St. Irenaeus is an incredibly important figure in the history of the church and the history of theology. He is beloved of Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants (a rarity if ever there was one). Continue reading
There is a war raging in the spirit world for our souls. If you knew what the terms were, your hair would get white. Its a war to either win your soul for eternal glory, or to lose it to eternal damnation and everlasting fire. It’s real and it’s there. Because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s some far off concept that you can genuflect on when in the mood. Its not something that a man in a costume can make go away by waving a golden Sun symbol. The costume holyman’s soul and your soul are both standing at the edge of a cliff with one foot over the cliff and the other foot on a banana peel. If Satanas wins, you die and go to the lake of fire forever. Most people are going to the lake of fire. yes, look around you next time you attend your church service. Most if not all are going to wake up in hell.
Let us go to scripture:
There was a time when the King of Syria warred against Israel. The King would would camp somewhere to surprise the Israelis. But Elijah would tell the King of Israel where these camps were. The King of Syria was sure there was a spy in his midst. But his servant said that Elijah was the one telling the King of Israel Sryia’s secrets. Lets start here in 2Kings 6….
15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
This is one example of what is happening that we can’t see. Now, don’t get all excited…those who are against God and are in false religions and are fearful and refuse to call on the name of the Lord, they aren’t surrounded by gods armies. They are surrounded by their masters armies…Satanas.
What we call the spirit world is actually the real world. What you and I are in is a hologram. Quantum physicists have come to this conclusion. Let us go to Daniel 8
Here, Daniel has just prayed and fasted for 21 days. God sent a messenger to Daniel but the prince of Persia withstood him those 21 day and warred with him. The prince of Persia is a spirit, the demon that is behind Persia at the present moment. Lets take a look…
These spirits are serious and the battle is real and the stakes are high….your soul. Are you going to trust your soul to someone who has butterfingers? To costume holymen who secretly eat the flesh of the flock?
Jesus stands at the door.
In the second post I will go into the present day war of the Prince of Persia and the Prince of Grecia.
So, we say farewell to Year A, of the liturgical cycle, and, for the moment, to St Matthew, who has guided us through this year. For this final Gospel reading, the Church challenges us all in the name of Our Lord, whose kingship is not of the this world, and whose ways are not its ways.
We have in this passage a foretaste of the second coming of the Lord. In the time before that, as now, the righteous and the unrighteous will live together, and it is not possible for man to tell the one from the other; but God, who knows everything, will separate the sheep from the goats. As in the presence of any king, the place where you are told to stand is significant; so it is here. Chrysostom emphasises the love of God, revealed as it is in His love for all of mankind, especially those whose lot is a poor one; we shall be judged by what we have done for these who seem the least among us. Christ delights not in punishment, and He died to save us all, but the hardness of our hearts means some will not come to Him, some prefer their ways to His ways, and will even say to Him that they have acted in HIs name; He will not own them.
Those teachers and priests who gave to the faithful the truth and the way of God, did the work of Jesus in bringing the kingdom to all; those who buried their talents in the ground will be cast out as idle and unprofitable servants. Knowledge of Christ can be likened unto a garment, and we know that the fruits of the love of Christ are compassion, chastity, charity, kindness and lowliness, and so if we are truly His, these things will be manifest in our lives, and in helping others, we help God’s Word.
Chrysostom emphasises that those who are cast out, did it to themselves. The kingdom was, he reminds us, prepared for all from before the foundation of the world; the fire is the work of the devil, and those who embrace him, embrace it. There is no excuse. We know what we should do, and we know we fall short, but we should try our best. The King does not say ‘go to hell’ because you committed adultery or theft, but because of the hardness of our hearts in seeing the suffering of our fellow men and doing nothing about it. We are not to act as though we are not the keeper of our brothers and sisters, for we are one in Him. He came to save us all. What is it we offer back? If we say our love, how do we manifest that? If we say our adoration, how do we show that? If we say worship, then we worship Him best when we feed and clothe the poor. Our father St James reminds us of the nature of true religion.
And so, at the end of the liturgical year, and as we turn our eyes to Advent, we are reminded how simple, and how complex, are the requirements set upon us by God. Love one another, as He has loved us. There is the challenge. May the blessings of God be with us all as we go forward to Advent and to the anticipation of the nativity of Our Lord.
As intimated in yesterday’s post, I am not a fan of the idea that we are living in the ‘end times’. It is partly that from the time of Jesus, there have been those expecting the Second Coming, and as they have all been wrong, why should we be right; it is partly that it is the nature of history as I read it that there will always be wars and rumours thereof; and partly because anyone who subscribes the the Enlightenment notion that human affairs can move it a utopian direction, has bought into a false prospectus; but that does not mean that the idea itself if false – or that some kind of buy in might not be useful for a Christian.
We know we stand in expectation of Judgment; if we are Christians we know it is coming. Preparing one’s conscience for examination before Confession is, or at least is for me, a sobering exercise. I am too much a Protestant and too little a Catholic to feel the full release which some describe after confession. I know my sins are forgiven by God, but it would be quite nice if I could get to the same place and forgive myself; that I cannot quite do. But the exercise is useful, even as I experience it, because being mindful of my failings in the past, I can at least do the utilitarian thing of trying to avoid those pitfalls in the future; at least the mistakes I make and the sins I commit can be new ones! Ideally, and in practice, living mindful of what one has done wrong, can help in the future; and being mindful that for oneself, this may indeed be the last day, can be a good exercise in practical Christianity. What should I do now that I might put off to the detriment of my souls? What can I do now to be of good Christian witness which I should not put off until a more ‘convenient’ moment?
It is, in part, an aspect of this to which those of us who lament the decline in sermons on ‘sin’ allude when we do so. In our society we are far too mindful of the excuses we can make for not doing those things we ought to have done, as well as for doing those things which we ought not to have done. It is useful, and salutary to be reminded of sin, our own, and that we are not alone in sinning. Sin is, after all, falling short of what God expects and what we want to offer to God, and the conscience is good reminder of that; but if it is dulled by our Society’s constant diet of excuses, and if it is not prompted by the need for Confession, then what does keep it in order and sharp?
In a society which emphasises the need to healthy physical exercise on a regular basis, someone needs to point out the need for a healthy examination of one’s conscience; if Confession does not provide it, then the sense of being on one’s own end times might.
St Ambrose reminds us that the Son, the Eternal Word of God, descended from Heaven to endure, in both his human and his divine natures, the worst that humanity could inflict, and that he did so because he loved us, even those who nailed him to the Cross. St Augustine writes that this provides us with an opportunity to instruct those who do not know Christ, for they will ask how one born of woman can have ‘come down from heaven’? We should tell them that the divinity of the Word took on our humanity in such a way as to become one person – both God and man; and that the humanity was attached to the divinity in such a way that Word, flesh and soul were the one Christ. That is why He could say: “no one has ascended from heaven, except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.’ This is the faith of the Christian. He is the Word made flesh: the Word from heaven, made flesh, did not cease to be the Word. As a human being he was on earth, not in heaven, where he is now, although in his nature as the Son of God, he was in heaven. As the Son of man he was bound by the limitations of the flesh, and he laid his glory by that we should not die, but have life eternal in him.
Our spiritual rebirth happens when we become, through him. heavenly; it can happen only through the name of Jesus; we are to be changed through him, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit in baptism and the sacraments.
St Bede and St Hilary of Poitiers both see the bronze serpent as the type of the Cross which saves; it is a prefiguring of the Passion of the Lord; even as we are lost by our sin which condemns us, so we are lifted up by the figure on the Cross who will heal us. This is why, although the Cross was an instrument of torture, the Church exalts it, for it is the symbol of our redemption and his sacrifice for it.
St Cyril of Alexandria reminds us that the serpent signifies the bitter and deadly sin through which we are corrupted and fall; we could in no wise have saved ourselves from sin, only the Word of God, made in the likeness of sinful flesh could ‘condemn sin in the flesh’ (Romans 8:3). We are saved by him from sin.
Bede comments that the sins which drag us to perdition are well represented by a serpent, not just because they are fiery and poisonous, but also because our first parents were led astray by the serpent; from being immortal, they became mortal through sin.
Chrysostom tells us that we can see the intensity of God’s love for us here – he ‘so loved the world’ that he gave us what was most precious to him. How can we, the created and the finite and mortal measure the grace of the immortal, the alpha and the omega, the creator of all things? We can but wonder that he loves such sinners as we are, ungrateful and sinful though we are, and we get some idea of the measure by the analogy of the Son – for which of us would sacrifice his only son for such as we are? Not one of us. Yet this God did, for us, in our ingratitude. He poured out his blood for us – whilst we do not even pour out money for the sake of those who suffer; when we neglect the stranger and the poor, we neglect Him who died for us; he went hungry so we might be fed; naked so that we might be clothed in a garment of incorruption; yet what will we give up or give to others in his name.
St Gregory Nazianzen sees Christ as the great physician who stoops to heal our wounds. He lost nothing of his divinity when he saved us; he remained God, though he was also mortal man; of the race of David, he was in the beginning and created Adam. He who had no need of a body, clothed himself in flesh for our sake; he who had no mother, was born of a virgin for our sake; he who was boundless and limitless, bound himself with our limitations so that we could be saved. He was both victim and high priest – and God the Almighty. Offering up his blood, he cleansed the whole of the world. Though it was Jesus who was lifted on the Cross, it was sin which was crucified in him, though he was sinless. He who knew not death, became as the dead to save those in hades, and he rose from death, bringing with him all the elect who died before him. For the sake of the divine, hold in greatest honour the humanity which the Son of God took on himself for love of you and of me.
St Isaac the Syrian tells us that the sum of all is God, the Lord of all, who, from the love of us has delivered his son to death upon the Cross. This was not because he could not have saved us in any other way, but to show us how abundantly he loved us – he gave to us what was most dear to him; if anything had been more dear, he would have given us that instead. Out of his great love he does not compel us to love him, but gives us, instead, the example of the greatness of his love; will we now turn from that, or will our love be called forth?
Chrysostom reminds us that there will be a second coming. This first coming, the incarnation, was to pardon us – if pardon we will seek, but when he comes again, it will be to judge us. Had he come to judge the first time, not one, I tell you, not one would have been saved – and we now have the choice – will we be saved in Christ Jesus or will we cast our lot with the damned? He who believes is not, St Hilary of Poitiers tells us, judged, even as those who do not believe are not judged; the judgment is for those in whose cases there is some ambiguity: the believers are saved, the unbelievers damned. St Gregory the Great tells us that those who will be judged are those whose faith has not revealed itself in their lives and works. If we separate ourselves from God, we rise to perdition.
I see our friend Bosco is back to telling us Gomer is Russia or some such. Is there a crisis? Are there those who cry the end times are nigh? Is the Pope a Catholic? When you can’t even answer the last of these in the direct affirmative without someone challenging you, then the end-timers will be out in force. No doubt times are parlous, but compared to 1914-18 or 1939-45, they are a walk in the park. It is a mark of how comfortable we have become in the West that we are so easily stirred to thoughts of the Apocalypse.
For those Christians in the Middle East whose plight was so eloquently described by Chalcedon yesterday, apocalyptic thoughts are appropriate; a way of life stretching back to late antiquity (I would not have thought there were churches in Mosul 1800 years old though) is being wiped out by barbarians. The sack of Rome by Alaric comes to mind, and Augustine, in his Confessions gives us an account of the apocalyptic thoughts that produced on the minds of many of his contemporaries. Since Scripture does indeed describe, in divers places, end times, it is natural that under the impulse of strong emotion, some among us should flee to the hills crying woe.
Before doing so, we might want to stop, give some money (and prayers) to those really afflicted. We might also reflect upon an appropriate Christian response. Can we be surprised at the wickedness we see around us in the world? Is this not what we should expect from a world given over to worship of Mammon? Is it not what we expect from the rule of the father of lies? He promises his devotees pleasure and happiness, but these are superficial, usually build on the backs of suffering of others, and they are like the fruit of the Dead Sea.
If we take anything from Scripture, we take that when man ignores God, he gets into a mess. If we take anything from Scripture, it should be the notion that things will not improve until we repent, receive Christ as Saviour, and follow Him. There’s no nonsense here about being saved meaning you can’t sin and can do as you want – Paul threw that one out long ago. If we have faith then it manifests itself: we care for those unable to care for themselves. The Christian response to the present wickedness if to pray for those afflicted, and then to see what one can give to help them; faith without works is useless. If we cannot help the widow and the orphan, if we cannot help those in need, and in so doing, help Christ, then of what use is our faith? Fine words butter no parsnips, and though I have the theological brilliance of Regius Professor or Theology, if I do not help the poor when I can, then what is Christ to them, and where is Christ in me?
So, brothers and sisters, let us, by all means, lament the wickedness of the world and call it to repentance, but let us not get carried away; it is not the end times for us. But for those for whom a sort of ending has come, let them know their fellow Christians are there with help – and prayer.
This is the last post in this series. If all these posts were printed off and stapled together, you’d have a booklet 😛
“12. The 144 000 are explicitly identified as Jews – the Jews are the evangelists of the 70th Week, not the Church.”
First of all, we need to determine at what point in the sequence of Revelation the 144 000 are sealed/commissioned. There are a number of problems with sequencing in Revelation. In some passages the sequence is clear (e.g. Trumpet 6 comes after Trumpet 5); but in others a careful reading and particular hermeneutic is required: for example to establish where certain scenes fit in (e.g. Rev. 12), and to establish whether the Trumpets come after the Seals and the Bowls after the Trumpets. Thus scholars have generally adopted the stance that Revelation is basically chronological (Churches > Seals > Trumpets > Bowls > New Heavens and New Earth), while applying careful reading to determine when John goes backward with reference to the sequence in order to give more detail on a particular subject (e.g. john mentions the Beast killing the Witnesses in Rev. 11, but the Beast isn’t actually formally introduced until Rev. 13!).
The 144 000 are sealed in Rev. 7 (which incidentally is an allusion to Ezekiel 9, where faithful Jerusalemites are marked for protection during the time of wrath that is to come upon the city), which would situate it either just before or just after God’s Wrath begins (Seal 6 > Trumpet 1). Rev. 9:4 says, “And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.” Those with the “seal of God in their foreheads” are the 144 000: “Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (Rev. 7:3-4). Thus Rev. 9:4 locates the 144 000 on earth during the time of the 5th Trumpet – i.e. during the Wrath of God.
It must be stated, however, that Revelation does not explicitly associate the 144 000 with evangelism. They are around during the Wrath of God, and the general picture in Revelation of that period is non-repentance. Consider the following verses:
“And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”
“And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.”
“And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.”
“And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.”
The point is, pre-wrathers are not trying to justify long-term co-existence of the Church with the 144 000 on earth during the 70th Week. This misrepresents our position. The pre-wrath analysis of the relevant texts puts the Church on earth until she is delivered by God just before His Wrath is poured out, while the 144 000 are miraculously preserved by God on earthduring His Wrath (e.g. Rev. 9:4 above).
Furthermore, even if we accept the presence of the 144 000 on earth right from the start of the 70th Week (or earlier), that does not by itself undermine the pre-wrath position or support the pre-trib position.
a) The relevant texts in Revelation don’t actually say what the 144 000 do other than resist the Antichrist and be protected during God’s Wrath. It could be that the Church evangelises, while the 144 000 do something else.
b) Even if we accept the 144 000 as evangelists, the text does not say that they are the only evangelists. It could be that their job is to witness to Israeli and Diaspora Jews, while the Church witnesses to the Gentiles.
Writing this series has convinced me of the need for further work in a few areas:
a) Presenting a thorough exposition and justification of a solid hermeneutic for interpreting the Book of Revelation. Rob’s comments have shown me that there exists a need to make explicit how we come to the conclusion that some words/images are symbolic, while others are essentially literal.
b) Presenting a good analysis of Hippolytus and Jerome and other Early Church writers to show how they support the basic beliefs adopted by Protestant and Orthodox premillennials. It would be especially nice to have collaboration on this topic from Chalcedon451, Rob, Theophiletus, and Jess (and my friend Quiavideruntoculi, if he is willing and has time).
c) Presenting a thorough case for why I feel a good grasp of eschatology is important for the contemporary Christian spiritual life.
In this series, I hope to have achieved a few things:
a) To show to myself that I have properly grasped and internalised the pre-wrath teachings and arguments I’ve been digesting during the past 7/8 months or so.
b) To show that the pre-wrath view is internally consistent, faithful to the Biblical (and Early Church) texts, and logical. In my personal opinion it is the best system for harmonising seemingly contradictory or confusing eschatological texts. It is a viable alternative to the other eschatologies out there and is worthy of serious study. I recommend reading Antichrist before the Day of the Lord, or any of Charles Cooper’s books.
c) To show that the pre-trib view isn’t nearly as solid as it’s pretended to be. Most of the arguments advanced have been seriously critiqued by others before, and by me in these posts. Considering the lack of explicit identification of the Restrainer in 2 Thess. 2, I have come to the conclusion that the pre-tribber’s best hope is actually Rev. 3:10, which is the only text that really promises a pre-Great-Tribulation escape of some kind (not necessarily pre-70th-Week).
d) To show those reluctant to engage with the subject that it is actually a part of Church tradition and is worthy of serious inquiry. I’ve only really scratched the surface in this regard. The posts on Hippolytus et al will be a necessary addition to this work.
e) To show the importance of methodical, reasoned argument when dealing with (sloppy) exegesis.
I’d like to thank those who’ve humoured me along this road. I know eschatology isn’t to the taste of everyone at AATW – but I can only promise you more of the same, not an absence thereof.
“9. There is precedent for God removing people from the world or a situation before things got really bad: Lot was escorted by angels from Sodom before the fire fell on the city; Enoch was translated to heaven before the Flood came; Elijah was protected at the Brook of Cherith and Zarephath during the days of Ahab the Apostate; Jeremiah survived the sack of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar; the Church of Jerusalem fled the city before the Romans closed the siege and destroyed the Temple.”
My first point in response to this argument is that we have to be careful that we don’t push types, metaphors, and parables too far. By all means, study carefully the internal logic of the passage, but be careful not to make the passage say more than it actually does or to make it address points it wasn’t attended to address. A basic principle of reasoning and Bible study is to work from the clear to the unclear, not the unclear to the clear.
But even if we do decide to rigorously apply these types to our end times framework, they may still support the pre-wrath side of the argument, once one accepts the basic distinction between persecution and God’s wrath.
Lot was spared God’s wrath that fell on Sodom, but he wasn’t removed from the city during the time of persecution. He had to live among the Sodomites and endure their insults. When the Sodomites tried to rape the angels, Lot offered his daughters to them because he wasn’t expecting to be removed from the city. And even when the angels did step in, they blinded the Sodomites; they didn’t rapture Lot out of there. Lot left Sodom because the city was to be judged and he was found righteous and thus unworthy of judgement; he wasn’t taken out because of persecution.
Enoch was taken from earth before God’s judgement came, viz. the Flood. But the passage says nothing about persecution. We do not know whether Enoch had to endure persecution from men and the Nephilim and fallen angels: an inferrence cannot be made either way.
Elijah was protected during a time of persecution, but he wasn’t protected in heaven: he was protected on earth. His situation, then, is not analogous to the Church in the pre-trib schema, but to the Woman of Rev. 12, protected by God in the wilderness during Antichrist’s Great Tribulation.
Jeremiah survived the sack of Jerusalem, but that means he was preserved on earth during the time of judgement, which again makes his case analogous to the Woman in Rev. 12. Furthermore, he wasn’t spared persecution: he suffered before and after the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of his fellow countrymen. Tradition says that he was martyred.
The Church of Jerusalem may have been spared wrath in the form of ravaging Romans, but she was not spared persecution. Her leader, James the Just, was martyred at the hands of the religious authorities in Jerusalem; and we know that this body had earlier tried to hinder the proclamation of the Gospel, as Luke makes clear in Acts.
Thus these examples actually support the pre-wrath position, rather than undermine it.
“10. Protecting the Church during the 70th Week is a testimony to the love and graciousness of God.”
This may be true, but the problem with this argument is that it relies on our limited, human knowledge. The fact is that we don’t know what the best way is to achieve salvation at the end of the age, because we don’t know all the relevant facts. It may be that God has a greater purpose in keeping the Church on earth during most of the 70th Week.
“11. The gap in the 70 Weeks prophecy between the 69th Week and the 70th Week is where the Church fits in; if the Church was born, unmentioned by Daniel, in that gap, why should she not disappear, unmentioned by Daniel, before the close of that gap? Paul himself said that the Church was a “mystery”, not revealed to the OT prophets, but kept secret until the time of Christ and the Apostles.”
I think my arguments in the previous two posts sufficiently address this objection. We could just as easily infer the Church’s presence on earth during the 70th Week, given Daniel’s silence on the matter. In fact, the “saints” mentioned elsewhere in Daniel, who are persecuted by Antichrist, may in fact be the Church.
“8. One of God’s main stated purposes behind the Tribulation is to bring national Israel to repentance – the “time of Jacob’s trouble”. This purpose needn’t involve the Church, and in order for God to operate under Old Covenant procedure as the beginning of the process, He must remove the Church, since the Old and New Covenants are incompatible. (Daniel’s 70 Weeks and Dispensational Theology).”
First I would like to point out that even among those who do subscribe to a pre-millennial view of eschatology, Dispensationalism by no means finds total acceptance. Even leaving aside the Orthodox, large numbers of Protestants don’t accept strict Dispensationalism. There are some who reject it outright; there are those who have tried to redefine or modify it; there are those who accept some of its doctrines, but not others.
There are two main passages for this discussion, but others could be brought in to emphasise the Jewish aspects of the eschaton (e.g. Romans 10-11).
“Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: but they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them. Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet I will not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.”
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”
These two passages clearly have the Jews in mind: “O my servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel“; “re determined upon thy people [Daniel’s fellow countrymen] and upon thy holy city [Yerushalaim, Jerusalem]“. Few would dispute that. These two texts alone offer real insight into how God views His people Israel and what He intends for them, especially when they are put alongside parallel passages from Paul, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Isaiah et al.
From Jeremiah we see that God will destroy the Gentile nations that abused His people Israel. This is an outworking of promises/statements that can be found in these two passages:
Gen. 12:3 “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
Zech. 2:8 “For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”
God will also raise up “David” to be king over the Israelites in the future. This promise has been interpreted in two main ways:
a) David is literally David the son of Jesse, who ruled Israel after Saul. He, as an OT saint, will be raised up on the Last Day by Christ and entrusted with rule, just s the 12 Apostles sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 Tribes of Israel. Some see David in the cryptic references to the “prince” in Ezekiel 40-48, who rules Israel subordinate to God in the Millennium.
b) “David” is actually a reference to Christ, the promised “King of the Jews”, who rose from the dead, and will come to rule from Israel during the Millennium.
Jeremiah also says that God will give Israel rest and peace in their land, never to be troubled again. This is considered to have two aspects:
1. Spiritual rest, because they have accepted Jesus the Messiah. They now have peace with God; they are cleansed from their sins and forgiven.
2. Physical rest: they can now live peacefully in their land because God has no further need to chastise them with invading armies as he did in the days of the Judges, the days of Assyria, the days of Neo-Babylon, and the days of the Romans.
Daniel presents us with a similar picture, but in different terms. Gabriel reveals to him what tasks God has given Israel (“to finish the transgression…”), and affirms that it will be done: God’s promises given through the prophets will be fulfilled. Gabriel also reveals that a specific time-frame has been given for this task: 70 “Weeks” or “Sevens”. A literalist reading of this passage, taking a “Week” or “Seven” as a period of seven years, places a period of 483 years (corresponding to 69 Weeks) between the Persian decree to rebuild Jerusalem (not from Cyrus but one of his successors – probably Artaxerxes) and the crucifixion of Jesus (“Messiah the Prince”). This was the view of Hippolytus (and possibly Jerome) and was championed by Robert Anderson in the 19th century. It also corresponds to the historical record (albeit some fine tuning is needed given calendar changes over the years).
But now we encounter a problem. Given Christ’s crucifixion at the end of Week 69, what of Week 70? The literalist reading of this passage is confirmed by the support it finds in the historical record. The logic of non-contradiction demands, if you accept 69 of those Weeks as literal 7-year periods, that you accept the final Week as a literal period of 7 years. Thus the famous phrase amongst serious eschatologists: “Daniel’s 70th Week”. The problem for the literalist is the location of this Week. Preterists, who seek a 70 AD fulfilment for this prophecy, want to locate the final Week in the 1st century AD; they want the causing of the “sacrifice and the oblation to cease” and the “overspreading of abominations” to be one of two options:
A) Jesus causes the Temple system to cease because His once-for-all-time sacrifice has made it redundant (and because the Jewish leadership has rejected Him).
B) The Romans took away sacrifices by besieging Jerusalem and destroying the Temple. They put “abominations” in it when they brought in their standards, which had Roman eagles on them and Jupiter’s/Zeus’ thunderbolt – i.e. symbols of paganism and emperor-worship.
The futurist objects to the preterist’s handling of the Week and the language of the passage. If the desolation of the Temple by the Romans happened in the middle of the week, then what happened to “he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week“? As a Josephus scholar (my MPhil was spent researching his writings), I can testify to the fact that there is no historical recordof a treaty for seven years being created which was then nullified by the Temple’s desecration in 70 AD. No such treaty exists. Some try to get around this by claiming that the covenant was Christ’s New Covenant. But this is problematic for three reasons:
A) Christ’s Covenant is not limited to 7 years.
B) Christ doesn’t break His promises (blasphemy of blasphemies), but this passage presents the desolation as the breaking of a covenant.
C) The logic of the passage demands equating the one who confirms the covenant with the one who “overspread[s]…abominations”. Do you really want to approve a theology that says Christ overspreads abominations?
Thus not many accept this identification; nevertheless, many preterists try to uphold the 70 AD interpretation for the abominations at the middle of the Week. But where did the rest of the Week go? They cannot produce the first half because they cannot produce the covenant that begins it. And they cannot produce the second half because they cannot produce the fulfilment of the promises at a 3.5 year period following 70 AD, i.e. c.74 AD.
What are those promises? Well two of them are: “to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy“. Was vision and prophecy sealed up in 74 AD? Nope, because for it to be Christ would have had to come by that point. “Surely no-one makes that claim”, you say. If only…unfortunately full preterism exists, one of whose promoters is NT Wright. I’m glad to see that Jess disapproves of his eschatology, as do I. A critique of his claims can be found here: http://www.joelstrumpet.com/?p=6773 ; http://www.joelstrumpet.com/?p=6799 . What about anointing the most Holy? Well, there are a few possible options for that: Christ, the Temple, the saints – sing out if you can produce any other options. But again, there is no record of any of these being anointed in 73-5 AD. Christ already is the Messiah, and His Baptism was His public anointing; the Temple was destroyed and thus couldn’t be anointed; the saints haven’t been glorified yet and were already “anointed” for mission at Pentecost. Thus the preterist cannot affirm a literalist reading for the 69 Weeks while maintaining his position on the 70th Week: it’s one or the other.
The futurist on the other hand affirms that Daniel’s 70th Week is still future to us. A partial version of this also appears to have been the view of Hippolytus. He appears to have put half of Daniel’s 70th Week in his future: i.e. Abomination of Desolation to Parousia, 3.5 years. He thought the Parousia would occur in 500 AD, and thus the Abomination of Desolation would happen c. 496 AD. (I am uncertain what Hippolytus did with the first half of the Week; I’ll need to read him again.)
Both the futurist and the preterist (although I haven’t met one who’d admit this) place a gap between Weeks 69 and 70. Even assuming the preterist position, there’s a gap between the end of Week 69 in c. 30 AD and Week 70, running c.66-74 AD. Critics of the literalist approach will argue that no gap is implied in the text. If no precedent for this existed in Scripture, then I’d have to bow to the argument. But precedent actually does exist, and is even presented by our Lord Himself.
In Luke 4 Jesus reads a passage from Isaiah, and tells his audience that the passage is fulfilled in their hearing. He ends, “…the acceptable year of the Lord.” What you may not know is that Jesus actually stops halfway through a sentence in Isaiah. He does not affirm that the rest of the sentence is fulfilled in their hearing. The rest of the passage runs like this: “…the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.” (Isaiah 61:2-5) The rest of this passage is clearly eschatological in nature: Jesus did not cause the Jews to rebuild cities that had been made desolate during His first Advent, and He didn’t pour out His Wrath at that time. The only way around the (non-implied) gap in Isaiah and its application in Luke is to heavily allegorise the passage or to claim that Jesus returned in the first century AD (full preterism), a view rejected by orthodox Christians. There are also passages that involve non-implied gaps between the first and second Advents. The frequency of such occurrences in Scripture has led theologians to create a term for the phenonomenon: “peak to peak”. In other words, the prophets see Peak 1/First Advent and Peak 2/Second Advent, but miss the valley inbetween – the current Church Age. One such passage is Micah 5: it contains Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, but it also includes Christ’s defeat of the Assyrian/the Antichrist, which He did not do in His first Advent.
So far so good. Bosco and I are in fact on the same page for most if not all of this material. We both agree that Daniel’s 70th Week is still future and that the Church was born in the gap between the 69th and 70th Weeks, viz. Resurrection Sunday and Pentecost.
But the question I ask as a pre-wrather is whether the Church’s unmentioned presence during this unmentioned gap necessarily implies her departure from earth before the 70th Week begins. The Apostle Paul tells us that the Church is a “mystery”, kept secret until she was revealed at Christ’s coming (e.g. in Matt. 16): Eph. 1:7-12; 3:1-7; 5:30-2. Even the prophets didn’t have a clear conception of her. Given the prophets’ silence on her creation, they might also be expected to be silent on her departure from the earth. The problem is that the prophetic utterances concerning the Church’s departure situate it with reference to God’s Wrath and don’t make clear the departure’s relation to Antichrist’s persecution. The silence of the Daniel passage means we can’t infer in either direction (viz. pre-70th-Week-rapture or non-pre-70th-Week-rapture) with certainty. We simply aren’t furnished with criteria in this passage to say whether the Church is present or not.
The other issue is that pre-tribbers try to build covenantal theology into this passage without specifying the basis within the passage for determining the relationship between covenant and time. Everyone can agree that the Old Covenant ended and the New began when Christ sealed it by His Blood shed on the Cross, the Apostles being the first to partake of the Covenant by their participation in the Eucharist on “Maundy Thursday” and receiving of the Holy Spirit on Resurrection Sunday. The Crucifixion is expressed in these words in our Daniel passage: “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself“.
[Incidentally, after Messiah’s crucifixion comes the description of the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem, before, not during the 70th Week, contra the preterists: “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary“.]
So we have warrant from the combined witness of Scripture for noting the beginning of the New Covenant in this passage from Daniel. But there is nothing in this passage or anywhere else in Scripture that indicates that the Old Covenant resumes with the beginning of the 70th Week. And this is the crux of the Dispensationalist argument for a pre-tribulational rapture: i.e. the Old Covenant is put back into force; it’s incompatible with the New Covenant: therefore the partakers of the New Covenant must be removed from earth.
The references that do exist in Scripture for sacrifices taking place in the first half of the 70th Week do not indicate whether these sacrifices are being performed licitly as in the days of Moses or whether they are simply happening: i.e. the difference between prescriptive and descriptive. Thus my argument from a previous post still applies:
“When we look at Rev. 11:1, it is far from clear that God requires such sacrifices from faithful Christians, and it is not clear who the offrants are other than Torah-compliant Jews. Nobody disputes the fact that at least one of God’s aims in Daniel’s 70th Week is to bring national Israel to a place of repentance and belief in Jesus their Messiah. It is quite logical that the Temple should play a role in that process as it did in the OT days leading up to Christ’s first Advent. But given Christian knowledge of Christ’s relationship to the sacrificial system, especially as set forth in Hebrews, it remains far from clear why God should require the one who already believes in Christ to observe such a system, as opposed to a non-believer. After all, why did Paul argue so strongly against the Judaizers?
“The presence of the Temple does not ipso facto nullify the New Covenant (after all, it was still around in Paul’s day). There is nothing in Rev. 11:1 that implies salvation is now once again dependent on such sacrifices, and passages in the Prophets requiring the Gentiles to sacrifice to God are freely admitted by pre-tribbers to be Millennial in context, and not Tribulational. Lastly, we should remember what Christ said in Matt. 23:38-39, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” If the Temple is desolate until the Israeli national leadership admits that Jesus is the Messiah, then the Temple is desolate (and not sanctioned) until the Parousia at the end of the Great Tribulation, and not before.”
“6. The 24 Elders around the Throne of God represent the Church; they are present in heaven before the judgements begin, and so the Church is in heaven while the earth receives the plagues of God and the depradations of Antichrist and Satan.”
The 24 Elders of Revelation represent a new addition to the apocalyptic vision. While the “living creatures” (=cherubim) that John sees bear a resemblance to the cherubim of Ezekiel and the Seraphim of Isaiah 6, no where else in Scripture do we find a correspondence to the 24 Elders.
The closest thing that I can find is the “heavenly court” of Daniel 7:9-10: “I beheld till the thrones were [set in place], and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.”
Compare Revelation 4:4; 5:11: “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting…And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands“.
The 24 Elders have been variously identified: some consider them to be an angelic order that assists God in governing the universe (cf. the “thrones”, “dominions”, and “powers” in Col. 1:16); others consider them to represent OT and NT believers: 12 Patriarchs (Judah, Levi, etc.) and 12 Apostles (Peter, James, John, etc.); some consider them representative of the Church alone.
It is generally agreed that numbers in Scripture are not carelessly used, but rather are symbolic. Personally, I am inclined to accept the identification of the 24 Elders as representative of God’s combined Covenant Peoples (Israel and the Church) under one Shepherd. The crowns they wear are not diadems signifying kingly rule, but laurel wreaths (στεφανοι): these signify triumph in the games (Olympics et al), which Paul and other Apostles use to symbolize Christian triumph over adversity, which God rewards. Compare James 1:12: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life [“στεφανον της ζωης”], which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” On this basis, I think the human believers identification for the 24 Elders is correct.
But we must ask again, does this necessarily imply that the Church is not present on the earth at the same time? Consider also the other Church-age believers present in God’s throne-room in this vision. We know they are Christians by what they sing: “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10). No one disputes the fact that the Church is represented in Heaven in this scene, before the 7-Sealed Scroll has been opened. But let’s compare this scene with the present age. Is it not also true in our age that there are believers in Heaven (e.g. the 12 Apostles), but at the same time Church-Age believers on earth (e.g. Bosco), who have not gone to Heaven yet, because they have not passed through death?
We must ask: Why is it the case that our present condition (agreed upon by pre-tribber and pre-wrather alike) obtains now, but not during the time-frame of Revelation? The premise that the Church is represented in Heaven in Rev. 4-5 does not necessarily imply that other parts of the Church cannot be on earth at the same time. If it’s possible now, it’s also possible then, unless other reasons can be produced.
“7. Certain passages in Revelation seem to imply salvation by works and the possibility of losing one’s salvation; such verses would seem to contradict promises made to the Church elsewhere in Scripture, therefore they must apply to a different group of people, viz. the so-called “Tribulation Saints”.”
This is the real argument the pre-tribber needs to support his assertion that the saints Revelation mentions as existing on earth during the Tribulation are not part of the Church. Let’s look at the actual verses and see how they fare when set alongside others from the NT.
a) Rev. 11:1: “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.”
It is commonly asserted by pre-tribbers that Old Covenant rules are in effect during the 70th Week. Believers are required to perform sacrifices for sin in order to assure their right-standing with God; failure to do so will result in loss of salvation: the Church, as per the Epistle to the Hebrews, is not to partake in animal sacrifice, therefore such a way of life is inconsistent with Church principles, therefore the Church must be absent from earth during this time.
The problem with this view is that it presupposes a Dispensationalist hermeneutic for interpreting the 70 Weeks of Daniel and other Biblical passages. I shall deal with Dispensationalism in response to Argument #8 in the next post in this series. At this point, I would say that salvation is dependent on the work of Christ and not on the Temple sacrifices per se.
Paul argues in Romans and Galatians that the point of the Law, with all its Levitical sacrifices, is to convict man of his sin and make him realise his need for a sinless, heavenly Saviour (i.e. Christ), since he is incapable of saving himself. Paul expressly says, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal. 2:16). The Apostle James says, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). King David himself, who lived in the very days of the Levitical sacrifices, says, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required...The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 40:6; 51:17). If animals sacrifices by themselves could have obtained salvation, then Christ’s death would not have been necessary. So the author of Hebrews argues. Sacrifices then were an outward sign of faithfulness to the Mosaic Covenant, and an outward sign of repentance: they showed that the offrant recognised his sin, and the facts that such sin cut him off from God and required a righteous intercessor to obtain righteousness with and from God on his behalf.
When we look at Rev. 11:1, it is far from clear that God requires such sacrifices from faithful Christians, and it is not clear who the offrants are other than Torah-compliant Jews. Nobody disputes the fact that at least one of God’s aims in Daniel’s 70th Week is to bring national Israel to a place of repentance and belief in Jesus their Messiah. It is quite logical that the Temple should play a role in that process as it did in the OT days leading up to Christ’s first Advent. But given Christian knowledge of Christ’s relationship to the sacrificial system, especially as set forth in Hebrews, it remains far from clear why God should require the one who already believes in Christ to observe such a system, as opposed to a non-believer. After all, why did Paul argue so strongly against the Judaizers?
The presence of the Temple does not ipso facto nullify the New Covenant (after all, it was still around in Paul’s day). There is nothing in Rev. 11:1 that implies salvation is now once again dependent on such sacrifices, and passages in the Prophets requiring the Gentiles to sacrifice to God are freely admitted by pre-tribbers to be Millennial in context, and not Tribulational. Lastly, we should remember what Christ said in Matt. 23:38-39, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” If the Temple is desolate until the Israeli national leadership admits that Jesus is the Messiah, then the Temple is desolate (and not sanctioned) until the Parousia at the end of the Great Tribulation, and not before.
b) Rev. 12:9-13: “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”
Pre-tribbers might argue with this verse that taking the Mark of the Beast means loss of salvation and therefore contradicts Once-Saved-always-Saved (OSAS), a promise made to the Church. But we need to ask ourselves if OSAS is a promise made to the Church. Bosco himself does not hold strictly to this doctrine, since he freely admitted in the comments section that a person can lose their salvation if they choose to renounce it and turn their back on God. This doctrine is in fact a difficult one: Chalcedon451’s son, an evangelical, pointed out the tension in the Bible between verses that seem to support OSAS on the one hand, and verses that seem to contradict it on the other. Given the disputation between Christians on this matter, it is not the safest of supports to pick for one’s argument.
But let’s say we accept OSAS. Does this passage necessarily contradict it? Answer: no. It may be that God grants His children supernatural grace to resist the temptation to accept the Mark during the Tribulation. Thus true believers will not lose their salvation. Secondly, the warning may be meant for those who are sitting on the fence, for those who haven’t chosen God and Life yet. For these people the Mark represents a crisis point, a time of choice: do they choose Jesus and Heaven or Satan and the Lake of Fire? Such people are not saved and therefore have no salvation to lose, thus the principle is not violated.
We should also consider what the Mark represents: it represents worshipping the Antichrist. Well, we are to worship no-one but God. Taking the Mark means denying Jesus, who, after all, is God (John 1). This is what Jesus says to His Church: “Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: but he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8-9).
Next comes the objection that the saints in this passage are described as “they that keep the commandments of God“: it is argued that the Church is not about commandment-keeping, since we are not justified by Law but by Grace, therefore this group cannot be the Church. But consider what Christ says to His Apostles in John (a passage pre-tribbers accept refers to the Church): “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” Keeping the commandments of Christ is a sign that the saints really love Christ and belong to Him.
Lastly, the phrase, “their works do follow them” has caused trouble for some. But again, we need to look at what this verse actually says. It does not say their works justify them, but that their works follow them, and this is in fact a doctrine affirmed by most pre-tribbers: namely that Christ rewards us in Heaven for the good works we do on earth in His name and in His strength. Such doctrine is affirmed by many NT passages. Here’s one: “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41).
c) Rev. 16:15: “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”
This verse does imply losing salvation. But since Bosco denies strict OSAS, it cannot be used as a discriminator between Church-Age believers and “Tribulation Saints.” We also need to ask whether this really relates to salvation by OT Law or salvation by works in general. The matter really comes down to one’s faith in Jesus and relationship with Him. Faithfulness is rewarded; faithlessness is a problem. This verse, given its context, seems to basically be a warning to stay true to Jesus in the difficult days before His Parousia. Such a warning is not unique to the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24) or the middle part of Revelation. Similar warnings can be found in passages that clearly refer to the Church. One such example is Hebrews 10:25: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” In other words, “Keep exhorting each other [to good works], given the fact that the Day of Christ/Day of the LORD is coming.”
Other verses in Revelation pertaining to persecution can be dismissed on the grounds that the Church has already endured persecution (e.g. under Nero and Maoist China) and Christ promised the Church tribulation in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (“θλιψιν“, same word as in “great tribulation” in Matt. 24:21).