As I mentioned briefly in part one of this series, there has been at least four end times views on the Book of Revelation held by Christians throughout the centuries. It has never been my intent with this writing to cause any unnecessary confusion. For those just beginning to become familiar with the Book of Revelation, nor those more experienced in deciphering this apocalyptic writing. This book, of course, is difficult enough without me adding to the mix. I’m sure those who fully and totally accept the Dispensationalism distinctive are likely not pleased about me challenging their sacred cow. It is up to you, as a Berean, to determine which position best supports the correct biblical eschatological framework. What is Eschatology? It is the doctrine of the last things or also known as end times.
My preference leans towards the Partial Preterist approach, because it provides the most compelling arguments for understanding apocalyptic writing taken from a New Testament writer’s vantage point. We will not review this approach in this writing. However, it is good for you to know that there are at least four or five end times or last things scenarios held within the Christian community. The four eschatological approaches are: Dispensationalism, Spiritual, Historicist and Full Preterist. Each are worth taking time to personally look into, since time and space not permit me to expound on them in this short study. I only mentioned Partial Preterist briefly here, because unlike Full Preterist position, which believes all biblical prophecies were completed in the first century and ended with the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D. They also deny the physical return of Jesus Christ to Earth, although Jesus explicitly told His disciples on several occasions He would return again [see John 14:3; Acts 1:11]. This cannot be considered a viable position. Therefore, I cannot accept the Full Preterist distinctive. Each of the four end times views were held by godly men and women in the early Christian Church and up to the present.
However, the primary focus of this discourse will be to investigate, microscopically, the major themes of Dispensationalism. Why? Because these end times distinctives are still held and affirmed by most, if not all, evangelical Christians today. And although each of the four eschatological approaches have their own individual difficulties, which also deserve personal attention and evaluation, the purpose of this writing is to look more closely into the many theological difficulties that surround and overwhelm Dispensationalism theology.
Dispensationalism holds to a future seven-year great tribulation period, which they claim represents the prophetic vision received by the prophet Daniel. Myself, like Dispensationalist, I believe are seeking to understand to the best of their knowledge the correct and proper interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Of course, we cannot fault them for that. That is why we are evaluating some writings of the prophecy experts, based on their understanding of biblical prophecy, which promotes a future seven-year great tribulation period. The chart below provides a (70 x 7 weeks of years) breakdown of Dispensationalism, the famed 490-year scenario, based on the Book of Daniel, chapter 9:24-27. The two charts below provide only a general description where each of the four eschatological approaches may be found. You can decide which eschatological position you hold.
Chart 2 (open link) Daniel 9:24-27 from Dispensationalism perspective
According to The KJV Prophecy Marked Reference Study Bible states, the seventieth “week” of Daniel’s prophecy has yet to be fulfilled. When Israel rejected Jesus Christ as their promised Messiah at the conclusion of Daniel’s sixty-ninth week, God’s prophetic clock for Israel stopped ticking. As a consequence of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah, God postponed Israel’s prophesied kingdom for almost two thousand years…The seventieth will begin when the antichrist signs a seven-year treaty, or covenant, with Israel (9:27)…After three and a half years, the antichrist will break his treaty with Israel, halt the daily sacrifices in the rebuilt temple and defile the Holy of Holies, claiming his own divinity. This defilement of the temple is referred to as “the abomination of desolation” (Mark 13:14).” Italics and underlines mine, added for emphasis
The main challenge to Dispensationalism theology, is that they are grabbing a position out of thin air – imposing a seven-year tribulation period onto the text. This is usually based on a few misleading interpretations of passages, which can easily be misunderstood. This has led to a many erroneously held end times beliefs, and accordingly has proven to be false each time. Here are just a few of the texts frequently used to promote, wrongfully, Dispensationalism theology.
Daniel 9:27 “And he will confirm a covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering…” Future
Jeremiah 30:7 “Woe, for that day is great, there is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress, yet he will be saved from it.” Future
Matthew 24:15 “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place – let the reader understand…” Future
II Thessalonians 2:3-8 “No one is to deceive you in any way! For it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposed and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God..For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is removed. Then that lawless one will be revealed…” Future
Romans 11:25-27 “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn ungodliness for Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” Future
However, after closer examination and using proper hermeneutical rules, one wonders how it is even conceivable that anyone could actually support a seven-year end times scenario when there is not a modicum of evidence found in the literature – it must be imposed onto the text. The significance of this fact, is illustrated in the words of Jesus Christ, the angelic messenger sent to John, and the Apostle John himself. Not one iota of ink was used in this letter indicate a seven-year tribulation period. Jesus who authored this great apocalyptic literature and John who wrote it, remain fiercely silent about a seven-year tribulation period. Therefore, the future seven-year period must be a figment of one’s imagination. It is therefore necessary for Dispensationalist to imposed this distinctive on John’s letter. I understand that my comments appear to be somewhat harsh. It is common for me to speak directly on issues, which some may take offense, but the words I speak here are true.
However, if a seven-year tribulation period, is the proper interpretation, and the Bible actually teaches it, then as a follower of Jesus Christ I am willing to accept it. It is for this reason I am presenting this study (whatever the correct end-times scenario is), I will obey. The most important factor is, that we remain brothers and sisters in Christ despite our differences. We must continue to pursue Christ’s ultimate command to “love for one another.” Someone once said and I agree no matter what view we hold, “It will all pan out.” And although I believe having a correct eschatology is very important, it can never be touted as a necessary hill or mountain for anyone to die on. The graph below is based on my understanding of the 490-year period (or 70 x 7 week of years) according to Daniel 9:24-27. I am convinced, based on validation from the New Testament writer’s that my chart below is a more accurate account of Daniel’s vision. What do you think?
Chart 1 (open link) Daniel 9:24-27 from the Historicist, Spiritual and Full Preterist perspective
Many of the New Testament writers identify the first century Jewish nation, the life, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as the total and complete fulfillment of Daniel 9:24-27. It should be apparent from a cursory reading of the above text that the vision given to Daniel, provides no strong evidence of a 2000-year gap/intermission that is imposed on the text (after the 483 years), but on the contrary, its fulfillment occurs within the first century.
John’s language is symbolic, a spiritualized letter, if you will, similar to the ones written by many of the ancient prophets to pronounce God’s judgment on an individual or on an entire nation [compare Isaiah 13:6-10, 13, 17-20; 34:4-6, 10; Haggai 2:20-23; Mark 13:14-19; Luke 21:20 and Revelation 11:1-2 or 13:1-18]. Then what is the main question that we must ask ourselves? Was John’s apocalyptic letter written specifically to the first century church (30-100 A.D.), or was it written to represent a future end times warning (after a two-thousand plus years intermission) for the tribulation saints? You would think with all the prophetic hoopla going on – there would be at least one mention of an end times seven-year period revealed somewhere within the pages of the Book of Revelation. But what do you hear? COMPLETE SILENCE.
Why is this significant? It would prove very peculiar. What is peculiar? The word ‘seven’ can be found at least 48 times in the Book of Revelation, yet, not once are these combined words ‘seven’ and ‘year(s)’ advertised anywhere John’s writing. As we explore the various themes introduced throughout the Book of Revelation, any astute Bible student, would quickly notice that there is an eerily silence, of the mention of these two words “seven” and “years.” Let’s review what we do find in the Book of Revelation.
1) The word ‘seven’ is often mentioned (for example, seven churches, seven seals, seven vials, seven trumpets, seven heads, etc.),
2) The word ‘year or years’ is used 7 times (examples, prepared for…year; bound a thousand years, reign with Him a thousand years, etc.),
3) The word ‘1260 days’ (examples; they will prophesy 1260 days in sackcloth; feed her 1260 days) or ‘42 months’ are used two times (examples; tread the holy city underfoot 42 months, speaking great things and blasphemies…to continue 42 months) and,
4) The phrase ‘a time, times and half a time’ is used only one time.
Dispensationalism claims the prophet Daniel’s vision in chapter 9:27 speaks of a one “week” future great tribulation period apparently covering the majority of the Book of Revelation [chapters four through twenty]. Yet, nowhere in John’s writings are found the combined words “seven years.” Strange don’t you think?
The use of ‘words and/or phrases’ to designate any period of time are found only in four chapters of Revelation: Chapters 11, 12, 13 and 20. And I repeat, not once in the entire Book of Revelation, is a combined time frame of seven-years mentioned. This is supposed to be their strong foundation, “the pillar and ground of their truth” the glue that holds Dispensationalism theology together. But, those words ‘seven years’, ‘seven times’, ‘2520 days’ and/or ‘84 months’ are conveniently missing, nor even occurs within this apocalyptic literature. This alone should be sufficient evidence to convince any serious student of the Bible, the ultimate fallacy of Dispensationalism – which teaches a future end times scenario of a seven-year great tribulation period. Being somewhat redundant, and I will continue to repeat this over and over again, just to make the point. This eschatological distinctive should begin to unravel before your very eyes, it is my hope that you will carefully reconsider your position on these matters, and come to the realization of truth.
So, how does Dispensationalism find the two words in Revelation that fit so snuggly into their seven-year great tribulation period, when it is nowhere to be found in the entire Book of Revelation? The answer is. They are forced to take it from other books of the Bible. A seemingly unusual tactic, it is a necessary ploy in order to make their end times distinctivework. And still, the meaning of these scriptures used to support their claim becomes very evasive for them. Remember, neither Jesus Christ, nor the celestial angel, nor the Apostle John thought it necessary to quote Daniel 9:27 one “week” as a proof text. Not once is this passage in Daniel mentioned anywhere in the Book of Revelation. It would have been very helpful if John could have identified and confirmed from Daniel a future one “week” or seven-year tribulation period.
What becomes also very eye opening, is that Dispensationalism, has only decided to arbitrarily combine 2 x 3½ years (equaling 7 years), while at the same time refusing to combine all the number of times 3½ years are mentioned in the Book of Revelation (five times). Referred to as either, 1260 days, 42 months, and/or a time, times, and half-a-time). Revelation 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5 equates 17½ years. Somehow, however, they prefer to create from out of thin air a seven-year period, though not found anywhere in John’s apocalyptic literature. Why, don’t they add the 5×3½ years together which equals seventeen-and-a-half years? Because that does not meet their criteria for a literal seven-year period. Solely, based on one passage found in Daniel for one “week,” these 2×3½ years, fit comfortably into their end times narrative – so they have to use it.
Again, it is this duplicity of Dispensationalism, instead of rendering the Book of Revelation symbolic, they give a literal 3½ year rendering – a ‘time, times and a half of a time’; ‘1260 days’ and/or ‘42-months’ as always indicated in Revelation. They have falsely read into John’s apocalyptic letter, based on words of Daniel 9:27 “he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week” or seven years (the first 3½ years of tribulation, and the second 3½ years of tribulation) totaling seven years. Yet, the Apostle John neither hints or even quotes this verse in his entire apocalyptic writing. Strange don’t you think? So, why would Dispensationalism create a seven-year tribulation period? Do they presume to know more than Jesus Christ, the angelic being and the Apostle John? Scripture wisely states, “Test all things, hold fast what is good.” I Thessalonians 5:21. I think we should also do the same thing as we pursue a better understanding in the Word of God. And let us continue to love one another. Amen!
For a more thorough examination of Dispensationalism you can read my 152-page PDF book Are We Really Living in the Last Days? (open link here).