Guest Post: The Biblical Heavens and Earth (Part 1 of 3)


A couple weeks ago, Steve, who regularly comments here, left a comment regarding “the heavens and earth” spoken of so often in Scripture. He pointed out the relationship between Genesis 1, Jeremiah 4:23-26, and Matthew 24:35. I was intrigued by the little bit that he said, and our brief exchange led to Steve agreeing to send me his thoughts on the subject to be posted. I appreciate Steve taking the time to do this. Here is part 1 of 3:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Well, that certainly sounds simple enough. At first glance, Genesis 1 seems straight forward. But appearances can sometimes be deceiving. Upon closer examination, there are a number of oddities about the creation account. Why does God create light, days, and nights several days before He creates the sun, moon, and stars in order to establish days and nights? If the light on day one is sunlight, wouldn’t it have made more sense to make the sun first? If the light was not sunlight, then what light is it, and where is it now? For that matter, how does it make sense to make plants before making the sun? And why does creation begin with an ocean of water? It doesn’t say God created these waters; they just seem to already be there. And why is the account in Genesis 1 so different from Genesis 2? These are some of the questions I’ve pondered for a long time. Perhaps you have, too.

I would like to thank Adam Maarschalk for allowing me to share this study on his Pursuing Truth blog. This is the first post in a three part series on the biblical heavens & earth, and in particular, how this affects our understanding of the new heavens & earth and eschatology (the study of last things). The posts in this study reflect no one’s beliefs but my own.

To avoid possible confusion, let me make a few statements upfront about my beliefs. I believe the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God. I believe in the future Second Coming, when Christ will return in the flesh on the last day and raise/transform the bodies of everyone who has ever lived, making us immortal and forever abolishing physical death. I believe the new heavens & earth is a present reality here on the earth, and was established in 70 AD.

Taking a scientific approach to the creation of the heavens & earth

Since many readers will undoubtedly find the conclusions of this study unusual, allow me to explain how I reached my present conclusions. I first began to read and seriously study the Bible as an adult. My first major area of study was Christian evidences – is the Bible true? Because if the Bible isn’t true, then who cares what it says? Naturally, this led to the study of the creation account in Genesis, especially in regards to science. What does it say about the age of the earth, and what about evolution? I did not even consider non-scientific interpretations because #1 it seemed to plainly be speaking of a step-by-step, scientific process of creation, and #2 I assumed all non-scientific interpretations were the domain of liberals who didn’t really believe the Bible.

It is possible to read Genesis 1 with an old earth interpretation, and while it comes close to approximating the views of modern science, it was never a perfect fit. And the more one interpreted it in conformity with modern science, the more forced the interpretation sounded. On the other hand, the young earth reading of Genesis 1 seemed more natural, but it was incompatible with modern science, and it did not explain the peculiarities within the text.

Houston, we have a problem

At this point, I reached an impasse – I was dissatisfied with both the old earth and new earth interpretations, and yet I couldn’t see it any other way. I kept thinking, “If only I could understand it the way the Jews did in the days of Moses…” But how would they have understood it? They certainly wouldn’t have read it in view of evolution or the controversy over the age of the earth!

I got the feeling I was missing a key piece of the puzzle, and if I could just find that missing piece, the creation account would suddenly make sense, or at least make more sense. But I had no idea what that missing piece was. After several years of study with little to show for it, I threw my hands up in frustration and put aside the study of creation. Until…

A paradigm shift

One day I was in the Bible section of a library looking for something to read. One of the books caught my eye, a book on Genesis. The book was Genesis Unbound, by a Dr. John Sailhamer. Skimming the back cover, I came across one of the most ridiculous interpretations of creation I had ever heard – that the first two chapters of Genesis are not really about the creation of the universe. Ha, what a joke! So I checked it out on a lark for the entertainment value. I couldn’t wait to go home and see how he would try to argue such an absurd interpretation.

But when I started to read the book, the joke was on me. Here was a serious book, written by a serious scholar, who took the Bible seriously, and he made sense. Instead of reading the Genesis creation in view of modern science, which was entirely foreign to the original context, he read it in view of the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures. Whoa, Nelly! To quote a Third Day song, this new approach “hit me like a bomb.”

I had always wondered at the first chapter of the Bible being about science, when the rest of the book was not at all about science. Now it made sense – the beginning of the Bible wasn’t about science, either.

Hit by another bomb

Genesis Unbound dropped another bomb into my lap by pointing out Jeremiah 4:23-26. If that passage doesn’t ring a bell, do yourself a favor and go read it right now. No really, I’ll wait. :^) There is an undeniable connection between this passage and Genesis 1, and yet this passage is not talking about the destruction of the universe but Jerusalem’s destruction by the Babylonians (more on this in part two of this series).

I don’t think Dr. Sailhamer understood the full significance of Jeremiah 4:23-26. In retrospect, I suppose it was because his views on eschatology prevented him from seeing it. At this point having yet to do a serious study of eschatology, I had no such blinders. This passage not only greatly affected my understanding of the Genesis creation, it would also have a major influence years later when I began my study on Revelation and eschatology (especially Matthew 24:34-35). Despite having major differences with it, Genesis Unbound was clearly a step in the right direction.

The end of the age of science

But let’s get back to the question, how would the ancient Jews in the time of Moses have understood the creation account? How would the Apostles have understood it? Paul H. Seely wrote a series of articles on how the ancients viewed the earth, sky, and seas, and compares it to how the Bible describes these things. The articles can be found here:

http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Seely-Firmament-WTJ.htm

http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/seelypt2.pdf

http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Seely_EarthSeas_WTJ.htm

To summarize the articles, as they are quite lengthy (but well worth your time to read in full), the ancient Israelites believed the earth was a flat circle, the sky was a solid, upside down bowl, and there were two oceans, one above the solid sky, and one that was below and encircled the earth. This was not only the view of the ancient Jews, but it was also the common Christian view held for the bulk of Church history.

So when we read Genesis 1 in view of a spherical planet orbiting the sun, an infinitesimal speck in a vast universe, and a Heaven that lies beyond the boundaries of our material universe, we are reading Genesis 1 out of context. To put it bluntly, we are reading it all wrong.

The solid sky

Many years ago, I recall reading a debate between a conservative Christian and an atheist over whether or not Genesis 1 spoke of a solid sky, the “firmament.” Since at this point I was already convinced the Bible was true (based on the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ, the fulfilled prophecies in Christ, the kalam cosmological argument, etc.), and I knew that the solid sky was false, I didn’t pay much attention to the actual arguments. I “knew” the arguments for the firmament were false because they had to be false, and that was that. Now that I no longer had such a simple view of creation, I was free to examine the arguments in the historical and grammatical context of the Bible and go wherever the evidence led. And that led to a solid sky.

Young earth creationists (YECs hereafter) often accuse others of reading their views of science into the Bible, but they do the very same thing. The ultimate argument even YECs make against understanding the sky of Genesis 1 as a solid firmament is because it is scientifically not so. But if we follow the YEC’s advice and go with a simple, literal reading of creation, we find a solid sky.

On day two, God creates an “expanse” or “firmament,” depending on your translation. The correct translation is “firmament,” but for the sake of argument let us go with “expanse” for now. This expanse separates the body of water into two bodies of water, one above the expanse, and one below the expanse. The waters above the expanse are commonly believed to be the clouds, or the atmosphere, or a water canopy (how some YECs explain Noah’s flood). But we shall see this is not correct.

On day four, God creates the sun, moon and stars, and they are placed “in the expanse” (Gen. 1:14). But remember, the waters above are “above the expanse” (Gen. 1:7). The water above is the same as the water on the earth, as they were once one body of water, and now this water is above the sun, moon, and stars. Which scientifically doesn’t make sense. I understand some may want to read it another way, or may feel they need to read it some other way, but this is what the text says. At the end of the day, we will either respect the Bible and submit to what it says, or we will submit the Bible to what we say. There is nothing in the historical context, or the text itself, that would justify reading multiple firmaments. In my view, this refutes the young earth, old earth, and any other scientific interpretation of creation.

Corroborating the solid sky

There are any number of biblical passages that reaffirm this interpretation of Genesis 1. Here, we will look at but a few that are consistent with this understanding.

The Bible depicts not only an ocean above the firmament, but this is also the location of Heaven, where the throne of God is. The firmament is seen as being made of a solid glass or crystal, hence God is seated above the crystal sea (Exo. 24:10, Eze. 1:22-26, Rev. 4:5-6 & 15:2). Proverbs 8:28 tells us that when God created the skies above, He made them “firm.” Although the firmament was solid, there were gates in it so people and angels (and water, in the case of Gen. 7:11 & 8:2) could pass through.

The premise behind building the tower of Babel (which means “gate of God”) appears to be if they built a tower tall enough, they would be able to reach the firmament and break into Heaven itself. This is also assumed in the divinely inspired dream God gave to Jacob in Genesis 28:12-17, the famous ladder/stairway to Heaven. Again, the thinking here is that if one had a ladder or stairway tall enough, one could climb all the way up to the very “gate of heaven,” and enter into Heaven itself.

In 2 Corinthians 12:2, Paul speaks of being taken “up to the third heaven.” He wasn’t sure if it literally happened, or was just a vision, but he obviously believed it could have been a literal event. In the mind of the ancients, the first heaven was the near sky where the birds and clouds were. The second heaven was the higher sky up to the firmament, which included the sun, moon, and stars. And above that was the Heaven of God. So the way to get to Heaven, in their thinking, was to go straight up and through the firmament. Which is exactly how Jesus is depicted as ascending into Heaven in Acts 1:9-11. And when Jesus returns at the Second Coming, He will descend from Heaven into our clouds in the very same way (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

The impact on inspiration

All of this is not a problem for the more liberal minded among us, but what about those of us who consider ourselves (as I do) Bible conservatives, one who believes in God, believes the Bible is true, and takes the Bible seriously? It should first be noted that inspiration was never as simple as it first seems. Divine inspiration did not rule out the need for consulting other sources (Luke 1:3-4), and obviously did not grant omniscience (1 Cor. 1:16). Even Jesus, during His human life on earth, did not make use of His divine omniscience (Matt. 24:36).

Take Jesus’ ascension into Heaven as described in Acts 1:9-11. Even the most steadfast YEC knows that if you board a rocket in Jerusalem and blast off, when you reach the clouds, you ain’t gonna see Jesus. If you continue to go up, you’ll eventually break through the atmosphere into outer space. And guess what? You still ain’t gonna see Jesus. Because we know what the ancients didn’t – that Heaven isn’t up there. Heaven must be in some other realm altogether. And presumably the only way to get from here to there is to be miraculously teleported into Heaven.

So the only way to go to Heaven is to go “POOF!” And yet, Jesus didn’t go to Heaven that way, He instead went up into Heaven. Which is interesting, seeing as how Jesus was the Creator of the universe, and that He was from Heaven, so we know He was under no confusion as to the layout of things. Instead of going POOF, He deliberately goes up in conformity with their preconceived notions of the universe and Heaven. Jesus does not bother to explain to the Apostles, “Now you probably expect me to go up into Heaven, but that is based upon a scientifically inaccurate view of the universe and the location of Heaven.” Regardless of how we think Jesus should have done it, that is the fact of the matter.

So for those of us who respect the Bible, we should acknowledge the fact that God revealed Himself through the scientific views the ancients already had, even if they were inaccurate. Why didn’t God bother to correct the Bible’s human authors about the shape of the earth, or the nature of the sky, or the location of Heaven? For those of us today with a modern scientific perspective, that would provide further evidence for the inspiration of Scripture, but perhaps it would have provided (the appearance of) evidence against the inspiration of Scripture for all of those who don’t have access to modern science. Which would include everyone for thousands of years, and even many Christians today who still do not have access to modern science. It is important to remember the Bible wasn’t written solely for our generation or for our part of the world.

Also, God apparently used their beliefs to teach certain spiritual truths. God used their belief that Heaven was literally above the earth to teach that Heaven is on a higher plane, that is, a higher moral plane. This also reinforces a major point that God Himself is on a higher moral plane than any man, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways… For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9) and “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). If we aspire to go to Heaven, we must repent and purify ourselves, and be purified by God, hence the transformation of our mortal natural bodies into immortal spiritual bodies at the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:44-53).

Summary

The goal of this first post in this series has been to show the need to rethink the biblical heavens & earth. In part two, we will examine what the biblical heavens & earth actually is, and in part three, the new heavens & earth.

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Steve is a teacher and a preacher in the Churches of Christ.

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The Significance of the Overthrow of the Old Covenant System in 70 AD (Quotes)


“No matter what view of eschatology we embrace, we must take seriously the redemptive-historical importance of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD.”

–R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, p. 26

In the last post, Prophecy Teachers Needlessly Prophesy Horrors for Israel, I included a quote from Philip Mauro (1921) in which he said that many “seem not to be aware of the immense significance of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70…and the vast amount of prophecy which it fulfilled.” Mauro’s viewpoint echoes the understanding of numerous leaders throughout church history, as demonstrated in the quotes below. Many of these quotes also demonstrate a good understanding that what Paul said around 52 AD to the believers in Thessalonica was at the heart of why the old covenant system had to be removed, and why Israel was ripe for judgment:

For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost” (I Thessalonians 2:14-16)

On a personal note, I was brought up in a Pentecostal church from the time I was three years old (1981), attended Bible College from 1997-2000, and spent significant time in other church circles, but it wasn’t until 2008/2009 – through the internet – that I heard for the first time that some believers found spiritual or prophetic significance in Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. Before this time, I also hardly knew a single detail about the events of that time period (the Roman-Jewish War of 66-73 AD), and I suspect this was also true of almost every Christian I personally knew. 

The following quotes are adapted from The Preterist Archive, compiled by Todd Dennis, and have been arranged chronologically, ranging from 174 AD to 1997:

[1] Irenaeus (174 AD): “CHAP. IV.–ANSWER TO ANOTHER OBJECTION, SHOWING THAT THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM, WHICH WAS THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING, DIMINISHED NOTHING FROM THE SUPREME MAJESTY’ AND POWER OF GOD, FOR THAT THIS DESTRUCTION WAS PUT IN EXECUTION BY THE MOST WISE COUNSEL OF THE SAME GOD. (1) Further, also, concerning Jerusalem and the Lord, they venture to assert that, if it had been ‘the city of the great King,’ it would not have been deserted. This is just as if anyone should say, that if straw were a creation of God, it would never part company with the wheat; and that the vine twigs, if made by God, never would be lopped away and deprived of the clusters… Even as Esaias saith, ‘The children of Jacob shall strike root, and Israel shall flourish, and the whole world shall be filled with his fruit.’ The fruit, therefore, having been sown throughout all the world, she (Jerusalem) was deservedly forsaken, and those things which had formerly brought forth fruit abundantly were taken away; for from these, according to the flesh, were Christ and the apostles enabled to bring forth fruit. But now these are no longer useful for bringing forth fruit. For all things which have a beginning in time must of course have an end in time also. (2) Since, then, the law originated with Moses, it terminated with John as a necessary consequence. Christ had come to fulfil it: wherefore ‘the law and the prophets were’ with them ‘until John.’ And therefore Jerusalem, taking its commencement from David, and fulfilling its own times, must have an end of legislation when the new covenant was revealed.

[2] Tertullian (160-220 AD): “Therefore, when these times also were completed, and the Jews subdued, there afterwards ceased in that place [Jerusalem] ‘libations and sacrifices,’ which thenceforward have not been able to be in that place celebrated; for ‘the unction,’ too, was ‘exterminated’ in that place after the passion of Christ. For it had been predicted that the unction should be exterminated in that place; as in the Psalms it is prophesied, ‘They exterminated my hands and feet.’ … Accordingly, all the synagogue of Israel did slay Him, saying to Pilate, when he was desirous to dismiss Him, ‘His blood be upon us, and upon our children;’ and, ‘If thou dismiss him, thou art not a friend of Caesar;’ in order that all things might be fulfilled which had been written of Him” (An Answer to the Jews, Chapter VII—Of Jerusalem’s Destruction).

[3] Hyppolytus of Rome, disciple of Irenaeus (170-236 AD): “Come, then, O blessed Isaiah; arise, tell us clearly what thou didst prophesy with respect to the mighty Babylon [Isaiah 13]. For thou didst speak also of Jerusalem, and thy word is accomplished. For thou didst speak boldly and openly: ‘Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate as overthrown by many strangers. The daughter of Sion shall be left as a cottage in a vineyard, and as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city’ [Isaiah 1:8]. What then? Are not these things come to pass? Are not the things announced by thee fulfilled? Is not their country, Judea, desolate? Is not the holy place burned with fire? Are not their walls cast down? Are not their cities destroyed? Their land, do not strangers devour it? Do not the Romans rule the country? And indeed these impious people hated thee, and did saw thee asunder, and they crucified Christ. Thou art dead in the world, but thou livest in Christ” (Fragments of Dogmatic and Historical Works).

[4] Origen (185-254 AD): “Therefore He [God], also, having separated from her [Israel], married, so to speak, another [the Church], having given into the hands of the former the bill of divorcement; wherefore they can no longer do the things enjoined on them by the law, because of the bill of divorcement. And a sign that she has received the bill of divorcement is this, that Jerusalem was destroyed along with what they called the sanctuary of the things in it which were believed to be holy, and with the altar of burnt offerings, and all the worship associated with it… And what was more unseemly than the fact, that they all said in His case, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him,’ and ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth’? And can this be freed from the charge of unseemliness, ‘His blood be upon us, and upon our children’? Wherefore, when He was avenged, Jerusalem was compassed with armies, and its desolation was near, and their house was taken away from it, and ‘the daughter of Zion was left as a booth in a vineyard, and as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, and as a besieged city.’ And, about the same time, I think, the husband wrote out a bill of divorcement to his former wife, and gave it into her hands, and sent her away from His own house, and the bond of her who came from the Gentiles has been cancelled about which the Apostle says, ‘Having blotted out the bond written in ordinances, which was contrary to us, and He hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross;’ for Paul also and others became proselytes of Israel for her who came from the Gentiles” (Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, Book 2, Section 19).

[5] Lactantius (240-320 AD): “Also Zechariah says: ‘And they shall look on me whom they pierced.’ Amos thus speaks of the obscuring of the sun: ‘In that day, saith the Lord, the sun shall go down at noon, and the clear day shall be dark; and I will turn your feasts into mourning, and your songs into lamentation.’ Jeremiah also speaks of the city of Jerusalem, in which He suffered: ‘Her sun is gone down while it was yet day; she hath been confounded and reviled, and the residue of them will I deliver to the sword.’ Nor were these things spoken in vain. For after a short time the Emperor Vespasian subdued the Jews, and laid waste their lands with the sword and fire, besieged and reduced them by famine, overthrew Jerusalem, led the captives in triumph, and prohibited the others who were left from ever returning to their native land. And these things were done by God on account of that crucifixion of Christ, as He before declared this to Solomon in their Scriptures, saying, ‘And Israel shall be for perdition and a reproach to the people, and this house shall be desolate; and every one that shall pass by shall be astonished, and shall say, “Why hath God done these evils to this land, and to this house? And they shall say, Because they forsook the Lord their God, and persecuted their King, who was dearly beloved by God, and crucified Him with great degradation, therefore hath God brought upon them these evils.”’ For what would they not deserve who put to death their Lord, who had come for their salvation?” (Epitome of the Divine Institutes, Chapter 46).

[6] Eusebius (314 AD): “If any one compares the words of our Saviour with the other accounts of the historian (Josephus) concerning the whole war, how can one fail to wonder, and to admit that the foreknowledge and the prophecy of our Saviour were truly divine and marvelously strange” (Proof of the GospelBook III, Ch. VII).

[7] Athanasius (345 AD): “When did prophet and vision cease from Israel? Was it not when Christ came, the Holy One of holies? It is, in fact, a sign and notable proof of the coming of the Word that Jerusalem no longer stands, neither is prophet raised up nor vision revealed among them. And it is natural that it should be so, for when He that was signified had come, what need was there any longer of any to signify Him? And when the Truth had come, what further need was there of the shadow? On His account only they prophesied continually, until such time as Essential Righteousness has come, Who was made the Ransom for the sins of all. For the same reason Jerusalem stood until the same time, in order that there men might premeditate the types before the Truth was known. So, of course, once the Holy One of holies had come, both vision and prophecy were sealed” (Incarnation, Chapter VI).

[8] John Calvin (1509-1564): “So in this passage [Daniel 9], without doubt, he treats of the period after the destruction of the Temple; there could be no hope of restoration, as the law with all its ceremonies would then arrive at its termination… That devastation happened as soon as the gospel began to be promulgated. God then deserted his Temple, because it was only founded for a time, and was but a shadow, until the Jews so completely violated the whole covenant that no sanctity remained in either the Temple, the nation, or the land itself. Some restrict this [the abomination of desolation] to those standards which Tiberius erected on the very highest pinnacle of the Temple, and others to the statue of Caligula, but I have already stated my view of these opinions as too forced. I have no hesitation in referring this language of the angel to that profanation of the Temple which happened after the manifestation of Christ, when sacrifices ceased, and the shadows of the law were abolished. From the time, therefore, at which the sacrifice really ceased to be offered; this refers to the period at which Christ by his advent should abolish the shadows of the law, thus making all offering of sacrifices to God totally valueless… The Jews never anticipated the final cessation of their ceremonies, and always boasted in their peculiar external worship, and unless God had openly demonstrated it before their eyes, they would never have renounced their sacrifices and rites as mere shadowy representations. Hence Jerusalem and their Temple were exposed to the vengeance of the Gentiles. This, therefore, was the setting up of this stupefying abomination; it was a clear testimony to the wrath of God, exhorting the Jews in their confusion to boast no longer in their Temple and its holiness.”

[9] Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758): “Thus there was a final end to the Old Testament world: all was finished with a kind of day of judgment, in which the people of God were saved, and His enemies terribly destroyed” (1736).

[10] William Whiston (1667-1752): “Josephus speaks so, that it is most evident he was fully satisfied that God was on the Romans’ side, and made use of them now for the destruction of the Jews, which was for certain the true state of this matter, as the prophet Daniel first, and our Saviour himself afterwards had clearly foretold” (Literature Accomplished of Prophecy, p. 64, 1737).

[11] John Wesley (1703-1791): “Josephus’ History of the Jewish War is the best commentary on this chapter (Matt. 24). It is a wonderful instance of God’s providence, that he, an eyewitness, and one who lived and died a Jew, should, especially in so extraordinary a manner, be preserved, to transmit to us a collection of important facts, which so exactly illustrate this glorious prophecy, in almost every circumstance” (Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, 1754).

[12] Dom Toutee (1790): “St. Chrysostom shows that the destruction of Jerusalem is to be ascribed, not to the power of the Romans, for God had often delivered it from no less dangers; but to a special providence which was pleased to put it out of the power of human perversity to delay or respite the extinction of those ceremonial observances.”

[13] William Dool Killen (1859): “Nero died A.D. 68, and the war which involved the destruction of Jerusalem and of upwards of a million of the Jews, was already in progress. The holy city fell A.D. 70; and the Mosaic economy, which had been virtually abolished by the death of Christ, now reached its practical termination. At the same period the prophecy of Daniel was literally fulfilled; for “the sacrifice and the oblation” were made to cease, [168:5] as the demolition of the temple and the dispersion of the priests put an end to the celebration of the Levitical worship. The overthrow of the metropolis of Palestine contributed in various ways to the advancement of the Christian cause. Judaism, no longer able to provide for the maintenance of its ritual, was exhibited to the world as a defunct system; its institutions, now more narrowly examined by the spiritual eye, were discovered to be but types of the blessings of a more glorious dispensation; and many believers, who had hitherto adhered to the ceremonial law, discontinued its observances. Christ, forty years before, had predicted the siege and desolation of Jerusalem; [169:1] and the remarkable verification of a prophecy, delivered at a time when the catastrophe was exceedingly improbable, appears to have induced not a few to think more favourably of the credentials of the gospel. In another point of view the ruin of the ancient capital of Judea proved advantageous to the Church. In the subversion of their chief city the power of the Jews sustained a shock from which it has never since recovered; and the disciples were partially delivered from the attacks of their most restless and implacable persecutors” (The Ancient Church: Its History, Doctrine, Worship, and Constitution, Project Gutenberg, available at http://www2.cddc.vt.edu/gutenberg/1/6/7/0/16700/16700-8.txt).

[14] C.H. (Charles) Spurgeon (1834-1892): “The destruction of Jerusalem was more terrible than anything that the world has ever witnessed, either before or since. Even Titus seemed to see in his cruel work the hand of an avenging God… Truly, the blood of the martyrs slain in Jerusalem was amply avenged when the whole city became veritable Aceldama, or field of blood… There was a sufficient interval for the full proclamation of the gospel by the apostles and evangelists of the early Christian Church, and for the gathering out of those who recognized the crucified Christ as their true Messiah. Then came the awful end, which the Saviour foresaw and foretold, and the prospect of which wrung from his lips and heart the sorrowful lament that followed his prophecy of the doom awaiting this guilty capital…Nothing remained for the King but to pronounce the solemn sentence of death upon those who would not come unto him that they might have life: ‘Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.’ The whole ‘house’ of the Jews was left desolate when Jesus departed from them; and the temple, the holy and beautiful ‘house’ became a spiritual desolation when Christ finally left it. Jerusalem was too far gone to be rescued from its self-sought doom (Commentary on Matthew, 1868, pp. 412-413).

[15] Philip Schaff (1819-1893): “A few years afterwards followed the destruction of Jerusalem, which must have made an overpowering impression and broken the last ties which bound Jewish Christianity to the old theocracy…The awfiul catastrophe of the destruction of the Jewish theocracy must have produced the profoundest sensation among the Christians… It was the greatest calamity of Judaism and a great benefit to Christianity; a refutation of the one, a vindication…of the other. It separated them forever” (History of the Christian Church, Vol. 1, 1877, pp. 403-404).

[16] F.W. Farrar (1831-1903): “The Fall of Jerusalem and all the events which accompanied and followed it in the Roman world and in the Christian world, had a significance which it is hardly possible to overestimate. They were the final end of the Old Dispensation. They were the full inauguration of the New Covenant. They were God’s own overwhelming judgment on that form of Judaic Christianity which threatened to crush the work of St. Paul, to lay on the Gentiles the yoke of abrogated Mosaism, to establish itself by threats and anathemas as the only orthodoxy… No event less awful than the desolation of Judea, the destruction of Judaism, the annihilation of all possibility of observing the precepts of Moses, could have opened the eyes of the Judaisers from their dream of imagined infallibility. Nothing but God’s own unmistakable interposition – nothing but the manifest coming of Christ – could have persuaded Jewish Christians that the Law of the Wilderness was annulled” (The Early Days of Christianity, 1882, pp. 489-490).

[17] Philip Mauro (1859-1952): “It is greatly to be regretted that those who, in our day, give themselves to the study and exposition of prophecy, seem not to be aware of the immense significance of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which was accompanied by the extinction of Jewish national existence, and the dispersion of the Jewish people among all the nations. The failure to recognize the significance of that event, and the vast amount of prophecy which it fulfilled, has been the cause of great confusion, for the necessary consequence of missing the past fulfillment of predicted events is to leave on our hands a mass of prophecies for which we must needs contrive fulfillments in the future. The harmful results are twofold; for first, we are thus deprived of the evidential value, and the support to the faith, of those remarkable fulfillments of prophecy which are so clearly presented to us in authentic contemporary histories; and second, our vision of things to come is greatly obscured and confused by the transference to the future of predicted events which, in fact, have already happened, and whereof complete records have been preserved for our information.

“Yet, in the face of all this, we have today a widely held scheme of prophetic interpretation, which has for its very cornerstone the idea that, when God’s time to remember His promised mercies to Israel shall at last have come, He will gather them into their ancient land again, only to pour upon them calamities and distresses far exceeding even the horrors which attended the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This is, we are convinced, an error of such magnitude as to derange the whole program of unfulfilled prophecy” (Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation, 1921, emphasis added).

[18] John Piper (1996): “It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of what happened in A.D. 70 in Jerusalem. It was an event that, for Jews and Christians, was critical in defining their faith for the next 2000 years.”

[19] R.C. Sproul (1997): “The coming of Christ in A.D.70 was a coming in judgment on the Jewish nation, indicating the end of the Jewish age and the fulfillment of a day of the Lord. Jesus really did come in judgment at this time, fulfilling his prophecy in the Olivet Discourse” (The Last Days According to Jesus, p. 158, 1998). “The most significant, redemptive, historical action that takes place outside the New Testament, is the judgment that falls on Jerusalem, and by which judgment the Christian Church now [clearly] emerges as The Body of Christ” (R.C. Sproul, Dust to Glory  video series, 1997).

Philip Mauro (1921): Prophecy Teachers Today Needlessly Prophesy Horrors for Israel


This is a great quote from Philip Mauro, almost 100 years ago, regarding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, its significance in relation to Bible prophecy, and how popular beliefs on Bible prophecy speak to the people of Israel today:

“It is greatly to be regretted that those who, in our day, give themselves to the study and exposition of prophecy, seem not to be aware of the immense significance of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which was accompanied by the extinction of Jewish national existence, and the dispersion of the Jewish people among all the nations. The failure to recognize the significance of that event, and the vast amount of prophecy which it fulfilled, has been the cause of great confusion, for the necessary consequence of missing the past fulfillment of predicted events is to leave on our hands a mass of prophecies for which we must needs contrive fulfillments in the future. The harmful results are two fold; for first, we are thus deprived of the evidential value, and the support to the faith, of those remarkable fulfillments of prophecy which are so clearly presented to us in authentic contemporary histories; and second, our vision of things to come is greatly obscured and confused by the transference to the future of predicted events which, in fact, have already happened, and whereof complete records have been preserved for our information.”

“Yet, in the face of all this, we have today a widely held scheme of prophetic interpretation, which has for its very cornerstone the idea that, when God’s time to remember His promised mercies to Israel shall at last have come, He will gather them into their ancient land again, only to pour upon them calamities and distresses far exceeding even the horrors which attended the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This is, we are convinced, an error of such magnitude as to derange the whole program of unfulfilled prophecy.”

–Philip Mauro, “Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation,” 1921

For some good information on the historical events that took place from 62 AD – 70 AD, and the spiritual significance of many of these events in light of Bible prophecy, please see the following posts:

1. The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD, Part 1
2. The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD, Part 2
3. The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD, Part 3
4. The Spiritual Significance of [Events in] 70 AD

Visitors are also encouraged to check out our series on the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) and our series on the book of Revelation, for some good information on how these prophecies were fulfilled by first century historical events.

Debate: Michael Brown and Don Preston On Romans 11:25-27 (Video and Notes)


As announced earlier, a debate took place on June 3rd between Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Don K. Preston regarding Romans 11:25-27. The debate lasted for 1 hour, 45 minutes and was moderated by Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries. Don K. Preston is an author, pastor, and the president of Preterist Research Institute (websites 1, 2, and 3), and Michael Brown is an author, professor, and radio host (websites 1, 2, and 3). Both men have authored 22 books each.

The key questions for the debate were as follows: “Does Romans 11:25-27 state that there will be a national turning of the Jewish people to God? Are there any Old Testament promises made to ethnic Israel that remain to be fulfilled?” Both men had 17 minutes each to make their initial case, 12 minutes each to rebut the other’s arguments, 15 minutes each to cross-examine the other, and five minutes each for concluding statements. Here’s the video of the debate, followed by the less-than-perfect notes I took while watching it. (I’ve also included the video time markers for each section of the debate, and my additional thoughts are in red font.)

A. Introduction by Dr. James White (0:00 – 3:53)

B1. Michael Brown’s Initial Case (3:54 – 20:54)

According to Michael Brown, Romans 11:25-27 is about “ethnic, national Israel” and a future “national turning of the Jewish people.” (Will the unsaved Palestinians and expatriates living in Israel be excluded from this national turning because they’re not Jewish? Will Jews living outside Israel be excluded as well?)

Michael distinguishes this entity, Israel, from “the Gentile church.” (I’m not sure what “the Gentile church” is, since there is no Jew or Gentile in Jesus Christ, and no distinction – Romans 10:12-13, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11.) Paul is looking forward to the full inclusion of Jews, says Michael, not just a remnant. The “partial hardening” of Israel is partial in that it’s not for all time. This hardening, though, is still on Jewish hearts to this day.

–The “fullness of the Gentiles” refers to salvation for Gentiles.
–The church is not Jacob (in reference to Jeremiah 31).
–The wolf is not yet laying down with the lamb. (Paul demonstrates otherwise in Romans 15 by quoting from the same section of Isaiah 11 where it’s predicted that the wolf would lay down with the lamb. Paul applied this passage to Gentiles, in his day, putting their hope in Christ along with Jews. See here for more details.)
–We haven’t yet seen the renovating of the universe spoken of in II Peter 3. (I personally see Peter’s prophecy as speaking of the burning of the Jerusalem temple and the destruction of the old covenant system in 70 AD, as did Eusebius, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, and others in church history. See here for more.)
–The new covenant was inaugurated with the remnant, but not yet with the nation as a whole.
–“If words mean anything, _____________ has not happened” (in reference to a number of things that Michael Brown believes have not yet been fulfilled).
–The expression “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26) will not necessarily include all Jews, but will include many of them. (Is this because it won’t include Jews living outside Israel, or is this an admission that God only promised to save a remnant from Israel? I was surprised to hear Michael Brown say this.)

B2. Don Preston’s Initial Case (21:41 – 38:37)

Don Preston agrees that Romans 11:25-27 deals with ethnic Israel, and adds that verses 28-29 deal with ethnic Israel and Jewish unbelievers. Don lists the following Scriptures as providing the background to Paul’s teaching here: Deuteronomy 32:18, 43; Isaiah 26:21, 27:10-13, 59:1-21; Jeremiah 31; and Daniel 9:24-27.

–Both judgment and salvation are in view in Isaiah 26-27 and in Isaiah 59, including judgment for the shedding of innocent blood (themes in Matthew 21, 23; Revelation 6, 16-19; etc.).
–Hosea predicts both the divorce of Israel and God’s promise of remarriage for Israel. This is what Paul is speaking of in Romans 11. The remnant of Israel was to be joined with new covenant believers from other nations, and all of them made one in Jesus.
–God would slay the kingdom, but preserve the family.
–“Paul is dealing with the climax of Israel’s covenant history” in Romans 11.

C1. Michael Brown’s Rebuttal (39:16 – 51:13)

–The temple has not yet been rebuilt.
–Israel has not yet welcomed Jesus back (Matthew 23:39).
–Atonement has been made, but not yet received by national Israel.
–Isaiah 60 predicts that Israel would rise and shine, but this hasn’t happened yet. (What if the light that would shine was Jesus, and a remnant of Israel would rise with believers from other nations and shine with His light? See here for more.)
–Israel’s return from Babylonian exile in the 6th century did not happen with the expected and predicted glory. Those prophecies only happened in part.

C2. Don Preston’s Rebuttal (51:33 – 1:03:33)

–In I Peter 1, Peter said that the prophets looked into the salvation we have experienced in Christ, and they did not understand the time or the manner of its fulfillment.
–Hosea 3 predicted that the 10 northern tribes of Israel would be without a temple, altar, ephod, and sacrifices until the last days when David would be their king.
–In II Peter 2, Peter writes to the 12 tribes of the diaspora, referring to them as a royal priesthood called to make spiritual sacrifices. Jesus, of course, is exalted to the throne of David. Hosea’s predictions for Israel were fulfilled in Peter’s day.

D1. Michael Brown’s Cross-examination of Don Preston (1:04:36 – 1:19:36)

Michael Brown posed this question to Don Preston: “How was all Israel saved in 70 AD and how is there no longer hardening on Israel today?” The following are some of Don’s replies to this and other questions that came up:

–God never promised to save the entire nation of Israel. In fact, Paul quoted Isaiah in saying that only a remnant would be saved (Romans 9:27-28).
–The remnant of Israel was transferred from the old covenant body to the new covenant body. “All Israel will be saved” = The full number of the remnant will come in.
–Any hardening of Jewish hearts in Israel today is not in fulfillment of Romans 11:25, which was a prophecy for Paul’s generation.
–James, who also addressed the 12 tribes, testified that he was among the first fruits gathering of Jewish believers (James 1:18).
–Don addresses the fulfillment of Isaiah 2, in context of Isaiah 2-4, and Jesus’ application of portions of Isaiah 2 in Luke 23:28-31.

D2. Don Preston’s Cross-examination of Michael Brown (1:19:53 – 1:34:54)

Don Preston posed this question to Michael Brown: On what basis can we reject or look beyond instances when the New Testament writers spiritually apply Old Testament promises that, on the surface, appear to require literal or physical fulfillments? The following are some of Michael’s replies to this question:

–If a later interpretation undermines an earlier prophecy, it has to be discounted.
–“If the New Testament writers made void the words of the Old Testament prophets, then it’s the New Testament writers who have to be rightly questioned” (1:22:40). “Consistent interpretation says they made nothing void. They just gave further insight into the meaning of the prophets.”

Don Preston posed this question to Michael Brown: Was the establishment of the kingdom truly at hand when Jesus said it was? The following are some of Michael’s replies to this question:

–Yes.
–“We’ve been in the last days for the last 2000 years.”
–We are in the transition age that has many “untils.”

Don Preston posed this question to Michael Brown: Peter said, “The end of all things is near” (I Peter 4:7), and Paul said that the consummation (or the goal) of all previous ages was upon his generation” (I Corinthians 10:11). What is the significance of these statements if we are still waiting for the events of the last days to take place? The following are some of Michael’s replies to this question:

–“I take all those things seriously, including I John 1:18″ (“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour“).
–We live in a holy tension now, as many prophecies are not fully realized.
–“In Isaiah 49 the Messiah appears to have failed in His mission to Israel. And the Lord says to Him, ‘not only will you regather the lost tribes of Israel (national restoration), but You will also be a light to the nations.’ Hence, Isaiah 42 speaks of a persevering until.” (??? I had a hard time understanding what Michael meant here.)
–The national repentance of Israel (Zechariah 12:10-13) hasn’t happened yet.
–“We are living in the last hour.” (How is this possible if John said it was the last hour in the first century, nearly 2000 years ago? This would mean that “the last hour” has lasted longer than the entire old covenant age, which was 1300 years. See here for more.)

E1. Michael Brown’s Closing Statement (1:35:33 – 1:40:34)

“The Israel that is hardened, that has rejected the Messiah, will be the Israel that turns back fully.”

E2. Don Preston’s Closing Statement (1:40:47 – 1:45:49)

–“Isaiah 27 and Isaiah 59 foretold that the salvation of Israel would take place at the time of the judgment of Israel for shedding the innocent blood of the martyrs.”
–Jesus said this blood, from the beginning of Israel’s history until His generation, was going to be held to Israel’s account in Jesus’ own generation in the form of judgment.
–The time of the putting away of Israel’s sin in Daniel 9:24-27 is confined to the 70 weeks and the related destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, as Michael Brown concurred earlier in the debate. Therefore, the putting away of Israel’s sin in Romans 11 occurred no later than 70 AD.
–Judah had to be divorced in the same way the 10 tribes were, according to the Old Testament prophets and Jesus. In Matthew 22 those who rejected the wedding invitation persecuted and killed God’s servants. Jerusalem, the principal city of Judah, was to be burned at the time of the marriage promised in the Old Testament. This happened in 70 AD, and this is also in accordance with Revelation 18-19 where Babylon the Great (earlier identified as “the city where our Lord was crucified – Rev. 11:8) was to be burned just before Jesus married New Jerusalem. God married the remnant of Israel along with believers from all other nations.

——————————————————————————

Final thoughts: This was a very civil debate, which was great to see. Both men showed a high level of respect toward the other. I wish Don Preston would have given his perspective on “the fullness of the Gentiles” and also that he would have said more about “the partial hardening” that was on Israel. I understand that there were time pressures, however.

Personally I believe that only Jesus’ generation in Israel was under this hardening, in accordance with Jesus’ frequent statements that they were an evil, wicked, vile, faithless, and adulterous generation; and in accordance with His declaration that they had dull hearts, ears hard of hearing, closed eyes, etc. (see Matthew 13:10-17).

Concerning “the fullness of the Gentiles,” I personally believe this is not related at all to Gentiles being saved, but rather to the Gentile nations that had dominion over Israel from the time of Daniel onward: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. This period would end with the 3.5 year trampling of Jerusalem by the Gentiles (compare Romans 11:25 with Luke 21:24 and Revelation 11:1-2). The significance is that New Jerusalem, the new covenant community, is free (Galatians 4:21-31).

God’s promise of a new covenant for the house of Israel (Jeremiah 31) has been fulfilled in the church, the spiritual house built on the foundation of the apostles (ministers of the new covenant – II Cor. 3:5-6), with Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Your thoughts on this debate are welcome in the comment section below.

Matthew 24 Fulfilled: Quotes From 200 AD – 1868 AD


When it comes to the study of “the last days” (eschatology), Matthew 24 might be the passage cited most often. Known as The Olivet Discourse, it foretells earthquakes and famine, wars and rumors of war, the great tribulation, etc. Parallel passages are in Mark 13 and Luke 21. While many look to newspapers and CNN for signs that these events are coming to pass, it’s instructive to know that church fathers, reformation leaders, and others in church history looked in the rear-view mirror at these events.

The following quotes are commentary from various leaders on Matthew 24:34, the summary verse where Jesus says to His disciples: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (See also Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32). These quotes are buried at the end of a previous post, but I wanted to draw attention to them separately here:

Clement (150-220 AD): “And in like manner He spoke in plain words the things that were straightway to happen, which we can now see with our eyes, in order that the accomplishment might be among those to whom the word was spoken.”

Eusebius (263-339 AD): “And when those that believed in Christ had come thither [out] from Jerusalem [in obedience to Matthew 24:15-16], then, as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were entirely destitute of holy men, the judgment of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men (Proof of the Gospel, Book III, Ch. 5)… [When] the lamentation and wailing that was predicted for the Jews, and the burning of the Temple and its utter desolation, can also be seen even now to have occurred according to the prediction, surely we must also agree that the King who was prophesied, the Christ of God, has come, since the signs of His coming have been shewn in each instance I have treated to have been clearly fulfilled” (Proof of the Gospel, Book VIII).

John Calvin (1509-1564): “This prophecy does not relate to evils that are distant, and which posterity will see after the lapse of many centuries, but which are now hanging over you, and ready to fall in one mass, so that there is no part of it which the present generation [in Jesus’ time] will not experience.”

John Wesley (1754): “The expression implies that great part of that generation would be passed away, but not the whole. Just so it was; for the city and temple were destroyed thirty-nine or forty years after.”

Adam Clarke (1837): “It is literally true in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. John probably lived to see these things come to pass; compare Matthew 16:28, with John 21:22; and there were some rabbins alive at the time when Christ spoke these words who lived till the city was destroyed, viz. Rabban Simeon, who perished with the city; R. Jochanan ben Zaccai, who outlived it; R. Zadoch, R. Ismael, and others.”

Charles Spurgeon (1868): “The King left his followers in no doubt as to when these things should happen: ‘Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.’ It was just about the ordinary limit of a generation when the Roman armies compassed Jerusalem, whose measure of iniquity was then full, and overflowed in misery, agony, distress, and bloodshed such as the world never saw before or since. Jesus was a true Prophet; everything that he foretold was literally fulfilled.”

For a detailed study on how the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled by 70 AD, within Jesus’ own generation, see our Olivet Discourse page and this 4-part study (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) in particular.

Are We In “the Last Days”? The Last Days of What?


1. When did the Biblical “last days” begin? Before Jesus began His 3.5 year ministry? On the Day of Pentecost? In 1948? In the late 20th century? 

2. What time period or age are we referring to when we speak of the last days? World history? The old covenant age? The new covenant age? Something else?

3. When were the first days? Billions or millions of years ago? 6000 years ago? Around 1200 BC? The 1950’s?

4. When were the middle days of this time period or age? Logically, we should expect this to be the longest period, with the greatest number of days.

Amidst all the rhetoric about “the last days” being here upon us now in 2014, it’s evident that many have done very little to analyze these types of questions. Consider the following two examples, before comparing their ideas to what the Bible says about “the last days.”

1. A poll was conducted in 2006 by McLaughlin & Associates, asking “1,000 randomly selected American adults” the following question: 

“Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘Events such as the rebirth of the State of Israel, wars and instability in the Middle East, recent earthquakes, and the tsunami in Asia are evidence that we are living in what the Bible calls the last days.'”

They found that 42% of Americans agreed with this statement, and 58% of evangelical/born-again Christians agreed. See here for the rest of the results. From this survey, a majority of evangelical Christians in the US believe that events in the last 65 years or so prove that the Biblical last days are here now. The suggestion is that the last days arrived in recent decades, not a couple thousand years ago.

2. In 1990 the Christian rock band, Petra, produced a song called “Last Daze” (a play on “last days”) – from their album “Beyond Belief.” I was a Petra fan during the 90’s (I still respect them), and this was one of my favorites. From the lyrics to this song, it’s clear that they believed “the last days” are here now, and that spiritual delusion will intensify until the time of “the blaze”:

…In the last daze, the final haze
There was strong delusion to believe a lie
In the last daze before the blaze
They couldn’t see beyond their misty trance
To grab the truth and have a fighting chance
In the last daze…

Some say it’s a certainty
A sign of the times I am told
But I weep for the souls of those
Who will never return to the fold…

What does the New Testament have to say about “the last days” (and other equivalent expressions) and their timing? Here are a few examples:

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

“He [Jesus] indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (I Peter 1:20).

“He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (I Corinthians 10:11).

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-12).

“But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers” (I Peter 4:7).

“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (I John 2:18).

According to these and other Scriptures, Jesus lived and ministered in the last days. Notice the distinction in Hebrews 1 between God speaking throughout the old covenant period by the prophets, and God speaking by His Son at the onset of the new covenant period. The last days were linked to the transition period from one covenant to the other. 

We also see that Peter, Paul, and John wrote to believers living at the end of the age(s). John even said it was “the last hour.” This dispels the idea that “the last days” began in the 20th century, and it also dispels the idea that “the last days” began about 2000 years ago and continue until today. How could “the last days” still be here if “the last hour” of the last days arrived almost 2000 years ago? Consider, however, the real possibility that John wrote his epistle around 65 AD. Then it would make sense for John to say it was “the last hour” (of the old covenant age) just a few short years before it came to a dramatic end in 70 AD.

The old covenant age began in roughly 1300 BC during the days of Moses. It was made obsolete by Jesus’ work on the cross (30 AD), but was still “becoming obsolete and growing old” and “ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). This was its state for one generation – about 40 years. In 70 AD it did vanish away when the Roman armies came and burned the city (Jerusalem) of those who rejected Jesus’ wedding invitation (Matthew 22:7; Revelation 17:16, 18:8-10, 17-20). I believe “the last days” covered this transition period. I agree with Model 3 in the chart below (models 1 and 2 represent other popular ideas about “the last days”:

Duration of old covenant Last Days Began Duration of Last Days
Model 1 1300 years Pentecost 1984 years (and counting)
Model 2 1300 years 1948 66 years (and counting)
Model 3 1300 years Time of Jesus’ ministry 27 – 70 AD (Ended)

The new covenant age has already outlasted the old covenant age by 700 years (i.e. 2000 years and counting, compared to 1300 years):

Last Days Timeline

To answer the four questions at the beginning of this post then, I believe Scripture reveals that [1] the Biblical last days began at (or before) the time of the 3.5 year ministry of Jesus (27-30 AD); [2] they were the last days of the old covenant age; [3] “the first days” were in the days of Moses, around 1300 BC, when the old covenant was established, and [4] “the middle days” were the next 1200 or so years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, covering the time of the judges, the kings, and the prophets. In light of what Scripture says about “the last days,” how would you answer these questions? 

Here is what the great preacher, John Owen (1616-1683), once said:

“Most expositors suppose that this expression [In Hebrews 1:2], ‘The last days,’ is a periphrasis [euphemism] for the times of the gospel. But it doth not appear that they are anywhere so called; nor were they ever known by that name among the Jews, upon whose principles the apostle proceeds… It is the last days of the Judaical church and state, which were then drawing to their period and abolition, that are here and elsewhere called ‘The last days,’ or ‘The latter days,’ or ‘The last hour,’ 2 Peter 3:31 John 2:18Jude 1:18… This phrase of speech is signally used in the Old Testament to denote the last days of the Judaical church” (The Works of John Owen, Volume 19, pp.12 – 13).

For a more extensive study of the topic of “this age and the age to come,” please see this post.

80 Years Ago: False Date Setting In Zion, Illinois


A few weeks ago, someone (Brad Herman) posted a very interesting photo in a Facebook group I belong to (photo shown below). This photo captures the front page of a newspaper, published in October 1934 in Zion, Illinois by Wilbur Glenn Vilova. A few decades earlier, this newspaper had been titled “Leaves of Healing,” but in 1934 it was called “The Final Warning.” This particular edition reveals a lot about some of the dispensationalist/Christian Zionist thinking of the time:

  • Signs from Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) were supposedly fulfilled in 1922-1923 (earthquakes and famines).
  • The fig tree (Matthew 24:32) supposedly began to bud in 1922 with “the restoration of the Jewish nation.” (This was when the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was accepted into the Palestine Mandate).
  • Luke 21:25 (the “distress of nations“) was supposedly being fulfilled in 1934, the time of this publication.
  • The year 1943 was supposedly the absolute deadline for the “complete destruction” of “the Gentile nations.”

In 1906 Wilbur had taken over the leadership of the city of Zion, founded by John Alexander Dowie, who began to proclaim in 1901 that he was “Elijah the Restorer.” Dowie died in 1907 and Wilbur filled in as Zion’s leader until close to his death from cancer in 1942. A few years prior to his death, Wilbur put out this publication, sprinkled with some bold and false date-setting:

The Final Warning

Brad says he picked up this newspaper at a garage sale. Isn’t it interesting? I was especially struck by the deep pessimism about world affairs (they were in the midst of the Great Depression at the time), the emphasis on coming destruction for all non-Jewish nations, and the idea that “the fig tree” began to bud in 1922.

On this last point, it’s well known that numerous Bible prophecy teachers have taught that “the fig tree” began budding in 1948 when Israel became a nation, and that “God’s prophetic time clock was then restarted” after many centuries of prophetic postponement. The restarting of the clock in 1948, they said, left mankind with a maximum of one generation until the Olivet Discourse would be completely fulfilled. Hal Lindsey and others were, at one time, adamant that a Biblical generation is 40 years. When “the Rapture” and the Great Tribulation didn’t take place by 1988, some pushed the idea that a Biblical generation is 70 years, and more recently that it might even be 100 years long.

Others said that 1948 was “the wrong time marker” for the budding of “the fig tree,” and that the correct time marker was the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan. Now, based on this newspaper from 1934, there is evidence that speculation on the budding “of the fig tree” goes back to at least 1922. This chart shows the range of speculation discussed here, and how it has evolved over the last few decades as end-times prophecies continue to fail:

When did the fig tree start to bud? How long is a Biblical generation?
1922 40 years
1948 70 years
1967 100 years

Of course, I believe far differently about the Olivet Discourse, i.e. that it was entirely fulfilled in Jesus’ own generation in the first century. 

I also observe, from this newspaper, that Wilbur noted the rapidly increasing number of Jews in Palestine (57,000 in 1919 and 250,000 just 15 years later in 1934), without acknowledging the Arabs (Muslims and Christians alike) who also lived there. I also observe Wilbur’s expectation that “a Jewish nation” would be created there.

I’m very curious as to why he taught that “Gentile nations” had a “Lease to Life” of precisely 2520 years. Since he prophesied their “Complete Destruction” by 1943 at the very latest, he apparently believed the lease began in 577 BC. I’m not sure what is significant about that date, although it’s fairly close to 586 BC, when Babylon destroyed Judah and Jerusalem. Approximately 2520 years had transpired from 586 BC to 1934, when Wilbur wrote this (586 + 1934 = 2520), so maybe that’s what he had in mind.

What are your thoughts when you see this newspaper from 1934?

The Early Church Fathers and the Last Days of the Jewish Age


The following resource was compiled by Bishop George Kouri, an author and the pastor of The King’s Church in Jacksonville, Florida. He references the stated beliefs of Barnabas, Clement of Alexandrea, Origen, Tertullian, Athanasius, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus concerning “the last days”, “the end of the age,” and Daniel’s 70th Week (Daniel 9). This is not exhaustive, and there’s no doubt that leaders in church history have held quite a variety of views about these and related topics in the field of eschatology. When researching their beliefs, though, it’s easy to see that many did not view the Biblical “last days” as being about the (alleged) end of world history, but rather as the last days of the old covenant age. Here are just a few examples, as provided by George Kouri (all emphasis in the original):

BARNABAS:

Written anonymously around 100 AD, the “Epistle of Barnabas” is the earliest extra-Canonical source we have. Although not included in the Canon of the New Testament, it is an incredibly early documentation of the early Church’s beliefs about the last days. The Apostle John was probably alive when it was written. And although the authorship is disputed, we will refer to Barnabas as the author.

The Epistle of Barnabas sets forth the common view held by the early Church that the seventieth week of Daniel ended with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, as Messiah’s Day dawned and Christ’s Church was born. Barnabas writes, “For it is written, ‘And it shall come to pass, when the week is completed, the temple of God shall be built…in the name of the Lord.’ I find…that a temple does exist. Having received the forgiveness of sins…in our habitation God dwells in us….This is the spiritual temple built for the Lord.” (EOB, 16:6)

Barnabas uses the expression “the week,” but does not mention Daniel. Yet scholars agree from the context that this is definitely a reference to Daniel’s 70th week. And it is assumed by many scholars that the prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks was so well known and so widely expounded in the early Church that it needed no further explanation. The early Church did not avoid Daniel’s prophecy.

This early Christian writer connects Daniel’s vision of seventy weeks with the prophecy of Haggai 2:7-9 and the building of a “spiritual temple,” the Church. The author of the Epistle of Barnabas obviously believed that Daniel’s 70th week was fulfilled with Christ’s first advent. This was when the Old Temple was destroyed and the new “spiritual temple” was initially established. Writing in 100 AD he clearly believed the 70th week of Daniel was already completed.

It seems clear from this passage in the Epistle of Barnabas that less than a century after Christ’s passion (remember that according to Daniel the Messiah would be cut off in the middle of the 70th week), it was the widespread belief of the Church that the 70th week of Daniel was completed. It is certain that Barnabas placed the end of the 70th week no later than 70 AD. His mention of the building of the Church (which was able to grow largely unimpeded after 70AD) makes it probable that Barnabas saw 67 to 70 AD and the destruction of Herod’s Temple as the end of the Jewish or Old Covenant Age and the dawning of Messiah’s Day. As David B. Currie writes in his book, Rapture, The End-Times Error That Leaves The Bible Behind, “He (Barnabas) assumes his readers will agree that the events of ‘the week’ led to the building of the Church”  (Page 422).

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDREA

Within a century of Barnabas, Clement became bishop of Alexandria until his death in 215 AD. Clement taught that the blessings of the New Covenant required the end of biblical Judaism within the 70 weeks of Daniel. Clement writes of the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD in the prophetic language of Daniel’s seventy weeks, “Vespasian rose to the supreme power (Emperor of Rome) and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the holy place”  (STO, XXI, 142-143).

Clement of Alexandrea believed the Jewish Age, the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel and the great tribulation were behind, not ahead of the Church.

ORIGEN (185-254 AD)

A student of Clement of Alexandrea, Origen agreed that the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD marked the end of the Jewish Age and the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy regarding the 70 weeks. Origen writes,“The weeks of years up to the time of Christ the leader that Daniel the prophet predicted were fulfilled” (TPR, IV:1:5).

Like Clement, Origen also believed the Jewish Age, the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel and the great tribulation were behind the Church, not ahead of it.

TERTULLIAN

In 203 AD Tertullian wrote his famous treatise Against The Jews. This early Church father also taught that Daniel’s 70th week had been fulfilled in 70 AD: “Vespasian vanquished the Jews…and so by the date of his storming Jerusalem, the Jews had completed the seventy weeks foretold by Daniel”  (AAJ, VII; CID).

Contrary to modern postponement preachers and teachers, Tertullian believed the Jewish age, the abomination of desolation, and the great tribulation was behind, not ahead of the Church.

ATHANASIUS

Athanasius was bishop of Alexandria from 326 to 373 AD. Like the early Church fathers before him, he also taught that the 70 weeks of Daniel culminated and the Jewish Age ended in 70 AD: “Jerusalem is to stand till His coming (Daniel’s reference to Messiah’s appearing in His First Advent), and thenceforth, prophet and vision cease in Israel (the end of the Old Covenant or Jewish Age). This is why Jerusalem stood till then…that they might be exercised in the types as a preparation for the reality…but from that time forth all prophecy is sealed and the city and Temple taken” (INC, XXXIX:3-XV:8).

Athanasius clearly reflects the view of the entire early Church: once the Messiah had come, the role of the Temple in Jerusalem would be ended. “Things to be done which belonged to Jerusalem beneath…were fulfilled, and those which belonged to the shadows had passed away” (FEL, IV:3-4).

This important early Church father clearly believed that the Jewish age ended in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

IRENAEUS AND HIPPOLYTUS

Irenaeus was a contemporary of Clement of Alexandrea whose widely held view we dealt with above. Irenaeus and his pupil Hippolytus are the only two writers from the early Church period who believed in a still-future fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th week. They both placed the 70th week at the end of the gospel age and so are the first interpreters to postulate a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks (AG, V). Both predicted a specific date for the second coming that has long since come and gone.

But their belief in a future 70th week was never widely accepted! St. Jerome specifically pointed out that the number of years in their system did not coincide with the historical events they purported to cover. He wrote, “If by any chance those of future generations should not see these predictions of his (Irenaeus) fulfilled at the time he (Irenaeus) set, then they will be forced to seek for some other solution and to convict the teacher himself (Irenaeus) of erroneous interpretation”  (CID).

David B. Currie points out in his scholarly work, “As a point of history, the views of Irenaeus did give seed to premillennialism. But the early fathers of the Church strongly and universally denounced this concept. The early Church understood the presumptuous-parenthesis theory that rapturists employ…but they resoundingly rejected it”  (David B. Currie, Rapture, page 425).

The prevailing view of the early Church fathers was that Daniel’s vision of the 70 weeks was fulfilled in 70 AD. The final or 70th week began with the baptism of Jesus and his presentation to Israel by John the Baptist. The Messiah was cut off in the middle of the 70th week when Jesus was crucified. The abomination of desolation and the great tribulation spoken of by Daniel were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD.

These events marked the end of the Jewish age and the dawning of Messiah’s Day.

Day Trip to Columbus and Athens, Ohio


A week ago my wife, Jasmine, and I made a day trip to Columbus and Athens, Ohio. We spent about five hours near Athens, located 75 miles southeast of Columbus, visiting her older sister, her husband, and their first child (almost three months old). 

On the way to Athens, we spent a little time in Columbus, which is about two hours from Bowling Green, where we live now. Our first stop was for lunch at a Somali restaurant called African Paradise Cuisine, northeast of downtown Columbus.

African Paradise

Inside African Paradise

We both came to like Somali food when we lived in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota), and this was our first chance to enjoy it again since we moved to Bowling Green last August. Minneapolis has the highest number of Somalis in the US (about 75,000), and Columbus has the second highest number (about 55,000). Seattle and San Diego are third and fourth, respectively. 

Our plan was for one of us to order a fish entree and the other to order a goat entree, but we arrived before they had any fish ready, so we both ordered goat. Our meals came with complimentary mango juice, salads, and soup. We’ve found that salads at Somali restaurants are typically served with Italian dressing, and this is because Somalia was once an Italian colony (independence was granted in 1960). This is also why spaghetti with pasta sauce is commonly served as a side dish.

Goat Meat Meal

Meal

Less than a mile away was a Somali cafe, known as Safari Coffee. We stopped there for just a couple minutes to get a Somali tea (highly recommended) for the road. “Somali tea” is a spiced tea with milk (spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and black pepper, for example). The one at Safari Coffee may be the best I’ve ever had.

Safari Coffee

Before heading out to Athens, we took a driving tour of downtown Columbus on this warm, humid, and beautiful day.

Downtown Columbus 01

Downtown Columbus 02

Downtown Columbus 03

Downtown Columbus 04

Downtown Columbus 05

Downtown Columbus has a neat promenade along the Scioto River called the Scioto Mile, featuring swings, a walking path, sculptures, fountains, an outdoor cafe, and Bicentennial Park (more information here and more photos here). 

Downtown Columbus 06

Downtown Columbus 07

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This post can be found on the newest page, titled “Places,” where a couple other posts featuring places and photos are already located, with more to come.

Upcoming Debate on Romans 11:25-27 (Dr. Michael Brown & Don K. Preston)


Of all the questions asked by readers here at this site, Romans 11 has been one of the most popular topics brought up over the last five years, particularly the phrase, “In this manner all Israel will be saved” (verse 26). I’m glad to see that two well-known teachers will be leading a moderated debate on June 3rd concerning the meaning of Romans 11:25-27. Don K. Preston, the president of Preterist Research Institute (websites 1 and 2), will be debating this topic with Dr. Michael Brown, an author, professor, and radio host (websites 1, 2, and 3). Dr. James White, an author and speaker, will be moderating the debate.  Here is the formal announcement for this debate:

I am thrilled to announce that just this morning, (5-13-14) we confirmed final agreement for a formal, moderated debate between myself and Dr. Michael Brown, a very popular Christian apologist and radio / Internet host.  Dr. Brown has done some fine work in debating Muslims and atheists. He is not a “typical” Millennialist, in that he takes the Classic or Historical Premillennial view, which is in many respects, totally different from modern Dispensationalism.

Dr. Brown has a nationally syndicated radio program: “Ask Dr. Brown,” (also known as The Line of Fire) in which he welcomes callers to ask any question. On April 2014, Dr. Brown issued a challenge to any qualified preterist to engage in a formal moderated debate. Some listeners posted to me about that challenge and I responded, accepting the invitation.

You can listen to the debate, live, here: (2-4pm, June 3, 2014) Eastern time: http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/in-the-line-of-fire/listen-live/

dr michael browndon k preston

The debate will be on June 3, 2-4 Eastern Time (1-3 Central). I am particularly pleased to say that Dr. James White, of Alpha and Omega Ministryalso a noted Christian polemicist, will act as the debate moderator.

The Debate subject will be:

Resolved: The Bible teaches in Romans 11:25-27 that at some point of time in our future, “all Israel shall be saved” at the time of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Affirm: Dr. Michael Brown
Deny: Don K. Preston
Needless to say, this is a very, very important topic. Many Postmillennialists, some Amillennialists, and certainly, Millennialists of all stripes believe that there is yet to be a massive conversion of ethnic Jews at the time of the second coming of Christ. Obviously, I believe this view is not supported by the scriptures.
 
This offers to be a very lively debate, with a ton of information being made available. You don’t want to miss it, so put it on your calendar, and tune in!

You can read more about Dr. Michael Brown here: http://askdrbrown.org/press-room/

Here is the Scripture text which will be under discussion in this debate:

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins‘” (Romans 9:25-27).

Since Don Preston first made this announcement, I’ve heard that the debate likely won’t begin at 2 pm EST on June 3rd, but will be somewhat later in the afternoon. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to watch it live, but once the debate video is posted on YouTube or elsewhere, I plan to post it here. It’ll be good to see what these two men have to say on the subject, and there will be an open invitation, for anyone who wishes, to evaluate what they have to say and discuss it here (as well as to look at discussions that may happen elsewhere).

Questions to consider:

1. What is the blindness that happened to Israel? How long was it to last? Where else does Scripture speak of this blindness?
2. What is the meaning of “the fullness of the Gentiles“?
3. Who is Paul speaking of when he says, “all Israel will be saved“?
4. Is Isaiah 59:20-21, quoted in Romans 11:26-27, about Jesus’ first coming and His work on the cross, or is it about His coming in judgment and in His kingdom (often spoken of as His Second Coming)? Is Isaiah 59:20-21 already fulfilled, or not yet fulfilled?

UPDATE: The debate took place as scheduled, and I’ve posted the video, along with notes and time stamps, here: 

http://kloposmasm.com/2014/06/07/debate-michael-brown-and-don-preston-on-romans-1125-27-video-and-notes/