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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, November 29th 2006
One American radio preacher, teaching on the Book of Revelation, told a talk-back caller that all the signs of Christ’s return were now in place and that “the rapture” would now be within 12 months (stated, November 28th 2006)! Let’s examine some of these and similar prophetic ideas.
In the discipline of physical sciences ideas are put forward as theories with certain hypotheses – “If this theory is correct these results should be observed” – and then a model is developed based on the theory which makes certain predictions about its likely outcomes.
For example, if Einstein’s theory of relativity is correct (E=mc2) then the mass of an object (m) moving faster than the speed of light (c) should increase as more energy is used (E). The predictions that Einstein made based on his theory included that the speed of light will be found to be constant, and the mass of a moving object will be relative to its speed. Both of these prediction models can be tested. In regard to the mass of an object increasing the faster it moves, try dropping a baseball on your nose from the distance of a 1/4 inch (about 1 centimetre), then compare that with a full blown pitch by New Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina straight at your nose and see which one hurts the most! The point is that Einstein put forward a theory, a hypothesis, and a model that have all been tested and found to be correct.
Similarly, we can also develop models when it comes to Bible Prophecy interpretations. Let me explain.
The radio preacher referred to at the top of this article stated categorically that the rapture of the church would take place by November 2007. Without perhaps knowing it, what he has done is express an aspect of his Bible-Prophecy-Interpretation model. His theory of how Bible Prophecy was to be fulfilled would probably look like-
THE DISPENSATIONAL THEORY FOR INTERPRETTING BIBLE PROPHECY
* Bible Prophecy centres on God’s covenant and plan with Israel
* Almost all of the Book of Revelation is yet to be fulfilled (it is future)
* The Church is God’s Plan ‘B’ for His covenant and the building a redemption-community. Any suggestion otherwise is referred to as replacement theology
* The Millennium is a literal 1,000 years of Christ’s reign on earth from Jerusalem on the throne of King David
* There will be two physical resurrections: one at the beginning of the Millennium, and the second at the end of it
THE DISPENSATIONAL MODEL FOR INTERPRETTING BIBLE PROPHECY
Once a model is established it can then be tested. With such Theological models of Bible Prophecy, this is done two ways. Firstly, does it align with Scripture. Secondly, are the predictions made within the model verified by history (past or present)?
In scrutinising the Dispensational Model of Bible Prophecy we note that those holding to this view are more often than not very passionate for Christ and His Word. They are usually very sincere believers who have a heart to see God’s purpose for mankind carried out. Their most prominent voices include- John F. Walvoord, Chuck Swindoll, Tim LaHaye, John Hagee and John Nelson Darby.
ISRAEL CENTRAL TO GOD’S PROPHETIC PLAN?
Then He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Luke 24:44 ESV
Jesus seems to have told His disciples that the entire Old Testament was about Him! Curiously, no where in the New Testament does it say that Israel is going to “return to its land” or rebuild the temple. Secondly, the historic evidence is that Israel now has a net decline in its annual population figures. That is, more Jews are leaving Israel than migrating to it.
THE BOOK OF REVELATION IS YET TO BE FULFILLED?
Dispensationalism claims that the Book of Revelation was written about events which are about to be fulfilled. 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.
The Book of Revelation gives several straight-forward indications that it was written to an audience prior to AD70 and that its implications were for that time. Firstly, the Four Horsemen of Revelation 6 indicate that the 4th Horseman brings famine and the opening of the next seal brings mass martyrdom to the Church. Historically we know that it was the fourth Emperor of the day (Caesar Claudius) whose reign coincided with famine-
And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius).
Acts 11:28 ESV
And the 5th Emperor, Caesar Nero, was the one who instigated the most massive destructive campaign of martyrdom ever witnessed.
In Revelation 17:10 it says that there are 5 kings who have fallen (died) and one now is. These kings of Rome included: (1) Julius, (2) Augustus, (3) Tiberius, (4) Caligula, and (5) Claudius. The 6th king of Rome was Nero, who was reigning when Revelation was written.
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 CHURCH IS PLAN ‘B’?
A fleeting reading of the New Testament reveals that God had predestined the Church from the foundation of the world. Ephesians makes it clear that the Church is and always has been God’s plan for His redemptive community. Galatians 3:28-29 states emphatically that those who are in Christ are the seed of Abraham. The Church is therefore not the replacement of Israel, but the logical continuation of it.
In another article I have put forward my Bible Prophecy Model which can be similarly tested with Scripture and history.
© Dr. Andrew Corbett, 29th November 2006