-time event as Rhodes would have you believe.

Rob Morley

  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
  4. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
  5. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
  6. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?
  7. The Signs of the Times – Is America in Bible Prophecy?
Dominoes Falling (3)

Debate 3 Falls

A Response to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

Debate 3: Ron Rhodes asks, “What Can We Know About the Signs of the Times?

(My response is also to Rhodes’ teachings in his book, “The Popular Dictionary of Bible Prophecy”.)

***********

In this post I answer the 2nd of the following questions put forward by Rhodes:

  1. Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment?
  2. Is America in Bible Prophecy?
  3. Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur?

***********

Is America in Bible Prophecy?

Rhodes and other futurists interpret several prophecies in the Bible in relation to Israel’s current existence. Because of that, Rhodes admits surprise at America not being mentioned in the Bible considering the role that they have and continue to play in Israel’s existence.

Given that the Bible typically mentions the nations that are allied to or who are against Israel, it should surprise dispensationalists that America isn’t mentioned in any of them. Needless to say, instead of this notable omission being a red flag to Rhodes’ futurist theology, he chooses to explain it away. He goes against his own good reason that expects a nation of such significance as America to Israel to have been mentioned, and against the precedent found in the Bible to do just that, and instead waxes eloquent with all sorts of probable reasons as to why America isn’t mentioned.

The omission of America is an obvious red flag that should have directed Rhodes and other dispensationalists to reconsider how the texts that they subscribe to Israel today might have already been fulfilled centuries ago. Sadly, though, he and other dispensationalists plunder forward investing way too much time and speculation around modern Israel and beyond using a false prophetic narrative.

Instead of focusing on the central message of the Bible that concerns what Christ has already done for Israel and the Gentiles, dispensationalists consume people’s time and money speculating about the future using prophecies that have already been fulfilled.

Rob Morley

Other posts in this series so far:

  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
  4. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
  5. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
  6. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 3 – Middle East, European Union, Globalism?
Dominoes Falling (3)

Debate 3 Falls

I’m Responding to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

Debate 3: Ron Rhodes asks, “What Can We Know About the Signs of the Times?

(My response is also to Rhodes’ teachings that are found in his other “end-time” dispensationalist literature.)

 ***********

 In this post I continue to answer, with PART 3, the 1st of the following 3 questions put forward by Rhodes:

  1. Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment?
  2. Is America in Bible Prophecy?
  3. Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur?

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The Craving for Peace in the Middle East

This is another issue speculated on by Rhodes. He links this with the idea of ‘a revived Roman Empire’ from which supposedly the anti-Christ will come with peace solutions for the Middle East.

A Revived Roman Empire

This is another contrived notion from the misinterpretation of texts in the books of Daniel and Revelation. For example, regarding visions in Daniel 2 and 7, Rhodes says that ‘many modern biblical interpreters see the European Union as a primary prospect for the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy.’

Rhodes comments on Daniel 7:24-25 saying that ‘Rome never consisted of a-ten nation confederacy with ten co-rulers.’ But, is that even what the imagery is representing?

The text reads,

‘Thus he said: “As for the fourth beast,

there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
and shall put down three kings.”’

What is this passage really about? Has it already been fulfilled?

Firstly, the context of this passage is of four beasts that represent four empires that follow on the heels of one another, each having an impact on the people of God. It is a parallel vision with the one in chapter two of a statue representing these same kingdoms. The kingdoms are generally understood to be Babylon followed by the Medo-Persians, Greece and finally Rome.

Furthermore, these kingdoms are each pictured as a single unit and therefore each have a single period of time. Therefore we ought to expect the fulfillments of the visions in the same way as they are structured. The four kingdoms follow consecutively. Also, when it comes to the detailed description of the fourth beast, we expect the horns to be immediately related to that beasts’ period of time.

Any idea of a great separation of time between the kingdoms or within a kingdom would be disingenuous to the imagery. Yet, this is precisely what dispensationalists would have us do with the text. They suggest that part of the imagery points to an end-time future. However, in order for that to be possible, the image of the statue would have been pictured with severed toes and the image of the fourth beast would have had the horns somehow disconnected from it, floating at a distance, but they aren’t.

The ‘ten horns’ and the ‘little one’ or ‘another horn’, represent a series of 10 emperors and a significant emperor that reigned after the establishment of the Roman Empire. ‘Another horn, a little one’ that ‘came up among’ the others speaks of the period that Domitian was stand-in Emperor. As the child of the Emperor, he fits with the term ‘little’ and, as the stand in Emperor, he fits with the term ‘horn’ (see Daniel 7:8 that parallels 7:24).

Furthermore, there is a ‘king’ that follows the ‘ten kings’. This would be Domitian who he later becomes Emperor in his own right. The ‘little’ ‘horn’ thus later became a ‘horn’. To ‘the saints’ he ‘seemed greater than his companions’ because he, in particular, ‘made war with the saints’, i.e. the people of God (see Daniel 7:21). In his time, ‘the saints’ were the Jewish and Gentile Christians who he severely persecuted.

He is the ‘another’ who is said to ‘put down three kings’. Domitian reigned in his father’s stead while his father was on a campaign, however, immediately before his stand-in reign, three other emperors followed in quick succession. They are referenced in Daniel 7:8, 20 and 24.

Interestingly, a case has been made for Domitian’s father Vespasian or his brother Titus being the horn; nevertheless, I believe Domitian fits best. Regardless of which one it is, these options are a far better than what Rhodes and other dispensational premillennialists speculate. Their idea is that these visions refer to a future outcome through a resurrected Roman Empire in the form of a European Union. This disjoins the vision, which is otherwise a single sequence of events, by almost 2 thousand years. Not only is this interpretively implausible, it’s laughable!

Globalism

Here Rhodes speculates around Rev 13:3-13 and the idea of a single world government under a single leader. However, the prophecy in Revelation is speaking about the Roman Empire that was just such a controlling government. Also, through the use of numerology, Emperor Nero is clearly linked with the number 666. At the time of the prophecy he was dead, however, the ‘beast, whose fatal wound had been healed’ meant that someone like Nero would reappear. Domitian was like Nero. He brutally persecuted the church just as Nero had. (Incidentally, it is clear that the ‘beast, whose fatal wound had been healed’ of Revelation and the ‘little’ ‘horn’ in Daniel are the same person. I personally believe that Domitian fits best.)

I have shown over several posts that the prophecies that dispensationalists place in the end-times have actually been adequately fulfilled in the past. Therefore, the burden of proof lies with them. However, according to Rhodes, this would be impossible for them to do because, according to him no signs precede the Second Coming and so the best that he can give as evidence are shadows of signs. And, shadows, as I have shown, are unauthorized speculations at best.

It comes down to using standard rules of interpretation and clear corresponding historical evidence vs. dispensationalist eisegesis that sees ‘shadows of signs’ in a future speculated using prophecy that has already been fulfilled.

Rob Morley

Other posts in this series so far:

  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
  4. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
  5. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? PART 2 – Israel
Dominoes Falling (3)

Debate 3 Falls

I’m Responding to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

Debate 3: Ron Rhodes asks, “What Can We Know About the Signs of the Times?”

(My response is also to Rhodes’ teachings found in his other “end-time” dispensationalist literature.)

***********

In this post I continue to answer, with PART 2, the 1st of the following 3 questions put forward by Rhodes:

  1. Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment?
  2. Is America in Bible Prophecy?
  3. Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur?

***********

The Rebirth of Israel

Before I begin, let me point out that according to dispensationalist Ron Rhodes, no signs precede the Second Coming. Therefore, by this reasoning the modern rebirth of Israel cannot be a sign, but only a shadow of a sign, which is how he describes something that resembles a sign in this ‘dispensation’. However, surely such a phenomenal contemporary happening in our time constitutes much more than just a shadow of a sign, but the sign itself.

So, is the modern rebirth of Israel a prophesied sign, or even a shadow of a prophesied sign? And, as significant as the modern rebirth of Israel is, to what extent does it match the prophecies concerning Israel being gathered again? Also, is there any evidence that these prophecies have already been fulfilled?

Firstly, the modern rebirth of Israel cannot possibly be a shadow of a sign. It’s far too dramatic an event for that. Therefore, it is either a sign, which messes up Rhodes’ dispensationalist theology, or it’s a phenomenal occurrence like many others that have happened and weren’t prophesied about. Take for instance the Holocaust where 6 million Jews lost their lives. This awful tragedy to the Jews, astonishingly wasn’t prophesied about.

Gathered to Christ

I believe the modern rebirth of Israel that we are witnessing is a sign. However, it’s not a sign in relation to some or other end-time event, but of God’s faithfulness to the promise of the land of Israel to Abraham’s natural posterity. Abraham was promised this land for his descendant s. Later, under Moses, they were brought into a covenant with God and were given the land. Subsequently, according to the covenant, they punished for their idolatry by being ejected from the land. Nevertheless, prophecies concerning their return to the land were given. Significantly, along with such prophecies, the prophets also spoke of a promise of another regathering too. However, this isn’t related to the modern regathering of Jews to their land. Instead, it relates to the Jews regathering in Christ, regardless of where they are found.

When Christ came, the Jews for the most part rejected Him. In fact, before His crucifixion He said, ‘I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.’ Yet, it did not remain all doom and gloom, because after Pentecost thousands received Christ. Nevertheless, because Israel on the whole would reject Christ, He prophesied that they would once again be ejected from the land, which happened in AD70. Note, that by this time the second gathering had begun to take place, only this time Jews were being gathered to Christ rather than to the land.

Jewish Salvation

Ezekiel was a prophet who prophesied concerning the salvation of the house of Israel and the gift of the Spirit saying, ‘I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules’ (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Oddly, Rhodes cites this prophecy in relation to the ‘international regathering of Jews in unbelief’ since 1948. Yet, though the previous verse reads, ‘I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land,’ in context, Ezekiel was prophesying to the ten northern tribes known as the ‘house of Israel’.

The house of Israel was scattered over the then known world by the Assyrians. Afterward, some of these providentially returned on the wake of Judah’s return from Babylon. Centuries later, at Pentecost, the Spirit was given to many of them who turned to Christ and has continued to be given to those who repent, regardless of where they are.

Gathered Again

Consider Acts 2:5 where Luke writes ‘Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.’ Here the term “dwelling” is more than just visiting. Centuries before Christ came, Judah had returned from captivity in Babylon. However, Acts 2:5 clearly indicates that a significant number of Israelites from the ten tribes had returned too. This is corroborated further in Acts 2:36 when Peter said, “let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” By using the terms “all” and “Israel” together, Peter clearly addressed those of Judah along with those of the ten tribes that had previously been scattered over the known world by the Assyrians.

There are a number of Old Testament prophecies that are aligned to a second regathering and which are clearly fulfilled in Christ. He came to gather, to Himself, the remnant of Judah and Israel regardless of whether they were in the Land or not, along with people from all nations. For example, Isaiah 11:10-12 reads: ‘In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.’ The second recovery is not to a land, but to the root of Jesse, who is Christ, the ‘signal for the nations’.

Israel Gathered to Christ

Dispensationalists like Rhodes believe that God’s purposes for Israel and the Church are separate. They thereby detract from the union that Jews and Gentiles, who have come to faith in Christ, have in Him. They believe that the Jews missed their moment and, as a result, a delay has set in before God will work with them again. However, did they miss their moment?

Clearly Peter’s message to “all the House of Israel” (Acts 2:36) was that, though they had crucified Jesus by handing Him over to the Gentiles, they could repent and be part of their Messiah’s Church. After all, it was to Israel that the promises had been given, especially the promise of their Messiah. The result of Peter’s message was that ‘three thousand souls’ were added to the church. These were all Jews who believed and who were given the promise of the Holy Spirit, which had long before been prophesied to them. Clearly, God’s purposes for Israel and the Church are not separate. In fact, those of “all the House of Israel” who believed comprised the very early church!

Furthermore, in order to explain the outpouring of God’s Spirit that was evidenced in the disciples speaking in other languages, Peter quoted Joel 2:28 saying, ‘And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.’ Sadly, Rhodes places this prophecy for future fulfillment thereby missing the obvious application that Peter was making to his own day and beyond.

Besides those three thousand Jews who were saved, the text goes on to say, ‘And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved’ (Acts 2:47). Then, thousands more were seen to be added in Acts 4:4 where it says, ‘But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.’

A careful examination of Scripture shows that many Jews came to faith. Consider also these texts that speak of Jews being saved in the early church: ‘Yet more and more believers were brought to the Lord–large numbers of both men and women’ (Acts 5:14). ‘In those days when the disciples were increasing in number’ (Acts 6:1). ‘So the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew rapidly, and a great number of priests became obedient to the faith’ (Acts 6:7). ‘Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria experienced a time of peace. It grew in strength and numbers, living in the fear of the Lord and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 9:31).

This church growth by Jews who had returned to their land was phenomenal by any standards. Even on Paul’s missionary journeys, though many Jews rejected the message, countless came to faith too. In fact, percentage wise, the number of Jews who have come to Christ even up to our era is comparable to many other nations.

The Scriptures and the last 2000 years are clear testimony that God’s purposes for Israel and the Church are not separate. Many Jews are being gathered into the Church, just as many Gentiles are. If anything, the nature of Israel’s regathering into Christ is a sign that not all will be saved and that God resists the proud, regardless of nationality.

In John 11:51-52, the high priest ‘prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.’ God’s plan for the Jews is clearly to gather them to Christ.

Rob Morley

Other posts in this series so far:

  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
  4. The Signs of the Times – Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment? – PART 1
Dominoes Falling (3)

Debate 3 Falls

This post is PART 1 to the 1st of the following 3 questions put forward by Rhodes:

1. Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment?

2. Is America in Bible Prophecy?

3. Can We Know When the Ezekiel Invasion Will Occur?

***********

I’m Responding to Ron Rhodes’ The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy

Debate 3: Ron Rhodes asks, “What Can We Know About the Signs of the Times?

(My response is also to Rhodes’ teachings found in his other dispensationalist literature.)

***********

Dispensationalist Double-talk

When it comes to signs, Rhodes has created his own dispensationalist double-talk. On the one hand he encourages the discernment of the signs of our times, which he says ‘Jesus desires us to do’, sadly misappropriating Jesus’ words in Matt 16:1-3 and Luke 21:29-33. (This I’ll let slide as Rhodes’ has bigger problems). Then, on the other hand he says that no signs precede the rapture and that they have to do with the Second Coming of Christ. This is obviously illogical, because how can one discern the signs of our times when none precede the rapture?

Chasing Shadows

His explanation around this is that what is seen as signs of our times are not signs, but are the shadows of the signs, or the stage being set for the signs that are only to appear after the rapture. Of course we are told nowhere in the Bible to look for shadows of signs or for the stage setting for signs and so he fosters Christians busying themselves with unauthorized speculation around supposed shadows. If, however, he says that the shadows are not speculation, then they must be signs. However, if they’re signs, he then refutes his own theology that doesn’t expect to see signs before the rapture.

Biblical Signs

Rhodes says ‘a sign of the times is a prophetic event that points to the end times’. Here he hijacks terminology used by Jesus in relation to His visitation (see Matt 16:3) and redefines it in relation to the “end-times”. So, he is clearly off to a bad start.

In the manner that he approaches some signs, Rhodes appears to, at times, go against his own ‘qualification’ that no signs precede the rapture. Related to these “end-time” signs, Rhodes goes on to say, ‘Scripture specifies quite a few signs (for example, see Matthew 24-25, 1 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Timothy 4:3-4)’.

Now, before we consider these, it should be noted that signs in the Bible, whether seen or prophesied, are related to a context in space and time and are very clear evidences that point to an associated reality in the same or a later space and time context. Therefore, signs are clearly seen in their contexts and they are clear about what they are pointing to, which is in huge contrast to speculating around signs, let alone around shadows of signs.

Now, whether he considers them to be signs or shadows of signs, let’s first consider whether any clear evidence exists of these signs having already occurred. If they have, it will save a lot of time speculating about shadows of signs and we will have been kept from false end-time narratives.

To Which Generation Do These Prophecies Belong?

Within Matthew 24-25 Jesus says, “…when you see all these things, you know that he/it is near, at the very gates.” In context, Jesus immediately goes on to say, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Some futurists say that because “this generation” is in relation to “all these things”, i.e. the prophecies in Matthew 24, they cannot see how it is possible to ascribe this to the “generation” of the apostles. They suggest that Jesus is referring to an end-time “generation” in which “all these things” must take place. But is this true?

Note that the context has Jesus talking to his disciples and so when he says “when you see all these things, you know…” the pronoun “you” clearly indicates that his message was specifically for the disciples. This is immediately corroborated by Jesus saying to them “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” If Jesus meant otherwise, then “they” and “that generation” would have been used.

The Escalation of Apostasy

Rhodes fosters the typical futurist hype around terms like ‘latter times’ found in 1Timothy 4:1-2. But, does this refer to our days and beyond? When Paul writes, ‘Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils…’, the context is that he is instructing Timothy and the church on how they should behave in the household of God. He is therefore not dropping some random future “end times” prophecy, but he is instead writing to keep Timothy and the church from going astray at a time already considered ‘the latter times’.

Similarly, Rhodes misinterprets ‘for the time will come’ in 2 Tim 4:3-4. Here Paul says, ‘For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.’ Context shows that he was referring to a time on their doorstep rather than some distant future. In fact, in Acts 20:29-30, Paul refers to this imminent falling away when he addresses the elders from this very church that Timothy was leading. He says, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

Knock-on Effect

Misinterpretation of the events prophesied and of their timing has a knock-on effect on many other Scriptures. Exasperating this is the blind bias that gets formed around these beliefs. The result is that many passages are simply squeezed and accepted in mistaken contexts without alarm or question. The end result is a theology and eschatology based on dubious inferences from Scripture, insertions of ideas into Scripture and rhetoric full of holes to explain it all.

Rob Morley

Other posts in this series so far:

  1. Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical
  2. Toppling Dispensationalism
  3. Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct
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