Tag Archive: Revelation


Responses to ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’

Herewith are my responses to a series of debates put forward by Dispensationalist Ron Rhodes in his book, ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy.’ I trust that my posts will help toward establishing God’s truth and dismantling the wayward doctrine of Dispensationalism.


Dominoes Falling (1)

Debate 1

Should Prophecy Be Interpreted Literally or Allegorically?

Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical

Toppling Dispensationalism


Dominoes Falling (2)

Debate 2

Are Israel and the Church Distinct in Bible Prophecy?

Israel is Saved or Judged, not Replaced or Distinct


Dominoes Falling (3)

Debate 3

What Can We Know About the Signs of the Times?

Do Current Signs Point to Prophetic Fulfillment?

Israel

Middle East, European Union, Globalism?

Is America in Bible Prophecy?

Israel regathered from Many Nations

Russians and Muslims to Invade Israel on Horseback?


Dominoes Falling (4)

Debate 4

Which View of the Rapture Is Correct?

When Will The Rapture Occur?


Dominoes Falling (5)

Debate 5

How Are We to Understand the Book of Revelation?

Taking Issue with Futurism

Daniel’s Seventieth Week and the Book of Revelation

Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses


Dominoes Falling (6)

Debate 6

How Are We to Understand the Antichrist?

The Antichrist – Conundrum and Distraction

Who is the Antichrist?

Who Restrains Him? What Nation is He from? What is the Mark of the Beast?

Timing of the Antichrist


Dominoes Falling (7)

Debate 7

Which View of the Millennium Is Correct?

The Millennium


Dominoes Falling (8)

Debate 8

Is It Okay to Set Dates on Prophetic Events?

Prophetic Events and Their Timing


Other posts referenced:

Numerology in Revelation

Jewish Salvation

Restoring the Kingdom to Israel – The Christian Researcher

Rob Morley

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The Millennium

Robbed of 1000 Years!

Dominoes Falling (7)

Debate 7

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

Debate 7: Ron Rhodes asks, ‘Which View of the Millennium Is Correct?’ and looks at Amillennialism, Postmillennialism and Premillennialism.

The Millennial Views

The term millennium means 1000 years and, concerning the Bible, relates to Revelation 20 that says ‘they will reign with him for a thousand years.’ Interpretations of this chapter have brought about three very different millennial views.

Postmillennialism is the belief that Christ will return after a literal 1000 year period at the end of this Church age in which Christian ethics are practiced in a so-called ‘golden age’.

Premillennialism is the belief that Christ will return before a literal 1000 year period to reign on earth in a ‘golden age’ of peace.

Amillennialism is the belief that the 1000 years in Revelation 20 is to be understood figuratively rather than literally. In other words, no literal 1000 years was intended by the author.

My aim here is to show that the Amillennial view is the natural outcome when interpreting Revelation in its genre. At the same time, it will become clear that the Amillennial view is perfectly congruent with the rest of the New Testament.

Sadly, what will become clear is that many have been robbed of the blessing of understanding the meaning of the 1000 years that was given to the Church for her encouragement as she engages with this world.

They Will Reign With Him for a Thousand Years

‘Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years’ (Revelation 20:6).

Interpretation:

‘the first resurrection – Consider ‘God…made us alive in Christ, even when we were dead in our sins’. Also, Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

‘Over such the second death has no power’ – Having been ‘dead in our sins’, a spiritual death that came upon all humanity as a result of Adam’s transgression, we were raised to life to ‘never die’ again.

‘they will be priests of God and of Christ’ – Consider that Revelation began with the statement, ‘To Him who loves us and has released us from our sins by His blood, who has made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever!’ This clearly speaks of the role of all who are in Christ’s Church. After all, concerning our priestly work, Scripture speaks of ‘God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.’

‘and they will reign with him’This speaks of the Church age where its members reign with Christ by way of their priestly role. Remember, Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth and we are ‘seated with Him in heavenly places.’ Furthermore, concerning the reality of Christ’s priestly kingdom in this world, Revelation begins with ‘I, John, your brother and partner in the … kingdom …’

‘for a thousand years – This, therefore, is the period that the Church reigns with Christ.

The Case for Amillennialism

Amillennialism means there is no literal 1000 years. This interpretation is derived from recognizing the use figurative language throughout Revelation, which includes the numbers that are used. In my post, Numerology in The Revelation, I argue that numbers should be considered figurative 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 in the text make putting it to chance an impossible explanation

Revelation ticks all of the above, therefore, it is imperative that we interpret the figurative meaning of the numbers in Revelation rather than their literal meaning.

Previously, I showed how the number 144000 in Revelation is a numerological construct of the numbers 12, 2, 10 and 3 and explained that these numbers held symbolic meaning in Judaism and in the early Church. Therefore, by interpreting them together, they could understand what was being communicated by the number 144000.

Similarly, the number 1000 would have been recognized as a numerological construct of the numbers 10 and 3, where their meaning was jointly the key to understanding the number 1000.

1000 Years:

10 x 10 x 10 = 1000

103 = 1000

Meaning:

10 = quantitative fullness

3 = God (Trinity)

1000 years is to be interpreted therefore as the full quantity of time (10) that is given by God (3) for the church to reign with Christ in a priestly kingdom, doing the work of reconciliation. During this time, Satan is ‘bound’ by Jesus ‘so that he might not deceive the nations any longer.’ This symbolically means that Satan’s sway over the souls of men is restricted so that he cannot prevent the salvation of those who are being saved through the Gospel.

‘When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations …to gather them for battle’. They will surround ‘the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire’ comes down from heaven and consumes them. And, ‘the devil who had deceived them’ is ‘thrown into the lake of fire’.

Conclusion

In short, the 1000 years is symbolic of the period from the Church’s inception and commissioning as priests under Jesus Christ, who has all authority in heaven and on earth, until this age given for the salvation of mankind is over. Then, Satan is released and is quickly destroyed along with all who follow him.

Rob Morley

Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:

  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
  13. Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
  14. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
  15. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
  16. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
  17. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
  18. The Millennium
  19. Prophetic Events and Their Timing
Dominoes Falling (6)

Debate 6 – Part 4

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

Debate 6: Ron Rhodes asks, ‘How Are We to Understand the Antichrist?’

Dispensationalists Get Timing Wrong

As I have previously indicated, Dispensationalists would have you believe that most of the book of Revelation is for a time after the rapture of the Church. In other words, they believe that most of the characters and events written about would have nothing to do with the Church. This includes the manifestation of the Antichrist or the Beast as he is known in Revelation. However, how is this even possible to swallow, given that the book of Revelation was given by God to Jesus with the express purpose of showing ‘his servants’, the Church, what must ‘soon’ take place?

Dispensationalists translate the term ‘soon’ as ‘quickly’, believing that it references the speed at which the events in Revelation will take place and not the time. By this interpretation the events that are prophesied are then given over to a distant future that has no direct bearing on the first recipients. But, is this consistent with what the document reveals as God’s intention for the Revelation?

While it is true that certain moments that occur in the Revelation are swift, nevertheless, the roles that the characters play and the sheer number of events require time. It is not even logically possible for the existence of the Beast or the False Prophet to be understood as quick events, let alone imagine that the sum of the series of judgments, i.e. the seven seals, trumpets and bowls, take place ‘quickly.’

Furthermore, unlike the prophecy of Daniel that was to be sealed up for a later time, John was told that this prophecy was not to be sealed up precisely because it was going to begin. Clearly the reason that the Church at that time was the recipient of this Revelation of Jesus Christ was because the contents of the prophecy was going to have bearing on them. The term ‘soon’ further emphasizes this.

If that is not enough, consider Revelation 1:3 that says ‘for the time is near.’ This clearly gives the context and excludes any interpretation that disassociates the book of Revelation from the first century recipients. This is especially true of Dispensationalists who would have you believe that most of the Revelation is for another people after the Church has been raptured.

Is Dispensationalism an Antichrist Ruse?

The Antichrist is not someone else’s enemy in the future, as Ron Rhodes and other Dispensationalists would have you believe. Instead, it is very clear from Scripture that the Antichrist is an enemy of the Church that she would ‘soon’ face and would continue to face until Christ’s return. For this reason, Revelation explains how the Antichrist (the Beast) operates and, most importantly, how the Church overcomes him in Jesus Christ.

Isn’t that the perfect deception, to palm off the identity of one of the Church’s biggest enemies as non-integral and irrelevant to the Church period? In fact, as I see it, Dispensationalism is not merely another interpretation or just some misunderstanding, but, unwittingly, an Antichrist subterfuge to take this powerful message from the Church by teaching them that it concerns another people in a future era.

This shouldn’t be surprising, after all ‘we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places.’ Yet, regardless of whether the Antichrist is involved or not in creating this false belief, Dispensationalists are nevertheless clearly grossly adding to and taking away from the prophecy by having it say what was clearly never intended.

What Does It Matter?

It is obviously of utmost importance that God’s word goes to the audience that it was intended for and that it is understood by them. So, if Revelation was written as an encouragement to the Church, then it is a tragedy if the Church misunderstands it by believing that most of it is not for them as Dispensationalists teach.

It is ironic that Dispensationalists have so much to say and time to give to topics that they don’t even believe effect the Church. And, sadly, even more ironic is that their teaching has become a vehicle for the spirit of the Antichrist, the source of the Antichrist that they speculate about.

Rob Morley

Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:

  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
  13. Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
  14. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
  15. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
  16. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
  17. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
  18. The Millennium
  19. Prophetic Events and Their Timing
Dominoes Falling (6)

Debate 6 – Part 2

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

Debate 6: Ron Rhodes asks, ‘How Are We to Understand the Antichrist?’

Introduction

In this post I give an outline of the various uses of the term ‘Antichrist’. In the process I also give a broad interpretation of the human leader called the Antichrist who I see as a recurrent enemy of the Church. This is in contrast to Ron Rhodes and other Dispensationalists who consider this Antichrist to be someone who exists only after the Church has been raptured and who therefore has nothing to do with the Church.

The Antichrist – An Evil Spirit

The Antichrist is firstly a pervading and an enduring spirit with the ability to affect individuals and multitudes of every generation. For example, John correlates those who do not confess Jesus with the spirit of the Antichrist. Similarly, the human Antichrist does not innately have the spirit of the Antichrist, but is possessed by it.

Though a physical manifestation of the Antichrist is an ominous thought, facing the spirit of the Antichrist is no less daunting. In fact, the myriad of ways in which the spirit of the Antichrist operates can be harder to identify and handle than when he manifests in individuals who are plainly seen and understood for who they are. For, how can we know in who this spirit is sowing his ideas and sentiments that lead to unbelief and all forms of anti-God behavior in society?

If we are not careful, we can be so busy identifying who the Antichrist is that we don’t recognize that the spirit of the Antichrist at work, undermining Christ and those who are His and the positive difference that they have made in society.

The Antichrist – Many Persons

When John wrote the Gospel of John, as well as 1 and 2 John, he specifically aimed his message at early Gnostic belief, calling the individual proponents of Gnosticism ‘the Deceiver and the Antichrist’. And, it was not only the individual teachers who were designated as the Antichrist, because he also said that ‘whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ ….is the Antichrist’.

Though this broad definition was particularly aimed at early Gnosticism, it is by no means restricted to that errant teaching. In fact, at the time that John wrote, the Jews were already well established at denying Jesus as their Christ. So, while the Gnostics believed that the flesh was evil and, therefore, that Jesus couldn’t be the Christ, it was on the grounds that Jesus claimed to be God that the Jews rejected Him as their Christ (Messiah).

This broad definition not only allows for multiple persons to be the Antichrist, it also allows for a range of ways in which to deny Jesus as the Christ. As such, Judaism and Gnosticism are just two ways that Jesus Christ is denied. Ultimately, all other religions and their followers are Antichrist because they also deny that Jesus is the Christ.

The Antichrist – A Roman Emperor

According to John, the evidence of many Antichrists was evidence that it was ‘the last hour’ and, as such, the manifestation of a certain expected Antichrist leader was imminent. Consider 1 John 2:18 that says ‘as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming’ and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 ‘…that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition’. Both of these Scriptures speak of an individual who was expected.

Now, several hundred years before, the prophet Daniel had clearly predicted the sequence of events in Jewish history under specifically identified empires. This meant that anyone who lived during any period of the prophecy could identify the period that they were in. Consequently, from the prophetic timeline, it would have been clear to John that the Roman Empire that they were under was the age of ‘the terrifying beast’.

Furthermore, Daniel predicted that in this period there would arise a leader who was particularly anti-God. Daniel referred to him as the ‘little horn’ on the ‘terrifying beast’ and also as the ‘11th horn’. John called him the Antichrist, because, since God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ, whatever was anti-God was now essentially Antichrist. You can only imagine the potential threat to God’s people, the Christians, if an emperor became host to the spirit of the Antichrist.

Though the references to the Antichrist in 1 and 2 John were a rebuttal of early Gnosticism, this person, called the Antichrist by John, displayed another form of Antichrist behavior. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 he is spoken of as ‘that man of sin … the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.’

Domitian is the most likely candidate as he wanted to be addressed as “dominus et deus noster”, which translates, “Our Lord and God”. He was not unlike the prince of Tyrus who previously had elevated himself to be as God. Consider Ezekiel 28:2: “…your heart is lifted up, and you have said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet you are a man, and not God, though you set your heart as the heart of God…” Furthermore, Domitian severely persecuted the Church who comprise those made holy by God. They are undoubtedly God’s Holy One’s that ‘the little horn’ (the Antichrist) in Daniel persecutes.

It stands to reason that the Antichrist would have been manifest early on as a satanic incarnation in the life of the Church in opposition to Christ and His Church. Also, the ‘man of sin’ is said to appear before Christ’s return. Therefore, in order for Christ’s return to carry with it the sense of expectation and surprise that the Scriptures associate with it, an early manifestation of the Antichrist would have been necessary.

The Antichrist – An End-Time Incarnation

While 2 Thessalonians 2 speaks of an expected individual called ‘the man of sin’ and the book of Revelation speaks of ‘the Beast’, careful cross-referencing and comparing shows that these characters are the same person as the Antichrist. Now, according to the Scriptures, ‘the man of sin’ and ‘the Beast’ get destroyed at Christ’s return. Therefore, this Antichrist leader is somehow not only a 1st century individual, but an end-time individual too.

We will never know who the last Antichrist is. All we know is that at Christ’s return he will be destroyed. In this way Christ’s return date remains a mystery. That’s another reason why we know the Antichrist cannot be only an end-time personality, otherwise, so long as the Antichrist hasn’t appeared we would know that Christ isn’t coming.

The Antichrist – Repeated Incarnations

Though the Beast of Revelation was a 1st century occurrence, he is also understood to repeatedly manifest throughout history as an enemy of the Church and only be destroyed at Christ’s coming. Similarly, ‘the man of lawlessness’ in 2 Thessalonians is destroyed at Christ’s coming too. Consequently, John’s reference to an Antichrist individual in 1 John 2:18 appears to be only the first of several manifestations that would occur until Christ’s return.

After the initial Antichrist, most likely Emperor Domitian, others carried the mantle in subsequent generations. These were likely leaders like Emperor Diocletian, certain of the popes (arguably the papal system itself), and several other religious and world leaders.

Now, the attributes and activities associated with the incarnate Antichrist are not fulfilled in their entirety in any one of these individuals, including the end-time Antichrist. For example, none can be both alive in the 1st century and at the end when Jesus returns. Also, not all necessarily have lying signs and wonders associated with them, though the papal system does and the end-time Antichrist might. And, interestingly, Vespasian, Domitian’s father, had miracles attributed to himself. This may have been Domitian’s inspiration to take things a step further and consider himself divine.

It appears that while we are so busy identifying who the Antichrist might have been, or who he might be, or who he might one day be, we miss the enigma that he has and will manifest recurrently.

In Conclusion

Because it was ‘the last hour’ when John wrote, we know from our perspective that the individual Antichrist, of whom he wrote they were expecting, must have come. This was most likely the Roman emperor Domitian. Additionally, it appears that the spirit of the Antichrist has subsequently manifest himself at different times in other prominent individuals and will no doubt do so until the end when Christ returns and that Antichrist incarnation is destroyed.

Nevertheless, recognizing how and where the spirit of the Antichrist is at work is undoubtedly far more significant than identifying a person called the Antichrist, because the spirit of the Antichrist is always at work, impacting countless to deny Christ and the salvation that He offers. That, surely, is of far more dire consequence than anything else.

Rob Morley

Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:

  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
  13. Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
  14. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
  15. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
  16. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
  17. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
  18. The Millennium
  19. Prophetic Events and Their Timing
Dominoes Falling (6)

Debate 6

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

Debate 6: Ron Rhodes asks, ‘How Are We to Understand the Antichrist?’

The Antichrist Conundrum

Throughout church history many have postulated who the Antichrist is. Some believe that he is yet to come. Among them are those like Ron Rhodes who believe that the Church will have nothing to do with the Antichrist because, according to him, the church will have been raptured before anyone is identified as the Antichrist. Others have proposed 1st century Roman emperors, certain world or religious leaders, various popes and even the papal system itself.

Is this ongoing conundrum ever solvable? I believe it is. I propose that the interpretation of the sum of all the events and attributes that are ascribed to the Antichrist in the Bible leads to an understanding that he belongs to more than one generation and, therefore, that he has to be more than one individual. Having said that, I do not believe he will exist after the Church has been raptured as Rhodes has suggested, because after the Church is raptured the earth and all that is in it will be destroyed with fire.

Scriptures clearly point to an initial 1st century Antichrist, while others indicate repeated manifestations of this figure throughout Church history, and still others speak of a final Antichrist who is destroyed at Christ’s return. In a nutshell, Daniel prophesied about the Antichrist as a specific 1st century Roman emperor, which is corroborated by John who wrote in 1 John that they were expecting the Antichrist’s imminent appearance. However, the book of Revelation also clearly shows the Antichrist as an ongoing enemy of the Church throughout its history. And, finally, both 2nd Thessalonians and Revelation speak of the Antichrist’s demise when Christ returns.

Clearly, in order for the Antichrist to be a 1st century manifestation, as well as an ongoing one and an end-time character, he has to be represented by more than one person. As I see it, our inability to agree on who the Antichrist was, is, or will be, is proof that not one person fully represents the person of the Antichrist.

The Antichrist Distraction

I believe that the Bible gives us sufficient revelation concerning the Antichrist so that we are aware of him and his ways. Having said that, we are not to be enamored by him in any way. Sadly, however, it appears that some in the Church get just as attracted by the topic of the Antichrist as they do with Christ Himself. Strangely, this is often especially true of many who think that the Church will be raptured before the Antichrist is manifest.

Similarly, knowledge of the spirit of the Antichrist should be of far more concern than speculating about the Antichrist. While the Church is distracted by trying to pinpoint a person or project some future figure, the spirit of the Antichrist is at work in all of society, manifesting as unbelief in multitudes, driving false religion, and operating through multiple religious and governmental leaders.

In my next post I will expand on the various forms in which the Antichrist is revealed to us in Scripture. My goal is to leave the reader with a sober view of a real enemy who operates in our midst rather than attempt to imbibe you with a narrow nauseating view so often spoken about in books and popular television and that is unrelated to real life.

Before you may be tempted to come at me with your proofs of your version of the Antichrist or shoot down what I have said thus far, I would like you to hear me out as I explain my perspective through this series of posts.

Rob Morley

Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:

  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
  13. Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
  14. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
  15. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
  16. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
  17. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
  18. The Millennium
  19. Prophetic Events and Their Timing
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

Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:

  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
  13. Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
  14. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
  15. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
  16. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
  17. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
  18. The Millennium
  19. Prophetic Events and Their Timing
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

Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:

  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
  13. Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
  14. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
  15. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
  16. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
  17. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
  18. The Millennium
  19. Prophetic Events and Their Timing
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 lent 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

Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:

  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
  13. Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
  14. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
  15. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
  16. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
  17. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
  18. The Millennium
  19. Prophetic Events and Their Timing
Dominoes Falling (1).jpg

Toppling Literalists

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

Debate 1: Ron Rhodes asks, “Should Bible Prophecy Be Interpreted Literally or Allegorically?”

  • Part 1. The Hermeneutics of Bible Prophecy: Literal or Allegorical?

Knocking Down False Views

This is the first in a series of responses to the debates put forward by Ron Rhodes in his book, The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy. His book is really just a platform for promoting his end-time views which I plan to debunk as I to respond to each debate with the truth of Scripture. My posts will not be exhaustive responses to the questions raised in the book, yet they will be enough to hopefully keep many from the false end-time beliefs associated with Rhodes’ views and lead them to the joy that comes from understanding God’s word.

Straw man Leverage

As I see it, the question “Should Bible Prophecy Be Interpreted Literally or Allegorically?” creates false leverage in order to discredit allegorical interpretations of certain Bible prophecies that don’t fit with Ron Rhodes’ preferred literal interpretations. It creates both the false assumption that all Bible prophecy must be viewed through only one lens of interpretation as well as the straw man that those who view certain prophecies allegorically do so for all prophecies, which is of course not true.

A better question would have been, “Should Bible prophesy always be interpreted literally?” This would have avoided the implied premise that one interpretation method is always correct and the unfair straw man created by such a dichotomy.

Ron Rhodes further entrenches this straw man argument by citing prophecies where the literal interpretation has clearly been fulfilled, using these as proofs that this approach is the only option for prophecy. However, this is as flawed as saying that the night sky is full of bright stars; therefore, everything bright in the night sky is a star.

Literal unless Indicated

I agree with Ron Rhodes that the literal interpretative method has proven to be the best starting point when approaching Scripture. Regarding this he says, “A literal approach allows for allegorical or symbolic meanings when indicated in the context, as is often the case in such apocalyptic literature as the books of Daniel and Revelation.” However, where we disagree is the extent to which “allegorical or symbolic” has been “indicated in the context”, including in certain prophecies.

Firstly, when Rhodes cites Revelation as an example of apocalyptic literature containing allegorical meanings, he disproves his own notion that a literal interpretation is required when interpreting prophecy, because Revelation is prophecy. Clearly, the issue is not whether prophecy can be interpreted allegorically or not, but identifying when prophecy is intended to be understood allegorically.

Consistency of Interpretation

Secondly, when interpreting Revelation, Rhodes is far more selective in his use of allegorical interpretation than I believe the text demands. For example, to be consistent when interpreting Revelation, a book loaded with symbolism, why would the ‘7 spirits of God’ in chapter 1:4 allegorically represent the Holy Spirit while the ‘1000 year reign’ in chapter 20 be literal? On what basis would the number ‘7’ associated with the term ‘spirits of God’ be allegorical and yet the number ‘1000’ associated with the term ‘years’ be literal? And, what of the 24 elders, the 12000 stadia, the 144000 people, etc.?

Explaining the 1000 year Reign of Christ

In the Bible, numerology is commonly used to depict meaning. Certain numbers had certain connotations. For example 12 could allude to the tribes of Israel, or to the apostles, 3 to the Trinity, 7 to qualitative fullness associated with God and creation and 10 was understood as quantitative fullness. Therefore, with 10 meaning quantitative fullness and 3 the number of God, in a book full of symbolism, 1000, which is 10 x 10 x 10 or 103, symbolically represents the fullness of time that God has determined rather than a literal 1000 years.

If, in apocalyptic literature, the author has clearly used numerology, especially in his first use of a number as John did with ‘the 7 spirits of God’, then surely that is an indication that numerology should be considered when other numbers present themselves. This is also all the more likely if the numbers are consistently seen to be distinctively biblical numbers, like 3, 6, 7, 10 or 12.

Furthermore, if we find biblical meaning to the context by using the numerological meaning of the numbers, and especially if it lines up with established biblical truth, then it is unlikely that we have stumbled upon chance. And, this is consistently true of all the numbers found in Revelation. Moreover, the sheer quantity of numbers used in the book of Revelation makes the chance that an allegorical interpretation is incorrect, ludicrous. Clearly, the book of Revelation, which is a prophecy, demands that its numbers be allegorically understood.

Some Dare not See

Sadly, instead of using Revelation’s own cues, Rhodes misses the use of numerology throughout the book and, as a result, the real meaning behind the numbers. I suggest that Rhodes’ bias, tied to his end-time belief in a literal 1000 year reign of Christ, makes him also unable or unwilling to see all the allegory indicated throughout the book of Revelation.

I believe that Rhodes and other premillennialists are forced to turn a blind eye to the allegory in order to maintain a belief system that is interlinked with their other fallacies. However, by doing this they have clearly moved away from Scripture, preferring a popular, but flawed interpretation. Rhodes created this first debate in order to champion his view, unaware that his own concession to the “allegorical or symbolic when indicated in the context” is his view’s undoing.

Click here for Numerology in The Revelation.

Rob Morley

Responses To Ron Rhodes’ ‘The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy’:

  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
  13. Babylon, the 144000 and The Two Witnesses – Interpreting Revelation – Part 3
  14. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 1
  15. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 2
  16. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 3
  17. Who is the Antichrist? – Part 4
  18. The Millennium
  19. Prophetic Events and Their Timing
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