A FEW FACTS ON THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM

the-millennium

1 PREMILLENNIALISM IN THE EARLY CHURCH

Most of the earliest Church Fathers believed in a literal kingdom on earth which would follow the return of Christ. Philip Schaff, an amillennialist historian admitted:

“The most striking point in the eschatology of the Ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm, or millennarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius; while Caius, Origin, Dionysius the Great, Eusebius (as afterwards Jerome and Augustine) opposed it…. It distinguishes, moreover, two resurrections, one before and another after the Millennium, and makes the millennial reign of Christ only a prelude to his eternal reign in heaven, from which it is separated by a short interregnum of Satan.” – Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church 2.XII.158.

2 WHY A MILLENNIAL KINGDOM?

Old Testament and New Testament promises require it.

Scripture contains many prophetic passages which include promises which require an earthly kingdom for their fulfillment (e.g., Mat. 19:28). Without a future earthly kingdom, huge portions of the Old estament must be spiritualized into meaningless generalities.

Biblical covenants require it.

Four unconditional covenants were made with Israel: the Abrahamic, Land, Davidic, and New covenants. Elements of each of these covenants remain unfulfilled and require a future earthly kingdom to bring them to pass. For example, Israel must occupy the Promised Land in peace, never to be removed again (Amos 9:1415).

Passages which don’t fit now or the eternal state.

The Old Testament contains numerous passages which cannot find fulfillment in the present state nor the eternal state. They describe a time of great blessing which is far beyond our current experience, but which includes birth, sin, death (Isa. 65:20), and the sea none of which are found in the eternal state (Rev. 21:1, 4).

To demonstrate righteous rule in the original creation.

With Jesus ruling from the throne of David on earth, the world will see what life should have been in the original created order which was “very good.”

3 MILLENNIAL PASSAGES

Identifying Millennial Passages

In many cases, Millennial passages can be readily identified because they describe an incredible time of blessing and promise, but they contain elements which are abolished in the eternal state. Watch carefully for passages which sound like “heaven on earth,” but which include mention of sin, death, rebellion, judgment, a Temple, or the sea. None of these occurs in the eternal state and provide indicators that a millennial passage may be in view. Also look for the transition between the Tribulation (or Day of the Lord) with great judgment and bloodshed, followed by promises of restoration.

Key Millennial Passages

Although there are many millennial passages, some of the most prominent include: Ps. 72:1-20; Isa. 2:2-5; Isa. 11:1-10; Isa. 66:19-24; Eze. 37:21-28; Eze. 47:1-12; Zep. 3:8-12; Mic. 4:1-13; Zec. 14:8-11, 16-21; Mat. 19:28; Luke 22:28-30; Acts 1:6-7; Rev. 20:46.

4 BIRTH AND DEATH IN THE MILLENNIUM

Raptured and Resurrected Saints

Raptured and resurrected saints participate in the Millennial Kingdom, but they do not contribute to the growth in population because they have glorified bodies (Mark 12:25).

Living Saints Survive the Tribulation

Isaiah indicates children will be born and people will die at a great age (Isa. 65:20). Who bears these children? They are from the faithful who remain alive on earth at the Second Coming. This includes the believing Jewish remnant, many who were kept safe (Rev. 12:6) and other Jews and Gentiles which managed to survive. They enter the kingdom from the “sheep and goat judgment” (Mat. 25:3134).

No Post-tribulation Rapture

This precludes a posttribulational rapture. If all the believers are taken in the Rapture at Christ’s return and then immediately return to earth, there are no believers left in their natural bodies to form the initial birthing population of the Millennial Kingdom.

5 CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM

Duration

One thousand years. (Rev. 20:25)

Theocratic Rule

God will rule in the person of Jesus Christ on the throne of David. King David reigns as a prince under Christ. (2Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:20-37; Isa. 24:23; Jer. 30:9; 33:15-17; Eze. 34:23-24; 37:24-25; 45:22; Dan. 7:13-14; Hos. 3:5; Luke 1:30-33)

Representative Rule

The twelve apostles will represent Christ ruling over the twelve tribes. Church age and Tribulation saints will represent Christ ruling over the Gentiles. (Isa. 32:1; Dan. 7:17-18, 21-22, 27; Mat. 19:28; Luke 22:30; Rev. 3:21; 5:10)

Universal Rule

Christ’s rule will extend both spiritually and literally over the entire earth. (Ps. 2:69; 72:8; Dan. 2:44; 4:34; 7:14, 27; Mic. 4:12; Zec. 9:10)

Seat of Government

The earthly Jerusalem will be restored, blessed, and greatly expanded to serve as the seat of government and worship. (Isa. 62; Isa. 65:18-19; Eze 48:15-19; Luke 21:24; Rev. 11:2)

Global Environment

The heavens and earth will be renewed to restore the environment to Eden-like conditions and repair the damage from man’s long reign of abuse and the judgments of the Tribulation period. (Isa. 65:17; Mat. 19:28)

Populace

Resurrected and glorified saints will rule in the midst of Christ’s “brothers” (the faithful Jewish remnant), and the “sheep” (faithful Gentiles) who survive the Tribulation and enter the kingdom to form its initial population. Children will be born to those who enter the kingdom in their natural bodies. (Dan. 12:2; Isa. 26:19; 65:20, 23; Mat. 25:31; Rev. 20:4)

The Curse

Many aspects of the curse (Gen. 3:1519) will be reversed. People will live to a great age, but death will still occur. As before the flood, animals will revert to vegetarianism and will no longer fear man. Living waters will flow from beneath the Sanctuary of the Temple bringing life to the regions they water. (Isa. 11:6-9; 65:20, 25; Eze. 47:8-12; Zec. 8:4; 14:8 (cf. Rev. 21:12)

Productivity

The earth will be fruitful and men will enjoy the fruit of their labors. (Ps. 67:6-7; 72:16; Isa. 35:1; 55:13; 65:22; Joel 2:24-26; 3:18; Amos 9:13-14)

Mt. Zion

The region of Mt. Zion will be lifted up to form the Mountain of the Lord’s House (where the Millennial Temple will be). (Isa. 2:2; 56:7; Eze. 20:40; 40:2; Zec. 14:4, 10-11; Mic. 4:1)

Israel

Israel will finally inhabit the Promised Land permanently and in peace. She will serve as the focal point of the nations because Jesus will reign from Jerusalem. (Gen. 13:15; 17:8; 1Chr.17:9; Ps. 105:8-11; Isa. 60:21; Jer. 3:18; 7:7; 30:3; 31:8-9; Eze. 37:25; 39:25-29; Amos 9:11-15)

Peace

All implements of war will be destroyed in favor of implements of productivity. Nations will no longer go to war. Disagreements between nations will be judged by Christ from Jerusalem. (Ps. 72:37; Isa. 2:5; 9:7; Eze. 37:26; Mic. 4:3)

Worship

A temple will stand in Jerusalem and all the nations will go up to Jerusalem to the Feast of Tabernacles. Sacrificial offerings will be resumed. (Isa. 2:3; 56:6-7; 60:20-23; Eze. 43:20, 26; 45:15, 17, 20; Jer. 33:18; Dan. 9:24;

Joel 3:18; Hab 2:7-9; Zec. 6:12-15; 8:20-23; 14:16-21; Mal. 3:35)

Demonic Realm

Satan will be bound in the abyss and demons will be imprisoned in the regions of Babylon, Edom, and possibly the abyss. (Isa. 34:8-17; Rev. 18:2; 20:3)

Language

The curse of Babel (Gen. 11:7), which introduced varied languages will be reversed. All the earth will have one language. (Zep. 3:8-12)

(Source: Tony Garland – Spirit & Truth)

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MODERN PROPHETS AND BIBLICAL PROPHETS

prophets1

In these modern days, many people love to add the title of Prophet to their names. Towards the end of the Jesus’ earthly ministry, His disciples came to Him with several questions concerning the future: “Tell us … what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Jesus responded: “Take heed that no man deceive you.”

It is it is our duty as watchmen and watchwomen on the tower, to warn Church members to beware of false prophets and false teachers who lie in wait to deceive and to ensnare and destroy faith and testimony.

How could the people in biblical times tell the difference between a genuine prophet of God and a fraud? The mere claim that someone had the prophetic gift certainly did not make it so. How would the people know which person spoke for God and who did not? What were they to do?

The Lord made provisions for this problem. The Bible lists certain tests for a genuine prophet of God. Moses recorded God as saying:

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death. You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?”

If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18.18-22 NIV).

There are a number of things we can learn from what the Lord has said about who had the prophetic gift and who did not.

  1. They Were To Speak In The Name Of The Lord

From this passage, we observe that a prophet of God must speak in the name of the Lord. The prophet shall not encourage the people to follow after false gods.

No matter how correct a prophet may seem to be, if he, or she, does not encourage people to follow the Lord, the God of Israel, then that person cannot be considered a prophet of God. Merely getting some future events correct is not enough to be considered a genuine prophet of God.

This is primary.

  1. They Were 100% Right 100% Of The Time

Another characteristic of Bible prophecy is that the biblical prophet must be 100% right 100% of the time. If a prophet is representing the Lord, then their predictions will always be without error.

As soon as a so-called prophet makes one mistake, then that person is no longer able to be called a prophet of the true and living God. God’s prophets did not make mistakes! The prophet Habakkuk wrote:

“The LORD answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it testifies about the end and will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly come and not be late” (Habakkuk 2:2-3 CSB).

The words of the Lord, through the prophets, will indeed truly come to pass, and they will not be late! Indeed, when the Lord predicts the future what He says always comes to pass.

  1. They Had To Give Evidence Of Authenticity Of Their Gift In Their Lifetime

A practical question arises. How would the people know if a particular prophet was sent by God? Anyone could claim to have the prophetic gift.

What if someone claimed to be God’s prophet, yet predicted events that would not be fulfilled for hundreds of years? How could the identity of the prophet be established?

God provided a simple method so that the people would know if this person was actually speaking for the Lord. Their authenticity, as a genuine prophet, would be demonstrated by making a specific prediction of something locally that would happen in their own lifetime.

In other words, before that person could be received as God’s prophet to the people, they had to give supernatural evidence of their calling. This would be evidence which everyone could weigh and evaluate.

An Example: The Local Prediction Of Isaiah

For example, Isaiah the prophet spoke to King Hezekiah about the possible attack of the Assyrian army. He made the following prediction:

“Therefore, this is what the LORD says about the king of Assyria: He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or build up an assault ramp against it” (Isaiah 37:33 CSB).

The prophecy was clear. Although the city of Jerusalem was surrounded by the Assyrian army, there would be no destruction whatsoever.

Furthermore, there would not even be one arrow shot into the city by the enemy. This specific prophecy was literally fulfilled. The Bible says:

“Then the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. When the people got up the [next] morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and left. He returned [home] and lived in Nineveh” (Isaiah 37:36-37 CSB).

Therefore, we have an immediate fulfilment in the lifetime of the prophet Isaiah that demonstrated he was speaking for God. His words came to pass exactly as he said that they would.

The same test held true for other biblical prophets. They had to make a specific, local prediction which would be literally fulfilled in their lifetime before they could be considered as one of God’s true prophets.

Consequently, the people of God would never have to wonder who was truly speaking for Him. A genuine prophet would always be right, would encourage the people to follow the Lord, would command them not to follow other gods, and would accurately predict some event in their own lifetime. Those who passed all of these tests would qualify as a true prophet of God.

The Prophet Could Not Play Any Part In The Fulfilment Of His Or Her Prediction

We should also emphasize that those men and women who gave the divinely-inspired prophecies, the biblical prophets, could not play any part in their fulfilment.

In other words, the predictions they made had to be completely fulfilled apart from anything that they said or did. Consequently, the genuine prophet of God could have absolutely nothing to do with the precise fulfilment of their predictions. This had to be the work of the Lord and of Him alone.

This sums up the tests that the biblical prophets had to pass.

Summary To The Question: What Are The Biblical Tests For A Prophet?

While many people in the ancient world rose up and claimed to be prophets of God, the Lord provided a way in which their claims could be tested.

Indeed, there were a number of tests the Scripture gave to identify a genuine prophet of God. These tests made it clear who was speaking for the Lord and who was not speaking for Him. We can summarize them in the following manner:

According to the Lord, a true prophet of the living God would always be correct in everything that he or she predicts. They could not make any mistakes when making predictions of the future in the name of the Lord.

If they made a mistake, then they could not be speaking for Him, for God does not make mistakes. This test must be passed.

In addition, the biblical prophet must encourage the people to follow after the Lord. This is crucial. It is not enough for the prophet to correctly speak of “things to come.” The prophet must also urge the population to serve the God of Scripture. Otherwise, he or she could not be considered as a genuine prophet.

(Main Source: Don Stewart – God Wants Us To Know The Future)

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JOHN WALVOORD’S COMMENTARY ON REVELATION 12

Woman-Pregnant

THE CONFLICT IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH

Revelation 12 is a parenthetical section of the book of Revelation, which actually only ends at 14:20. Within this section seven primary characters are introduced: (1) the woman, representing Israel, (2) the dragon, representing Satan, (3) a male child, referring to Christ, (4) Michael, representing the angels, (5) Israel, the remnant of the woman’s seed, (6) the beast out of the sea, the world dictator, and (7) the beast out of the earth, the false prophet and religious leader of the world. Around these main characters swirls the tremendously moving scene of the great tribulation. Chapter 12 is the most symbolic chapter in the Bible’s most symbolic book.

THE WOMAN CLOTHED WITH THE SUN: ISRAEL (12:1–2)

12:1–2 “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.”

The first of the seven personages to be introduced in this section is the woman who is described as a great sign in heaven, clearly indicated to be someone of regal splendor. The word “sign” signifies a symbol of important truth rather than merely a wonder. Subsequently, six other signs are mentioned (12:3; 13:13–14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20). This sign in verse 1 is distinguished by being called “great.” Though the sign is seen in heaven, it apparently portrays a reality on the earth, for the woman pictured is afterward persecuted by Satan in the great tribulation. The woman is pregnant and due to give birth to a son.

Many explanations have been offered for the identity of this woman.

She does not represent Christ, nor the church in general because the church did not give birth to Christ. On the contrary, Christ gave birth to the church. Since the woman’s child is obviously Christ, some have suggested this is Mary—an implausible identification given that this woman is persecuted in the last half of the tribulation. The Roman Catholic Church insists this is Mary, but the church also teaches that Mary gave birth to Christ without pain, a teaching that is contradicted by Revelation 12.

Rather, the woman is Israel as the matrix from which Christ came. By contrast, other representative women mentioned in Revelation are Jezebel (2:20), representative of false religion as a system; the harlot (17:1–7, 15–18), the apostate church of the future; and the bride, the Lamb’s wife (19:7), the church joined to Christ in glory.

The identification of the woman of Revelation 12 as Israel is consistent with Old Testament teaching. There Israel is frequently presented as the wife of Yahweh, often in her character as being unfaithful to her husband (cf. Hosea’s prophecy). Here is the godly remnant of Israel standing true to God in the time of the great tribulation.

The regal description of the woman is an allusion to Genesis 37:9–11, where these heavenly bodies represent Jacob and Rachel, thereby identifying the woman with the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.

In the same context, the stars represent the patriarchs, the sons of Jacob. The symbolism may extend beyond this to represent in some sense the glory of Israel and her ultimate triumph over her enemies. This identification of the woman as Israel also seems to be supported by the evidence from this chapter. Israel is obviously the source from which have come many of the blessings of God, including the Bible, Christ, and the apostles. According to Isaiah 9:6, Israel is the source of the Messiah.

As noted above, the persecution of the woman coincides with the persecution of Israel. The woman as the nation of Israel is seen in the pain of childbirth, awaiting delivery of her child. Frequently in Scripture, Israel is pictured in the tribulation time as going through great trial and affliction. Though historically the nation gave birth to Christ through the Virgin Mary, the implication of verse 2 is that the references are to the sufferings of Israel as a nation rather than to the historic birth of Christ. It may refer to the sufferings of the nation in general over its entire history. If strictly interpreted, it may signify the pain of Israel at the time of the first coming of Christ as borne out by verses 3 and 4.

THE GREAT RED DRAGON: SATAN (12:3–4)

12:3–4 “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.”

The second sign appearing in heaven is a great dragon. From the similar description given in 13:1 and the parallel reference in Daniel 7:7–8, 24, it is clear that the revived Roman Empire is in view. Satan, however, is also called the dragon later in 12:9, and it is clear that the dragon is both the empire and the representation of satanic power. The color red may indicate his murderous characteristics (cf. John 8:44).

The seven heads and ten horns refer to the original ten kingdoms of Daniel 7:7–8, of which three were subdued by the little horn who is to be identified with the world ruler of the great tribulation who reigns over the revived Roman Empire.

The tail of the dragon is declared to draw a third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. This seems to refer to the gathering under his power of those who oppose him politically, and also involves his temporary subjugation of a large portion of the earth.

The dragon is seen awaiting the birth of the child with the intent to destroy it as soon as it is born. The allusion here is unmistakably to the circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ in Bethlehem (the dragon referring to the Roman Empire at that time as dominated by Satan) and the attempts of Herod to destroy the baby Jesus (cf. Matt 2:13–15). It is significant that Herod as an Edomite was a descendant of Esau and of the people who were the traditional enemies of Jacob and his descendants. Whether motivated by his family antipathy to the Jews or by political consideration because he did not want competition in his office as king, Herod nevertheless fulfilled historically this reference to the destruction of children in Bethlehem.

THE CHILD: CHRIST (12:5–6)

12:5–6 “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.”

The woman identified as Israel gives birth to a child who is destined to rule all nations with an iron rod (a reference to the Messiah from Ps. 2:9), but who for the time being is caught up to God’s throne. A similar expression is found in Revelation 19:15, where it is stated of Christ, “He will rule them with a rod of iron,” to be distinguished from His rule over Israel, which is of more benevolent character (cf. Luke 1:32–33).

While many Bible expositors have agreed that the woman is Israel, there has been considerable difference of opinion on the identity of the child. Some have argued that this is the New Testament church destined to reign with Christ and that the act of being caught up to God is the rapture. But the church is not the “child” of Israel, nor is the church’s mission to rule the nations. In addition, the child is clearly identified as a male, while the church is referred to in the feminine as the bride of Christ (cf. Rev. 19:6–8).

Though the pregnant woman is to be identified with Israel collectively rather than with the Virgin Mary specifically, the interpretation that the child is Christ Himself is far preferable. His catching up to God and to His throne seems to represent His ascension. An alternative view is that the “catching up” refers to the flight to Egypt after Jesus’ birth to protect Him from Herod (cf. Matt. 2:13–15). But that incident does not satisfy the conditions of Revelation 12:5, where the catching up is to the throne of God in heaven.

The Greek verb for “caught up” in verse 5 is a form of the word harpazō. This word is sometimes used to mean “to seize” or “to catch up,” as a wild beast would its prey, as in John 10:12 where the wolf “snatches them and scatters them.” The same word is used for the rapture of the church in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 where the church is caught up to heaven, and is likewise used of Paul being caught up to paradise (2 Cor. 12:2, 4), and of the Spirit of God catching up Philip (Acts 8:39).

If the identification of the twenty-four elders is properly to be regarded as the church in heaven, it would seem to mix metaphors to have the church represented as a male child, especially when the church is regarded in chapter 19 as the wife and bride. There is no good reason for not identifying the man-child as Christ and interpreting the drama of verse 5 as describing His ascension, as noted above. The fact that He is caught up not only to God but to “his throne” is another indication that Christ is intended.

In verse 6, the attention is directed back to the child’s mother, Israel. Here she is seen in the time of great tribulation fleeing into the wilderness to a place prepared by God where for 1,260 days she is cared for (again, the exact length of three-and-a-half years). There is obviously a tremendous time lapse between verses 5 and 6, but this is not an uncommon occurrence in prophecy; the first and second comings of Christ are frequently spoken of in the same sentence. Since Israel is comparatively tranquil and safe in the first three-and-a-half years of Daniel’s seventieth week (Dan. 9:27), the reference must be to the preservation of a portion of the nation Israel through the great tribulation to await the second coming of Christ.

SATAN CAST OUT OF HEAVEN BY MICHAEL (12:7–9)

12:7–9 “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”

Though the conflict of the end of the age is primarily on earth, there will also be war in heaven. Michael and his angels (that is, the holy angels) fight against Satan and the evil angels associated with him, with the result that Satan and his hordes are thrown out of heaven. The description of Satan in verse 9 is significant as all of his important titles are given: “the dragon,” a term that also applies to the empire that he dominates in the end time; “that ancient serpent,” a reference to the Garden of Eden and the temptation of Eve; “devil,” which means “defamer” or “slanderer,” the master accuser of believers; and Satan, meaning “adversary.” This name is mentioned fourteen times in the book of Job, and occasionally elsewhere (1 Chron. 21:1; Ps. 109:6; Zech. 3:1–2). Given Satan’s all-out opposition to God, it is fitting that the Greek construction of verse 7 indicates that the dragon will start this war.

The concept that there is a spiritual warfare in the very presence of God in heaven has been resisted by some expositors, preferring to regard this war as being fought in the atmospheric or the starry heaven rather than in the very presence of God. The event here prophesied was predicted by Daniel the prophet in Daniel 12:1, where it is recorded that Michael shall “arise” as the one “who has charge of your people.” This event marks the beginning of the great tribulation described in Daniel 12:1. It is undoubtedly the same event as in Revelation 12.

It may seem strange to some that Satan should have access to the very throne of God. Yet this is precisely the picture of Job 1, where Satan along with other angels presents himself before God and accuses Job of fearing God because of God’s goodness to him. Thus early in biblical revelation, Satan is cast in the role of “the accuser of our brothers,” the title given him in Revelation 12:10.

From this point in Revelation, therefore, Satan and his hosts are excluded from the third heaven, the presence of God, although their temporary dominion over the second heaven (outer space) and the first heaven (the sky) continues. Satan’s defeat in heaven, however, is the occasion for him to be cast down to earth and explains the particular virulence of the great tribulation time. Note that even as Satan accuses believers before God day and night prior to his being thrown out of heaven, so the four living creatures of 4:8 do not stop day or night to ascribe holiness to the Lord.

This is another place where we must let the words and events of Scripture speak for themselves and take them at their face value unless compelled to do otherwise. Satan, the deceiver of the whole world (literally, “the inhabited earth”), is now limited in the sphere of his operation. A major step is taken in his ultimate defeat. Believers in this present dispensation, who are now the objects of satanic attack and misrepresentation, can rest assured of the ultimate downfall of Satan and the end of his ability to afflict the people of God. Though the events of this chapter deal in general with the end of the age, it is clear that they do not come chronologically after the seventh trumpet. Rather, the fall of Satan may be predated to the time of the seals in chapter 6, or even before the first seal. His fall begins the great tribulation.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF SATAN’S WRATH AND THE SAINTS’ ULTIMATE VICTORY (12:10–12)

12:10–12 “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

The loud voice making this important announcement is not identified and probably cannot be with certainty. Some have ascribed this voice to God Himself, others to the angels, the twenty-four elders, or the martyred saints in heaven mentioned in 6:10, because they also cry with a loud voice. Support for the latter view is given in that in the same verse the loud voice mentions “the accuser of our brothers.” This would seem to eliminate angels and indicate believers in heaven. The “loud voice” may very well be the shout of triumph of the tribulation saints longing for and anticipating their ultimate victory.

The salvation mentioned here is not salvation from the guilt of sin but salvation in the sense of deliverance and completion of the divine program. The reference to strength implies that now God is going to strengthen His own and manifest His own power. The kingdom being announced is the millennial kingdom when Christ will reign on the earth. Coupled with this is the power or authority of Christ. The expression “his Christ,” also used in 11:15, parallels “his anointed” in Psalm 2:2, a reference to God’s Messiah against whom the kings of the earth rebel but under whose authority they are certain to come.

The victory of the saints in that hour is revealed in verse 11 through the use of three strong spiritual weapons. Satan’s accusations are nullified by the blood of the Lamb that renders the believer pure and makes possible his spiritual victory. The word of the believers’ testimony opposes the deceiving work of Satan in that the preaching of the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The believers also exhibit total commitment to their task in which many of them die as martyrs. The word for “loved” is a form of the familiar Greek word agapē, which describes the love of God. Though these believers do not foolishly seek a martyr’s death, they do not regard their lives as more precious than their witness for Christ. They follow the instruction given to the church in Smyrna (2:10) of being faithful unto death, as well as the example of the Savior, who laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15; cf.  Matt. 16:25).

The voice from heaven continues, exhorting those in the heavens to rejoice because of this great victory. At the same time, the voice pronounces a solemn woe upon the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea. The awfulness of the hour ahead is attributed to the fact that the devil has been thrown down to earth and is about to unleash his wrath on the earth’s inhabitants.

The short time Satan has, refers to the great tribulation after which he will be bound for the duration of the millennial kingdom. Though many of the judgments of God inflicted on the earth during the great tribulation originate in divine power rather than satanic influence, the afflictions of the inhabitants of the earth spring largely from the activities of Satan, resulting in the martyrdom of countless saints and in widespread human suffering of every kind.

THE PERSECUTION OF ISRAEL IN THE GREAT TRIBULATION (12:13–16)

12:13–16 “And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.”

Satan immediately turns his anger toward Israel. This apparently is the beginning of the great tribulation of which Christ warned Israel in Matthew 24:15–22. This had its foreshadowing in Herod’s slaughter of the infants following the birth of Christ (Matt. 2:16). It seems here to refer specifically to the great tribulation that is yet future. The persecution of Israel is a part of the satanic program to thwart and hinder the work of God. As far as Israel is concerned, this had its beginning in the miraculous intervention of God required to bring about the birth of Isaac and fulfill this portion of the promise to Abraham.

Satan used other means thereafter to persecute the descendants of Jacob, including the effort in the time of Esther to blot them out completely.

Israel is hated by Satan not because of any of its own characteristics, but because she is the chosen of God and essential to the overall purpose of God for time and eternity.

The divine intervention of God thwarts this attempt at satanic persecution. The figure of the “two wings of the great eagle” seems to be derived from Exodus 19:4, Deuteronomy 32:11–12, and similar passages where God uses the strength of an eagle to illustrate His faithfulness in caring for Israel. The same flight is indicated in Matthew 24:16, where Christ warns those in Judea to flee to the mountains.

Some have felt that the reference here is to some specific place such as the rock city of Petra, in the southern part of modern Jordan, as the end-time city of refuge for the Jewish people where at least a portion of Israel might be safe from her persecutors. Fruchtenbaum makes a strong case for Petra, pointing to clues in Matthew 24:16; Revelation 12:6, 14; Isaiah 33:13–16; Micah 2:12; and Daniel 11:41. Benware links this time of tribulation with Jesus’ judgment of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25, which relates to the Gentiles’ treatment of Israel as the nation undergoes this persecution.

Verse 14 implies that there is some supernatural care of Israel during this period such as that which Elijah experienced by the brook Cherith (cf. 1 Kings 17:5), or that which Israel experienced during the forty years she lived on the manna in the wilderness. Whether natural or supernatural means are used, it is clear that God does preserve a godly remnant, though according to Zechariah 13:8, two-thirds of Israel in the land will perish.

The time element of Israel’s suffering is described as “a time, and times, and half a time.” This again seems to be a reference to the three-and-a-half years of tribulation. A parallel reference is found in Daniel 7:25 and 12:7 referring to the same period of great tribulation. The dragon is here called a serpent (cf. Matt. 10:16; John 3:14 where the word is used in other contexts; Rev. 12:9, 14–15; 20:2 where “serpent” is used in connection with the devil).

The flood sent by Satan to destroy Israel and God’s supernatural protection have been the subject of various interpretations. This may be a literal flood, but the contour of the Holy Land and the fact that Israel’s people would probably not all flee in the same direction combine to make such a literal, physical interpretation improbable.

It is more plausible to understand this symbolically. The flood is the total effort of Satan to exterminate Israel, and the resistance of earth is the natural difficulty in executing such a massive program. The terrain of the Middle East provides countless places of refuge for a fleeing people. Though the exact meaning of these two verses cannot be determined with certainty, the implication is that Satan strives with all his power to persecute and exterminate the people of Israel. By divine intervention, both natural and supernatural means are used to thwart the enemy’s program and carry a remnant of Israel safely through their time of great tribulation.

THE PERSECUTION OF THE GODLY REMNANT OF ISRAEL (12:17)

12:17 “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.”

The godly remnant of Israel is identified by their faith in Christ, “all those who name the name of Jesus Christ.” While the program of Satan is against the Jewish race as such, anti-Semitism as a whole will reach its peak against Jewish believers during this period. There is a double antagonism against those in Israel who turn to Christ as their Messiah and Savior in those critical days and maintain a faithful witness.

Undoubtedly, many of them will suffer a martyr’s death, but others will survive the period, including the 144,000 sealed in chapter 7.

In some versions of the Bible such as the New International Version (NIV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the phrase translated here as “and he stood on the sand of the sea” is part of Revelation 13:1, although in the Greek text it is listed as Revelation 12:17. The English Standard Version (ESV) better reflects the Greek text, which suggests that the dragon is the subject of the verb “stood,” rather than John and also ties the dragon more closely to his origin in the sea. The reading “I stood,” meaning John, is found in the majority of the Greek manuscripts, but the reading “he stood,” meaning the dragon, is attested by the better manuscripts.

Taken as a whole, chapter 12 is a fitting introduction to the important revelations given in chapter 13. Here are the principal actors of the great tribulation with the historic background that provides so much essential information. Israel, Satan, Christ, the archangel, and the godly remnant figure largely in the closing scenes of the age. Next, the two principal human actors are then introduced: the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth, the human instruments that Satan will use to direct his program during the great tribulation.

(Source: John F Walvoord – Revelation)

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DISPENSATIONALISM IN A NUTSHELL (DR CHARLES RYRIE)

dispensationalism

Many evangelicals and liberals believe that dispensationalism is either downright heresy or close to it. Some speak harshly against dispensationalism and warn that it is unscriptural and that no biblically responsible Christian should be involved in such heresy. For many, dispensationalism is a Christian cuss word!

A CLUSTER OF ITEMS

Actually, dispensationalism is a cluster of items joined together to form a system of thought. Just as terms like Calvinism, Arminianism, Anglicanism, Catholicism, or Lutheranism are historical labels that represent, not a single idea, but a group of items joined together to form a multifaceted scheme, so is dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is a term that arose in church history to label certain Christians who believe a group of certain things that are taught in the Bible.

Dispensationalists are those who believe the following things:

  • The Bible is God’s inspired, inerrant (i.e., without any errors) revelation to man. Scripture provides the framework through which to interpret history (past and future). God’s written Word tells us of His plan for His creation and this will surely come to past.
  • Since the Bible is God’s literal Word of His plan for history, it should be interpreted literally and historically (past and future).
  • Since the Bible reveals God’s plan for history, then it follows that there is an ebb and flow to His plan. Therefore, God’s plan includes different dispensations, ages, or epochs of history through which His creatures (man and angels) are tested. Therefore, God is instructing His creatures through the progress of history, as His creation progresses from a garden to a city.
  • Since all humanity fell into sin, each person must individually receive God’s provision of salvation through the death of Christ by believing the gospel. Thus, Jesus Christ is the only way to a relationship with God.
  • Because of mankind’s fall into sin, Scripture teaches that all humanity is naturally rebellious to God and the things of God. This is why only genuine believers in Christ are open to the teachings of the Bible. Thus, salvation through Christ is a prerequisite to properly understanding God’s Word.
  • God’s plan for history includes a purpose for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—that is Israel. This plan for Israel includes promises that they will have the land of Israel, will have a seed, and will be a worldwide blessing to the nations. Many of the promises to national Israel are yet future, therefore, God is not finished with Israel.
  • God’s plan from all eternity also includes a purpose for the church, however, this is a temporary phase that will end with the rapture. After the rapture, God will complete His plan for Israel and the Gentiles.
  • The main purpose in God’s master plan for history is to glorify Himself through Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus Christ is the goal and hero of history.

In a nutshell, Christians who believe like this are known throughout Christendom as dispensationalists. We believe that it is the same as saying that I believe what the Bible literally teaches. Millions of Christians throughout the world are dispensationalists. In fact, the word “dispensation” occurs four times in the King James Version of the Bible (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2; Col. 1:25).

A DEFINITION OF DISPENSATIONALISM

Most likely, the leading spokesman for dispensationalism is retired Dallas Theological Seminary professor, Dr. Charles Ryrie. Many know Ryrie through his books and articles, but he is best known for his popular Ryrie Study Bible. Ryrie’s book, Dispensationalism, and some additional items are the reference point to look for an understanding of dispensationalism.

Since Dr. Ryrie is the expert on this subject, we will let him speak as we summarize his material.

He notes that The Oxford English Dictionary defines a theological dispensation as “a stage in a progressive revelation, expressly adapted to the needs of a particular nation or period of time . . . also, the age or period during which a system has prevailed.” The English word “dispensation” translates the Greek noun oikonomía, often rendered “administration” in modern translations. The verb oikonoméô refers to a manager of a household. “In the New Testament,” notes Ryrie, “dispensation means to manage or administer the affairs of a household, as, for example, in the Lord’s story of the unfaithful steward in Luke 16:1-13.”

Scriptural Use of Dispensation

The Greek word oikonomía is a compound of oíkos meaning “house” and nómos meaning “law.” Taken together “the central idea in the word dispensation is that of managing or administering the affairs of a household.”

The various forms of the word dispensation appears in the New Testament twenty times. The verb oikonoméô is used once in Luke 16:2, where it is translated “to be a steward.” The noun oikonómos appears ten times (Luke 12:42; 16:1, 3, 8; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 4:1, 2; Gal. 4:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:10), and is usually translated “steward” or “manager” (but “treasurer” in Rom. 16:23). The noun oikonomía is used nine times (Luke 16:2, 3, 4; 1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2, 9; Col. 1:25; 1 Tim. 1:4). In these instances it is translated variously (“stewardship,” “dispensation,” “administration,” “job,” “commission”).

Features of Dispensationalism

Examination of oikonómos in the Gospels finds Christ using the word in two parables in Luke (Lk. 12:42; 16:1, 3, 8). Ryrie notes that in Luke 16 we find “some important characteristics of a stewardship, or dispensational arrangement.” The characteristics are:

(1) Basically there are two parties: the one whose authority it is to delegate duties, and the one whose responsibility it is to carry out these charges. The rich man (or master) and the steward (or manager) play these roles in the parable of Luke 16 (v. 1).

(2) These are specific responsibilities. In the parable the steward failed in his known duties when he wasted the goods of his lord (v. 1).

(3) Accountability, as well as responsibility, is part of the arrangement. A steward may be called to account for the discharge of his stewardship at any time, for it is the owner’s or master’s prerogative to expect faithful obedience to the duties entrusted to the steward (v. 2).

(4) A change may be made at any time unfaithfulness is found in the existing administration (“can no longer be steward.”).

Further features can be gleaned in the other occurrences of the “dispensation” word group.

All other uses, except 1 Peter 4:10, are found in the writings of Paul. Ryrie cites the following features:

(1) God is the one to whom men are responsible in the discharge of their stewardship obligations. In three instances this relationship to God is mentioned by Paul (I Cor. 4:1-2; Titus 1:7).

(2) Faithfulness is required of those to whom a dispensational responsibility is committed (I Cor. 4:2). This is illustrated by Erastus, who held the important position of treasurer (steward) of the city (Rom. 16:23).

(3) A stewardship may end at an appointed time (Gal. 4:2). In this reference the end of the stewardship came because of a different purpose being introduced. This reference also shows that a dispensation is connected with time.

(4) Dispensations are connected with the mysteries of God, that is, with specific revelation from God (I Cor. 4:1; Eph. 3:2; Col. 1:25).

(5) Dispensation and age are connected ideas, but the words are not exactly interchangeable. For instance, Paul declares that the revelation of the present dispensation was hidden “for ages” meaning simply a long period of time (Eph. 3:9). The same thing is said in Colossians 1:26. However, since a dispensation operates within a time period, the concepts are related.

(6) At least three dispensations (as commonly understood in dispensational teaching) are mentioned by Paul. In Ephesians 1:10 he writes of “an administration [dispensation, KJV] suitable to the fullness of the times,” which is a future period. In Ephesians 3:2 he designates the “stewardship [dispensation, KJV] of God’s grace,” which was the emphasis of the content of his preaching at that time. In Colossians 1:25-26 it is implied that another dispensation preceded the present one, in which the mystery of Christ in the believer is revealed.

It should be noted that dispensationalists have developed the theological term “dispensation” in a way similar to the biblical use of the term. Therefore, we believe that the system of theology we know today as dispensationalism is consistent with biblical teaching.

Definitions

Building upon the above biblical observations, we are now able to define dispensationalism. According to Ryrie, “a dispensation is a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose.” In addition to a definition of a dispensation, Ryrie notes that if “one were describing a dispensation, he would include other things, such as the ideas of distinctive revelation, testing, failure, and judgment.” The overall combined purpose of the whole program is the glory of God.

In his classic work, Dispensationalism, Ryrie formulates the following extensive definition of dispensationalism:

Dispensationalism views the world as a household run by God. In this household world God is dispensing or administering its affairs according to His own will and in various stages of revelation in the process of time. These various stages mark off the distinguishably different economies in the outworking of His total purpose, and these different economies constitute the dispensations. The understanding of God’s differing economies is essential to a proper interpretation of His revelation within those various economies.

Another dispensational scholar, Paul Nevin, summarized dispensationalism as follows:

God’s distinctive method of governing mankind or a group of men during a period of human history, marked by a crucial event, test, failure, and judgment. From the divine standpoint, it is an economy, or administration. From the human standpoint, it is a stewardship, a rule of life, or a responsibility for managing God’s affairs in His house. From the historical standpoint, it is a stage in the progress of revelation.

Dispensationalist, Renald Showers, emphasizing a dispensational view of history, gives the following definition:

Dispensational Theology can be defined very simply as a system of theology which attempts to develop the Bible’s philosophy of history on the basis of the sovereign rule of God. It represents the whole of Scripture and history as being covered by several dispensations of God’s rule.

. . . the term dispensation as it relates to Dispensational Theology could be defined as a particular way of God’s administering His rule over the world as He progressively works out His purpose for world history.

ESSENTIALS OF DISPENSATIONALISM

Who is a dispensationalist? Essentials are needed by which to gauge a theology. What are the essentials that characterize a dispensationalist? Ryrie has stated what he calls the three essentials or sine qua non (Latin, “that without which”) of dispensationalism.

The essence of dispensationalism, then, is the distinction between Israel and the church. This grows out of the dispensationalist’s consistent employment of normal or plain or historical-grammatical interpretation, and it reflects an understanding of the basic purpose of God in all His dealings with mankind as that of glorifying Himself through salvation and other purposes as well.

The three essentials are not a definition or description of dispensationalism, instead they are basic theological tests which can be applied to an individual to see whether or not he is a dispensationalist.

First Essential: Literal Interpretation

Ryrie’s first essential of dispensationalism is not just literal interpretation, but more fully, a consistent literal hermeneutic. “The word literal is perhaps not so good as either the word normal or plain,” explains Ryrie, “but in any case it is interpretation that does not spiritualize or allegorize as non-dispensational interpretation does.” Literal interpretation is foundational to the dispensational approach to Scripture. Literal interpretation is foundational to the dispensational approach to Scripture. Earl Radmacher went so far as to say that literal interpretation “is the ‘bottom-line’ of dispensationalism.”

The dictionary defines literal as “belonging to letters.” It also says literal interpretation involves an approach “based on the actual words in their ordinary meaning, . . . not going beyond the facts.” “Literal interpretation of the Bible simply means to explain the original sense of the Bible according to the normal and customary usages of its language.” How is this done? It can only be accomplished through the grammatical (according to the rules of grammar), historical (consistent with the historical setting of the passage), contextual (in accord with its context) method of interpretation. Literalism looks to the text, the actual words and phrases of a passage.

Non-literal interpretation imports an idea not found specifically in the text of a passage. To some degree, all Bible interpreters interpret literally. However, dispensationalists consistently handle the text literally from Genesis to Revelation.

Literal interpretation recognizes that a word or phrase can be used plainly (denotative) or figuratively (connotative). In modern speech, as in the Bible, we talk plainly–”Grandmother died” (denotative), or more colorfully, “Grandmother kicked the bucket” (connotative). An important point to make is that even though we may use a figure of speech to refer to death, we are using that figure in reference to an event that literally happened. Ryrie says:

Symbols, figures of speech and types are all interpreted plainly in this method and they are in no way contrary to literal interpretation. After all, the very existence of any meaning for a figure of speech depends on the reality of the literal meaning of the terms involved. Figures often make the meaning plainer, but it is the literal, normal, or plain meaning that they convey to the reader.

Some are mistaken to think that just because a figure of speech is used to describe an event (i.e., Jonah’s experience in the belly of the great fish in Jonah 2), that the event was not literal.

Such is not the case. A “Golden Rule of Interpretation” has been developed to help discern whether or not a figure of speech is intended.

When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.

E.E. Johnson (Dallas Seminary) notes that much of the confusion over literalism is removed when understanding the two ways it is used: “(1) the clear, plain sense of a word or phrase as over against a figurative use, and (2) a system that views the text as providing the basis of the true interpretation.” Thus, dispensationalists, by and large, use “literal” to refer to their system of interpretation (the consistent use of the grammatical-historical system), and once inside that system, literal refers to whether a specific word or phrase is used in its context figuratively or literally.

Johnson’s second use of literal (i.e., systematic literalism) is simply the grammatical historical system consistently used. The grammatical-historical system was revived by many Reformers and was set against the spiritual (spiritualized) or deeper meaning of the text common in the middle ages. The literal meaning was used simply as a springboard to a deeper (“spiritual”) meaning, which was viewed as more desirable.

A classic spiritualized interpretation would see the four rivers of Genesis 2–the Pishon, Havilah, Tigris and Euphrates–as representing the body, soul, spirit and mind. Coming from such a system, many Reformers saw the need to get back to the literal or textual meaning of the Bible.

The system of literal interpretation is the grammatical-historical or textual approach to hermeneutics. Use of literalism in this sense could be called “macro-literalism.” Within macro-literalism, the consistent use of the grammatical-historical system yields the interpretative conclusion, for example, that Israel always and only refers to national Israel. The church will not be substituted for Israel if the grammatical-historical system is consistently used, because there are no textual indicators that such is the case. One must import an idea from outside the text by saying that the passage really means something that it does not actually say. This replacement approach is a mild form of spiritual or allegorical interpretation. So, when speaking of those who do replace Israel with the church as not taking the Bible literally and spiritualizing the text, it is true, since such a belief is contrary to a macro-literal interpretation.

Consistently literal interpreters, within the framework of the grammatical-historical system, do discuss whether or not a word, phrase or the literary genre of a biblical book is a figure of speech (connotative) or is to be taken literally/plainly (denotative). This is Johnson’s first use of literal which could be called “micro-literalism.”

Within micro-literalism, there may be discussion by literalists as to whether or not a given word or phrase is being used in a literal or figurative way within a given passage. Some passages are quite naturally clearer than others and a consensus among interpreters develops, while other passages may find literal interpreters divided as to whether or not it should be taken as a figure of speech. This is more a problem of application than of method.

Reconstructionist, Ken Gentry, in his attack on literalism, argues that “consistent literalism is unreasonable.” He attempts to prove his point by arguing that, since dispensationalists take some words and phrases as figures of speech, they are not consistently literal.7 He says “the dispensational claim to ‘consistent literalism’ is frustrating due to its inconsistent employment.” Gentry seeks to discredit the dispensational hermeneutic by citing examples of dispensationalists who interpret certain passages as containing figures of speech, citing this as inconsistent with the system of literal interpretation. According to Gentry, the dispensationalist has to abandon literal interpretation when he realizes that Jesus refers figuratively to Himself as a door in John 10:9.  Gentry is not defining literal interpretation the way dispensationalists do. Therefore, his conclusions about literal interpretation are misguided because he commonly mixes the two senses noted by Johnson. When speaking of the macro-literal, he uses an example from micro-literalism, and vice versa, therefore appearing to have shown an inconsistency in literal interpretation. In reality, his examples fall within the framework of how dispensationalists have defined what they mean by literal interpretation.

This is the first essential of dispensationalism. A way of approaching Scripture that allows the Scripture, through the progress of revelation to interpret itself. It does not approach the Bible through some fantastic interpretational scheme, composed of complex symbolism which reduces Scripture to a mystical code book that requires a special decoding manual in order to figure it out.

The second essential, flows from the first. It is a distinction between Israel and the Church.

Second Essential: Distinction Between Israel and the Church

A dispensationalist keeps Israel and the church distinct,” declares Ryrie. He also notes that anyone “who fails to distinguish Israel and the church consistently will inevitably not hold to dispensational distinctions; and one who does, will.”

What does it mean to keep Israel and the church distinct? Dispensationalists believe the Bible teaches that God’s single program for history includes a distinct plan for Israel and a distinct plan for the church. God’s plan for history has two people: Israel and the church. John Walvoord says that “dispensations are rules of life. They are not ways of salvation. There is only one way of salvation and that is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.”

If the unfulfilled promises given to Israel in the Old Testament literally refer to the Jews, which they do, then it is clear that many are yet unfulfilled. Therefore, it is clear that God’s plan for Israel, who is currently in dispersion (Deut. 4:27-28; 28:63-68; 30:2-4), is on hold until He completes His current purpose with the church, which is to take out from the Gentiles a people for His name (Acts 15:14), and Raptures His Bride to heaven. After the Rapture, God will then complete His unfinished business with Israel (Acts 15:16-18) during the seven-year Tribulation period. Thus, if one does not distinguish between passages in which God speaks to Israel from those intended for the church, then the results will be an improper merging of the two programs.

In the Old Testament God made certain promises to Abraham when He pledged to make him the father of a special people. Dispensationalists understand these promises, and other unconditional covenant promises (i.e., treaty grants) made by God to Israel as still in tact for Israel, even though the church currently shares in some of Israel’s spiritual blessings (Rom. 15:27). Ultimately God will not only restore Israel to a place of blessing (Rom. 11), but will also literally fulfill the land and kingdom promises made to Israel in the Abrahamic (Gen. 12:1-3), Land of Israel (Deut. 30:1-10), and Davidic (2 Sam. 7:12-16) Covenants.

In the present time, God has another plan for the church that is distinct from His plan for Israel (Eph. 2-3). Dispensationalists do not believe that the church is the New Israel or has replaced Israel as the heir to the Old Testament promises. Contrary to some who say that the church has superseded Israel, the New Testament nowhere calls the church Israel. Dispensationalist Arnold Fruchtenbaum says:

The conclusion is that the church is never called a “spiritual Israel” or a “new Israel.” The term Israel is either used of the nation or the people as a whole, or of the believing remnant within. It is never used of the church in general or of Gentile believers in particular. In fact, even after the Cross there remains a threefold distinction.

First, there is a distinction between Israel and the Gentiles as in 1 Corinthians 10:32 and Ephesians 2:11-12. Second, there is a distinction between Israel and the church in 1 Corinthians 10:32. Third, there is a distinction between Jewish believers (the Israel of God) and Gentile believers in Romans 9:6 and Galatians 6:16).

Fruchtenbaum gives six reasons why the New Testament keeps Israel and the church distinct. They are:

(1) the church was born at Pentecost, whereas Israel had existed for many centuries.

(2) certain events in the ministry of the Messiah were essential to the establishment of the church—the church does not come into being until certain events have taken place.

(3) the mystery character of the church.

(4) the church is distinct from Israel is the unique relationship between Jews and the Gentiles, called one new man in Ephesians 2:15 .

(5) the distinction between Israel and the church is found in Galatians 6:16 [i.e., “the Israel of God”].

(6) In the book of Acts, both Israel and the church exist simultaneously. The term Israel is used twenty times and ekklesia (church) nineteen times, yet the two groups are always kept distinct.

Third Essential: Glory of God is the Purpose of History

The third essential of dispensationalism also revolves around another important distinction. Showers says, this “indispensable factor is the recognition that the ultimate purpose of history is the glory of God through the demonstration that He alone is the sovereign God.” Ryrie explains:

We avow that the unifying principle of the Bible is the glory of God and that this is worked out in several ways—the program of redemption, the program for Israel, the punishment of the wicked, the plan for the angels, and the glory of God revealed through nature. We see all these programs as means of glorifying God, and we reject the charge that by distinguishing them (particularly God’s program for Israel from His purpose for the church) we have bifurcated God’s purpose.

This essential is the most misunderstood and often thought to be the least essential. When properly understood, I believe that this is a valid essential. Dispensationalists are not saying that non-dispensationalists do not believe in God’s glory. We are making the point that the dispensationalist understanding of the plan of God means that He is glorified in history by more areas or facets, than those who see mankind’s salvation (probably the most important aspect of God’s plan) as the single area displaying God’s glory.

A BIBLICAL PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY

Showers notes that a dispensational view of the Bible provides a believer with a biblical philosophy of history. This is important for a Christian, because when we understand God’s purpose for each era of history we are able to develop a worldview for living in accordance with God’s will for each dispensation. A believer who has a Divine perspective on the past, present and future is able to know what God expects of him in every area of life in our present day.

In the current church age, the New Testament instructs us in both private and public spheres of life. The dispensationalist, for example, does not live in this age of grace as if he was still under the rule of the Mosaic Law. Instead we understand that we are now under the commands that the New Testament calls the Law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2).

Current dispensational obligations are combined with responsibilities from previous ages, which continue in our own day, to provide a New Testament believer with a complete biblical framework for understanding how to please God in every area of our current lives.

CONCLUSION

We believe that dispensationalism is a system of theology that has been properly developed from the Bible itself. Dispensationalism is essential to correctly understanding the Bible, especially Bible prophecy. No one will be able to rightly divide God’s Word without understanding these great truths. Instead of being a hindrance to correct understanding of God’s Word, as is regularly claimed by the opponents, dispensationalism is a human label for the correct approach and understanding of Scripture. We plead guilty to the critic’s charge that say we are dispensationalists. We only wish that they would properly come to understand what it is that we believe and quite misrepresenting dispensationalism as often occurs.

In this paper we have provided definitions, descriptions and essentials in an effort to

answer the question: “What is dispensationalism?” Dr. Ryrie concludes:

If one does interpret the Bible this way, will it mean that he cuts out some of its parts? Not at all. Actually, the Bible comes alive as never before. There is no need to dodge the plain meaning of a passage or to reinterpret or spiritualize it in order to resolve conflicts with other passages. God’s commands and standards for me today become even more distinct, and His program with its unfolding splendor falls into a harmonious pattern. The history of dispensationalism is replete with men and women who love the Word of God and promote its study, and who have a burden for spreading the gospel to all the world.

(Source: Thomas D. Ice – May 2009 Liberty University – What is Dispensationalism?)

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PROPHETIC EXPECTATIONS IN JUDAISM

matthew-24-3

Jesus’ message in Matthew 24-25 is commonly known as the Olivet discourse, so named because it was delivered to the disciples on the Mount of Olives. The theme of the discourse is Christ’s second coming at the end of the present age to establish His millennial kingdom on earth.

The message was prompted by the disciples’ question in 24:3, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” The answer Jesus gave is the longest answer given to any question asked in the New Testament, and its truths are absolutely essential for understanding His return and the amazing events associated with it. It is the revelation of our Lord, directly from His own lips, about His return to earth in glory and power.

In order to better understand the disciples’ question on this occasion it is necessary to know something of the basic hopes and aspirations of the Judaism of that day. A historical setting is an important key to the context.

Throughout history people have had a strong desire to know the future, and few societies have been without their seers, mediums, fortune-tellers, and other prognosticators. By various means, all of them deceitful and many of them demonic, such futurists have offered gullible inquirers purported revelations of what lies ahead. Although the Mosaic law strictly forbade consulting mediums and soothsayers (Deut. 18:9-14), Israelites had frequently fallen prey to them, the most prominent instance being that of King Saul’s consulting the medium of Endor (1 Sam. 28:3-25; see also 2 Kings 21:6).

There is no evidence that many Jews of Jesus’ day were guilty of Saul’s offense, but they did have an intense interest in the future. They were tired of being under the domination of pagan oppressors and were eager for the divinely promised deliverance of their Messiah. The Jews were a noble, highly intelligent, and highly gifted people who, humanly speaking, were entirely capable of competent self-rule. Yet for many centuries they had been subdued by one foreign tyrant after another. The northern ten tribes had been conquered by Assyria in 722 B.C., and the southern two tribes fell to Babylon in 586 B.C.

Following that were conquests by the Medo-Persians, the Greeks, and finally the Romans.

In their own minds, however, the Jews had always been their own people and had never truly been subjugated to any foreign ruler. It was that abiding and sometimes arrogant spirit of independence even in the midst of oppression that induced some of the Jews to declare before Jesus in the Temple, “We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone” (John 8:33).

They knew all too well, of course, that outwardly they were indeed enslaved, and freedom from that enslavement was the overriding passion of most Jews.

Although the majority of them were not associated with the militant Zealots, they all yearned for Rome to be overthrown and for Israel to become a free nation once again.

The Jews knew intimately the many Old Testament promises of future blessing, deliverance, and prosperity. They knew God had promised to vanquish all the enemies of His chosen people and to establish His eternal kingdom of righteousness and justice on earth. They knew that the Lord’s Anointed One—His Messiah, or Christ—would come and establish the rule and reign from David’s throne again on earth, a reign of peace, prosperity, and safety that would never end.

Their great longing was to see that day when God restored the kingdom as He had promised. The Jews therefore had great hope for the future. They exulted as they read, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isa. 9:6-7). They thrilled at the promise that “a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:1-2).

Israel took immense encouragement from the words of Jeremiah: “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, “The Lord our righteousness” ’ ” (Jer. 23:5-6; cf. 30:9-10). They longed for the day when the spoil taken from them would be divided among them (Zech. 14:1), when “living waters [would] flow out of Jerusalem” (v. 8), and “there [would] be no more curse, for Jerusalem [would] dwell in security” (v. 11). They rejoiced that “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people . . . but it will itself endure forever” (Dan. 2:44).

By the time of Jesus, the Jews had formed in their minds a very clear scenario of how they believed those predicted events would unfold. To understand what the Jewish expectations were, it is helpful to read their literature from that time. In his A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ ([Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1893], pp. 154-87), Emil Schuer gives excerpts from numerous extrabiblical Jewish writings of that era which reveal those expectations.

First, consistent with the teaching of Zechariah 14 and other Old Testament prophecies, they believed that the coming of the Messiah would be preceded by a time of terrible tribulation. Just as a woman experiences intense pain shortly before the delivery of a child, so Israel would experience great torment shortly before the Messiah arrived.

2 Baruch 27 reported,

And honour shall be turned into shame,

And strength humiliated into contempt,

And probity destroyed,

And beauty shall become ugliness . . .

And envy shall rise in those who had not thought aught of themselves,

And passion shall seize him that is peaceful,

And many shall be stirred up in anger to injure many,

And they shall rouse up armies in order to shed blood,

And in the end they shall perish together with them.

According to another source, there would be “quakings of places, tumult

of peoples, schemings of nations, confusion of leaders, disquietude of princes”

(2 Esdras [4 Ezra] 9:3).

The Jewish Sibylline Oracles declared,

“From heaven shall fall fiery swords down to the earth. Lights shall come, bright and great, flashing into the midst of men; and earth, the universal mother, shall shake in these days at the hand of the Eternal.

And the fishes of the sea and the beasts of the earth and the countless tribes of flying things and all the souls of men and every sea shall shudder at the presence of the Eternal and there shall be panic. And the towering mountain peaks and the hills of the giants he shall rend, and the murky abyss shall be visible to all. And the high ravines in the lofty mountains shall be full of dead bodies and rocks shall flow with blood and each torrent shall flood the plain. . . . And God shall judge all with war and sword, and there shall be brimstone from heaven, yea stones and rain and hail incessant and grievous. And death shall be upon the four-footed beasts. . . . Yea the land itself shall drink of the blood of the perishing and beasts shall eat their fill of flesh.”(3:363ff.)

The Mishna anticipated that just before the coming of Messiah,

arrogance increases, ambition shoots up, . . . the vine yields fruit yet wine is dear. The government turns to heresy. There is no instruction. The synagogue is devoted to lewdness. Galilee is destroyed, Gablan laid waste. The inhabitants of a district go from city to city without finding compassion. The wisdom of the learned is hated, the godly despised, truth is absent. Boys insult old men, old men stand in the presence of children. The son depreciates the father, the daughter rebels against the mother, the daughter-in-law against the mother-inlaw. A mans enemies are his house-fellows.”

Second, the popular eschatology of Jesus’ day held that in the midst of that turmoil would appear an Elijah-like forerunner heralding the Messiah’s coming. It was for that reason that so many Jews were drawn to John the Baptist.

Jewish oral tradition maintained that the ownership of any disputed money or property would have to wait “till Elijah comes” before being finally settled.

The third event of that eschatology was the Messiah’s appearance, at which time He would establish His kingdom age of glory and would vindicate His people.

The fourth event would be the alliance of the nations to fight against the Messiah. The Sibylline Oracles declared,

“The kings of the nations shall throw themselves against this land bringing retribution on themselves. They shall seek to ravage the shrine of the mighty God and of the noblest men whensoever they come to the land. In a ring round the city the accursed kings shall place each one his throne with the infidel people by him. And then with a mighty voice God shall speak unto all the undisciplined, empty minded people and judgment shall come upon them from the mighty God, and all shall perish at the hand of the Eternal.” (3:363-72)

In 2 Esdras [4 Ezra] is the prediction, “It shall be that when all the nations hear his (the Messiah’s) voice, every man shall leave his own land and the warfare they have one against the other, and the innumerable multitude shall be gathered together desiring to fight against him” (13:33-35). In other words, unbelieving mankind will interrupt all its other warfare in order to unite against the Messiah.

The fifth eschatological event would be the destruction of those opposing nations. Philo wrote that the Messiah would “take the field and make war and destroy great and populous nations.” The writer of 2 Esdras declared that the Messiah “shall reprove them for their ungodliness, rebuke them for their unrighteousness, reproach them to their faces with their treacheries—and when he has rebuked them he shall destroy them” (12:32-33). The book of Enoch reported that “it shall come to pass in those days that none shall be saved, either by gold or by silver, and none shall be able to escape. And there shall be no iron for war, nor shall one clothe oneself with a breastplate. Bronze shall be of no service, and tin shall not be esteemed, and lead shall not be desired. And all things shall be destroyed from the surface of the earth” (52:7-9). All the vast armaments and defences of the nations will be useless against the Messiah.

Sixth would be the restoration of Jerusalem, either by renovation of the existing city or by the coming down of a completely new Jerusalem from heaven. In either case, the city of the great King would henceforth be pure, holy, and incorruptible. In the book of Enoch, Jerusalem was envisioned as having “all the pillars . . . new and the ornaments larger than those of the first” (Enoch 90:28-29).

Seventh, the Jews scattered throughout the world would be gathered back to Israel. Many Jews today still utter the ancient prayer “Lift up a banner to gather our dispersed and assemble us from the four ends of the earth.” The eleventh chapter of the Psalms of Solomon gives a graphic picture of that regathering:

“Blow ye in Zion on the trumpet to summon the saints, Cause ye to be heard in Jerusalem the voice of him that bringeth good tidings;

For God hath had pity on Israel in visiting them.

Stand on the height, O Jerusalem, and behold thy children, From the East and the West, gathered together by the Lord;

From the North they come in the gladness of their God, From the isles afar off God hath gathered them.

High mountains hath he abased into a plain for them; The hills fled at their entrance. The woods gave them shelter as they passed by;

Every sweet-smelling tree God caused to spring up for them, That Israel might pass by in the visitation of the glory of their God.

Put on, O Jerusalem, thy glorious garments; Make ready thy holy robe;

For God hath spoken good for Israel forever and ever,

Let the Lord do what he hath spoken concerning Israel and Jerusalem;

Let the Lord raise up Israel by his glorious name.

The mercy of the Lord be upon Israel forever and ever.”

In the eighth event of the Messiah’s coming Kingdom would become the center of the world, and all nations would be subjugated to the Lord. “And all the isles and the cities shall say, How doth the Eternal love those men! For all things work in sympathy with them and help them. . . . Come let us all fall upon the earth and supplicate the eternal King, the mighty, everlasting God. Let us make procession to His Temple, for He is the sole Potentate” (Sibylline Oracles 3:690ff.).

Ninth and finally, the Jews of Jesus’ day believed that with the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom would come a new and eternal age of peace, righteousness, and divine glory.

Those ancient views of the coming of Christ were extrapolated largely from Old Testament teachings, and they closely correspond to New Testament premillennial doctrine about His second coming. The major difference is that those Jews had no knowledge of His coming twice, the first time to offer Himself as a sacrifice for the world’s sin and the second to establish His millennial kingdom on earth. The Jewish people were not looking for inward deliverance from sin but for outward deliverance from political oppression.

In the minds of the Jews of Jesus’ day, the time was ripe for the Messiah’s coming. They had suffered persecution and subjugation for many centuries and were at that time under the relentless power of Rome. When John the Baptist appeared on the scene, reminiscent of the preaching and lifestyle of Elijah, the people’s interest was intensely piqued. And when Jesus began His ministry of preaching, with unheard of authority and of healing every sort of disease, many Jews were convinced that He was indeed the Messiah. When He rode into Jerusalem on the colt, the crowds were beside themselves with anticipation, and they openly hailed Him as the Messiah, the long-awaited Son of David (Matt. 21:9).

At that point, however, Jesus’ ministry rapidly and radically departed from their expectations. According to their thinking, the next steps would be the gathering of the nations against the Messiah and His dramatic and effortless victory over them.

That idea apparently was also still in the minds of the Twelve. Jesus’ many predictions that He must suffer, die, and be resurrected had simply not registered with them at that stage. In some way or another they either had discounted those teachings or had rationalized and spiritualized them into being something other than literal, physical, and historical realities.

(Main source: John MacArthur – New Testament Commentary – Matthew)

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THE BLESSED HOPE OF THE CORINTHIANS – THE RESURRECTION

resurrection

(NOTE: THIS IS QUITE A LENGTHY STUDY OF APPROXIMATELY 12 PAGES. A DOWNLOADABLE PDF COPY CAN BE FOUND AT THE END OF THE STUDY FOR OF THOSE WHO WANT TO USE IT FOR FUTURE REFERENCE)

BACKGROUND

In New Testament times Corinth was a thriving, prosperous, and strategically located city. Except for pagan worshipping, it also held a famous temple to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The temple normally housed some one thousand priestesses, ritual prostitutes, who each night would come down into Corinth and ply their trade among the many foreign travelers and the local men.

The name of the city became synonymous with moral depravity. In this letter to the church there, Paul lists some of the city’s characteristic sins—fornication (porneia, from which comes our term pornography), idolatry, adultery, effeminacy, homosexuality, stealing, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling (abusive speech), and swindling (6:9-10).

Some of the Corinthian believers had been guilty of practicing those sins before their conversion and had been cleansed (6:11). Others in the church, however, were still living immorally, some involved in sins worse than those—sins that Paul reminds them even pagan Gentiles did not commit, such as incest (5:1).

The Corinthian church had many problems, but their most serious problem was in not detaching themselves from the worldly ways of the society around them. Like many Christians today, the Corinthian believers had great difficulty in not mimicking the unbelieving and corrupt society around them. They wanted to have what they thought was the best of both worlds, but Paul plainly warned them that that was impossible (6:9-10).

Yet they lacked no spiritual resources (1:5-7) and had great potential for spiritual power and blessing. Paul longed to see that potential realized.

THE BLESSED HOPE

“Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:50-53)

The kingdom of God is here referring to the eternal state, to heaven. “Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (v. 49).

The rest of our study will focus on the resurrection. But what about believers who are living when Christ returns? Anticipating that question, Paul continues, Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep.

In the New Testament, mystery always refers to that which had before been hidden and unknown, but which is now revealed. The apostle now reveals that Christians who are alive when the Lord returns will not have to die (sleep) in order for their bodies to be changed. Those “who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

As believers are resurrected or caught up they shall all be changed. Whether believers die or are raptured, their bodies will be changed from the perishable to the imperishable, from the natural to the spiritual. Since the perishable cannot inherit the imperishable, all believers will be equally equipped for heaven (cf. Phil. 3:20-21).

Both for the resurrected and for the raptured the change will be in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. It will not be a process, a supernatural metamorphosis. It will be an instantaneous recreation from one form to the other, from the earthy to the heavenly. Moment is from atomos, from which we get the word atom, and denotes that which cannot be cut, or divided, the smallest conceivable quantity. In the smallest possible amount of time our perishable bodies will be made imperishable. To further emphasize and illustrate the speed of the change, Paul says that it will occur in the twinkling of an eye. Rhipē (twinkling) literally means to hurl, and was used to refer to any rapid movement. The eye can move much faster than any other visible part of our bodies, and Paul’s point was that the change will be extremely fast, instantaneous.

This change will occur at the last trumpet. This trumpet will not necessarily be the last heavenly trumpet ever to be sounded. It will, however, be the last as far as living Christians are concerned, for it will sound the end of the church age, when all believers will be removed from the earth.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). By that trumpet God will summon all of His people to Himself (cf. Ex. 19:16; Isa. 27:13).

Speaking of the coming resurrection day, Jesus said, “I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). As He ascended to heaven the angels told the onlooking disciples, “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). With Paul, every believer should be “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).

IMPORTANCE OF THE RESSURECTION

Some religions have taught soul sleep, in which the body dies and disintegrates, while the soul or spirit rests. Materialists believe in utter extinction, total annihilation. Nothing human, physical or otherwise, survives after death. Death ends it all. Some religions teach reincarnation, wherein the soul or spirit is continually recycled from one form to another—even from human to animal or animal to human. In all those views, human personhood and individuality are forever lost at death.

1 Corinthians, chapter 15 is devoted entirely to the doctrine of resurrection. In fact, in these verses Paul gives the most extensive treatment of the resurrection in all of Scripture.

The truth of the resurrection gives life to every other area of gospel truth. The resurrection is the pivot on which all of Christianity turns and without which none of the other truths would much matter. Without the resurrection, Christianity would be so much wishful thinking, taking its place alongside all other human philosophy and religious speculation. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies” (John 11:25). He also said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44)

Because it is the cornerstone of the gospel, the resurrection has been the target of Satan’s greatest attacks against the church. If the resurrection is eliminated, the life-giving power of the gospel is eliminated, the deity of Christ is eliminated, salvation from sin is eliminated, and eternal life is eliminated. “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). If Christ did not live past the grave, those who trust in Him surely cannot hope to do so.

Without the resurrection salvation could not have been provided, and without belief in the resurrection salvation cannot be received. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9). It is not possible, therefore, to be a Christian and not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The doctrinal problem on which this chapter focuses was not the Corinthians’ disbelief in Christ’s resurrection but confusion about their own. Paul was not trying to convince them that Christ rose from the dead but that one day they, too, would be raised with Him to eternal life. Nevertheless, to lay the foundation, in the first eleven verses he reviewed the evidences for Jesus’ resurrection, a truth he acknowledges they already believed.

RESURRECTION OF THE BELIEVER

“Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12)

The resurrections of Christ and men stand or fall together; there could not be one without the other. If there is no resurrection, the gospel is meaningless and worthless. Paul had written the Thessalonians several years before he wrote 1 Corinthians, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16). He doubtlessly had taught the Corinthians the same truth, and in his next letter to them he says, “He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you” (2 Cor. 4:14).

It is possible that even some of the Jewish members of the Corinthian church doubted the resurrection. Despite the fact that resurrection is taught in the Old Testament, some Jews, such the Sadducees, did not believe in it.

In verses 13-19 the apostle demonstrates that the resurrection is not only possible but essential to the Christian faith.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF NO RESURRECTION

“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.” (1 Cor. 15:13-15)

CHRIST WOULD NOT BE RISEN

The first and most obvious consequence of there being no resurrection would be that not even Christ has been raised. Paul basically argues that if the dead cannot rise, Christ did not rise.

At Pentecost Peter proclaimed that “Jesus the Nazarene [was] a man attested to you by God” and that “this Man delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross” (Acts 2:22-23). Later in the same message he proclaimed that Jesus was still alive, not merely in spirit but in body. He told of David’s speaking “of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again” (Acts 2:31-32). In his opening words to the Romans, Paul makes it clear that “the gospel of God” for which he was set apart was “concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:1-4). Jesus’ resurrection evidenced both His humanity and His deity. Therefore, if there is no such thing as physical resurrection, not even Christ has been raised.

PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL WOULD BE MEANINGLESS

The second consequence of there being no resurrection would be that preaching of the gospel would be vain, completely meaningless. Apart from the resurrection Jesus could not have conquered sin or death or hell, and those three great evils would forever be man’s conquerors.

Without the resurrection there would be nothing worth preaching as the gospel would be an empty, hopeless message.

FAITH IN CHRIST WOULD BE WORTHLESS

Just as no resurrection would make preaching Christ meaningless, it would also make faith in Him worthless. Faith in such a gospel would be vain (kenos, empty, fruitless, void of effect, to no purpose). We then could only say with the psalmist, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure” (Ps. 73:13), or with the Servant in Isaiah, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity” (Isa. 49:4).

ALL WITNESSES TO AND PREACHERS OF THE RESURRECTION WOULD BE LIARS

Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. To deny the resurrection is to call the apostles and every other leader of the New Testament church liars.

Although Paul does not mention it specifically, it clearly follows that if the resurrection were not true, Christ Himself lied, or at best was tragically mistaken. Or, if the New Testament writers completely misrepresented what both Christ and the apostles taught, then the New Testament would be a worthless document that no reasonable person would trust.

“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:16-19)

Next Paul gives what may be described as three personal consequences that would result if there were no such thing as resurrection from the dead.

ALL MEN WOULD STILL BE IN THEIR SINS

In verse 16 Paul restates his major argument: If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. A dead Christ would be the chief disastrous consequence from which all the other consequences would result.

The next consequence Paul mentions is both personal and serious: if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. After repeating the consequence that believers’ faith would be worthless, or vain (v.14), the apostle points to the obvious additional result that believers would be no better off spiritually than unbelievers. Christians would still be in their sins just as much as the most wicked and unbelieving pagan.

If Jesus remained dead, then, when we die, we too will remain dead and damned. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and if we remain dead, then death and eternal punishment are the only prospects of believer and unbeliever alike. If Christ was not raised, His death was in vain, our faith in Him is in vain, and our sins are still counted against us. We are still dead in trespasses and sins

and will forever remain spiritually dead and sinful. If Christ was not raised, then also, He did not bring assure our eternity.

ALL FORMER BELIEVERS WOULD HAVE ETERNALLY PERISHED

If there is no resurrection, then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. Every saint, Old Testament or Christian, who had died would have forever perished. Obviously the same consequence would apply to every saint who has died since Paul wrote. Every believer of every

age would spend eternity in torment, as without God and without hope.

CHRISTIANS WOULD BE THE MOST PITIABLE PEOPLE ON EARTH

In light of the other consequences, the last is rather obvious. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only we are of all men most to be pitied. Without the resurrection, and the salvation and blessings

it brings, Christianity would be pointless and pitiable. To have hoped in Christ in this life only would be to teach, preach, suffer, sacrifice, and work entirely for nothing. The Christian life would be a mockery, a charade, a tragic joke.

Therefore, Paul asks, “Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? Why are we also in danger every hour?” (1 Cor. 15:29-30)

But we are not to be pitied, for Paul immediately continues, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (15:20).

CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER OF RESURRECTION

Moving into verses 20-23 Paul discusses two aspects of the resurrection of the righteous: (1) The Redeemer; and (2) the redeemed.

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:20-22)

Christ being raised made Him the first fruits of all who would be raised. Before Israelites harvested their crops they were to bring a representative sample, called the first fruits, to the priests as an offering to the Lord (Lev 23:10). The full harvest could not be made until the first fruits were offered. That is the point of Paul’s figure here. Christ’s own resurrection was the first fruits of the resurrection “harvest” of the believing dead. In His death and resurrection Christ made an offering of Himself to the Father on our behalf.

Thus, His resurrection requires our resurrection, because His resurrection was part of the larger resurrection of God’s redeemed. The spirits of those who are asleep have gone to be with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8; cf. Phil. 1:23) but their remains are in the grave, awaiting re-composition and resurrection.

Just as Adam was the progenitor of everyone who dies, so Christ is the progenitor of everyone who will be raised to life. In Adam all have inherited a sin nature and therefore will die. In Christ all who believe in Him have inherited eternal life, and shall be made alive, in body as well as in spirit. “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). Though the inheritance in both cases is bodily as well as spiritual, Paul’s major emphasis here is on the bodily.

“But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.” (1 Cor. 15:23)

The coming of Christ will lead to the full harvest and this will take place in three stages, according to different groups of believers.

Initially will be the resurrection during the rapture of the church, of those believers who will have come to saving faith from Pentecost to the rapture. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16). They will be joined by living saints to meet the Lord in the air and ascend to heaven.

Next will be the resurrection of the Tribulation saints. Many will come to trust in Christ during the Tribulation but will be put to death for their faith. At the end of that period, however, they will be raised up to reign with Him during the Millennium (Rev 20:4).

Following that will be the resurrection of Old Testament saints, promised by the prophet Daniel: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2; cf. Isa. 26:19-20). Their resurrection, will most probably occur simultaneously with that of the Tribulation saints.

Then during the millennial Kingdom there will, of necessity, be the resurrection of those who die during that time. It is interesting to think that they may well be raised as soon as they die, no burial being necessary. It would make death for a believer during the Kingdom nothing more than an instant transformation into his eternal body and spirit.

The only resurrection remaining will be that of the unrighteous, who will be raised to damnation and eternal punishment at the end of Christ’s thousand-year reign (John 5:29). The saved will have been raised to eternal life, but the unsaved will be raised to eternal death, the second death (Rev 21:8; cf. 2:11).

In 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 Paul then describes that Christ’s final act will be to conquer permanently every enemy of God, every contending rule and authority and power. They will forever be abolished, never to exist again, never again to oppose God or to deceive, mislead, or threaten His people or corrupt any of His creation. He will then delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father. This final act will be worked out over the period of a thousand years, during the millennial rule of Christ on earth.

HOW OUR RESURRECTION BODIES COME ABOUT

“But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” (1 Cor. 15:35)

Those in Corinth who denied the resurrection did so primarily because of the influence of gnostic philosophy, which considered the body to be inherently evil and only the spirit to be good. They therefore believed that resurrection of the body is undesirable. Paul now challenges the idea that resurrection also is impossible.

In verses 36-49 Paul answers the questions of verse 35 in four ways: (1) he gives an illustration from nature, (2) he tells what kind of body resurrection bodies will be, (3) he contrasts earthly and resurrection bodies, and (4) he reminds them of the prototype resurrection, in which many of them already believed.

“You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.” (1 Cor. 15:36-38)

Paul gives a common illustration from nature. In three significant ways resurrection is similar to the planting and growth of crops: the original form is dissolved, the original and final forms are different in kind, and yet the two forms have a continuity.

DISSOLUTION

That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When a seed is planted in the ground it dies, actually decomposing as a seed: it must cease to exist in its original form as a seed before it can come to life in its final form as a plant. There had to be an end to the old before there could be a beginning of the new.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Before Christ could bear the fruit of salvation for us, He had to die. Likewise, before we can participate in the fruit of His resurrection, or bear fruit in His service, we too must die.

DIFFERENCE

Second, both in the growing of crops and in the resurrection of bodies there is a difference between the original and final forms. The seed loses its identity as a seed and becomes more and more like the mature plant. But the seed itself, that which you sow—whether it is wheat or … something else—looks nothing like the mature plant, the body which is to be. Only after ceasing to be a seed does it become the mature plant the farmer harvests.

When Jesus was raised from the dead His glorified body was radically different from the one which died. He appeared and disappeared at will, and entered rooms without opening the door (Luke 24:15, 31, 36; John 20:19; etc.). At His return all resurrection bodies will be changed marvelously and radically.

CONTINUITY

In spite of the differences, there is nevertheless a continuity between the old and the new. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. The seed changes radically, but it continues as the same life form. A wheat seed does not become barley, and a flax seed does not become corn. God has given each type of seed a body of its own, whose identity continues into the grown plant.

After Jesus was raised, no one recognized Him unless He revealed Himself to them. But once revealed, He was recognizable. The disciples knew His face, and they recognized His wounded side and His pierced hands. In a similar way, our resurrected bodies as believers will have a continuity with the bodies we have now. Our bodies will die and they will change form, but they will still be our bodies. Surely it is not too hard to believe that the God who has worked this process daily through the centuries in His creation of plants, can do it with men.

THE FORM OF RESURRECTION BODIES

“All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Cor. 15:39-42a)

All flesh is not the same flesh indicates the amazing variety of earthly bodies God has made. We need only look around us to see the virtually infinite assortment of created beings and things. In the biological world the flesh of men is absolutely distinct from the flesh of beasts, the flesh of birds, and the flesh of fish. All flesh is not of the same kind.

There are also heavenly bodies, which obviously differ greatly from earthly bodies in glory, that is, in nature, manifestation, and form. Not only are the heavenly bodies vastly different from the earthly; they are greatly different from each other. The sun is greatly different from the moon, and both are different from the stars. Even star differs from star in glory.

So also is the resurrection of the dead. Resurrection bodies will differ from earthly bodies just as radically as heavenly bodies differ from earthly. And resurrection bodies will be as individual and unique as are all the other forms of God’s creation. Our resurrection bodies will be as uniquely ours as our spirits and our names.

When Moses and Elijah appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration they were as distinctly individual as they had been while living on earth. They did not then have resurrected bodies, but they were distinct beings of heaven, who one day will have distinct heavenly bodies.

“It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:42b-44)

Focusing more directly on the resurrection body, Paul here mentions specific ways, given as four sets of contrasts, in which our glorified bodies will be different from our earthly bodies.

PERISHABLE/IMPERISHABLE

The first contrast pertains to durability. One of the most obvious characteristics of all natural life, including human life, is that it is perishable, subject to deterioration and eventual death. Even in the healthy infant the process of aging and deterioration has begun. “All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust” (Eccles. 3:20). “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more; and its place acknowledges it no longer” (Ps. 103:14-16).

Even the healthiest of people, as they get older, become weaker and more subject to disease and various physical problems. Death, of course, rapidly accelerates decay. Martha objected to Lazarus’s tomb being opened, because “by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39).

One of the tragic consequences of the Fall was that men’s bodies from that time on were irreversibly mortal, subject to death. Without exception, every human being is sown, that is, born with, a perishable body.

But the resurrection body of the believer will be raised an imperishable body. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). Our new bodies will know no sickness, decay, deterioration, or death. “When this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Cor. 15:54).

DISHONOR/GLORY

The second contrast has to do with value and potential. At the Fall man’s potential for pleasing and serving God was radically reduced. Not only his mind and spirit but also his body became of immeasurably less value in doing what God had designed it to do. The creature that was made perfect, and in the very image of his Creator, was made to manifest his Creator in all that he did. But through sin, that which was created to honor God became characterized instead by dishonor.

We dishonor God by our inability to take advantage fully of what He has given us in His creation. We dishonor God by misusing and abusing the bodies through which He desires us to honor and serve Him. Even the most faithful believer dies with his body in a state of dishonor, a state of imperfection and incompleteness.

But that imperfect and dishonored body one day will be raised in glory. Throughout eternity our new immortal bodies will also be honorable bodies, perfected for pleasing, praising, and enjoying the Creator who made them and the Redeemer who restored them.

WEAKNESS/POWER

The third contrast has to do with ability. Our present bodies are characterized by weakness. We are weak, not only in physical strength and endurance but also in resistance to disease and harm. Despite the marvelous natural protective mechanisms of the human body, no one is immune from breaking a bone, cutting a leg, catching various infections, and eventually from dying. We can and should minimize unnecessary dangers and risks to our bodies, which for believers are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20). But we cannot completely protect them from harm, much less from death. Our earthly “temples” are inescapably temporary and fragile.

But not so our new bodies, which will be raised in power. We are not told what that power will entail, but it will be immeasurable compared to what we now possess. We will no longer have to say that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Anything our heavenly spirits determine to do our heavenly bodies will be able to accomplish.

NATURAL/SPIRITUAL

The fourth area of contrasts has to do with the sphere, or realm, of existence. Our earthly body is strictly natural. That is the only realm in which it can live and function. The physical body is suited for and limited to the physical world.

Even with the imperfections and limitations caused by the Fall, our present bodies are wonderfully suited for earthly living. But that is the only realm and the only living for which they are suited.

The new body of the believer, however, will be raised a spiritual body. Our spirits now reside in earthly bodies, but one day they will reside in spiritual bodies. In every way we then will be spiritual beings. In both spirit and body we will be perfectly suited for heavenly living.

The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage,” Jesus said, “but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:34-36).

In the resurrection everything about us will be perfected for all eternity. We will not be the same as angels, but will be “like” them in that we too will be perfectly equipped and suited for heavenly, spiritual, supernatural, living.

THE PROTOTYPE OF RESURRECTION

 

“So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (1 Cor. 15:45-49)

Paul quote from Genesis 2:7, with the addition of the two words first and Adam. “So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” Adam was created with a natural body. It was not glorified, but it was perfect and “good” in every way (Gen. 1:31).

The last Adam, however, became a life-giving spirit. The last Adam is Jesus Christ. Through Adam we have inherited our natural bodies; through Christ we will inherit spiritual bodies in the resurrection.

Adam’s was the prototype of our natural bodies, whereas Christ’s was the prototype of our spiritual bodies. Christ’s resurrection, therefore, was the prototype of all subsequent resurrection.

In verse 46 Paul points out the obvious: However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. Every human being, starting with Adam and including Christ, has begun human life in a natural, physical body. The body that was raised from the dead on Easter morning had been a natural body, the incarnate body in which Christ was born and in which He lived and died. In the resurrection it was a spiritual, eternal body.

Adam, the first man, from whom came the natural race, originated on the earth, in fact was created directly from the earth (Gen. 2:7). Jesus, as the second man, existed eternally before He became a man. He lived on earth in a natural body, but He came from heaven. Adam was tied to earth; Christ was tied to heaven.

And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Just as we will exchange Adam’s natural body for Christ’s spiritual body, we will also exchange Adam’s image for Christ’s.

We cannot imagine exactly what that will be like. Even our present spiritual eyes cannot envision our future spiritual bodies. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). We will not see our own resurrected bodies, or even have our own resurrected bodies, until we first see Christ’s.

The coming resurrection is the hope and motivation of the church and of all believers. Whatever happens to our present bodies—whether they are healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, short-lived or long-lived, or whether they are indulged or tortured—they are not our permanent bodies, and we should not hold them too dearly. Our blessed hope and assurance is that these created natural bodies one day will be recreated as spiritual bodies. Although we have only a glimpse of what those new bodies will be like, it should be enough to know that “we shall be like Him.”

VICTORY OVER DEATH

In concluding, Paul proclaims the marvellous victory that resurrection will bring for those who are Christ’s. Praising God in anticipation of resurrection, the apostle proclaims the great transformation, the great triumph, and the great thanksgiving that the raising of God’s saints will bring, and then gives a great exhortation for holy living until that day comes.

“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” (1 Cor. 15:54-56)

Christ’s resurrection broke the power of death for those who believe in Him, and death is no longer master over them because “death no longer is master over Him” (Rom. 6:9). But death is still the enemy of man. Even for Christians it violates our dominion of God’s creation, it breaks love relationships, it disrupts families, and causes great grief in the loss of those dear to us. We no longer need fear death, but it still invades and torments us while we are mortal.

But one day, when Christ returns, the perishable that “must put on the imperishable” (v. 53) will have put on the imperishable, and the mortal that “must put on immortality” will have put on immortality. Then will come the great triumph that Isaiah predicted, when death is swallowed up in victory. The Isaiah text reads, “He [the Lord of Hosts] will swallow up death for all time” (Isa. 25:8; cf. v. 6). When the great transformation comes, the great victory will come.

Quoting another prophet (Hos. 13:14), Paul taunts death: O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? To continue with that metaphor, Paul implies that death left its sting in Christ, as a bee leaves its stinger in its victim. Christ bore the whole of death’s sting in order that we would have to bear none of it.

To make his point, the apostle reminds his readers that the sting of death is sin. The harm in death is caused by sin; in fact, death itself is caused by sin.

Only where there is sin can death deal a fatal blow Where sin has been removed death can only interrupt the earthly life and usher in the heavenly. That is what Christ has done for those who trust in Him. Our “sins are forgiven for His name’s sake” (1 John 2:12). Death is not gone, but its sting, sin, is gone. “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).

It is not, of course, that Christians no longer sin, but that the sins we commit are already covered by Christ’s atoning death, so that sin’s effect is not permanently fatal. “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). But for those who do not believe, death’s sting tragically remains forever.

Paul continues to explain the sequence leading to death by mentioning that the power of sin is the law. God’s law reveals God’s standards, and when they are broken they reveal man’s sin. If there were no law, obviously there could be no transgression. “Where there is no law neither is there violation” (Rom. 4:15).

But men die because they break that law What about those who do not know God’s law, who have never even heard of, much less read, His Word? Paul tells us in Romans that when “Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (2:14-15). Anyone, therefore, who goes against his conscience goes against God’s law just as surely as anyone who knowingly breaks one of the Ten Commandments. That is the reason men are doomed to die (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).

(Main Source: John MacArthur – New Testament Commentary – 1 Thessalonians)

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THE BLESSED HOPE OF THE THESSALONIANS

encourage-one-another-hands

(NOTE: THIS IS QUITE A LENGTHY STUDY OF APPROXIMATELY 16 PAGES. A DOWNLOADABLE PDF COPY CAN BE FOUND AT THE END OF THE STUDY FOR OF THOSE WHO WANT TO USE IT FOR FUTURE REFERENCE)

BACKGROUND

Thessalonica, modern Thessaloniki, was the largest and most important city in the Roman province of Macedonia, the second most important city in the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople and a thriving seaport.

The Jewish presence in Thessalonica was significant and influential (cf. Acts 17:1, 5–9). As they jealously watched Paul’s success at winning Gentiles to Christ, the Jews’ smoldering resentment burst into flame. The threat to Thessalonica’s status as a free city was significant; if they failed to maintain order, the Romans would intervene.

Paul was deeply concerned about them. To Paul’s immense relief and joy, Timothy brought an encouraging report about the situation in Thessalonica when he met Paul at Corinth. (Acts 18:5) But though Timothy’s report was on the whole encouraging, there were some issues at Thessalonica that concerned Paul. Because the persecution that drove the missionaries out of Thessalonica had not abated, the church needed encouragement to stand firm (1:2–10; 2:13–16). He was also concerned that the new converts not slip back into the pagan immorality so prevalent in their culture (4:1–8).

The apostle Paul also was concerned about the Thessalonians’ reputation with those outside the church; therefore, he encouraged them to continue to love each other fervently and to work diligently (4:9–12). The first letter also corrects a wrong understanding about the end times (4:13–5:11), and instructs the Thessalonian congregation in the basics of Christian living (5:12–22).

Paul had instructed the Thessalonians about the end times while he was with them (2 Thess. 2:5) as well as in his first letter to them. Yet they were still confused, fearing they had missed the Rapture and were in the Day of the Lord. Though the severity of the persecution they were undergoing contributed to that mistaken belief, the main reason for their confusion came from some false teachers who taught that the Day of the Lord had arrived.

In his second inspired letter, Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to stand firm and remain faithful to the Lord despite their suffering and reassure them that the Day of the Lord had not arrived.

THE THESSALONIANS ANTICIPATED THE RETURN OF CHRIST

just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thes. 2:11-12)

Paul stated the singular end of their and our call—entrance into His own kingdom and glory. Though they, as all believers, had not yet seen either the millennial kingdom or the eternal kingdom, they were already citizens of the redeemed kingdom over which God now rules (Luke 17:21; Col. 1:13; cf. Rom. 14:17). Thus, they had a present share in the glory of God as well as a promise of the future glory in the kingdom yet to come. All true believers look forward to sharing in the full glory of the heavenly kingdom when God raises them to be like Christ and with Him for eternity (Ps. 73:24; Prov. 3:35; Rom. 9:23; 1 Cor. 15:43; Phil. 3:20–21; Col. 3:4; 2 Thess. 2:14; 1 Peter 5:10; cf. Matt. 5:12; John 14:2; Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17; Heb. 4:9; 11:16; 1 Peter 1:3–4; Rev. 7:16–17).

“They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thes. 1:9b-10)

The church in Thessalonica waited for His Son from heaven … that is Jesus. Those who love Christ long for and anticipate His return. The apostles displayed such a desire when they saw Jesus’ ascension:

“He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9–11)

Paul unquestionably affirmed that the One who once ascended to heaven is also the One who believers wait for, the One whom He [God] raised from the dead, that is Jesus. The reference to the Resurrection establishes the ground for the return of Jesus Christ. God raised Him from the dead because He was pleased with His sacrifice for sin and because He wanted to exalt Him to the heavenly throne from which He will return to exercise His sovereign right to rule as King of Kings (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15; 4:10–12; 5:30–32; 13:33–35; 17:31; cf. Rom. 1:3–4; 2 Cor. 13:4; Eph. 1:19–23). The word for wait is used only here in the New Testament and refers to expectant waiting—sustained, patient, trusting waiting.

Waiting is a recurring theme in the Thessalonian letters (1 Thess. 2:17, 19; 3:13; 4:15–17; 5:8, 23; 2 Thess. 3:6–12).

The true believer eagerly looks forward to Christ’s return because he knows it brings to fulfillment and satisfaction God’s eternal purpose, which is, as Paul stated it, to rescue us from the wrath to come. Rescues denotes the deliverance the Lord provides. He is the Rescuer, Deliverer, and Savior of those otherwise headed for divine judgment and eternal punishment. In the ancient world, the idea of divine wrath was accepted, but there was no genuine hope of rescue from it. By contrast, in the postmodern world the idea of divine wrath is rejected, so the Rescuer is not needed or heeded.

Orgē (wrath) describes God’s settled opposition to and displeasure with sin. In this context the wrath is God’s eternal judgment against sin. Some believe the wrath to come only refers to the Great Tribulation, and see this rescue as the promise of the pretribulation Rapture, expounded upon later in this epistle. But the immediate context of Paul’s discussion in 1 Thessalonians goes further and mainly refers to election and salvation rather than eschatology.

“and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” (1 Thes. 3:13)

The final objective of Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians was that they might look to their glorification, which produces a purifying hope. The only way the Thessalonians would actually live in such hope was for God to establish their hearts without blame in holiness before (literally, “in the presence of”) Him. Paul wanted them to be pure at heart, so as to desire the coming (parousia, “presence”) of the Lord Jesus.

The apostle knew that the promise of Christ’s return to Rapture and reward the church is the essence of believers’ purifying hope. He explains the event in 4:13–18 as the hope that produces comfort and serves as motivation to holy living.

THE BLESSED HOPE – THE RAPTURE

Of all the end-time events, the Rapture of the church seems to generate the most interest and discussion. The young church at Thessalonica also had questions about that event, so Paul addressed their concerns in this passage. But unlike most modern-day treatises on the subject, Paul’s concern was not just doctrinal, but pastoral. His intent was not to give a detailed description of the Rapture, but to comfort the Thessalonians. The intent of the other two passages in the New Testament that discuss the Rapture (John 14:1–3; 1 Cor. 15:51–58) is also to provide comfort and encouragement for believers, not to fuel their prophetic speculations.

When Paul penned this epistle, the Thessalonians had been in Christ only for a few months. The apostle had taught them about end-time events, such as Christ’s return to gather believers to Himself (e.g., 1:9–10; 2:19; 3:13). They also knew about the Day of the Lord (5:1–3), a time of coming judgment on the ungodly.

But some issues about the details of their gathering to Christ troubled them. First, they seem to have been afraid that they had missed the Rapture, since the persecution they were suffering (3:3–4) caused some to fear they were in the Day of the Lord, which they obviously had not expected to experience (2 Thess. 2:1–2). Furthering that misconception were some false teachers, about whom Paul warned in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, “[Do] not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” But the persecution they were experiencing was not that associated with the Tribulation or the Day of the Lord.

The Thessalonians’ fears that they were in the Day of the Lord and thus had missed the Rapture imply that the Rapture precedes the Tribulation. If the Thessalonians knew that the Rapture came at the end of the Tribulation, persecution would not have caused them to fear they had missed it.

But of gravest concern to the Thessalonians were those of their number who had died. Would they receive their resurrection bodies at the Rapture, or would they have to wait until after the Tribulation? Would they miss the Rapture altogether? Would they therefore be second-class citizens in heaven? Were their deaths chastisement for their sins (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30)?

Paul wrote this section of his epistle to alleviate the Thessalonians’ grief and confusion. He was concerned that they not … be uninformed … about those who are asleep and thus grieve as do the rest who have no hope. Since their grief was based on ignorance, Paul comforted them by giving them knowledge.

The Thessalonians’ ignorance about the Rapture caused them to grieve. It was to give them hope and to comfort them that Paul discussed that momentous event, giving a fourfold description of it: its pillars, participants, plan, and profit.

THE PILLARS OF THE RAPTURE

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord,” (1 Thes. 4:14–15a)

The marvellous truth that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to gather believers to Himself is based on three unshakeable pillars: the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the revelation of Christ.

THE DEATH OF CHRIST

For if we believe that Jesus died (4:14a)

Paul’s simple statement summarizes all the richness of Christ’s atoning work, which provides the necessary foundation for the gathering of the church. His death satisfied the demands of God’s righteousness, holiness, and justice by paying in full the penalty for believers’ sins. Christians have been made acceptable to God and thus fit to be gathered into His presence.

When believers die, their spirit goes immediately into conscious fellowship with the Lord, while their bodies temporarily sleep in the grave, awaiting the Rapture.

THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. (4:14b)

The resurrection of Christ indicates that the Father accepted His sacrifice, enabling Him to “be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Christ’s resurrection proves that He conquered sin and death, and became the source of resurrection life for every Christian. God will treat those who died trusting in Jesus in the same way He treated Jesus Himself, namely by resurrecting them.

The phrase even so links believers’ resurrections inextricably to the resurrection of Christ. In John 14:19 Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also.” In the most detailed passage on the resurrection in Scripture, Paul wrote that “Christ [is] the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23). Earlier in that same epistle, he stated plainly, “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power” (1 Cor. 6:14).

To further assuage their fears, Paul reassured believers that God will bring with Him [Jesus] those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Their fellow believers who died will not miss out on the Rapture but will return with Christ in glory. God will bring the spirits of dead believers will come from heaven with Christ to meet their resurrected bodies.

By demonstrating God’s acceptance of His atoning sacrifice, the resurrection of Christ buttresses the first pillar on which the Rapture is based, the death of Christ.

THE REVELATION OF CHRIST

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, (4:15a)

Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was not his own speculation but direct revelation from God. The phrase this we say to you by the word of the Lord has the authoritative tone of an inspired writer revealing what God has disclosed to him. Some argue that the word of the Lord was something Jesus said while He was here on earth. But there are no close parallels to the present passage in any of the Gospels. Nor is there any specific teaching in the Gospels to which Paul could be alluding.

Although the Lord talked in the Gospels about a trumpet and the gathering of the elect, the differences between those passages and the present one outweigh the similarities, as Robert L. Thomas notes: Similarities between this passage in 1 Thessalonians and the gospel accounts include a trumpet (Matt. 24:31), a resurrection (John 11:25, 26), and a gathering of the elect (Matt. 24:31)…. Yet dissimilarities between it and the canonical sayings of Christ far outweigh the resemblances…. Some of the differences between Matthew 24:30, 31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 are as follows: (1) In Matthew the Son of Man is coming on the clouds, … in 1 Thessalonians ascending believers are in them. (2) In the former the angels gather, in the latter the Son does so personally. (3) In the former nothing is said about resurrection, while in the latter this is the main theme. (4) Matthew records nothing about the order of ascent, which is the principal lesson in Thessalonians. (“1, 2 Thessalonians,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 11 [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979], 276–77)

Further, in 1 Corinthians 15:51 Paul referred to the Rapture as a mystery; that is, a truth formerly hidden but now revealed. That indicates that Jesus did not disclose the details of the Rapture during His earthly ministry. (He referred to the Rapture in John 14:1–3 in a general, nonspecific sense.) Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was new revelation, possibly given by God through a prophet (such as Agabus; Acts 21:11) but more likely directly to Paul himself.

The Rapture, then, does not rest on the shaky foundation of whimsical theological speculation, but on the sure foundation of the death, resurrection, and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

THE PATRICIPANTS

we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. (4:15b)

Two groups of people will participate in the Rapture: those who are alive at the coming of the Lord and those who have fallen asleep. That Paul used the plural pronoun we indicates that he believed the Rapture could happen in his lifetime. He had a proper anticipation of and expectation for the Lord’s return, though unlike many throughout church history, the apostle did not predict a specific time for it. He accepted Christ’s words in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

Several other passages express Paul’s fervent hope and expectation that he himself might be among those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord. In Romans 13:11 he wrote, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” The salvation of which he wrote was the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23) that takes place when Christ returns. “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51–52). As he concluded that letter Paul wrote, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22). Maranatha comes from two Aramaic words that mean “Oh Lord, come!” and expresses Paul’s strong hope that the Lord would return soon.

THE STEPS OF THE RAPTURE

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (4:16–17)

Having reassured the Thessalonians that their departed loved ones will not miss out on the Rapture, Paul gave a step-by-step description of that event.

First, the Lord Himself will return for His church. He will not send angels for it, in contrast to the gathering of the elect (tribulation saints) that takes place at the Second Coming (Mark 13:26–27).

Second, Jesus will descend from heaven, where He has been since His ascension (Acts 1:9–11), “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).

Third, when Jesus comes down from heaven, He will do so with a shout. Keleusma (command) has a military ring to it, as if the Commander is calling His troops to fall in. The dead saints in their resurrected bodies will join the raptured living believers in the ranks. The Lord’s shout of command will be similar to His raising of Lazarus, when “He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’” (John 11:43). This is the hour “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). The righteous dead of the church age will be the first to rise—a truth that must have greatly comforted the anxious Thessalonians.

Fourth, the voice of the archangel will sound. There is no definite article in the Greek text, which literally reads, “an archangel.” In Jude 9, the only other passage in Scripture that mentions an archangel, the archangel is Michael. He adds his voice to the Lord’s shout of command.

Fifth, to the Lord’s command and the archangel’s voice will be added the sounding of the trumpet of God (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52). Trumpets were used in Scripture for many reasons. The trumpet at the Rapture has no connection to the trumpets of judgment in Revelation 8–11. It seems to have a twofold purpose: to assemble God’s people (cf. Ex. 19:16–19) and to signal His deliverance of them (cf. Zech. 1:16; 9:14–16).

Sixth, the dead in Christ will rise first. As noted above, the dead saints will in no way be inferior to those alive at the Rapture. In fact, they will rise first, their glorified bodies joining with their glorified spirits to make them into the image of Christ.

Finally, those believers who are alive and remain will be caught up together with the dead saints in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Harpazō (caught up) refers to a strong, irresistible, even violent act. In Matthew 11:12 it describes the taking of the kingdom of heaven by force. In Acts 8:39 it speaks of Philip’s being snatched away from the Ethiopian eunuch; and in 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4 it describes Paul’s being caught up into the third heaven.

It is when living believers are caught up that they are transformed and receive their glorified bodies (Phil. 3:21). “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” believers “will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52), rescued from the grasp of Satan, the fallen flesh, the evil world system, and the coming wrath of God.

A CASE FOR A PRETRIBULATION RAPTURE – TIMING OF THE RAPTURE

The time of the Rapture cannot be discerned from this passage alone. But when it is read with other Rapture texts (John 14:3; Rev. 3:10; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51–52; Phil. 3:2–21), and compared to judgment texts (Matt. 13:34–50; 24:29–44; Rev. 19:11–21), it is clear that there is no mention of judgment at all in the Rapture passages, whereas the others are major on judgment. It is therefore necessary to conclude that the Rapture occurs at a time other than the judgment.

It is best, then, to separate the two events. That initiates the case for the Rapture to occur imminently, before the elements of judgment described in Scripture as leading up to the Second Coming in judgment.

Again, no solitary text of Scripture makes the entire case for the pretribulation Rapture. However, when one considers all the New Testament evidence, a very compelling case for the pretribulational position emerges, which answers more questions and solves more problems than any other Rapture position. The following arguments present a strong case in favor of the pretribulation Rapture.

First, the earthly kingdom of Christ promised in Revelation 6–18 does not mention the church as being on earth. Because Revelation 1–3 uses the Greek word for church nineteen times, one would reasonably assume that if the church were on earth rather than in heaven in chapters 6–18, they would use “church” with similar frequency, but such is not the case. Therefore, one can assume that the church is not present on the earth during the period of tribulation described in Revelation 6–18 and that therefore the Lord has removed it from the earth and relocated it to heaven by means of the Rapture.

Second, Revelation 19 does not mention a Rapture even though that is where a posttribulational Rapture (if true) would logically occur. Thus, one can conclude that the Rapture will have already occurred.

Third, a posttribulational Rapture renders the Rapture concept itself inconsequential. If God preserves the church during the Tribulation, as posttribulationists assert, then why have a Rapture at all? It makes no sense to Rapture believers from earth to heaven for no apparent purpose other than to return them immediately with Christ to earth. Further, a posttribulational Rapture makes the unique separation of the sheep (believers) from the goats (unbelievers) at the return of Christ in judgment redundant because a posttribulational Rapture would have already accomplished that.

Fourth, if God raptures and glorifies all believers just prior to the inauguration of the millennial kingdom (as a posttribulational Rapture demands), no one would be left to populate and propagate the earthly kingdom of Christ promised to Israel. It is not within the Lord’s plan and purpose to use glorified individuals to propagate the earth during the Millennium. Therefore, the Rapture needs to occur earlier so that after God has raptured all believers, He can save more souls —including Israel’s remnant—during the seven-year Tribulation. Those people can then enter the millennial kingdom in earthly form. The most reasonable possibility for this scenario is the pretribulational Rapture.

Fifth, the New Testament does not warn of an impending tribulation, such as is experienced during Daniel’s seventieth week, for church-age believers. It does warn of error and false prophets (Acts 20:29–30; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1–3), against ungodly living (Eph. 4:25–5:7; 1 Thess. 4:3–8; Heb. 12:1), and of present tribulation (1 Thess. 2:14–16; 2 Thess. 1:4; all of 2 Peter). Thus it is incongruous that the New Testament would be silent concerning such a traumatic change as Daniel’s seventieth week if posttribulationism were true.

Sixth, Paul’s instructions here to the Thessalonians demand a pretribulational Rapture because, if Paul were teaching them posttribulationism, one would expect them to rejoice that loved ones were home with the Lord and spared the horrors of the Tribulation. But, in actuality, the Thessalonians grieved. In addition, with a posttribulational teaching one would expect them to sorrow over their own impending trial and inquire about their future doom; however, they expressed no such dread or questioning. Further, one might expect Paul to instruct and exhort them concerning such a supreme test as the Tribulation, but Paul wrote only about the hope of the Rapture.

Seventh, the sequence of events at Christ’s coming following the Tribulation demands a pretribulational Rapture. A comparing and contrasting of Rapture passages with Second Coming passages yields strong indicators that the Rapture could not be posttribulational. For example: (a) at the Rapture, Christ gathers His own (vv. 16–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, angels gather the elect (Matt. 24:31); (b) at the Rapture, resurrection is prominent (vv. 15–16 of the present passage), but regarding the Second Coming, Scripture does not mention the resurrection; (c) at the Rapture, Christ comes to reward believers (v. 17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, Christ comes to judge the earth (Matt. 25:31–46); (d) at the Rapture, the Lord snatches away true believers from the earth (vv. 15–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, He takes away unbelievers (Matt. 24:37–41); (e) at the Rapture, unbelievers remain on the earth, whereas at the Second Coming, believers remain on the earth; (f) concerning the Rapture, Scripture does not mention the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, but at His second coming, Christ sets up His kingdom; and (g) at the Rapture, believers will receive glorified bodies, whereas at the Second Coming, no one will receive glorified bodies.

Eighth, certain of Jesus’ teachings demand a pretribulational Rapture. For instance, the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24–30) portrays the reapers (angels) removing the tares (unbelievers) from among the wheat (believers) in order to judge the tares, which demonstrates that at the Second Coming, the Lord has unbelievers removed from among believers. However, at the Rapture, He takes believers from among unbelievers. This is also true in the parable of the dragnet (Matt. 13:47–50) and in the discussion of the days of Noah and the description of the nations’ judgment, both in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24–25).

Ninth, Revelation 3:10 teaches that the Lord will remove the church prior to the Tribulation. In the Greek, the phrase “I also will keep you from” can mean nothing other than “I will prevent you from entering into.” Jesus Christ will honor the church by preventing it from entering the hour of testing, namely Daniel’s seventieth week, which is about to come upon the entire world. Only a pretribulational Rapture can explain how this will happen.

Thus, the Rapture (being caught up) must be pretribulational, before the wrath of God described in the Tribulation (Rev. 6–19). At the Rapture, living believers will be caught up together with the believers raised from the dead as the church triumphant joins the church militant to become the church glorified.

The final step in the plan of the Rapture is the blessed, comforting truth that after Christ returns to gather us (believers) to Himself, we shall always be with the Lord.

THE PROFIT OF THE RAPTURE

Therefore comfort one another with these words. (4:18)

The benefit of understanding the Rapture is not to fill the gaps in one’s eschatological scheme. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, Paul’s goal in teaching the Thessalonians about the Rapture was to comfort them. The “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3) grants to all believers the encouraging comfort of knowing that Christ will one day return for them. At that monumental event, the dead in Christ will be raised, join with the living saints in experiencing a complete transformation of body and soul, and be with God forever. Therefore, there was no need for the Thessalonians to grieve or sorrow over their fellow believers who had died. No wonder Paul calls the return of Christ “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

THE ANTICHRIST REVEALED AFTER THE RAPTURE

“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” (2 Thes. 2:1–2)

This final Antichrist, as Scripture depicts him, has yet to appear on the world’s stage. And since he must appear before the Day of the Lord begins, the Thessalonians’ fears that they were already in that terrible time of judgment were groundless. Based on that truth, Paul made an urgent request of them to properly comprehend the events surrounding the Second Coming.

“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes 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. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2 Thes. 2:3–5)

Out of all the precursors of the Day of the Lord (e.g., Joel 2:31; 3:14; Mal. 4:5), Paul singled out the apostasy. He was not, of course, setting a posttribulational date for the Rapture. His point was merely that the apostasy will precede the Day of the Lord and since it has not yet taken place at the time he wrote to them, the Day of the Lord could not have arrived.

The basic meaning of apostasia (apostasy) is “revolt,” or “rebellion.” The word marks a deliberate defection from a formerly held religious position. Paul was not referring here to apostasy (defection from the gospel truth) in the general sense. There have always been apostate churches, like that at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14–22), as well as apostate individuals (Heb. 10:25–31; 2 Peter 2:20–22). Such generalized apostasy, because it is always present, cannot signify a particular time period.

Apostasy will reach its peak in the end times: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these…. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:1–5, 13; cf. 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Peter 3:3–4; Jude 17–18)

Nor does Paul have in mind the apostasy during the Tribulation, of which Jesus warned in Matt.  24:11–12, 24. The apostasy will be a blasphemous act of unprecedented magnitude. The apostle identified the apostasy by naming the key character connected with it: the man of lawlessness. Understanding who that key person is, is a prerequisite to identifying the apostasy event. Anomia (lawlessness) literally means “without law” (cf. 1 John 3:4). Even in the end times, when “lawlessness is increased” (Matt. 24:12), this Satan-energized leader will stand out as the one whose depraved, wicked, lawless leadership sweeps over the whole world—with influence never before seen.

The aorist tense of the verb translated revealed points to a definite time when this man will appear. It implies that he was previously present and known, but his act of apostasy will unveil his true evil identity.

The title man of lawlessness has been identified with many different individuals, including Antiochus Epiphanes, Caligula, Nero, and in the last century, Hitler, Stalin, and others. But the close association of the man of lawlessness with the Day of the Lord rules out historical persons; otherwise, the Day of the Lord might have come centuries ago. The man of lawlessness cannot be Satan, for he is distinguished from the devil in verse 9. Nor can this be a reference to a principle of evil, for the text specifically identifies him as a man. He can be none other than the final Antichrist.

The Antichrist will exalt himself by taking his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. The temple, the symbol of God’s presence, is the most fitting place for Satan to orchestrate the ultimate act of blasphemy—a wicked man displaying himself as being God. This apostasy, to which Paul refers here and which Jesus called the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15), referring to Daniel’s prophecy, will take place at the midpoint of the Tribulation (Dan. 9:27). Then, there is coming a satanic false religion that will dominate the world like no other in history (cf. Rev. 17).

“And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, (2 Thes. 2:6–10a)

As the phrase and you know indicates, the Thessalonians understood what force currently restrains the Antichrist because Paul had told them when he was with them. Therefore, he did not repeat it here—a fact that has led to endless speculation as to what it is. The Greek verb translated restrains (katechō; “to hold back,” “to hold down,” “to suppress”) appears in this text as a neuter participle, prompting commentators to suggest numerous options as to the identity of that restraining force. But basically none of those opinions is satisfactory. The most significant problem with all of them is that they are human forces.

The most logical of those choices, the church, has never been able to restrain even human evil. It may do so to some extent in the lives of its members, but the outside world continues to grow worse and worse—a situation that will especially characterize the end times (2 Tim. 3:13). If no human or angelic power restrains, that leaves only the power of God to hold back the purpose of Satan for his Antichrist.

Though the Antichrist may be restrained, evil will not be; in fact, the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Mustērion (mystery) describes something “which has been kept secret for long ages past” (Rom. 16:25) and is incapable of being known unless revealed by God. The true character of lawlessness is already at work (cf. 1 John 3:4); and “even now many antichrists have appeared” (1 John 2:18; cf. 4:3). Evil, lies, hypocrisy, immorality, and false religion permeate the world and grow increasingly worse, so that every generation is more wicked than those before (2 Tim. 3:13), but sin’s ultimate manifestation is yet to come. When the restraint is removed and the Antichrist appears, the true character of evil will be manifested. It should be noted that not only will the man of lawlessness be revealed, but God will also release demons from being bound in hell to inundate the earth (Rev. 9:1–19).

The change in gender from the neuter participle translated “what restrains” in verse 6 to the masculine participle rendered he who … restrains is significant. The sovereign, divine force that currently restrains the Antichrist is exerted by a person—the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13 where Jesus used a masculine pronoun with the neuter noun translated “Spirit”). Only He has the supernatural power to hold Satan in check.

He will continue His restraining work until the midpoint of the Tribulation. The removal of the Holy Spirit’s restraint therefore cannot be identified with the Rapture of the church, since that event takes place three and a half years earlier, before the Tribulation. Remember that the Holy Spirit needs to be present during the first half when the Gospel is preached by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, the two witnesses and the flying angel.

The phrase taken out of the way must therefore not be interpreted to mean that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the world. That is impossible, since He is omnipresent. Nor could anyone be saved during the Tribulation (cf. Rev. 7:14) apart from His regenerating work (John 3:3–8; Titus 3:5). The phrase refers not to the removal of the Holy Spirit from the world, but rather to the cessation of His restraining work.

The Antichrist’s power and signs and false wonders will not only be deceptive tricks, like falsifying his own death and resurrection (Rev. 13:3, 12, 14; 17:8, 11), but also actual manifestations of Satan’s supernatural power. They will cause people to believe the lie that he is a divine being and worship him. John saw that the Antichrist’s deluded followers “worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’” (Rev. 13:4; cf. vv. 12–15). Antichrist will mislead the world with all the deception … wickedness has at its disposal.

The Antichrist’s malevolent, deceptive, deadly influence will extend to all those who perish. Only God’s elect will not be taken in (Matt. 24:24). The unregenerate, being children of the arch-liar Satan (John 8:44), will inevitably fall for the lies of his emissary (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:3–4). Through him, Satan will deceive the whole world (Rev. 12:9); all those who “[receive] the mark of the beast and those who [worship] his image” (Rev. 19:20; cf. 2 Cor. 4:4).

“because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” (2 Thes. 2:10b–12)

The phrase the love of the truth appears only here in the New Testament, and adds a compelling thought to Paul’s argument. The unregenerate are eternally lost, not because they did not hear or understand the truth, but because they did not love it. The truth includes both “the word of truth, the gospel” (Col. 1:5), and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is truth incarnate (John 14:6; cf. 1:17; Eph. 4:21).

The terrifying reality is that God will seal the fate of those who hate the gospel by sending upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. He will sentence unbelievers to accept evil as if it were good and lies as if they were the truth. Those who continually choose falsehood will be inextricably caught by it.

God will use Satan as an instrument of His judgment, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. Satan will, through Antichrist and the false prophet, delude the world into believing the lie that Antichrist is God. Unbelievers will be confirmed in that belief because they will choose not to love the truth, but rather to take pleasure in wickedness.

THE COMING OF THE DAY OF THE LORD

“Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.” (1 Thes. 5:1–3)

After the world experienced the terror of two world wars, the horror of the Holocaust, the brutality of the Korean conflict, the hopeless futility of the war in Vietnam, as well as innumerable revolutions, riots, assassinations, and acts of terrorism, a crucial question is, Where (if anywhere) is history going?

The Bible reveals history to be the outworking of the purposeful plan of the sovereign, creator God. Job confessed, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Through the prophet Isaiah, God declared, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure” (Isa. 46:10), and “I act and who can reverse it?” (Isa. 43:13). Jesus Christ is the central figure in history; the Old Testament points to His coming, and the New Testament describes and expounds His life, death, resurrection, and second coming.

As history continues to unfold the eternally planned purposes of God, one event looms large on the horizon: the Day of the Lord. That event will mark the end of man’s day, as God acts in judgment to take back direct control of the earth from the usurpers (both human and demonic) who presently rule it. It will be an unprecedented time of cataclysmic judgment on all unrepentant sinners.

Most preachers strive to be positive, affirming, and comforting, and hence rarely preach on God’s wrath, vengeance, and judgment. But to ignore such truth is to “shrink from declaring … the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). It is to forsake the preacher’s responsibility to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). Scripture repeatedly warns of God’s judgment and the eternal punishment of unbelievers. Judgment was a major emphasis of both the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. But the one who spoke most often about judgment was the Lord Jesus Christ. All true preachers must follow His example, as did Paul (cf. 1:10; 2:16; 4:6; 5:9; 2 Thess. 1:5–9).

Paul had preached the sobering truth about the Day of the Lord to the Thessalonians during his relatively brief stay in their city (2 Thess. 2:5). After he left, questions arose in their minds about both the Rapture and the Day of the Lord. Timothy likely conveyed those concerns to Paul when he returned from his trip to Thessalonica (3:2, 6). Having answered their questions about the Rapture in the previous passage (4:13–18), Paul now dealt with the Thessalonians’ concerns about the Day of the Lord. From the blessed event of the catching away of the church, Paul turned to the horrible event that follows it —the destruction of the wicked rejecters of the Lord Jesus Christ. As it was in dealing with the Rapture, Paul’s purpose in writing this section on the Day of the Lord was not primarily theological and eschatological but pastoral and practical.

The phrase the times (chronos) and the epochs (kairos) refers in a general sense to the end times (cf. Dan. 2:21; Acts 1:7). Though the two words may be used here in an overlapping sense, there is a subtle difference in meaning between them. Chronos refers to chronological time, to clock time or calendar time. Kairos, on the other hand, views time in terms of events, eras, or seasons, such as the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). Taken together, the two terms suggest that the Thessalonians were curious about the timing of the end-time events. That both nouns are plural indicates that many different time periods (cf. Dan. 7:25; 9:24–27; 12:7, 11, 12; Rev. 11:2–3; 13:5) and events (e.g., the Rapture, the rise of Antichrist, the salvation of Israel, the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments, the Second Coming, the battle of Armageddon, the sheep and goat judgment, the binding of Satan, the millennial kingdom, the loosing of Satan and subsequent worldwide rebellion at the end of the Millennium, the Great White Throne judgment, and the new heavens and the new earth) make up the end times.

As Paul replied to the Thessalonians’ questions about the Day of the Lord, Paul discussed three aspects of that momentous event: its coming, character, and completeness.

For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” (5:2–3a)

What the Thessalonians already knew full well was that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night—suddenly, unexpectedly, unwelcomed, and harmfully. It will be a terrifying shock to those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Akribōs (full well) describes careful, accurate, painstaking research (cf. Matt. 2:8; Luke 1:3; Acts 18:25). The Thessalonians knew for certain that the Day of the Lord will arrive unexpectedly. Obviously, then, the time of its arrival will not be revealed; no sane thief announces in advance what time of the night he plans to rob someone.

In the Olivet Discourse—Jesus’ own sermon on His second coming—He also used the imagery of a thief in the night to refer to the unexpectedness of His return:

“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into” (Matt. 24:43; cf. Rev. 16:15). Like the Day of the Lord, the exact time of the Second Coming will not be revealed, though there will be signs that Christ’s return is imminent (Matt. 24:4–33). Jesus put every generation on notice that they must live in expectation of His return and the events of the Day of the Lord that lead up to it.

The metaphor of a thief coming is never used to refer to the Rapture of the church. It describes the coming of the Lord in judgment at the end of the seven year Tribulation period, and the judgment at the end of the thousand-year kingdom of Christ on earth (2 Peter 3:10). A thief coming is not a hopeful, joyful event of deliverance, but an unexpected calamity.

The important biblical term the day of the Lord describes God’s cataclysmic future judgment on the wicked. It is mentioned explicitly nineteen times in the Old Testament (Isa. 2:12; 13:6, 9; Ezek. 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18 [2 times], 20; Obad. 15; Zeph. 1:7, 14 [2 times]; Zech. 14:1; Mal. 4:5) and four times in the New Testament (cf. Acts 2:20; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10), and is alluded to in other passages (cf. Rev. 6:17; 16:14). It will be the time when God pours out His fury on the wicked; in fact, Scripture three times calls the Day of the Lord the “day of vengeance” (Isa. 34:8; 61:2; 63:4).

The Day of the Lord must be distinguished from the “day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10; 2:16), the “day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6), the “day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5), and the “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8); all of those terms refer to the time when believers will receive their rewards from the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 3:11–14; 4:1–5; 2 Cor. 5:9–10). The Day of the Lord must also be distinguished from the “day of God” (2 Peter 3:12), which refers to the eternal state.

The Old Testament passages dealing with the Day of the Lord often convey a sense of imminence, nearness, and expectation: “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near!” (Isa. 13:6); “For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near” (Ezek. 30:3); “For the day of the Lord is near” (Joel 1:15); “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near” (Joel 2:1);

“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14); “For the day of the Lord draws near on all the nations” (Obad. 15); “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near” (Zeph. 1:7); “Near is the great day of the Lord, near and coming very quickly” (Zeph. 1:14).

The Old Testament prophets envisioned historical days of the Lord that would preview the final, eschatological Day of the Lord. God often used providentially controlled circumstances, such as using one nation to destroy another, or natural disasters, as instruments of His judgment. But those historical days of the Lord were merely a prelude to the final eschatological Day of the Lord, which will be far greater in extent and more terrible in its destruction. The Old Testament Day of the Lord passages often have both a near and a far fulfillment, as does much Old Testament prophecy.

The Day of the Lord will not come until “the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes 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” (2 Thess. 2:3–4). The rise of Antichrist and his desecration of the temple (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Matt. 24:15) will precede the coming of the Day of the Lord.

Unbelievably, incomprehensibly, despite these obvious, unmistakable signs, most people will still be caught by surprise when the Day of the Lord comes.

The terrible outpouring of God’s wrath in judgment will happen while they are saying, “Peace and safety!” The only explanation for such a ludicrous, absurd response is that people will be deceived by false prophets. God declared of the false prophets who plagued Israel: “It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, “Peace!” when there is no peace. And when anyone builds a wall, behold, …. And you will know that I am the Lord. Thus I will spend My wrath on the wall and on those who have plastered it over with whitewash; and I will say to you, ‘The wall is gone and its plasterers are gone, along with the prophets of Israel who prophesy to Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,’” declares the Lord God. (Ezek. 13:10–16)

Unbelievers’ susceptibility to the false prophets’ deception is a sign of God’s judgment on them. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10–12 Paul wrote that those deceived by the Antichrist will “perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” As a result, the sudden, unexpected coming of the Day of the Lord will sweep them away in judgment.

THE CHARACTER OF THE DAY OF THE LORD

then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, (5:3b)

In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 Paul reminded the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord (v. 2) “will not come unless the apostasy comes first.” That apostasy will include a worldwide system of false religion.

Olethros (destruction) does not refer to annihilation, but separation from God (cf. 2 Thess. 1:9). It does not mean the destruction of being, but of well-being (cf. 1 Tim. 6:9); not the end of existence, but the destruction of the purpose for existence. God will accomplish the destruction of unbelievers by casting them into the eternal torment of hell (2 Thess. 1:9).

Acts 2:19–20 describes the Day of the Lord as a time of “wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.”

By using the term them (a reference to unbelievers), Paul reassured the Thessalonians that they will not face destruction. As he states plainly in verse 4, the Thessalonians will not experience the Day of the Lord; they will be raptured before it begins. As noted earlier, the Day of the Lord will come suddenly and unexpectedly on unbelievers. They will fail to heed the many precursors that should have warned them of its imminent arrival, just as labor pains coming upon a woman with child warn her that the birth of her child is imminent.

and they will not escape. (5:3c)

The tragic result of unbelievers’ unpreparedness for the Day of the Lord is that they will not escape divine judgment. The use of the double negative ou mē stresses the comprehensiveness of the Day of the Lord, which will bring destruction on every unbeliever alive when it comes. In the sobering, pensive words of the writer of Hebrews, “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).

Believers should be comforted by the reality that they will be raptured before the coming of the Day of the Lord and not experience its horrors.

THE DISTINCTIVENESS OF BELIEVERS’ NATURE

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; (5:4–5)

The phrase but you introduces a contrast with verse 3, where Paul used the pronouns “they” and “them” to refer to unbelievers who will not escape the Day of the Lord. The familial term brethren further emphasizes Paul’s point. As God’s children, the Thessalonians would not experience the Day of the Lord, because unlike unbelievers, believers are not in darkness; they possess an entirely different nature. They do not belong to the night; they are not part of Satan’s evil kingdom.

Because their nature is distinct from unbelievers, believers need not fear that the day would  overtake them like a thief. The Day of the Lord is a “day of darkness” (Joel 2:2; Zeph. 1:15); “the day of the Lord … will be darkness and not light…. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light?” (Amos 5:18, 20). It is for the night people; thus day people need not fear the Day of the Lord; they will not be part of it.

Far from being in the darkness, believers are all sons of light and sons of day (cf. Luke 16:8; John 12:36; Eph. 5:8).

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (5:9–11)

The most sobering truth in Scripture is that God will judge the wicked and sentence them to eternal hell (Matt. 3:12; 13:40–42, 50; 18:8; 25:41, 46; John 3:36; 5:29; Acts 24:25; Rom. 2:5, 8; 9:22; 2 Thess. 1:9; Heb. 6:2; 10:26–27; 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7; Rev. 14:9–11; 20:11–15; 21:8). On the other hand, the blessed truth for believers is that God has not destined us for wrath (cf. 1:10; John 3:18, 36; 5:24; Rom. 5:1, 9; 8:1, 33–34).

Believers will not experience the wrath God will pour out on unbelievers on the Day of the Lord, and for eternity in hell. The word destined expresses the inexorable outworking of God’s sovereign plan for believers’ salvation. In Matthew 25:34 Jesus promised that believers will “inherit the kingdom prepared for [them] from the foundation of the world.”

Orgē (wrath) does not refer to a momentary outburst of rage, but to “an abiding and settled habit of mind” (Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament [reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 131). It is a general reference to the final judgment, when God’s wrath will be poured out on the wicked (Matt. 3:7; John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 2:5, 8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6; Rev. 14:9–11). But God’s wrath here must also include the Day of the Lord, since that was the Thessalonians’ primary concern. Paul assured them that they would face neither temporal wrath on the Day of the Lord (cf. Rev. 6:17), nor eternal wrath in hell.

The marvelous reality is that all believers will live together with Him, as Jesus Himself promised:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1–3; cf. 1 Thess. 4:17) They will live forever in God’s glorious presence, where “there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).

Paul concluded his discussion of the Day of the Lord by exhorting the Thessalonians to encourage one another and build up one another. Based on the truth he had given them, they were to reassure the anxious and fearful that they would not experience the Day of the Lord. His concluding phrase, just as you also are doing, affirms that they were already committed to encouragement.

“we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.” (2 Thes. 1:4–5)

Paul expressed that pride because he was greatly encouraged by the Thessalonians’ spiritual growth and the absence of significant problems in the congregation, irrespective of all the persecutions and afflictions which they endured. Instead of being consumed with personal happiness, fulfillment, comfort, success, or prosperity, they were living out Jesus’ command to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).

Their suffering was not, of course, the basis of the Thessalonians’ salvation but the evidence of it. Through His purging, chastening, purifying work in their lives, God prepared them to be worthy of the kingdom, for “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22; cf. 1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Peter 5:10).

“it is only just for God … to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well … when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.” (2 Thes 1:6a, 7a–b, 10)

Not only will Christ return to bring retribution to unbelievers but also to give relief to believers. Just as God’s justice demands that He bring retribution on unbelievers, so also it is only just for Him to give relief to the redeemed. The due penalty for sin has been paid by the Lamb of God; divine justice has been satisfied by His death for sinners; believers’ eternal rest is secure.

When He comes, two things will happen that will bring relief to believers. First, Christ will be glorified in His saints on that day. There is coming a day in which God will be glorified through believers in a manner never before seen.

This is the glorious manifestation of believers that Paul wrote about in Romans 8:18–19: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” This glorification will be the final and full redemption of all believers alive when Jesus Christ comes in glory. That requires some explanation. Some believers will already be in the glorified condition, having been raptured before the Tribulation. They will have been in heaven since then in the place prepared for them (John 14:1–3) in resurrection glory enjoying their rewards and fellowship with their Lord. They will return with Christ (Rev. 19:14) to the earth for the Millennium, to join the saints still alive on earth who will receive the earthly kingdom and reign of the Savior. Apparently at the time of Christ’s return, Tribulation saints and Old Testament saints, whose spirits have been with the Lord, will be raised and fully glorified to join those descending from heaven.

This is the resurrection spoken of by Daniel: “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Dan. 12:1–3)

All the living believers who enter the kingdom will see the glorified saints.

Second, believers will be marveled at among all who have believed. Since only believers enter the kingdom, as the judgment of the sheep and goats makes clear (cf. Matt. 25:31–46; Rev. 20:6), the redeemed will wonder at the glory of Christ that is fully revealed in the resurrected saints.

Lest the Thessalonians fear that they might miss out on the relief Christ will bring when He returns, Paul reminded them that they would be among the glorified saints because our testimony to you was believed.

(Main Source: New Testament Commentary 1& 2 Thessalonians – John MacArthur)

DOWNLOADABLE FILE : THE BLESSED HOPE OF THE THESSALONIANS

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A GREAT RESOURCE

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If you are a watchman and interested in Bible prophecy, you probably know Don Stewart, or have at least heard of him. Don Stewart is an internationally recognized Christian apologist and speaker. He graduated cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary and the International Seminar in Theology and Law in Strasbourg, France, as well as from Biola University. Don is also a best-selling and award-winning author/co-author of over seventy books. His various writings have been translated into over thirty different languages and have sold over a million copies. Don has traveled around the world proclaiming and staunchly defending the Christian faith.

Don is now a full-time missionary with GoinChrist Ministries.  His website educatingourworld.com provides free resources for those wanting to know what Christians believe, as well as why we believe what we believe. The material covers not only prophecy, but a large variety of other important topics as well.

Currently there are 59 books on the site in PDF form, totaling about 13,000 pages of material while answering over 1,900 questions.

http://www.educatingourworld.com/index.php

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BILL GATES – THE MYSTERY MAN

bill gates

WHO IS BILL GATES? **

William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955 in Seattle, Washington) is an American business magnate, software developer, investor, and philanthropist. Until recently, he was best known as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation. During the late 1990s, Gates had been criticized for his business tactics, which have been considered anti-competitive. From 1995 to 2017, he held the Forbes title of the richest person in the world all but four of those years. As of November 2019, Gates had an estimated net worth of US$107.1 billion.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Gates stated in regard to his faith: “The moral systems of religion, I think, are super important. We’ve raised our kids in a religious way; they’ve gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in. I’ve been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that’s kind of a religious belief. I mean, it’s at least a moral belief.”

WHAT DOES THE BILL & MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION DO? **

In June 2006, Gates announced that he would be transitioning to a part-time role at Microsoft and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the private charitable foundation that he and his wife, Melinda Gates, established in 2000. He donated large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is reported to be the world’s largest private charity organization.

Gates has credited the generosity and extensive philanthropy of David Rockefeller as a major influence. Gates and his father met with Rockefeller several times, and their charity work is partly modeled on the Rockefeller family’s philanthropic focus, whereby they are interested in “tackling the global problems that are ignored by governments and other organizations.”

The foundation is organized into four program areas: Global Development Division, Global Health Division, United States Division, and Global Policy & Advocacy Division. Their longer-term goal is UNIVERSAL access to voluntary family planning.

** Information obtained from Wikipedia

GATES, THE GLOBALIST

Gates’ admiration of David Rockefeller speaks for itself. The Rockefeller Institute has a long history advocating the planned death of the undesirable and the health care for those who are considered more worthy.

He believes the population of the world is much more than the earth can bear, and the government should implement procedures to REDUCE the population. Simultaneously, Gates produces vaccines, and he has personally put forward billions of dollars to spread vaccines across the world. Gates says that DEPOPULATION can be done via “vaccine programs.”

In 2010 on the TED show in California, Gates said, “If we are doing a real good job vaccinating children, we can reduce the world population by 10% to 15%.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaF-fq2Zn7I

Paul Koenig reported on Europe Reloaded that for over twenty years the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) have been vaccinating foremost children by the millions in remote areas of poor countries, mostly Africa and Asia. Most of their vaccination programs had disastrous results, causing the very illness (polio, for example in India) and sterilizing young women (Kenya, with modified tetanus vaccines). Many of the children died. Many of the programs were carried out with the backing of the WHO and – yes – the UN Agency responsible for the Protection of Children, UNICEF.

Robert F Kennedy Jr, an avid Defender of Children’s Rights and an advocate for safe vaccines have even launched a petition sent to the White House, calling for investigations into the dangerous ways in which vaccines are forced on children.

In September 2017, Bill and Melinda Gates expressed their concern that the world is on a course to fall well short of high-profile 2030 targets around “global health and poverty” that United Nations members adopted in 2015.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are also joining hands with the globalists with regards to the hoax of climate change. The recently said that fighting climate change and promoting gender equality will be prominent issues in their philanthropy going forward. Apparently, the foundation plans to work on technologies for lowering carbon emissions. “Tackling climate change is going to demand historic levels of GLOBAL COOPERATION, unprecedented amounts of innovation in nearly every sector of the economy, widespread deployment of today’s clean-energy solutions like solar and wind, and a concerted effort to work with the people who are most vulnerable to a warmer world,” wrote Bill Gates.

In the meantime, a Times investigation revealed that Gates had a much closer relationship with Jeffrey Epstein than previously known. According to the National Catholic Register, in November 2019, Pope Francis received Melinda Gates in an unpublicized private audience. Vatican communications officials and the Gates Foundation however declined to confirm or deny whether such a meeting took place.

COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS, WHO, FAUCI AND BIRX

Gates is a frontman on the Covid-19 bandwagon. The World Economic Forum reported that he is now funding the construction of factories for seven coronavirus vaccine candidates. He is also the man who insisted that a complete shutdown is the only way to stop the spread of (man-made) coronavirus. In the meantime, for the man on the street, work isn’t an option. It’s food. It’s survival. And getting a handout from the government, while necessary in times of crises, doesn’t make up for a bankrupted business.

And of course, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is also a member of the World Health Organization (WHO). As the Washington Post rightfully claim in an article dated April 2, 2020, Gates practically controls policy at WHO. (No wonder Gates strongly criticized Trump’s decision to defund WHO “as dangerous as it sounds.”) In the article, he stressed that the impacts of the new coronavirus could linger another 18 months or so, UNTIL A VACCINE was developed.

Anthony Stephen Fauci is an American physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984. Since January 2020, he has been one of the lead members of the Trump Administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force addressing the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

According to an article by National File.com, April 13, 2020, President Donald Trump is fighting to find a medical solution for the Coronavirus in the short term, expressing hope that the anti-malaria drug Chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine can help patients suffering from the Chinese virus.

The truth is that President Donald Trump is locked in an intense power struggle with Bill Gates, who is pushing his vaccines, which may not be available to the public within the next 18 months.

Gates has a lot of pull in the medical world, he has a multi-million dollar relationship with Fauci, and Fauci originally took the Gates line supporting vaccines and casting doubt on Chloroquine. Fauci then changed his tune and launched a public relations campaign huddling closer to Trump, though he still makes his hostility toward the Trump-touted drugs clear, even if doing so between the lines. But actually, Fauci is still pushing the talking point that things will never go back to normal in our society until we have the ability to mass-vaccinate people, echoing Bill Gates’ assertion that mass gatherings in our culture “may not come back at all” before mass-vaccinations.

Furthermore, Coronavirus response team member Dr. Deborah Birx, appointed by former president Obama to serve as United States Global AIDS Coordinator, also sits on the board of a group that has received billions from Gates’ foundation, and Birx reportedly used a disputed Bill Gates-funded model for the White Houses’ Coronavirus effort.

CONCLUSION

Bill Gates can be one of the richest and most powerful men on earth, yet, in reality he is only a poor slave to Satan. This man is one of the forerunners in setting the table for the One World Government. However, what we need to remember is that we “do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Still, God does not expect us to be blind to all of the evil going on. As a matter of fact, we should “watch” and not believe the lies, but search for truth. “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)

Men like Bill Gates are merely role players and these things need to happen in order for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled. “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)

Above all, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may [a]be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)

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THE SEVEN FEASTS OF THE LORD & PROPHECY

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These are the set times of the LORD, the sacred occasions, which you shall celebrate each at its appointed time. – Leviticus 23:4

LEVITICUS 23 is the single chapter of the entire Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) that sums God’s eternal plan through the nature and timing of the Seven annual Feasts of the LORD. The entire human race now exists between two of these feasts.

In Jewish eschatology, the term mashiach, or “Messiah”, refers specifically to a future Jewish king from the Davidic line, who is expected to save the Jewish nation, and will be anointed with holy anointing oil and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age.

Sacrifice is the major feature of the feasts. Believers in Mashiach are not responsible to keep these feasts, but knowledge of them enhances our faith. Our Lord kept every one of them without fail, even celebrating Pesach on His last earthly night.

It was on Mount Sinai that God gave Moses the dates and observances of the eight major feasts for the Jewish people to observe. Here are their names:
1. Passover (Pesach) – Nisan 14
2. Unleavened Bread (Chag Hamotzi) – Nisan 15-22
3. First Fruits (Yom habikkurim) – Nisan 16
4. Pentecost (Shavu’ot) – Sivan 6
5. Trumpets (Yom Teru’ah) – Tishri 1
6. Atonement (Yom Kippur) – Tishri 10
7. Tabernacles (Sukkot) – Tishri 15
8. The Sabbath Day (i.e., Shabbat, a weekly feast)

For the purpose of this article, we only focus on the first seven.

God’s calendar is based on the phases of the moon. Each month in a lunar calendar begins with a new moon. Pesach falls on the first full moon of Spring. The first three feasts fall in March and April. The fourth one marked the summer harvest and occurs in late May or early June. The last three feasts happen in September and October.

The Spring Feasts

1. Passover (Pesach). Leviticus 23:5 specifies that the festival year begins with Passover on “the fourteenth day of the first month” (Nisan 15). Passover is the Feast of Salvation. In both testaments, the blood of the Lamb delivers from slavery – the Jew from Egypt, the Christian from sin. Think about the tenth plague in Exodus 12:5 when Egypt’s first born sons died while the angel of death “passed over” the Jewish homes with the blood of the lamb on their door posts. In the New Testament (B’rit Chadashah), Jesus serves as the sacrificial Lamb. It is no coincidence that our Lord Himself was sacrificed on Passover. In Egypt the Jew marked his house with the blood of the lamb. Today the Christian marks his house – his body, “the house of the spirit” with the blood of Christ. Passover, then, represents our salvation.

2. Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMotzi). Leviticus 23:6 puts the second feast on the next night: “On the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread unto the Lord; seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.” Leaven or yeast in the Bible symbolized sin and evil. Unleavened bread, eaten over a period of time, symbolized a holy walk, as with the Lord. Unleavened bread, in the New Testament is, of course, the body of our Lord. He is described as “the Bread of Life” (Lechem haChayim). He was born in Bethlehem, which, in Hebrew, means, “House of Bread” (Bet Lechem).

Look at the matzah and see that it is striped: “By His stripes we are healed”; pierced: “They shall look upon me whom they’ve pierced,” and pure, without any leaven, as His body was without any sin.

3. First Fruits (Yom Habikkurim). “On the morrow after the Sabbath” following Unleavened Bread, Leviticus 23:11 schedules First Fruits, the feast for acknowledging the fertility of the land He gave the Israelites. They were to bring the early crops of their spring planting and “wave the sheaf before the Lord.” The modern church has come to call this feast “Easter,” named after Ishtar, the pagan goddess of fertility. We continue to revere objects of fertility such as the rabbit and the egg, but the First Fruits celebration was to be over God’s replanting of the earth in the spring. Today this feasts celebrates the resurrection of the Lord on First Fruits, which indeed occurred (plus, eventually, the resurrection of the entire Church!)

4. Pentecost (Shavu’ot). Leviticus 23:16 says, “Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shell ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.” In late May or early June, Shavu’ot marked the summer harvest. Leviticus 23:17 requires an offering of two loaves of bread, baked with leaven. These loaves symbolize the church being comprised of both Jew and Gentile.

A review of the first four feasts reveals that Jesus (Yeshua) was crucified on Pesach, buried on Unleavened Bread, raised on First Fruits and sent the Holy Spirit (Ruach Hakkodesh) on Shavu’ot. Because we have not yet seen the fulfillment of feast number five – Trumpets – we remain under the orders of Shavu’ot.

The Fall Feasts

5. Trumpets (Yom Teru’ah). Ever since Isaac was spared by virtue of the ram being caught in the thicket by its horn, God seems to have enjoyed the trumpet. He used it when Joshua conquered Jericho. In Leviticus 25:8-10, he specified its use in having trumpets “proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (that quotation appears today on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, assuring us that America was founded by Bible readers). Leviticus 23:24 requires that, “in the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a Sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets.”
The Feast of Trumpets occurs in September. This jump in time from the Feast of Pentecost in May or June seems to represent the Church Age in God’s planning, since the trumpet unquestionably represents the Rapture of the Church. The trumpet was the signal for the field workers to come into the Temple. The high priest actually blew the trumpet so that the faithful would stop harvesting to worship. Now, when the trumpet sounds in accordance with 1 Corinthians 15:51- 3, living believers will cease their harvest and rise from the earth. The Church will be taken out of the world.

6. Atonement (Yom Kippur). Leviticus 23:27 provides a day of confession, the highest of holy days. “Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a Day of Atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.” This is the one feast that is not fulfilled by the church, because the Church owes no atonement. The Church is not innocent, of course, but it is exonerated. The Day of Atonement will be fulfilled in a wonderful way when the Lord returns at His Second Coming.

7. Tabernacles (Sukkot). Leviticus 23:34 says, “The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord.” God wanted to celebrate the fact that He provided shelter for the Israelites in the wilderness. Each year on Tabernacles, devout Jews build little shelters or “booths” (sukkot) outside their houses and worshipped in them. Tabernacles represents the Lord’s shelter in the world to come (olam habah), His great Tabernacle to exist in Jerusalem during the Kingdom Age. The Lord will establish His Tabernacle in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 37:26), and the world will come every year to appear before the King and worship Him (Zechariah 14:16-17).

Chanukah, by the way, was not given by God on Mount Sinai, but was prophesied in Daniel 8:9-14 and took place in 165 BCE when the Temple was rededicated.

Now you probably agree that Christianity’s Jewish roots offer an eye to the future as well as the past. The next time someone mentions “The Seven Feasts of Israel,” you’ll realize they’re really talking about the Seven Feasts of all time!
(Source https://hebrew4christians.com/ )