The Binding of Satan

The Binding of Satan

The Binding of Satan

The Theological study of Satan is known as Demonology. Many Futurists believe that it is the role Christians today to “bind” Satan…

I’m a ‘Pentecostal’ Preterist. To be more precise I’m a Pentecostal Partial Preterist. If you’re wondering what on earth does any of that mean? It means I wake up every morning to start my day living for Jesus, rather than againstSatan. I don’t have to bind Satan to get over difficulties or to make it through life. Let me explain further…

If I was a Full-Preterist I would have to believe that every prophecy and every intention of God was already fulfilled- and therefore that the supernatural gifts of Spirit ceased with the close of the Old Covenant in 70AD. But I’m not a Full-Preterist. I believe in miracles for today. I believe in the New Testament’s promise of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit for the believer today. I’ve been a Pentecostal Pastor now for more than 20 years. But I’m not a Dispensational Pentecostal (which I find an oxymoron) who regard the Devil as requiring the believer to mortally combat in order to further the Great Commission. This Dispensational concept of over-stating the power and role of Satan is rooted in the heretical notion that Christ descended into Hell to wrestle the keys of Hell and Death out of the hand of Satan in the corridors of Hell in order to achieve our salvation. And therefore in order for the believer to live a victorious life they must constantly battle Satan, says the Dispensational Pentecostal.

HOW PARTIAL PRETERISM REGARDS SATAN…

Defeated. Conquered. Bound.

In this way, God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by His victory over them on the cross of Christ.
Colossians 2:15

Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil and according to Colossians 2:15 He did just that by dying on the Cross.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—
Hebrews 2:14

It wasn’t in the corridors of Hell that salvation was achieved and the Devil was defeated, it was on the Cross! While Dispensationalists argue that a method of salvation was achieved by the Cross, they reject the notion that the Devil was defeated because of the Cross. Because they read Revelation as largely unfulfilled, they also read the account in Revelation 20 of Satan’s binding as also unfulfilled and yet to happen. But this interpretation is against the tenor of the New Testament’s description of Satan’s position since the Cross.

 

“BINDING” IN THE BIBLE

“Binding” can be physical, such as being bound by shackels, chains or ropes (Mk. 5:4) or bandages (Lk. 10:34). But it can also be non-physical. That is, someone could be bound by an oath (Mat. 23:16; Acts 23:12), a condition, or an obligation. Jesus questioned whether it was right for Him to heal a woman who had been ‘bound by Satan for eighteen years‘ (Luke 13:16). Christ also stated that we could only ‘bind’ people on earth with what what they were already bound by in heaven. In this sense, binding referred to obligations and it meant that people who could no longer do what the Pharisees had done when they invented certain rules they called ‘binding rules’ (things forbidden), instead they could only restrict people from doing what God said they were restricted from doing.

When it comes to interpreting the passage in Revelation 20 about Satan being bound at the beginning of the one thousand year reign of Christ it is assumed by the Pre-millennialist (one who believes in a literal and future 1,000 reign of Christ on earth) that neither the Kingdom (“1,000” years) or the binding of Satan has taken place. Silly simplistic arguments are used to rebutt those, who like me, regard the “1,000” years as linguistically representing the rule and reign of Christ from the close of the Old Covenant in 70AD to the present day (and beyond). To ignore the way the Bible uses the number “1,000” and to then impose a wooden-literal understanding of it into the Revelation 20 text is perilous. Job says that he could ask a thousand questions of God and have them all answered. Surely this language is stating the enormous depth of God’s knowledge rather than limiting God to the capacity to only answer a thousand questions. The Law-Giver says that God’s love extends to a thousand generations to those who keep His covenant. Surely God’s love does not expire after a thousand generations of humanity? The Psalmist said that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Does this imply that the cattle on a 1001st hill are not God’s? It appears that the Biblical usage of a thousand paints a picture of a number so large that it’s not meant to be counted. That’s exactly what it means in Revelation 20.

And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,
Revelation 20:2

Secondly, since Satan is a non-corporeal being (that is, he doesn’t have a physical body) physical objects, such as metal chains, cannot restrict him. Therefore, whatever binding means in Revelation 20:2, its certainly cannot mean a physical restriction. Since we have already seen that binding can mean something non-physical, it is far more probable that the binding referred to in Revelation 20:2 is symbolic language for restriction. The Cross terminally weakened Satan, and the culmination of the Old Covenant in 70AD destroyed his ability to exploit the condemnation of the Mosaic Covenant.

Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
Revelation 12:12

The teaching of the New Testament is that Christ came to defeat the works of the Devil. For those who believe that nothing changed for Satan since the Cross, then the statement in Revelation 12:12 becomes non-sensical as they are forced into the absurd position of claiming that the Devil’s short time is from the Cross to the present day. This type of Bible interpretation requires mental, theological, and exegetical gymnastics. For those of us not prepared to abandon the ordinary rules of Bible interpretation (including: Context, Non-Contradiction, Original Intention) such fanciful interpretations are not only ridiculous but impossible.

Since we know that the Cross announced the end of the Old Covenant which continued to function until the the New Covenant had been preached to every Jew in the Empire, and which Christ said was conditional for the ending of the Old Covenant-

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world [Greek word: “oichoumene”, def’n: ‘Roman Empire’] as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:14

The writer of Hebrews, who wrote to discouraged Jewish Christians encouraging them not to succumb to the taunts of Pharisaic Jews that the Mosaic Covenant has not been done away with since the Temple, Priesthood and Sacrifices were still in place, revealed to them-

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Hebrews 8:13

Satan did everything he could to prevent the first Church from preaching the Gospel to every creature-

because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.
First Thessalonians 2:18

But despite Satan’s best efforts, the Gospel prevailed by 70AD-

the word of the truth, the gospel,
which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—
Colossians 1:5b-6a

if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Colossians 1:23

When all those living under the Old Covenant had had an opportunity to convert to Christ and accept the New Covenant, the Old Covenant could end. With the end of the Old Covenant came the ‘binding’ of Satan. From that point Satan could no longer come into the presence of God (as he did in Job 1-2), instead he was ‘bound’ from approaching God, and ‘bound’ for eternal damnation (“bottomless pit”).

 

MILLENNIALISM & PARTIAL PRETERISM

Satan was defeated at the Cross. He was bound at the close of the Old Covenant. This means that he is restricted from deceiving nations and accusing the brethren in the presence of God (since he is now cast out of heaven). For those who claim that if Satan is bound now “he certainly has a long leash” – I suggest that if he isn’t bound now he certainly lacks imagination! If Satan is not now restricted from conducting unlimited evil by the Lordship of Christ then his lack of rampant evil is bewildering.

Futurists are quick to ignorantly attribute natural disasters to Satan as evidence of his unbounded evil. But so-called natural disasters are more often than not a vital part of God’s maintenance plan for sustaining creation. Earthquakes, tsunamis, bush-fires, floods are all designed by God for the purpose of sustaining life on earth. (I explore this issue further in my article on the Boxing Day Tsunami.)

The Biblical expression “1,000” speaks of not meant to be counted. God owns the cattle on a 1,000 hill, Job could ask 1,000 questions and each time receive an answer, God’s faithfulness is to 1,000 generations, and so on. In a similar way, after the close of the Old Covenant Age with the destruction of the Temple and abolition the sacrificial system, Christ established His New Covenant reign. There will eventually come a time when Christ will hand over this Kingdom to His Father (1Cor. 15:24) at His Appearing.

 

HOW FAR INTO THE FUTURE DID REVELATION CLAIM SATAN WOULD BE BOUND?

Dispensationalism claims that the Book of Revelation was written about events which were to be fulfilled in the much distant future. But the Book of Revelation makes emphatic claims that its contents pertained to its original audience. The opening verses of Revelation could not be clearer-

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John…Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
Revelation 1:1, 3 ESV

It flies in the face of logic to claim that although it plainly states that its contents are immediately about to happen, it actually meant that they were thousands of years off! That is an absurd interpretation. This also relates to what it says about the doom of Satan. Partial Preterism interprets Satan’s “time is short” (Rev. 12:12) as the forty or so years (an incredibly short time in the scheme of Biblical history) as being from the Cross to the destruction of Jerusalem. To suggest that Satan’s “short time” was from the Cross to the present day defies all ordinary senses of language.

In my eBook, The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible (Understanding The Book of Revelation), I present the case for most of the Book of Revelation being fulfilled. Therefore, there is a strong case to be made from both the witness of Scripture and history that the Dispensationalist’s claim that Revelation is mostly about the future is without credibility.

 

The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, eBook, by Dr. Andrew Corbett

The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, eBook, by Dr. Andrew Corbett

I have written a fuller explanation of the book of Revelation in my eBook- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (click here to read a preview). The application from the Book of Revelation is that despite what appears to be an impotent Church struggling to serve an apparently impotent Christ, the Church is in reality made up of overcomers who lay down their lives gladly to promote Christ and His Gospel. In so doing, the Kingdom of Christ is extended, prayers are offered and heard, miracles are graced, and the believer can die with infinite hope that their Lord will keep them for eternity and clothe them with a new body which can not be subject to pain, injury, sorrow, or sin. With this knowledge we can endure momentary hardship during the brevity of this life on earth. We can be assured that our greatest delights and deepest moments of fulfilment are yet to come in the life to come.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

John 5:25

Amen.

Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, Australia, 25th December 2006

The Background To The Book of Revelation

The Background To The Book of Revelation

Understand The Background to the Book of Revelation

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The Background to the Book of Revelation, written by Dr Andrew Corbett, President of ICI Theological College Australia, and author of the popular commentary on the Book of Revelation- The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible [September 22nd, 2009]

If you were downtown and looked across the street over the parked cars and saw someone you knew rushing intently to push a little old lady over, what would you think of that person? Would your opinion of this person change if you later discovered that the cars you were looking over obscured your view of this person actually pushing this little old lady out of the way of a speeding sports car which was hurtling towards her and about to hit her? Sometimes, a bigger picture changes the entire picture!

This is what reading the Book of Revelation is like for some people. They have their understanding of the Book of Revelation obscured by their lack of understanding about history, Biblical language, and even modern opinions.

The Problem With The Book of RevelationAnd this is one of the biggest problems with how people approach the Book of Revelation: the historical background to the Book is unknown to most readers. The second huge problem is that most people who promote themselves as experts on “End Times” or “Bible Prophecy” do not understand how the principles of sound Biblical hermeneutics apply equally to the Book of Revelation. For example, one of the first assumptions that those who employ sound hermeneutics use is, treat any Biblical book as if it was written to someone else. This demands that we study the original audience context as well as the Biblical context. But this presents a problem to the modern reader since we are at least two thousand years removed from the original audience. If we fail to address these problems when interpretting the Book of Revelation, we are doomed to commit the same errors that have plagued the history of Revelation’s interpretation. (I have compiled a small list of such of failed interpretations.)

Revelation as Apocalyptic LiteratureAnyone who studies the Book of Revelation will soon come across the term “apocalyptic”. The language of the Book of Revelation is regarded as “apocalyptic”. Similarly, the student of Revelation will read that “apocalyptic” has to do with symbolic prophetic language regarding the end of the world. This definition though is somewhat unsubstantiated. “Apocalyptic” does not mean the end of the world, rather it means to unveil. It comes from the Greek word, apocalypsis. This is the original Greek word for the English word “Revelation”. Thus, while the nature of the term apocalyptic is certainly symbolic, certainly prophetic, and certainly about the ending of something, but it is not necessarily (if at all) about the end of the world.

Speculation about the Book of RevelationIf a student of the Book of Revelation (i) ignores the historical context of the book, (ii) assumes that it is describing the end of the world (an expression no where found in the Book itself) – it will inevitably lead to some wild speculation about what this book means. History reveals that this speculation has brought much discredit to the cause of promoting Christ and His infallble Word when well-meaning (but mistaken) people make bold claims that the Book of Revelation predicts the fortunes of their own nation in their own day. The Book of Revelation not only does not make this claim, it actually claims to be speaking to a first century audience within the existing Roman Empire. But I am now rushing ahead of myself.

Understanding the Book of RevelationThe Book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible for good reason. It requires some knowledge of the rest of the Bible in order to appreciate it. Without understanding the overall context of the Bible, it is impossible to understand the Book of Revelation. It draws upon the language and imagery of the Old Testament. For example, in Revelation 17 it describes a great prostitute who is curiously dressed in the exact fashion described in Exodus 29 yet with deliberately different embossed wording. Failure to appreciate the Old Testament will cause the reader to miss this connection and then fail to get the point of what the author is trying to say.

Background to the Book of Revelation

The Persecution was the TribulationThe single greatest historical factor affecting the first century Church was: persecution. This was coming from two colluding sources. Knowing this dramatically affects how we interpret the Book of Revelation. These two sources are consistently referred to throughout Revelation- Beast and the False Prophet, Beast from across the sea and the Beast of the Land, the Seven Headed Beast and the Mother of Prostitutes.

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 1:9

The Church was being persecuted by Jerusalem and Rome. Christians were being martyred. We are told in Revelation 2 that Antipas had been killed for being a Christian. We are told in Revelation 6 that there were many martyrs who had been killed for following Christ. Even John was writing this Book as a persecuted Christian. It looked to many believers that the Church would be conquered by this unrelenting persecution. But John’s visions of Christ’s Revelation, reassured the suffering Church that Jesus was indeed Lord, and that He would indeed conquer.

The collusion between Rome and Jerusalem against the Church

The Book of Revelation was not written to an English-speaking Church living in Western affluence. It was written to a First Century Church undergoing intense tribulation and wondering whether their faith in Christ had been in vain. Just as there are lessons for the modern Church from any New Testament book, there are some powerful lessons for today from this ancient book.

I have written a fuller explanation of the book of Revelation in my eBook- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (click here to read a preview).

Amen.

Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania. This article originally appeared on this site, September 22nd 2009

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How should we understand ‘every eye shall see Him’?

How should we understand ‘every eye shall see Him’?

How should we understand, %22Every eye shall see Him%22, Revelation 1 vs7?

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Explaining “Every Eye Shall See” From A Preterist Perspective
Written by Dr Andrew Corbett, President of ICI Theological College Australia, and author of the popular commentary on the Book of Revelation- The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible. This was originally published February 16th 2011

After years of studying the Book of Revelation, I have become persuaded of the Classical Preterist Position. One of the first objections raised against Preterism (often confused with Hyper-Preterism, or, ‘Pantellism’) is based on Revelation 1:7. Which says that when Christ ‘comes’, ‘every eye will see Him.’ Opponents of Preterism offer what they think is a death-blow to Preterism with this apparent ‘knock-out’ verse. As a Preterist, I have to admit, if their interpretation of this verse is correct, Preterism can not be true. Therefore, how we understand this verse will either destroy the validity of Preterism or, could it possibly validate it

Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
Revelation 1:7

Another way to render this verse might be: “Behold He is coming with the clouds [in judgment] and every eye will see Him – that is, the eyes of those who pierced Him, and all of the Tribes of the Land [Israel] will wail at this time because of His judgment. Even though this will be devastating, it must happen.” 

Rendering the verse this does three things. Firstly, it becomes immediately consistent with the time-frame references in the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation. That is, Christ’s judgment on Jerusalem was seen by those who orchestrated His crucifixion- the High Priest and the Sanhedrin along with all Israel who joined together to kill the Christ.

and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.
Matthew 26:4

It is consistent with the time-frame references in the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation because it plainly states that the events described were to take place soon – “for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3). To argue that verse 7 should be interpreted as referring to the end of time or the end of the world is not consistent with the context and therefore not a literal interpretation. Regarding this verse as forecasting something that was indeed near, at hand, soon, now, about to take place, as it plainly says in Revelation 1:3, is consistent with Revelation’s overall time-frame.

Secondly, rendering verse 7 this way is consistent with the other Biblical uses of the expression coming with the clouds which refer to God’s judgment on a people from Heaven. When the God of Heaven interacted with Moses, He is described as being surrounded by clouds (Exodus 19:9) and He chose to give the Hebrews a picture of His majesty and great glory with “clouds”-

The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
Exodus 24:16

God gave His people the picture of His glory being represented by clouds. Therefore, when it says that God is coming in, or with, clouds we must be careful not to think of this just in a wooden literal sense. It more often than not is a word picture of God’s glory. On numerous occasions throughout the Old Testament, God’s glory did literally appear as a cloud to people (eg. Numbers 9:19). But as the Old Testament unfolds God takes this concept and creates the metaphor of clouds to speak His glory. Thus, whenever He judged on Israel’s behalf, He is often described as doing so by ‘visiting’ the nation to be judged ‘riding clouds’.

 An oracle concerning Egypt.
Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. 

Isaiah 19:1

Thirdly, rendering the verse this way is consistent with the complementary Biblical passages (the broader context) which make clear time-frame references to the generation of Revelation’s original audience. In particular, the Olivet discourse of Matthew 24, which most scholars recognise as a parallel to the Book of Revelation, plainly says this in verse 34 (“this generation…shall see all these things”). Understanding Revelation 1:7 as speaking to and about the first century audience makes any other rendering of this verse as yet future implausible. In what other generation, apart from the original generation to which Revelation was addressed around 65AD, could the qualifying statement about every eye shall see – even those who pierced Him – apply? If we force the interpretation of the text to be prophetic of our future, the fulfilment becomes impossible. That is, far from the Preterist interpretation of Revelation being disqualified by this verse, it is actually only the Preterist interpretation that offers any hope for this verse to be fulfilled!

It is absurd for Futurists to claim that “even those who pierced Him” refers to modern Israel. Futurists pride themselves for being “literalists” when it comes to interpretting the Book of Revelation. But which interpretation of Revelation 1:7 is more literal? I am proposing the most literal interpretation of this verse by saying that when the text says “even those who pierced Him” that is precisely what it means. “Every eye shall see” refers to the qualifying statement identifying this audience as the people responsible for Christ’s death. Again, when Futurists claim that this text prophesies the invention of satellite TV which will televise the return of Christ live around the world, they can barely warrant their appeal as literalists!

ALL THE TRIBES OF THE EARTH

The expression “all the tribes of the earth” sounds global. But it is almost certainly not. The Greek word for “earth” is ‘ge’ (geology, geography), which is translated as “earth” or “land”. This word is used to designate the Land of Promise, Israel. It is perfectly natural to understand Revelation 1:7 as referring to all the tribes of Israel. This understanding is consistent in the three ways discussed earlier (1. The Textual Time-Frame Indicators, 2. It Is Biblically Consistent, and, 3. The Broad Biblical Context). In this light, we are logically, reasonably, and rationally left to conclude that the author intended to convey to his original audience that this verse was indeed to be fulfilled in their life-time. Indeed, I have already shown, this is the only way to literallytake this verse. But, the Futurist might ask- In what way then was this verse possibly fulfilled?

I have already shown that the expression the Lord is coming is a Biblical expression of God’s looming judgment. It is the classic understanding of the Church that Christ will return. This is where Classical Preterists and Hyper-Preterists part company. Pantelogists (Hyper-Preterists) regard all Bible prophecies as being fulfilled, whereas, Classical Preterists (Partial Preterists) distinguish between Christ’s coming in judgment on Jerusalem and His eventual return. There is historical support for this view dating back to the second and third centuries. Nearly all Biblical Commentators prior to the 1800s took for granted that the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) was fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. This can be readily verified by sourcing a very commonly available old commentary such as Matthew Henry’s. Both the Hyper-Preterist and the Futurist Dispensational interpretation were unknown prior to the early 1800s. Naturally both schools of interpretation disagree with this assertion, but the challenge for Dispensational Futurists is to find any Biblical Commentator or Scholar who wrote anything about an invisible return of Christ to rapture the Church to then be followed by a physical return of Christ with the Church 3 to 7 years later! The same challenge applies to Hyper-Preterists to show any Biblical Commentator of scholar accepted by the Christian community as orthodox who claimed that Christ had already returned and that the General Resurrection referred to First Corinthians 15 had already taken place. On the contrary, both Paul (2Tim. 2:18) and the corpus of Biblical Commentators and scholars down through the ages have both denounced the heretical view that the Resurrection of all the dead had already taken place!

How then can we claim that Revelation 1:7 has been fulfilled? Having shown that it could only have been fulfilled in the first century AD, we can then integrate it into the whole message of The Book of Revelation and the Olivet Discourse and show two things clearly: (i) Both the Book of Revelation and the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 intended to convey prophecies regarding the times leading up to 70AD (note the time-frame language~ “now”, “at hand”, “this hour”, “near”, “shortly”, “this generation”); (ii) It can be shown historically that the events forecast in Revelation 1:1 – 20:5-6 (at this point in the Book of Revelation the time-frame changes) have been fulfilled. That is, the inhabitants of Jerusalem in 70AD literally saw the coming of God’s judgment upon them for their apostasy. “Every eye” saw it. “All the tribes” of Israel saw it.

The Partial-Preterist (Classical Preterist) view of Bible prophecy is completely orthodox. It is Christo-centric. It is Biblical. It conforms to the ancient 4 Creeds of the Church. It is verified by history. It is commended to you in my ebook THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE, which you can download immediately.

The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, eBook, by Dr. Andrew Corbett

The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, eBook, by Dr. Andrew Corbett

I have written a fuller explanation of the book of Revelation in my eBook- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (click here to read a preview). The application from the Book of Revelation is that despite what appears to be an impotent Church struggling to serve an apparently impotent Christ, the Church is in reality made up of overcomers who lay down their lives gladly to promote Christ and His Gospel. In so doing, the Kingdom of Christ is extended, prayers are offered and heard, miracles are graced, and the believer can die with infinite hope that their Lord will keep them for eternity and clothe them with a new body which can not be subject to pain, injury, sorrow, or sin. With this knowledge we can endure momentary hardship during the brevity of this life on earth. We can be assured that our greatest delights and deepest moments of fulfilment are yet to come in the life to come.

John 5:25 ¶ “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

Amen.

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The Two Witnesses Of Revelation

The Two Witnesses Of Revelation

Who Are The Two Witnesses Mentioned In Revelation Chapter 11?

Confusion reigns when it comes to interpreting the Book of Revelation, especially over the speculation to the identity of the “two witnesses” of Revelation 11…

And what’s at stake is the entire credibility of the Bible!

written Dr Andrew Corbett pastor of Legana Christian Church in Tasmania, Australia

I was listening to a well-known Texan radio preacher declare that very soon the whole world was going to be thrust into turmoil with the rise of a global dictator (known as the “Anti-christ”, according to this preacher) who will establish a one-world government and begin the greatest era of persecution against Jewish people ever witnessed. I used to regard this type of teaching as irrelevant guess-work, but I now regard this “theology” as incredibly toxic and dangerous. Then to my horror he went on to announce that this dictator would be challenged by two revitalised witnesses who would capture the attention of the whole world by their prophesying and miraculous powers- even being publicly slain then resurrected! There are of course millions of Christians who have innocently accepted this new theology without ever realising that this is an impossible interpretation of Revelation 11.

Firstly, the assumption that Revelation prophesies a world dictator is false. I elaborate on this in my article about the identity of the character behind 666. But I would encourage the reader to consider the text in Revelation 13 and search for any prediction about a “one-world government”. I would also point out to the reader that the Beast from the Sea is not the same beast who numbers people with the 666 seal. I would also invite investigation into the contents of Revelation for the term “Anti-christ” as well as “one world government”. Then consider the fact that John the Apostle told his original audience that they could identify the person whose number was 666 via gemetria (the adding of the value of each letter in a person’s name). It was well known to the audience of Revelation who this person was. He is identified as the person behind the fifth seal who launches State martyrdom of the Church (Rev. 6:9) and as the ‘sixth’ king in the succession of kings in Revelation 17:10 – that is he is the 6th king of Rome.

The Texan preacher implied that the two witnesses would be Old Testament characters who would miraculously appear in the “last days” to challenge this coming Antichrist. These figures are variously supposed to be Enoch, or Elijah, or even Moses. The Bible identifies these two witnesses as the “two lampstands” or the “two olive trees” (Zechariah 4:3, 10, 11; Revelation 11:4). 

These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
Revelation 11:4

The context of Zechariah refers to Zerrubabel and Joshua as the two in question.

For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.
Zech. 3:9

Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ ”
Zech. 4:7

The Lord had previously described Israel as an olive tree (Jer. 11:16) and the two Houses of Israel as His witnesses. Therefore the two witnesses are leaders of the Houses of Israel. This could have either been leaders from Ephraim (Israel) and Judah (the southern tribes) or of the Kingly line and the Priestly line (as indicated in Zechariah).

Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.”
Revelation 11:1

This is one of the clearest indications that Revelation could not have been written in the 90s of the first century. Since the temple and its furnishings were destroyed in 70AD it would have been impossible for John to have measured it in 95AD! Since the prophetic statements about the Romans’ 42 month occupation of Jerusalem (Rev. 11:2) are so accurate, some liberal scholars have dared to suggest that Revelation was actually written in 95AD and was really history dressed up to sound like prophecy! But the jury is back and the 95AD date for Revelation’s authorship is now considered impossible.

The scene of the sounding of the seventh trumpet involves our two witnesses. To some, their identity remains a mystery. Some have suggested that James the Just, the stepbrother of Christ aptly fits the description of at least one of the witnesses. Others have suggested that it refers to Moses and Elijah (since they were present at the Transfiguration of Christ, and performed the miracles ascribed to the two witnesses.) Still others claim that death must be made complete for Enoch and Elijah, so they must be the two witnesses. Again we must tear ourselves away from such speculation and anchor our hermeneutics to the principle of Scripture interprets Scripture.

But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months
Revelation 11:2

The forty-two months is most naturally associated with the historic Roman occupation of Jerusalem which commenced in 66AD. This is supported by the statement in Revelation 13:5 where the Roman Beast speaks against the “Tabernacle” for forty-two months. The twelve hundred and sixty days however, while also equivalent to three and a half years is distinguished from the Gentile occupation of Jerusalem (Rev. 11:3) because this was also the period of time when Rome waged war on the Church (Rev. 12:6). Therefore, we are dealing with the two witnesses ministering during the time of persecution against the Church, not the occupation of Jerusalem

I will be like the dew to Israel;
He shall grow like the lily,
And lengthen his roots like Lebanon.
6His branches shall spread;
His beauty shall be like an olivetree,
And his fragrance like Lebanon.
Hosea 14:5-6

Of course, Paul refers to Israel’s being as an Olive Tree as well (Romans 11:17-24). These two witnesses are not necessarily two individuals. No empire has to “make war against” two individuals.

When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.
Revelation 11:7

The Two Witnesses, which are the Olive Trees and the Two Lampstands refers to the Jewish Christians who were literally witnesses to Christ in the sense of having physically seen Him, and perhaps most importantly being prepared to lay down their lives for Him. It’s this latter aspect of the term witness that is recurring throughout the Book of Revelation. The Greek word for witness is martus from where we get the English word martyr. The Law required that a testimony be established on at least two witnesses.

Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.
Deuteronomy 17:6

During the three and a half year campaign of State eradication, the Romans thought that they would wipe out the Christians from the Empire.

The event that sparked official persecutions, however, was the fire of Rome, beginning on July 19 of a.d. 64. That holocaust, which lasted for nine days and gutted ten of the fourteen districts of the city, brought untold suffering to a population of about one million. Some of Nero’s enemies circulated a report that he had started the fire. The charge was probably untrue, but Nero diverted attention from himself by making scapegoats out of the Christian community in Rome. The penalty suffered by many of the supposed incendiaries was burning at the stake at night to light the gardens near Nero’s circus in the Vaticanus section of Rome. Some were crucified and others thrown to wild beasts or mad dogs. Paul suffered martyrdom at the hands of Nero; Peter is said to have suffered the same fate.
Howard Frederic Vos, Exploring church history [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994 by Howard F. Vos.

The Church’s ministry during this three and a half year period, when thousands of Jewish believers were martyred, is described in Revelation as equating to “three and a half days”. They are described as being dead for three and half days, and particularly in the city where the Lord Himself was killed: Sodom and Egypt.

And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves.
Revelation 11:8-9

At the end of the 1260 day persecution against the Church (AD64 – AD66), the 42 month assault on Jerusalem began (AD66 – AD70). With the beginning of the prophesied terrible Day of the Lord coming upon Jerusalem, the two witnesses were vindicated. Significantly, while 7 represents complete, 31/2 represents incomplete. Rome had only incompletely destroyed the Church. The breath of life enters back into the Church and it lives!

Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.
Revelation 11:11

Josephus notes that at this time terrible manifestations began-

…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 continual 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 anyone would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming.
The Works of Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter 4, Section 5

Because these two witnesses have already come and gone just as Revelation prophesied, there is great danger to the credibility of the preaching of the Gospel to claiming that they are yet future and developing an enitirely fanciful array of speculation to match.

From the ministry of these two witnesses we see that Christ will ultimately triumph. We see that God will and does empower His servants to be witnesses. We also see that faithfulness under pressure matters a lot.

Let’s not be supposing that Christianity is about escaping from this world and leaving its inhabitants “to go to hell”. This is the great danger of the kind of teaching promoted by the Texan radio preacher. On the contrary Christians should be socially engaged, environmentally engaged, politically engaged, and theeologically engaged. We should be a two-fold witness by both fulfilling the Great Commission – preaching the Good News about God’s love through Christ, and carrying out the good works that flow from the Gospel to help the poor, needy, and underprivileged. This would be a great application of the two witnesses of Revelation for today!

Consider that there are two New Testament books written by two men who are eminently qualified as unique witnesses of Christ. They spent at least two decades more with Christ than any of the 12 Disciples. The account of how they died is remarkable and matches what Revelation said about their pending deaths.

 Andrew Corbett, November 15th 2006

————–

If you were downtown and looked across the street over the parked cars and saw someone you knew rushing intently to push a little old lady over, what would you think of that person? Would your opinion of this person change if you later discovered that the cars you were looking over obscured your view of this person actually pushing this little old lady out of the way of a speeding sports car which was hurtling towards her and about to hit her? Sometimes, a bigger picture changes the entire picture! 

This is what reading the Book of Revelation is like for some people. They have their understanding of the Book of Revelation obscured by their lack of understanding about history, Biblical language, and even modern opinions.

I have written a fuller explanation of the book of Revelation in my eBook- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (click here to read a preview).

Amen.

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Will Jesus Come Back This Year?

Will Jesus Come Back This Year?

At the start of every new year there are always hopeful believers who claim that this is the year that Christ will come back. Some of these believers move beyond hope and practice unhelpful distortion of Scriptures to arrive at their wild guesses. Is there are genuine Biblical basis for believing that this will be year that the Lord will come back?

 

ADIAPHORA…

“Adiaphora” is the name given to teachings and customs that are neither commanded nor forbidden in Scripture. When it comes to End Times teachings there is apparently a lot of adiaphoragoing on. These End Times guesses have become so fused with Christian thinking that most believers can’t recognise them for what they are (adiaphora) and distinguish them from what the Bible actually says (exegesis). Listed below are few End Times Guesses, that despite being wong, have become almost unquestioned in the thinking of many Evangelicals.

 

THE REBUILT TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM IN THE LAST DAYS?

For example, a few years ago I was lecturing in a closed country on the topic of Hermeneutics (how to interpret the Bible) when one student asked me about the “Third Temple” prophesied in the Bible as a sign of the Last Days. This student had innocently adopted an End Times Guess (adiaphora) as if it was a Biblical idea. My question in response to her question was which text in the Bible was she basing her question? She looked at me stunned! She thought I was playing some game with her. Of course the Bible prophesies that the Temple will be rebuilt in the Last Days in order to usher in the return of the Lord, she responded. Again I asked her- Where? I have asked this question in lectures in several countries and have never been shown where the Bible prophesies a Last Days rebuilt (Third) Temple!

For those people who have accepted the idea that Matthew 24 prophesies a rebuilt (Third) Temple in Jerusalem, I suggest two things: firstly, consider that Jesus pointed at the stones of the existing Temple in His day and prophesied “See these stones, not one will left upon another…“; secondly, purchase and download the highly acclaimed eBook on Matthew 24 (The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible) which details how every prophecy which Christ made was fulfilled by 70AD- or Christ is a liar! (Refer to Matthew 24:34).

FALLING STARS, DARKENED MOON, NO SUNSHINE…

Some believers have taught that the Last Days will be characterised by strange astronomical phenomena such as falling stars and a burnt-out Sun. This type of interpretation of Scripture is often appealed to as “the simple meaning of the text is usually the correct meaning of the text“. The problem is that this type of interpretation is usually simplistic, rather than simple. I don’t speak Japanese (I barely speak English well). For those who have learnt the Japanese language they tell me that it’s incredibly simple (especially compared to English). But the process they had to go through to understand the different characters, different sounds and tones, different idioms, and different sentence constructions was anything but simplistic! And it’s the same with Scripture. The “simple” meaning of a text is only apparent when the student has done the rigour to understand Biblical metaphors, idioms (ways of speech), and Old Testament symbolism. A simple meaning of “Don’t count your chickens before your eggs are hatched!” would be not to assume that everything will always go your way; but a simplistic meaning would be that you are a chicken farmer who loves to count new chicks before they’re hatched.

In the same way, when Matthew 24 records Christ saying that stars will fall from the sky, the moon will be darkened and the Sun will no longer give forth its light, it is not an astronomical prediction but a Biblical idiom which speaks of Israel rebelling against God. This is further explained in the eBook on the Book of Revelation – The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible.

WARS, EARTHQUAKES, DISASTERS…

Some believers have unquestionably accepted the idea that wars, earthquakes and disasters must dramatically increase in the Last Days in order for the Lord to come back. But the statement about these things in Matthew 24 doesn’t actually say that they will ‘dramatically increase’. As some believers, who have dared to think, have wondered, has there ever been a time when there was not wars, earthquakes and natural disasters? A closer look at the text in Matthew 24:7 might be in order-

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

Matthew 24:7 ESV

Note what Jesus didn’t say? Once you’ve done that, filter that verse through the time-frame Christ gave in Matthew 24:34 and it doubly reveals that He was not prophesying that wars, earthquakes and disasters would increase as a sign of the Last Days to announce His coming back. This is explained further in the eBook on Matthew 24 (The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible)

THE ‘COMING’ OF THE LORD IN THE CLOUDS…

In Matthew 24 the expression “the coming of the Lord” is a Biblical idiom for the Lord bringing to account or judging. Note its established use in Isaiah 19:1; 26:21; 1Chron. 16:33.

before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Psa. 96:13

In none of these references is the implication of a physical appearing of the Lord. Its worth noting that the reference in Matthew 24:30 does not include the vital (and assumed) word back. That is, it doesn’t say “when the Lord comes back

The Biblical use of “clouds” is also often metaphorical. It is used to describe and speak of God’s glory. When the Bible refers to Christ “coming in the clouds” it speaks of Christ being glorified. A closer look at Matthew 24:30 also reveals that the clouds mentioned are not “earthly” clouds but “heavenly” clouds. This reinforces that what Christ is talking about is His vindication not His return.

WILL JESUS CHRIST RETURN THIS YEAR?

The earliest Creeds of the Church affirmed that Christ was now “seated at the right hand of God, from whence He shall come to judge…” This creedal statement affirmed the Biblical message that one day Christ would return to culminate time and life as we now know it, and usher in a new order where there would be a “new heaven and a new earth”. Is this going to happen this year? The danger for Biblical credibility in the minds of onlookers is that the average believer cannot distinguish between exegesis (what the Bible says) from adiaphora (what sounds Biblical, but actually is not) and will therefore hear these preachers make wild claims about how the return of the Lord must be this year – which they make sound like they are based on the Bible but actually are not! Will Christ return this year? Perhaps it might be better to expose this apparently simplequestion for what it truly is: a simplistic question. Better questions might be: does Christ have to return this year? Could the physical return of Christ be many centuries away? 

And while we’re getting all inquisitive, here’s some Bible study questions for you to consider-

  • Where in the New Testament does the expression “second coming” appear?
  • Where in the Book of Revelation does the word “Anti-christ” appear? (For that matter, apart from John’s epistle’s, where does it occur in the New Testament?
  • Where in the New Testament does the word “rapture” occur?
  • Where in the New Testament does it prophesy that Israel will be returned to the land of Palestine and take it by force to prepare the way for the return of Christ?

Throughout this site, you will find an alternate view of Bible prophecy that is much older than the current ideas of an imminent rapture, a tribulation, an Antichrist, Armageddon, and 1,000 year earthly reign of Christ from Jerusalem.

Dear Dr Corbett,
I was absolutely thrilled and blessed by your interpretation of Matthew 24 as well as of the 2 witnesses in Revelation.
I had long suspected that the dispensational interpretation was “leaky” to say the least but some of their proponents come across pretty smart in defending this theory.
By the way thank you so much for the 2 ebooks (most embarrassing verse and most embarrassing book in the bile) which so far are a great and exciting read and blessing to me.

Warm regards

J. Kloeg, New Zealand (26/12/2006) 

In the eBook, The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible (Understanding The Book of Revelation), the case is presented for most of the Book of Revelation already being fulfilled. Therefore, there is a strong case to be made from both the witness of Scripture and history that the Dispensationalist’s claim that Revelation is mostly about the future is without credibility. Will Jesus Christ come back this year? A better question is what you are going to do this year to know Him more intimately and make Him known to those who don’t yet know Him? It is actually Christ who is our hope, not His return.

 Dr. Andrew Corbett, 6th January 2007

Could we be in the ‘End Times’?

Wars, earthquakes, floods, and famines have long been considered the traits of what many believe to be the Biblical description of the “end times”. Added to this is what many understand to be the predictions of increased apostasy, the rise in persecution, the deterioration of society’s morals, and the increased compromise and lukewarmness of the Church. And surely, if these are the characteristics of what the Bible describes as the last days, we must be in the last days, right? But are we? And if we are, so what? And if we aren’t, then what? But are we in what the Bible describes as the ‘end times’?

¶ But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.”
Second Timothy 3:1

WHAT ARE THE “END TIMES”?

End TimesThe expression “end times” is used by Christians to describe a brief period immediately preceding the return of Christ to earth. The expression, however, does not actually occur in the Bible. Rather, expressions such as “the last days”, “end of the age” are regarded as synonyms for “end times”. The Bible presents a picture of our world as being subject to God’s redemptive plan which climaxed in the coming to earth of the eternal Son of God as one of us and will culminate one day when He returns to judge the living and the dead (Rev. 20:12).

knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.
Second Peter 3:3

 

SIGNS OF THE “END TIMES”

NATURAL DISASTERS

Natural Distasters a sign of the end times?The Bible describes the last days as having turbulent natural disasters such as earthquakes (Matt. 24:7). Some assume that this is a category header for floods, storms, cyclones, and droughts. Strange weather patterns are regarded as a sign of the end times by some.

 

SCOFFERS

They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”
Jude 18

Many end-times Bible teachers believe that the rise of scoffers – those who mock Christianity and Christian values is a sign of the end times. They then interpret the rise of “deconstructionism” (the term used by social engineers to describe the deconstructional of Christian values from a culture’s social norms) to be a sure sign that we are in the last days.

knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.
Second Peter 3:3

Thus, the push for such non-life policy agendas such as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex-marriage, man-boy love, eugenics, gendercide, are regarded as more or less being inevitable because they are supposedly prophesied in the Bible as being a last days push against God’s laws.

 

APOSTASY

¶ Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,
First Timothy 4:1 

Apostasy is when believers forsake the faith. Many “end times” preachers interpret the New Testament as predicting that in the last days before the return of Christ that the Church will dwindle and decline. In some extreme cases, this understanding is used to justify a lack of evangelism or any attempt to grow the Church.

 

COULD WE BE IN THE END TIMES NOW?

Based on the above criteria it would seem so. But there are some serious problems with these assertions. The immediate problem is a hermeneutical. None of the Scriptures behind any of these assertions prophesy the end of the world, or the conditions of the last days before Christ returns. The expression “last days” in the New Testament referred to the last days of the Old Covenant. I have already stated that the expression “end times” does not occur in the Bible. When we understand that Christ made the Old Covenant obsolete when He established the New Covenant from the Cross, we can appreciate that the obsolete Old Covenant was in its last days when the New Testament was being written.

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Hebrews 8:13 

The Old Covenant involved a priesthood, sacrifices, temple ceremonies, and ritual laws. In Matthew 24 Jesus revealed what would happen leading up to the end of the Old Covenant. It involved the destruction of the Temple which necessarily meant the end of the sacrifices, the end of the priesthood, and obviously the end of temple rituals.

The next problem with these assertions that we must be in the end times before Christ returns) is an exegetical one. That is, how each of these verses are interpretted in light of their context. For example, the prophecy in First Timothy 4:1 regarding “some” falling away from the faith is more likely to pertain to Jewish Christians who lost confidence in Jesus as the Christ and returned to Judaism. Afterall, this is the very reason why the Epistle to the Hebrews was written!

And the most alarming problem with these assertions is the damage to the credibility of Christianity and our Gospel. I have written an article listing some of the end-times claims made throughout history which have been proven wrong each time. These faulty prophetic assertions undermine the credibility of the Gospel in the minds of people. Added to this damage is the apathy it creates in those who should be living salt and light in a society to the end that more people come to a saving knowledge of Christ.

Christ will one day return. But in the meantime we shouldn’t be preoccupied with whenthis might be since what we are commanded to do before He returns is so obvious. I speak more about this in my book The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible and discuss how we might best understand the Book of Revelation in my eBook The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible.

Andrew Corbett
26th April 2013

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