I remember as a young boy going to church on a Sunday evening and hearing the Bible Prophecy teacher give his end-times-chart-on-the-bedsheet-on-the-wall talk and feeling both excited and scared.”Excited” because it was reassuring to hear how accurate the Bible was in matching prophecy with history. “Scared” because the Bible apparently said that the ‘last days’ were going to be hell-on-earth! I was taught that the USSR was the bear of Ezekiel and also described as Gog and Magog. I was told that the Anti-christ was alive today in America and already plotting his world take-over. I heard that a time of Great Tribulation was coming on the earth to punish Israel for rejecting their Messiah and forming an alliance with the Anti-christ who will eventually rebuild Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. This would all lead to the battle of Armaggeddon where millions of people would be killed in the mother of all battles. But most evangelistically I was told that I could escape this coming doom by committing my life ot Christ and therefore qualify for being “raptured” just before this final seven year period began.
Like my interstate pastor friend, I just thought this was the traditional, orthodox doctrine. I mostly ignored the inconsistencies this understanding presented. I just let the questions mount. Then one day when I was still young, I heard another pastor teaching about end times who seemed to suggest that not only wasn’t this the traditional way of understanding Bible Prophecy, it was also not orthodox! That is, he said that the Bible couldn’t teach this. He called it “Dispensationalism”. Back then, Hal Lindsay was the paperback champion of Dispensationalism while Dr John F. Walvoord (of Dallas Theological Seminary) was the hardback champion. In my boyhood church no-one questioned these Bible authorities. Dozens of Bible Prophecy teachers were spawned by these authors. Each one reiterated the Dispensational interpretation of the Bible and too few of us realised that we weren’t just being told how to interpret Bible prophecy…
Dispensationalism comes in various forms. A “dispensation” is a period of time. An era. In its most extreme form it regards God as having multiple plans of salvation depending on the particular dispensation. These dispensations generally commence with the Dispensation of Innocence and include other Dispensations such as the Dispensations of Works, Law, and Grace. This is contrasted by the orthodox Christian view of regarding God only ever having one means of salvation: the work of Jesus of Nazareth, especially His suffering, death and resurrection. But Dispensationalism is most notably distinguished from orthodox Christianity in the way it regards Israel. Dispensationalism says that God has a distinct plan and salvation for Israel. The roof of Dispensationalism is then supported by the walls of a novel form of end-times teaching. This includes such things as a rapture of the Church, a two-part Tribulation period, the global rule of an Anti-Christ, the reconstruction of a Temple in Jerusalem, the Battle of Armageddon, and then the Return of Christ. Dispensationalist Bible Prophecy teachers have gone to great lengths in their predictions of what the future holds based on their interpretation of the Bible. I have written a separate article on some of these predictions. But there’s a problem. A big problem!
I’m currently on Annual Leave. Having just spoken at the A2A Conference on the Gold Coast of Queensland, we chose to tack onto the first part of our leave some time on the Fraser Coast (which is north of the more famous, Sunshine Coast). To our surprise and delight, the motel where we had booked our couple of week’s stay upgraded us to a room which had cable TV. Taking advantage of this perk I channel surfer to the Christian channels and landed at Daystar where Irvin Baxter was interviewing Pastor Paul Begley on his program, End Of The Age (May 7th, 2018). I had never encountered either of these men, who struck as being very zealous and sincere. But what they stated as being ‘Biblical’ and clear signs from the Bible that we are living at the end of the age was bewildering. And even more bewildering was their claim that God was using President Donald Trump as a modern-day Cyrus who would help to usher in the return of Christ by moving the American Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem!
The seven feasts of Israel were prophetic pictures of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. Most of them can be proven to be fulfilled, but there are still some to be fulfilled…
The wonder of God’s amazing revelation in Scripture is that not only has He spoken directly of His plan for mankind, but that He has also given us some beautiful historical pictures of His plan of redemption embedded within the precepts of the Mosaic Law. The ceremonies, rituals, and prescribed festivals each have priceless insights into the life, work, death and resurrection of the coming Messiah- Jesus Christ. Understanding these prophetic pictures should not just amaze us, they should inform and reassure us that God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ has unfolded perfectly and will continue to do so.
For example, some time 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’ supposedly prophesied in the Bible as a sign of the last days immediately preceding Christ’s return. 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 such a last days rebuilt (Third) Temple!
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.
And 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 also apply equally to the Book of Revelation.