What Does the Bible Say about the End of the World?

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When Christians hear the phrase the “end of the world,” most assume it’s a reference to a great end-time prophetic event like Armageddon, the Second Coming of Christ, or the cataclysmic end of heaven and earth as a prelude to a New Heavens and New Earth. Actually, the phrase “end of the world,” as in the end of the physical world, is not found in the Bible. There is Psalm 19:4, but in context “end of the world” is a geographical description: “Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world.” The same is true of its use in the New Testament (Acts 13:47Rom. 10:18).

The “end of the world” appears several times in the King James translation of the Bible. The Greek word kosmos, the word we would expect to find for the translation of these “end of the world” passages, is not used. Modern translations render the passages as the “end of the age” because the Greek word aiōn not kosmos is used. The New King James translation remedies the translation error of the original KJV by translating aiōn as “age” and not “world” (Matt. 13:39404924:328:20). Aiōn refers to a limited historical period, not the physical world (1 Cor. 10:11). Kosmos (“foundation of the world,” that is, the physical world) and aiōnōn (“consummation of the ages”) are used in Hebrews 9:26, a time when Jesus had been “manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” It seems odd that the translators of the KJV translated two different Greek words in the same verse as “world.” The New King James corrects the error.

Ephesians 3:21 is often quoted to support the argument that the world will never end. It may teach this idea, but not based on the KJV translation that’s as follows: “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” The Greek word kosmos is not found in the passage. Here’s a more literal reading: “to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations age [αἰῶνος] to the ages [αἰώνων]. Amen.”

Jesus’ appearance on earth as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), not just Jews but the nations (4:42), coincides with the consummation of the ages, a first-century reality. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews opens his epistle with the claim that he was living in “these last days” because of the first coming of Christ in the world (Heb. 1:2). The tabernacle had become incarnate (John 1:14) and personalized (2:13–22) in Jesus Christ. Peter uses similar language when he writes, “For [Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world [kosmos] but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you” (1 Peter 1:20). Paul tells his Corinthian audience that “the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11).

Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future

Finally, a book that explains the meaning of these two seemingly mysterious chapters (Ezekiel 38-39) by using the Bible instead of today’s newspaper headlines!

Peter writes from the vantage point of his day that “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter. 4:7; cf. 1:20). This can hardly be a declaration that the end of the physical universe was about to take place. “At hand” tells us that whatever this end is, it was near for Peter and his first-century audience. Jay E. Adams offers a helpful commentary on the passage, considering its historical and theological context:

[First] Peter was written before A.D. 70 (when the destruction of Jerusalem took place)…. The persecution (and martyrdom) that these (largely) Jewish Christians had been experiencing up until now stemmed principally from unconverted Jews (indeed, his readers had found refuge among Gentiles as resident aliens)…. [H]e refers to the severe trials that came upon Christians who had fled Palestine under attack from their unconverted fellow Jews. The end of all things (that had brought this exile about) was near.

In six or seven years from the time of writing, the overthrow of Jerusalem, with all its tragic stories, as foretold in the Book of Revelation and in the Olivet Discourse upon which that part is based, would take place. Titus and Vespasian would wipe out the old order once and for all. All those forces that led to the persecution and exile of these Christians in Asia Minor—the temple ceremonies (outdated by Christ’s death), Pharisaism (with its distortion of O.T. law into a system of works-righteousness) and the political stance of Palestinian Jewry toward Rome—would be erased. The Roman armies would wipe Jewish opposition from the face of the land. Those who survived the holocaust of A.D. 70 would themselves be dispersed around the Mediterranean world. “So,” says Peter, “hold on; the end is near.” The full end of the O.T. order (already made defunct by the cross and the empty tomb) was about to occur. [1]

Adam Clarke (1762–1832) writes the following in his commentary on 1 Peter 4:7: “Peter says, The end of all things is at hand; and this he spoke when God had determined to destroy the Jewish people and their polity by one of the most signal judgments that ever fell upon any nation or people. In a very few years after St. Peter wrote this epistle, even taking it at the lowest computation, viz., A. D. 60 or 61, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. To this destruction, which was literally then at hand, the apostle alludes when he says, The end of all things is at hand; the end of the temple, the end of the Levitical priesthood, the end of the whole Jewish economy, was then at hand.” [2]

The end of the age was the real end of the world, the world of old covenant Judaism, and the inauguration of a new era where God no longer speaks in types and shadows but “in His Son” (Heb. 1:2). There was such a dramatic transference from one age to the next that Peter described it as “the end of all things.”

The use of this end-time language is “typical Jewish imagery for events within the present order that are felt and perceived as ‘cosmic’ or, as we should say, as ‘earth-shattering’. More particularly, they are regular Jewish imagery for events that bring the story of Israel to its appointed climax. The days of Jerusalem’s destruction would be looked upon as days of cosmic catastrophe. The known world would go into convulsions: power struggles and coups d’état would be the order of the day; the pax Romana, the presupposition of ‘civilized’ life throughout the then Mediterranean world, would collapse into chaos. In the midst of that chaos Jerusalem would fall.” [3]

Jerusalem was the redemptive center of the then known world: “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the center of the nations, with lands around her’” (Ezek. 5:5). The Jews lived “at the center of the world” (38:12). To be far from Jerusalem was to be at “the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). For a Jew, Jerusalem was the center of life (2:5–11). Medieval maps show Jerusalem to be the geographical center of the world because it was the center of redemptive history. Isaiah predicted that the nations would look “to the house of the God of Jacob” for redemption and instruction:

In the last days, the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains and will be raised above the hills; and all nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths” (Isa. 2:2–3).

The nations did look to the “house of Jacob” for their redemption. Paul writes that the gospel “has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:26). The “mystery of godliness” had been “proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world” (1 Tim. 3:16).

The Early Church and the End of the World

Shows that some of the earliest writers, most likely writing before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, were referring to the judgment coming of Jesus, an event that the gospel writers tell us was to take place before that first-century generation passed away (Matt. 24:34)

Christians writing less than 100 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the dismantling of the temple understood that Isaiah 2 was looking forward to the ministry of the gospel in the world among the nations. Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophetic words when He said, “Come to Me” (Matt. 11:28). Consider the brief commentary of Justin the Martyr (c. 100–165):

And when the Spirit of prophecy speaks as predicting things that are to come to pass, He speaks in this way: “For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never will they learn war” [Isa. 2:3–4]. And that it did so come to pass, we can convince you. For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of God; and we who formerly used to murder one another do not only now refrain from making war upon our enemies, but also, that we might not lie or deceive our examiners, willingly die confessing Christ. [4]

Irenaeus (c. 130–200), another second-century Christian writer, taught that Isaiah 2 was fulfilled at the time of “the Lord’s advent,” that is, the first coming of Jesus. You will notice that he believed that the message of “the new covenant” had a worldwide impact before Jerusalem’s fall:

If any one, however, advocating the cause of the Jews, does maintain that this new covenant consisted in the rearing of that temple which was built under Zerubbabel after the emigration to Babylon, and in the departure of the people from thence after the lapse of seventy years, let him know that the temple constructed of stones was indeed then rebuilt (for as yet that law was observed which had been made upon tables of stone), yet no new covenant was given, but they used the Mosaic law until the coming of the Lord; but from the Lord’s advent, the new covenant which brings back peace, and the law which gives life, has gone forth over the whole earth, as the prophets said: “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and He shall rebuke many people; and they shall break down their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, and they shall no longer learn to fight.” [5]

Tertullian (160–225) makes a similar application when he argues that it is “among us, who have been called out of the nations,—‘and they shall join to beat their glaives into ploughs, and their lances into sickles; and nations shall not take up glaive against nation, and they shall no more learn to fight.’ Who else, therefore, are understood but we, who, fully taught by the new law, observe these practices,—the old law being obliterated, the coming of whose abolition the action itself demonstrates?” [6]

With the advent of Jesus and the ministry of the gospel to the nations, earthly Jerusalem would no longer be the geographical center of the world. The world had come into view, so much so that Paul could write that the gospel had been “proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Col. 1:23; cf. 1:6Rom. 1:810:181 Tim. 3:16d). The temple and the city of Jerusalem were shadows of better things to come. The tabernacle was a “copy and shadow of heavenly things … according to the pattern which was shown [to Moses] on the mountain” (Heb. 8:5). Jesus is the “true tabernacle” (8:2). The “new covenant . . . made the first [covenant] obsolete” (8:13). The writer to the Hebrews describes it this way: “But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear” (8:13). The word translated as “ready” is actually the Greek word engus, “near.” James C. DeYoung writes:

The total impression gained from the accumulation of evidence from Jesus’ teaching and prophecy concerning the rejection and doom of Jerusalem, as well as from the teaching of Galatians and Hebrews is that the significance of Jerusalem in the history of redemption had come to an end with the death of Jesus. Thus, the antithesis between the earthly and heavenly Jerusalem is based upon the cross of Christ. Jerusalem’s rejection and crucifixion of her Messiah, whether viewed retrospectively by the Apostles, or prospectively by Jesus himself, formed the basis for the pessimistic view of the future of the city. Thus the investigation of the relevant passages from the Gospels has shown that the Christian break with Jerusalem came long before her destruction in A.D. 70. [7]

Jesus is the center of redemptive history. He far surpasses anything the temple of stone and the sacrificial system of bloody animals were thought to be. “We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh” (10:19–20).

  1. Jay E. Adams, Trust and Obey: A Practical Commentary on First Peter (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1978), 129–130.[]
  2. Clarke’s Commentary on The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2 vols. (New York: Carlton & Porter, 1810), 2:864.[]
  3. N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996),362.[]
  4. Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” Chapter XXXIX: Direct Predictions by the SpiritAnte-Nicene Fathers, 1:175–176.[]
  5. Irenaeus, “Proof Against the Marcionites, that the Prophets Referred in All Their Predictions to Our Christ,” Against Heresies,” Book IV, Chapter 34.[]
  6. Tertullian, “Of Circumcision and the Supercession of the Old Law,” An Answer to the Jews, Chapter III.[]
  7. James Calvin DeYoung, Jerusalem in the New Testament: The Significance of the City in the History of Redemption and in Eschatology (Kampen, Netherlands: J. H. Kok, 1960), 109–110.[]

John Piper says the Coronavirus is a Sign of the End Times

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While the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says we should “have our senses trained” (5:14), the Bereans searched the Scriptures daily to assess whether what Paul was saying was true or not (Acts 17:11), and John says to “test the spirits, to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1), it seems that today’s Christians are easily led astray by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14), especially when it comes to Bible prophecy.

It appears that no one is immune. Consider John Piper whose book Coronavirus and Christ includes this chapter: “Awakening Us for the Second Coming.” The chapter begins with this true statement: “the history of the Christian church is littered with failed predictions of the end of the world.” He then writes the following, claiming the Coronavirus is a sign that Jesus’ return may be near

Jesus said there would be pointers to his coming—like wars, famines, and earthquakes (Matt. 24:7). He called these signs “birth pains” (Matt. 24:8). The image is of the earth as a woman in labor, trying to give birth to the new world, which Jesus would bring into being at his coming.

*****

Paul picked up this imagery in Romans 8:22 and referred the birth pains to all the groanings of this age—all the miseries of disaster and disease (like the coronavirus). He pictured us in our diseases as part of the labor pains of the world.

Piper’s not alone. A majority of Christians and pastors believe we are living in the last days. Consider the following results of a recent survey:

LifeWay found that nearly nine out of 10 surveyed pastors viewed the end times prophecies of the Bible as being showcased in current events.

This included around 83 percent of respondents believing that Jesus was referring to current events when discussing the rise of false prophets and false teachings, traditional morals becoming less accepted (79 percent), wars and national conflicts (78 percent), earthquakes and other natural disasters (76 percent), and people leaving Christianity (75 percent).

The survey also found that 56 percent of surveyed pastors believed Jesus would return within their lifetime, versus 20 percent who did not believe it would happen in their lifetime.

Referencing Matthew 24:7–8 and contending that Jesus was referring to some distant end-time series of events is not an interpretive possibility because Jesus was answering questions asked by His disciples about the destruction of the temple and the end of the age (Matt. 24:1–3), that is, the end of the Adamic and Mosaic ages (αἰώνων/aiōnōn) (1 Cor. 10:11), not the end of the world (kosmos).

Wars and Rumors of Wars

Wars and Rumors of Wars will help you search the Scriptures to see what Jesus said about famines, earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars, and other supposed end-time signs refer to our generation or a past generation.

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There were wars and rumors of wars in the lead up to the temple’s destruction in AD 70 as well as earthquakes, famines (Acts 11:27–28), and even plagues (Luke 21:11). The clincher is that Jesus said that the generation then alive would not end until all the events mentioned in the Olivet Discourse took place (Matt. 24:34). The birth pangs were related to that generation not 50 generations later.

The timing is the key to understanding the passage, otherwise a perpetual state of fear, disappointment, and inaction set in. Why bother with this world since Jesus is about to rescue us from all our troubles? All we must do is hold on a little while longer and all the bad stuff will go away, and we won’t have to do anything to fix what’s wrong. Our inaction becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Jesus was warning His first readers that these common signs were not end-of-the-world signs because they are common to every generation. Consider the following from science and science fiction writer Michael Crichton of Jurassic Park fame:

Is this really the end of the world? Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods?

No, we simply live on an active planet. Earthquakes are continuous, a million and a half of them every year, or three every minute. A Richter 5 quake every six hours, a major quake every 3 weeks. A quake as destructive as the one in Pakistan every 8 months. It’s nothing new, it’s right on schedule.

At any moment there are 1,500 electrical storms on the planet. A tornado touches down every six hours. We have ninety hurricanes a year, or one every four days. Again, right on schedule. Violent, disruptive, chaotic activity is a constant feature of our globe.

Is this the end of the world? No: this is the world. It’s time we knew it. [1]

“Let’s Stop Scaring Ourselves” by Michael Crichton
Parade magazine, December 5, 2004.

John Piper’s end-time views are part of a long line prophetic prognostications gone wrong.

Charles Wesley Ewing, writing in 1983, paints a clear historical picture of how prophetic interpretation based on current events turns to confusion, uncertainty, and in some people unbelief when it comes to predicting an end that disappoints:

In 1934, Benito Mussolini sent his black-shirted Fascists down into defenseless Ethiopia and preachers all over the country got up in their pulpits and preached spellbinding sermons that had their congregations bulging at the eyes in astonishment about “Mussolini, the Anti-Christ,” and to prove their point they quoted from Daniel 11:43, which says, ‘And the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.’ Later, Benito, whimpering, was [shot and later] hung by his own countrymen, and preachers all over America had to toss their sermons into the scrap basket as unscriptural. [2]

Ewing goes on to mention how Hitler’s storm troopers took Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, North Africa, and set up concentration camps where millions of Jews were killed in what has become the modern-day definition of “holocaust.” Once again, preachers ascended their pulpits and linked these events to Bible prophecy and assured the church-going public that Hitler was the antichrist and the rapture was just around the next bend. When the allies routed the Nazis and drove them out, sermons were once again tossed out or filed away to be revised at some future date hoping people’s memories would fade.

The next end-time-antichrist candidate was Joseph Stalin, the leader of godless Communism, a movement hell-bent on conquering the world. “But on March 5, 1953, Stalin had a brain hemorrhage and preachers all over America had to make another trip to the waste basket.” [3]

The Coronavirus is real and deadly for many people like other viruses throughout history. But it is not the plague (that killed tens of millions) or the Spanish Flu or even the Hong Kong Flu that killed more than a million people in 1968 and 1969 or any natural disaster or cosmic signs like “Blood Moons.”

The Coronavirus is one among numerous diseases that affect us. I agree with John Piper that the Coronavirus is a wake-up call for people who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior because the next eschatological event in our life will be our death, if not from a virus, it will be from something else.

We will not get out of this world alive, “inasmuch it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27).

  1. Michael Crichton, “Earthquakes: Fear and Complexity” (San Francisco, CA: The Independent Institute, November 15, 2005.[]
  2. Charles Wesley Ewing, “The Comedy of Errors,” The Kingdom Digest (July 1983), 45.[]
  3. Ewing, “The Comedy of Errors,” 45–46.[]

‘Biblical Scholar’ Claims Virus is a Sign of the End

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“A biblical scholar said the new coronavirus outbreak is a precursor to End Times prophecies, warning that the pandemic is a ‘very serious foreshadowing’ of what’s to come.”
What’s worse? The government of “experts” who have locked down our nation because of a virus or “a biblical scholar” who is misinterpreting the Bible and misleading people on the end times?

They are both bad, but misreading the Bible is worse since it is authoritative. And what makes it so bad is that there is a nearly a two-millennia track record of similar claims that have turned out to be wrong. Here’s the argument:

In an interview with The Christian Post, Mark Hitchcock, author of over 30 books related to biblical End Times prophecies, said Scripture is clear that “there will be plagues in the End Times.” He cited Luke 21:11Revelation 6:8, and the prophecy of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, where the fourth rider kills one-fourth of the Earth’s population with pestilence and the “wild beasts of the earth.”

“In fact, Scripture tells us these plagues will kill 25% of the people in the world. It’s literally going to be biblical proportions,” the Dallas Theological Seminary professor said.

These types of wild predictions never seem to stop. I have a library full of books making similar claims going back centuries.

Doomsday Déjà Vu

There has been a large appetite for end-time books in the modern era—from Oswald J. Smith (1889–1986), who in 1926 predicted that Mussolini was the biblical antichrist,14 to Edgar Whisenant who was emphatic that the rapture would take place in 1988. Doomsday Déjà Vu is a short history of prophetic speculation going back generations, and it’s FREE!

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As I mentioned in a previous article, pestilences and plagues are not unusual. They can be found in the Old Testament, secular history, and the era leading up to Jerusalem’s judgment in AD 70. For example, the Roman historian Suetonius wrote that there was such a “pestilence” at Rome during the reign of Nero that “within the space of one autumn there died no less than thirty thousand persons, as appeared from the registers in the temple of Libitina.” [1] This description fits the context of what Jesus said would happen to that generation.

If the Olivet Discourse is describing events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem that took place within a generation (Matt. 24:34Mark 13:29Luke 21:32), then Revelation must be given a similar interpretation since it is parallel to Revelation 6. James M. Hamilton, Jr., a premillennialist, writes that “the opening of the seals in Revelation 6 corresponds to what Jesus describes in the Olivet Discourse in the Synoptic Gospels.” [2] I agree. See my books Is Jesus Coming Soon?, Last Days Madness, and Wars and Rumors of Wars.

The Rapture and the Fig Tree Generation

The Rapture and the Fig Tree Generation explains that the doctrine of the rapture does not have biblical support. There is no Bible passage that states the church will be taken to heaven before, during, or after a seven-year period.

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In Revelation 6:13­–14, we read, “the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”

If this is a description of physical stars, there would be an immediate end to the earth, and yet we find the earth is still intact in Revelation 8:10 where “a great star fell from heaven.” If one star hit the earth, the earth would be vaporized in an instant. In fact, if a star like our sun gets close to earth, the earth would burn up before it hit. How could the earth survive if a “third of the stars of heaven” had been thrown down to the earth (Rev. 12:4)?

Jesus is using language that was understood by the people of His day. The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with similar symbolic “sign” (Rev. 1:1) language. There is dramatic end-of-the-world language in Zephaniah that is directed at Jerusalem and Israel (Zeph. 1), a local judgment described using de-creation language.

John Lightfoot makes the point that seemingly end-of-the-world language is a common feature in the Bible and most often points to the end of the social, religious, and political status of a nation:

The opening of the sixth Seal [in Rev. 6:12–13] shows the destruction itself in those borrowed terms that the Scripture uses to express it by, namely as if it were the destruction of the whole world: as Matt. 24:29–30. The Sun darkened, the Stars falling, the Heaven departing and the Earth dissolved, and that conclusion [of] ver. 16 [in Rev. 6]. They shall say to the rocks fall on us, &c. doth not only warrant, but even enforce us to understand and construe these things in the sense that we do: for Christ applies these very words to the very same thing (Luke 23:30). And here is another, and, to me, a very satisfactory reason, why to place the showing of these visions to John, and his writing of this Book [of Revelation] before the desolation of Jerusalem. [3]

When was this judgment that included plagues to take place as Luke states (21:11)? Jesus had His present audience in view as He made His way to the cross:

Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed” [Matt. 24:19Luke 21:23]. Then they will begin TO SAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, “FALL ON US,” AND TO THE HILLS, “COVER US” [Isa. 2:19–20Hos. 10:8Rev. 6:16] For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? (Luke 23:28–31).

When was the tree dry? Jesus identified Israel’s leadership as a fruitless tree (Matt. 21:18–2224:32) that would need to be cut down if it did not bear fruit (Luke 13:8–9). These religious representatives of that generation chose Caesar over Jesus (John 19:15). Peter described that generation as “this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40).

Does the fact that the prophecy regarding plagues and wars are irrelevant in the Christian’s life?” Not at all. They are part of the human condition. Even though this virus is not an end-of-the-world sign or event, it should get our attention that we are mortal and almost any unforeseen event could lay us low and even kill us. Eternity for us is but a heartbeat away, “inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). There is no rapture rescue for us no matter what befalls our world.

Covid-19 is not a sign of some eschatological end as Mark Hitchcock claims.

So many things are happening in our world today: Israel is back in their land, the Middle East is constantly in turmoil, globalism is occurring — all of these things are signposts and point to what the Bible predicts about the soon coming of Christ. We don’t know when He’s coming; it could be today, it could be five years from now.

As a Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and an advocate of dispensationalism, Hitchcock should know that his system teaches that there are no signs preceding the “rapture of the church” since according to dispensationalism, the “rapture” is an any-moment event. It was an any-moment event 1500, 1000, 500, 250, 100 years ago when none of today’s so-called signs existed including Israel being back in their land, something the New Testament never mentions as a sign.

Prophecy speculation of the dispensational kind has changed over the years. It’s all about “signposts.” Prophecy writers have been posting these “sign posts” for nearly 2000 years. It’s long past time to stop and to get business with kingdom work.

Hitchcock mentions “the soon coming of Christ.” The New Testament makes it clear that the judgment coming of Jesus against Jerusalem was “near” or “at hand …  right at the door” (James 5:8–9) for that generation.

  1. C. Suetonius Tranquillus, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Nero, 39.[]
  2. Hamilton, An Interview with Dr. James Hamilton. For further discussion of this point, see James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 166–167. Also, Louis A. Vos, The Synoptic Traditions in the Apocalypse (Kampen, Netherlands: J.H. Kok N. V., 1965), 181–188.[]
  3. John Lightfoot, The Whole Works of the Rev. John Lightfoot Containing “The Harmony, Chronicle and Order of the New Testament,” ed. John Rogers Pitman, 13 vols. (London: [1655] 1823), 3:337.[]

Is Revelation 6 a Prophecy About Today’s Pandemic and Other Apocalyptic-Like Events?

By Gary DeMar

Some prophecy writers are claiming that Revelation 6 depicts what’s taking place today with earthquakes (one just hit Utah) and pestilence or plagues. Is the Coronavirus a fulfillment of Revelation 6:8?:

I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, “to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence [θανάτῳ] and by the wild beasts of the earth.”

“The Apocalypse” drawn by Basil Wolverton and colorized by his son Monte Wolverton

The Greek word translated “pestilence” is θανάτῳ (thanatō) and is translated elsewhere as “death.” The rider of the horse is named θανάτῳ, the same word translated as “pestilence” in some translations.

Similar language is used in Jeremiah 15:2–3 for a local judgment against Jerusalem (15:4–14). The same is true in Jeremiah 24, especially verse 10, where a different Hebrew word is used and is translated as “pestilence” and not just “death.”

The more accurate translation in Revelation 6:8 is “death” that would include pestilence and other effects of war and famine. “The story of Mary of Bethezuba is a story of cannibalism told by Josephus in his Jewish War (VI,193) which occurred as a consequence of famine and starvation during the siege of Jerusalem in August AD 70 by Roman legions commanded by Titus. The tale is only one account of the horrors suffered at Jerusalem in the summer of 70. “

In Luke 21:11, the Greek word λοιμοὶ (loimoi) is used and is translated as “plagues,” the only time the word is used in the New Testament. As I have mentioned in a previous article, pestilences and plagues are not unusual. They can be found in the Old Testament, secular history, and the era leading up to Jerusalem’s judgment in AD 70. For example, the Roman historian Suetonius wrote that there was such a “pestilence” at Rome during the reign of Nero that “within the space of one autumn there died no less than thirty thousand persons, as appeared from the registers in the temple of Libitina.” [1]

Is Jesus Coming Soon?

Wars and rumors of wars, famines, plagues, and earthquakes. These are the biblical signs. All of them are realities of planet earth each days. Is Jesus coming back soon? Did Jesus provide an exact, predictable scenario as so many modern prophecy writers advocate?

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Now we come to the meaning of Revelation 6. What’s going on in this chapter? James M. Hamilton, Jr., a premillennialist, writes that “the opening of the seals in Revelation 6 corresponds to what Jesus describes in the Olivet Discourse in the Synoptic Gospels.” [2] I agree. See my books Is Jesus Coming Soon?Last Days Madness, and Wars and Rumors of Wars.

The following chart is from Hamilton’s commentary on Revelation:

If the Olivet Discourse is describing events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem that took place within a generation (Matt. 24:34), then Revelation must be given a similar interpretation. Consider how stellar phenomena are depicted.

Wars and Rumors of Wars

A verse-by-verse study of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 that puts it into its biblical and historical context.

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In Revelation 6:13­–14, we read, “the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” This passage is a partial citation fromIsaiah 34:4 using the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX), which reads, “all the stars shall fall.” [3]

If this is a description of physical stars, there would be an immediate end to the earth, and yet we find the earth still intact in Revelation 8:10 where “a great star fell from heaven.” If one star hit the earth, the earth would be vaporized in an instant. In fact, if a star like our sun gets close to earth, the earth would burn up before it hit. How could the earth survive if a “third of the stars of heaven” had been thrown down to the earth (Rev. 12:4)?

Then there’s the description of the male goat in Daniel 8:10 that causes “stars to fall to the earth,” an action that would destroy the earth if Daniel was describing actual physical stars. These fallen stars are then “trampled” by the horn of a goat. It must have been a mighty big goat horn, similar in size to the giant woman in Revelation who was “clothed with the sun,” stood on the moon, and had a “crown of twelve stars” on her head (Rev. 12:1). Most likely the horn refers to a civil ruler and the stars represent civil or religious authorities [4] under the ruler’s dominion.

Jesus is using language that was understood by the people of His day. The Hebrew Scriptures are filled with similar symbolic “sign” (Rev. 1:1) language. There is dramatic end-of-the-world language in Zephaniah that is directed at Jerusalem and Israel (Zeph. 1). John Lightfoot makes the point that seemingly end-of-the-world language is a common feature in the Bible and most often points to the end of the social, religious, and political status of a nation:

The opening of the sixth Seal [in Rev. 6:12–13] shows the destruction itself in those borrowed terms that the Scripture uses to express it by, namely as if it were the destruction of the whole world: as Matt. 24:29–30. The Sun darkened, the Stars falling, the Heaven departing and the Earth dissolved, and that conclusion [of] ver. 16 [in Rev. 6]. They shall say to the rocks fall on us, &c. doth not only warrant, but even enforce us to understand and construe these things in the sense that we do: for Christ applies these very words to the very same thing (Luke 23:30). And here is another, and, to me, a very satisfactory reason, why to place the showing of these visions to John, and his writing of this Book [of Revelation] before the desolation of Jerusalem. [5]

A Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Bible Prophecy

For many Christians, interpreting Bible prophecy is a complicated task. As a result, they often turn to so-called Bible experts and complicated charts that include gaps in time, outrageous literal interpretations, and numerous claims that current events are prime indicators that the end is near. Many Christians are unaware that the same Bible passages have been used in nearly every generation as “proof” that the end or some aspect of the end (the “rapture”) would take place in their generation.

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When was this judgment to take place? Jesus had His present audience in view as He made His way to the cross:

“Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed’ [Matt. 24:19Luke 21:23]. Then they will begin TO SAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, ‘FALL ON US,’ AND TO THE HILLS, ‘COVER US’ [Isa. 2:19–20Hos. 10:8Rev. 6:16] For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:28–31).

When was the tree dry and without fruit? The last days of the generation that was confronted from the judgment sequence prophesied by Jesus.

Even though this virus is not an end-of-the-world sign or event, it should get our attention that we are mortal and almost any unforeseen event could lay us low and even kill us. Eternity is but a heartbeat away.

  1. C. Suetonius Tranquillus, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Nero, 39.[]
  2. Hamilton, An Interview with Dr. James Hamilton. For further discussion of this point, see James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 166–167. Also, Louis A. Vos, The Synoptic Traditions in the Apocalypse (Kampen, Netherlands: J.H. Kok N. V., 1965), 181–188.[]
  3. J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 179–210.[]
  4. James B. Jordan, The Handwriting on the Wall: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, 2nd ed. (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press, 2007), 426–436.[]
  5. John Lightfoot, The Whole Works of the Rev. John Lightfoot Containing “The Harmony, Chronicle and Order of the New Testament,” ed. John Rogers Pitman, 13 vols. (London: [1655] 1823), 3:337.[]

THE BIBLE AND JUDGMENT COMINGS

by Gary DeMar

When the Bible uses the word “coming,” translated from the Greek words parousia (παρουσία) and erchomai (ἔρχομαι). The Greek word parousia (παρουσία) is more accurately translated as “presence” where it is used 24 times in the New Testament. Of these, six uses refer to the physical presence of individuals: Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (1 Cor.16:17), Titus (2 Cor. 7:6-7), Paul (2 Cor. 10:10Phil. 1:262:12), and the “coming of the lawless one” or “the man of sin” (2 Thess. 2:9). Here are some additional verses where parousia is used: Matthew 24:32737391 Corinthians 15:231 Thessalonians 2:193:134:155:232 Thessalonians 2:18James 5:782 Peter 1:163:4121 John 2:28.

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There are several places in the Old Testament where God comes in a non-physical way to bring judgment. We read the following in Micah 1:

The word of the Lord which came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
Hear, O peoples, all of you;
Listen, O earth and all it contains,
And let the Lord GOD be a witness against you,
The Lord from His holy temple.
For behold, the Lord is coming forth from His place.
He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth [Amos 4:13].
The mountains will melt under Him
And the valleys will be split,
Like wax before the fire,
Like water poured down a steep place.
All this is for the rebellion of Jacob
And for the sins of the house of Israel.
What is the rebellion of Jacob?
Is it not Samaria? What is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem?
For I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the open country,
Planting places for a vineyard.
I will pour her stones down into the valley
And will lay bare her foundations.

Notice how the language is both universal (“earth and all it contains”) and local (“house of Israel”). Micah is not describing a distant end-time prophetic event. He is describing a judgment coming because of the rebellion of Jacob and the sins of the northern and southern kingdoms and their capitals.

There are other passages that speak of God “coming down” to act. God is described as “riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt” where “the idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence” (Isa. 19:1).

In Revelation 19, Jesus is shown riding a horse with a sword coming out of His mouth. Is this His visible Second Coming at some distant date in the future? Will Jesus return on a horse with a sword coming out of His mouth, or is something else meant?

Earlier in the book of Revelation, we notice that Jesus threatens to come at least three times to three different local first-century churches:

  • Ephesus: “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (2:5).
  • Pergamum: “Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth” (2:16).
  • Philadelphia: “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (3:11).

David Chilton writes, “The Lord is not threatening the church at Ephesus with His Second Coming; He is saying that He will come against themI will remove your lampstand out it its place.” [1]

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Kenneth Gentry comments:

Removing the lampstand signifies extinguishing the church by means of Christ’s personal judgment (“coming”) against them (Caird 27–28; Lenski 89, Ladd 39–40, Beasley-Murray 75, Mounce 70, Beale 232, Kistemaker 116, Witherington 95). As Beale (232) notes, this “coming” does not refer to Christ’s second coming, but his specific judgment of the Ephesian church in that “the activities of both ‘removing’ and ‘coming’ are conditional,” due to the de mē (“or else”) conditional clause. This localized coming against an Asia Minor church is also mentioned in 2:16; 3:3, 20. [2]

There are two comings mentioned in Matthew’s version of the Olivet Discourse. Jesus says He will come “just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming [presence/parousia/παρουσία] of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:27) and the Son of Man will come (erchomai/ἔρχομαι) “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (24:30; cf. Dan. 7:13Matt. 26:64).

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Lightning is often associated with judgment:

“And [Jesus] said to them, ‘I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning’” (Luke 10:18). Similar to wind and fire, lightning does “surrogate duty for the image of the invisible God…. Scripture uses lightning as proof of God’s terrifying presence. It frightens believer and infidel alike…. As proof that God attends his chosen people in battle, lightning routs his enemies (Ps. 77:1897:4, cf. 144:62 Sam 22:13–15, cf. Ps 18:14).” [3]

Lightning is associated with violent destruction and terror as God uses Babylon to deliver His judgment (Ezek. 21:101528). Lightning is associated with the sword and arrows in local judgments (2 Sam. 22:15Ps. 18:14144:6). Did God use actual arrows in routing David’s enemies or did David use them? (Ps. 18:14).

Lightning is a local phenomenon. Of the 30 occurrences of the word “lightning” in the Bible, not one of them describes a global event. [4] John MacArthur argues that “Christ promised that His coming would be obvious to all: ‘As the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be’ (Matthew 24:27 NKJV).” [5] Thomas Ice offers a similar interpretation: “Matthew 24:27, which says, ‘Just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be,’ emphasizes a global coming.” [6]

Of course, lightning is not seen by everyone in the world when it strikes. When there’s a lightning storm in Sacramento, California, no one in Atlanta, Georgia, sees it. Our ability to see extends only from horizon to horizon. Contrary to MacArthur’s claim that “every person in every nation of the world will take note,” [7] it’s clear that Jesus is describing a series of local events to be experienced by that first-century generation that could be escaped by heading to the mountains outside of Judea (Matt. 24:16).

  1. The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Horn Lake, MS: Dominion Press, [1987] 2006), 96.[]
  2. The Divorce of Israel: A Redemptive-Historical Interpretation of Revelation, 2 vols. (Dallas, GA: Tolle Lege Press, 2020), 1:372.[]
  3. “Lightning,” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, eds. Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 512–513.[]
  4. Job 37:3 may be the exception if the Hebrew eretz refers to the “earth” rather than the “land.”[]
  5. John MacArthur, The Coming of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 110.[]
  6. Thomas Ice, “Olivet Discourse,” The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy, eds. Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2004), 255.[]
  7. MacArthur, The Coming of Christ, 110.[]

Ancient Child Sacrifice: The Legacy of Modern Abortion

I have recently done some research on child sacrifice in the Bible for the sake of a novel I am writing about Queen Jezebel and ancient Israel in the ninth-century B.C. Most readers of the Bible do not find it controversial that human sacrifice was performed in the ancient world and that it was prohibited by the God of the Hebrews. But as always, modern scholars and skeptics try to argue away the facts with their literary theories of deconstruction. If the Bible is wrong and the ancient world was not so bad, then we can go ahead and sacrifice our own children on our altars of convenience and dismiss those nagging guilty pangs of conscience that comes from learning the lessons of history.

Child Sacrifice in the Bible

Child sacrifice was one of the abominable behaviors of Canaanites that was repeatedly condemned by Yahweh (Deut. 12:31; also, Lev. 18:2120:2-5.) It was sometimes referred to directly as “burning their sons and daughters in the fire” (Deut. 12:31; also, 2 Kings 17:17Jer.7:3119:5Ezek. 16:20-2120:31.) or “passing them through the fire” (Deut. 18:102 Kings 16:317:1721:623:102 Chron 33:6Jer. 32:35Ezek. 16:2120:263223:37), and sometimes indirectly as “shedding innocent blood” (2 Kings 21:16; also, 2 Kings 24:4Isa. 59:7Jer.22:326:15Psalm 106:38). Those innocent victims are described as food eaten by the gods (Ezek. 23:37-39).

Unfortunately, Israelites were guilty of breaking this command of God almost immediately upon entering the Promised Land.

[Israelites] poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood (Psalm 106:38).

Judah was guilty of child sacrifice from the days of Solomon up to the Babylonian exile:

[Judahites] have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind— (Jeremiah 19:5).

After Solomon’s kingdom split, Israel too was guilty of child sacrifice that led to their Assyrian exile.

And [Israel] burned their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight (2 Kings 17:17–18).

Molech and his Tophet in the Valley of Hinnom in Jerusalem is the one most connected to child sacrifice in the Old Testament (see Lev. 18:2120:2-41 Kings 11:72 Kings 23:10Jer. 32:35.) But he is not the only recipient of such offerings. Baal was sometimes connected with Molech as a separate but related deity. He is spoken of as being present in Molech’s accursed Valley of Hinnom.

 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech (Jer. 32:35; also Jer. 19:5:).

Baal here could be a reference to the Canaanite deity by that name or a generic reference to “the lord” (the Baal) of the valley area. But elsewhere, high places are linked to Baal’s fertility cult, while the valley is linked to Molech’s underworld cult, two distinct locations of two distinct deities. Nevertheless, an interwoven connection between the two gods and their cults is expressed in Isaiah 57. [1]

 you who burn with lust among the oaks,
under every green tree, [Baal fertility cult]

who slaughter your children in the valleys,
under the clefts of the rocks…[Molech Tophet cult]

On a high and lofty mountain [high places of Baal]
you have set your bed,
and there you went up to offer sacrifice. [to Baal]

You journeyed to the king with oil [Molech]
and multiplied your perfumes;

you sent your envoys far off,
and sent down even to Sheol. [valley of Molech] (Isaiah 57:5-9)

The Tophet (also called Topheth) was the altar upon which children were burned in sacrifice to the deity. Everywhere the word appears in the Old Testament, it is always used in connection with the Valley of Hinnom and therefore with Molech as well.

The Valley of Hinnom, where Molech’s Tophet of sacrifice was located, became “Gehenna” (a derivative of the Hebrew), a metaphor for hell or final judgment in the Second Temple and New Testament times. [2] It is a common misunderstanding to caricature Gehenna as a garbage dump. There is no textual or archaeological evidence that it was such a thing. But it was a place of evil that was judged with fire and destruction.

In Jeremiah 7 and 19, the prophet predicts judgment upon Judah because of her worship of other gods, including child sacrifice on the Tophet in the Valley of Hinnom. He prophesies that the Babylonians will come and bring great destruction upon Jerusalem. There will be so many dead lying on the ground that the name of the valley will be changed from the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom to the Valley of Slaughter.

 … for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere. And the dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the beasts of the earth, and none will frighten them away (Jer. 7:32–33).

Thus will I do to this place, declares the Lord, and to its inhabitants, making this city like Topheth. The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah—all the houses on whose roofs offerings have been offered to all the host of heaven, and drink offerings have been poured out to other gods—shall be defiled like the place of Topheth (Jere 19:12–13).

Yahweh says that he will turn Jerusalem itself into a Tophet of burning destruction like a sacrifice to him because of their use of the Tophet and worship of the host of heaven. This was what indeed happened when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. And thus Gehenna (the Valley of Slaughter) became the symbol of God’s judgment upon those who violated his commands.

The Attempt to Attribute Human Sacrifice to the Bible

Recent critical scholarship has tried to argue that Yahweh himself actually commanded and accepted human sacrifice from Israelites and only later did post-exilic agenda-driven authors write propaganda into the Bible to try to discredit this “once-acceptable sacrifice.” This is an attempt to reduce Hebrew Yahwism down to evolving Canaanite religion rather than revelation from heaven. They suggest several key passages to support this contention: (1) Yahweh’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son (Gen. 22), (2) Jephthah’s vow to sacrifice his own daughter (Judges 11:29-40), and 3) Yahweh’s explicit statement that he had previously commanded human sacrifice in Ezekiel 20:25.

Yahweh’s command to Abraham is one of the most debated passages in the Bible. That command was clearly and contextually testing of Abraham’s faith that Yahweh didn’t intend for Abraham to perform. Such hypotheticals of testing are more reflective of a contrast with the Canaanite culture than an accommodation of it. Would Abraham be willing to do what he thought was wrong if Yahweh commanded it? Abraham was supposed to trust Yahweh’s righteousness and not lean on his own fallible fallen human understanding. That is a test of trust, not the validation of an evil.

Jephthah’s vow has also been debated for centuries about whether it even referred to human sacrifice rather than a life of religious celibacy (Judges 11:30). But at the end of the day, the text gives no moral judgment of Jephthah’s behavior from God’s perspective. Yahweh is not shown to approve of it any more than he is shown to condemn it. An argument from silence is not an argument for anything. The story merely describes what happened. Jephthah’s performance of his vow thus remains to be judged by scriptural passages that do make moral judgments on human sacrifice as evil.

Ezekiel’s recording of Yahweh’s strange statement about statutes and human sacrifice is surely the most difficult of the passages to address. In it, Yahweh is referencing the disobedience of Israel toward him in the wilderness.

Moreover, I gave them statutes that were not good and rules by which they could not have life, and I defiled them through their very gifts in their offering up all their firstborn, that I might devastate them. I did it that they might know that I am the Lord. (Ezek. 20:25–26).

It sounds as if God is saying that his laws of Torah were not good and that he deliberately defiled the people by telling them to sacrifice their children. And then he gets even more strange to suggest that this was done so that they might know that he was Yahweh. It is one list of confusing contradictions against everything else written of God’s Law in the Old Testament.

The context of the passage solves the problem of misinterpretation. It wouldn’t make sense that Yahweh here would say the opposite of everything he has said throughout the Old Testament about his Law. In fact, it wouldn’t make sense to contradict what was previously said in this very same chapter of Exodus 20: that his statutes were good (v.12), that they would give life (v.11), that idols defiled them (v.7, 18), and that human sacrifice was forbidden (vv. 28-29, 31). Yahweh said very clearly that regarding child sacrifice, “I did not command it, nor did it come into my mind” (Jer. 7:31).

Context is everything. And the context of the passage is about Israel being given over to pagan control as punishment for her disobedience. The verses before Ezekiel 20:25-26 reiterates Yahweh’s warning that he would “scatter them among the nations and disperse them through the countries” (20:23-24). Yahweh gave them up to the godless nations around them whose gods they chose to worship.

Well, those gods had their own statutes and rules that violated Yahweh’s law. So the best translation of v. 25 is not God “gave them those statutes,” but rather as the NKJV translates, God “gave them up” to those evil laws and rules. This is what is meant by “withholding his hand” from Israel in v. 22. This is also what is meant by Paul in Romans 1 where God “gave up” the pagans to their depravity to be judged by it (Rom. 1:242628). So God gave up the Israelites to the godless nations with their godless statutes and culture that Israel was seeking after. Yahweh’s goal was that Israel would suffer from her bad choices and return to Yahweh.

The attempt to attribute child sacrifice to the Bible as if it were originally a normal part of Yahweh worship has no textual support from Scripture. The fact that many Israelites engaged in human sacrifice is simply proof of what the Bible says that they were spiritually unfaithful to Yahweh for so long that he sent them into exile precisely for sins such as child sacrifice.

The obvious connection that child sacrifice has with the modern practice of abortion is not hard to catch, and thus the parallels between Jezebel’s day and our own are instructive. Phrases like “sacrificing children in temples of Molech” or “on the altars of convenience” are used by pro-lifers of abortion clinics because the willing murder of one’s own offspring in order to bring benefit to a person’s life or to escape personal suffering is exactly what the motivation was behind child sacrifices of the ancient world. In the same way that the ancient world pleaded with the gods through child sacrifice to save them from the suffering of diseases, famine, or wars, so today’s culture pleads to Molech through abortion to “save” women from the suffering of poverty, “oppressed status,” or gender wars.

True believers in child sacrifice who were mothers of that ancient time considered it difficult but necessary to sacrifice their babies, just as true believers in abortion today will admit the difficulty of their act while demanding it a necessary right to sacrifice their babies. “Safe, legal, and rare” has resulted in a universal sacrament.

In the end, there is just no legitimate moral argument for murdering innocent children. And as in ancient Israel, the child sacrifice of abortion marks the beginning of the end of a civilization by the judgment of God.

The Modern Attempt to Deny Ancient Human Sacrifice

Outside the Bible, child sacrifice in Phoenician culture (like that of Tyre’s) has a significant presence in both textual and archaeological evidence. Among the most ancient texts that reference it are the following that wrote about the city of Carthage in North Africa, a settlement of Phoenicians.

Fourth-century BC Greek author Kleitarchos (paraphrased):

“Kleitarchos says that out of reverence for Kronos [the Greek equivalent of Ba’al Hammon], the Phoenicians, and especially the Carthaginians, whenever they seek to obtain some great favor, vow one of their children, burning it as a sacrifice to the deity if they are especially eager to gain success. There stands in their midst a bronze statue of Kronos [Baal], its hands extended over a bronze brazier, the flames of which engulf the child. When the flames fall upon the body, the limbs contract and the open mouth seems almost to be laughing, until the contracted (body) slips quietly into the brazier. Thus it is that the “grin’ is known as “sardonic laughter,” since they die laughing.” [3]

First-century BC Greek historian Diodorus Siculus:

“In their zeal to make amends for their omission to sacrifice the noblest children, they selected two hundred of the noblest children and sacrificed them publicly; and others who were under suspicion sacrificed themselves voluntarily, in a number not less than three hundred. There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus, extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground so that each of the children when placed thereupon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.” [4]

Second-century AD Greek author Plutarch:

“No, but with full knowledge and understanding they themselves offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds; meanwhile the mother stood by without a tear or moan; but should she utter a single moan or let fall a single tear, she had to forfeit the money, and her child was sacrificed nevertheless; and the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums [so that] the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.” [5]

Though these texts speak of Phoenician child sacrifice in locations geographically removed from Canaan, they actually confirm religious and cultural connection to Jezebel’s Tyre. The city of Carthage was founded by Dido of Tyre shortly after Jezebel’s death. [6] As Henry Smith explains, “The evidence indicates that the Phoenicians brought this barbaric practice to Carthage from Canaan, and therefore, evidence of child sacrifice at Carthage provides evidential support for the historicity of the biblical accounts which mention such sacrifices.” [7]

Critical scholars have recently sought to discredit or diminish the descriptions of Phoenician child sacrifice in both biblical and classical historians by complaining of prejudice in the authors who describe the sacrifices. In other words, biblical prophets used poetic hyperbole against polytheists, and Greek and Roman authors wrote propaganda about their enemies, such as Carthage, in order to paint them as barbarians and to justify their own barbarity. [8]

But this doesn’t really fit the facts. First, because authors of different eras and vastly different cultures all wrote about the child sacrifice of Carthage. That is the definition of legally sound corroborating eyewitnesses.

Second, both Greeks and Romans practiced infant exposure, leaving unwanted infants to die of exposure to natural elements. So they didn’t condemn the killing of infants—because they practiced it. Their interest was not moral but theological. [9]

Thirdly, the archaeological evidence confirms that both biblical and classical authors knew what they were talking about. Such physical evidence of child sacrifice has been found in Phoenician colonies all over the western Mediterranean. The most famous of sites is the Tophet at Carthage, North Africa, already referenced above.

Lawrence Stager and Sam Wolff, archaeologists who had excavated the site described it this way:

The Carthaginian Tophet is the largest of these Phoenician sites and indeed is the largest cemetery of sacrificed humans ever discovered. Child sacrifice took place there almost continuously for a period of nearly 600 years…we nevertheless estimate the size of the Carthaginian Tophet during the fourth and probably the third centuries B.C. to be, at the minimum, between 54,000 and 64,000 square feet. Using the density of urns in our excavated area as a standard, we estimate that as many as 20,000 urns may have been deposited there between 400 and 200 B.C. [10]

The excavation site involves several levels that cover time periods from 800 B.C. to about 146 B.C. Earlier dates are below the water level and not accessible. Each level consists of urns that contain the charred bones of children, both boys and girls, from newborn to three-years-old, mixed in with charred bones of goats and sheep. These burnt sacrifices were made to Tanit and Baal-Hammon, the patron goddess and god of Carthage. Tanit is the equivalent of Astarte in Canaan. Some say Baal-Hammon is the equivalent of the high god El. But in Canaan Astarte was the consort, not of El, but of Baal, the “Most High.” So Baal-Hammon is most likely the equivalent of the Canaanite Baal-Hadad.

Critical scholars have recently constructed revisionist theories to describe the Carthage Tophet as not being a location of child sacrifice but a cemetery for children who died of natural causes. Stager, Wolff, and Greene debunk this skepticism by explaining several aspects that mitigate such revisionary speculation. [11]

First, the natural mortality rate of children at this time doesn’t match the unnaturally high mortality rate of children in the Tophet, thus indicating deliberate infanticide rather than natural causes. [12]

Second, none of the remains of the infants show the pathological condition of the disease. [13]

Third, naturally expired infants are usually ritually buried in foundations of homes or near the adults of the family, not in a separate cemetery.

Fourth, some of the inscriptions on stela above the urns describe sacrificial vows to a deity never seen in normal funerary stela.

Finally, burial urns of charred animal bones that are sacrificial substitutions are found interspersed with the children’s urns, something that would only make sense in terms of sacrificial rites. There were no pet cemeteries, and animal sacrificial substitution for humans was common though not universal. Some children were still sacrificed. [14]

Some have suggested that animal substitution evolved out of human sacrifice, but the later levels of Carthage show an increase in human sacrifice in later years, not a decrease, thus disproving the evolutionary theory. [15]

Child sacrifice was integrated into the Phoenician culture and the Israelite and Judahite cultures in a deeply affecting way. The biblical, historical, and archaeological evidence is consistent with each other.

I sought to portray the reality of ancient child sacrifice in ancient Phoenicia and Israel in my new novel Jezebel: Harlot Queen of Israel. To show how it was integrated into their socio-economic world. In one sense, the modern reader will be shocked at how it could have been so normalized—until that astute reader realizes its analogy with the modern-day normalization of abortion, child sacrifice 2.0.

___________________________

Brian Godawa is the best-selling biblical fiction author of the new novel series of spiritual war in the Bible, Chronicles of the Watchers. The first book in the series, Jezebel: Harlot Queen of Israel is now available. This article is excerpted from the book The Spiritual World of Jezebel and Elijah that is a theological companion book to the Jezebel novel.

  1. About Molech and Baal as separate deities see John Day, Molech: A God Of Human Sacrifice In The Old Testament (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 34-36.[]
  2. See, 2 Esdras 7:362 Baruch 59:1085:13Mark 9:434547. See Day, Molech, 52.[]
  3. Kleitarchos, Scholia to Plato’s Republic, 337A: Quoted in Paul G. Mosca, Child Sacrifice in Canaanite and Israelite Religion: A study in Mulk, PhD Thesis, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1975), 22.[]
  4. Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History, Book 20, 14:4-7, Loeb Classical Library, 1954, 153. Quoted in Lawrence E. Stager and Samuel R. Wolff, “Child Sacrifice at Carthage: Religious Rite or Population Control?” Biblical Archaeology Review 10:1 (1984), 14.[]
  5. Plutarch, On Superstition, Loeb Classical Library, 1928, 2:495. Quoted in Smith, Jr., “Canaanite Child Sacrifice,” 98.[]
  6. Stager and Wolff, “Child Sacrifice at Carthage,” 6.[]
  7. Henry B. Smith, Jr., “Canaanite Child Sacrifice, Abortion, and the Bible,” The Journal of Ministry and Theology, 93.[]
  8. Smith, Jr., “Canaanite Child Sacrifice,” 93.[]
  9. Smith, Jr., “Canaanite Child Sacrifice,” 99-100.[]
  10. Stager and Wolff, “Child Sacrifice at Carthage,” 2.[]
  11. These reasons were all drawn from several sources: A debate over child sacrifice: https://phoenicia.org/childsacrifice.html; Brien K. Garnand, Lawrence E. Stager,  Joseph A. Greene, “Infants as Offerings: Palaeodemographic Patterns and Tophet Burial,” Studi Epigrafici e Linguistici 29-30, 2012-13: 193-222; Lawrence E. Stager and Samuel R. Wolff, “Child Sacrifice at Carthage: Religious Rite or Population Control?” Biblical Archaeology Review 10,1 (1984).[]
  12. Garnand, Stager and. Greene, “Infants as Offerings, 193-222.[]
  13. https://phoenicia.org/childsacrifice.html[]
  14. Stager and Wolff, “Child Sacrifice at Carthage,” 11.[]
  15. Stager and Wolff, “Child Sacrifice at Carthage,” 13.[]

Secularism Cannot Account For Moral Absolutes But Claims To Be Absolute

Why does it seem that the world is running amok? It’s simple. We are sinners in need of redemption. How do we know we are sinners? Because there is a fixed set of moral principles by which we can compare our thoughts and actions and adjust our thoughts and actions accordingly. Steadily over time, we’ve convinced ourselves that such fixed moral laws do not exist since there is no way to account for them.

There is no neutrality. Dispensing with God and His fixed moral laws does not mean that morality is done away with. New gods are enthroned with new laws. We’re seeing it every day. N.T. Wright made the following comments:

One of the things I reflected on in the two or three years subsequent to the [9/11] attacks was this sudden interest of evil on the parts of the western leaders.  This told me something about the post-Enlightenment mindset which seemed to assume that because we had modern science and technology and modern democracy, the world was becoming a better, safer, and nicer place.

Most people who have seen the film The Ten Commandments on television have never seen Cecil B. DeMille’s introduction. DeMille had something more in mind than just making a film about a religious figure from the Bible. He considered his production to be so important that he came out on stage to deliver a short but powerful statement on the nature of freedom under the law of God:

The theme of this picture is whether men ought to be ruled by God’s laws or whether they are to be ruled by the whims of a dictator like Rameses. Are men the property of the State or are they free souls under God? This same battle continues throughout the world today.

The film’s elaborate souvenir book that was made available in theaters includes a preface with the title “The Law by Which Men Live”:

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS are not laws. They are THE LAW. Man has made 32,000,000 laws since they were handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai more than three thousand years ago, but he has never improved on God’s law.1

Law is an inescapable concept. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Every religion consists of moral precepts, and of dogmas.”2 There is a corollary to Jefferson’s observation: “Every non-religion consists of moral precepts, and of dogmas.” Jefferson himself proved this by compiling a moral philosophy in his Literary Commonplace Book.

Even the most lawless person has his own sense of justice. We hear people talk about “prison justice.” Prisoners will often judge other prisoners, especially those involved in child abuse cases. There are some crimes that even murderers will not tolerate. Someone is ultimately in charge: the sovereign individual where “every man does what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6), a single ruler who claims a “divine right” (Acts 12:20-23), the call for a political savior by the people best exemplified in the way Israel asked for a “king like all the other nations” (1 Sam. 8:22–23), a “we the people mentality” where the decisions of the majority become law or placing the final arbitration of what is right or wrong in the hands of five unelected Supreme Court judges.

President Harry S. Truman voiced the common and prevailing sentiment of his day:

The fundamental basis of this nation’s laws was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don’t think we comprehend that enough these days. If we don’t have the proper fundamental moral background, we will finally wind up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody.3

We cannot live within the fluid boundaries of legal relativism. There must be a definitive and final legal standard of appeal to justify moral decisions at the personal and governmental levels. If not, then one judge’s opinion is as good (or as bad) as another’s.

The Ten Commandments, a summary statement of a broader body of revealed laws, have been a fixed summary standard in America since before its official founding. Nightline host Ted Koppel stated the following in a 1987 commencement address at Duke University:

What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions. They are commandments. Are, not were. The sheer brilliance of the Ten Commandments is that they codify in a handful of words acceptable human behavior, not just for then or now, but for all time. Language evolves. Power shifts from one nation to another. Messages are transmitted with the speed of light. Man erases one frontier after another. And yet we and our behavior and the commandments governing that behavior remain the same.4

Now if we can only become a nation that believes all of this.

The following is a brief summary of the Ten Commandments related to their limiting nature regarding the civil magistrate.

The First Commandment states that there is only one God, and only He can save us. The State believes it is god and only it can save. Empowering the State has always been the goal of tyrants.

The Second Commandment forbids idolatry. The State has become an idol and is worshiped as a god when the Bible declares that the civil magistrate is designed to be a “minister,” a servant, of God to us for good (Rom. 13:4). The State continues to grow with the promise of political salvation and mandating its own definition of what good means.

The Third Commandment forbids taking God’s name in vain. Politicians appeal to God all the time and yet violate His commandments in the same breath. President Obama made reference to God – even singing “Amazing Grace” – in his eulogy for Rev. Pinckney and soon after celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling making same-sex marriage the law of the land. This is taking God’s name in vain.

The Fourth Commandment sets one day a week aside for rest. The interesting thing about this commandment is that it’s written into the Constitution at Article I, Section 7, Clause 2.

If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sunday excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

The State does not own our time. The French changed the calendar from the seven-day creation week to a ten-day week.

The Fifth Commandment defines the family. As we’ve seen the courts have redefined the family, and by redefining the family they can now rewrite all law in terms of that new definition. In addition, the State has become our new parents. “Honor the State as your real father and mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the State lets you live on.” Herbert Schlossberg develops this point in his book Idols for Destruction:

The paternal state not only feeds its children, but nurtures, educates, comforts, and disciplines them, providing all they need for their security. This appears to be a mildly insulting way to treat adults, but it is really a great crime because it transforms the state from being a gift of God, given to protect us against violence, into an idol. It supplies us with all blessings, and we look to it for all our needs. Once we sink to that level, as [C.S.] Lewis says, there is no point in telling state officials to mind their own business. “Our whole lives are their business” [God in the Dock, p. 134]. The paternalism of the state is that of the bad parent who wants his children dependent on him forever. That is an evil impulse. The good parent prepares his children for independence, trains them to make responsible decisions, knows that he harms them by not helping them to break loose. The paternal state thrives on dependency. When the dependents free themselves, it loses power. It is, therefore, parasitic on the very persons whom it turns into parasites. Thus, the state and its dependents march symbiotically to destruction.

The Sixth Commandment was legislated out of existence decades ago by the sanctioning of perpetual war and the legalization of abortion.

The Seventh Commandment in its prohibition of adultery is a summary statement about all marital relationships. The law prohibiting adultery rests on the creation mandate of marriage being between one man and one woman (Gen. 1:27-282:20-25). The complement of man and woman is what’s “suitable” (biologically and spiritually), not a man and man or a man and a woman. Jesus confirmed the creation of a marriage mandate (Matt. 19:1-6).

The Eighth Commandment prohibits stealing. Our nation’s outrageous taxing system is based on theft when people are given the right to vote to take money from some people so it can be given to other people.

The Ninth Commandment prohibits bearing false witness. Politicians bear false witness with almost every word they speak.

The Tenth Commandment indicts the modern State because it covets everything: life, liberty, power, property, authority, money, prestige, privilege, and our souls.

  1. The Ten Commandments Souvenir Book, Paramount Pictures Corporation (1956, 1957), was published by The Greenstone Company, New York, N.Y. []
  2. Quoted in Paul Grimley Kuntz, The Ten Commandments in History: Mosaic Paradigms for a Well-Ordered Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 170. []
  3. Harry S. Truman, Harry S. Truman: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President—January 1 to December 31, 1950 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1965), 197. []
  4. Ted Koppel, The Last Word, Commencement Address at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina (May 10, 1987). Quoted in Robert H. Bork, The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law (New York: The Free Press, 1989), 164. []