The Amillennial Understanding of Daniel 9:24-27 Often Called “Daniel’s 70th Week” Part 1

In the previous blog article, I established that the Reformed camp does not subscribe to “Replacement Theology” as defined by Dispensationalists.  And before starting on the Rev 20 and Matthew 24-25 studies from the amillennial perspective shortly, it is crucial that we discuss Daniel’s 70th Week from an amillennial understanding.

Let’s start by quoting the Dan 9:24-27 NASB:

24 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.

25 “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.

26 “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.

27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

Verse 24 is the prophecy given by Gabriel and verses 25-27 expound on verse 24.  This is a common practice in Hebraic literature – a verse or series of verses give a summary and then the following verses goes into more detail.  For example, we see that in Genesis 1 and 2. Genesis 1 is the creation account – and Genesis 2 goes specifically into the sixth day of the creation in greater detail.   If you don’t understand how to read OT scriptures literarily, much erroneous doctrine can be produced. For example, some Christians in times past, misunderstood Genesis 1 and 2, and believed that there was a pre-Adamic race that lived prior to Adam and Eve.  Yes, you are reading right.  Their belief was based upon the end of Chapter 1 where an unnamed man and woman was created, and then God must have wiped them off the planet since it explains why the earth is old (because of the fossils – trying to fit in evolution) and then God created Adam and Eve.  Seriously.  All this based upon a misunderstanding of how to read the bible literarily.

Let’s start with verse 24: “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.

Seventy weeks translates into 490 years.  How can this be?  In the original Hebrew, it states “seventy sevens” and translators often translate the “sevens” as in the seven days in a week, hence “seventy sevens” is what appears in original Hebrew scripture, but in most translations, it is translated as “seventy weeks”. And furthermore, the “weeks” are interpreted prophetically – one year for every one day therefore “seventy sevens” = 70 x 7 = 490 days = 490 years prophetically.  At least, that is what the dispensationalists claim.

However, there is another understanding – and it’s fully supported by scripture.  Leviticus 25 and 26 gives us the background in understanding Daniel 9 – and it concerns the sabbath-jubilee pattern in Leviticus 25 and 26.  Leviticus 25 gives instructions concerning the sabbath-jubilee pattern and Leviticus 26 is a warning from God to the Israelites concerning idol worship and how they must keep the sabbath including the sabbath rest for the land.  You should read Leviticus 25 and 26, but let me give you some verses that are pertinent:

(Lev 25:3-5, 8, 10-11 NASB) 3 ‘Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, 4 but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. 5 ‘Your harvest’s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. … 8 ‘You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. … 10 ‘You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. 11 ‘You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines.

And if they disobey, God punishes them in the following manner:

(Lev 26:43 NASB) 43 ‘For the land will be abandoned by them, and will make up for its sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statutes.

Please note the significance of 49 years and then a jubilee (50th year).  In fact, that reference to the jubilee is significant because Jesus references it here:

(Luk 4:16-21 NASB) 16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, 19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.” 20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The word “favorable” in verse 19 can and has been translated in the Hebrew as “jubilee” because it’s based upon Isa 49:8 (NASB)  “Thus says the LORD, “In a favorable time I have answered You, And in a day of salvation I have helped You; And I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people, To restore the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages;” – so the favorable (or acceptable) time is linked with the day of salvation, again, also linked prophetically with THE Jubilee of all jubilees – which is the appearance of the Messiah (Christ) offering redemption and other blessings that are detailed in Daniel 9:24.  And in addition, we know that Jesus is referencing Isaiah 61:

(Isa 61:1-2 NASB) 1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; 2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,

Please further note that there are 10 rounds of 49, equaling 490 years (seventy sevens) – and 10, prophetically speaking, means completion.  Gabriel is clearly telling Daniel that God will fulfill His promises in Daniel 9:24-27 in sending the long-awaited Messiah and the realization of all the covenant blessings of the ultimate jubilee.  This is what Daniel has been patiently praying for.

Let’s define the references in verse 24:

  • Your people = Daniel’s people = Israelites
  • Your holy city = Jerusalem
  • To finish the transgression – Jesus finished the transgression by becoming sin for us at Calvary. There can never be any future sacrifice that can ever finish transgression and it was fully accomplished at Calvary. Scripture references:
    1. (Isa 53:8, 12 NASB) 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? … 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.
    2. (John 19:30 NASB) 30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
    3. (Heb 9:26-28 NASB) 26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
    4. (Heb 10:10-14 NASB) 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
  • To make an end of sin – parallel to “finish the transgression” above. Scripture references:
    1. (Mat 1:21 NASB) 21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
    2. (John 1:29 NASB) 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
    3. (1John 3:5 NASB) 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.
    4. (1Co 15:3 NASB) 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
    5. (Heb 9:26-28 NASB) 26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
    6. (Heb 10:4-14 NASB) 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME; 6 IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE. 7 “THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.'” 8 After saying above, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
  • To make atonement for iniquity – i.e. to make reconciliation, to pardon or to cancel sin – scripture references:
    1. (Isa 53:5-6 NASB) 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
    2. (Rom 5:10 NASB) 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
    3. (2Co 5:18-19 NASB) 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
    4. (Col 1:20-22 NASB) 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach–
    5. (Eph 2:14-16 NASB) 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
    6. (Heb 2:17 NASB) 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
    7. (1Jo 2:2 NASB) 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
    8. (Tit 2:14 NASB) 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
  • To bring in everlasting righteousness – scripture references:
    1. (Isa 45:17 NASB) 17 Israel has been saved by the LORD With an everlasting salvation; You will not be put to shame or humiliated To all eternity.
    2. (Isa 4:3 NASB) 3 It will come about that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy–everyone who is recorded for life in Jerusalem.
    3. (2Co 5:21 NASB) 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
    4. (Rom 3:21-26 NASB) 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
    5. (Rom 5:17-21 NASB) 17 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. 18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 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. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    6. (Mat 3:13-15 NASB) 13 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him.
    7. (Heb 1:9 NASB) 9 “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”
    8. (1Co 1:30 NASB) 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
    9. (1Pe 2:24 NASB) 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
    10. (1Jo 2:29 NASB) 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
  • To seal up vision and prophecy – more accurately, the word “prophet” is used interchangeably with the word “prophecy” according to most Hebrew scholars – and it means to ratify and confirm the prophets’ predictions, and since prophecies are being fulfilled, prophets and visions will not be needed anymore. Scripture references:
    1. (Heb 1:1-2 NASB) 1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
    2. (Mark 1:14-15 NASB) 14 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
    3. (Luke 24:25-27, 44 NASB) 25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. … 44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
    4. (Rev 19:10 NASB) 10 Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
  • To anoint the most holy place – actually, the word “place” is not in the scriptures. According to Hebrew scholars, the language infers either a person, place or thing (i.e. a noun).  That is why you will have some translations say “place”, others say “one” and yet others say “thing”.  I believe that the KJV translators hit the nail on the head on this verse – because they said the “Most Holy” and ended with a period. And I agree. And I believe that based upon what was said in the ENTIRE verse, that the Most Holy IS Jesus Christ.  He is the Anointed Messiah. In fact, verse 25 mentions the Messiah the Prince – again inferring that the Most Holy of verse 24 is Messiah the Prince in verse 25. This verse does not speak about the temple in Jerusalem AT ALL, though many dispensationalists claim it is, erroneously, I may say.   Scripture references:
    1. (Isa 61:1-2 NASB) 1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; 2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,
    2. (Luke 4:17-21 NASB) 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, 19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.” 20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
    3. (Mar 1:23-24 NASB) 23 Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are–the Holy One of God!”
    4. (Act 10:38 NASB) 38 “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

As you can see, I have exhaustedly provided scriptures that explain clearly what verse 24 states.  And it’s clear from the scriptures provided that verse 24 was fulfilled in Christ – not some future date – it was fulfilled in toto by Christ in His first coming. In the next blog post, let’s look at the rest of the verses, 25 through 27, that expounds and recapitulates what will occur during the period that verse 24 refers to in Part 2 that follows.

HOW DO DISPENSATIONALISTS VIEW REFORMED THEOLOGY’S CLAIMS CONCERNING ISRAEL?

In this blog post, I want to address the dispensational view of what they believe the Reformed theology claims are concerning Israel and whether dispensationalists get anything wrong, if possible, about Reformed theology concerning Israel.  I have discovered that there is a pervasive misunderstanding from the Dispensational camp concerning what Reformed theology believes when it concerns Israel, in fact, some Dispensationalists declare that Reformed theology is a heresy on this issue, which is misguided, in my humble opinion.  Most dispensationalists believe that the bride of Christ is Israel and not the church and the most common assertion is that Reformed followers believe that the church has replaced national Israel and that Israel, as a consequence, has been discarded or in some extreme cases, that it is an anti-Semitic theology.  Nothing could be farther from the truth and in fact, as a person of Jewish descent, I find that offensive.  So let’s discuss what Reformed theology believes concerning Israel.

What is the church?  It’s not a dumb question, I can assure you.  Most dispensationalists will tell you that the church started at Pentecost.  And in one aspect they are right.  But mostly, that is a misunderstanding.  I am going to argue that the church has been in existence, at the very least, since the time of Moses.

In the New Testament, the church is referred to as “ekklesia” – which means the “called out assembly or congregation” – and in reviewing the NT scriptures concerning the usage of this term, I discovered that ekklesia is used to describe both the universal spiritual church (composed of believing Jews and Gentiles) and the local church (where the individual believers would assemble for worship). And while researching this term, I found a reference from Stephen in Acts 7:38 very interesting –

“This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you.”

When I checked the Greek text, the word congregation was ekklesia.  And that got me started on checking the Old Testament.  However, it was providence that led me to check the Septuagint and not the Hebrew since I wanted to see how the word ekklesia was used in the Old Testament, knowing full well that the apostles and Jesus usually quoted from the Septuagint (i.e. the Greek translation of the OT from the Hebrew) directly.  The chart below provides all the ekklesia references in both the OT and the NT:

Ekklesia

There are 74 times that ekklesia was used in the Septuagint.  And ekklesia was translated as congregation, assembly and church throughout the Septuagint.  And all three terms are used interchangeably to mean the same thing. What can I draw from this?  The church was in existence in the Old Testament, it continues through the New Testament and I even found the church referenced in the New Jerusalem of Revelation at Rev 22:16 – which means that the concept of the church has always been in existence – it didn’t “start” at Pentecost (other than to acknowledge that in this present age, church “started” at Pentecost).  In fact, the apostles, when quoting the Old Testament, used the word ekklesia to mean the same thing that it meant in the New Testament.  That can only mean one thing – that the church is, has been and will always be God’s means in accomplishing His plan of redemption.

So the next big question is:  Has the church “replaced” Israel, as dispensationalists claim against the reformed camp?  I was extremely concerned for two main reasons:

Dispensationalism constantly preaches:

  1. God had two distinct peoples for His own purposes – Jews and Gentiles;
  2. the Jews have a “higher standing” than the Gentiles;
  3. that the entire nation of Israel were the elect of God and that ALL of Israel will be saved;
  4. that God had not finished fulfilling His land promises to Israel;
  5. that God will complete His unfulfilled promises to the Jews during Daniel’s 70th week;
  6. and in some extreme cases, dispensationalism taught that the reformed camp hated Israel and purposely set out to discard them for various nefarious reasons by declaring, for example, that reformed believers subscribed to the theory that ALL of Israel were no longer God’s chosen or denying that God had any further purpose for Israel, among other similar concepts.

And finally, my second reason was personal: I am of Jewish descent and if I subscribe to reformed theology, am I abandoning/denying/ridiculing/anti-Semitic against my own Jewish ancestors?

Needless to say, this second reason was the most upsetting to me. So, in order to answer my questions, I posed another – who is Israel?  Since dispensationalism claims that the reformed camp “replaces” Israel with the church, then I need to know how the OT and the NT defines Israel and how reformed theology defines both Israel and the church.

The OT records two kinds of promises which God made to Israel – national promises and spiritual promises.

Let’s clarify the spiritual promises first:  the spiritual promises were made to EVERY SPIRITUAL DESCENDANT OF ABRAHAM and were NOT restricted to national Israel (in fact, there was no Israel in the time of Abraham – that came later to Jacob):

  • Given to Abraham:
    1. And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen 12:3 NASB)
    2. “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Gen 22:18 NASB)
  • From Paul:
    1. 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Rom 2:28-29 NASB) (Italics and underlining are mine)
    2. 17 (as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. (Rom 4:17 NASB) (Referring to Abraham)
    3. 11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands– 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. (Eph 2:11-16 NASB) (Italics and underlining are mine.)
    4. 4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. 8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; (Eph 3:4-9 NASB) (Italics are mine.)
    5. 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, (Phl 3:3 NASB) (Italics and underlining are mine.)

In the Pauline passages, Paul is revealing the mystery that Gentiles will be included as part of Israel – but NOT ethnic Israel, but a spiritual Israel, when taking into context ALL the scriptures.  Therefore, it has been established scripturally that there are spiritual promises made to Israel that extend to the Gentiles.

Now, let’s look at the national promises made to Israel in the OT:

A major promise to Israel was inheriting the land promised to Abraham.  Dispensationalists claim that the land promises were never fulfilled by God, but will be during the Millennial Reign of Christ (as they interpret it) – so, let’s check scripture to see whether the dispensational claim has any validity.

  1. 23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war. (Jos 11:23 NASB) (Italics and underlining are mine.)
  2. 43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. 44 And the LORD gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hand. 45 Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass. (Jos 21:43-45 NASB) (Italics and underlining are mine.)
  3. 21 “Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want; Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell. 22 “You also gave them kingdoms and peoples, And allotted them to them as a boundary. They took possession of the land of Sihon the king of Heshbon And the land of Og the king of Bashan. 23 “You made their sons numerous as the stars of heaven, And You brought them into the land Which You had told their fathers to enter and possess. 24 “So their sons entered and possessed the land. And You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, And You gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land, To do with them as they desired. 25 “They captured fortified cities and a fertile land. They took possession of houses full of every good thing, Hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive groves, Fruit trees in abundance. So they ate, were filled and grew fat, And reveled in Your great goodness. 26 “But they became disobedient and rebelled against You, And cast Your law behind their backs And killed Your prophets who had admonished them So that they might return to You, And they committed great blasphemies. 27 “Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them, But when they cried to You in the time of their distress, You heard from heaven, and according to Your great compassion You gave them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors. 28 “But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before You; Therefore You abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they ruled over them. When they cried again to You, You heard from heaven, And many times You rescued them according to Your compassion, 29 And admonished them in order to turn them back to Your law. Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to Your commandments but sinned against Your ordinances, By which if a man observes them he shall live. And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen. (Nehemiah 9:21-29 NASB) (Italics and underlining are mine.)

At this point in my studies, I was SHOCKED.  Wasn’t I taught by dispensationalists that God didn’t fulfill the land promises to Israel in the past but He will during the Millennial Reign of Christ?  Yet, here it is clearly given in scripture that God DID FULFILL the land promises to Israel.  What else does scripture say?

1 “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 “All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God: … 9 “The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. … 15 “But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: … 20 “The LORD will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me. … 45 “So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the LORD your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. … 63 “It shall come about that as the LORD delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the LORD will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it. 64 “Moreover, the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known. 65 “Among those nations you shall find no rest, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul. (Deu 28:1-2, 9, 15, 20, 45, 63-65 NASB) (Italics and underlining are mine.)

The land promises to Abraham were unconditional, of which there is no doubt – read Genesis 15 – and God fulfilled His promise to Abraham on the land promises – the nation of Israel received it all in the time of Joshua, based upon the scriptures given above.  But the land promises were conditional under the Mosaic Law.  Therefore, as long as national Israel remains disobedient, which in today’s terms would be the denial of Christ as their long-awaited Messiah and denying the one true God, they are in disbelief and therefore continue to be disobedient.  The land of Israel today is nowhere near what the land promises of Abraham were that was given by God and I believe that the providence of God has re-established Israel, though they continue to be in disbelief.

But wait, there’s more – another major dispensational claim is that the temple must be rebuilt and according to dispensationalism, it will be rebuilt either just prior to Christ’s return or during the Millennial Reign of Christ (depending on which dispensational preacher you follow).  Did God promise this and what is the outcome?

The Babylonians captured the Israelites and destroyed the temple in various successions starting in 606 BC with the final blow in approximately 586 BC.  Jeremiah’s prophecy was given in approximately 626 BC that Israel’s captivity by the Babylonians would last 70 years and that subsequently the Israelites would return to Israel.  In 536 BC, two things occurred: the 70 years of the Babylonian captivity was over and Cyrus’ decree allowed the Israelites that were in his empire to return to Israel so that they can re-establish their nation and their temple.

The Jews began the rebuilding process shortly after they returned to Israel in 536 BC and forty years later, approximately 516 BC, the rebuilding was complete (you can read about this in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Malachi).  So, the temple WAS rebuilt, as per God’s word.  How can I make this claim?  It’s easy – it’s in the scriptures:

14 And the elders of the Jews were successful in building through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they finished building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. 15 This temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. (Ezra 6:14-15 NASB) (Italics and underlining are mine.)

I have heard dispensationalists state in various conferences and sermons that: “Well, the temple that was restored was not as glorious as Solomon’s Temple” or “that temple was funded by pagan kings”, as if that is an excuse for building another temple that is identical or even more superior to Solomon’s Temple (though there are no building plans or extensive detailed descriptions that are in existence today from the original time period of Solomon).  That statement is absolutely astonishing – because it is a denial of God’s word that I quoted above.

I believe that fundamentally, the dispensationalist does not understand how to properly read or understand the parallelism and/or the systematic contrast in Old Testament scriptures, which leads to misapplying as well as misunderstanding apocalyptic and prophetic literature.

And the Dispensational understanding of what “chosen” means in terms of the nation of Israel is misguided as well.  God chose the nation of Israel for two purposes:  that they would be the scribes for the transmission of His word (Psalm 147) and that the Redeemer would come from among them (Gen 49:10). God did not give a guarantee that ALL Israel would be saved in the sense that Dispensationalists understand, but when read CONTEXTUALLY and with ALL the scriptures related to it, God is referring to His elect within Israel  – a faithful remnant of Israelites as His own.

Otherwise, if ALL Israel is saved, then the unrepentant and depraved Israelites would be included, which cannot be true, since the OT is chock full of Israelites that defied God and were condemned – therefore, based upon Dispensational teaching, the Jews don’t need God or the coming Messiah Jesus if the unrepentant and depraved Israelites are going to be saved anyway, right?  Another major unsubstantiated claim that Dispensationalists make are that EVERY Israelite would eventually become believers and obedient to God and therefore saved.  Where is THAT in scripture?  The scriptures are replete that God has a remnant of believers (both Jew and Gentile), but I cannot find “universalist” scriptures for the Jews alone.

So let me summarize with this: scriptures written during the Mosaic period, when taken out of context, appears to be unconditional, but they are not unconditional – they are CONDITIONAL, based upon the scriptures I have previously noted above; and building doctrines upon this error leads to even more frightening erroneous doctrines.  The covenant promise of the Mosaic Law is a covenant between two parties – God and the Israelites.  By definition, when covenants have conditional clauses (which the Mosaic Law has but not the Abrahamic covenant) and there is a violation of the covenant as a result of disobedience, the promises are null and void as far as God is concerned – in fact, God “divorced” Israel in the following scripture:

8 “And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. … 11 And the LORD said to me, “Faithless Israel has proved herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. (Jer 3:8, 11 NASB)

However, God made another promise to Israel in the same book and chapter of Jeremiah:

12 “Go and proclaim these words toward the north and say, ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the LORD; ‘I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious,’ declares the LORD; ‘I will not be angry forever. 13 ‘Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the LORD your God And have scattered your favors to the strangers under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ declares the LORD. … 15 “Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding. 16 “It shall be in those days when you are multiplied and increased in the land,” declares the LORD, “they will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ And it will not come to mind, nor will they remember it, nor will they miss it, nor will it be made again. 17 “At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of the LORD,’ and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the LORD; nor will they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart. 18 “In those days the house of Judah will walk with the house of Israel, and they will come together from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers as an inheritance. (Jeremiah 3:12-13, 15-18 NASB) (Italics are mine.)

And that promise is given in conjunction with the Messianic hope (italicized above). And we know that it’s fulfilled in Christ, as Paul tells us in:

1 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 “Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE.” 4 But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.” 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. 7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; … 11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. 12 Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! (Rom 11:1-7, 11-12 NASB) (Italics and underline are mine).

As I previously documented above, Paul revealed the mystery that Gentiles will be included as part of Israel – but NOT ethnic Israel, but a spiritual Israel composed of those whom He foreknew (elected) in verse 2 and 5, when taking into context ALL the scriptures.  So it has been established scripturally that there are spiritual promises made to Israel that extend to the Gentiles.  And we know that the establishment of a spiritual Israel is composed of believing Jews and Gentiles in the following scriptures:

9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” (Rom 10:9-13 NASB) (Italics and underlining are mine).

23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. (Gal 3:23-29 NASB) (Italics and underlining are mine.)

So when a reformed believer states that the church is Israel, as many dispensationalists have heard, the reformed camp believes that the church is composed of believing Jews and Gentiles; and Israel is composed of the spiritual union of Jews and Gentiles to Christ.

In summation, let’s look at scripture concerning the restoration of Israel, according to Reformed theology:

We know that the OT scriptures state that Israel will be gloriously restored in the future (read Jer 23:3; Isa 11:11; Eze 36:24-28; and Isa 24-27).  In the NT, it is applied to the church:

(Gal 6:16 NASB) And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.   [The rule referenced is Paul’s instructions in verses 1 through 10]

Here, Paul is referencing believers, which are part of the church, as the “Israel of God”.  So all believers, as referenced in verse 15, both Jew and Gentile, are members of the church, called the “Israel of God”.

(1Pe 2:9 NASB) But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Here, Peter is specifically quoting from:

(Exo 19:5-6 NASB) 5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”

Peter is applying the OT scripture of Exodus 19:5-6 to the church of believers, both Jew and Gentile.

I expect I don’t have to explain the following, since it is clear and obvious:

(Gal 3:28-29 NASB) 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

And finally, let’s look at:

(Heb 12:22-24 NASB) 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

The Mount Zion referenced here is in heaven, not on the earth. In addition, the author of Hebrews is quite clear that both Jews and Gentiles are members of the church, united through Jesus, the mediator of a NEW covenant.

It’s also clear that the OT prophets predicted a glorious and redeemed Israel, which the NT authors clearly stated that it was fulfilled in the church, a new Israel because of the new covenant. There is NOT a restoration of the nation of Israel in which the Jews are the premier citizens and Gentiles are given a secondary status, as some dispensationalists teach – again, a failure on their part to interpret OT scripture according to the NT interpretation by Jesus and the apostles.

In addition, there aren’t two plans of salvation – one for Jews and one for the Gentiles, as some dispensationalists claim.  There is solely ONE plan of salvation, from the fall of Adam until Christ’s second coming.

Scriptures don’t lie – but men can “reinterpret” scriptures to fit their ideology, and in this instance, failing to have the NT dictate what the OT meant.  The OT scriptures are to be interpreted according to the newer progressive NT scriptures.  How many times have you heard “The OT is revealed in the NT and the NT is concealed in the OT”? Why won’t the dispensationalists practice what they preach?  Often they will take OT scripture and define it with other OT scripture or cite Talmudic material (of which Jesus REPEATEDLY denounced) and totally disregard the NT interpretation, which is often the case when it comes to eschatological writings, as I documented previously. It’s downright amazing that dispensationalists accuse amillennialists of “spiritualizing” the scriptures – therefore, I’m not in bad company since Jesus and the apostles have done the very thing that dispensationalists accuse amillennialists of.  I think it’s time that dispensationalists learn the correct hermeneutical principles.

It is not replacement theology.  Could the reformed theologians of the past have used better terminology, such as calling Israel the New Israel or Spiritual Israel instead?  Absolutely.  However, they were clear in establishing exactly what they meant by calling the church Israel in their writings.  But they were not psychics or prophets and could not have predicted that in this modern century, dispensationalists would misunderstand the application of the term Israel in terms of historic (and Reformed) Christianity.

And I am shocked at the lack of understanding of what the reformers believe from the dispensational camp. They often write off all of Reformed theology as full Preterism – and full Preterism is a heresy (they believe that ALL prophecy was fulfilled in 70 AD when “Jesus spiritually came” and authorized the destruction of the Jerusalem temple by the Romans, that all believers were spiritually resurrected at that time, that the book of Revelation was fulfilled at that same time, among many other issues). And not to mention that Dispensationalists are not well-versed in church history either.  The only time I have ever seen ANY Dispensationalist look at church history is to substantiate a false claim that the early church fathers were pre-tribbers.  I discussed this in my previous blog post and you can read that here: The Five Major Views of the End-times

And worse yet, the dispensationalist preacher, teacher and theologian knows full well that most of their followers will not investigate to see if what they are saying is true.  It’s taken in as “gospel truth”.  How many times did I have to explain, as a previous Dispensational teacher, how to exegete scriptures or to review commentaries from Greek scholars to get the correct understanding of a particular verse?  I find that most people are just plain lazy and would rather watch a video from their favorite preacher (or worse yet, an unknown YouTube prophet or preacher) and mind you, not even take notes, but post their entire video as a response to one verse in question?  Are you kidding me?  I’m going to sit and watch a 60 minute video to see your misguided understanding of scripture?  How many times have people posted links to explain their position and not even understand their position to start with?  More times than I can even begin to count, I’m sorry to say, that most people simply do not even know how to defend their faith, let alone their eschatological view.

Frankly, I feel betrayed by the Dispensational preachers, teachers and theologians concerning eschatology.  If it weren’t for the fact that I had lingering questions about dispensationalism that I couldn’t find addressed by dispensationalist preachers, teachers and theologians, that subsequently led me to research and study dispensationalism intensely for five years.  I read every thesis, book or article that I could lay my hands on, in order to find answers to specific questions. And I could not find a satisfactory answer, if at all, let alone a consensus, among dispensational preachers, teachers and theologians – which led me on this quest of discovery from other theological viewpoints these past two years.

I am now appealing to dispensationalist preachers, teachers and theologians.  I am asking that you reconsider and stop calling reformed believers heretics, “confused”, “deceived by Satan” and other sundry remarks.  When you make those statements, it belies your ignorance of scripture and church history.  And frankly, it’s insulting.  Insulting to me especially because I am of Jewish descent, and now having a better understanding of scriptures, I know that I am not an anti-Semite against my own ancestors.

Reformed believers do not hold to replacement theology as Dispensationalists erroneously claim.  I cannot state that enough. On the contrary, the present Jewish nation, Israel, has every right to be in the land of their ancestors and to govern themselves, despite what other nations (including the USA) may attempt to impose.  Now, does every thing that Israel acts upon perfectly acceptable to God?  Absolutely not.  The nation of Israel is secular, not theocratic.  They permit abortions – is that pleasing to God?  Absolutely not.  Are gay marriages performed in Israel? No.  But gay marriages are recognized in Israel, did you know that?  Gays can marry in other countries where gay marriages are allowed.  Upon coming back, they must register their gay marriage with Israel and they will recognize that marriage.  So, is that pleasing to God?   Absolutely NOT.  I don’t doubt for a second that God’s hand is upon Israel – but not more than God’s hand is upon the USA and the rest of the nations in this world.  God will do as He pleases to any and all nations on this earth.

One should recognize that Israelis are back in the land, but in total disbelief – less than 20% of Israelis practice a faith (Jewish, Christian, Islam and a smattering of little-known religions);  however, the good news is that Jews in Israel (and elsewhere in the world) are coming to Christ.   Their numbers grow daily.  And it is my hope that before the return of Christ, many Jews will become believers of Christ and they too will be looking for the blessed hope that is in Christ Jesus and recognizing Him as their long-awaited Messiah, even amid persecutions and tribulations.

God and Christ have preserved a remnant of Jews and Gentiles for themselves.  And that remnant are the elect, also known as the church and also known as the Bride of Christ.  And they will inherit the New Heaven and New Earth in due course, to live in harmony, worshipping our Triune God and face to face with our Lord Jesus Christ forevermore!

In my next blog article, I will discuss the amillennial view of Daniel 9:24-27 which is commonly called “Daniel’s 70th Week”.  I pray that you will continue to join me in my quest of discovery.

On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise,
And the glory of His resurrection share;
When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

-When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,  James M. Black, 1893

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;

When shall I come and appear before God?

(Psalm 42:2 NASB)

The Five Major Views of the End-times

On my last blog post, I discussed the Day of the Lord as it relates to the end of the age and that based upon scripture, we believers are currently living in the millennial reign of Christ.  Most professing Christians subscribe, generally speaking, to one of five end-time views.  Let’s discuss each one briefly.  However, let’s clarify some terms, because they can be confusing.

Millennialism – a reference to the reign of Christ for a specific period of time.  All believers fall into one category of Millennialism – Pre, Post, Historic, Futuristic or Realized.  Views vary as to the length of time and will be discussed below.

Tribulational – a reference to a literal seven year period of tribulation, according to its adherents.  There are various views as to the timing of the rapture.

Rapture – the unknown date of when Christ transforms the bodies of the saints to imperishability. There are various views as to when the rapture will take place (pre-,mid-,prewrath, post-;  all in relation to the tribulation period).  Often, the rapture is understood to be the resurrection as the first stage of the resurrection of the righteous or simply as the resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked on the Day of the Lord (also known as the Last Day or That Day).  Dispensationalists uniquely use the term “Rapture” as the First (Pre-tribulational) Resurrection of the Righteous, while all other end-time scenarios call it the “Parousia” or “Resurrection”.

New Heaven and New Earth – often referred to, depending on which end-time scenario one believes in, is also referred to as “the final state” or “eternity” or “the eternal state”.

Last Judgment – often referred to as the Final Judgment, and depending on your end-time scenario, it is either the Judgment of the Wicked (or Unrighteous) by the Pre, Mid, Pre-Wrath or Post Tribulational Dispensationalists or the Judgment of the Wicked AND the Judgment of the Righteous (often called the Bema Seat of Christ – a judgment to determine the rewards to each of the elect) for all the other end-time scenarios.

This chart is general in nature, and each adherent to the end-times may have slightly different views as to the timing of certain events.  But generally speaking, your belief in the end-times will fall into one of these five categories.

Five End Times Views

Let’s briefly review each view:

  • Post-tribulational premillennialism – the adherents to this view:
    1. Believe in the literal 7 year tribulation period and the literal 1000 year reign of Christ.
    2. However, they place the rapture after the conclusion of the tribulation period, so in effect, the rapture is the first stage of the resurrection of the righteous.
    3. The second stage of the rapture is a second resurrection of the tribulation saints at the end of the millennial reign of Christ as well as the resurrection of the wicked to face judgment and then the New Heaven and New Earth.
  • Pre-tribulational premillennialism (commonly known as Dispensationalism) are similar to the post-tribulational premillennialism…
    1. With the exception that the rapture occurs before the tribulation period.
    2. There are variants to the pre-trib position – there are mid-tribulationalists (the rapture will occur exactly at the mid-point of the tribulation, that is, three and one half years into the seven year tribulation) and…
    3. There are pre-wrath tribulationalists (the rapture will occur sometime around the halfway point of the 2nd half of the tribulation period in relation to a specific time prior to the breaking of the seventh seal in Rev 8-9).
    4. Their detractors often claim that all Dispensationalists hold to a “secret rapture” theory.
    5. Often, Dispensationalists will claim that all the early church fathers were dispensationalists. That is far from the truth, since the term “Dispensational” did not come into usage until the mid-1800s. And there are Dispensationalists that claim Paul held to the pre-trib rapture based upon their interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5.  However…
    6. A few of the early church fathers were “Chiliasts” (the Greek term for Millennial and today the term in common usage would be Millennialists) and there are still many arguments among theologians concerning whether those few early church fathers were pretribulation or post-tribulation, however, it appears that only two church fathers, Justin Martyr (of which we have his writings) and Papias (of which we DON’T have his writings, though he has been referenced by other church fathers as possibly holding that opinion) may be the only pre-trib premillennialists among the early church fathers, while the other early church fathers that held to premillennialism were post-trib.
    7. The majority of the early church fathers, according to today’s definitions of end-time views, would be regarded as either Post-Millennial or Amillennial.
    8. Currently, there is a movement within Dispensationalism called Progressive Dispensationalism and those theologians are beginning to address the “Seven Dispensations” of classic Dispensationalism in contrast to the Reformed position (among other issues) and are beginning to modify their opinions since the Reformed camp adheres to the same progressive view of prophecy and the covenantal promises of God (as opposed to the “Seven Dispensations”).
  • Post Millennialism – the adherents to this view:
    1. Believe that there will be a reign of Christ in this present age, but starting at an unknown date (there are different views as to when the millennial reign of Christ will start) for a thousand years (or more, according to some post-millennialists);
    2. And then leading up to the end of the age, after which the Second Coming takes place, everyone is resurrected, the final judgment takes place, some to everlasting glory, others to eternal condemnation and then the New Heaven and New Earth.
    3. Similar end-time scenario as the Amillennialists since the Amillennialists are more precise in assessing the end-time scenario.
  • Historic Premillennialism –
    1. Basically, from the birth of Christ to the ascension, the Kingdom is manifest;
    2. From the ascension of Christ through the return of Christ (they do not count this as the Second Coming, though their detractors consider it to be similar to the “secret rapture” that Dispensationalists are often accused of), the Kingdom remains present through the Holy Spirit and the first resurrection will occur at the end of this period after a seven year tribulation period;
    3. Then the Millennial Reign of Christ, i.e. the Kingdom is consummated;
    4. Then the Second Coming of Christ and the Final Judgment;
    5. And then the New Heaven and New Earth.
    6. Futuristic Premillennialists do not necessarily subscribe to the Dispensational view of the “Seven Dispensations” though on the surface they appear to share the same end-time scenario; however there is currently much discussion among Futuristic Premillennialists as they appear to be modifying their views even more since some have adopted some facets of Amillennialism.
  • Amillennialism – the adherents to this view believe…
    1. That the millennial reign of Christ is the entire period between the first and second comings of Christ, that is, the more commonly called “the church age” or “the age of grace”.
    2. The Parousia or the Resurrection takes place at the second coming of Christ, after which the final judgment takes place, some to everlasting glory, others to eternal condemnation.
    3. And then the New Heaven and New Earth.
    4. Detractors of this view erroneously declare that Amillennialists do not believe in the millennial reign of Christ because the prefix “a” in “amillennialism” generally means “none”. But that is not the case, since the original intent of using the prefix “a” in the word “amillennialism” is the fact that adherents to this view do not believe in a literal 1000 year reign, but a reign that will last between the two advents, therefore, no specific time can be determined – after all, the number 1000 apocalyptically infers a long period of time and not necessarily and specifically 1000 years.  You can read more about this in my previous blog post here: The End of the Age and the Age to Come.
    5. Frankly, because of this confusion among the other four end-time views (and the desire from some of them to disparage Amillennialism), many Amillennialists today prefer to call themselves “realized” or “inaugurated” millennialists. Amillennialism and Post-Millennialism, generally speaking, are the historic Reformed Protestant view of the last 500 years.  Though the views of the Reformers may have been called other names, the general outline of the end-times have not changed.

I hold to the amillennial position based upon the facts I have previously detailed in my earlier blog posts and I will further expound in future blog posts as well, since there are other factors that were part of my decision to reject pretribulational dispensationalism and embrace amillennialism. Of the five end-times view, amillennialism is, in my humble opinion, the easiest to grasp and aligns more closely to scripture than any other end-time view. It’s not perfect, but then, neither are the other four end-time views. And I hope that I can demonstrate that amillennialism is the best understanding of the end-times in future blog posts.

On my next blog post, before discussing the Amillennial view of Daniel 9 – The Seventy Weeks and starting a series on Matthew 24 and 25 (with a comparison of the Amillennial view to the Pretribulation Dispensational view),  I will address the controversial Dispensational claim that Reformed followers believe that the church has “replaced” Israel and as a consequence, “discarded” Israel.   That is so very far from the truth, and I must address it, especially considering that I myself am of Jewish descent and frankly offended with that dispensational notion. I pray that you will join me in my quest of discovery.

Characteristics of the End of the Age and the Day of the Lord

In my previous blog post, I established that there were only two ages – the present age and the age to come – and there was NOT a separate age for the Millennial Reign of Christ at all – which led to the conclusion that the Millennial Reign of Christ must occur sometime during this present age.

This led to my next question – what happens during the end of this age? I saw many scriptures about the end of the age, so I gathered them up to review.

The parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13 is significant.  Jesus gives the parable in the following verses:

24Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25“But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26“But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27“The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28“And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29“But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

And Jesus gives the interpretation to the befuddled disciples (and to our benefit) in the following verses:

36Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40“So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43“Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

So, at the end of this age, the judgment (the harvest) will come for both the righteous and the wicked SIMULTANEOUSLY.  Ask any farmer if there are any weeds mixed in with his crop, will he selectively pluck the weeds from the fields throughout the growing season which is prior to the harvest?  No, he will not. He will sort them out when he harvests his crop at the end of the season.  The wicked will be burned up with fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth – a symbolic reference to the eternal lake of fire – and the righteous will shine forth as the sun (compare to Dan 12:3) in the Kingdom of their Father – note, the Kingdom of their Father, which infers that the Kingdom of Heaven is Christ’s Kingdom, which we gather from the above passage. In addition, note that the Kingdom of Heaven is in the present age (v 38).  What does that mean?  The Kingdom of Heaven, which is Christ’s Kingdom, i.e. the Millennial Reign of Christ, is happening RIGHT NOW.  The non-believers belong to the “evil one”, i.e. Satan; and let us not forget that his kingdom is functioning right now (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:13; John 12:31) – however, Satan is on a short leash, let us not forget that either.  Satan has absolutely NO dominion over God’s elect.  We, as believers in this present age, are part of and living in the Kingdom of Christ.  And if we are living in the Kingdom of Christ right now, He is ruling and reigning from heaven RIGHT NOW.  Not some future Millennial Reign, but RIGHT NOW.

When I came to this realization, needless to say, it was upsetting to me to come to the conclusion that previously, as a dispensationalist, I had it wrong.  The scriptures were right under my nose, and I misinterpreted them.  I then reviewed the scriptures concerning the Day of the Lord to confirm whether the judgment came at the end of the age or not.  The Day of the Lord is also referenced as “that” day or the “last” day and other similar wordings. Here are the scriptures and I encourage you to open your bibles and read these passages:

that day Matt 7:22; 2 Tim 1:12,18; 2 Tim 4:8
Isa 11:10,11; 12:12-13, 13:9-11, 24:21-22; 27:1; 4:2
Jeremiah 30:7-8, 46:10
Zechariah 9:16-17; 14:20-21
Zephaniah 3:11-20
Joel 3:16-18
Eze 38:14-16
Micah 4:6-7
Amos 9:11
last day John 6:39-40,44,54;  John 11:24; John 12:48
Day of the Lord Acts 2:20 (great and glorious day of the Lord);
1 Cor 1:8 (the day of our Lord Jesus Christ)
1 Cor 5:5
2 Cor 1:14 (the day of the Lord Jesus)
1 Thess 5:2-3
2 Peter 3:10
Zeph 1:14-18 (great day of the Lord), 2:1-3
Isaiah 13:4-10
Joel 2:30-31 (great and awesome day of the Lord)
Joel 1:15; 2:1-2; 3:13-14
Ezekiel 30:3
Amos 5:18-20
Obadiah 1:15-16
thief in the night 1 Thess 5:2
2 Peter 3:10
Matt 24:43-44
1 Thess 5:4-8
Other similar references:
the day of His anger – Job 20:28-29
a day of clouds – Eze 30:3
the day of My indignation and all My burning anger – Zephaniah 3:8
the day (of judgment) – Rom 2:16; 2 Peter 2:9, 3:5-7
great day of their wrath – Rev 6:15-17
a day of reckoning – Isaiah 2:12
day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God – Rom 2:5
time of Jacob’s distress – Jeremiah 30:7-8
by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning – Isaiah 4:3-4
the day is coming – Malachi 4:1-2; Zech 14:1
day of Christ Jesus – Philippians 1:6
a time of distress – Daniel 12:1-2
Son of Man coming at an hour when you do not expect He will – Matt 24:43-44
Son of Man coming at an hour when you do not expect – Luke 12:39-40
the coming of the day of God – 2 Peter 3:11-12
a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness – Joel 2:2-4

All these references have one thing in common: taken as a whole, these scriptures describe a cataclysmic and final event that will take place at the end of this age – a glorious day for the righteous and a dreadful day for the wicked, all taking place simultaneously.

I cannot fathom how all these events will take place on a specific day, nor can I fathom the amount of time necessary to accomplish these specific events, but that they WILL OCCUR, there is absolutely NO DOUBT.

And when the Day of the Lord is accomplished, these scriptures are clear that we will enter into that sinless state, our salvation will have been completed and we will be face-to-face with our Lord Jesus Christ forever, in our perfected bodies.

On my next blog post, I will discuss the five major views of the end-times.  I pray that you will join me in my quest of discovery.

The End of the Age and the Age to Come

In my previous blog I addressed the issue concerning how numbers are to be understood in prophetic and apocalyptic literature.  There is also the issue of how symbols are to be understood as well, and I will address that as I review the book of Revelation and Matthew 24-25 in future blog posts.

In my first blog post, I briefly touched on the issue of the Millennial Reign of Christ and how it only appears in Revelation 20 and nowhere else in scripture. In fact, you cannot build doctrine based upon one passage of scripture as is the case by dispensationalists when it comes to the Millennial Reign of Christ.  This inevitably led me to question whether the Millennial Reign will literally take place in the future, or is the Millennial Reign symbolic and/or spiritual?  In my quest to find the Millennial Reign mentioned in other scriptures besides Revelation 20, I noted that throughout the New Testament, references were made to “this age” and “the age to come”.  So I thought, well, let’s start there.  I found the following references:

Matthew 12:32 – Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.  Please note that these words were spoken by Jesus.

Mark 10:30 (and the parallel Luke 18:30) – but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.  Again, words spoken by Jesus.

Note that Jesus never mentioned another age sandwiched in between the present age and the age to come.  And further note that in the age to come, there is eternal life – that sinless state that is often referred to as the “new heaven and the new earth” in Rev 21-22.  You would think that Jesus would have clearly stated that there were three ages – the present age, His millennial reign, and the eternal state – not only here in these two passages, but elsewhere throughout the New Testament scriptures, such as in:

Ephesians 1:21 – far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  (Spoken by Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit.)

Ah, you are ready to jump me over Matthew 24, right?  Let’s take a look at that verse:

Matthew 24:3 – As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

In the previous verse, Jesus mentioned the destruction of the temple.  And the disciples were obviously perplexed and asked Jesus for further clarification, hence the question.  This was prior to the cross and the disciples still had the mistaken view held by the Jews at that time for an expectation of a conquering non-divine Messiah that will destroy all powers and institute a golden age of rule.  It wasn’t until after Pentecost that the disciples better understood the teachings of Christ, under the inspiration of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. In light of this, the above question is answered by Jesus, but not in the way that they expected:  Jesus spoke about the current age in verses 4 to 35 and the age to come in verses 36 to 51.  You may be saying “What?  No way!  You are dead wrong Jenny!” right now.  However, I am asking you to be patient and read what I document concerning this issue when I review Matthew 24 and 25 in future blog posts, since these two chapters are the most cited by dispensationalists other than the book of Revelation.  Again, no mention of a literal 1000 year reign of Christ in Matthew 24 or 25.

There are other verses that mention characteristics of the two ages:

Mark 10:29-30 (parallel Luke 18:29-30) – those who forsake family or work for the sake of Christ and His gospel will receive hundredfold in this present age as well as persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

Luke 20:34-35 – in this age people are given in marriage; in the age to come, there will be no marriage.

1 Cor 1:18-25 – God has made foolish the wisdom of the world in this age.

1 Cor 2:6-8 – the wisdom and rulers of this age are coming to nothing.

Gal 1:4 – Jesus gave of himself to rescue us from the present evil age.

2 Cor 4:4 – Satan is the god of this age.

So, in the present age, we see that good and evil are present.  But in the age to come, there is only good – no more sin is present (Rev 21-22).  So, if that’s the case, where would the dispensationalist place the literal 1000 year reign of Christ?  You can’t place it in the age to come – that’s eternal life and no more sin.  And if there’s only two ages and the second age is sinless, but according to dispensationalists, there will be sin during the millennial reign of Christ, the dispensationalist MUST place it in the present age where good and evil abound.  Therefore, the logical conclusion is that there is no separate age for the millennial reign of Christ. The scriptures indicate that there are only TWO ages – the present age and the age to come.  I could not find any reference to a millennial age between the present age and the age to come in any scriptures.

Mind-blowing. This was a major shock for me and was, without exaggeration, the first big cry I experienced. How could dispensationalists consistently ignore these scriptures in terms of the different ages?  In fact, I fought over this concept with myself for quite a while, before coming to the realization that scriptures don’t lie…we do, when we overlook, ignore or misinterpret the scriptures – we lie to ourselves and boy, did I…big time

There’s one more aspect to look at – if there is no separate age for the millennial reign of Christ and by necessity I must place the millennial reign of Christ in this present age, where would I place it?  That question led me to look at what the scriptures tell me concerning what OCCURS during the end of this present age.

And I will explore that in my next blog post.  I pray that you will join me in my quest of discovery.

 

The Interpretation of Numbers in Apocalyptic and Prophecy Literature

Before I start the discussion concerning the interpretation of numbers in apocalyptic and prophecy literature, I want to make a statement concerning what I experienced when I began my journey to honestly assess my understanding of the scriptures concerning Reformed theology and the end-times.

Honestly, I cried.  A lot.  I fought against it.  How can I be possibly wrong?  I was (and continue to be) a serious student of the bible.  Was I deceived?  In a nutshell, I was very angry with myself.  How could I have taught something that I now no longer could accept?  Teachers of the word of God are held to higher standards, according to James 3:1, and will be more strictly judged at the Bema Seat of Christ, for which I have sincerely repented to Christ.  Again, this is not a light matter at all.  And though I have been forgiven by Christ, there are consequences.  And I’m hoping that writing down my thoughts and publishing what I have discovered is but a small means of amends for my dispensationalist friends.  And I pray that they will take to heart what I have written and also go on their own quest to uncover the truth and continue to grow in the knowledge of God, as commanded by our Lord in 2 Peter 3:18.

So, let us now turn to the interpretation of numbers in apocalyptic and prophecy literature. It is generally accepted that numbers have meanings.  For example, the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years because of the bad report given by ten of the spies concerning the people of Canaan (Numbers 13-14).  Because of disbelief and lack of trust in God, the generation that exited Egypt (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb’s families) would not enter the promised land.  Therefore, the concept of a generation equals 40 years, in most instances.  The number 40 is also considered “a time of testing” such as what Christ experienced when He fasted and lived in the desert for 40 days and was tempted by Satan prior to His starting His ministry (Matt 4).  There are instances that the number 40 is literal: 40 is also associated with the rules of kings such as Saul, David and Solomon, and judges ruled for 40 years too: Othniel, Deborah and Barak, Eli and Gideon. And let’s not forget that it rained 40 days and 40 nights for Noah too.  So, in non-apocalyptic literature (in the examples provided, they are historical accounts), 40 is literal – but in apocryphal literature, 40 is symbolic of a generation or as a “time of testing”.

Let’s now look at three numbers that come up in apocalyptic and prophecy literature most often:  the numbers 7, 10 and 12.  I am not going to discuss what these numbers mean literally such as 7 days in a week, ten fingers and toes and 12 months in a year – but what they mean apocalyptically and prophetically – and all three numbers – 7, 10 and 12 – are associated with God’s perfection and completeness.

Let’s look at examples of each number –

The number 7 is replete throughout the bible and more so in the Book of Revelation.  For example there are seven churches, candlesticks, seals, trumpets, bowls, spirits, etc.  John had seven visions that together make up the book of Revelation.  Did John literally have seven visions?  Yes, he did – but the content of the visions are symbolic.  Are we to interpret all of these objects as literal?  Absolutely NOT.  Were there only seven churches in Asia at the time of writing the book?  No, there were dozens, just in Asia alone (what is today called Anatolia or western Turkey).  In future blog posts, I will be addressing the Book of Revelation and their symbolism.

The number 10 is mentioned in the bible in a number of places, such as the 10 commandments – four of the commandments are directed to men in relation to God (vertical) and six of the commandments are directed to men in relation with other men (horizontal); if the 10 commandments were kept perfectly, all men would live in perfect harmony with God and other men – therefore, the number 10 symbolizes God’s governmental authority over the affairs of mankind. That’s why you will see , for example, 10 elders at the city gates (Ruth 4:2) – which represents man’s responsibility of obedience to God’s law. And let’s not forget that there were also 10 times that the phrase “God said” occurs in Genesis 1; the 10 plagues (Ex 7-12); the 10th day of the seventh month (again, the number 7 pops up) was the date of sacrificing the Passover lamb which is symbolic of our Paschal Lamb Jesus Christ (John 1:29b); 10 generations that lived up to the time of Noah (he was the 10th generation from Adam); Abraham was the 10th generation from Shem, Noah’s son; Jesus used the number 10 often in parables – 10 virgins, 10 lepers, 10 talents, 10 minas and 10 “I AM” spoken by Jesus in the book of John alone.

In addition, a related number, the number 1000 (which is the number 10 cubed – or more commonly understood as 10 to the third power or 10 times 10 times 10 – and don’t ignore the trinity aspect of the number 10 being cubed) reflects a number that is understood to mean unnumbered multitudes (such as myriads which equals 10 to the fourth power as in Rev 5:11) or immensity. For example, in Ps 105:8 –

 He has remembered His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded to a thousand generations,

Are we to take literally that God will honor His covenant with Abraham for ONLY one thousand generations?  Absolutely not.  Here, 1000 equals an unnumbered immensity, or more accurately, FOREVER.  And it’s a good thing too – because we are all grafted in to Abraham, aren’t we, as Christ’s sheep?  I wouldn’t want to be in eternity with God and Christ and find out that it will all be over after 1000 generations!

And lastly, the number 12 represents completeness or authority, such as the 12 tribes of Jacob representing the completeness of the nation of Israel.  Jesus chose 12 apostles; 12 stones that make up the high priest’s ephod; 12 minor prophets and 12 historical books in the Old Testament; in the book of Revelation, there are 12 foundations, 12 gates and an angel at each gate (therefore 12 angels), 12 precious stones, the wall of the New City are 144 cubits high (twelve squared, or 12 times 12); 12 spies sent out to the Land of Canaan; 12 curses for disobedience to the nation of Israel.  These are just a few examples.

As you can see, numbers can be viewed literally or symbolically – it all depends on the context of the passage.

The fact is that most dispensationalists are always propounding that the bible should be taken literally and that if you don’t, often you are labeled either a heretic or are deceived or are confused.  But in reality, the dispensationalist also interprets many passages symbolically.  They have to – otherwise, their end-time scenarios and their theology would completely disintegrate.   This is a call for honesty and self-reflection by dispensationalists.

And by the way, if you are a dispensationalist that calls anyone a heretic because they don’t agree with you, please STOP.  To call a fellow brother or sister in Christ a heretic is truly unChrist-like. And yes, I have been subjected to ignorant name calling by a number of dispensationalists.  I can expect that from Christian cults and pagans, but from a dispensationalist, it is particularly biting.

In the next blog, I will discuss the end of the ages and the Millennial Reign of Christ.  Please join me in my quest of discovery.

WHY? WHAT HAPPENED?

I’m sure that many dispensationalist friends will be disappointed to read or hear that I am no longer a dispensationalist and have decided (or more accurately, have been led by the Holy Spirit) to embrace the reformed platform.  There are many reasons why I am no longer a dispensationalist, and for those dispensationalist friends, I’m hoping that they will afford me an opportunity to review scripturally why I no longer hold to those beliefs, which I will address in various blog posts.

It started innocently enough.  It was simply a continued desire to spend more time studying God’s word.  Being on Facebook took too much time away from my family and more importantly, God.  When I left Facebook, I was facing two other major problems – my dad’s terminal illness and my own serious health issues.  It simply got to be too much dealing with the demands of being an active participant in any social media platform, which in this case was both Facebook and Twitter.  So I exited from social media.

Once my dad passed away and after my own surgeries were completed, during the recovery I was able to spend more time studying God’s word.  And I had some nagging issues about dispensationalism and I thought, well, now’s the time to start digging in.

I never hid the fact that I was a four-point Calvinist – in fact, most dispensationalists hold to three or four points of Calvinism unknowingly, and most dispensationalists are unaware that the “Father” of dispensationalism, John Nelson Darby, was a Plymouth Brethren – which is to say, a Calvinist.  Yes, a full-blown five point Calvinist.  And there are plenty of resources that will easily confirm this information.  I am not going to spend time writing a mini-biography of JN Darby here.

So, let’s talk about Calvinism.  Calvinism is NOT properly defined as being “five points” – in fact, the issue over the five points were derived from Jacob Arminius in 1610 as a protest against certain teachings of John Calvin and other Reformed theologians.  His disputation was called the Remonstrance.  A synod of Reformed theologians was held in the Belgian town of Dort in late 1618/early 1619.  And the decision was reached to reject Arminius’ objections.  Again, plenty of books and articles are available that obviously go into greater detail than I have here.  And I will address Calvinism and Arminianism concerning salvation in a future blog post.

All I can say is that I have heard many a sermon from dispensationalist preachers ragging about Calvinism and it goes without saying that in most cases, according to them, just about every Calvinist is a hyper-Calvinist and that Calvinism is a heresy.   And it just betrays their ignorance of Protestant history to make such outlandish claims.  In fact, if you were to ask John Calvin about TULIP, he would most likely take you to his garden and point to a tulip.  The TULIP acronym was a more recent development (circa 1905, by most accounts) that I will be addressing in a future post.  Calvinism was overwhelmingly the Protestant position and continues to be the major Protestant position five hundred years later.

Now, the only reason I was not a five point Calvinist previously was the issue on the atonement.  Calvinists hold to Limited Atonement (or more accurately defined as Particular Atonement or Definitive Atonement) while most dispensationalists believe in Universal or Unlimited Atonement (by the way, there are a small percentage of Dispensationalists that are Calvinists – it’s not a contradiction).  I spent a number of years investigating and studying this issue and I will address this too in a future post, as well as a better understanding of the other four points.  But needless to say, I now understand and agree with Limited Atonement.  Obviously, this makes me a “five-point” Calvinist and I’m sure, a bitter disappointment to my dispensationalist friends.  But I’m praying that my dispensationalist friends will take the time to read my blog post on this issue in the future.

There were various nagging questions concerning the dispensationalist view of the end-times.  I had questions about Daniel’s 70th week, the Israel – Church distinctives, premillennialism, the sin and animal sacrifice issues during the millennial reign of Christ, the stages of the resurrection, the binding of Satan and so many more.  But as any good dispensationalist will do – I “put it all on a shelf” or “put it on the back-burner” – and as what happens often, one never finds the time to answer those questions.  And yet, those questions were nagging me.  Little did I realize then that these were the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  And once I made the time to investigate (or more accurately, once the Holy Spirit gave me the time to investigate), the flood gates were opened – there was no turning back.

I acknowledge that there aren’t any end-time scenarios that are perfect.  Far from it, in fact.  However, I knew that there had to be a simpler system.  I knew that God is not the author of confusion but of peace (1 Cor 14:33) – and a simpler system was going to be more peaceful and frankly, easier to grasp.  And that was a dilemma – I had studied dispensationalism intensely with its complicated timeline, though not to the exclusion of all else.  I was familiar with the other end-time scenarios and their timelines, but did not devote an equal amount of time on those other scenarios, as I had with dispensationalism.  So I began with a simple question –

Where in the scriptures will I find the millennial reign of Christ?  As a dispensationalist, I was very aware of Revelation 20, but where else can I find this teaching in scripture?  Honestly, after an exhaustive search, THERE WAS NO WHERE ELSE.  I know that dispensationalists will argue, well what about Ezekiel 40 through 48?  That’s the millennium, right?  Uh…no.  It is not.  Not a single mention of a thousand year reign of the Messiah there.  In fact, I could not find a mention of a literal millennial reign anywhere else in scripture.  I challenge my dispensationalist friends to find it and to let me know where else in the bible I can find a literal 1000 year reign of Christ outside of Revelation 20.

So my next question then led me to proper hermeneutical interpretation.  I held to the literal-grammatical-historical interpretation of the bible (and by the way, I continue to do so).  As a bible teacher, I recalled many a time that I stated that one had to also read the bible LITERARILY, that is, according to the genre.  So perhaps I should follow my own advice, huh? So I began to study this issue.

There are a number of genres of literature in the bible – you have historical accounts, poetry, parables, apocalyptic, wisdom, prophecy, forensic (legal), psalms (hymns), the gospels and the epistles.  And not all of them are to be read LITERALLY.  (And please don’t argue with me on this point – am I to understand literally that God the Father has feather and wings (Ps 91:4)?  God the Father has hands (Isa 66:2)?  God the Father walks (Gen 3:8)?  Does God the Father have a physical body (Ex 33)?  Is He not spirit (John 4:24)?

I took a good long hard look at myself concerning the interpretation of these genres and concluded that when it came to apocalyptic and prophecy literature, I was interpreting these genres incorrectly in many cases.  How can I take literature that is highly symbolic and interpret it literally?  Especially when it came to the interpretation of numbers in apocalyptic and prophecy literature.  And that will be the subject of my next blog post.  (And I will also be addressing the millennial reign of Christ in a future blog post.)

I pray that you will join in my quest of discovery.