Puritan Gems

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Signs of the Olivet Discourse Part V


Matthew 24:29
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken;”

Starting in this passage of Scripture, my purpose in posting the last piece on Apocalyptic Language should become clear. That is exactly what we are getting into here. Is Verse 29 meant to be taken literally? If so, then how will the tribes of the earth survive without sunlight, since they will mourn in verse 30? When the stars of heaven fall, where will they land? On earth? Since the smallest of stars is many times bigger than earth, we must ask about the survival of those tribes again.

Obviously, this is apocalyptic language and we need to refer to previous uses in the Old Testament. The darkening of heavenly bodies has always represented the fall of a kingdom. Consider Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the fall of Babylon in Isaiah Chapter 13.

Isaiah 13:10
“For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.”

Joel uses similar language in his prophecy concerning the Day of Pentecost (Joel 2:28-32).

First Century Fulfillment:
At least one fulfillment of this prophecy took place, according to Peter, on the Day of Pentecost.

Acts 2:16-21
“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

The Parousia of the First Century

Matthew 24:30
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

This verse, as well as the bad KJV translation of verse 3, has led to the misunderstanding that Jesus was prophesying His Second Advent at the end of the world. Verse 30 contains more apocalyptic language. This is not about Christ’s Second Coming, but His “coming on the clouds", an Old Testament symbol of judgment. For example, in Isaiah’s prophecy against Egypt, “the Lord rides on a swift cloud”. (Isaiah 19:1) Yet Egypt was destroyed by Sargon, the king of Assyria (Isaiah 20:1-6), not by a literal appearance of the Lord.

Josephus reported seeing a great armies of chariots in the clouds during the Roman siege (Wars 6.5.3). Whether or not this actually occurred is irrelevant. A literal “coming” of the Lord is not required for the fulfillment of this prophecy. Those who heard Jesus’ words understood Him quite clearly, especially in light of the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers. Jerusalem would be destroyed, and a new Covenant would take the place of the old. The owner of the vineyard was about to come (Matthew 21:40) and destroy those wicked men miserably (Matthew 21:41). The Judaists who rejected Christ would have the kingdom taken from them (Matthew 21:43), and they correctly perceived that Jesus was speaking of them (Matthew 21:45).


Matthew 24:31
"And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

The First Century Christians understood the meaning of Jesus’ Olivet Prophecy. Obeying Jesus’ warning in Luke 21:20-24, The Jewish Christians fled to Mt. Pella in Decapolis.

First Century Fulfillment:
“As Josephus was speaking thus with a loud voice, the seditious would neither yield to what he said, nor did they deem it safe for them to alter their conduct; but as for the people, they had a great inclination to desert to the Romans; accordingly, some of them sold what they had, and even the most precious things that had been laid up as treasures by them, for every small matter, and swallowed down pieces of gold, that they might not be found out by the robbers; and when they had escaped to the Romans, went to stool, and had wherewithal to provide plentifully for themselves; for Titus let a great number of them go away into the country, whither they pleased.” – (Josephus - Wars 5:10:1)

“But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella.” – (Eusebius - History of the Church 3:5:3)


One of the worst examples of Dispensationalist eisogesis can be found in their treatment of the Parable of the Fig Tree.

Matthew 24:32-33
"Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors."

Based on this passage, the Rapture Ready Website assures us that “there is little doubt among Bible scholars that the establishment of the State of Israel, on May 14, 1948, is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the fig tree.” Furthermore, we are told that “most agree that this says that the generation of people who witness the fig tree bearing leaves (Israel becoming a nation) will not pass away until the Son of Man returns.”

There are several problems with this interpretation. First of all, the Parable of the Fig Tree (Matthew 21:18-21) says absolutely nothing about a rebirth of Israel. In fact, it says just the opposite about the nation of Israel and their covenant status. The “fig tree” was the Israel of the First Century, which was cursed so that “no fruit (would) grow on you ever again”. (Matthew 21:19).

The parable of the Fig Tree is about the destruction, not the rebirth, of Israel. The Fig Tree = THIS mountain = Jerusalem. It was the be cast into the Sea = Abyss, the abode of demons (The “beast” rises out of the “sea” in Rev. 13.)

Second, Jesus said that the entire Olivet Discourse would be fulfilled within the Apostle’s generation. He said nothing about “the generation of people who witness …Israel becoming a nation”.

Matthew 24:34
"Verily I say unto you, This generation (genea) shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."

We discussed the meaning of this passage in previous blogs. Jesus meant exactly what He said. The Dispensationalist rendering of the Parable of the Fig Tree is a sloppy and irresponsible handling of Scripture.

Matthew 24:35-42
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”

First Century Fulfillment:
“Now the number of those that were carried captive during the whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege, eleven hundred thousand, the greater part of whom were indeed of the same nation, with the citizens of Jerusalem, but not belonging to the city itself; for they were come up from all the country to the feast of unleavened bread, and were on a sudden shut up by an army, which, at the very first, occasioned so great a straitness among them, that there came a pestilential destruction upon them, and soon afterward such a famine as destroyed them more suddenly. And that this city could contain so many people in it is manifest by that number of them which was taken under Cestius, who being desirous of informing Nero of the power of the city, who otherwise was disposed to contemn that nation, entreated the high priests, if the thing were possible, to take the number of their whole multitude. So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour to the eleventh, but so that a company not less than belong to every sacrifice, (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves,) and many of us are twenty in a company, found the number of sacrifices was two hundred and fifty-six thousand five hundred; which, upon the allowance of no more than ten that feast together, amounts to two millions seven hundred thousand and two hundred persons that were pure and holy; for as to those that have the leprosy, or the gonorrhea, or women that have their monthly courses, or such as are otherwise polluted, it is not lawful for them to be partakers of this sacrifice; nor indeed for any foreigners neither, who come hither to worship.” (Josephus – Wars 6.9.3)

When Titus and the Roman Army invaded Jerusalem in 70 AD, some of the citizens were taken (captive) and some were left (killed).


As we can see from these posts regarding Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, it was all fulfilled within the Apostle’s generation. The Great Tribulation is past history, and there is no reason to believe otherwise. David Chilton, in his book “The Great Tribulation”, gives us an excellent summary of the Olivet Discourse.

“The only possible interpretation of Jesus' words which He Himself allows, therefore, is that He was speaking of the destruction of the Temple which then stood in Jerusalem, the very buildings which the disciples beheld at that moment in history. The Temple of which Jesus spoke was destroyed in the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman armies in A.D. 70. This is the only possible interpretation of Jesus' prophecy in this chapter. The Great Tribulation ended with the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. Even in the (unlikely) event that another temple should be built sometime in the future, Jesus' words in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 have nothing to say about it. He was talking solely about the Temple of that generation. There is no Scriptural basis for asserting that any other temple is meant. Jesus confirmed His disciples' fears: Jerusalem's beautiful Temple would be destroyed within that generation; her house would be left desolate. (See Matthew 23:37-38).

Contrary to the popular “paperback fiction” novels of our day, the Great Tribulation is history.

For more information, read The Great Tribulation by David Chilton

Monday, November 27, 2006

Apocalyptic Language in the Bible


Apocalyptic Language Used


Isaiah against Babylon in 730 BC (Isaiah 13:1)- The day of the Lord is near (v.6)
- Hands fall limp, man's hearts melt, terror (v.7)
- Stars of heaven and constellations will not flash forth their light, sun
dark when it rises, moon not shed light (v.10)
- Heavens shake, earth tremble (v.13)
Cyrus the Persian takes Babylon in 539 BC.
Isaiah against Moab in 730 BC (Isaiah 51:1)- Green grass withers away (v.6)
- Waters full of Blood (v.8)
Sargon II of Assyria takes Moab in 715 BC
Isaiah against Egypt in 730 BC (Isaiah 19:1)- Lord riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt, the idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence (v.1)
- River Dried Up (vs.5-6)
Esarhaddan of Assyria takes Egypt in 671 BC (Isaiah 20:1-4)
Isaiah against Edom in 730 BC (Isaiah 34:4-5)- Mountains melted (v.3)
- All host of heaven (stars) will wear away, Sky rolled up like a scroll, all their hosts will wither (v.4)
Nabeans conquer Edom and take the city of Petra in the 6th Century B.C.
Jeremiah against Jerusalem in 620 BC (Jeremiah 4:5) - Sound of trumpet, alarm of war (v.5,19)
- He shall come up like Clouds (v.13)
- Heavens with no light (v.23)
- Mountains tremble (v.24)
- Heavens made black (v.28)
- A people is coming from the north, a great nation: Babylon (6:1,22)
Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon takes Jerusalem in 586 BC (2 Kings 24:10, Daniel 1:1)
Jeremiah against Babylon in 620 BC (Jeremiah 51:1)- Men as Locusts (v.14)
- Sea and springs made dry (v.36)
Cyrus the Persian takes Babylon in 539 BC.
Ezekiel against Egypt in 590 BC (Ezekiel 30:3-4, Ezekiel 32:7-8)- The day of the Lord is near (v.3)
- It will be a day of clouds (v.3)
- Rivers made dry (v.12)
- Day darkened (v.18)
- Waters flow with blood (v.6)
- Light put out (v.7)
- Heavens covered, stars darkened, cover sun with cloud, moon not give light, shining lights in the heavens will be dark, darkness on the land (vs.7-8)
Cambyses of Persia conquers Egypt in 525 B.C.
Joel concerning the Day of Pentecost in 830 BC (Joel 2:28-32) - Great and awesome day of the Lord (v.31)
- Blood, fire, columns of smoke, sun into darkness, moon into blood (vs.30-31)
The Holy Spirit “conquers” the Church on the Day of Pentecost in 30 AD (Acts 2:16-21)
Amos against Israel in 755 BC (Amos 5:1 & Amos 8:9)- Day of the lord (5:18-20)
- It will be darkness and not light, gloom with no brightness in it (5:18-20)
- Sun go down at noon (8:9)
- Earth dark in broad daylight (8:9)
Sargon II of Assyria takes Israel in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:6)
Nahum against Nineveh (Capitol of Assyria) in 650 BC (Nahum 1:1)- Clouds (v.3)
- Sea and rivers made dry (v.4)
- Mountains Quake, Hills Melt (v.5)
- Flood and Darkness (v.8)
Nineveh destroyed by the Medes and Babylonians in 612 BC
Zephaniah against Jerusalem in 630 BC (Zephaniah 1:7-16)- Near is the great day of the Lord, near and coming very quickly (v.7,14)
- A day of wrath, trouble, distress, destruction, desolation, darkness, gloom, clouds, thick darkness (v.15)
- A day of trumpet and battle cry (v.16)
Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon takes Jerusalem in 586 BC (2 Kings 24:10, Daniel 1:1)
Jesus against Jerusalem in 30 AD (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21)- Sun darkened, moon turned to blood, stars fall from sky, (v.29)
- Sign of son coming on clouds (v.30)
- Roaring of sea & waves, men fainting from fear, heavens shaken (Luke 21:25)
Titus and the Romans destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD

For More Information, See:

Biblical Apocalyptics by Milton S. Terry
Biblical Hermeneutics by Milton S. Terry

Signs of the Olivet Discourse Part IV


Matthew 24:15-22
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.”

What exactly is the Abomination of Desolation? The Rapture Ready Website is more than willing to share the popular definition with us.

"Abomination of Desolation: When the Antichrist sits down in the rebuilt Jewish Temple and declares himself to be God, the great tribulation of 42 months will then begin. At the occurrence of this event, the Jews living in Israel are commanded to flee into the wilderness. All tribulation saints will know, from that day on, they must now wait 1260 days before the Lord returns.
(Dan 9:27), (Mat 24:15-19)"

Is this accurate? I challenge anyone to “[examine] the Scriptures … to see if these things [are] so” (Acts 17:11). Look up Daniel 9:27 or Matthew 24:15-19. Do these passages mention anything about “antichrist”? How about a “rebuilt Jewish Temple”? Where does the “desolation” fit in? As anyone can see from the plain reading of these scriptures, the popular dispensationalist view of the abomination of desolation requires the reader to import items into the text that just aren’t there.

Fortunately, like most of the items in Bible Prophecy, we need not resort to such guesswork to get the correct interpretation. The best way to interpret Scripture is with Scripture, and the Bible itself plainly tells us what the abomination of desolation is. Let’s compare the accounts of the Olivet Discourse given in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.

Matthew 24

Luke 21

15 "Therefore when you see the "abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand),

16"then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

17Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

19But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

20And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

21For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

22And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

20 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.

21Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.

22For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

23But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.

24And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The Abomination of Desolation was the armed invasion of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. The prophecy says absolutely nothing about the modern day middle east. It was within that generation (Matthew 24:34) that the Christians were to leave Judea.

First Century Fulfillment:
“And now, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces. The aged men and the women were in such distress by their internal calamities, that they wished for the Romans, and earnestly hoped for an external war, in order to their delivery from their domestical miseries. The citizens themselves were under a terrible consternation and fear; nor had they any opportunity of taking counsel, and of changing their conduct; nor were there any hopes of coming to an agreement with their enemies; nor could such as had a mind flee away; for guards were set at all places, and the heads of the robbers, although they were seditious one against another in other respects, yet did they agree in killing those that were for peace with the Romans, or were suspected of an inclination to desert them, as their common enemies. They agreed in nothing but this, to kill those that were innocent." (Josephus – Wars 5.1.5)

As with the rest of the Olivet Discourse, the Abomination of Desolation is past history. This was the near unanimous view for most of Church History.

St. Augustine of Hippo (379)
"Luke to show that the abomination spoken of by Daniel will take place when Jerusalem is captured, recalls these words of the Lord in the same context: When you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an army, then know that the desolation thereof is at hand (xxi. 20). For Luke very clearly bears witness that the prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled when Jerusalem was overthrown."

Clement of Alexandria (Second Century)
"For he said that there were two thousand three hundred days from the time that the abomination of Nero stood in the holy city, till its destruction... These two thousand three hundred days make six years four months, during the half of which Nero held sway"

Eusebius Pamphilius (325)
"But the number of calamities which every where fell upon the nation at that time; the extreme misfortunes to which the inhabitants of Judea were especially subjected, the thousands of men, as well as women and children, that perished by the sword, by famine, and by other forms of death innumerable,--all these things, as well as the many great sieges which were carried on against the cities of Judea, and the excessive. sufferings endured by those that fled to Jerusalem itself, as to a city of perfect safety, and finally the general course of the whole war, as well as its particular occurrences in detail, and how at last the abomination of desolation, proclaimed by the prophets, stood in the very temple of God, so celebrated of old, the temple which was now awaiting its total and final destruction by fire,-- all these things any one that wishes may find accurately described in the history written by Josephus."

Up next, I’ll outline some Apocalyptic Language in the Bible. Seeing how certain phrases are used in Scripture will help us understand their meaning, and will be most necessary to understand the rest of the Olivet Discourse.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Signs of the Olivet Discourse Part III

We live in a day when everything goes, except for Christianity. Story after story comes down from the news of Christians being ostracized in schools and in the workplace because of their faith. While it is right to be concerned over these issues for the state of our nation, a greater concern is the power failure of the church. The Doctrinally neutral, seeker-sensitive church of our day should fall on their faces in shame when the read of the exploits of past saints, who wandered into foreign countries on foot, smashing pagan idols, usually at the expense of their own lives. It’s no wonder that most Christians today are waiting for the “rapture”. They aren’t capable of doing much else.

Fortunately, the apostles had no such mindset. While the anxiously awaited for His glorious appearing (Titus 2:13), they were also charging and being charged to “…Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Rev. 2:10). They expected to be persecuted, without a promise that they would be “raptured” out of it. After all, Jesus warned them of such.

Sign #5 - PERSECUTION (Matt. 24:9-10)

Jesus predicts the coming persecution and martyrdom of the church, and Israel's impending judgment, adding: "I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation" (Matthew 23:32-36). Aside from the numerous accounts in Church History, Scripture itself verifies the intense persecution of Christians by the Jews in Acts 8:1 and 1 Thess. 2:14-16. Again, the relevance to the original audience comes into play. We need to remember that Jesus is taking to His Apostles. It is they who would experience these things.

Matthew 24:9-10
"Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another."

First Century Fulfillment:

Acts 8:1
“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.”

1 Thessalonians 2:14-16
“For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they [have] of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.”

Here is an excerpt from Fox’s Book of Martyrs, a must read for any Christian Historian.


Under Nero

Christ our Savior, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, hearing the confession of Simon Peter, who, first of all other, openly acknowledged Him to be the Son of God, and perceiving the secret hand of His Father therein, called him (alluding to his name) a rock, upon which rock He would build His Church so strong that the gates of hell should not prevail against it. In which words three things are to be noted: First, that Christ will have a Church in this world. Secondly, that the same Church should mightily be impugned, not only by the world, but also by the uttermost strength and powers of all hell. And, thirdly, that the same Church, notwithstanding the uttermost of the devil and all his malice, should continue.

Which prophecy of Christ we see wonderfully to be verified, insomuch that the whole course of the Church to this day may seem nothing else but a verifying of the said prophecy. First, that Christ hath set up a Church, needeth no declaration. Secondly, what force of princes, kings, monarchs, governors, and rulers of this world, with their subjects, publicly and privately, with all their strength and cunning, have bent themselves against this Church! And, thirdly, how the said Church, all this notwithstanding, hath yet endured and holden its own! What storms and tempests it hath overpast, wondrous it is to behold: for the more evident declaration whereof, I have addressed this present history, to the end, first, that the wonderful works of God in His Church might appear to His glory; also that, the continuance and proceedings of the Church, from time to time, being set forth, more knowledge and experience may redound thereby, to the profit of the reader and edification of Christian faith.

As it is not our business to enlarge upon our Savior's history, either before or after His crucifixion, we shall only find it necessary to remind our readers of the discomfiture of the Jews by His subsequent resurrection. Although one apostle had betrayed Him; although another had denied Him, under the solemn sanction of an oath; and although the rest had forsaken Him, unless we may except "the disciple who was known unto the high-priest"; the history of His resurrection gave a new direction to all their hearts, and, after the mission of the Holy Spirit, imparted new confidence to their minds. The powers with which they were endued emboldened them to proclaim His name, to the confusion of the Jewish rulers, and the astonishment of Gentile proselytes.

I. St. Stephen

St. Stephen suffered the next in order. His death was occasioned by the faithful manner in which he preached the Gospel to the betrayers and murderers of Christ. To such a degree of madness were they excited, that they cast him out of the city and stoned him to death. The time when he suffered is generally supposed to have been at the passover which succeeded to that of our Lord's crucifixion, and to the era of his ascension, in the following spring.
Upon this a great persecution was raised against all who professed their belief in Christ as the Messiah, or as a prophet. We are immediately told by St. Luke, that "there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem;" and that "they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles."
About two thousand Christians, with Nicanor, one of the seven deacons, suffered martyrdom during the "persecution that arose about Stephen."

II. James the Great

The next martyr we meet with, according to St. Luke, in the History of the Apsotles' Acts, was James the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of John, and a relative of our Lord; for his mother Salome was cousin-german to the Virgin Mary. It was not until ten years after the death of Stephen that the second martyrdom took place; for no sooner had Herod Agrippa been appointed governor of Judea, than, with a view to ingratiate himself with them, he raised a sharp persecution against the Christians, and determined to make an effectual blow, by striking at their leaders. The account given us by an eminent primitive writer, Clemens Alexandrinus, ought not to be overlooked; that, as James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle's extraordinary courage and undauntedness, and fell down at his feet to request his pardon, professing himself a Christian, and resolving that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. Hence they were both beheaded at the same time. Thus did the first apostolic martyr cheerfully and resolutely receive that cup, which he had told our Savior he was ready to drink. Timon and Parmenas suffered martyrdom about the same time; the one at Philippi, and the other in Macedonia. These events took place A.D. 44.

III. Philip

Was born at Bethsaida, in Galilee and was first called by the name of "disciple." He labored diligently in Upper Asia, and suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified, A.D. 54.

IV. Matthew

Whose occupation was that of a toll-gatherer, was born at Nazareth. He wrote his gospel in Hebrew, which was afterwards translated into Greek by James the Less. The scene of his labors was Parthia, and Ethiopia, in which latter country he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halberd in the city of Nadabah, A.D. 60.

V. James the Less

Is supposed by some to have been the brother of our Lord, by a former wife of Joseph. This is very doubtful, and accords too much with the Catholic superstition, that Mary never had any other children except our Savior. He was elected to the oversight of the churches of Jerusalem; and was the author of the Epistle ascribed to James in the sacred canon. At the age of ninety-four he was beat and stoned by the Jews; and finally had his brains dashed out with a fuller's club.

VI. Matthias

Of whom less is known than of most of the other disciples, was elected to fill the vacant place of Judas. He was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded.

VII. Andrew

Was the brother of Peter. He preached the gospel to many Asiatic nations; but on his arrival at Edessa he was taken and crucified on a cross, the two ends of which were fixed transversely in the ground. Hence the derivation of the term, St. Andrew's Cross.

VIII. St. Mark

Was born of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi. He is supposed to have been converted to Christianity by Peter, whom he served as an amanuensis, and under whose inspection he wrote his Gospel in the Greek language. Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria, at the great solemnity of Serapis their idol, ending his life under their merciless hands.

IX. Peter

Among many other saints, the blessed apostle Peter was condemned to death, and crucified, as some do write, at Rome; albeit some others, and not without cause, do doubt thereof. Hegesippus saith that Nero sought matter against Peter to put him to death; which, when the people perceived, they entreated Peter with much ado that he would fly the city. Peter, through their importunity at length persuaded, prepared himself to avoid. But, coming to the gate, he saw the Lord Christ come to meet him, to whom he, worshipping, said, "Lord, whither dost Thou go?" To whom He answered and said, "I am come again to be crucified." By this, Peter, perceiving his suffering to be understood, returned into the city. Jerome saith that he was crucified, his head being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was.

X. Paul

Paul, the apostle, who before was called Saul, after his great travail and unspeakable labors in promoting the Gospel of Christ, suffered also in this first persecution under Nero. Abdias, declareth that under his execution Nero sent two of his esquires, Ferega and Parthemius, to bring him word of his death. They, coming to Paul instructing the people, desired him to pray for them, that they might believe; who told them that shortly after they should believe and be baptised at His sepulcher. This done, the soldiers came and led him out of the city to the place of execution, where he, after his prayers made, gave his neck to the sword.

XI. Jude

The brother of James, was commonly called Thaddeus. He was crucified at Edessa, A.D. 72.

XII. Bartholomew

Preached in several countries, and having translated the Gospel of Matthew into the language of India, he propagated it in that country. He was at length cruelly beaten and then crucified by the impatient idolaters.

XIII. Thomas

Called Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.

XIV. Luke

The evangelist, was the author of the Gospel which goes under his name. He travelled with Paul through various countries, and is supposed to have been hanged on an olive tree, by the idolatrous priests of Greece.

XV. Simon

Surnamed Zelotes, preached the Gospel in Mauritania, Africa, and even in Britain, in which latter country he was crucified, A.D. 74.

XVI. John

The "beloved disciple," was brother to James the Great. The churches of Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Thyatira, were founded by him. From Ephesus he was ordered to be sent to Rome, where it is affirmed he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped by miracle, without injury. Domitian afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Nerva, the successor of Domitian, recalled him. He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.

XVII. Barnabas

Was of Cyprus, but of Jewish descent, his death is supposed to have taken place about A.D. 73.
And yet, notwithstanding all these continual persecutions and horrible punishments, the Church daily increased, deeply rooted in the doctrine of the apostles and of men apostolical, and watered plentously with the blood of saints.


Truly the period was the greatest tribulation in the History of the Church, “such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be”. (Matthew 24:21)

Sign #6 - APOSTASY (Matt. 24:10-13)

Apostasy in the church has always been a problem, and certainly isn’t limited to today. The Book of Hebrews reflects Jews apostatizing and returning to Judaism (Hebrews 2:1-3, Hebrews 3:6, Hebrews 3:14, Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-27). See also Galatians 5:4; 1 John 2:18-20, 1 John 4:3, and 1 John 2:24, all of which report apostasy during the time of the apostles. Also 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Peter 2:1-2 and 2 Peter 2:20-21.

Matthew 24:11-13
"And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."

First Century Fulfillment:

1 Timothy 1:19
“Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:”


The term "World" almost always used in a limited sense as seen in the Atonement Blog (See Luke 2:1). In both these cases, the term is used only to refer to the Roman Empire.

Matthew 24:14
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."

First Century Fulfillment:

Romans 1:8
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”

Colossians 1:6
“Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:”

Colossians 1:23
“If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;”

As we can see, all of the Signs of the Olivet Discourse saw their fulfillment in the first century, not the 21st century. Up next, we’ll take a detailed look at the Abomination of Desolation, which brought an end to the Great Tribulation of the 1st Century.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Signs of the Olivet Discourse Part II

We have faced many disasters on our planet within the last few years. The Tsunami in Indonesia and Hurricane Katrina waged disaster upon all who stood in their way. When these things happen to a generation of people, there is a natural tendency to view these disasters as significant or special. After all, they happened to us, within our lifetimes. This has to be what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 24, right? Surely nothing could have ever been this bad.

Wrong. The fact is that these types of disasters are nothing new or unique in world history. To keep some historical perspective, consider the following quote:

"And I...buried my five children with my own hands, and so did many others likewise...And nobody wept no matter what his loss because almost everyone expected death... People said and believed, 'This is the end of the world.'"

This sounds like some of our modern prophecy gurus talking about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. However, this was a quote from Agnolo di Tura, during the Black Plague (AD 1348), a disaster unmatched by anything this century has ever seen. While modern disasters are more important to us, namely because they happened to us, in the grand scheme of world history, they are relatively unimportant. 1,000 years from now, few if any will remember Hurricane Katrina. (We’ve already pretty much forgotten Hurricane Camille, and that was only 37 years ago.) Hopefully, such a perspective will help us more accurately understand Jesus’ words as we continue to study the Olivet Prophecy.

Sign #3 - FAMINES (Matt. 24:7).

Matthew 24:7-8
"For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows."

Jack Van Impe, the leader of our modern doomsday prophets, warns us that “The worst famines the world has ever known are breaking out” (Jack Van Impe – Beyond 2000 - World Without End, Amen - “Perhaps Today, 1995). Kurt Seland list famines as one of the Matthew 24 “Signs of the Times” in his “Post Rapture Survival Guide”. However, we must again ask if Jesus was warning His disciples about 21st Century famines, or 1st Century famines, one that they would see.

Comtrary to the statement by Van Impe above, “the worst famines the world has ever known” are not “breaking out”, but have all but been eliminated by modern farming methods. (Don’t say this too loud. We don’t want to give Christians the idea that the world is getting better with time. Sounds too postmillennial). According to Richard Abanes “End Times Visions”, the worst famines the world has ever known are history. Of the five worst famines in History, only one, the manmade famine in the USSR, occurred within the last century.

Worst Famines in History

Location and Time

Number Killed

China (1849)14 million
China (1333-1337)4 Million
Ireland (1846)1 million
Russia (1920’s)1 Million ???
Russia (1600)500,000

When we read Jesus’ Words in Matthew 24:6-9, it is clear that the famines and other pestilences that He was speaking of were things that the Apostles themselves would experience. Therefore, we would expect to find the fulfillment of the Matthew 24:7 famines in the first Century.

Josephus writes that during Claudius' reign (A.D. 41-54) there were four seasons of great scarcity. In the fourth year of his reign, the famine in Judea was so severe that the price of food became enormous and great numbers died. (See Acts 11:28). He also describes starvation and cannibalism during the final five-month siege of Jerusalem.

First Century Fulfillment:

“So all hope of escaping was now cut off from the Jews, together with their liberty of going out of the city. Then did the famine widen its progress, and devoured the people by whole houses and families; the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine, and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged; the children also and the young men wandered about the market-places like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell down dead, wheresoever their misery seized them. As for burying them, those that were sick themselves were not able to do it; and those that were hearty and well were deterred from doing it by the great multitude of those dead bodies, and by the uncertainty there was how soon they should die themselves; for many died as they were burying others, and many went to their coffins before that fatal hour was come. Nor was there any lamentations made under these calamities, nor were heard any mournful complaints; but the famine confounded all natural passions; for those who were just going to die looked upon those that were gone to rest before them with dry eyes and open mouths. A deep silence also, and a kind of deadly night, had seized upon the city; while yet the robbers were still more terrible than these miseries were themselves; for they brake open those houses which were no other than graves of dead bodies, and plundered them of what they had; and carrying off the coverings of their bodies, went out laughing, and tried the points of their swords in their dead bodies; and, in order to prove what metal they were made of they thrust some of those through that still lay alive upon the ground; but for those that entreated them to lend them their right hand and their sword to despatch them, they were too proud to grant their requests, and left them to be consumed by the famine. Now every one of these died with their eyes fixed upon the temple, and left the seditious alive behind them. Now the seditious at first gave orders that the dead should be buried out of the public treasury, as not enduring the stench of their dead bodies. But afterwards, when they could not do that, they had them cast down from the walls into the valleys beneath. “(Josephus - Wars 5.12.3)

“… And besides, many of those that were worn away by the famine, and their mouths almost closed, when they saw the fire of the holy house, they exerted their utmost strength, and brake out into groans and outcries again….” (
Josephus - Wars 6.5.1)

Sign #4 - EARTHQUAKES (Matt. 24:7).

Hal Lindsey, in his 1980 “Countdown to Armageddon”, states that “…the 1970s…experiences the largest increase in the number of quakes known to history.” Jack Van Impe agrees, "Earthquakes continue to increase in frequency and intensity, just as the Bible predicts for the last days before the return of Christ." (Van Impe Intelligence Briefing, May 1997). The Rapture Ready Website tells us that “Clearly the most watched sign of the times has to be earthquakes. For years there has been a heated debate over the short term frequency of quakes. The long term trend has undeniably seen a significant increase in the number of large earthquakes.” (
Aside from the fact that none of the Apostles are around to see these earthquakes (Matthew 24:6), Richard Abanes shows that seismologists disagree with our prophecy pundits.

Wilbur Rinehart – World Data Center of Boulder Colorado: “There have been no significant increase in the numbers of earthquakes during this or any other century.”

Keiiti Aki – University of Southern California Dept. of Geological Sciences: “…seismicity has been stationary for thousands of years.”

Waverly Person – US Department of Interior: “Our records do not show any significant increase in great earthquakes.”

Again, the earthquakes in question are bound to first Century fulfillment (Matthew 24:34). They occurred most notably in Caligula's (A.D. 37-41) and Claudius' (A.D. 41-54) reigns. (Acts 16:26) Josephus reports many earthquakes in A.D. 68 in the midst of the Jewish War. Tacitus reports them throughout Rome, also interpreting them as portents of impending divine judgment (Histories, 1.2-3)

First Century Fulfillment:

“And now did the Idumeans make an acclamation to what Simon had said; but Jesus went away sorrowful, as seeing that the Idumeans were against all moderate counsels, and that the city was besieged on both sides. Nor indeed were the minds of the Idumeans at rest; for they were in a rage at the injury that had been offered them by their exclusion out of the city; and when they thought the zealots had been strong, but saw nothing of theirs to support them, they were in doubt about the matter, and many of them repented that they had come thither. But the shame that would attend them in case they returned without doing any thing at all, so far overcame that their repentance, that they lay all night before the wall, though in a very bad encampment; for there broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continued lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake. These things were a manifest indication that some destruction was coming upon men, when the system of the world was put into this disorder; and any one would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming.” (
Josephus - Wars 4.4.5).

As I said in an earlier blog, many Christians view the fact our generation will not have to suffer these things as bad news. They will fight tooth and claw to push Matthew 24 into their own lifetimes. We will continue with our Matthew 24 Study, showing that, indeed, all these things were fulfilled within the Apostle’s generation (Matthew 24:34).

Signs of the Olivet Discourse Part I


Rapturists continually use the “Signs of the End” given in Matthew 24 as evidence of the imminent “rapture”. Terry James of the Rapture Ready Website writes,

“In Matthew 24:8 we are told the last days will be the tail end of an exponential curve of activity. Jesus mentioned a great variety of signs — spiritual, natural, societal, and world political — and then He said these signs will be like "birth pangs."”

James then proceeds to list events that he feels to be a fulfillment of those signs, such as the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and Israel’s 34-day war with Hezbollah. (See Nearing Midnight by Terry James).

But are these the events that Jesus had in mind when he warned His first century disciples “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6)? Were the Apostle’s really concerned about the US-Iraqi War or North Korea’s nuclear program. Who was it that was to hear “war and rumors of wars”? It was the Apostles.

After Jesus pronounced judgment on First Century Jerusalem in Matthew 23, He left the temple and was questioned by His disciples concerning the unthinkable idea that the Jewish temple, the centerpiece of the Jewish faith, would actually be destroyed. What follows in chapter 24 has been named the “Olivet Discourse”. Many who fail to see the apocalyptic imagery correctly in Matthew 24 have concluded that this is a prophecy about future events, but as I will show in this summary, the Olivet Discourse saw it complete fulfillment in the First Century, just like Jesus Christ said it would (Matthew 24:34). One of the most valuable companion books to study alongside the Olivet Discourse is “The Wars of the Jews” by Flavius Josephus. Josephus is valuable because he gives us a look at the Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD from a point of view of a Jew from inside Jerusalem. We need to keep in mind during this reading that Jesus is addressing the concerns of His First Century Apostle’s (verses 1-3). He never hints at the idea that he has the 21st Century in mind. Also during this summary, I will analyze and refute some of the flawed interpretation of our modern day end time’s doomsayers.

Matthew 24:1-2
“And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

First Century Fulfillment:
“AND now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator with the greatest acclamations of joy.” (Josephus – Wars 6.6.1)

Matthew 24:3
“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (Gr. Aion)?” – KJV

“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” - NKJV

R.C. Sproul, in his "Last Days According To Jesus", provides the following example to help understand the scope of "the world" in Scripture:

The World in Matthew 13:38-40





38The field is the world, the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;The field is the world, the good seed are the sons of the kingdom; but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.kosmos
39The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are the angels.aion
40As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so will it be at the end of this age.aion


These “signs” are surely nothing new. Moses had to deal with false prophets back in his day (Deuteronomy 18:22).

Matthew 24:4-5
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”

Matthew 24:23-28
“Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.”

Josephus writes that many false prophets and false Messiahs appeared during the government of Felix (A.D. 53-60), deluding many. Such figures played a leading role in the Jewish revolt in late A.D. 66 that led to the Jewish War.

First Century Fulfillment:
“Now as for the affairs of the Jews, they grew worse and worse continually, for the country was again filled with robbers and impostors, who deluded the multitude… These works, that were done by the robbers, filled the city with all sorts of impiety. And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness, and pretended that they would exhibit manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God.” (Ant., XX, viii, 5-6)

Sign #2 - WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS (Matt. 24: 6-7).

Matthew 24:6
"And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet."

Myth: Tim LeHaye Warns: "…the 20th century has seen 180 million killed in wars…more than all the wars of history put together.” (Tim LeHaye – “Twelve Reasons Why This Could Be The Terminal Generation”, 1995)

Fact: A 1974 study of war shows that approximately 3 Billion people have been killed in over 14,000 wars since 3600 BC. There is nothing significant about the 20th Century. (See Richard Abanes End Times Visions).

Wars and Rumors of Wars would not have been perceived as an unusual sign during most periods of world history, but during the pax Romana war was extremely rare. E.g., Epictetus writes that "Caesar has obtained for us a profound peace. There are neither wars nor battles" (Discourses 3:13:9) Josephus and Tacitus both write of the unsettledness of the empire leading up to A.D. 70.

First Century Fulfillment:
“So Vitellius prepared to make war with Aretas, having with him two legions of armed men; he also took with him all those of light armature, and of the horsemen which belonged to them, and were drawn out of those kingdoms which were under the Romans, and made haste for Petra, and came to Ptolemais. But as he was marching very busily, and leading his army through Judea, the principal men met him, and desired that he would not thus march through their land; for that the laws of their country would not permit them to overlook those images which were brought into it, of which there were a great many in their ensigns; so he was persuaded by what they said, and changed that resolution of his which he had before taken in this matter. Whereupon he ordered the army to march along the great plain, while he himself, with Herod the tetrarch and his friends, went up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God, an ancient festival of the Jews being then just approaching; and when he had been there, and been honorably entertained by the multitude of the Jews, he made a stay there for three days, within which time he deprived Jonathan of the high priesthood, and gave it to his brother Theophilus. But when on the fourth day letters came to him, which informed him of the death of Tiberius, he obliged the multitude to take an oath of fidelity to Caius; he also recalled his army, and made them every one go home, and take their winter quarters there, since, upon the devolution of the empire upon Caius, he had not the like authority of making this war which he had before. It was also reported, that when Aretas heard of the coming of Vitellius to fight him, he said, upon his consulting the diviners, that it was impossible that this army of Vitellius's could enter Petra; for that one of the rulers would die, either he that gave orders for the war, or he that was marching at the other's desire, in order to be subservient to his will, or else he against whom this army is prepared. So Vitellius truly retired to Antioch; but Agrippa, the son of Aristobulus, went up to Rome, a year before the death of Tiberius, in order to treat of some affairs with the emperor, if he might be permitted so to do. I have now a mind to describe Herod and his family, how it fared with them, partly because it is suitable to this history to speak of that matter, and partly because this thing is a demonstration of the interposition of Providence, how a multitude of children is of no advantage, no more than any other strength that mankind set their hearts upon, besides those acts of piety which are done towards God; for it happened, that, within the revolution of a hundred years, the posterity of Herod, which were a great many in number, were, excepting a few, utterly destroyed. One may well apply this for the instruction of mankind, and learn thence how unhappy they were: it will also show us the history of Agrippa, who, as he was a person most worthy of admiration, so was he from a private man, beyond all the expectation of those that knew him, advanced to great power and authority. I have said something of them formerly, but I shall now also speak accurately about them.” (Josephus - Ant. 18:5:3).

Having established the time frame, scope, and original audience of Jesus’ Olivet Prophecy, we’ll continue with more signs in the next post, as well as their first century fulfillment.

For More Information, See The Last Days According to Jesus by R.C. Sproul

Friday, November 17, 2006

Futurist Inconsistencies Regarding the Great Tribulation

“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short… Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:21-22; 34)


Humans are naturally egocentric, and Christians aren’t exempt from this state of mind. This can really be seen in the futurist (Premillennial) view of Bible Prophecy. When a believer states that he believes the events of the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21) to be still future, what that person usually means is that Jesus was talking about the current generation. “Convinced of their own importance, they are unable to think of themselves as living at any other time than the climax of history.”1 For some reason, Christians get upset over the idea that the Great Tribulation is past history. They are dismayed to find out that all of these horrible things were inflicted upon first century believers, so that we won’t have to endure them. They are uncomfortable with the idea that no world government leader is going to cut off people’s heads for not accepting his mandated tattoo or computer chip implant. Maybe they will be pleased to know that there are still plenty of places on this earth where they can go to get beheaded for Jesus. I, for one, am glad that I’ll never have to face what the Apostle’s did, or at least I hope not.

The Great Tribulation, according to Scripture

Yes, you read it correctly. The Great Tribulation is indeed past history, and Jesus’ words concerning this could not have been any clearer. Consider the following:

1.) Jesus tied the Great Tribulation to events prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD (See Matthew 24:1-2).

2.) Jesus warned His Disciples that “they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake.” (
Matthew 24:9).

3.) Jesus warned His Apostles to flee Judea during the Great Tribulation, when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies (
Matthew 24:15-21; Luke 20:20-24).

4.) Jesus said that the days of the Great Tribulation would be cut short for the elect’s sake, which would make no sense of the elect are going to be raptured before the Tribulation begins (
Matthew 24:22).

5.) Jesus clearly said that all of the things He spoke about would happen within the Apostle’s generation (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32).

6.) Jesus threatened to throw the First Century Church in Thyatira into the great tribulation (Revelation 2:22), which would make no sense if they would all be dead 2,000 years before the great tribulation began?

Based on these and other clear statements, on what basis will one try to make the Great Tribulation a future event? Those who do are forced to play some literary gymnastics with the Scriptures. It was the Apostles who were exhorted to endure the Tribulation. It was they who would be persecuted, hated, and killed. Nothing in Jesus words even hinted at the idea that He had the 21st Century in mind, or that the church would have to wait 1,800 years before Darby and Scofield would come along and uncover the true meaning of the Great Tribulation.

The Mysterious 2,000 year gap

In order to make their doomsday prophecies concerning the future work, Dispensationalists have to invent gaps of about 2,000 years and place them between certain Old Testament prophecies. Consider this amazing quote from Todd Strandberg’s Rapture Ready Website considering Daniel 9:24-27:

“And then something strange happened: The Heavenly clock stopped. 69 of the 70 weeks had passed and all that was prophesied to happen during those 483 years had come to pass but there was still one week (7 years) left.”

What defense or explanation does the writer offer for this mysterious “Heavenly Clock” stopping? He writes, “…in the New Testament we're also told that while God is dealing with the Church, time ceases to exist for Israel (Acts 15:13-18).” I challenge anyone with a Bible to look up Acts 15:13-18 to see if it says any such thing, or you can simply click on the link provided.

H.A. Ironside agrees, stating that “The seventieth week has been postponed by God Himself. The moment Messiah died on the cross the prophetic clock stopped. There has not been one tick on that clock for nineteen centuries. It will not begin to go again until the entire present age has come to an end, and Israel will once more be taken up by God.”

An obvious question must be asked regarding this 1,976 year (and counting) gap between Daniel’s 69th and 70th week. Why didn’t Daniel mention it? After all, such a large gap is pretty significant in a 490 year prophecy. Charles Ryrie, as well as most of his dispensationalist followers, explains it by suggesting that the Old Testament prophets did not see the church age.

“The church is a mystery in the sense that it was completely unrevealed in the Old Testament and now revealed in the New Testament” - Charles C. Ryrie

There are several problems with this interpretation. First, it is clear that Bible Prophecy was indeed fulfilled after Christ’s death on the cross (For just one of many examples, see Joel 2:28-32 cf. Acts 2:16-21). How could this be if the prophetic time clock had stopped at Christ’s death?

Second, Christ Himself applied Daniel’s “Abomination of Desolation” (Daniel 9:27) to the Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 (Compare Matthew 24:15-21 with Luke 21:20-24).

Third, contrary to Ryrie’s statement above, the prophets not only saw the church age, they looked forward to it. (See Acts 2:16-21; Acts 3:24-26; Acts 15:14-18; Galatians 3:8 for a few examples).

How consistent are these people with their interpretation? The Rapture Ready Website explains why they feel that the current nation of Israel is important to Bible Prophecy.

“Israel is important, however, because God made promises to Israel that will be fulfilled. One of the Bible's greatest predictions about Israel has already come to pass. In 1948, Israel was reborn as a nation. The rebirth of the Jewish state should have put aside any doubts that God had abandoned the apple of His eye.”

This belief is common among futurists, but begs the question, “Has the Heavenly prophetic clock stopped for Israel or not?” They can’t have it both ways. If the heavenly clock has stopped, then 1948 cannot be a fulfillment of Bible Prophecy (and by the way, it isn’t). The Rapture Ready Website itself has a section called Rapture Ready News (Events related to prophecy) which is updated daily. Apparently the belief that God’s Prophetic Clock has stopped doesn’t seem to faze Dispensationalists when it comes to current events.

Under the Glossary heading of the Rapture Ready Website, a Critical Definition of Preterism states that “Under preterism you are basically left to just waiting for Jesus to return.” What?!! No Beheadings, Satanic World Dictators, or 100 pound Hailstones falling from the sky?!!!! How disappointing huh? You have to wonder what these guys think about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

Having established that 1.) God’s time clock has not stopped; and 2.) The Old Testament prophets did see the church age, the question still remains. Where does that large gap between Daniel’s 69th and 70th weeks come from? The answer: Someone made it up out of thin air. The Bible itself says nothing about such a gap. But this is really the only way to get Dispensationalism to work. I could go one with other strange teachings along this line, such as the idea that 144,000 Jews will be saved after the Holy Spirit leaves planet earth, but this should suffice for now. There is no Biblical reason to believe in a future 7-year tribulation period. The Bible’s message is one of Victory, not escape.

For More Information, I recommend the following:

Dispensationalism: Israel and the Church by Grover Gunn
The Great Tribulation by David Chilton
Daniel's Last Vision and Prophecy James Farquharson
Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope by Keith Mathison


1 David Chilton – Days of Vengeance, p 40

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thomas Ice’s Pre-Trib “Evidence”


Most Christians are stunned to discover that the popular “rapture” doctrine was an invention of the Plymouth Brethren (adapted from Margaret McDonald) in the early 1800’s. Having refuted the idea that the “pre-trib” rapture is taught in the Scripture, we shall now examine the historic orthodoxy of the rapture doctrine. In an attempt to give the “Pre-trib” Rapture Doctrine some smidgen of historical significance beyond Darby and McDonald, Dr. Thomas Ice, Executive Director of the Pre-Trib Research Center, wrote an article in The Midnight Call (Jan. '06), p. 20-23, entitled "A Brief History of the Rapture." I don’t know Ice personally, and I won’t presuppose whether or not he is making honest mistakes, or if he is being purposely deceptive. Thanks to great research by people like Gary DeMar and Dave MacPherson, Ice’s “evidence” has been thoroughly refuted, as I will outline below.


Ice’s Claim #1 - The Apostolic Fathers held to both the imminent return of Christ as well as a post-tribulational rapture theory. While these positions are self-contradictory, the fact that imminence was taught is very important, as it forms the irrefutable basis of pre-trib rapture.

Response – There is no consensus on the eschatology of the Apostolic Fathers. In fact, most of the Church Fathers held that the Olivet Discourse was completely fulfilled at the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Preterist). There are very few (if any) Apostolic references to the Book of Revelation itself. As for the Imminence Argument, this is two-fold. For the Apostolic Fathers who wrote prior to AD 70, a good case can be made that the “coming” they speak of is the same coming in Matthew 21:33-45. As for the post AD 70 Fathers who held to “the imminent return of Christ”, it is obvious now that they were wrong. What else needs to be said regarding that?


Ice’s Claim #2 - A sermon preched by a man referred to as Pseudo-Ephraem in the fourth to sixth century AD, entitled Sermon on The Last Times, The Antchrist, and The End of the World, contains the following:

“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 of the world? . . . For all the saints 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”.

Response – Dave MacPherson outlines the deception in many of Ice’s claims, including that Pseudo-Ephraem taught a “pre-trib rapture”.

“In the before-the-tribulation sections, P-E mentions neither a descent of Christ, nor a shout, nor an angelic voice, nor a trumpet of God, nor a resurrection, nor the dead in Christ, nor a rapture, nor meeting Christ. So where does P-E place the rapture? The answer is found in his last section (10) where he writes that after "the sign of the Son of Man" when "the Lord shall appear with great power," the "angelic trumpet precedes him, which shall sound and declare: Arise, O sleeping ones, arise, meet Christ, because the hour of judgment has come.”1

MacPherson goes on to show how pre-tribbers like Ice and Grant Jeffrey purposely revise Pseudo-Ephraem’s statements, leaving out words and phrases to purposely hide the fact that “Pseudo-Ephraem has the nasty, non-pretrib habit of blending the rapture with the final advent!”2


Ice’s Claim #3 - It is believed that sects like the Albigenses, Lmbards, and the Waldenses were attracted to premillennialism . . . difficult to say much as the RCC (which was/is amill) destroyed their works whenever they found them.

Response – Premillennialism itself does not support the idea of a Pre-trib rapture. Premillennialism has been around for a long time in different forms, but did not include the rapture doctrine until the 1800’s.


Ice’s Claim #4 - Brother Dolcino (1304) held to a pretribulational rapture, according to Francis Gumerlock. "[Dolcino taught that he and his followers would] be preserved unharmed from the persecution of the Antichrist."

Response – Dolcino and his followers can hardly be considered orthodox Christians. Ice refered to a work by Francis Gumerlock after a debate with Gary DeMar which stated, “the Dolcinites held to a pre-tribulation rapture theory similar to that of modern Dispensationalism”.3 But Dolcino taught much more than that. Gary Demar explains:

"If Ice wants to claim the Dolcinites as proto-dispensationalists, he can have them. Gumerlock quotes the Historia Fratris Dolcini Haeresiarchae in an end note (the English translation is Gumerlock's): "Again, [he believed, preached, and taught] that within the said three years Dolcino himself and his followers will preach the coming of the Antichrist; and that the Antichrist himself would come into this world at the end of the said three and a half years; and after he had come, Dolcino himself, and his followers would be transferred into Paradise, where Enoch and Elijah are, and they will be preserved unharmed from the persecution of Antichrist; and then Enoch and Elijah themselves would descend to earth to confront the Antichrist, then they would be killed by him; or by his servants, and thus Antichrist would reign again for many days. ‘Once Antichrist is truly dead, Dolcino himself, who would then be the holy Pope, and his preserved followers will descend to earth, and they will preach the correct faith of Christ to all, and they will convert those, who will be alive then, to the true faith of Jesus Christ.”

If Brother Dolcino’s teachings are the best evidence that Ice can come up with, he’s on shaky ground.


Ice’s Claim #5 - Both Philip Doddridge's commentary on the NT (1738) and Gill's commentary on the NT (1748) teach the imminence of the rapture. "It is clear that these men believed that [the rapture] will precede Christ's descent to the earth and the time of judgment. The purpose was to preserve believers from the time of judgment."

Response - The commentaries of these men are both pretty good size, and Ice unfortunately didn’t provide the portion that led him to believe that “these men believed that [the rapture] will precede Christ's descent to the earth and the time of judgment.” Both Doddridge and Gill, at best, were historical premillennialists with very heavy preterist leanings. Both of their commentaries put the Olivet Discourse, including the Great Tribulation, as having seen it’s fulfillment in the Roman-Jewish war, and refer to Josephus as evidence for this fulfillment.


Ice’s Claim #6 - James Macknight (1763) and Thomas Scott (1792) taught that the righteous will be carried to heaven, where they will be secure until the time of judgment is over.

Response - Like Gill and Doddridge, both Macknight and Scott were historical premillennialists with very heavy preterist leanings. "Milligan writes: "To me at least it seems perfectly obvious that the Apostle refers here to a day that was then very near at hand: a day that was about to come on that generation, and try the faith of many. And hence I am constrained to think with Macknight, Scott, Stuart, and others, that the reference is most likely to the day of Jerusalem's overthrow" (Commentary on Hebrews, p. 284)." (That Day" and forsaking the assembly )


Ice’s Claim #7 - Frank Marotta, not a pre-triber, believes that Thomas Collier in 1674 makes reference to a pretib rapture. John Asgill wrote a book in 1700 discussing the possibility of translation without seeing death.

Response – Unfortunately, Ice again does not give specifics. I have been unable to locate a copy of either source, though the complete title given for Asgill’s work by Ice does not say anything about a “pre-trib” rapture.4


Ice’s Claim #8 - Baptist Morgan Edwards, founder of Brown University, apparently believed in a system comparable to modern day mid-trib rapture. He published his beliefs in 1744 saying,
“The distance between the first and second resurrection will be somewhat more than a thousand years. I say, somewhat more--, because the dead saints will be raised, and the living changed at Christ's "appearing in the air" . . . ; and this will be about three years and a half before the millennium . . . they will ascend to paradise, or to some one of those many "mansions in the father's house" . . ., and disappear during the foresaid period f time. The design of ths retreat and disappearing will be to judge the risen and changed saints.”

Response – Dave MacPherson shows clear proof that Morgan Edwards was a Historical Premillennialist, believing that he was already in the Great Tribulation.

“… these promoters … [have] concealed and perverted Morgan Edwards'…own words!... If promoters had been sure of their pretrib claim, they never would have had to collusively cover up the following M.E. statements that contradict their claim: On p. 14 M.E. described the "Turkish or Ottoman empire" (which began around 1300 A.D.) as the "beast that started out of the earth" (Rev. 13's second beast). (Since Bray etc. repeatedly claim that M.E. had only a "futurist" outlook, without which M.E. couldn't have logically expected a pretrib rapture, Bray deliberately skips over the historicism in M.E.'s "Ottoman" remark - historicism being the belief that the tribulation, covering many centuries, began at some point in the distant past.)

On p. 20 M.E. wrote that the "wicked one" (II Thess. 2:8) has "hitherto assumed no higher title than 'the vicar general of Christ on earth'" and described "Antichrist" as "popery" and a "succession of persons." (Promoters emphasize M.E.'s comments about the "last" Pope and ignore M.E.'s view that "popery" had "hitherto" (for many centuries) been playing the role of II Thess. 2:8's "wicked one" while wearing a "mask" (as he put it) - a first beast that historicism could easily see during the second beast's reign!) Since historicism - and not preterism or futurism - is the only one of these three schools which often thinks "years" when reading "days" in the Bible, it isn't surprising to find such year/day historicism in M.E. On p. 19, for example, while discussing Rev. 11's two witnesses, M.E. says "there are no more than about 204 years between now and their death.”

Obviously, if Morgan Edwards believed that he was already in the Tribulation period, he could not have been looking for a Pre-Trib Rapture.



It is obvious that Ice’s evidence has been invented out of desperation. It is one thing to believe in a certain doctrine. It is another thing to try and rewrite the works of earlier saints to promote it. The works of early church fathers are full of commentary on eschatology, yet references to any “pre-trib rapture” are noticeably absent. After all of Thomas Ice’s best efforts, he still hasn’t provided any evidence for the teaching of the modern “rapture” doctrine prior to 1800. While he is busy doing research for this doctrine through his Pre-Trib Research Center, his time could much better be spent in search of the truth.


Deceiving and Being Deceived By Dave MacPherson
2 Deceiving and Being Deceived By Dave MacPherson
3 Francis Gumerlock - The Day and the Hour, p.80).
4 See Endnote 10, page 23 of
The Midnight Call (Jan. '06).
Deceiving and Being Deceived By Dave MacPherson