Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 2 – The Earthy Origin of the Church
Lesson 171 – Foundational Issues in Eschatology (Taught by Tommy Ice)
12 Apr 2001
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Dr. Ice—I’ve known him for a long time, for the last number of years has been working with Dr. Tim LaHaye and has been a co-founder of the Pre-Trib Research study group which is a theological society, a group of people who are articulating the dispensational view of prophecy that we’ve been studying. I think you’ll be impressed and edified by his ministry. It covers a wide-ranging area and tonight the lecture is to introduce us to the basic categories of prophecy and the historical record of what’s gone on in this field. You know the word eschatology; you know what it stands for, a category of Bible doctrine that pertains to the future.
Dr. Tommy Ice: It’s good to be with you all, I’ve listened to all the tapes, I’ve been here twice as an observer. In 65–69 our family lived in Prince George’s County Maryland, I went to Duvall High School in Glendale, Maryland, so I’ve lived in Maryland for a while, but I’m basically from Texas. Back in the early 70s … I grew up Southern Baptist like all good Texans used to, and I got involved in the charismatic movement in the early 70s, kind of the Jesus movement charismatic type stuff, and then I went to Howard Penn College, one of the eight Southern Baptist Colleges in Texas.
I started listening to tapes by a guy named Charlie Clough and he had a tremendous influence on my life in that way. Everything I’ve learned I’ve learned from him, so if you have any questions when I leave, you know who to ask. He really had an impact by his teaching, as I’m sure he’s had on some of you all. He really got me, what I think, is going in the right direction early on.
One of the reasons I got interested in prophecy or eschatology is I had become a Reconstructionist to some extent, that’s a movement within the Calvinist wing of Christendom, and they are very anti-dispensational. I’d gone to Dallas Seminary and I reached a crisis moment in my life where I was considering becoming a postmillennialist preterist. Some of you know what that means and hopefully more of you will know what it means after tonight. To make a long story short I didn’t, but I almost did; that got me interested in eschatology and I got involved in writing and all that kind of stuff. For the last seven years I’ve been working with Dr. LaHaye and he’s got a lot of stuff that we’re doing, stacked up for us in the days ahead.
What I wanted to do tonight is talk about some of the theological categories and some of the history relating to eschatology. If you have any questions about the rapture, or any of this kind of stuff, please ask me, during one of the formal Q&A times, or aside. If you have any questions about the history of eschatology I majored in church history at Dallas Seminary and have tried to learn some about the history of eschatology, and being interested and involved in studying issues related to Pre-Trib Rapture and all that kind of stuff, so you probably have questions and I could either give you a book or something to deal with it.
I developed an approach to the Rapture based on personal conversations with people over the years and I developed this little house diagram that shows that there are certain foundational issues before you get to the doctrine of the Rapture. There are four issues that we will be dealing with. I’m not going to be dealing with the Rapture tonight, but I’m using this little diagram. The whole issue of eschatology revolves around these four foundational issues. A lot of people aren’t aware of the different views of these issues and how they can be “cross-pollinated” and things like that, and give very complicated views of eschatology.
So hopefully once you learn these categories you will then be able to see that a person may be a futurist postmillennialist, he may be a preterist postmillennialist, he may be a preterist amil, you see what I’m saying, you’ll be able to understand where people are coming from and not seeing it as a blob. In fact, that’s why we wrote our book, Fast Facts on Bible Prophecy, was so you can learn the vocabulary and get involved in understanding what people mean by what is being said in the area of Bible prophecy.
The first foundational issue is the issue of literal interpretation; it’s always hermeneutics or interpretation; then premillennialism; then the issue of futurism; and the distinction between Israel and the church. These are the four categories that we’ll be dealing with. These are the basic arguments for the Pre-Trib Rapture that we’ll be dealing with that then result in a certain practical.
First we want to deal with literal interpretation. In my discussion over the years I’ve noticed that the word “literal” is used in at least two senses. One sense you’re talking about your system of interpretation, whether you are a literal or allegorical interpreter. And what we mean by this is that the word “literal,” if you look it up in the dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary, it literally means “according to the letter.” So when you’re talking broadly about interpretation a literal interpretation means to interpret something according to the text. In other words, based upon what the word is saying in its context, considering the grammar and all that kind of stuff. It is not based upon an idea that you have to have from outside the text, a secret key to interpreting that you have to bring from outside the text. That’s allegorical interpretation, where you bring something in from outside the text.
So literal interpretation understands the text according to what is written. For example, in the area of Bible prophecy Israel means Israel! Isn’t that amazing! And the church means the church! That’s what we mean by your overall interpretation, versus in the field of Bible prophecy, someone who says when you read “Israel” in the Old Testament we plug in the word “church.” That’s not in the text, so that’s a belief or an idea that they’re importing from outside the text. That’s the first sense in which is literal is used.
But there’s a second sense and in discussions, this is why I have an apple and an orange there, people who are opposed to literal interpretation will play a show game with you. You may be talking about literal hermeneutics and apples, and they’ll come in and give an illustration in different sense, an orange, so you have to know this and keep it straight and don’t let them pull that dirty little trick on you. Every word or phrase can be used in one of two ways. It can either be plain literal, we call that denotative for people who have been to seminary, or figurative or connotative. Every word or phrase is used in one of these two ways. In fact the context determines whether something is a figure of speech or whether it’s got a plain usage and can be explained by textual factors. It’s not some outside idea, but it’s textual factors.
For example, the reason I believe a thousand in Revelation 20 refers to a literal thousand years is because it’s in a narrative context where years mean years. But then you go where it says the Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the opponents of literal interpretation say well, does He own the cattle on the 1001st hill? You read the next line, knowing Hebrew poetry where it says He owns everything. So it’s true, thousand in that context is used as a figure of speech. But you can explain it, both of them from the context. So something is either figure of speech or it can be a plain figure of speech, something that’s said plainly. This is a different way than we’re talking about the first sense of literal hermeneutics, you see, where he’s talking about your system versus whether you’re talking about a figure of speech.
People who oppose literal interpretation, historically the argument against literal interpretation is if you interpret the Bible literally it will lead to absurd conclusions. Back in the early church that’s what they argued and today that’s what they argue. Why, if you interpret the Bible literally, then you believe John’s going to climb back into his mother’s womb; you believe Jesus was a door, all of that kind of stuff. No, we defined what we meant by the two senses of literal. We could say, for example, he died or he kicked the bucket, we’re saying the same thing, one’s a figure of speech, you can explain the figure of speech.
In fact, I was listening, when I lived in northern Virginia to an Oriole game, and this was the year the Orioles went to the playoffs and they played the Yankees and it was the game during the regular season where they clinched their playoff spot. And this literally happened; in the 9th inning he said third baseman was hugging the line. Now was he literally hugging the line or did it mean something else? Those of you who are familiar with baseball culture know it meant he was playing close to the line. Because in the late innings with a one run lead you want a guy to get an extra base hit. Then after they won he said, literally said the catcher went and hugged the pitcher. Did he literally hug him or not? Once again, knowing the context he hugged him. See, this is not that hard. People try to make it really hard.
The Bible is interpreted the same way. So we believe in literal interpretation, and I like this golden rule, some people don’t. It says “when the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense seek no other sense.” We’re not using the word “common sense” here in the sense of a philosophical term, it’s a literary term. “… seek no other sense, therefore take every word at its primary ordinary literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context studied in light of related passages”… see how the context … context limits the meaning of usage. People say the word “run” has over a hundred different connotations or uses, a run of salmon, he scored a run, she’s got a run in her stocking, run to the store, but in context you can always know what it means. You grow up in the language and we don’t have a problem communicating with this. So, “… the facts of the immediate context studied in light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicate clearly otherwise.”
[When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense, therefore take every word at its primary ordinary literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context studied in light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicate clearly otherwise.]
Down through the history of the church just a quick overview. I think you can divide history up in the ancient church up to AD 600 where you have theological definition. The medieval church was a time of theological darkness. In some ways it was a time of theological progress, but by and large it was a theological decline, especially in the western and eastern churches where the theology got so corrupt and the morality got so corrupt it led to a reformation of the church in the 1500s where you had some theological restoration. Then the modern church basically with Kant, the advent of Kant and liberalism has been theological decline, better known as apostasy.
During the Middle Ages, hermeneutics had declined so bad that they had developed what we called layered interpretive approaches. In other words, you have multiple layers of hermeneutics or interpretive prejudices. They had even gotten to the point where they believed—this was mainstream medieval Catholic Church—that every passage had to be interpreted to refer to Jesus. They misinterpreted the passage in Luke 24, where Christ was talking about the prophecies of the Old Testament where He said “these are those that speak of Me,” so they had to go and make every word and phrase refer in some mystical way, even historical passages, to Jesus.
So the Reformation restored historical grammatical interpretation to the church. In fact, Calvin went about halfway, he restored about halfway, he didn’t do it in other areas like eschatology and letting Israel mean Israel always, but he took a giant step, so much so that the Lutherans called him a Judaizer. That’s what you call somebody who’s too literal if you’re an anti-Semitic Catholic in the Middle Ages, you call them a Judaizer; that’s the name they called him. As time went on, by the 1800s they started applying literal hermeneutics to the area of prophecy. So as the modern church has gone down into liberalism, the conservative churches have developed, actually the hermeneutics in the last couple hundred years and applied to the field of eschatology.
Now the next area we want to look at is what we call the millennial issue. There are three basic views, amillennialism. Amillennialism basically teaches that the Church Age and the Millennium are one and the same, that we are in the millennium, and they allegorize the two resurrections in Revelation 20 with the first resurrection being spiritual and the second resurrection being physical. Do you know the word anastasis or resurrection is never used spiritually, in my humble opinion, in the whole Bible? Why? Because the word “resurrection” always refers to the physical raising of the body. But a guy named Tyconius in the 4th century with that allegorical interpretation of resurrection being when you get saved, so that the resurrection is a physical resurrection because if you have two resurrections, as the Scripture literally teaches, then you have to have premillennialism, and they wanted to avoid premillennialism.
So there’s a general second coming, amillennialism basically teaches one day Jesus just kind of shows up, kind of like that song that I really don’t like, you know, the market place is empty, the King is coming, it’s amillennial in its theology. It’s like everything is going along fine one day and Jesus just happens to come and everybody puts their hammer down and all that and we go to heaven. That’s not the way it’s going to be, there’s going to be a lot of blood and guts before that.
Then you have the resurrection of the saved and lost, and the judgment saved and lost all at one time and you go into the eternal state. Amillennialism is really very boring from a historical perspective because it reduces everything down to just symbols of we win. We do win, but there are a few details they’ve left out.
Postmillennialism is very similar to amillennialism except it’s got the idea of progress added, and they take the very same type of view but they say we believe the church, before Jesus returns, is going to conquer, is going to actually lead to Christ a majority of the world’s population and that as a result of that, the church will have such a great social, political, economic, you name it, impact that the world will become … “Christian-ized” is a term they like to use. They don’t like the term “bringing in the Kingdom” because the Kingdom is already here they say. I’ve always said about amillennialists, postmillennialists, if this is the Kingdom I must be living in the ghetto side of it somewhere. But the fact of the matter is they believe that the majority of the world is going to be saved and they don’t care what’s going on circumstantially, they say we’re not newspaper exegetes, we believe the Bible. So they think that that’s what the Bible teaches. The only problem is the Bible doesn’t teach that and it’s basically amillennialism with optimism thrown in, in that when Jesus returns at the end of this period, and they usually divide the current age into two phases, the age in which the Kingdom is advancing, and then the victorious age, once the church has gained rule over the world.
Then there’s premillennialism which is the view I hold, and that is that there’s the Church Age, Tribulation, second coming and after Christ comes back before the thousand year reign, and He reigns literally on planet earth, He’s going to actually be here for a thousand years, you can go to Jerusalem and shake His hand, you won’t even have to make a campaign contribution to do that. Then at the end of the thousand years history ends and we go into eternity. So premillennialism is the most complicated because it is the most literal view and it has a lot of details involved in it.
I believe the first resurrection is a qualitative term and there are multiple first resurrections but the first resurrection is not a chronological term. It’s a qualitative term referring to those who are raised with Christ and the second resurrection. A qualitative term refers to the resurrection of the unregenerate that takes place at the end of history. God, in a sense, collects the unbelievers in what I like to call the county jail, they are then taken to their trial and convicted and they go to the Lake of Fire, which in Texas is like going to Huntsville, the state penitentiary. So they’re not in the Lake of Fire yet, but the county jail and the penitentiary are an awful lot alike, just as where they are now and the Lake of Fire are an awful lot alike, but they’re two separate locations.
Support for premillennialism is, as we’ve talked about consistent literal interpretation, the unconditional nature of the covenants, the Biblical covenants that Charlie has been talking about, in other words, if He made that promise of land to Abraham, then He’s got to fulfill that promise. By the way I did the notes in the study Bible on Genesis, I think I counted over thirty repetitions in Genesis alone of the promise, the Abrahamic Covenant, in some form or another, around thirty times in Genesis alone. Now Israel means Israel, and that land over there, I just got back from it ten days ago, is real, is a geographic location where you can go all around the country and find archeological digs that have evidence of all the historical events that have happened. The Mormons, they’ve got the largest archeology department in America and they can’t find one shred of the supposed Mormon history that existed before, and they’ve been running around trying to find some. You go to Israel and you put a spade in, you go to build a road and you turn up something, you know, King David was here or something like that.
You have the Abrahamic Covenant, the Old Testament teaches a literal earthly Kingdom; the Kingdom is carried unchanged into the New Testament. Christ also supports an earthly Kingdom because He doesn’t change the language or literature carried over from the Old Testament. There are multiple resurrections in Scripture, we’ve already talked about; Revelation 20 teaches premillennialism. The whole Bible teaches premillennialism; it’s just that the thousand years of the link to this is the only time it’s stated in Revelation 20, although it’s six times there.
The early church was premillennial. The amillennialists, the postmillennialists have failed in history, in other words their view of history has not worked out. You’d think if postmillennialism was true there’d be one place where they could bring in the Kingdom of God.
I don’t think it’d do a lot of good even if 80% of the world became Christians, we can’t even get along in our own churches with each other. We can’t even bring the Millennium into our church, let alone if we got the whole world converted. And then premillennialism harmonizes the entire Bible. You know, where you don’t have to allegorize and it gives us a satisfactory conclusion within history. Amillennialism and postmillennial conclusion is supra historical. In other words it’s outside of history, it’s above history and Heaven, that’s not part of this history.
That’s just generally some support. If you look historically at the development of millennialism, the early church was premillennial to man, for at least the first 200 years. That was called chiliasm. Then it began to die out as the empire became Christianized with Constantine. Then I always like to point out to people you didn’t have amillennialism develop, you had anti-millennialism develop. They did not have a positive amillennial system until later. What you had were people from Greek backgrounds who didn’t like the idea of a physical kingdom on earth. It offended them, like Alexander of Alexandria, Origen, and eventually Augustine, Jerome who said in 399 “away with the thousand years.” And Jerome and Augustine drove premillennialism underground in the western church. So out of anti-millennialism came amillennialism.
By the way, I find that true today, people who leave premillennialism become anti-premillennial and then they look around; this is why they go to amil, and then postmil, they’re looking around for something to do and for some reason some people are offended by the biblical teaching. And amillennialism, as we’ve already explained was developed … amillennialism is basically a Roman Catholic view of the church.
It’s that simple, and it’s sad when some Protestants did not carry the Reformation on enough to have a truly Protestant view. I think premillennialism certainly would be more of a Protestant view than bringing over that Roman Catholic sick dead horse called amillennialism. Postmillennialism is where they got a little optimistic, you know, sitting around one night and I guess they had a twinge of optimism come in and there are some moments of optimism early on, some saved people like John Owen in 1652, but it really is Daniel Whitby who was a Unitarian, he denied the Trinity, was the first guy to really come up with systematic postmillennialism.
There’s no doubt that Jonathan Edwards and almost all the Europeans by Daniel Whitby, even though some postmillennialists today try to say that there was postmillennialism before that. But it didn’t become a system in the modern sense until, really Daniel Whitby in 1703. Then you had a revival of premillennialism.
In the late 1500s there was a study noted in the Geneva Bible about the Jews were going to be converted. In fact that study note was so influential that England, for example, that had banned the Jews in the 13th century, invited them back in. They had a whole session of Parliament and said you know, God’s not finished with the Jews. And they invited them back into England, back in the early 1600s—1612 I think, 1609, somewhere around there—based upon their belief that God has a future for the Jews.
By the way, that’s historically what anti-Semitism develops out of, is if you come to the place where you believe that God has no future for the Jews, then that often is the basis for developing anti-Semitism. Historically that’s been the view. That’s why premillennialism has never been anti-Semitic, whereas the other two, I’m not saying they’re necessarily anti-Semitic but they’re susceptible to that.
And by the way, the church or Christian nations were involved before Hitler in killing over five million Jews. It was before the 1930s; Christendom had been involved in killing over five million Jews, so that was nothing new, it was just an extension of anti-Semitism there. In 1627 you have some of the British and Germans becoming premillennial and then you have modern premillennialism which came on later on, in the 1820s when people finally got into futurism, as we will be talking about in a moment, and developed dispensational premillennialism which I think is the most consistent form of premillennialism. So that’s the millennial issue.
Then the issue of futurism and this is the area that most people have little or no understanding of, I find. And that is, do you see prophecy as past, present, future or timeless. That, as we’ll show you, really impacts the type of postmillennialism, the type of premillennialism or the type of amillennialism that you have. So there are four ways theoretically that a person can relate to time: past, present, future, timeless or atemporal. So guess what? There are four ways of approaching, especially the book of Revelation, but prophecy that relates to the rapture, the Tribulation, the second coming and the Millennium.
The first is called preterism; some of you may have heard this. This has become popular in the last fifteen years or so with R. C. Sproul’s conversion to preterism, among other people. And preterism is divided into three different types. There are extreme preterists, preterism and I’m sure there are people in your community that are full or extreme preterists. These are people who believe that there is no future second coming, that Christ came in AD 70.
For example, David Chilton, who was a partial preterist, became a full preterist. There is a guy, Walt Hibbard who used to own the great Christian book stores in Elkton, Maryland, he became a full preterist. There are people who are evangelicals is what I’m saying, and this movement was stimulated from the Churches of Christ. Not all Churches of Christ are preterist or full preterist. But it came especially out of Churches of Christ, and it’s come into the Reformed camp and some of these people have gone full preterist and say there is no future second coming. One of them told me at a conference one time, if there’s going to be a future second coming the Bible doesn’t talk about it. Of course my follow up question to him was, well let’s just presuppose that there was a second coming in the Bible, how would God articulate it in such a way that you wouldn’t mess it up? He didn’t know. I said well I don’t know either. But they say that everything happened in AD 70.
Then there’s moderate preterism which is what Sproul, Ken Gentry and others, especially in the Reconstructionist movement, are holding to. And I guarantee you there are churches in this area that hold to preterism. It’s becoming popular. It’s found in every metropolitan area now. And they believe most of prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70, but there is still a future second coming. You know, there are three or four passages left that teach the second coming.
The earliest form of preterism is mild preterism which says the book of Revelation is about God defeating His two ancient enemies, the Jews in AD 70 and the Roman Empire in AD 350. So they say that most stuff was fulfilled by AD 350. Hardly anybody holds that view anymore; almost everybody is either a full preterist or a moderate preterist.
Let’s look at preterism for a moment. What is it? It’s a Latin term which means … I debated a preterist named Ken Gentry; he’s one of the leading preterists. Preterism is based on a Latin word meaning gone by or past. So preterism holds that the Tribulation prophecies occurred in the first century, thus in our past. They usually, almost always, start with Matthew 24, the Olivet Discourse, and they say that the Olivet Discourse is (quote) “not about the second coming of Christ, it is a prophecy of destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.” And about the Book of Revelation they say (quote) “the Book of Revelation is not about the second coming of Christ, it is about the destruction of Israel and Christ’s victory over His enemies and the establishment of the New Covenant temple, the church.” In fact, the word “coming” as used in the Book of Revelation never refers to the Second Coming, but the main focus of Revelation is upon the events which were soon to take place.” David Chilton. [Note: these quotes and those following may not be totally accurate as I only had voice inflections to know when a quote started/stopped]
R. C. Sproul’s preterism, since he’s kind of well-known, says “I’m convinced that the substance of the Olivet Discourse is fulfilled in AD 70,” that means it was, when he said “the substance,” “and that the bulk of Revelation was likewise fulfilled in that time frame.” R. C. Sproul senior does see a lot of merit in partial preterist approach, in other words, he’s not a full preterist but he is a partial preterist.
Matthew 24:34 says, “Truly, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away until all these things take place.” So Ken Gentry says “this statement of Christ is indisputably clear and absolutely demanding of a first century fulfillment of the events in the preceding verses including the great Tribulation.” Of course, Matthew 24 is a passage that’s historically been taught for the second coming of Jesus Christ. He’s coming back in clouds, and in glory, and every eye will see Him. Well, they think that that refers to AD 70.
Sproul says “the cataclysmic course surrounding the ‘parousia,’ ” if you really want to be academic for the Second Coming you always say the word “parousia,” “as predicted in the Olivet Discourse obviously did not occur literally in AD 70. This problem of literal fulfillment leaves us with three basic solutions.” And here’s solution number one according to Sproul: “We can interpret the entire discourse literally,” heaven forbid, “in this case we must conclude that some elements of Jesus’ prophecy failed to come to pass as advocates of consistent eschatology remains.” That’s his name for us, “consistent eschatology.”
He says solution two is “we can interpret the event surrounding predictive parousia literally and interpret the time frame reference as figuratively. This method is employed by those who do not restrict the phrase to Jesus contemporaries.” In other words he would say that’s what we do. In other words, when we say “this generation will not pass away,” he says we allegorize that thing so that we can take the details of the passage as future or literal. That’s what he says about us, I disagree as I’ll show in a moment. I’m sure you knew I would disagree. “We can interpret the time frame references literally and the events surrounding the parousia figuratively.” This is his view, “all of Jesus’ prophecies in all this discourse were fulfilled during the period between the discourse itself and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, not literally,” in other words because Jesus didn’t come back bodily, “but figuratively.”
I say the solution is that Christ is saying that the generation that sees all these things occur will not cease to exist until all the events of the future tribulation are literally fulfilled. In other words, that is a different literal interpretation, but it’s a literal interpretation, you see, because even though the phrase “this generation” in other contexts does refer to Christ’s contemporaries, because it’s in an eschatological context here, in other words that phrase in and of itself doesn’t mean that it has to have been fulfilled during the lifetime of Christ’s contemporaries.
That phrase “this generation” is controlled by the context. And He’s simply saying that those who see the events of Matthew 24, in other words, the events of the seven year tribulation, they will not pass away until all these things are fulfilled. That is a literal interpretation of the phrase “this generation,” it makes sense in the context, and that way we’re able to consistently interpret the whole passage literally.
Now the problem with the preterist is the Olivet Discourse, except for Luke 21:20–24 speaks of Israel’s deliverance from her enemies, not her judgment, as preterism wrongly insists. In other words, preterists teach that the Olivet Discourse is God judging Israel for her rejection—that God’s finished with Israel. In fact, they often like to use divorce language: He divorced her, He’s finished. He’s got the church, His bride. The problem is when you read Matthew 24 it’s not about Israel being judged; it’s about Israel being saved. In fact I’ve pointed that out in many debates, I’ve never heard an answer from them, they always want to change the topic, because it’s talking about a future coming, just like Zechariah is talking about, Zechariah 12:10–11; Revelation is talking about, when Israel will be rescued at the second coming. So that’s why it’s talking about a future time period and that’s why He says “this generation shall not pass away.” In other words, during the seven year tribulation when over half of the world’s population is destroyed and the whole armies of the world are gathered against Israel, to wipe them out at the battle of Armageddon, they’re not going to pass away until all these things are fulfilled, including Israel’s salvation and deliverance.
In fact Luke 21:20–24 does talk about AD 70, about Israel being judged. It’s very clear that the armies will surround Jerusalem and the days of vengeance are here, and then it says at the end of verse 24 that Israel will be scattered among the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. I asked Ken Gentry a while back, I was teaching a class out in California at a seminary and I asked him to come in one evening and teach his preterism.
And I asked him when is “the times of the Gentiles” going to be fulfilled? He didn’t know, he couldn’t give an answer. He couldn’t give a textual answer; he started giving a bunch of theological … I said, “No, Ken, give us a textual answer, an answer from the text. [Don’t] just give us Replacement Theology language, because it’s not there.”
So this is a hinge, in other words, Luke 21:20–28 gives us a consecutive hinge because we’re living during the times in which Israel will be scattered among the Gentiles. We’re living during the times of the Gentiles, and then verses 25–28 talk about the future time of the seven-year Tribulation, when Israel is to look up because her redemption draws near, and Israel will be redeemed. So if you look at these passages it’s not that hard to figure out.
In fact, a friend of mine, Randy Price, we wrote a book together on Ready to Rebuild, the rebuilding of the temple, by the way, the book is dedicated to Charlie Clough, and Randy gave six differences between what happened in AD 70 and when the temple was destroyed. In fact, “the temple here described is not said to be destroyed, only desecrated. By contrast the present temple was to be completely leveled, not one stone left upon another. That happened in AD 70.” In other words, the future temple is going to be desecrated, not destroyed. Then he says that “the temple’s desecration would be a signal for Jews to escape destruction, to be saved, and experience the promised redemption. By contrast the destruction of the present temple was a judgment because you did not recognize the time of your visitation, Messiah’s First Advent, and resulted in the temple being leveled to the ground and your children, the Jews, within you.” See, these are contrasts or differences here.
So what happened in AD 70 doesn’t match Matthew 24. “The generation of Jews that experienced the tribulation during the time which the temple was desecrated expected Messiah’s coming immediately after” it says “immediately after the tribulation of these days.” Then it describes the second coming, “and was predicted to not pass away until they experienced it. By contrast, the Jewish generation that saw the temple destroyed would pass away and two thousand years to date have passed without redemption.” You know, ask a preterist, “Are the Jews redeemed?” They’ll probably want to give you some Replacement Theology—they’re always talking about the church, or it’s talking about elect Jews. That’s what Gary DeMar told me one time, [can’t understand word/s] talking about the Jews who were saved in the first century. Well, they fled before the whole thing happened, to Pella; they weren’t even involved in this because they got out.
Another thing is that in Daniel 9, which talks about the AD 70 destruction, it’s said that the person who destroyed the city would be cut off. And Titus, who destroyed the city, went back to Rome. Remember, they built Titus’ Arch in victory, he wasn’t cut off. So these events haven’t happened.
How do they deal with Revelation? Well, they go to Revelation and they say they’re timing texts, these events “must shortly take place,” “the time is near,” “I am coming quickly,” “behold, I am coming quickly,” “these things must take place shortly,” “behold, I am coming quickly for the time is near,” “I am coming quickly, yes I am coming quickly,” and they say that is like Matthew 24, in other words saying that this thing had to happen within the generation.
The problem with that view is that first of all, the leading Greek Lexicon, Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich says that the Greek word for “quickly” tacheos, has the emphasis on quickness or suddenness. And we also find that Blass Debrunner, which is the world class number one grammar in all of scholarship, lists four types of adverbs; these are adjectives that are used adverbially, by the way, and it has an adverb of time, an adverb of manner. It doesn’t classify tacheos as an adverb of time, which is what would be required if preterists were correct. Instead, it uses as its illustration of an adverb of manner the whole tacheos family, in other words saying that’s how something is going to happen. In other words, when Christ comes it’s going to be sudden and quickly.
If I had more time we could go to Deuteronomy and all throughout the Old Testament related to judgment passages is a picture that’s described in 1 Thessalonians 5 that the unbeliever is never ready, he’s never prepared for God’s judgment and it comes suddenly and surprisingly to him. That’s the picture, that’s what he’s saying, there’s not going to be any other intervening events, we call this imminency, that the next time He shows up there’s going to be no warning, it’s going to pop out there and that’s why he [blank spot]
… we’re coming out with a book in about a year that’s going to be about a 500-page book against preterism, and among other things, we’ll show that the book of Revelation was written at least 30 years after AD 70, so Revelation cannot be a prophecy about this.
Besides, if the word tacheos and engus were words talking about something had to happen quickly it would mean the whole book of Revelation, because it’s used in Revelation 22:6 of the whole book; that would mean that we’re in the new heavens and the new earth, and the whole book of Revelation would have been fulfilled and that’s what most preterists believe.
A moment ago I said I thought the Millennium was … we were in a millennial ghetto, well just think if we were in the new heavens and the new earth which some of them believe, you know, no tears, nor more pain, no more crying, new bodies and all this kind of stuff. What are these people doing getting married, because in the age to come people won’t marry or give in marriage? Do you see what I’m saying? This stuff leads to absurdity and they think we’re stupid because we take the Bible literally. That’s preterism and I spent a lot of time on it because it’s kind of a hot new thing and I’ve been involved in dealing with it.
The next issue is historicism, in other words, believe that the whole Church Age is in essence equal to the Tribulation and that’s called historicism, and it’s the belief that different events of the book of Revelation are being fulfilled through European history of the last 2,000 years. In other words it believes that the Pope is the antichrist. By the way, that view was developed by a Catholic in the Middle Ages. I wish I had time to go into this, I don’t, but they developed that view themselves.
The year-day theory, they believe that 1,230 days, in the books of Daniel and Revelation were really 1,230 years, so since the Tribulation started in 333, then you add 333 to that and you come up with 1500 something, and that was why Luther set a date for the Second Coming as something like 1562 based upon that logic and method.
The seal, trumpet bowl judgments were fulfilled by European events during the last 2,000 years so that a historicist believes …, and you can be premil, postmil, or amil and be historicist. Some of the few historicists that are still left today are Seventh Day Adventists. Mormons were historicists. The wacko from Waco, Seventh Day Adventist, he was a premillennialist all right, but he was a very different kind of premillennialist than a futurist because he believed the whole Church Age were all these events in the Book of Revelation are leading up to Armageddon and the Second coming.
So that’s why they’re the biggest date setters. There’s a lot less date setting going on now a days than there was a hundred years ago. There are some out there that get a lot of publicity but date setting used to be a standard thing. All the academic guys used to do it a few hundred years ago. So historicism is a form.
Then there’s futurism, and futurism is what I believe, i.e., that the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Second Coming, and the Millennium are future events. These are things, we’re living here in the Church Age and these events all are future to our time, so that’s called futurism. And that’s really the outgrowth of if you believe a prophecy a prophecy has been fulfilled or not. If you take it literally, then half of the prophecies of the Bible have not been fulfilled. We’ve got them all listed in our prophecy study Bible. Therefore, if they haven’t been fulfilled yet, then they’re future. That’s basically the argument for futurism.
Then idealism is the view that teaches, oh Lord, either we can’t know or God hasn’t told us when things are going to happen chronologically. Of course, that’s amazing to me because you’ve got all these numbers and time frame references and all this kind of stuff in the Book of Revelation. But idealists teach that all we can know is that we win in the end; it’s all going to work out in the end. As I said earlier, I know we’re going to win but, you know, God’s given us a few details.
Let’s look at prophetic timing in millennial views. In other words, what are the mixes, and that’s where people get confused. By knowing some of these principles and knowing what to look for you’re able to know, can you be a preterist and be an amil? Yes. What about postmil? Yes. Jay Adams is an amil preterist. By the way, he’s from around this area. But you cannot be a preterist and be a premil. Why? Because the Millennium is in the future, it’s impossible.
Can you be an historicist and be amil, premil, or postmil? Yes on all three counts, because that’s relating to the Tribulation. But you can’t be pre-trib if you’re a historicist.
Futurism, you can’t be an amil and be a futurist. Why? Because history is just a blob. But you can be a postmil futurist and a premil futurist.
What about an idealist? Amils and postmils can but premillennialism’s whole system is based on timing, so you can’t be atemporal and related to that.
What about the Tribulation and the Rapture? Preterists cannot be pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib. Why? Because the Tribulation has already happened. Historicists, you cannot be pre-trib. Why? Because we’re in the Tribulation.
You can theoretically be mid-trib. You can certainly be post-trib. Can a futurist be pre, mid or post? Yes. A futurist can be all three of those. Idealism; all nos. I’m just saying this is how a lot of this stuff works out.
The fourth area is the distinction between Israel and the church that we know as dispensationalism. In other words, what about a distinction between God’s plan for Israel, and God’s plan for the church? What we’re saying is that if you take the Bible literally, then God has an unfinished program for Israel, does He not? The 70th week of Daniel has not happened yet. The Kingdom has been postponed, plus there are dozens, probably hundreds, of prophecies in the Old Testament that says that Israel is going to disobey, Israel is going to be punished, but in the end Israel is going to come back.
And I’ve asked many non-premillennial theologians when has Israel come back? When has Israel repented? When has Israel trusted the Lord? And they either say they haven’t or they have to say oh that’s code language for the church. Well then why were all the curses for Israel but the church gets the blessings. It doesn’t make sense, you know you’re changing horses in mid-stream, because when those prophecies were given, they were talking about the same people throughout the whole prophecy, and you’re coming in and simply ripping off part of the prophecy that hasn’t been fulfilled yet and just saying it refers to the church.
So God’s clearly got an unfinished plan for Israel. Besides, that’s why they’re the only people who’ve left their country, who’ve been scattered across the world and maintained their identity. No one else has done it. That’s why they’re back in the land.
In fact R. C. Sproul said at a conference I was at two years ago it almost made him become a premillennialist, you know, the fact that Israel is back in the land, almost he said. But I guess theory is more powerful than fact in that case.
So Israel is not finished and that’s why you have the Church Age. Acts 15 says that God was taking out from among the Gentiles a people for His name. Ephesians 2–3 says that God was taking the Jewish remnant and the Gentiles who are saved, and putting them into one new man called the church, a co-equal status during the Church Age. You can’t have Israel fulfilling in the millennium her promises of being the head and not the tail, of ruling over the nations, and have the Church Age intact at the same time.
So that provides the basis for the church being a mystery or secret that was not predicted in the Old Testament; that’s said three times in the New Testament, Romans 16, Ephesians 1–3, actually chapter 3, and Colossians 1. It says specifically that the church was a mystery or unrevealed secret in the Old Testament. It was part of God’s plan all along; He just didn’t tell us about it. That’s why it began suddenly and this is why the rapture is a mechanism that ends the Church Age so that God can turn around and complete His plan with Israel.
So you need to believe in the distinction between God’s plan for Israel and the church. In fact, as I’ve said earlier, there is a progress of development of doctrine throughout Scripture. I got this from Charlie years ago, a book was written by J. Edwin Orr about a hundred years ago, he was a postmillennialist by the way, and he taught that down through history that doctrine was developed by the church in a logical way. It didn’t just develop haphazardly, and that there is a certain logic to systematic theology. You know, you start with the doctrine of God, then you go out developing these things, because you can’t develop eschatology until the end. Why? Because all your other areas of theology have to be developed before you can develop eschatology, because what’s eschatology? It’s simply the doctrine of how everything is going to end.
So theological prolegomenon and Bibliology was dealt with in the early church, and then the issue of Christ and the Trinity was dealt with by the 4th century, by the time of Augustine. The doctrine of anthropology at the Council of Orange in 451; the nature of man and the doctrine of sin, and then you had Christology, the doctrine of the person and work of Christ. Do you realize the substitutionary atonement was not developed until the 1100s? Do you realize that, with Anselm?
Do you realize the early church held this ransom-to-Satan theory, kind of like what Kenneth Copeland holds, that God paid off the devil. The substitutionary atonement view wasn’t taught theologically until the Middle Ages, along with some of the developments relating to the doctrine of the person of Christ. And the doctrine of justification by faith was not articulated until Luther came along. It was talked about in a very sloppy fashion but it wasn’t articulated in a clear way. So there’s been a progress of the church’s understanding, not new revelation but a progress in understanding doctrine as time goes on.
Then the doctrine of the church was developed, ecclesiology, you can’t have a state church and have the concept of the body of Christ. Do you see what I’m saying? A believing church that gets raptured out, you see, if everybody is a member of it. That view didn’t really develop until, really post-Reformation times, and then eschatology, as I said a moment ago, the doctrine of last things, has only been developed in a consistently literal way in the last two hundred years.
Now, Rapture views. There’s the Pre-Trib Rapture view, and that is that the Rapture will take place before the Tribulation and will include all believers. As executive director of Pre-Trib Research Center, that gives you a clue what I believe, i.e., that the Rapture ends the Church Age, and the covenant starts the Tribulation; the Rapture doesn’t start the Tribulation, it ends the Church Age, and there could be a period of days, weeks, or years between the Rapture and the start of the Tribulation, but the signing of the covenant starts that.
Then there is the partial-Rapture view that teaches that the Rapture is only those faithful who are totally dedicated Christians will be caught up, leaving carnal Christians behind to be chastened by the Tribulation. Of course, this view doesn’t make sense, I mean if you’re not doing good during the Church Age which is not near as tough as the Tribulation is going to be, then why would you do better during the Tribulation? It doesn’t make sense.
Then there is the Mid-trib Rapture view which teaches the Rapture occurs in the middle of the Tribulation, and thus believers endure the first half, so they go through the first half of Daniel’s 70th Week. That’s kind of like the guy during the Civil War who couldn’t decide whether he wanted to be on the North or the South so he put a blue top on and a gray bottom and got shot from both sides.
But the Post-Trib Rapture view teaches that the Rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation forcing all believers to endure the seven-year Tribulation. There are two types of post-tribulationalism—there are actually at least four kinds, but I don’t want to get into that. And that is that some that equate the Second Coming and the Rapture as the same event, and others that have the Rapture taking place right before the Second Coming, where Christians kind of got up and they go back down, we call that the “yo-yo Rapture view”.
But people always say the Pre-Trib Rapture wasn’t found in the early church. Well, we found, just seven or eight years ago a Canadian named Grant Jeffrey called me up when we were in Washington D.C., and he’d found a Rapture statement in a sermon from 373 AD by a guy named Pseudo-Ephraem, it was called “On the last times of the antichrist and the end of the world.” And this was not even translated into English, we found a Latin …, we saw the quote in English but we had to pay somebody to translate this 1472 Latin word sermon into English.
By the way, there are at least 500 volumes of church history stuff in the Vatican and places like that that people haven’t even got to read yet, except for a few Catholics, you know, the approved ones. So we don’t even know everything that’s out there. But he said “why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ so that He may draw us from the confusion which overwhelms all the world, for all the saints and elect of God are gathered prior to the Tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord, lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins.”
We wrote an article that appeared in Bibliotheca Sacra arguing that this seems like a Pre-Trib Rapture statement from the 4th century. Robert Gundry wrote a rebuttal and then in a book called The Return I wrote a rebuttal of his rebuttal. I think that’s called a surrejoinder, something like that.
Then we found a statement by Morgan Edwards who wrote this in 1744 while still at Bristol College in England. See Darby allegedly came up with the [idea of the] Rapture in 1830, so 1744 would be a little bit before 1830, right? I think it still would be even with modern learning. This guy basically says, and this is a quote, “there’ll be the first and second resurrections somewhat more than a thousand years, I say somewhat more because the dead saints will be raised and the living changed as Christ appears in the air.” He even uses 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “and this will be about three years and a half before the millennium.” See a lot of people up until recently held the Tribulation was only three and a half years. They didn’t start with Daniel’s 70 weeks, they would just go to three and a half years out of the Book of Revelation, that’s what he’s doing. So the Tribulation for him was three and a half years. “As we shall see hereafter, but will He and they abide in the air all that time.”
See, for a thousand years, or really fifteen hundred years, actually Jerome taught this, that there would be a Rapture at the Second Coming and Christians would hover in the air for 45 days, from Daniel 12, and the earth would be renovated and then they’d come back down. Some people have taught that’s the Pre-Trib Rapture. No it’s not. That is even an amillennial view of the Second Coming because the Second Coming is where they’re caught up in the air. That’s simply a renovation of the earth when they come back down.
So he’s simply saying in other words, they don’t just abide up in the air all that time, he’s referring to the historical debate that had gone on for 1,500 years. “No, they will ascend to Paradise, or to some one of those many mansions in the Father’s house,” he even uses that in the way that we do today, “and so disappear during the foreset period,” you know, the Tribulation period. “The design of this retreat and disappearing will be to judge the risen and change saints. For now the time has come that judgment must begin at the house of I.” So he even has the bema judgment going on during that time as well. This was written in 1744 by a guy name Morgan Edwards who founded Brown University. He was a Baptist and he’s the father of American Baptist Church history.
We found this about five years ago; this is just some more stuff. A friend of mine, Frank Baretta who also works at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, he lives in the Maryland area, he’s a researcher, he ran across this statement by Thomas Collier in 1674 that makes reference to a Pretribulational Rapture, but Thomas Collier, a Puritan, rejects the view, but he shows his awareness that such a view was being taught. So here Morgan Edwards taught it as early as 1744, his book was published in 1798 in Philadelphia, so it shows, and people really didn’t become aware of it until five years ago, that that view was being taught and people didn’t know about it. See what I’m saying?
He writes of Collier, “because he raised the question of the saints being raised at Christ’s first appearing in the clouds of heaven instead of later on, at the [can’t understand words] of a thousand years it is apparent that Collier certainly considered the idea of Pre-Trib Rapture but he rejected it.”
Now, the issue is Darby invented the Rapture, you know, he got it from some Scottish girl, 15-year-old girl and all this kind of stuff, named Margaret MacDonald. What I want to show you … from his own writings he makes it clear that he came to hold to the Pre-Trib Rapture by December, 1926–January 1827. And a guy named R. A. Huebner who’s a Brethren up in the New Jersey area said, first of all, “he saw from Isaiah 32 that there was a different dispensation coming that Israel and the church were distinct, that during his convalescence.” He had a horse-riding accident where a horse ran him up against a wall and hurt his leg, so that’s why he was convalescing during December 1826–January 1827, “during his convalescence Darby learned that he ought daily to expect the Lord’s return.
In 1827 Darby understood the fall of the church or what he called the ruin of the church, the apostasy of the church, Darby also was beginning to see a gap of time between the Rapture and the Second Coming by 1827 and he himself said in 1857 that he first started understanding these things relating to the Pre-Trib Rapture thirty years ago, and with that fixed point of reference, January 31, 1827” declares Huebner “we consider Darby had already understood these truths upon which the Pre-Trib Rapture hinges.”
Now, he first came to the view in 1827, it was a full ten years later that he became convinced of the view. But I only bring this up to show that Darby himself documents that he came to the view before this girl named Margaret MacDonald and all these other people, you know, it got around that people used to deal with these things.