Is There a Time to Stop Praying and Start Doing?

Sep 29, 2020 by Gary DeMar

For decades, Christians have been reluctant to get involved in politics. These Christians either don’t vote or when they do vote they do so in terms of what government can do for them. The government is seen as their earthly savior. They are more concerned about where their next flu shot is coming from rather than the appointment of judges who with one vote can turn the Constitution on its head.

There are many more Christians who had given up on politics after the election of Ronald Reagan didn’t bring in the millennium. And when Bill Clinton got elected twice, hopelessness set in. George W. Bush was a big disappointment. Barack Obama was a disaster.

All that work, and for what? Christians who are experiencing political remorse are suffering from a case of faulty theology. Life is hard … There’s evil in the world … We must be faithful … We must be diligent to overturn evil with good.

Here we are in 2020 about to re-elect Pres. Trump or elect Joe Biden who will empower a government that will bring devastation to the United States that could set our nation back decades from which we may not recover.

After reading one of my articles about the seriousness of this election, I received this well-intentioned response:

I am with your reasoning but are we focusing more on voting than praying? We know that God will decide about coming peace or riots or hanging chads or voter fraud. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:16–18).

Both are necessary. We can’t pray our way out of something that requires action on our part. A student can’t pray to do well on a test if he or she didn’t study for it. Praying is not going to help if you plan to do stupid stuff.

We can “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) while we act on what we’re praying about. Prayer is not a substitute for action when something can and needs to be done.

Prayer and repentance are not to be dismissed. They are the first steps in a longer process. Before the events in Elijah’s day, Joshua went through an experience that resulted in a military defeat when he expected a victory. Israel won its first encounter with Jericho without a casualty. Why should the battle with Ai be any different? The spies thought Ai was weak enough that only “two or three thousand men need go up” (Josh. 7:3). Thirty-six Israelites were killed, and the rest were pursued and assaulted by the men of Ai with the result that “the hearts of the people melted and became as water” (7:5).

Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths

Have you ever heard fellow-Christians say, “We can’t be inolved in politics because Jesus never got involved in politics, there’s a separation between church and state, our citizenship is in heaven, we can’t impose our morality on other people, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, we must be neutral, we’re not to judge,…?” Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths deals with these and many more misconceived arguments. Buy Now

You know what the Israelites were thinking. “Maybe we should have stayed out of this political thing. We were at least safe when we were ghettoized beyond the Jordan and could follow our privatized and quietist faith.” There was even fear that things would get a lot worse once the “Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land” heard about the defeat (7:9). Joshua, voicing these concerns to God, did what many Christians have concluded is the only action that should be taken. “Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell on the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until evening, both he and the elders of Israel” (7:7). In a word, they prayed … hard.

What did God tell him to do? “So the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them’” (7:11). In effect, God told Joshua to stop praying and act on the evil that brought them the defeat!

Prayer is not a magical formula, an incantation that brings forth God like a genie from a bottle. Prayer is an admission of weakness. It is in weakness that God can best use us (2 Cor. 12:9–10). But true faith and trust are not exercised if we do not act on the belief that God will work for us even in our weakness. Prayer is not the end but the beginning of the work God has called us to do, and in many cases, it is not a substitute for action. J. I. Packer says it this way:

The Spirit does what he does. His supernaturalizing of our lives enables Christians, as a matter of fact, to do much for the Lord that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. That’s the whole doctrine of gifts and ministry. It’s my part to see what God calls me to do, to ask the Lord to enable me to do it, then to get up off my knees and go confidently into action, watching to see what help I shall be given, and finally to give thanks for what the Spirit did in and through me[1]

There is sin in the Christian camp. Entire denominations support abortion and homosexuality or remain silent which is the same as giving support. Politicians, many who claim to be Christians, maintain that abortion should be a protected right. They’re “personally opposed” to abortion, but they can’t impose their morality on others. Are they personally opposed to slavery and racial discrimination? Sure they are. Would they vote for laws to stop them? Sure they would. If someone is personally opposed to abortion because abortion takes a human life, then a law prohibiting abortion is a moral necessity.

The sins of Achan—“the mantle of Shinar” (humanism) and “silver and gold” (mammon)—are the sins of the church. Many pastors are afraid to lose members and their money if they teach what the Bible says about certain sins. Their sermons are humanistic in that they cater to fallen men and women and their needs rather than God and His laws. We will not change things at the top until we change things at the bottom.

Prayer is a good and necessary practice. But after we fall on our face, let’s be careful not to cover our ears, shut our eyes, and bind our feet. We might just hear God’s voice say, “Rise up! Get up and vote! Get your mother to vote! Get your pastor to vote and to tell the congregation to vote! Vote in terms of what the Bible says about these issues. Vote as a son of Issachar would vote: ‘Men who understood the times with knowledge of what Israel should do’” (1 Chron. 12:32). This means being an informed voter.

  1. J.I. Packer, “The Holy Spirit at Work,” Christianity Today (March 19, 1990). Emphasis added.[]

When Did Jesus ‘Come on the Clouds of Heaven’?

Aug 13, 2020 by Gary DeMar

This is the fourth and final installment in this series (Part 1Part 2Part 3).

In Luke 21:20 we find a similar audience reference: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that her desolation is at hand.” Many prophecy writers who claim that Matthew 24 is about a yet future coming argue that Luke 21:5–24 describes the judgment on Jerusalem that took place in AD 70. Darrell L. Bock, a premillennialist, is a good contemporary example of this position when he writes, Luke “focuses  on the nearer fulfillment in the judgment pattern described here, the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, rather than the end (which he will introduce directly in 21:25).” [1] Many of the people in Jesus’ audience would have been dead by AD 70 and yet Bock has no problem with Jesus using the second person plural. As we’ve seen, it’s a non-issue and does nothing to affect the near fulfillment (“this generation”) of the prophecy.

Dispensationalists in general take a similar position. For example, Arno C. Gaebelein: “This great prophecy was fulfilled in the year 70 A.D., when the Romans besieged Jerusalem and a million perished, besides 100,000 who were made slaves. It is one of the most awful pages in human history. So has Luke 21:24 been fulfilled.”

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I have not found anything that tells me how Hollett interprets Luke 21:20. I did find the following from Mike Coldagelli’s online article “Luke 21:20-24 Fulfilled or Future?,” an interpretation supported by the debate moderator Alan E. Kurschner or holds to a pre-wrath position:

“Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” This wording is identical in all three synoptic gospels. The command flows from a condition that can be seen and understood as a sign. Remember, the questions in all three gospels ask for a sign. All three gospels mention pregnant women, nursing infants, and great distress/tribulation. What is the possibility that these four ideas were applied equally in two different discourses to two different events separated by almost 2,000 years? These four parallels in themselves make a strong case that the discourses in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are the same.

Coldagelli’s position is not common among many premillennialists. For example, non-dispensational premillennialist J. Oliver Buswell, who held a mid-tribulation view of the rapture, taught that “the Olivet discourse predicts two destructions of Jerusalem: an immediate one which occurred in AD 70 by Titus (Luke 13:34–3519:43–4421:20), and a distant one which will usher in the parousia (cf. Zech 12:214:1–9; Revelation 19)…. [He] saw the prediction of the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem only in Luke, and not in Matthew and Mark” [2] as he makes clear in his systematic theology:

Luke’s statements that in connection with a particular future destruction of Jerusalem the enemy would surround it with armies (Luke 21:20) and would build a wall around it (Luke 19:43) were so very specifically fulfilled in the destruction of the city by Titus in A.D. 70 that double fulfillment is impossible. [3]

I and other preterists take the position that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are describing the same events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem before that generation passed away. The accounts are different in several ways similar to the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke and refer to the same period of time. “In all probability,” Craig Blomberg writes, “Jesus originally uttered one connected, coherent eschatological discourse from which the three Synoptists [Matthew, Mark, and Luke] have chosen to reproduce different portions in different places.” [4]

How does Hollett get around all of these arguments? Here’s his comment which does not answer any of the issues I’ve raised:

By the way, this force-fitting of Matthew 24:25 [sic] would require the apostles to have been in Jerusalem at the time of the final assault by Titus. Many of them had already died or were evangelizing from afar! Similarly, the elders of the Sanhedrin were dead before AD 70 but DeMar’s view requires them (“you”) to have been alive (cf. Matt. 26:64)!

The simplest answer to this argument is that the use of the second person plural refers to those of “this generation,” that is, the generation that would see the events described by Jesus, the “you” of Matthew 24:33, not only those who first heard Jesus’ response to the disciples’ questions. Some of those in His immediate audience were most likely alive (Matt. 16:27–28) and living in Jerusalem since Jesus was addressing His “disciples.” This could have included some of the 70 and even some among the “multitudes” who followed His ministry. This is a much better solution than reinterpreting “when you see” to mean “when they see,” requiring a temple to be rebuilt, redefining “this generation” to mean any number of things, from this race, this nation, to the generation that sees these signs (but see Matt. 24:33), this type of generation, this offspring, this spiritual generation, and who knows what else rather than what “this generation” means elsewhere in the gospels.

Hollett might object because in Mark’s version of the Olivet Discourse we learn that “Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately” (13:3). The questioning may have been in private but the discourse itself could easily have been given to a larger crowd. Jesus often taught in the temple and “would go out and spend the night on the mount that is called Olivet. And all the people would get up early in the morning to come to Him in the temple to listen to Him” (Luke 21:37–38). There may have been a contingent of believers who followed Him. This might explain the questions asked by the four apostles privately.

Luke’s version does not limit the audience to the four: “And while some were talking about the temple … Jesus said, ‘As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down’” (21:5–6). Jesus then makes His prophetic pronouncement that concludes with, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place” (21:32).

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What should we make of this comment from Hollett?: “the elders of the Sanhedrin were dead before AD 70 but DeMar’s view requires them (‘you’) to have been alive (cf. Matt. 26:64)!” Why would Jesus have used “you” if He did not mean them? Once again, Hollett doesn’t have a convincing argument for the generic use of the second person plural here. Caiaphas certainly understood what Jesus meant (26:65).

Who was present during Jesus’ interrogation by Caiaphas? The chief priests, scribes, and elders that made up “the whole council” (26:59). There were many people there who could have been alive nearly 40 years later. But 26:64 is not describing events of AD 70 but what was going to come to pass soon—“from now on.” R.T. France explains the timing factor in his commentary on Matthew 26:64:

Coming on the clouds of heaven (together with the phrase “the Son of man”) is a clear allusion to Daniel 7:13, already similarly alluded to in [Matt] 24:30…. We have seen that its natural application in terms of its Old Testament source is to the vindication and enthronement of the Son of man in heaven, not to a descent to earth. It is therefore in this verse a parallel expression to “seated at the right hand of Power”; the two phrases refer to the same exalted state, not to two successive situations or events. In this verse the appropriateness of this interpretation is underlined by the fact that this is to be true “from now on” (hereafter is a quite misleading rendering of the more specific phrase ap’ arti, which, as in 23:39 and 26:29, denotes a new period beginning from now). Indeed it is something which Jesus’ inquisitors themselves will see (an echo of Zc. 12:10, as in 24:30?), for it will quickly become apparent in the events of even the next few weeks (not to mention the subsequent growth of the church) that the “blasphemer” they thought they had disposed of is in fact now in the position of supreme authority. [5]

N.T. Wright offers a similar interpretation in his commentary on Matthew 26:64 that references Daniel 7:13: “The Daniel text … has nothing to do with a figure ‘coming’ from heaven to earth. Despite the widespread opinion that this is what it ‘must’ mean in the gospels, there is no reason to suppose that on the lips of Jesus, or in the understanding of the earliest traditions, it meant anything other than vindication.” Anyone familiar with Old Testament language would have understood what Jesus was saying. Jesus’ enemies certainly did.

Wright continues to explain that the passage “speaks of exaltation: of one who, representing ‘the people of the saints of the most high’, is raised up from suffering at the hands of the beasts and given a throne to sit on, exercising royal power… Jesus is not … suggesting that Caiaphas will witness the end of the space-time order. Nor will he look out of the window one day and observe a human figure flying downwards on a cloud. It is absurd to imagine either Jesus, or Mark, or anyone in between, supposing the words to mean that.” [6]

The following is found in the Expositor’s Commentary on Matthew 26:64: “[T]he time is coming,” Caiaphas and the Council, “when you and I shall change places; I then the Judge, you the prisoners at the bar.”

Summary

  1. The use of the second person plural in the Olivet Discourse is consistently used for the audience to whom Jesus was speaking.
  2. For Matthew 24:15 to be a prophecy about a distant future event, another temple would have to be built even though the NT does not say anything about a rebuilt temple. The only temple Jesus mentions in Matthew 24 is the temple that was standing in His day that would be torn down stone-by-stone. No other temple is in view.
  3. The judgment was local that could be escaped on foot.
  4. The living conditions were ancient with Sabbath observation still operating, houses with flat roofs used for gatherings, and items like cloaks being of value.
  5. The use of “this generation” determines the timing of the prophetic events outlined by Jesus.
  6. Matthew 26:64 refers to something that was on the immediate horizon, possibly AD 70 or earlier, but certainly not an event 2000 years in the future.
  1. Darrell L. Bock, Luke, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), 2:1675.[]
  2. Jeffrey Khoo, “Dispensational Premillennialism in Reformed Theology: The Contribution of J. O. Buswell to the Millennial Debate,” JETS 44:4 (Dec 2001), 702.[]
  3. A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1962), 2.363.[]
  4. Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 185.[]
  5. R. T. France, Matthew: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), 381.[]
  6. N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 524–525. It’s possible that Caiaphas witnessed Jesus’ ascension “on the clouds of heaven” since it happened before “the men of Galilee” and was visible to anyone who cared to see (Acts 1:29–11Luke 24:51–52).”[]

Exegetical Gerrymandering to Overcome the Obvious

Aug 12, 2020 by Gary DeMar

This is the third part of my series on the use of the second person plural in Matthew 24 (Part 1 and Part 2). Preterists aren’t the only ones who identify the use of the second person plural as indicative of a first-century fulfillment. Anyone reading the passage for the first time would conclude that Jesus was referring to those of His generation, that’s why so much exegetical gerrymandering is needed to overcome the obvious. The following is from Jonathan Menn’s Biblical Eschatology[1]

Both the historical and literary contexts of the reference “abomination of desolation” indicate a historical event surrounding the AD destruction of Jerusalem, not an “end-time” Antichrist. Christ’s admonition to his disciples, “when you see” the abomination of desolation or Jerusalem surrounded by armies (Matt. 24:15Mark 13:14Luke 21:20) suggests the events of AD 70 since Jesus was talking to his disciples, “you” as in the second person plural, and the events of AD 70 were in the lifetime of the disciples. Kenneth Gentry articulates what should otherwise be self-evident: “Surely Jesus does not denounce the first-century temple in which He is standing  (24:1) by declaring it ‘desolate’ (23:38), prophesying its total destruction (24:2), ten answering the question ‘when shall these things be?’ (v. 3), and warning about the temple’s ‘abomination of desolation’ (v. 15) only to speak about the destruction of a totally different temple two thousand years (or more) later.” [2]

Second, for a future abominable event to take place as is described in 24:15, there would need to be another rebuilt temple. Jesus does not say anything about a future physical temple. There isn’t a single verse anywhere in the New Testament that says the temple needs to be rebuilt or will be rebuilt. The temple was standing when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (2 Thess 2) and when Revelation was written (Rev. 11:1–2). Even those who claim a temple will be rebuilt admit there is no verse to support their claim. For example, rebuilt-temple advocates Thomas Ice and Randall Price acknowledge, “There are no Bible verses that say, ‘There is going to be a third temple.’” [3] The burden of proof is not on to the preterist to prove that the New Testament doesn’t say anything about another rebuilt temple. It’s up to futurists like Brock Hollett to prove the Bible says the temple will be rebuilt and Jesus is making a case for such a position in Matthew 24:15 given the use of the second person plural, Matthew 24:33 (“when you see these things”), and Matthew 24:34 that clearly states the prophetic events described by Jesus took place before their generation passed away.

Third, the events that follow Matthew 24:15 can be escaped on foot. This means this was a local event of ancient times that included Sabbath observance, flat roofs, and valuable commodities like a cloak. In Exodus 22:26–27, a person’s cloak was often used as a pledge or collateral, as a result, James Jordan writes, the person holding the cloak was “to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his skin. What else will he sleep in?” Later in Matthew 24, “grinding at the mill” (24:41; see Deut. 24:6) is mentioned. Who does this today? How does this fit with our modern era? It doesn’t. Futurists argue that the events of Matthew 24 refer to a global event. There is nothing global about what Jesus is describing (24:16–17).

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If the second person plural is about a future audience, who are the “you” who will see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place? The world won’t see it. Some might argue that the event will be seen live on TV. So how would these viewers follow the command of Jesus to flee to the mountains outside of Judea? Only those living in Jerusalem would see it, and what good would it do to flee to the mountains when a global tribulation is supposed to take place when a third of the stars will hit the earth (Rev. 6:12–14)?

One last point. A new temple would not be a God-commissioned temple. The true temple is Jesus Christ (John 2:14–25) and believers by extension since the Holy Spirit dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16–76:192 Cor. 6:16Eph. 2:21). No future temple could have an abomination that causes desolation since a future temple wouldn’t have any covenantal significance similar to the way earthly Jerusalem no longer has any covenantal significance (Gal. 4:21–31Heb. 12:18–291 Peter 2:4–8).

James Jordan has a unique perspective on the identity of the abomination of desolation. Jim is always worth listening to:

Possibly the completion of the temple, now wholly dedicated to preserving the dead forms of Old Creation religion against Jesus Christ, is the specific event Jesus was prophesying. The abomination of desolation stands in the “holy place.” The word “place” here is not the word used for the Holy Place of the tabernacle and temple, the outer room of God’s Palace, the word hagios. Rather, the word for “place” here, topos, indicates a general area, in this case a holy area. What is in view is the temple mount, and the abomination is the temple.

Jesus had claimed that He was the true Temple. By continuing to build Herod’s temple, the Jews were explicitly rejecting Jesus’ claim. The completion of that false temple brought to a fulness that sacrilegious rejection, and at that point God completely abandoned the Jews.

The completion of that temple naturally caused great rejoicing among the Jews. Now they were sure that God was on their side. Their leaders, the false messiahs and false prophets, encouraged them to revolt against Rome and to wipe out the obnoxious Christians. The restraint that God had exercised over the Jews had been removed and they attacked in full fury, doubtless also encouraged by Nero’s imperial persecution of the Christians, which began at this same time.

*****

Thus, the completion of the temple is not the main sin. It is only a sign to the believers that the Great Tribulation is about to start. That great persecution of believers is the actual abomination that brings about the destruction of Jerusalem, as the blood of the martyrs of Revelation 14 calls down God’s wrath in Revelation 16–17.

These were most likely the “mockers” Peter described in 2 Peter 3:3–4 (also Jude 18). They were mocking because the temple was standing more gloriously than ever before, and yet Jesus had predicted that it would be torn down stone by stone before their generation passed away (Matt. 23:3824:1–2).

Fourth, Jesus said that no one knows the day or the hour when this judgment coming would take place (24:35–36). This means it could have happened within five years or ten years. The audience reference “you” fits with knowing the generation—their generation—but not the day or hour of that end-of-generation judgment.

  1. Jonathan Menn, Biblical Eschatology, 2nd ed. (Eugene, OR: Resource Publicans/Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2018), 123–124.[]
  2. Kenneth L. Gentry, “The Great Tribulation is Past: Exposition,” in The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? Two Evangelicals Debate the Question (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1999), 24.[]
  3. Thomas Ice and Randall Price, Ready to Rebuild: The Imminent Plan to Rebuild the Last Days Temple (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1992), 197–198.[]

“His Blood shall be on us and on our children!”

Aug 11, 2020 by Gary DeMar

Jesus has a single generation in view for judgment in Matthew 24 because it was the single generation that turned Jesus over to the Romans and pronounced a curse on themselves. When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified (Matt. 27:24–26).

Indeed, the judgment on Jerusalem was on them and their children. This was to be a national judgment (23:37–38) that could be escaped by leaving the city (24:16–17; Luke 21:20–24). No future generation was guilty of the crime of crucifying “the Lord of Glory” (1 Cor. 2:8: note “the rulers of this age”) and choosing someone like Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus and declaring that they had “no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). A future generation of Jews isn’t guilty of this particular evil, therefore, why should it be judged?

There is no comparable time limiter in Deuteronomy 29–30. When you read further in Deuteronomy, you find the following:

Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the LORD our God and with those who are not with us here today (Deut. 29:14–15).

Israel was directly told that some of what was said would apply to “the generation to come” (29:22). Those who made up that contemporary generation would have their heart circumcised and the heart of their descendants (30:6; also v. 19).

In Deuteronomy 31, we find a prophecy about what is specifically said about the future. The prophecy is not limited to “this,” that is, their generation as it is in the Olivet Discourse.

The other problem the futurist interpretation of Matthew 24:15 must face is where the abomination of desolation will appear. All agree that it’s in the temple, the temple that Jesus said would be destroyed before that generation passed away. “Not one stone here shall be left would be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (Matt. 24:2). All agree that this took place in AD 70.

First, as we’ve seen, there is no indication that the use of the second person plural (you) refers to a non-identified future generation. Unlike Deuteronomy 29–30, Jesus does not mention distant generations. The use of the second person plural is used consistently for those of that generation. Consider Matthew 24:33: “so, YOU too, when YOU see all these things, recognize that He/it is near, right at the door.” It is beyond me how anyone can claim that the first use of “you” is different from the second use of “you” separated by nearly 2000 years.

Jesus’ enemies certainly understood the audience relevance of His words after a series of parables. Who is Jesus referring to when He asks, “But what do you think?” (Matt. 21:28) and “Did you never read in the Scriptures?” (21:42), and “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it” (21:43)? It seems the chief priests and Pharisees had a better understanding of language than many modern-day prophecy theorists:

And when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them (21:45).

The second person plural in Matthew 24 begins with verse 2 (“do you not see”) and can only refer to those in Jesus’ audience. At what point does the use of “you” switch to a future audience? A comment in Tim LaHaye’s Prophecy Study Bible claims that “you” in Matthew 24:15 “must be taken generically as ‘you of the Jewish nation.’” [1] Where in the text does it say this? There is no evidence offered by the editors to substantiate a shift in audience reference from the disciples of that generation to Jews living at a time far removed from their day. If Jesus had wanted to refer to a different audience, He could have said, “When they see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand).” Even if the “you” in 24:15 does refer to the “you of the Jewish nation,” the reference is to the Jews of that generation alone based on verses 33 and 34. Brian Schwertley in his commentary “Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation” frames the argument well:

Speaking directly to the disciples, … Jesus said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you” (v. 4); “you will hear of wars” (v. 6); “see that you are not troubled” (v. 6); “they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations” (v. 9); “when you see the abomination of desolation” (v. 15); “So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!” (v. 33), “Assuredly I say to you this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (v. 34). Given all these things we can say with assurance that the disciples most likely took Christ’s words at face value. If one accepts the futurist interpretation of Matthew 24:5–34, then one has accepted an interpretation of which the apostles were almost certainly ignorant.

Why confuse the disciples when Matthew includes the phrase, “let the reader understand” (24:15)? They were to understand, not just about the abomination of desolation but about the entire discourse because they would have to take action when certain events took place (24:16–17; Luke 21:20–24).

  1. Tim LaHaye, ed. Prophecy Study Bible (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), 1038, note on Matthew 24:15.[]

Newspaper Exegesis, the Antichrist, and Perpetual Prophecy Fear

Jul 21, 2020 by Gary DeMar

What is newspaper exegesis? The practice of interpreting the Bible though the lens of current events found in the headlines of newspapers rather than allowing the Bible to interpret itself and failing to take into account when prophetic events were to take place and to whom. It’s a form of retroactive prophetic explanation where current events are used as an interpretive grid for understanding the Bible. For example, in The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel, prophecy writer Mark Hitchcock claims that “Ezekiel is God’s war correspondent for today’s newspapers. We have gone through his inspired prophecy in Ezekiel 38–39, with our Bibles in one hand and today’s newspaper in the other.” [1]

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Ezekiel 38 and 39 have been used by prophecy writers to claim that it’s a prophecy yet to be fulfilled rather than a prophecy that has been fulfilled. In this fascinating study, you will learn that by letting the Bible speak for itself the answer to the Gog and Magog enigma has been staring us in the face.

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Can this method be true when prophecy writers from the past have used the news of their day to assure the readers of their day that they had the right interpretation of Ezekiel 38–39? The following chart shows how newspaper exegesis can and does go wrong:

From Francis X. Gumerlock’s book The Day and the Hour

You will note that Islam shows up several times in the above chart. For example, the taking of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, on the eve of the discovery of the new world (1492) and the advent of the Reformation (1517), “awakened longings for a new crusade against the Moslems.” [2] These events added fuel to the fire of prophetic speculation that included concern over former Christian lands being in the hands of infidels. “Despite modern laments about medieval colonialism, the crusade’s real purpose was to turn back Muslim conquests and restore formerly Christian lands to Christian control.” [3]

And we must not forget that there were those who believed that the Muslim occupation of Jerusalem also held special prophetic significance. For example, Christopher Columbus believed that he was called by God “to rebuild the Temple on Mount Zion” in Jerusalem from the riches he would obtain from the Indies. [4] The prophetic works from this era cannot be read without some understanding of this historical background.

Peter Toon offers a helpful historical perspective on the way commentators understood the place of Islam and the Papacy in relation to Bible prophecy:

References to the Turkish Empire appear in virtually every Commentary on the Apocalypse of John which was produced by English Puritans, Independents, Presbyterians and Baptists. Gog and Magog were identified with the armies of Turkey and the Muslim world, descriptions of Turkish military power were seen in the contents of the trumpet (Rev. 9:13–21), and the year 1300 was believed to have great significance for it was at that time that the Turk became a threat to European civilization.

* * * * *

For the English Puritans, as for many of their fellow Protestants on the Continent of Europe, the fact that the Ottoman Empire had for its religion Islam, the teaching of Mohammed, the ‘false’ prophet of God, was sufficient to label it as an envoy or agent of Satan, seeking to destroy the true Church of Christ. In view of this we cannot be surprised to learn that they believed God had given to John on Patmos a vision of this great enemy of the elect of God, who would one day be destroyed by the power of Christ. [5]

It should not surprise us, therefore, that when Christians wrote about Bible prophecy, they would take current events into account. For the historicist interpreter, the Islamic advances could not be ignored. “[D]uring the oppressive conquests of the Saracens the prophecies concerning Antichrist were searched anew by the monks and priests—in the hope they would yield perhaps an indication that Mohammed or his fierce followers could be meant by the passages referring to Antichrist.” [6]

Saracens was the name Christians had given to Moslems during the time of the Crusades. Moslems who had invaded Spain from Morocco were called Moors. Saracen might be based on a word meaning “easterners.”

The End Times and the Islamic Antichrist

This brief history should dispel any notion that our fight with Islamic extremism is something new and a sign of the last days. It’s not. In fact, the fight with Islam goes back nearly 1500 years, and throughout that history prophecy writers have viewed Islam in its many incarnations as a prophetic end-time villain signaling the near return of Jesus in one of the five “rapture” positions or in the Second Coming itself.

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Like today, many of the Reformers saw prophecy being fulfilled in their day:

The search for the plain obvious meaning of Scripture when allied with the conviction that God must have spoken in Scripture of the times during which the Reformers lived, which were ‘the last times’, led to a view of Daniel and Revelation as being charters or maps of Church history from the Epiphany [the first coming of Christ] to the Last Judgment. The millennium of Revelation 20 was therefore equated with a thousand years of church history. Yet it was the contents of chapters 13 to 19 of the Apocalypse of John which seemed most to impress the followers of Calvin and Luther. Here they found a clear promise that all the enemies of Jesus Christ would be crushed before the Last Day. The Turks, the papacy and all their supporters would be defeated. [7]

A prophecy writer like Joel Richardson is just one of many newspaper exegetes, interpreting the Bible in the light (darkness?) of current events. His preoccupation with Islam is nothing new. In fact, in good rhetorical style, by confronting the question before it is raised, he writes: “So the challenge might arise, ‘Aren’t you doing the same thing? Aren’t you just taking today’s bogeyman (Islam) and making it into the Antichrist system?’” [8] He says he’s not. I say he is. His Islamic end-time scenario is not new. It’s been done before.

Richardson offers the following challenge: “At this point, my response to those who would challenge the idea that Islam is the primary force behind the Antichrist system would be to issue a challenge to show biblically why it is not.” [9] Actually, the burden of proof is on Richardson to prove that it is. In what I’ve read, he hasn’t made the case, not by a long shot, especially when the definition and timing of the biblical antichrists are so clear (1 John 2:18224:32 John 7). The most likely antichrist candidates (since there were many in John’s day: 1 John 2:18) were unbelieving Jews, nearly 600 years before Muhammad walked the earth.

The preoccupation of prophecy writers to claim that fulfilled prophecies are prophecies yet to be fulfilled is one of the biggest impediments to the gospel message of the fulfilled redemption that Jesus made for us nearly 2000 years ago and declared it to be “finished.” It’s long past time to move on from what has been done for us and stop rehashing what amounts to dead prophecy speculation that keeps Christians from living the fullness of what Jesus has accomplished for us.

  1. The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2002), 93.[]
  2. Kay Brigham, Christopher Columbus: His Life and Discovery in the Light of His Prophecies (Terrassa (Barcelona) Spain: Clie, 1990), 104.[]
  3. Thomas F. Madden, “Crusade Propaganda: The Abuse of Christianity’s Holy Wars,” Biblical Worldview (January 2002), 3.[]
  4. See Brigham, Christopher Columbus, chap. 6.[]
  5. Peter Toon, “Introduction,” Puritans, the Millennium and the Future of Israel: Puritan Eschatology 1600 to 1660 (London: James Clarke & Co. Ltd., 1970), 19–20.[]
  6. LeRoy Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers: The Historical Development of Prophetic Interpretation, 4 vols. (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1950), 1:530.[]
  7. Toon, “The Latter-Day Glory,” Puritans, the Millennium and the Future of Israel, 25.[]
  8. The Islamic Antichrist: The Shocking Truth about the Real Nature of the Beast (Washington, DC: WND Books, 2009), 177.[]
  9. Richardson, The Islamic Antichrist, 178.[]

More than Just Conservative (14)

The Corruption of the Pharisees   

Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd (Mat.9:35-36).

Apart from Jesus and John the Baptist, there was a total absence of quality religious leadership in Israel, before the church was born. Who else was there? This partially explains the phenomenal reception Jesus received.

The people “were distressed and dispirited.” Why? The Pharisees had no solutions for them; in fact, they were a part of the problem. They began to show they were a part of the problem, when they excommunicated the man who Jesus healed from blindness (Jn.9:34). Then they really showed it when they had Jesus crucified.

But when the Good Shepherd (Jn.10:14) came along, things began to radically change. The Bible says that when He began to teach, “they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as one of the scribes” (Mk.1:22). And when He cast out demons, that was an even more powerful demonstration of His authority.

There was a significant difference between the faith delivered to the Old Testament saints, and the religious beliefs of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. The Pharisees purported to be faithful to the Old Testament revelation, but this was a sham. They held to Judaism, which was a humanistic corruption of Old Testament faith. We know that they had no commitment to justice because before Jesus’ last Passover,

…they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. But they were saying, ‘not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people’ (Mat.26:4-5).

As Rushdoony points out,

The Pharisees, professing to be champions of God’s word, were in fact its enemies and perverters.[1]

It is commonly asserted today that the Pharisees were theological conservatives, but this is nonsense. The Pharisees’ commitment was merely to a hypocritical outward observance, rather than inward obedience. This is shown clearly in Jesus’ commentary on the Jews in Jn.5:45-47:

Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would have believed Me, for He wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?

The Pharisees didn’t believe Moses’ writings, and so they didn’t believe Jesus’ words either. While they may have purported to be conservatives they were essentially revisionists, attempting to turn the Mosaic law into a document that would suit their agenda. Matthew 23 attests to their fundamental hypocrisy, while Jesus earlier had made the serious accusation that the Pharisees “…condemned the innocent” (Mat.12:7).

In recognising the significance of Israel’s religion to the nation, the Romans had acted very shrewdly. They permitted a continuation of the high-priest’s very lucrative monopoly on the sale of sacrificial animals, along with the money-changing in the temple, on the condition that he be replaced every year. That way, they maintained a control of the nation’s religious leaders; the two groups in an unholy coalition, needed and used each other to maintain their political and religious power bases.[2]

The evidence that Israel’s religious leaders were politically compromised, self-serving and corrupt is evident in many passages in John’s gospel. After Lazarus’ resurrection,

the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, ‘What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will come and believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’ But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish’  (Jn.11:47-50).

Caiaphas as high priest, was utterly indifferent to the fact that Jesus was an innocent man. Already he is indicating that Jesus’ death would be necessary, to protect the political/religious power relationship (of which he was a direct beneficiary), which had evolved under Roman rule.

The issue, said Caiaphas, is this: who should live, this man, or us and our power over the nation? Someone is going to die: either Jesus, or us and our rule over the nation. Take your choice. No moral question is raised. The issue is seen as one of power and control. When faced with this choice, there was no longer any hesitation… They were now self-consciously planning the death of the One who had revealed Himself to be God’s Son and the Messiah. [3]

Conclusion:

Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees in Matthew 23 is one of the strongest denunciations of any individual or group found in historical literature, but it something much more. It is a warning from the Son of God to anyone who aspires to any form of leadership: be faithful.

 

[1] Rousas Rushdoony, “The Institutes of Biblical Law,” 1973, p.706.

[2] See Rousas Rushdoony, “The Gospel of John,” 2000, p.153, 154.

[3] Rushdoony, ibid, p.154.

 

Are Luke 17 and Matthew 24 Describing Different Comings of Jesus?

A post on the Always Ready Facebook page has an interesting discussion on Luke 17 and its relationship to Matthew 24–25 and Greg L. Bahnsen’s view of that relationship. Dr. Bahnsen took the view that Luke 17:22–37 refers to the Second Coming while Matthew 24:1–34 refers to the judgment on Jerusalem that took place before that first-century generation passed away (24:34). Ken Gentry agrees with Dr. Bahnsen.

Keep in mind that this is an intramural debate. As we will see, it’s not a new debate. A great deal of new material related to eschatology has resurfaced thanks to the massive amount of material being posting on the internet.I discuss the argument in chapter 15 of my book Last Days Madness, so I won’t repeat all that I’ve written there. It is important to note that one of the reasons I believe Luke 17 and Matthew 24 are describing the same event—the judgment on Jerusalem and not the Second Coming—is the ordering of specific prophetic events related to Matthew 24:35–36:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

Last Days Madness

Last Days Madness covers most of the main topics related to Bible prophecy including an expostion of prophetic events after Matthew 24:35-36.

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Bahnsen and Gentry argue, along with many others, that verse 35 refers to the physical heaven and earth while I and others believe it refers to the making and breaking of the covenant relationship with Israel (e.g., Isa. 51:15–16Jer. 4:23–31).

The creation of the new heavens and new earth found in Isaiah 65:17–25 cannot refer to the creation of a new physical creation or the last judgment since women are still giving birth and people continue to die (65:20). This is an old respected view taught by John Owen, [1] John Lightfoot [2], John Brown, [3] among others.

Luke 17:22–37 describes five Olivet-Discourse prophetic events that are identical to those found in Matthew 24. The difference between Matthew 24 and Luke 17 is the order of the events in relation to Matthew 24:35–36, a characteristic of the passages that are difficult to explain if the order of events is important. Bahnsen and Gentry do not consider the ordering of events to be significant since Matthew and Luke often differ. I disagree.

Taking Matthew 24 as the standard, Luke places the Noah’s ark analogy (Matt. 24:37–39) before the events of Matthew 24:17–18 (“let him who is on the housetop not go down”), verse 27 (“for just as the lightning comes from the east”), and verse 28 (“wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather”).

If the five prophetic events of Matthew 24 that are found in Luke 17:22–37 are numbered 1–2–3–4–5, Luke’s numbering of the same events would be 2–4–1–5–3. J. Marcellus Kik, in his book Matthew 24, Gentry, and Bahnsen argue that Matthew 24:35–36 are transitional texts separating the judgment coming of Jesus of that generation (24:1–34) from the Second Coming.

Dr. Bahnsen’s most significant argument is his interpretation of Luke 17:22. Jesus’ present audience will “long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you [referring to those to whom Jesus is speaking] will not see it.” He says that this differs from what we find Jesus saying in Matthew 24 where we read that “relief WILL be granted, for the elect’s sake” since the tribulation will be shortened. In Luke’s version, “although people WANT the relief, it will not be given.”

At this point in Jesus’ ministry, the disciples were not clear on the nature, timing, and manifestation of His kingdom. Just prior to His ascension, Jesus was “speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Those who were with Him asked, “Lord, is it as this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (1:6) Jesus does not give a direct answer to their inquiry. The context of Luke 17:22–37 is found in verses 20–21 when the Pharisees questioned Jesus about “when the kingdom of God was coming.” Jesus answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here’ or, ‘There!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Joel McDurmon’s comments do a good job explaining the historical and theological context:

The question shows that the Pharisees had understood Jesus to be preaching about something imminent for them. Jesus’ interactions with them up to this point all indicated a great change, a great division, a com­ing judgment. He had even rebuked the people explicitly earlier for not discerning the times (12:54–59), He preached parables about the King­dom (13:18–21), and He had warned them all about being locked out of the Kingdom while others had entered (13:28–29). He, in fact, had just rebuked a group of Pharisees for not discerning the nature of the Kingdom which had been preached since John the Baptist (16:16–17). So they were certainly on the right subject.

But just like so much of what they did in relation to Jesus, they proved that they missed the point of His teaching. The Kingdom of God had been preached since John, not because it was yet to come, but because He was here now. There was a great momentous event on the near horizon, true, but this was not the coming of the Kingdom. Jesus made it clear much ear­lier in this journey that with Him the Kingdom had in fact arrived: “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20). Now He reminds the Pharisees of this reality again: “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (17:21). But He does not correct their misunderstanding of the thing they could watch out for, they could observe, and which would come upon them outwardly in the near future—the destruction of Jerusalem. For this warning, He turns again privately to His disciples (17:22ff). Why? Because the Pharisees were too blind to see Him; they would remain in their blindness and fall under judgment. Jesus’ withholding of information from them goes right back to the whole idea of speaking in parables: the non-elect were not allowed to understand, and not allowed to receive the clear witness of the truth (Luke 8:9–1018). They were appointed to destruction (Jude 4)….

[T]he disciples receive special instruction as to the nature of the vis­ible coming judgment. Many will be looking for Christ after Christ is gone (thus there would be many false Christs in that interim period, Matt. 24:5Luke 21:8), and of all people who had a keen interest in His arrival, the disciples would be most anxious, for they would be among the few who knew for sure He was coming back in their lifetimes. So Jesus makes sure to insulate them against false Christs. He does this by teaching them about the true nature of the coming destruction He has been preaching about [in Luke 17:22–37]….

[Noah and Lot] were forewarned men who were prepared for a coming judgment and got out when the time came. The others were all taken by surprise by a massive cataclysmic judgment. Here Jesus sees fit to give His disciples this warning, but not unto the multitudes or the Pharisees. This was a warning to the elect remnant only, for only they would get out.”

In addition to this lesson which we have already covered earlier, it is important to note Jesus’ prediction, “But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation” (17:25). This verse will have great importance later when we hear Jesus referring again to “this generation.” To those who may be tempted to argue there that “this generation” refers to something other than the generation to whom Jesus was speaking—something more general or more future—the context here in Luke 17:25 makes it clear that Jesus’ “this generation” would be the same generation which rejected Him and caused Him to suffer.

The main lesson here, however, is to the disciples: the day of the Son of Man will not require strained observation or secret knowledge of His whereabouts. Rather, it would be a visible and clear to everyone as lightning streaking all the way across the sky. The key was that the disciples would be prepared for this, but faithless Israel would not; for the remnant already knew the hidden Kingdom that had come among them, and would thus be prepared for the great revealing in judgment to come. To the Pharisees that Kingdom was invisible, and they would still be looking for it when the great judgment came upon them. [4]

Jesus v. Jerusalem

Joel McDurmonʼs work is original. He goes where few commentators have gone before. As he shows in page after page of tightly argued points, there is a unity to the prophetic message of the gospels and the rest of the New Testament. Itʼs about new wine in new wine skins. Everything about the old covenant was planned obsolescence.

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This means that not seeing one of the days of the Son of Man is about not seeing the manifestation of the kingdom the way the Pharisees envisioned it, a rescue from Roman oppression and a full vindication of the righteousness of Israel. What they would see was a judgment. What we read in Luke 17:22–37 is the same imminent judgment described in Matthew 24.

The following is taken from Luke 17:20–37 that appears in the 18th century six-volume Critical Commentary and Paraphrase on the Old and New Testament by Patrick, Lowth, Arnald, Whitby, and Lowman:

  1. John Owen, “Providential Changes, An Argument for Universal Holiness,” in William H. Goold, ed., The Works of John Owen, 16 vols. (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965-68),9:134.[]
  2. “That the destruction of Jerusalem is very frequently expressed in Scripture as if it were the destruction of the whole world, Deuteronomy 32:22; ‘A fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell’ (the discourse there is about the wrath of God consuming that people; see verses 20,21), ‘and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.’ Jeremiah 4:23; ‘I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light,’ &c. The discourse there also is concerning the destruction of that nation, Isaiah 65:17; ‘Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered,’ &c. And more passages of this sort among the prophets. According to this sense, Christ speaks in this place; and Peter speaks in his Second Epistle, third chapter; and John, in the sixth of the Revelation; and Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:17, &c.”[]
  3. John Brown, Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1852] 1990), 1:171–172.[]
  4. Joel McDurmon, Jesus v. Jerusalem: A Commentary on Luke 9:51–20:26, Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2011), 111–113.[]

 

Is It OK for Christians to Push Back Against Authoritarian Governments and Other Wickedness?

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Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
But such as keep the law contend with them (Prov 28:4).

A righteous man who falters before the wicked
Is like a murky spring and a polluted well. (Prov. 25:26)

The Left is always pushing back against government policies they do not like. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. Burning, looting, and killing are not the right ways. Our constitutional system permits pushback. The Constitution is a pushback document. In biblical and constitutional terms, we do not have to submit to the political status quo. We can change it. We are not commanded to remain silent or passive. When we see evil, we have a right and duty to push back in numerous ways without violating any biblical or constitutional directives.

What about cultural pushback like we are seeing every day in the United States? Should Christians remain silent and do nothing and just surrender to unbelievers at every level of society? Absolutely not.

Last year I saw an article posted on Facebook with the title “We Must Surrender.” It was written by Carlos Chung, a lawyer, who serves as an elder at Grace Community Church. The article is badly argued and dangerous. Here’s how it begins:

As soldiers of Christ, we are to surrender to unbelievers at every level.
We are to surrender in public and in private, at the macro level and on the micro level, on a national scale and on a private scale. We are to surrender to every secular authority that is placed over us.
As the world becomes more and more secularized, the government will become one of the primary, if not the dominant, aggressors against Christianity. The question becomes, how do we battle against the government when it declares war against Christians and Judeo-Christian values?

Chung quotes 1 Peter 2:13–15 for support of his position:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as to one in authority, or to Governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God, that by doing right, you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

Notice that Peter says, “every human institution,” not “unbelievers at every level.” Unbelievers at every level do not have “authority” to punish evil doers or to rule over us. The United States government is a “human institution.” The Constitution is our national “Caesar.” Based on the Constitution, we can “petition the government for a redress of grievances” (First Amendment) in terms of religion, speech, press, and assembly.

In addition, the Tenth Amendment limits the power of the national government. This means there are governmental remedies at the state level that Christians can be involved in. According to 1 Peter 2:13–15, all the above are biblically permissible since Christians are acting within our nation’s system of government.

Myths Lies and Half Truths

Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths

Too many Christians believe that the Bible is irrelevant this side of heaven. Due to mistaken interpretations and applications of popular Bible texts to contemporary issues, the Christian faith is being thrown out and trampled under foot by men (Matt. 5:13). While the homosexual community, which makes up about 1% of our population, exercises tremendous impact on our culture and laws, Christians, who make up about 35% of the population, have voluntarily abandoned the culture war, electing to hide the gospel under a bushel instead.

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Chung’s article is typical of Christians who claim that Christians should acquiesce to civil authorities no matter what they tell us to do and be quiet about it. Chung does point out that there are exceptions:

The only time we are free to disobey the institutional authorities is when they command us to disobey our Lord and Master, but short of that, we are to be exemplary citizens, submissive and reverential to the authorities over us. That’s because every authority has been placed there by God Himself. This is what Pastor MacArthur refers to as evangelistic citizenship.

Peter himself makes this point in two places in the book of Acts:

  • But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (4:19–20).
  • We must obey God rather than men (5:29).

Notice that Peter does not cite these exceptions in his call to “submit … to every human institution.” Did he change his mind? Not at all. Peter’s admonition tells us that we must evaluate our submission to authority (not surrender) in terms of the entire Bible.

Anyone familiar with what we call the “Old Testament” would have known that there were specific exceptions to Peter’s absolutist comments.

Did Paul, as a Roman citizen and a Christian, “surrender” to the Roman authorities in everything? He and Silas were taken by force. Consider what happens when they were brought before the Roman “chief magistrates” (Acts 16:19–20):

The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks (16:22–24).

According to Chung, Paul and his associates should have “surrendered” and taken their punishment in peace and left quietly. But that’s not what happened. There was an earthquake, the jailer was converted, and later the chief magistrates sent their policemen to release Paul and Silas.

Chung might say, “See, God used their persecution and surrender for good.” Yes, He did. Notice what Paul does next:

And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Therefore, come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeedBut let them come themselves and bring us out.”
The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed (16:36–40).

Was Paul damaging his Christian witness by such a demand? Not at all. He was exercising his rights as a Roman citizen. Will some people take exception to him? Most certainly. They took issue with Jesus when He healed and fed people. The book of Acts shows different reactions to the message of Peter and Paul. God’s Word causes division, and Christians are going to be attacked no matter what they do. Consider the following from Paul:

But in whatever respect anyone else is bold—I speak in foolishness—I am just as bold myself. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? (2 Cor. 11:21–29)

Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne, Saint Paul Stoned in the City of Lystra

Paul was simply expounding God’s Word, and yet he was attacked. Prior to writing about submission “to every human institution,” Peter wrote, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12). Even the practice of good and right (constitutional) deeds and actions Christians are going to be attacked like Jesus, Peter, and Paul were attacked. Submission to authority does not mean silence, inaction, or “surrender to unbelievers at every level.”

Jesus, the Mob, Surrender, and Cowardice

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Though you pound a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, Yet his foolishness will not depart from him (Prov. 27:22).

Lessons can be drawn from every event in the Bible because human nature has not changed since Cain killed Abel. Consider that Jesus fed thousands, healed the lame and blind, and even raised people from the dead. Even so, there were those among the religious and political leadership in Israel who wanted Him dead (John 8:58–59).

While reading through the Passion Narratives in Luke’s Gospel, I noticed a few things that apply today.

Facts Don’t Matter to the Mob

When Jesus was before the Sanhedrin made up of Israel’s religious and legal leaders (Luke 22:66), consisting of chief priests and scribes, the following exchange took place:

When it was day, the Council of elders of the people assembled, both chief priests and scribes, and they led Him away to their council chamber, saying,  “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask a question, you will not answer” (22:66–68).

No matter what Jesus said, the religious and legal establishment were not going to listen. They had their agenda, and they were sticking to it. They had too much to lose if Jesus’ message was embraced by the people. The argument was only secondarily about theology. It was more about money and control of the people via religion and economics. This might be hard for Christians to grasp, but it’s true as Jerry Bowyer, author of the soon-to-be-released book The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics, explains:

While He was in the economically dynamic area of lower Galilee, the Jesus of the Gospels never confronted any individual over their wealth. But once he travels south to Jerusalem, over and over again, we see Him confront members of the Judaean ruling class, specifically over issues of economic exploitation.

In the end, they killed Him for that. Ruling elites might get a bit annoyed if you mess with their theology, but they get downright murderous when you mess with their money. The Gospels point to two specific events which triggered the plot to kill Him: the parable of the vineyard (which pointed to their economic exploitation of what belonged to God) and His confrontation with the money changers. (Townhall Finance)

On both sides of the current debate over what started as racial justice issues, what’s really at stake is control of the corridors of power and the people of all races be damned. The elites in both parties want to retain influence of a political system that has been steadily reconstituted to favor power over principles and economic largess over economic freedom. The facts are unrelated to the larger agenda.

The Mob Cannot be Appeased

The People of Israel did not reject Jesus. As has been said, the religious and political leaders feared the people, thousands of whom embraced Him (Matt. 21:1–1114–17). Like what we are seeing happen in cities across the United States, disparate ideologies have joined forces to bring down the system. Some things need to be brought down, like those who were desecrating the temple (21:12–13), but not everything. (In a sense, Jesus was the heir to the Temple. It was His Father’s House.)

The Jewish establishment needed a way to topple the emerging transformational system that would have put them out of work. They couldn’t do it on their own because they feared the people (Matt. 21:46), so they worked behind the scenes to enjoin agents of the Roman Empire to carry out the assassination by false testimony (Luke 23:2) and threats of political reprisals if the local governor Pontius Pilate did not give into their demands:

Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12).

In the case of Jesus, the mob consisted of the religious and political establishment to maintain the status quo, even if it meant the death of someone like Jesus and later Stephen (Acts 7) and James the brother of John, an action that “pleased the Jews” (12:1–3).

The long-term ramifications of these actions and many more like them that we read about in the book of Acts resulted in the destruction of the temple, the death of nearly a million Jews, the captivity of tens of thousands, and the end of the Jewish nation at the hands of the Romans.

Zechariah predicted the end results of their duplicity:

“I will make it go forth,” declares the LORD of hosts, “and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name; and it will spend the night within that house and consume it with its timber and stones” (5:4).

The timbers and stones of the temple were torn down within a generation of the lies that were told by the religious and legal leaders in Jerusalem to eliminate the threat of Jesus (Matt. 24:1–334).

!0 Myths

10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed and Answered

As a result of many failed predictions, many Christians are beginning to take a second look at a prophetic system that they were told is the only one that takes the literal interpretation of the Bible seriously. Gary DeMar takes on the task of exposing some of the popular myths foisted upon the public by prophetic speculators.

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Surrender

Both Herod and Pilate realized that Jesus had not committed a crime. Pilate said to the chief priests, “I find no guilt in this man” (Luke 23:4). The mob would not quit with their lies. It’s here that Pilate makes his first surrender to the mob. He turns Jesus over to Herod (24:7), hoping that he will not have to make the right decisive decision.

Herod’s questioning and ridicule of Jesus did not assuage the determination of the mob to see Jesus done away with. Like Pilate, Herod passes the buck and returns him to Pilate. The mob is still in control. Another surrender. They can smell victory.

Cowardice

We shouldn’t be too hard on Peter. He was outnumbered and had no clout with the religious and political authorities when he denounced Jesus three times (Luke 22:31–3461). He “wept bitterly” for his betrayal.

Today’s political leaders don’t have an excuse for their cowardice. They are the people in charge. They refuse to lead. Most of them easily capitulate to the mob. We’re seeing something among religious leaders who support a Marxist organization like Black Lives Matter since it’s the easiest thing to do if you don’t want to be assailed with mob “justice.”

There are cowards in the Republican party:

Never Trump super PAC the Lincoln Project and other anti-Trump Republicans continue to plot to not only take down President Donald Trump, but also the Senate Republican majority, according to a report released on Saturday.

Never Trump Republicans believe that preventing a second term for Trump is insufficient, and that Senate Republicans must also pay the price of backing the 45th president.

Steve Schmidt, who works for the Never Trump Lincoln Project, said, “The analogy would be in the same way that fire purifies the forest, it needs to be burned to the ground and fundamentally repudiated. Every one of them should be voted out of office, with the exception of Mitt Romney.” (Breitbart)

These political cowards have no sense of history. Those who burn down the house of the first will be burned themselves once they are no longer needed by the mob. The mob turns on them like the mob turned on Maximilien Robespierre (1758–1794), “one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution.”

As the leading member of the Committee of Public Safety from 1793, Robespierre encouraged the execution, mostly by guillotine, of more than 17,000 enemies of the Revolution. The day after his arrest, Robespierre and 21 of his followers were guillotined before a cheering mob in the Place de la Revolution in Paris. (History.com)

Be careful what you wish for, because “[i]t’s an iron law of history that the revolution always eats its own children — as proven time after time in the centuries since.” (Troy Media)

Two Bibles, Their Notes, and the Present Crisis

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Almost daily I engage in Facebook battles with people who continue to cling to the unbiblical view that we are living in the last days and go through a long series of modifications to what the text of Scripture actually states to keep their end-time beliefs alive. It’s amazing to see the hoops they jump through to maintain their unsupportable belief systems. You can even find such flimsy arguments in scholarly articles. They are so desperate to support their end-time beliefs that the plain meaning of Scripture is obscured.

“This generation” becomes “this kind of generation.” The second person plural “you” in the Olivet Discourse changes from Jesus’ present audience (Matt. 24:2–433) to some future nondescript future generation later in the chapter, “now” becomes “whenever,” and “near” can mean 2000 years in the future.

Wars and Rumors of Wars

Wars and Rumors of Wars is a verse-by-verse study of the Olivet Discourse and related passages. It will change the way you understand Bible prophecy.

The casual reader would not interpret the Bible in these ways. It takes “experts” to convince Christians that the Bible does not really mean what it says. It’s no wonder that many Christians treat the Bible as a book of spiritual incantations that only work in some unobtainable ethereal world.

End-time prophetic speculation has a long history, but it was one study Bible that codified prophetic error and led much of the church down the path of cultural irrelevance.

There was almost no prophetic competition to dispensational premillennialism from the time The Scofield Reference Bible was first published in 1909 and revised by its author Cyrus I. Scofield in 1917. Christians were often encouraged to use the note-filled Bible because its notes were said to include the only correct interpretive system that Christians should use to understand the Bible. Many churches used it as their pew Bible. The Bible was “rightly divided” in terms of Scofield’s seven dispensations. The biblical “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) became “rightly dividing up” the Bible into sections. By the time readers get to Genesis 8:12, they have been introduced to the Seven Dispensations.

The passage often used to support of Scofield’s version of dispensationalism is best translated as “accurately handling the word of truth”; it has nothing to do with dividing up the Bible into rigid “dispensations.”

Once the Bible reader embraces Scofield’s dispensational system, the system becomes the lens through which the entire Bible must be read. Philip Mauro wrote in his 1927 book The Gospel of the Kingdom that the notes in the Scofield Reference Bible had “usurped the place of authority that belongs to God’s Bible alone. The fact is that dispensationalism is modernism. It is modernism, moreover, of a very pernicious sort, such that it must have a ‘Bible’ of its own for the propagation of its peculiar doctrines, since they are not in the Word of God.”

Mauro goes on to write that “this modern system of ‘dispensational teaching’ is a cause of division and controversy between those followers of Christ who ought to be,” and this is the important part, “at this time of crisis, solidly united against the mighty forces of unbelief and apostasy.” [1] This was in 1927, one year after Oswald J. Smith announced in his book Is the Antichrist at Hand? that Benito Mussolini was the dreaded antichrist.

The publication of Scofield’s Reference Bible and its focus on an imminent (any moment) rapture transformed the mindset and practices of millions of Christians to abandon the belief in a comprehensive biblical worldview at the time when a new breed of secularism was rising in the areas of education, law, politics, journalism, science, medicine, media, art, music, film, and every other area of life.

The then present crisis seemed to authenticate Scofield’s bizarre interpretations:

Scofield’s text appeared just in time for believers to respond to European developments in the summer of 1914. As one Pentecostal Journal headlined the outbreak of war, “The nations of Europe battle, and unconsciously prepare the way for the return of the Lord Jesus.” When an older prophecy book was reissued in 1915, the editor remarked, “Armageddon has now become a household word.” In the words of evangelical pastor Reuben Torrey, observing the world’s conflicts, “The darker the night gets, the lighter my heart gets.” [2]

These predictions were made more than 100 years ago in terms of prophetic certainty. They were wrong. The only things that have changed for today’s prophetic speculators are the dates and the players on the international and nation chessboard. One thing, however, has remained the same: millions of Christians are still waiting for an end-time event to rescue them that is not coming.

Dispensationalists have regularly taught that the next prophetic event is the “rapture of the church.” Supposedly the prophecy clock starts again when the church is raptured prior to a seven-year period (there is not a single verse in the Bible that mentions such an event), when the world will encounter someone called “the antichrist” (see 1 John 2:18224:32 John 7 to see that there were many antichrists in John’s day), a rebuilt Jewish temple (nothing in the New Testament says anything about a rebuilt temple), the antichrist making a covenant with Israel and then braking it (no such verse exists), the slaughter of two-thirds of Jews living in Israel (fulfilled in events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70), and a hell storm of tribulation around the world. [3]

 

The Rapture and the Fig Tree Generation

Did God stop the prophetic clock regarding Israel, thereby postponing the 70th week of Daniel’s 70-weeks-of years prophecy by inserting a nearly 2000-year gap called the “Church Age”? Will God restart the prophecy clock at the beginning of the 70th week (seven years) once the Church is taken off the earth in the pre-tribulation rapture?

Millions of Christians believe this fake prophetic system that has led them to believe that they cannot and should not do anything to change the moral condition of the world since these prophetic events are inevitable.

The Geneva Bible

The Scofield Reference Bible was not the first Bible to include notes. There was an abundance of notes in the Geneva Bible, [4] first published in 1560 and developed by English refugees in Geneva, Switzerland, who fled there during the reign of Queen Mary I (1516–1558). Mary had persecuted Protestants and restored England to Roman Catholicism after the death of Edward VI. “When Mary came to the throne in 1553, Edward’s Reformation policy was reversed. Some of those responsible for making [English] translations (e.g., John Rogers; Thomas Cranmer) were burned at the stake; others sought refuge on the [European] continent (e.g., [Miles] Coverdale), along with shiploads of Protestant refugees from England.” [5] From 1560 to 1644 at least 144 editions of the Geneva Bible were published.

The First Study Bible

The Geneva Bible has been described as the “first study Bible” because of the thousands of notes included with the biblical text. It was the Geneva Bible that almost everyone in the English-speaking world read. Even the men working on the translation that would come to be known as the King James Version (1611) “continued to quote from the Geneva version” because it was “the one familiar to the congregations they addressed.” [6] David Daniell notes that “many of the almost one thousand biblical references in Shakespeare come from the Geneva text.” [7]

The Geneva Bible was truly a “free market” translation. There was no official church or civil authorization that declared that it should be the Bible for the people. “The people loved it for itself and its history.” [8] The elucidation of the text that came from the marginal notes added to the readability of Scripture for families.

No Outline of a Prophetic System

It’s important to keep in mind that during this period of persecution, the Reformers did not outline a prophetic system that predicted the near end of the world even though some predicted a near end of things. Martin Luther, for example, “did not believe that the kingdom would triumph on earth and in history. In fact, he expected the world to end soon…. In contrast to Luther, John Calvin believed that the kingdom would ‘have a yet greater triumph in history prior to the consummation [the Second Coming],’” [9] so much so that “the kingdom of God … [will] be extended to the utmost boundaries of the earth … so as to occupy the whole world from one end to the other.” [10]

It was Calvin’s shared optimistic eschatology that found its way into the notes of the Geneva Bible. To cite just one of scores of examples, the note on Zechariah 9:11 in the Geneva Bible reads, “God showeth that he will deliver his Church out of all dangers, seem they ever so great.”

Prior to the rise of dispensationalism, there was a realistic optimism even when persecution was all around them. They followed Paul’s comforting words: “But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all… Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:912). Paul wrote this to Timothy nearly 2000 years ago. Christians didn’t give in to the evils of the day and claim that they would be rescued by something called a “rapture.”

Andrée Seu Peterson writes, “Optimism precedes perseverance… The pessimist’s problem is all in his eye. His eye is defective.” Events, even the most severe and glaring kind, do not nullify the biblical message of the progress of the gospel and the application of God’s Word to every area of life.

George Mueller (1805–1898) is one of the biggest I know of. That crazy guy decided to distribute tracts and to witness among the Jews in London, and he reports, “I had the honor of being reproached and ill-treated for the name of Jesus” (The Autobiography of George Müller). Must be a blessing in there somewhere, right? That’s like the Apostle Paul saying, “I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9).

Come again? If there are “many adversaries,” how does he see it as a “wide door for effective work”?

That’s how an optimist sees. [11]

This is no reference to an escape hatch for the Church but only the promised claim that God will sustain and maintain His Church even when persecuted, and that includes Christians being burned at the stake for attempting to do something as logical as translate the Bible into English.

The English Protestant scholars who produced the Geneva Bible … were fully conscious of the role which they hoped it would play in the religious wars of the truth. In an age which bears witness to “so horrible backsliding and falling away from Christ to Antichrist, from light to darkness, from the living God to dumb and dead idols,” and in a time of “so cruel murder of God’s saints” under Queen Mary, the translators explained that God’s divine providence still continues to work in time and history “with most evident signs and tokens of God’s especial love and favor” towards his saints. Now, the surest way to be mindful of “these great mercies” is “attained by the knowledge and practicing of the word of God.” [12]

The Genevan translation and the ever-present notes were designed to explain “the course and progress of the church within time and history” [13] and the ongoing work of reformation that was needed in light of the religious and political struggles that they still faced. “Without this word,” the “Epistle” to the Geneva Bible states, “we cannot discern between justice, and injury, protection and oppression, wisdom and foolishness, knowledge and ignorance, good and evil. Therefore, the Lord, who is the chief governor of his Church, wills that nothing be attempted before we have inquired thereof at his mouth.” The editors and translators believed that the Geneva Bible would have a role “to play in advancing the Reformation in England.” [14]

Go, believe, and do likewise.

  1. Philip Mauro, The Gospel of the Kingdom: An Examination of Modern Dispensationalism and the “Scofield Bible” (1927), Introduction. Emphasis added.[]
  2. Philip Jenkins, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (New York: HarperOne, 2014), 138.[]
  3. For a detailed study of the “rapture,” see Gary DeMar with Francis X. Gumerlock, The Rapture and the Fig Tree Generation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2019).[]
  4. For accessible histories of the Geneva Bible, see Patricia Serak, “The Geneva Bible: An Historical Report” and William H. Noah and David L. Brown, “Introduction to the Geneva Bible.”[]
  5. Paul D. Wegner, The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), 300.[]
  6. Benson Bobrick, Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001), 215, 254.[]
  7. David Daniell, The Bible in English: Its History and Influence (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 354.[]
  8. The Geneva Bible: A Facsimile of the 1560 Edition, ed. Lloyd E. Berry (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969). The quotation is from John Eadie, The English Bible: An External and Critical History of the Various English Translations, 2 vols. (London: MacMillan & Co., 1876), 2:51–52, as cited in Lloyd E. Berry’s “Introduction” to the Geneva Bible, 22. Quoted in Avihu Zakai, Exile and Kingdom: History and Apocalypse in the Puritan Migration to America  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 38.[]
  9. Gary DeMar and Peter J. Leithart, The Reduction of Christianity: A Biblical Response to Dave Hunt’s Theology (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1988), 236, 237.[]
  10. Quoted in Greg L. Bahnsen “The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism” in Victory in Jesus: The Bright Hope of Postmillennialism, ed. Robert R. Booth (Texarkana, AR: Covenant Media Press, 1999), 80.[]
  11. “The Sunny Side,” World Magazine (Nov. 25, 2017), 63.[]
  12. Zakai, Exile and Kingdom, 38–39.[]
  13. Zakai, Exile and Kingdom, 39.[]
  14. Zakai, Exile and Kingdom, 41.[]