“…just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” II Peter 3:15-6 NASB
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29 NASB.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” Proverbs 25:2 NASB.
“The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” Proverbs 18:17 NASB**
**Unless otherwise indicated all scriptures will be from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
Are We Really Living in the Last Days? Is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ imminent? That is the question many people are asking today. Many would, resoundingly say, yes, we are! And I agree. However, we have been living in the last days according to Scripture for almost two-thousand years. The New Testament writers provide many scriptures passages attesting to this [see Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:2; II Timothy 3:1-5]. It is my hope and prayer, just as for all true Christians – that Jesus Returns soon – even within our generation. However, for me, the greatest desire is that Jesus Christ delays His coming for at least fifty more years. Why? Because there are so many souls that need to be reached with the Gospel. Please Lord Jesus, tarry just a little bit longer, while I’m still alive I want to be used to reach as many souls as possible for Christ. So, what does it really mean when we say, We Are Living in the Last Days in relation to the Book of Revelation? It will be impossible to answer this question in this short two-part blog. You can read my more extensive writing on this topic, that will be available in part two of this issue, where I will discuss in more detail our journey through the Book of Revelation, as it relates to many of the Dispensational distinctives. The terminology you may be familiar with is, the seven-year great tribulation, or end times.
The Book of Revelation covers only twenty-two short chapters – it is a vision given to the Apostle John by a celestial being during his exile on the island of Patmos. Surprisingly, this entire book can be read by the average reader in its entirety in an about one hour or less. Yet, volume of books and a plethora of movies have been produced and watched by millions of Christians in theatres, on their smartphones creating a considerable amount of influence on the attitudes and beliefs of people regarding the last days and the return of Jesus Christ. Revelation, of course, is a book that is worth reading, it has, and it will continually mesmerize the hearts and minds of many for centuries.
So, what it is about the Book of Revelation that has given rise to a multitude of conjectures, promoted mostly by evangelicals today? I believe it correct to say, due to the misunderstanding of symbolism a prominent theme in this book, some have attempted to take John’s words literal. Symbols, have specific and purposeful meanings, but Dispensationalism is forced to make completely incomprehensible theological paradigm of end times, stretching beyond credulity. There are books, such as The Late Great Planet Earth – published in 1970, by Hal Lindsey and the 12-volume sequel called Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days publishedin 1995 by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. There are many magazines, similar end-time spin-off movies, that seem to always tickled our imagination. The pivotal point or hinge for end-time events seems to hang entirely, or very significantly, on the prophetic message given to the prophet Daniel in chapter 9:24-27. Its emphasis is predominantly based on Daniel 9:27, including the words made by Jesus Christ in Mark 13:14.
It is for this reason, apocalyptic and prophetic teaching, reading and preaching – which can be easily viewed on your television, YouTube or smartphone – is so appealing to the average person. Who doesn’t want to know what will happen in the future? The Book of Daniel, specifically chapter 9:24-27, and the Book of Revelation, are the primary sources in the Old and New Testament that seems – emphasis is on seems – to intimate a future seven-year tribulation period. This distinctive promotes the ushering in of the rapture of the Church, followed by the wrath of God upon mankind. This is taught predominantly within Evangelical, Pentecostal, and even some Roman Catholic Christian communities throughout America. However, must people are not aware that this is a recently formulated theological paradigm, introduced almost two-hundred years ago, by John Nelson Darby, of which we will briefly look at later.
Over the years, after studying and reading through the entire Bible, almost twenty-one times, has caused me to begin questioning my previously long held theological and eschatological views. All my life, growing up in the church, like many others, I was persuasively taught that Dispensationalism was a biblically verified end times event – and it was the only correct view supported by Scripture. But slowly and surely, after reviewing this position more closely I began to gradually change my position.
You may not be familiar with the word, Dispensationalism, but you may be familiar with its generaldistinctives. They are commonly understood in this order. If you hold to the majority of these 10-points below, then you would be identified as a Dispensationalist/Futurist, depending on your Pre-tribulation; Mid-tribulation or Post-tribulation position. This position is held by most Evangelical Christians, with very few exceptions, which are as follows:
1) The Rapture of the Church (A future event, where all true born-again Christians, ‘in a twinkling of an eye’ are taken into heaven to be with the Lord);
2) The seven-year great tribulation period ensues; consisting of (2) two-three-and-a-half-year periods;
3) The Jewish Temple is rebuilt during this seven-year time period.
4) The first 3½ years of these seven years: the Jewish priesthood is reestablished, animal sacrifices conducted according to the Mosaic law – as the necessary covenant fulfillment made by God to the Jewish nation,
5) The last 3½ of these seven years: the Antichrist breaks his seven-year agreement with the Jews, takes over the Jewish Temple and demands the world worship him as god;
6) At the end of the seven-year tribulation, Jesus returns and destroys all Israel’s enemies;
7) Jesus binds Satan for one-thousand years, ushering in peace on earth;
8) Jesus sets up His 1000-year kingdom rule on Earth;
9) Satan is released after 1000 years, his world armies gather against God’s children facilitating the war of all wars – the War of Armageddon, until Satan’s final defeat;
10) God destroyed the Satan and his hordes. Sin is finally conquered forever and the Everlasting Kingdom of God and the Lamb are established throughout the Earth, which endures forever and ever.
Like most Christians, not only was I taught Dispensationalism as the Gospel truth, but I also defended and taught it myself. Why? Because that was all I ever knew or heard of from pastors and teachers. It all seemed to make sense to me, and it seemed to have overwhelming biblical support, so I thought. It was about 10-12 years ago, that I started asking serious questions regarding my understanding of the current teachings on end-time events. That is when it became more and more clear to me that this distinctive was incorrect. I will be the first to admit, that my knowledge is still limited on fully understanding and interpreting the Book of Revelation. There are still things in this book difficult for me to understand. I am only sharing my thoughts with those who are willing to consider another possible interpretation, a different perspective on Revelation.
I need to make this absolutely clear! I will always consider Dispensationalist as my Christian brothers and sisters, lest anyone becomes somewhat sensitive about my antics. I am only using courtroom lingo in a “tongue and cheek” manner during this discourse to keep our discussion interesting. So, as the Prosecuting Attorney, during this trial, I will attempt to challenge Dispensationalism’s position. I will attempt to present to you qualified expert testimony, forensic analysis, eye witness accounts, illustrations, diagrams, graphs and evidentiary resources that should demonstrate to any reasonable juror, that is YOU. The overwhelming evidence that I provide will be “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Dispensationalism cannot be true.
I have always been one that has enjoyed a good, honest and respectable debate with anyone over the Word of God, especially as it relates to doctrinal, moral, social and political issues. Why? Because Christians “are the light of the world’ so the truth can only be rightly discovered when those who have that light are willing to shine their light to foil the works of the enemy. Whenever there is darkness, only the light of heaven can expel it. As you may well know, it is a true fact that, “iron sharpens iron.” However, due to a grave misunderstanding by the present-day Church regarding some comments made by the Apostle Paul, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” found in I Corinthians 14:33. This has been used by Christians today to avoid any type of public confrontation, even as it relates to moral issues in society. However, we are called to boldly stand and defend the truth without fear or excuse. So, although this verse speaks mainly to the various divisions found within the early church, this verse is specifically concerning the misuse of spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church.
Although it is generally true, believers should never seek intentionally to cause or promote unnecessary conflict and confusion within or without the church, Paul’s objective here is to confront the Corinthian church on its abusive use of Spiritual Gifts. Some Christians misunderstanding this, applying it to almost everything and it has caused significant harm, along with many other unsubstantiated doctrinal distinctives. This is another reason, I believe, the church has been rendered irrelevant in the American culture over the last seven decades. Our preference as a Christian Church, seems to consistently and desperately desire to appease the culture, while at the same time offending our loving, and merciful God. Will this ever change? UNLIKELY! It will take a genuine REVIVAL in America before our current situation changes regarding the American Christian Church.
It is my hope that the church will wake up from its slumber and promote vigorous, respectable, thought-provoking dialogue in the church, and especially with the general public at large. Doing so will help Christians learn how to appropriately defend the faith, which should be based on thoughtful persuasion, sound reasoning and objective reality. It is also possible that some of our theological and eschatological views may change – we shall see. Of course, I believe in the end times – there are at least four end times approaches – which we will review shortly but very briefly. These differences should never create division amongst Christians. However, this issue must be taken as a serious matter of discussion because it is a prevalent theme today. We must always endeavor to learn from the issues that seriously affect us and exposes the weakness of the church. Especially in our current times, we must graciously, yet, vigorously defend the truth.
Next month we will be completing our part-two series Are We Really Living in the Last Days? challenging the distinct differences between this eschatological view held by the majority of Evangelical and/or Charismatic Denominations in America. A future seven-year great tribulation period, is not the only position, there are four other possible approaches that should be considered. I am convinced that the symbolic messages noted in the Book of Revelation occurred within the first century of the Christian Era.