Bible Prophecy 101
Author's Note: This article first appeared on the Omega Letter around 2011 by Ron Maurno. The second part (Eschatology 101) was something I put together a few years later as an addendum to Ron's work. Posted Again for your edification
"A member of our Fellowship emailed me last week and asked me to look over a study on prophecy he was putting together for a men’s Bible study. When I looked it over, not only could I think of nothing additional to offer, I asked Ron if he would allow me to share it with a wider audience. I encourage you to download or print Ron Maurno’s “Bible Prophecy 101” and keep it handy as a Bible prophecy quick reference resource. ~Jack Kinsella There is a theological difference between Israel and the Church.
…worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Revelation 19:10
Prophecy: History written in advance. Bible prophecy is God’s description of future events. (25% of the Bible is prophetic)
Prophet: A man, chosen by God, inspired to speak God’s message to reveal the future to man.
Eschatology: Derived from 2 Greek words meaning last and study. It is the study of end-time events.
Amillennialism: Teaching that states that there is no millennium reign (1000 years) of Christ on earth.
Premillennialism: Teaching that Christ will literally and physically be on earth for a thousand-year reign.
Postmillennialism: Teaches Reconstructionism, a belief that God’s kingdom began at the first coming of Jesus, and will advance throughout history until it fills the whole earth through conversion to the Christian faith and world view.
Bible Prophecy 101 – Handy Prophecy Reference Guide
In Defense of the Faith By Ron Maurno
#1: Signifies completion, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one God” (Deut. 6:4)
#2: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor, for if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.” (Eccl. 4:9-10)
#3: The simplest compound unit of mathematical science. God is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is the number of the Godhead.
#4: The number of the created world. There are 4 seasons, and 4 points on the compass north, south, east, and west. There are 4 power blocs of the world in the latter-day wars: Kings of the North, South, East, and the Western alliance.
#5 and #10: Scriptural significance. Man has 5 fingers on each hand and 5 toes on each foot. Man has 5 senses. The decimal system is based on tenths.
#6: The number of man; it falls short of perfection (7). Man was created on the sixth day, the divinely appointed workweek is 6 days, with the 7th set aside for God. Goliath had 6 fingers and 6 toes. His spear weighed 600 shekels of iron. His height is recorded as 6 cubits and a span. Jesus was crucified on the 6th hour of the 6th day of the week. The numbers 666 represent the antichrist, the spiritually incomplete man multiplied 100 times over.
#7: Sacred number of spiritual perfection, e.g., 4 is representative of the world and 3 of the Trinity, together equals 7. Seven days make up one of the four quarters of the moon. There are but 7 notes in music. On the seventh day, God rested. The Book of Revelation is addressed to the 7 churches of Asia Minor. There are 7 stars representing the 7 angels, who represent the 7 churches. In Rev. 3:1, Jesus is identified as having the 7 spirits of God (the whole/complete Spirit of God). In Rev. 5:6, the Lamb is pictured as having 7 eyes (representing omniscience), and 7 horns (representing power), symbolizing the Lamb as all-powerful omnipotence. There are 7 seals, 7 thunders, 7 vials, and 7 trumpets. (Rev. 16:6-8). (Excerpts from Omega Letter June 27, 2008)
1. There is a theological difference between Israel and the Church.
2. Scripture is to be interpreted by the literal method unless the text itself mentions a figurative or symbolic interpretation.
3. The underlying purpose of God in this world is His glory.
There are 7 dispensations, representing God’s interaction with man at different periods of time:
1. Innocence: Creation to the fall. (Gen. 1:27-28) 2. Conscience: Fall to the flood. (Gen. 3:1-6) 3. Human Government: Exit from the Ark to Abraham (Jews). (Gen. 9:6) 4. Promise: Abraham to the Law. (Gen. 12:1) 5. Law: Ten Commandments to Calvary (Ex. 5:6, 19:3; Acts 1) 6. Grace: (Church Age) Pentecost to the Rapture (Acts 2, Rev. 19:21) 7. Millennium Kingdom: Imprisonment of Satan to the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:1, 22:7).
A divinely initiated contract which God makes with man in which God obligates Himself to the parties named in the contract. There are two types of covenants, conditional and unconditional. The following are the four unconditional covenants that God made with Israel. The first three covenants are under attack today.
-To make Abraham a great nation, multiply his seed, and make him the father of many nations. – To bless Abraham and make him great. – To make Abraham a blessing to all the families of the earth. – To bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him. – To give Abraham and his seed all the land he could see, with specified definite boundaries. – To give a sign of covenant (circumcision) NOTE: This covenant is under attack from anti-Semitism.
2. LAND (PALESTINIAN) COVENANT: Unconditional, promising the seed of Abraham eternal possession of the land (Deut. 30:1-10)
– Israel will be dispersed among the nations. – Israel will repent and return to the land. – Israel will be re-gathered from the dispersion to the land that their fathers possessed. -To prosper them above their fathers. -To restore them spiritually to love the Lord. – To put all their curses upon their enemies. NOTE: This covenant is under attack today in the Middle East.
– To make David’s name great. – To provide a permanent, undisturbed home for Israel. – To establish an eternal kingdom for David and his lineage. NOTE: Luke 1: 30-34 gives the promise to Mary that “The Lord will give Him the throne of His father David forever.” InPsalm 132:11, God made a promise to David that, “Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne”. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, ON EARTH as it is in Heaven” (Matt. 6: 9-13).This covenant will be fulfilled by the Millennial reign of Christ on earth. It is under attack by Amillennial and Postmillennial Christian teaching. (Emphasis mine).
4. NEW (EVERLASTING) COVENANT: Unconditional, it replaced the conditional MOSAIC Covenant which promised that God would make Israel His special possession and make them a holy people. The people failed to obey God and the New Covenant provided spiritual restoration. In the New Covenant God promised:
-To put the law in their hearts and minds. – To be their God and make them His people. -To establish an eternal Kingdom with God and His people. NOTE: This is the covenant from which the name, New Testament, is derived.
24Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
25Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
26And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
27And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Dan. 9:24-27)
The 70 weeks are divided into 3 sections:
The 1st section (7 weeks or 49 years) is the time from the edict of Xerxes of Persia (444 BC) to the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
The 2nd section (62 weeks or 434 years) is from the rebuilding of Jerusalem to the death of Christ.
The 3rd section (1 week or 7 years) is suspended from the death (cut off) of the Messiah until the antichrist confirms a 7-year peace treaty in the Middle East. The treaty marks the start of the tribulation period.
Jewish Calendar (360 days/ year)
(7 x 7)+(62 x 7) = 483 years
X 360 days = 173,880 days
Gregorian Calendar (365 days/ year)
444 BC to 33 AD = 476 years
X 365 days = 173,740 days
+ 116 days in leap years
+ 24 days = (March 5 – March 30) = 173,880 days
Church Age/Age of Grace: The 2000 year period that begins at Pentecost and ends at the Rapture of the church.
Rapture: Also called the Day of Christ. Rapture is an English word meaning snatched up or caught up. It is the catching away of the true believers of Jesus Christ. The Rapture is the literal, visible and bodily return of Jesus Christ in the heavenlies. (1Thess. 4:13-18, 5: 9)
Tribulation/ Day of the Lord/Daniel’s 70th week: A 7 year period of the current age, with Israel as the main focal point. It begins with an enforced peace treaty with Israel. It becomes the “Great Tribulation” at the mid-way point (42 months), when Satan enters a man’s body. Also called the “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble”.
Antichrist: Before Christ comes to set up His Kingdom of peace, Satan will enter a man’s body and present his counterfeit, the antichrist, as the Messiah. Other names include: Little Horn (Dan. 7:8), King of fierce countenance (Dan. 8:23), The Prince that shall come (Dan. 9:26), the man of sin, the son of perdition and the wicked one (2 Thess. 2:8), the Beast of the sea (Rev. 13:1). The antichrist enforces a seven-year peace treaty that amazes the world.
Abomination of Desolation: Antichrist will take control of Jewish worship midway through the tribulation, declaring himself to be God (2Thess. 2:4). He demands worship from the Jews, in their own temple.
False Prophet: Religious leader who ascends to world popularity via his close alignment with the antichrist. He is the leader of the one-world church in Rev. 13:11. He will work amazing miracles and lead people into idolatry by worshiping the image of the beast.
Second Coming/Millennium: Literal and bodily reign of Christ on earth.
FOUR BIBLICAL POWER BLOCS IN THE LATTER DAYS
KING OF THE NORTH (GOG-MAGOG ALLIANCE): Russia, Iran, and the Arab-Islamic alliance. (Ezek. 38-39)
KINGS OF THE SOUTH: Egypt, Africa and Islamic North Africa (Dan. 11:40)
KINGS OF THE EAST: China and Southeast Asia (Rev. 16:12)
REVIVED ROMAN EMPIRE/ WESTERN ALLIANCE/ BEAST ARMY OF ANTICHRIST: (Dan. 7:7). If the European Union becomes combined with the Mediterranean Union, the two together will have the same exact land boundaries as the ancient Holy Roman Empire. The Benelux Treaty, signed in 1948 (the same year as the re-birth of Israel) began the unification of Europe. The Bible says that the revived Roman Empire will be led by the antichrist. (Rev. 17:12)
TWO EVENTS LEADING TO THE TRIBULATION
14: “At evening tide, lo, terror! Before morning they are gone. Such is the fate of those who pillage us and the lot of those who plunder us.”
FACT: Damascus, the capital of Syria, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, population of approximately 1.6 million. Syria is the state sponsor of the terror group Hezbollah.
PROPHECY, Psalm 83 (1000 BC) “God, do not be silent, be not quiet, be not still. See how Your enemies are astir, how Your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against Your people; they plot against those You cherish. Come they say “LET US DESTROY THEM AS A NATION”, that the name of Israel be remembered no more. With one mind they plot together, they form an alliance against You, the tents of Edom (modern-day Palestinians, descendants of Esau) and the Ishmaelite (descendants of Ishmael, Yemen) of Moab (modern-day Jordan), Ammon (nomadic tribesman, northwest Arabia, east of the Dead Sea) and Amalek (Son of Esau, area of Iran), Philistia (Gaza) with the inhabitants of Tyre (Lebanon). Even Assyria (Syria) has joined them to lend strength to the descendants of Lot (northern Jordan).” (Emphasis mine)
THE WAR OF GOG AND MAGOG
PROPHECY Ezek 38:1-4 (575 BC)
“The word of the Lord came to me: Son of Man set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: Prophecy against him and say: This is what the Sovereign Lord says, I am against you, oh Gog, chief prince of Mesech and Tubal. I will turn you around and put hooks in your jaw, and bring you out with your whole army—your horses, your horseman fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields and all of them brandishing their swords.”
FACT: Gog is thought by most Christian scholars to be a title of a strong leader. Magog is the son of Japheth who was a son of Noah. Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, identified the offspring of Magog as the Scythians who were known as brutal horse-riding nomads that resided in the area of modern-day southern Russia. Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. There is unanimity among dispensational scholars that these countries are also found in Russia and the former Soviet republics.
PROPHECY Ezek. 38:5-6 “Persia, Cush, and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, also Gomer with all his troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all his troops-the many nations with you.”
Persia is modern-day Iran. Cush is the area of Sudan, Ethiopia, and possibly Eritrea. Put is the area of Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia. Gomer, the eldest son of Japheth (Noah), is modern-day Turkey. Beth Togarmah is Turkey, Armenia, and the Turkish-speaking people of Asia Minor and Central Asia. “Many nations with you’, possibly additional Islamic allies.
THE BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON
“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over”. (Dan. 11:40)
This is the closing battle of the second three and one-half years of the tribulation. It begins with Russia/Iran’s invasion of Israel (Gog-Magog/ King of the North), after the peace contract with Israel is broken (Ezek. 38:15-16). As the war escalates, new participants include: antichrist (Western Alliance), Kings of the South, and Kings of the East.
Christ will come. The battle of Armageddon climaxes the campaign as the Lord and His armies appear from Heaven. The enemy armies will be destroyed (Joel 3: 2, 9-14, Ps. 2: 2-3). Christ returns, riding a white horse. His eyes are as a flame of fire and His robe dipped in blood. Written on the robe is ‘King of Kings’ and ‘Lord of Lords’. He will smite the nations, and the antichrist and the False Prophet will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
It will be the bloodiest battle in history (Ps. 2:2, Zech. 14:3). The destruction resulting will be that the blood of the armies will reach to the horses’ bridles for two hundred miles and it will require mankind 7 months to bury the dead ( Rev. 14:20,Ezek. 39:12). (Excerpts from J Dwight Pentecost: Campaign of Armageddon)
MAJOR EVENTS OF UNFULFILLED PROPHECY
– Damascus is destroyed in one night (Is. 17:1, 14) – A coalition of nations marches on Israel (Ps. 83) – Israel is attacked (Isaiah 17:4) the war ends and Israel becomes an exceedingly great army (Ezek. 37:10, 35:14; Obad. 1:18) – Israel dwells securely; the wall of separation comes down (Ezek. 38:11) – Rapture of the church (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 5: 51-58), Marriage Supper Of the Lamb and the Bema Seat Judgment of the raptured church. (Rev. 19:6-10; 1 Thess 2:19 -20) – Revival of the Roman Empire, 10 nation confederacy formed. (Dan. 7:7, 24; Rev. 13:1, 17:3) – Rise of Antichrist: (Dan. 7:8; Rev. 13:1-8) -7 year peace treaty with Israel: consummated 7 years before the second coming of Christ (Dan. 9:27; Rev. 11-16) the third Jewish Temple is built (Dan. 9:27) – Russia/Iran (King of the north) launches a surprise attack on Israel, before the second coming of Christ (Ezek. 38-39). – Peace treaty with Israel is broken. Antichrist enters the Holy of Holies and declares himself to be God (Abomination of desolation (Dan 7: 23; 2 Thess. 2: 4) – Antichrist sets up a world government, world economic system, and world church (Dan 7:23; Rev 13: 5-8, 15-17, 17:16-17) – Many Christians and Jews are martyred who refuse the mark of the beast, (no one may buy or sell without the mark (Rev. 7: 9-17, 13-15,) – Catastrophic divine judgments represented by 7 seals, 7 bowls and 7 judgments poured out on the earth (Rev. 6-18) – Babylon is destroyed: Former headquarters of antichrist prior to moving his headquarters to Israel during the battle of Armageddon. (Rev. 18; Dan. 11:20-21) – Battle of Armageddon begins: A continuation of Ezekiel 38-39 that began before the mid-way point of the Tribulation (3 ½ years) and concludes with Christ and His armies at the hill of Megiddo. (Dan. 11:40-45; Rev. 9:13-21, 16:12-16) – Second coming of Jesus Christ (Matt. 24:27-31; Rev. 19:11-21) – Satan bound for 1000 years (Rev. 20:1-3) – Resurrection of Tribulation saints and Old Testament saints (Dan. 12: 2) – Millennium Kingdom begins (Rev. 20:5-6) – Final rebellion at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20: 5-6) – Great White Throne judgment: judgment of sinners (Rev. 20: 11-15) – Eternity begins; a new heaven, new earth, New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1-2)
Additional excerpts from: “Every Prophecy of the Bible”, John F. Walvoord. Covenants: interview Bill Salus Chuck Misler 2/10/10). Psalm 83: Bill Salus Blogspot 2009. Dispensations: Grant Jeffrey’s TV program 3/2/10.
About the author:
Ron Maurno was born in New York and grew up in Miami where he attended high school and college. Having read Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” in the 1970s, Ron had hoped to someday spend enough time to better understand how God’s prophecies fit into current world events. In addition to studying Bible prophecy, Ron enjoys spending time with his wife, four sons and their children, his two Tennessee Walking horses, two dogs, and one barn cat.
Hermenutics/ Eschatology 101
by Pete Garcia
Several years ago, an Omega Letter member named Ron Maurno delivered to us the ‘Bible Prophecy 101’ letter, which I for one, was tremendously blessed by. He gives a summation of all the major points in the prophetic Scriptures. In a similar manner, what I would like to do now is to just focus in on one section of that summation, eschatology.
It’s been said by many Christian to the author, that the study of prophecy is irrelevant to the here and now. I would counter, by quoting the famed comedian George Burns,
I look to the future, because that is where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.
While this present age darkens, and our world seemingly becomes more unhinged by the day, we know according to Scripture, that God has a grand plan for us, and a future beyond compare. I hope this helps you in your journey.
Bible Prophecy: God’s foretelling of what’s to come. Since God exists outside of time, He is able to see the end from the beginning, and all therein. (Isaiah 46:9-10) 28% of the Bible is prophetic in nature, beginning with Genesis 3:15 (protoevangelium). There were ‘near’ and ‘far’ prophecies. Near being fulfilled in the lifetime of the person delivering the message, and far, would be any of which would come to pass beyond that prophet's life.
Eschatology: the word being a compound of two Greek words, Eschatos, meaning last or final things; and ology, meaning the study of, so it is a part of theology concerned primarily with the study of last things or final events.
So while all Eschatology fits into the concept of Bible prophecy, not all Bible prophecy is eschatological in nature. For instance, Bible prophecies concerning Christ’s first coming were prophetic when they were given, but are not considered eschatological today.
Probably the most maligned, and misunderstood theological doctrine in all of Christianity, is that of Bible prophecy. Granted, every major doctrine within Christendom has been abused and/or perverted to some extent, but none as much as Bible prophecy. So why would God give us something that has the potential to receive so much negative attraction?
~Defends the authoritative power, truth, inerrancy, and divine inspiration of the Bible (Isaiah 46:9-10; Jeremiah 30, 31; Ezekiel 36-39, etc.) “Thus saith the Lord”
~No other book, religious or otherwise contains the same claims, nor the perfect prophetic track record of the Holy Bible. (Isaiah 55:11)
~Ex: Christ fulfilled 109 specific prophecies concerning His birth, life, death, and resurrection. Jesus used prophecy to confirm that His message was true, and did so by telling His disciples ahead of time, so when it happened, they knew it what was supposed to happen. (John 14:29; 16:4, Luke 24:25-27)
~Gives hope in dark days (2 Peter 1:19-21, 1 Thess. 4:13-18)
~ We are commanded to watch and understand the times we live in. (Mark 13:35-37; Luke 12:37; 1 Thess. 5:1-8)
~Gives a practical purpose for everyday life: Prophecy is not meant to tickle the ear, but to turn our feet toward God.
~Meant to provoke us to holy living. (1 John 3:2-3; 2 Peter 3:11; Titus 2:13)
~A powerful tool for evangelism. (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9)
~Serves as a warning that time had a starting point, and likewise, has an end.
~Revives a sense of urgency in our lives concerning the coming of Christ (Matt. 24:42)
~Is all about Christ (either directly, or indirectly). (Rev. 19:10; Luke 24:25-27)
Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible. It is part of the broader field of hermeneutics which involves the study of principles for the text and includes all forms of communication: verbal and nonverbal. (Source: Wikipedia)
Understanding that Bible prophecy has a ‘value added’ to the Christian walk, we now turn to the differing viewpoints within eschatology. All of these viewpoints come about, by either one of two methods of biblical interpretation, or hermeneutics.
Literal: means the literal, grammatical, historical, and contextual reading of a passage is taken at face value unless the surrounding passages convey otherwise.
Non-Literal: means the passage is not taken in the above manner, but either a spiritual metaphor or simile or allegorical approach is applied to the text at hand.
Now, two common misconceptions are at play here:
Taking a passage literally does not imply ‘wooden literalism’, as some would have it. When Jesus says, “I am the door…” (John 10:9), we know that Jesus isn’t literally a ‘door’. He is using a metaphor to convey a deeper meaning that one must enter through Him, in order to receive salvation.
Also, in Isaiah 55:12, when it states that “all the trees of the field will clap their hands”, we understand that to be a personification of a non-human object. It is meant to convey a deeper, poetical meaning to the fact that nature itself will rejoice in God. Having a literal interpretation just means we take the text at face value unless by doing so, makes the passage nonsensical. From Dr. D.L. Cooper:
WHEN THE PLAIN SENSE OF SCRIPTURE MAKES COMMON SENSE, SEEK NO OTHER SENSE; THEREFORE, TAKE EVERY WORD AT ITS PRIMARY, ORDINARY, USUAL, LITERAL MEANING UNLESS THE FACTS OF THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT, STUDIED IN THE LIGHT OF RELATED PASSAGES AND AXIOMATIC AND FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS INDICATE CLEARLY OTHERWISE.
Secondly, a person who takes the non-literal position is not to say that they take the whole bible in a non-literal fashion. Rather, they take the non-prophetic passages literally, but then apply a non-literalism (allegorical, metaphorical, etc.) approach in varying degrees, to prophetic passages. So for the most part, they would think they have a literal understanding of the Bible (i.e.…Creation, Noah’s ark, Moses, David and Goliath, and even prophetic passages that pertain to Christ’s first coming), usually are taken in a literal manner. Non-literal interpretation is usually only reserved for passages pertaining to events that have yet to take place.
Three main branches of hermeneutical thought within Orthodox Christianity based on the framework in which one develops an eschatological viewpoint is derived usually, from one of three main views: ~Dispensationalism ~Covenant Theology ~Catholic
Dispensationalism; comes from the Greek compound word, oikonomia, which simply means ‘house rules’. It is used some 20 times in the NT and represents the following words; Steward or stewardship, administration, dispensation, or manager. The definition, according to Dr. Charles Ryrie is as follows:
Dispensationalism views the world as a household run by God. In His household world, God is dispensing or administering its affairs according to His own will and in various stages of revelation in the passage of time. These various stages mark off the distinguishably different economies in the outworking of His total purpose, and these different economies constitute the dispensations. The understanding of God’s differing economies is essential to a proper interpretation of His revelation within those various economies.
It is based on three simple premises: ~A plain, normal, literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of all Scriptures. ~A recognition, that Israel is not the Church, and the Church is not Israel. ~ The overarching plan, is God’s glory.
A Dispensational viewpoint is a natural consequence of a consistent, normal, literal interpretation of scripture. Two points upfront to consider: the first is that God never changes. The second is that even though the entire Bible is written for the New Testament Christian, the entire Bible is not written too the Christian. Anyone who goes to Church on Sunday with clothes on; doesn’t sacrifice small animals, and doesn’t consider themselves under the thumb of the Mosaic Law would have to agree.
We see in the Bible that there are three primary groups of people; the Gentiles, the Jews (Hebrews/ Israelites), and the Church.
Genesis 1-12 deals exclusively with mankind as a singular group.
Then, in Genesis 12, God separates one man (Abraham) and is set aside to become a new group. From Genesis 12-Malachi, the focus is exclusively on the Jewish people. Gentiles are only mentioned in so much as in how they interact with the Jews.
The New Testament makes mention of a new class of people…the Church; with Matt. 16:16-19 as the first mention. Acts 2 then is what is normally accepted as the birth of the Church, with the giving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. So from Acts 2 through Revelation 3:22, the focus is exclusively on the Church. Jews and Gentiles are only mentioned, in so far as how they interact with the Church. (See 1 Cor. 10:32). Also, in 70+ times of mention in the NT, Israel is never recognized as the Church, nor vice versa.
The last piece is on God’s glory being the overarching plan for God. This glory supersedes even that of salvation. For example, the fallen angels (of which Lucifer is chief) have no manner or mechanism for redemption, yet, their condemnation, judgment, and damnation, serve to fulfill the purpose of God’s glory. True, God knew from before the foundation of the world how this would all play out, but God’s glory trumps every other purpose or plan that exists.
A Dispensationalist recognizes that God has interacted in differing ways with mankind through the ages. Not everyone has a forbidden tree to eat from. Not everyone has an ark to build. Not everyone has a burning bush to talk to, or a giant to slay. He/she also recognizes that the entire Bible wasn’t given to Adam…it was given in varying measures to His chosen spokesmen over a period of 1,600 years. This is known as ‘progressive revelation’. Middletown Bible Church gives a good demonstration of this below:
~Adam: “I had no Bible at all, but I walked with God in the cool of the garden.” ~Abraham: “I had no Bible at all, but at different times God would appear to me and speak to me” (see Genesis 17:1; 18:1; etc.) ~Moses: “My Bible contained 5 books–Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy” ~David: “My Bible contained the same 5 books that Moses had as well as Joshua and Judges and many of the Psalms which I wrote, etc.” ~Ezra: “My Bible contained most of the Old Testament books but not all of them” ~John the Baptist: “My Bible contained all of the Old Testament books but none of the New Testament books” ~Paul: “My Bible contained the Old Testament books and most of the New Testament books but not all of them” ~John: “My Bible contained all of the Old Testament books and all of the New Testament books. Shortly before I died God used me to write the last New Testament book.”
So simply based on the idea that not everyone had a complete Bible (Old and New Testament), how could Moses know all that would be revealed to Paul? He didn’t. He only knew what God had revealed to him at that moment in time, or over the course of his life. To assume anything beyond that is to insert an idea into the text, that simply isn’t there.
Two charges often laid at the feet of Dispensationalism are that it is a new system (Johnny Come-Lately theology) and that it promotes multiple ways of salvation. Neither is true.
Dispensationalism is as old as the Bible itself…because it is the normal understanding one comes too, if you take the literal, grammatical, historical interpretative method. Going back to the early church, men like Justin Martyr and Irenaeus understood that God has worked differently, in different ages.
Jonathan Edwards (1646-1719), published 2 vol. work– entitled “A Complete History or Survey of All the Dispensations”.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748) recognized the dispensations as conditional ages wherein God had certain expectations of men and made conditional promises and prohibitions to them.
Dispensationalism was systematized by John N. Darby in the 1800s, but that is not the same as it being invented. No one accuses Martin Luther of inventing ‘sola fide’ in the 1500s. He simply rediscovered what the scriptures have said all along. Similarly, men like John N. Darby (and others) were rediscovering the plain, normative, understanding of all Scripture, to include Bible prophecy.
Charles Ryrie sums it up like this;
The fact that something was taught in the first century does not make it right (unless taught in the canonical Scriptures), and the fact that something was not taught until the nineteenth century does not make it wrong unless, of course, it is unscriptural.
Infant baptism and Replacement theology began back as early as the 1st century, and neither are biblical, yet because they’ve been around as long as they have, does that give them credence to persist as mainstream Christian teaching? Clearly, no. So longevity is not an accurate standard on which we measure our orthodoxy.
Dispensationalism has never promoted multiple ways of salvation. Certain statements by Dispensationalists, when taken in isolation and/or out of context, have been used as fodder to feed this argument. (See a detailed response here). Adherence to the Law never saved anyone, (Gal. 3:24)
Question: Since salvation is by grace through faith, how could the OT saints be ‘saved’ prior to Christ’s coming? Answer: Salvation is the wrong way to frame the question. Salvation is through Christ alone. (John 10:9, 14:6) One has to come to Christ in order to be baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 12:13), sealing the believer into Christ forever. (2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:11-14)
Since 4,000 years of human history had transpired prior to Christ’s physical manifestation here on earth as the promised Redeemer, salvation was not yet possible. If it were, Christ need not come.
One was not ‘saved’ before Christ came, in the same sense that we are today (post-Calvary), but they were justified by their faith in God, and when they died, they went to Abraham’s bosom, which is in Sheol (or Hades in the Greek), but separated from ‘Torments’ in a place known as Paradise, awaiting their redemption by the Redeemer. (Luke 16:22-26; 23:43; Eph. 4:8-10; 1 Peter 3:18-20)
In conclusion on the Dispensational view, it is the most accurate attempt by fallen men, to corroborate what Holy Scriptures tell us about God’s outworking in the human race over the course of our common history. It is not perfect, because we simply don’t know certain things, either due to silence in the Word, or because events have not yet played out. We hold that all Progressive Revelation ended with the Apocalypse, as given to John the Beloved on Patmos, in AD95.
What we have now, is Progressive Illumination, which continues to open our understanding of the how in God’s plan unfolds according to His time, and His purpose.
Covenant/Reformed Theology (CT)
Covenant and Reformed theology are terms that are often used interchangeably. They represent the other half of mainstream Protestant thought pertaining to Biblical hermeneutics. Sometimes referred to as Reformed Theology, but distinct in that one could be Reformed and yet not be CT. According to Dr. Richard L. Pratt,
Covenant theology refers to one of the basic beliefs that Calvinists have held about the Bible. All Protestants who have remained faithful to their heritage affirm sola Scriptura, the belief that the Bible is our supreme and unquestionable authority. Covenant theology, however, distinguishes the Reformed view of Scripture from other Protestant outlooks by emphasizing that divine covenants unify the teachings of the entire Bible.
CT Summarized: (Source: Is Covenant Theology Biblical?)
Covenant Theology views the covenants of Scripture as manifestations of either the CW (Covenant of Works) or the CG (Covenant of Grace). The entire story of redemptive history can be seen as God unfolding the CG from its nascent stages (Genesis 3:15) through to its fruition in Christ. Covenant Theology is, therefore, a very Christocentric way of looking at Scripture because it sees the OT as the promise of Christ and the NT as the fulfillment in Christ.
Some have accused Covenant Theology as teaching what is called “Replacement Theology” (i.e., the Church replaces Israel). This couldn’t be further from the truth. Unlike Dispensationalism, Covenant Theology does not see a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church. Israel constituted the people of God in the OT, and the Church (which is made up of Jew and Gentile) constitutes the people of God in the NT; both just make up one people of God (Ephesians 2:11-20). The Church doesn’t replace Israel; the Church is Israel and Israel is the Church (Galatians 6:16). All people who exercise the same faith as Abraham are part of the covenant people of God (Galatians 3:25-29).
Systemization of CT dates back to the Reformation era with Martin Luther, John Calvin, Westminster Confession, Savoy Declaration, London Baptist Confession and claims early church father (ECF) roots (albeit with more ambiguity, since CT tends to only view one to three covenants for the entire Bible). CT and Reformed Theology lean heavily on traditional creeds and confessions made by the various Reformers, affirming or denying certain views they hold as Orthodox. Exclusively Calvinistic, but can vary in whether they hold to all five points within Calvinism, or some variation thereof.
CT is similar to Dispensationalism in that CT holds to the main, orthodoxical positions on key areas such as: ~The Deity of Christ ~The Triune nature of God ~The Inerrancy of Scripture ~Salvation by Grace through Faith
Where CT and DISP part ways, is in the following:
~CT sees only one people of God, whereas DISP sees two, the Church, and Israel. ~CT sees two to three covenants implied in Scripture; ~A covenant of works (Gen. 2:16-17) ~A covenant of grace (Gen. 3:15) ~A covenant of redemption. (Eph. 1:3-14)
These differ from the stated covenants actually found in Scripture
~Abrahamic (Gen. 15) ~Land (Deut. 29-30) ~Seed or Davidic (2 Sam 7:12-16) ~Blessing or Blessing (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
CT can accept or reject Premillennialism but primarily rejects it based on the blurring between Israel and the Church. Primary eschatology tends to be either Amillennial, Post-Millennial, or Historic Premillennialism. CT can in varying forms, (mild to strong), be considered Replacement theology (i.e.…the Church replaces or supersedes Israel) in the plan and promises of God.
The Roman Catholic Church, believes strongly in the idea of Apostolic Succession, by which they claim to trace their authority, back to the Apostle Peter, via the statement made by Christ in Matthew 16:16-19;
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
The Roman Catholic Church wrongly attributes Christ's charge that the rock is Peter, rather than what Peter confessed. Thus, from Peter onward, the Roman Catholic Church claims to trace its right to organize, add, delete, translate, etc. the Holy Scriptures. History shows, that the Roman Catholic Church did not in fact, begin to be systematized, until at the earliest, the fifth century. Three things had to happen first:
Emperor Constantine’s legalization of the Christian faith within the Roman Empire with the Edict of Milan (AD313). With Constantine’s adoption of the Christian faith, he encouraged the Christianization of pagan beliefs, for which they bring into Christianity adding non-biblical practices. Ex: Mithraism, Cult of Isis, Patron saints, etc.
Augustine’s publication of the “City of God”, which laid a lot of the theological framework, from which Roman Catholic Theology would come. (See here for summarized biography of this influential man)
Emperor Damasus commissioned Jerome to translate the Bible from its original Greek and Hebrew, into Latin beginning in the fourth century. Although Latin was a popular dialect within the Roman Empire at the time, this would come to prevent the common folk (who increasingly didn’t speak Latin) from being able to understand or read the Bible. A clerical class arose (the Priests, Bishops, Popes) arose to be the mediators between God and man, thus allowing the Roman Catholic Church to completely control the message of what was being taught.
Needless to say, Roman Catholic theology dominated Christendom from the 5th through 15th centuries in a period largely referred to as the “Dark Ages." When the masses began stirring away from the blatant corruption of the papacy between the 13th through 16th centuries, the Roman Catholic Church began various Inquisitions in Europe to stifle dissent. Heretics (those who disagreed with the RCC) were tortured, burned at the stake, drowned, hung, beheaded, etc. for daring to own their own Bibles, or for belonging to non-Catholic sects. Below are the more famous martyrs in the lead against Catholic theology.
-Jerome of Prague
Preterism: (Source: Wikipedia)
The term preterism comes from the Latin praeter, which is listed in Webster’s 1913 dictionary as a prefix denoting that something is “past” or “beyond”, signifying that either all or a majority of Bible prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70. Historically been general agreement with non-preterists that the first systematic preterist exposition of prophecy was written by the Jesuit Luis de Alcasar during the Counter-Reformation.
Full Preterism: all prophecy has been fulfilled since AD70. Christ returned spiritually and used the Romans to exact His judgment on Israel. (Heretical since it denies Christ’s Second Coming)
Partial Preterism: Most of prophecy has been fulfilled (up until Rev. 19), except for the Second Coming of Christ, and the eternal state.
Pros: If one were so inclined, they are able to dismiss Bible prophecy as irrelevant, thus negating the need to study or handle prophetic passages in Scripture as anything other than, historical events.
Cons: In order for this view (either partial or full), one would have to apply serious allegorical or metaphorical interpretations to large sections of Scripture. Would also require historicism to be applied liberally, to which even Preterists differ on fulfillment.
Amillennialism: (Source: Wikipedia) (Greek: a- “no” + millennialism), in Christian eschatology, is the rejection of the belief that Jesus will have a literal, thousand-year-long, physical reign on the earth.
Church fathers of the second and third century that rejected the millennium were Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Cyprian. These men were heavily influenced by Grecian Platonism. Since Augustine was also influenced by this Grecian philosophical thought, he leaned heavily on Origen’s method of allegorizing Scriptural texts in which he became the first to systematize Amillennialism in his book “City of God." He considered the idea of a physical kingdom to be very carnal, and thus rejected it. Groups who hold to this are:
Eastern and Oriental Orthodox
Churches of Christ
Disciples of Christ
Amillennialism has been the dominant form of eschatological view over the last 2,000 years, simply because this was the main eschatological view of Roman Catholicism, which dominated Christendom from the 5th through 15th century. Although the Protestant Reformers broke away and returned to a more literal interpretation of Scripture, they brought with them the same eschatological baggage that initially stemmed from Roman Catholicism, and kept Amillennialism as their default view for the study of last things.
Pros: One is able to dismiss Bible prophecy as irrelevant, thus negating the need to study or handle prophetic passages in Scripture as anything other than, historical events.
Cons: In order for this view, one would have to apply serious allegorical or metaphorical interpretations to large sections of Scripture. Would also require historicism to be applied liberally, to which even adherents differ on fulfillment.
Historic Pre-Millennialism: See Post-Tribulation
Pre-Millennialism: The view that Christ will return for His bride (the Church) prior to the Millennial Kingdom.
Pre-Tribulation: Christ returns for His bride prior to the beginning of the 70th week of Daniel (aka…The Tribulation). This is executed by the Rapture of the Church. In 1 Thess. 4:16, it is referred to as the ‘catching up’ (Harpazo, GreekRapere, Latin, “Catching up”, English). The Rapture of the Church does not begin the Tribulation but precedes it as a necessity due to the role of the Holy Spirit as Restrainer (2 Thess. 2:7, Eph. 1:14), the wrath of God (1 Thess. 1:10, 5:9, Rev. 3:10), and the order of the judgment of the Church at the Bema Seat (1 Cor. 3:9-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Peter 4:17)
Mid-Tribulation: View’s Christ returning at the mid-point of the Tribulation. The mid-point is noted in Matthew 24:15, with the ‘Abomination of Desolation’, in which the Antichrist desolates the new Jewish Temple’s Holy of Holies.
Pre-Wrath (newest): See’s Christ returning between the Sixth Seal and the Seventh Seal Judgment when the Church is raptured out. They do not see the wrath of God beginning, until the Trumpet Judgments.
Post-Tribulation: See’s the Rapture and the Second Coming as the same event, thus the Church goes all the way through the Tribulation.
The main take away from all these views is that only the Pre-Tribulation maintains the doctrine of imminence (or that Christ could return at any moment), maintains a clear delineation from Israel, thus negating the need for the Church to have to enter any portion of the 70th week of Daniel. (See Daniel 9:24; Jeremiah 30:7-11 for more context)
A primary problem with seeing the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming as the same event are:
Rapture/Translation 2nd Coming/Estab. Kingdom 1 Translation of all believers No translation at all 2 Translated saints go to heaven Translated saints return to earth 3 Earth not judged Earth judged & righteousness established 4 Imminent, any-moment, signless Follows definite predicted signs including Tribulation 5 Not in the Old Testament Predicted often in Old Testament 6 Believers only Affects all men 7 Before the day of wrath Concluding the day of wrath 8 No reference to Satan Satan bound 9 Christ comes for His own Christ comes with His own 10 He comes in the air He comes to the earth 11 He claims His bride He comes with His bride 12 Only His own see Him Every eye shall see Him 13 Tribulation begins The Millennial Kingdom begins
Post-Millennialism: Christ returns at the end of an undefined period of time (the millennium is thus relegated from 1,000 years, to???) This view was very popular around the turn of the 20th century, but the idealistic and optimistic tenets of Post-Millennialism crashed into the rocky shores of reality with the onset of World War I and World War II. It was largely marginalized over the past 50 years but has found new legs within the Charismatic movements, and to some extent, re-popularizing within Reformed and Covenant theological circles.
Pan-Millennialism: (it will all pan out in the end) Unfortunately, the usual state of the modern (or post-modern) Christian who hangs their coats in Amillennial, Post Millennial, or Preterist Churches, is that they tend to amalgamate into the vast pool of Pan-Tribbers, or Pan Millennialists. Since prophecy has either been concluded in the first century or life will continue on into an undefined and indifferent future, why bother studying? It is the natural state for those who hold to the aforementioned views to end up at. In his article addressing the devastating effects of Amillennialism upon the Churches of Christ over the last half-century, Dr. Lynn Mitchell (Church of Christ member, theologian, and Professor), notes:
Instead, all we have left is ah-millennialism. We are neither passionately radical nor invigoratingly hopeful. We are only a-, from the Greek term meaning “zilch.” The eschatological character of our popular preaching and teaching ended up becoming the most bland, impotent, paganizing, ahistorical, docetic body-soul dualism to arise out of the theological confusion of frontier-rural America.
It was the kind of eschatology that Mark Twain and H. L. Menchen could earn a living making fun of. From our homemade eschatological vision, one would think that the only purpose for our being on earth is to believe the right religious doctrines, do the right religious things, and associate ourselves with the right religious folks so as to induce God to admit our immortal souls, when we shuck our bodies, to a place beyond the blue.
A sobering commentary indeed.
This brief does not cover many other movements pertaining to Christian Eschatology, particularly those which fall outside the main orthodoxy of the Christian faith due to their being outside of the boundaries of the true Christian faith on other core doctrines. These are:
Hebrew Roots Movement (primarily Post-Tribulation/Historic Pre-Mill)
Word/Faith Movement (primarily Post-Millennial)
Emergent Church (varied if any)
Seventh-Day Adventist (post-Tribulation)
Pseudo Christian Cults: LDS, Jehovah Witness, Universalist (varied)
In conclusion, one can see that many views have begun over the last two thousand years of Church history. We must be cautious in attributing all wrongs to one particular sect or group because, despite faulty theology, many earnestly are seeking God and the truth in Him. On the flip side, we should exercise caution in accepting all teachings and beliefs as valid or equal.
We must remember that belief-systems have consequences.
If one believes that the Kingdom began at the Cross, and we are in the Kingdom now then one could justify the need for a Pope (Vicar of Christ), or Crusades, or Inquisitions. If one group believes they have replaced the Jewish people as God’s chosen, they could justify ignoring national Israel and supporting things like Divestiture or Palestinian terror causes. The Nazis managed to remove the Jewishness from their Bibles, in order to theologically justify the Final Solution.
I’m fond of saying that error begets only more error. And while eschatology is not core to one’s salvation, it is key to one’s understanding the complete word of God. How you understand the end, will largely drive how you live today. One recommended source for seeing how Christianity began its journey away from the first-century construct, is in “Theology Adrift: The Early Church Fathers and Their Views of Eschatology”.