Posts Tagged 'Eschatology'

Things To Come


Jesus made several trips to Jerusalem during His ministry on Earth, but Mark records just one, and Mark 11 and 12 describe our Lord’s actions and teachings in Jerusalem and around the Temple. The Jerusalem we read about in these two chapters of Mark is a dark and dangerous city. Jerusalem had become a hotbed of hostility and unbelief. Like the prophets before Him, Jesus experienced the constant hostility of the city’s religious and political leaders.

Throughout Mark 11 and 12 we witness what happens to a community, Jerusalem in this case, when it fails to fully realize its calling to follow the Word and the will of God. There is a breakdown in society and culture and especially of religion. This is shown in Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, which had been turned into “den of robbers” by the religious elite. Most preachers and Bible students like to talk about the righteous anger of Jesus when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers, but Mark wants his readers to understand Jesus didn’t do these things because He was angry. It was a form of judgment. He had previously cursed an unproductive fig tree (Israel) and would tell a parable about the destruction of the tenants of a vineyard who were also unproductive (Israel). These three incidents show that God takes seriously the moral and spiritual conduct of a nation, and they set up Jesus’ teaching in Mark 13.

A change of scene, same teaching Mark 13:1 – 4

As he was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, what beautiful buildings these are! Look at the decorated stonework on the walls.”

Jesus replied, “Yes, look! For not one stone will be left upon another, except as ruins.” (Mark 13:1, 2 TLB)

As Jesus and His disciples left the Temple grounds, the disciples couldn’t help but comment on the greatness of the architecture. You and I have no concept of how beautiful Herod’s Temple was. Apparently it was truly a magnificent structure that literally took the breath away. That makes Jesus’ statement all the more startling. On that beautiful day, how could the apostles imagine a day when that great Temple, not even finished yet, would lay in ruins? How would it even be possible to topple the massive stones used in the Temple’s construction?

What Jesus said was startling, but it shouldn’t have been surprising. The prophets had already written about the very thing Jesus was talking to His disciples about this day.

It is because of you that Jerusalem will be plowed like a field and become a heap of rubble; the mountaintop where the Temple stands will be overgrown with brush. (Micah 3:13 TLB)

But Mark, far from writing like an ignorant fisherman, wrote like a theologian. He made it very clear that the coming destruction would be a direct judgment of God. George Beasley-Murray in his work, Jesus and the Last Days, wrote:

Mark’s setting of the prophecy at this point inevitably confirms the impression that the ruin of the Temple is the divinely ordained judgment upon Israel for its rejection of the Word of God brought by Jesus.

The judgment of God upon His people as predicted by Jesus was absolute. Josephus, our go-to Jewish historian wrote about the destruction of Israel and the Temple by Titus in 70 AD:

Caesar ordered the whole city and the Temple to be razed to the ground…the wall encompassing the city was so completely leveled to the ground as to leave future visitors to the spot no ground for believing that it had ever been inhabited.

Make no mistake: Caesar was angry with the Jews. But he was only a tool in the hands of God as He executed His judgment upon His people.

Don’t be misled; remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it: a man will always reap just the kind of crop he sows! (Galatians 6:7 TLB)

The disciples asked Jesus two questions that are the key to understanding Mark 13 and our future.

And as he sat on the slopes of the Mount of Olives across the valley from Jerusalem, Peter, James, John, and Andrew got alone with him and asked him, “Just when is all this going to happen to the Temple? Will there be some warning ahead of time?” (Mark 13:3, 4 TLB)

Two streams, one destiny

Mark 13, along with Matthew 24, are difficult for modern Bible readers to understand. There is a lot of Jewish apocalyptic language used that would have been easily understood by the disciples that we miss. And there are really two levels of prophecy in Mark 13: prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (fulfilled in 70 AD) and prophecies concerning the second coming of Christ (not yet fulfilled). These are interwoven, spoken in the same breath. Some were fulfilled in 70 AD, some will be fulfilled in our future, and others had a partial fulfillment in 70 AD but will be fully fulfilled at the Second Coming.

Let’s look at the disciple’s questions.

Will there be some warning ahead of time?

Naturally the disciples wanted to know about signs. Lots of Jews wanted to know about signs. Previously the Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus and He refused. But the disciples asked for signs and our Lord answered their request.

The signs Jesus gives He treats like one, long continuous sign from His time, through our time, into the Tribulation, and ending when He returns. There will be:

False teachers, vs. 5, 6.

These will be people supposedly preaching the truth, but they will be preaching lies; they will be preaching their own brand of theology that has little or nothing to do with the Bible.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible wrath of God is upon all those who do them. Don’t even associate with such people. (Ephesians 5:6, 7 TLB)

There have always been false teachers, by the way. They aren’t an invention of a liberal church in America. Although you could say liberal evangelicals have perfected the art of false teaching. False teachers were the bane of Paul’s existence and were the main reason why he wrote some of his letters. These false teachers claimed to be messengers from God but were really anything but. Their purpose was to lead gullible and ignorant believers astray.  That’s the purpose of all false teachers, of all time.

Wars and rumors of wars, vs. 7

And wars will break out near and far, but this is not the signal of the end-time. (TLB)

Again, just like false teachers have always been around, there have always been wars going on all over the earth. In point of fact, peace is the exception, not the norm in most places. Wars actually serve a very useful function: they bear testimony to the fact that Prince of Peace has not yet established His kingdom on earth. There was plenty destruction and violence leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, yet during the years just prior to the return of Christ, conditions on earth will have degenerated drastically, as sinful man casts off all restraints and the Lord allows him to do so.

Natural disasters, vs. 8

...there will be earthquakes in many lands, and famines.

When we read in Revelation about the strange events taking place on earth during the Tribulation, it’s easy to understand why there will be an increase in things like earthquake and famines.

Hatred for His sake, vs. 9 – 13

You will be dragged before the courts, and beaten in the synagogues, and accused before governors and kings of being my followers. This is your opportunity to tell them the Good News. (Mark 13:9 TLB)

We know this happened in the early chapters of Acts, and in various parts of the world Christians have been “dragged before the courts” since the book of Acts. It’s hard to believe that Christians are being sued and fined outrageous amounts on account of their faith in America, but this “soft tyranny” against believers is becoming all-too common in this land of the not-so-free-anymore.

Natural affection perverted, vs. 12

Brothers will betray each other to death, fathers will betray their own children, and children will betray their parents to be killed.

This must surely be the most heartbreaking sign of all. Not only will Christians face hostile courts, councils, synagogues, politicians, beatings, and other persecution, they will also experience hostility from their own families.

Don’t trust anyone, not your best friend—not even your wife! For the son despises his father; the daughter defies her mother; the bride curses her mother-in-law. Yes, a man’s enemies will be found in his own home. (Micah 6:5, 6 TLB)

How is this even possible? Matthew gives us the answer:

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other… (Matthew 24:10 NIV)

Deceitful workers of wonders, vs. 22

For there will be many false Messiahs and false prophets who will do wonderful miracles that would deceive, if possible, even God’s own children.

False teachers are one thing, but false teachers that seem to be able to work supernatural wonders are something else. Demon possessed preachers and religious leaders, claiming to do the work of Christ, will cause even believers to fall away from the true faith.

Changes in the material universe, vs. 24

After the tribulation ends, then the sun will grow dim and the moon will not shine, and the stars will fall—the heavens will convulse.

These verses have traditionally been regarded a description of what will happen in the sky just prior to the glorious appearing of the Messiah. Bible scholars are divided as to how literally to take this verse and verses like it. One thing is certain, though, the coming into our world of the Messiah and His kingdom will be a cataclysmic event.

When is all this going to happen?

Contextually, the disciples were wondering when the Temple was going to be destroyed. Jesus, in He giving His answer, answers that question but then proceeds to talk about His Second Coming.

Nobody knows for sure, vs. 32

However, no one, not even the angels in heaven, nor I myself, knows the day or hour when these things will happen; only the Father knows.

As it was in the days of Noah, so shall the coming of Christ be. The fact of the coming flood was preached by Noah for two hundred years as he built his ark, but nobody, not even Noah, knew when the time would come to shut the door.

The fact of Jesus’ Second Coming cannot be denied. The Old Testament prophets saw it, Jesus talked about it, and the New Testament predicts it. It will happen; He will come again.

The Gospel will be preached, vs. 10

And the Good News must first be made known in every nation before the end-time finally comes.

This is a sign but also a condition to be fulfilled. When the last person on earth has heard the Gospel, the time will have come to Jesus to come back.

The abomination of desolation will be set up, vs. 14

When you see the horrible thing standing in the Temple—reader, pay attention!—flee, if you can, to the Judean hills.

This prediction is found in Daniel 9 and was previously fulfilled in Jewish history, but it will happen one more time just prior to the Second Coming.

Jesus’ advice

Our Lord had given His disciples a lot to think about. And we have a lot to think about, too. Jesus is coming again. We don’t know when it will happen. But one thing is certain: we are to be ready. There is no room for apathy, indifference, or unbelief in the Church regarding this. Jesus’ advice to His disciples is His advice to us, today.

First, we are to trust Him.

Take care! I have warned you! (Mark 13:23 TLB)

Indeed He has. There are no surprises. Jesus has warned us that things will get worse and worse in our world before He returns. We shouldn’t be shocked or surprised when we see Christians persecuted anywhere in the world, even here in America. But we need to trust Him.

Second, we need to be watchful. Three times in verses 33 – 37 He urged His followers to be watchful; to keep their eyes open; to be alert. Jesus hasn’t left us in the dark. He has told us everything we need to know. Our job now is to be wise; to be spiritually wide awake.

Third, we are to pray.

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. (Mark 13:33 AV)

The one who is watching and paying attention to the signs will also be an intercessor. Don’t become discouraged or disheartened about the state of our country or of the world. Pray! Watch and pray! Faith in His coming should lead to a better, more spiritual life.

Paul, who knew the Lord could come at any time, gave the best piece of advice:

So be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good. Ephesians 5:15, 16 TLB)

Stewardship: It’s NOT what you think it is, Part 3

chocolate money, good as gold!

Don’t Be the One Left Holding the Bag!

In our study of stewardship, we have considered the following marvelous concepts:

  • At our deaths, we will be united with the treasure we have accumulated here on earth but waiting for us in heaven.  We might well consider this “deferred gratification,” that is, while we are living in the flesh, part of our service to God involves denying ourselves earthly treasures.  For each earthly treasure we deny, we add to our heavenly treasure.
  • When we enter heaven, we will also receive our share of Jesus’ inheritance.  This inheritance is being reserved for us in heaven by God, and in order to receive it, we must be faithfully serving God while we are in the flesh.

This time, we will consider Jesus’ “Parable of the Talents,” as recorded for us in Matthew 25:14—30.  Before we begin, we need to understand that Jesus is NOT talking about talents as we understand the word.   The tNIV has finally translated this parable is a manner that makes it understandable; instead of using the outdated word “talents,” it uses the phrase “bags of gold” in its place.   For the purposes of this teaching, we will be using the tNIV.

1.  Setting the context

In the original manuscripts, there are no verses or chapter divisions, so chapters 24 and chapters 25 are actually one unit of teaching that began in answer to his question—

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  (Matthew 24:3)

Chapter 25, then, continues and expands upon our Lord’s answer to that inquiry.  The parable of the virgins concerns the faithfulness of Israel upon the Lord’s return, the Second Coming.  The parable of the bags of gold is a parable about the faithfulness of the Lord’s servants when He returns at His Second Coming, and the story of the sheep and goats speaks of the judgments of the nations when Christ returns.  This whole chapter, then, illustrates the significance of the Second Coming of Christ as it relates to these groups of human beings that will be in the world at that time:  Jews, Christians, and Gentile nations.

Many preachers and teachers teach that the parable of the bags of gold refers only to how we use our “talents” for God.  However, the context demands that this parable refers to our eschatological future.   As we study God’s Word, we need to be ever mindful of context, for Scripture is so much more powerful when we read it as God intended us to.  Having established this, there are applications of this parable that we, as believers living in anticipation of Christ’s return, can apply to our lives today.

2.  Distribution of the gold, 25:14, 15

Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.  To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags of gold, and to another one bag, each according to his ability.  Then he went on his journey. (tNIV)

This parable goes a step beyond the first three in that Jesus adds to the notion of “watchfulness” during the master’s journey.  In the previous teachings, Jesus taught about being prepared for His coming and remaining faithful in service, even if His coming seems delayed.  Now, with this teaching, Jesus teaches not so much using what He has given His servants, but actually improving what He has given.

In the ancient world, slaves were given considerable responsibility and authority.  A wealthy man would indeed have entrusted his best slaves with the management of his estate.  These slaves were considered almost as “partners” in his business affairs and likely would share in his profits.  Many teachers like to allegorize this part of the story, suggesting that the master, who is undeniably Jesus, is referring to His Ascension and the “talents” are either the gifts of the Spirit or literally talents bestowed upon Christians.   It is best to remember that this is just a parable; a story that was given in answer to what things would be like just prior to the Christ’s coming as Messiah.

In the distribution of the gold, three servants are each given a set amount, but the important thing is not the amount that is given, for in reality each servant is given an equal share.  Even though one servant got 5 bags of gold, another 2 and another only 1, they were each given as much as the master believed they could handle.  In other words, each servant was given his fill of gold; none of the three servants would be able to carry more than they were given.

3.  Taking the risk, 25:16—18

The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.  So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.  But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.  (tNIV)

The traditional interpretation goes like this:  The man who had received five talents doubled them, as did the man who had only two.  But the man who had one hid his talent in the ground.  It is too often true in church circles that a person who feels he has only one talent buries it instead of using it in the work of the Kingdom.  (Ralph Earle)

However, there is much, much more to consider.  Notice the phrase “at once.”  This shows the eagerness with which the first two servants put their master’s investment to work.  This shows how seriously the good servants took their responsibility.  “Putting their master’s money to work” is sometimes interpreted to mean they invested the money, but it probably means something else.  D.A. Carson has put forth the idea that the good servants actually used the master’s money as “seed money” to start up a business, thus causing the capital investment to grow as their business grew.  This would entail a risk, and herein we find our first application.   God gives all of us certain “gifts” to use in His kingdom.  Remember, the Kingdom of God is here now, in a spiritual sense, and our gifts are to be used to build the Kingdom spiritually.  Those gifts vary from person to person, but just as each servant received bags of gold based on their ability, so our gifts are based on our ability.  We are not to look with envious eyes at the gifts of others but rather we are to look at our gifts and find ways to, not just to use them, but find imaginative ways to cause them grow.

The problem in the Church of the 21st century is two-fold as it relates to this one issue.  First, far too many Christians don’t know what their gifts are in the first place because they don’t take their relationship with God seriously enough.  Far too many believers are under the impression that all they have to do is show up for church once in a while and be a little better than their neighbors and that in itself is somehow “serving God.”  In fact, serving God means serving Him: it means doing something; it means putting forth an effort.  All Christians are called to do that, not just a select few.

Second, once a believer sees that they actually have a gift (or gifts), they either start comparing themselves to other Christians, which is always a mistake and, sadly, they look at their gift and rather than risk the embarrassment of failure or some equally lame reason, they refuse to use their gift.  This was the sin of the third servant.

The third servant was not punished because he only had one bag of gold.  He had just as much as the other two servants; he had all he could handle.  We might say that even though he had fewer bags than the others, his responsibility was exactly the same.  The master expected the same effort from the third servant as he got from the first two.  But the third servant, instead of setting about, planning and working that plan to make the master’s gold increase, simply buried it.

4.  Enjoying the reward, 25:19—23

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.  The man who had received five bags of gold brought out the other five.  “Master,” be said, “You entrusted me with five bags of gold.  See, I have gained five more.”  His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness.”

The man with two bags of gold also came.  “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.”  His maser replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness.”

When the master finally returned, a reckoning took place.   The first two men reported that they had doubled the gold their master had given them.  In reply, the master said the same thing to both men.  In the case of the first man he is praised, not for what he did, but for his faithfulness, and his reward involved two things:  an increased responsibility and a share in his master’s happiness.   The second man had also been faithful and is rewarded for that faithfulness with the same things as the first man.  It must be noted, however, that each man was rewarded for being “good and faithful,” not for being capable and clever.  Being “good and faithful” are two qualities each and every believer is capable of achieving.  Not all of us can be considered shrewd or brilliant; but we should all be “good and faithful!”  These are the two things God requires of His servants.

On the rewards, I would make this observation.  The ultimate meaning of this parable is eschatological; it relates to the Second Coming of Christ and His judging of the faithful at that time.  Does He mean to indicate that all believers will be given the same reward:  increased responsibilities and a share of His joy?  I think this is unlikely.  Each believer is given gifts based on his ability, and it seems reasonable that each believer will be rewarded in the Kingdom the same way:  each according to his ability.

5.  The whining one bagger, 25:24, 25

Then the man who had received on bag of gold came.  “Master,” he said, “I knew you that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground.  See, here is what belongs to you.

The one-bag servant comes whining with his complaint and lame excuse for having done nothing for his master;  and he accuses his master of being a “hard man.”  The word “hard” in the Greek is skleros, and it can mean a variety of things, but in essence, this third man is not complimenting his master.  On the contrary, he is saying that his master exploits the work of others:  he harvests where he has not sown.  For this servant, working hard and taking a risk with just one bag of gold with no guarantee that he would get any of the profit seemed a waste.  In his mind, if he took the risk and worked hard and doubled the one bag of gold into two but got nothing for his work, he wasted his time.  But if he took the risk and lost his master’s bag of gold, he assumed he would punished by this “hard” master.  Besides, he was probably already annoyed that he was only given one bag to begin with.

Sometimes we, who are risk-adverse or timid in personality, might find ourselves better relating to the one-bag man.  But we need to understand is this:  God rewards only the successful servants.  God is not politically correct.  The apostle Paul understood this—

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  (1 Corinthians 9:24—27)

The one-bag servant did not do what he did out of love for his master.  He wasn’t being overly protective of the bag of gold.  We know exactly why this man did what he did:  he was lazy.  He misjudged his master, suggesting he didn’t really know his master, and he was just plain lazy.

Those kinds of people fill our churches.  They’re lazy and they don’t really know God at all.   They run aimlessly because they don’t have clue about what is expected of them.  In the Kindgom of God there are no do-overs.  We all have one chance to get it right.  The old saying is ever true:

Only one life will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.

6.  The one-bag reward, 25:26—30

There is an old French proverb:

He who excuses himself accuses himself.

The master was not buying anything this lazy servant was selling, in fact he saw this man for what he was:

‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. (verses 26, 27, NIV)

This man wasn’t just lazy, though, he was also pretty stupid.  If he just wanted to avoid work, then simply depositing the money would have earned some interest and he would have not worked.   In fact, had this man invested the money with others, he would have not only provided his master with at least a limited return on the investment, he would have provided employment for others.  We call this “capitalism” today, but helping others better themselves was not something this man was concerned about.  He was wicked and he was lazy.   While the other two servants were busy working, risking, and creating wealth, this man dug a hole, not realizing he was digging his own grave.

What the master did then is noteworthy—

Take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. (verse 28, tNIV)

Some might be tempted to misunderstand what Jesus is getting at here.  Jesus is NOT suggesting taking from the poor to give to the rich.  In fact, this is a “kingdom principle” that we have seen before.  The nation of Israel, for example, was taken away from King Saul because of his continued disobedience and given to David.  The principle, first seen in the Old Testament, is clearly understood from verse 29—

For those who have will be given more, and they will have an abundance.  As for those who not have, even what they have will be taken from them.  (tNIV)

The one who uses opportunities to enhance their God-given gifts have, by God’s grace given themselves in service to others by serving the Lord.  In this, they shall most definitely reap what they have sown:  as they have enriched others, so they themselves will be enriched.   The one who has become poor has become so because he did not give himself to the Lord, and so what little he has will be taken away because he never took advantage of the opportunities as the presented themselves.

Furthermore, the master calls this lazy, wicked servant “worthless,” a rare Greek word, meaning this man was a complete failure. He failed to do good and he failed to use what God had given to him to achieve that end.  This is a most grievous sin because it is, at its root, a sin of willful neglect.  When we act like this lazy, wicked, and worthless servant, we neglect the gifts God has given to us and we neglect our responsibility to God, essentially, neglecting God Himself.

In response to such selfishness, the master passes a severe judgment—

Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  (verse 30, tNIV)

Of course, we remember that this will take place in the eschatological future, but the present-day application is blazingly clear:  negligence is punished but diligence is rewarded.  (Hendriksen)

We who are servants of God need to pay heed to the teaching of Jesus here.  We must be aware of our “bags of gold” and be ready to take advantage of every opportunity to serve the Lord.   We must use our God-given abilities, not enrich ourselves, but to enrich others, and ultimately, we have God’s promise that we will be rewarded.

It’s all part of stewardship.  Don’t you be the one left holding the bag!

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

Studies in Daniel and Revelation

The Beasts of Revelation

Remember, chapter 13 is still considered a “parenthetical passage,” a pause in the consecutive order of the Revelation. What we are reading is a continuation of the “vision within a vision” John saw in heaven, symbolizing what will be happening on the Earth during the Tribulation. This vision is full of symbols and they must be treated as symbols and not taken literally, even though the people and events they symbolize will be real people and events.

The Beast from the sea, 13:1—10, 18

The “sea” is a symbol of population. The Beast from the sea symbolizes a nation and specifically the leader of that nation who will rise to world-wide prominence. It also symbolizes a supernatural spirit which will be the inspiration for the Beast. We know that this particular Beast symbolizes or represents the personal Antichrist. Here is what we know about him—

  • At this time, we do not know who the Antichrist is or will be. Though many Christians find inventive ways to “prove” that the Antichrist is the Pope, or President Obama or Javier Solana, the fact is it is highly unlikely he is a man now prominent in world affairs.
  • Daniel 7:24 teaches us that the Antichrist will NOT be revealed until AFTER the formation of the ten-nation confederacy is formed within the boundaries of the old Roman Empire. The Beast, the Antichrist, will rise to prominence quickly from one of the ten-nations and attempt to gain control of all of them during the first half of the Tribulation. His rising to power from “sea of humanity” symbolizes his dominance over the ten-nation confederacy near the middle of the Tribulation.
  • The Antichrist will be the head-of-state of one of the ten nations at the beginning of the Tribulation and will gain power over the other nine during the last half of the Tribulation. During this time, he will claim god-like supremacy over the lives of people, and will be worshiped by the citizens of the ten-nation confederacy (Dan. 8:25; 11:36—45; 2 Thess. 2:4).
  • During part of the last half of the Tribulation, the Antichrist will make Jerusalem his seat of power (Dan. 11:45). In fact, his capital will be in the Temple of God (2 Thess. 2:4). This is where the abomination of desolation will be placed (Dan. 9:27; 12:7—13; Matt. 24:15—22; Rev. 11:1—2; 13:12—18).
  • Even though the Antichrist will be a man and not a supernatural monstrosity, he will be inspired and empowered by Satan and the other rulers of the ten-nation confederacy. However, it must be noted that it is God who will allow Satan to empower this man and inspire him in his plans (Dan. 8:24; 2 Thess. 2:8—12; Rev. 13:1—2). It is also God who will allow the other national leaders to give the Antichrist power of their countries in order to destroy Israel.

Common titles of the Antichrist

Throughout Scripture, this Son of Perdition is given different name, each one describing his character and his nature. Among his titles are the following—

  • Antichrist. This is the most common and most descriptive title for he will be Christ’s greatest opponent on Earth. Although the word occurs only four times in the Bible in relation to this personal Antichrist of the future, whenever it is mentioned, he is the one people think of.
  • The Assyrian. Isaiah 10:20—27; 30:18—33; 31:4—20; Micah 5:3—15. While the prophecies of these Scriptures concern the Assyrian king in the day they were uttered, it becomes clear that there is a future fulfillment of these prophetic words and a future “Assyrian King.” He will oppress Israel in the years just preceding her final restoration. The territory that made up part of the old Assyrian kingdom will be part of the Antichrist’s country, hence this title.
  • The King of Babylon. Isaiah 14:4. This is one prophecy that had a partial fulfillment in the overthrow of Babylon by the Medes and Persians. Its complete fulfillment will occur during the restoration of Israel (“day of the Lord”), which will happen with the Lord return
  • The Oppressor, Faithless Man. Isaiah 16:1—5.
  • Gog. Ezekiel 38 and 39 will be fulfilled at Armageddon.
  • The Little Horn. Daniel 7:8, 24; 8:9, 23.
  • A Stern-faced King. Daniel 8:23
  • The prince that will come. Daniel 9:26—27.
  • King of the North. Daniel 11:36—45. This is the king of the Syrian division of the old Grecian Empire. He is called the king of the north because he will come from this northern division of Greece, north of Palestine.
  • Man of sin or lawlessness. 2 Thessalonians 2:1—12
  • Son of Perdition or “man doomed to destruction.” 2 Thessalonians 2:1—12

Beast from the earth, 13:11—17

This is a second beast, distinct from the first. He is called “the false prophet” in Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10, which are the only passages in the Bible to mention him. He will be prophet for the Antichrist, but he will be a false prophet. Here is what we know about this man—

  • He rises to prominence after the rise of the Antichrist. John refers to him as “another” beast. The word allos (“another”) means “another of the same kind.” This suggests that many of his characteristics will be the same as those of the Antichrist.
  • He will rise to prominence “from the earth,” meaning he will come from “the people of the earth,” it does not mean that he will be some kind of supernatural demonic who rises from the grave. The two beasts will be two men, not demons or resurrected evil men from the past.
  • He will be lamb-like and genuine in appearance only and will be perfectly suited to fill the role of a leader of a new religion.
  • He will have similar power to that of the Antichrist and he will allow Satan to work through him to the benefit of the Antichrist.
  • He will exercise “miraculous powers” that will deceive many into thinking the Antichrist is man from God or God Himself. Satan is known as the deceiver of men, but his deception will reach its zenith during the final three and one half years of man.
  • He will have a statue or image of the Antichrist erected in the Jewish temple, where people will “worship” it according to Matthew 24:15. Apparently, this statue or image will be so lifelike it will appear to be alive; those who do not pay it homage will be killed.
  • The false prophet will institute a program to will mark and identify the Antichrist’s supporters and distinguish them from those who don’t support him. This marking will result in the martyrdom of many, but not all, who refuse to take the mark. The so-called “worship” of the Antichrist will be a mixture of political adulation and religious devotion. Many scholars have noted that this “worship” will not be willing on the part of many, but they will feel forced and coerced into it. Unfortunately, the doom of all who willingly or unwillingly participate in this apostate worship has already been determined, Revelation 14:9—11.

The mark or brand that will be on some will take one of three forms:

· A “mark,” which will be seen by others.

· The “name of the beast,” that is, of the Antichrist.

· The “number of his name.” The common notion is that the letters of the Antichrist’s name will add up to 666 because the in both Greek and Hebrew there is not separate system of numbers; the letters of their alphabet have a numeric value.

The mark or brand of the Beast will be given sometime during the latter half of the Tribulation. Many people today speculate what form the mark or marks will take, but there is no way anyone can guess what it will look like from where we stand today.

The seven-headed, ten-horned Beast, 17:1, 3, 7—17

The Beast mentioned in chapters 11—20 is fleshed out in chapters 13 and 17. Remember, the Beast is a symbol of a man because the nature of a beast characterizes this man of the future; he will be “beast-like,” that is, cunning, wild, amoral, and undisciplined.

We have already discussed this Beast as the Antichrist. However, this Beast as a symbol symbolizes a total of three things:

  • A man. The Beast is the Antichrist, the “beast from the sea.”
  • A supernatural being. The Beast is also the “beast out of the Abyss,” the one empowering and inspiring the Antichrist.
  • An empire or nation.

The Beast, while without question symbolizes the Antichrist, must also symbolize these other two things

The Beast from the Abyss, 11:7; 17:8

Speculation abounds as to who or what this Beast is. The Abyss is not a place where human spirits go, so whoever this Beast is, it cannot be a human being, reincarnated or otherwise. The Abyss is, as taught in the Bible, a kind of prison for demonic spirits (Luke 8:31; Rev 9). It is to be the future place home of Satan for a thousand years, as well. At the present time, however, there are there are only imprisoned demonic spirits there.

This Beast, then, has to represent some sort of demonic spirit. Perhaps he will be a kind “arch demon,” under the direct control of Satan. It seems he will be the controlling influence behind the Antichrist, giving him all the power and charisma he needs to rise to political heights. In fact, a key statement concerning this demon is this—

…[H]e once was, now is not, and yet will come… (17:8)

This is a cryptic statement that means exactly what it says: this demon was on the earth at one time, now he is not, but he will be released back onto the earth in the future. This demon will be the controlling impulse behind the Antichrist, who will form another nation, symbolized by the beast. This is nothing new; the kingdoms of this world currently belong to Satan. It is true that nothing happens without God allowing it to happen and from to time God interferes in Satan’s plans for his kingdoms, but when Satan was tempting Jesus in the wilderness, he offered the Lord the kingdoms of the world and Jesus did not deny his right to do so (Luke 4:5—6).

From the dawn of Israel’s history, five prominent kingdoms or nations were used of Satan to destroy God’s plan. Satan has been battling God’s plan for the redemption of His people by trying to wipe Israel off the map because from Israel would come their Savior. Throughout history, we can see how Satan has used five kingdoms to do this. However, as we have seen, God has taken advantage of Satan’s plans to destroy Israel and turned Satan’s nefarious plans around to merely discipline and chastise His people. The five kingdoms were: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. These are the five kingdoms before the time of John. The sixth kingdom, Rome, was in existence during John’s time but Rome was Israel’s protector for a time, not her persecutor. A seventh kingdom or nation will arise during the Tribulation in the form of 10 smaller nations. This nation (the ten-nation confederacy) will continue to do what all of Satan’s kingdoms have always done: persecute Israel. The Beast will establish and rule an eighth nation, and it will become the most godless nation that has ever existed on earth and will persecute Israel more intensely than any other nation. This eighth and final nation will exist solely to destroy Israel and put a stop to God’s plan for the redemption of Israel, God’s people.

One of the key passages of Scripture that shows the demonic control of nations is Daniel 10:1—11:1. In the last verse, 11:1, we read this—

And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.

Michael was the Prince behind the nation of Israel and it was Gabriel’s job to strengthen him, and ultimately, Israel. This section in Daniel illustrates the fact that angels and demons have direct influence over and responsibilities for different nations on earth. God ordains certain angels, like Michael, to bring about the rise or fall of nations in order to bring about God’s will for His people on earth. These verses all illustrate how Satan tries to prevent that from happening in order to thwart God’s plans.

Now, consider this passage—

So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.) (10:20—21)

That is a reference to the coming of Alexander the Great. But notice the phrase “the prince of Greece.” Who does that refer to? Alexander, yes, but also to the force behind Alexander, a “demonic prince.” And it is that “demonic prince,” who will return to earth after John’s time (remember Rev. 17:8) to pull the strings of the Antichrist as he will be the antitype to Alexander.

The extent of the Antichrist’s reign, 13:5—18

In understanding the full extent of the influence of this future political leader, the Antichrist, the common thinking is that he will reign over the world. If we read the prophecies of the Bible without studying them, it is easy to come to that conclusion. However, as powerful as this man will be, and he will be powerful, he will not be a “world-wide dictator.” Consider—

1. Revelation 13 limits the empire of the Antichrist to the ten nations that are yet to be established within the territory of the old Roman Empire.

2. Daniel 7:7—8, 17—27 limits the Antichrist’s reign to the ten nations of the future confederacy.

3. In Daniel 11:40—45, it is stated that when the Antichrist breaks his peace treaty with the Jews (Daniel 9:27) and enters Palestine in the middle of the Tribulation and passes a law that all must worship him that—

Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. (11:41b)

Clearly if these countries escape the Antichrist and they are bordering the Antichrist’s seat of power, it is reasonable to conclude that nations across ocean or on the other side of the world will also escape his dominion.

4. Most of Israel will escape the Antichrist when he takes Jerusalem by escaping into Moab and Edom, where they will find protection, Daniel 9:27.

5. Daniel 11:44—45 speaks of “many” nations not under control of the Antichrist, and he engages them in war.

6. Zechariah the prophets wrote than many people, even some within the Antichrist’s ten nation confederacy, will refuse to take his mark and survive. Note the wording of this passage—

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain. (Zechariah 14:16—17)

7. “All” as it is used is various Scriptures does not mean necessarily mean “all.” Sometimes, when the Bible uses “all” it uses it as a synecdoche. That almost unpronounceable literary term simply means that sometimes a part of something is used to represent the whole and vice versa. The definition is as confusing as the word itself, so here are some examples—

  • Genesis 6:17. If we took this verse literally, then we would have to conclude that Noah and his family and all the animals on the ark died. Not to mention all the fish and sea animals.
  • Joshua 6:21—25. Not everybody in Jericho died because we know, for example, Rahab and her family were spared.
  • 2 Samuel 6:5, 15. Not everybody in Israel was involved, for not every citizen could play a musical instrument and babies and the sick and infirm and elderly could not be brought together as the text suggests.
  • Daniel 2:37—38; 4:1, 11—12, 20. We are told that Nebuchadnezzar ruled over all men, but we know that was never true. He never ruled over Greece or Rome or many other nations.
  • Matthew 3:5—6. Not everybody in Judea was baptized. No Pharisee or Sadducee would have done such a thing, and many people in that area never heard of John the Baptist much less baptized by him.
  • Luke 2:1—3. Laws made by Roman emperors were only binding on Roman citizens or those living under Roman law.

There are numerous examples, but hopefully the above handful give you a sense of what “all” often means in Scripture.  This is why the careful Bible student must have a thorough knowledge of “all”  Scripture before making conclusions.  It is always dangerous to build a doctrine upon one verse.  The wise believer, desiring to have a full understanding of the Word of God sees the need to compare Scripture with Scripture.  Naturally, this proper kind of Bible study takes time and effort, which explains why so many of our church members and even clergymen are so ignorant of what is really in the Bible.   There is nothing worse, or as dangerous, to the well-being of the Body of Christ  than a lazy Christian.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

Studies in Daniel and Revelation

What must soon take place, Part Two

Last time, we looked at what is going to happen during the first half of the seven-year Tribulation. Now, we will look at the events that will characterize the last three-and-one-half-years.

Parenthetical Passage, 10:1—11:13

This lengthy pause in the consecutive order of the Revelation takes place between the 6th and 7th trumpets and gives additional information about some events that will occur during the trumpet and bowl judgments.

The Mighty Angel, 10:1—11

This “Mighty Angel,” though not named, is undoubtedly Jesus Christ, who was last seen breaking open the seals of the scroll in chapter 5. John is told to take the scroll and eat it, which symbolically indicates that he received what was written on it, that is, the rest of the Revelation.

This scroll is the same one that Daniel was told to “seal up” in Daniel 12:4—9. The reason it tasted sweet to John at first and later turned sour was that the deliverance of his people, the victory of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom was “sweet” to John, but the judgments inflicted upon sinful man were “sour,” or distasteful.

The Temple, 11:1—2

This temple is not Herod’s Temple, as it was destroyed in 70 AD, over twenty years earlier. Nor is it the temple described by the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 40—48, because Christ will establish that one at His Second Advent (Zechariah 6:12—13). This temple will be the one rebuilt by the Jews just prior to the Tribulation and will be destroyed, either by earthquake (Rev. 16:18—19) or by the Antichrist when he takes Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:1—5).

The Two Witnesses, 11:3—13

These two witnesses are exactly what they are purported to be: men. They are not covenants or churches or two groups of people. By examining some details and facts about these men, we can determine with some certainty who they will be.

· The will be Christ’s witnesses, 12:3

· Their ministry will run throughout the last half of the Tribulation, 11:1-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5; Dan. 7:25; 12:7.

· They will prophesy and preach, Mal. 4:5, 6

· They will be wearing garments symbolizing their mourning of the terrible judgments about to come, 11:3.

· They are represented before the Lord as the two olive trees and the two candlesticks, 11:4. This verse, along with Zechariah 4:3, 11-14 indicates that these two men were standing before the Lord in Zechariah’s time, around 546 BC, and will still be there in John’s day, around 90 AD.

· They will have amazing power to not only foretell the future, but also to cause droughts and disease on the earth, 11:5-6.

· As soon as their work is completed, the beast from the Abyss will kill them, 11:7-10. This proves they are men and not angels; that they are mortal human beings, not glorified men or men resurrected from the dead.

· Their corpses will be on full display, for all to see. After three-and-one-half days, they will be resurrected and taken up to heaven, just as John was, as indicated by the phrase, “Come up here,” 11:12.

· Their rapture from the earth will cause a major earthquake, 11:13, and many will come to believe. This is the same earthquake mentioned under the 7th bowl, 16:17-21.

In identifying these two men, three points need to be considered. First, they were seen in heaven by Zechariah 600 years before John saw them preaching on the earth in our future. Second, the fact that they are to be killed proves without a doubt that they will be men and not some kind of supernatural being. Finally, this verse taken from Hebrews 9:27–

[M]an is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.

There are only two human beings since the creation of the world who have never died: Elijah and Enoch. That Elijah will be one of the prophets is beyond doubt, as Malachi 4:4-5 indicates. Both Elijah and Enoch never died, but were translated, or taken to heaven in bodily form, Genesis 5:21-24; Hebrews 11:5; 2 Kings 2:11. Both Enoch and Elijah were known to be prophets of judgment (Jude 14-15; 1 Kings 17-18). It seems logical to conclude that both these men will have to physically die, otherwise Hebrews 9:27 is a lie.

The 7th Trumpet and the Third Woe, 11:14-20:3

Despite the phrase The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever, this 7th trumpet is not the last trumpet that heralds the return of Christ and at this point in the Revelation, the Tribulation is far from over. This will be exclaimed by those in heaven in anticipation of Christ’s ultimate victory.

Under this final trumpet judgment call, come all the events and judgments of the last half of the Tribulation, including all the bowl judgments.

Performers of the Tribulation, 12

In chapter 12, we have a complete “mini revelation” given to John in the form of several performers. What John sees he sees in heaven, but what these performers symbolize will be real people and events that will occur on the earth. Many commentators make the mistake of not taking Revelation in consecutive order, and claim what John saw in dramatic form was a kind of history of Israel. If Revelation is to be understood, then it must be taken literally where possible and read in consecutive order, just like we would read any other book.

The Woman Clothed in the Sun

This woman, seen in heaven, symbolizes the nation of Israel as it will exist on the Earth during the Tribulation. There are four reasons to support this conclusion:

· Israel is often referred to as a “woman” throughout the Old Testament, Isaiah 54:1-6; Jeremiah 3:1-14. In fact, the entire book of Hosea was written to show how Israel had become like an adulterous wife.

· There are three classes or groups of people on the earth according to 1 Corinthians 10:32; Gentiles, Jews, and the Church. At the time of the vision, the Church will be gone, leaving only Jews and Gentiles on the earth.

· The sun, moon, and 12 stars must symbolize the same things they did in Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9-11.

· The nation of Israel, regathered during the Tribulation, will fulfill in reality what the happens to the woman symbolically. In verse 6, the woman flees into the desert. This is clearly in fulfillment of what will happen to Israel according to Isaiah 16:1-5; Psalms 60:8-12; Ezekiel 20:33-38; Daniel 11:36-45; Hosea 2:14-23; Matthew 24:15-22.. The result of this persecution will be the conversion of Israel as a nation in a single day when Christ returns, Romans 11:26-27; Revelation 19:11-20:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10.

The Male Child

There are several theories as to who the Woman’s male child represents. Among the popular ideas that many believe, but that are incorrect, include: Jesus Christ, the True Church, and those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Since the sun-clothed woman represents Israel, her male child must also be Jewish, therefore it cannot be the Church, either in part or whole, and since the Beast will try to kill the male child, it cannot be Jesus Christ. The male child must be alive, not some kind of resurrected or supernatural person or persons. The male child represents a remnant of believing Jews who will “come out” of Israel. Given what we see happening to this male child, the symbol can find its fulfillment only in the 144,000. This vision is the fulfillment of Isaiah 66:7—8.

What we see happening to the male child is what will happen to the 144,000, a small group to “come out” of Israel, that will be “caught up to stand before the throne in heaven (Revelation 12:5, compare with 14:1—5). The child is delivered from the Dragon at the time of the travail of the woman (12:1—6). The same thing will happen to the 144,000 (14:1—5). The child will be persecuted by the Dragon (12:1—6) and so will the 144,000, but God will mark them and protect from demonic assault (9:4). Neither the male child or the 144,000 are mentioned again as being on the earth after the 7th trumpet sounds. The male child is to rule the nations (12:5), and so will the 144,000, along with the saints when Christ comes back. The male child is seen in heaven (12:5) and so are the 144,000 (14:1—5). The male child is a baby compared to the size of the woman, and so will be the 144,000 when compared to the whole nation of Israel.

Consider what Daniel wrote in his vision of the translation or rapture of the 144,000—

1`And at that time [the beginning of the great Tribulation] stand up doth Michael, the great head, who is standing up for the sons of thy people [Michael is seen delivering Israel], and there hath been a time of distress [the three-and-one-half years of the Tribulation in Dan. 12:7—13; Rev. 11:1—3; 12:5—6, 14—16; 13:1—7)], such as hath not been since there hath been a nation [Matt. 24:15—26; Jer.30:7] till that time [when Michael stands up to cast out Satan and deliver the male child], and at that time do thy people [Israel] escape [Heb. Malat, meaning to escape also implies translation], every one [144,000] who is found written in the book. (Daniel 12:1, YLT)

The Dragon

The word “dragon” is 13 times in the New Testament and all in the book of Revelation. It is always a symbol of Satan. This is the first time he is mentioned in Revelation. It should be noted that Satan is not a dragon, he is a spirit being. He is symbolized as a dragon, just as Jesus Christ is represented as a Lamb.

The seven heads and ten horns symbolize the same nations as the seven heads and ten horns on the beast in Rev. 13:1—4; 17:1—8.

A War in Heaven

The “war” or more properly a “skirmish,” in heaven in Revelation 12 does not refer to the casting of Lucifer from heaven, along with the angels that followed him. This event occurred in the dateless past. What John is seeing in the form of a vision is another “war” in heaven that will occur in the middle of the Tribulation. It will take place in Heaven and will include the archangel Michael leading the army of God against Satan and his fallen angels.

As a result of this struggle, Satan and his minions will forever be barred from Heaven. They have access to it today: Rev. 12:10; Job 1:6; 2:1. Little wonder the second half of the Tribulation will so much worse than the first; Satan and many of the demons will be given free reign on Earth.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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