BRUSH UP ON YOUR THEOLOGY; 2. ESCHATOLOGY
by Dr. Henderson Ward
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I am merely responding to the need of the moment and so here I am dealing with end time events, known in theology as eschatology, rather than follow the norm and make eschatology the last topic in the series. This topic is huge and has to do with the doctrine of things to come and here, as in all the topics in this series, I am distilling it to a coherent summary to suit space limitation. Should you wish to examine this topic, eschatology, in a broader framework and see how it fits in to our contemporary situation then you will find my book ONE MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT ON GOD'S CLOCK, click the link at the bottom of this article to follow, very helpful and most informative and can be used not just for personal study but lends itself to PowerPoint presentation, group discussion, Bible study and lecture.
Eschatology lends itself to three distinct and separate approaches which are merely the prisms through which we view the events. These different approaches, though different, as long as they are Bible based will always converge and be compatible with each other in keeping with the unity of scripture (2 Timothy 3: 16-17). The first approach would be Prophetical and would involve looking at all the eschatological events and explaining them and fitting them in an acceptable chronological framework. The second approach would be Theological where one lists all the end time events that are known and then find scripture to explain and substantiate each event. Both of these approaches are acceptable but here we have chosen to take the third approach which is Exegetical and primarily based on Jesus’ Olivet discourse.
A careful perusal of the Scriptures indicates that these are the events that are still in the future and will occur between now and when Satan is finally bound and cast in the burning lake of fire and brimstone. These future events are as follows:
Israel will rebuild its Temple, it’s fourth (this is arguable; some say its third).
The Anti-Christ, false prophet, Beast will emerge (not necessarily at the same time).
Pre-Tribulation strife will take place in greater desperation.
The rapture will occur.
The Tribulation will commence.
An abominable act of desecration will occur in the Temple.
Tribulation horrors will intensify.
Jesus will return.
Armageddon will take place.
Satan restrained for a 1000 years.
The Millennium will occur.
Satan unrestrained and finally defeated and confined in hell.
The great white throne judgment takes place.
The wicked turned into hell to be with Satan.
The kingdom restored that God may be all in all.
Our exegesis is related to Matthew chapter 24 where the disciples came to Jesus and asked him an important question, “Tell us, when shall these things shall be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3b) and Jesus commenced by warning his disciples to avoid deception which will be rampant (Matthew 24: 4-5). Prophetic scriptures can have double fulfillment or multiple fulfillments, and deception is in this category. He went on to tell them that there will be lots of wars and lots of rumors of war reflecting man’s abominable nature of self destruction (Matthew 24:6) and this verse has double fulfillment as before described.
Just as verse 6 speaks of wars generally, Jesus then goes on to be more pointed, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:7a) suggesting international as well as ethnic wars and he continues by foretelling the devastation of nature on the human race, “…and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places.” (Matthew 24:7b) and he goes on to point out that all of these are just the beginning of sorrows.
This present world is currently experiencing all of the above and has done so for some time, so we can safely say that we are approaching the last days. However the concept of double fulfillment has to be borne in mind and where we are exactly in terms of the prophetic road map can more accurately be assessed by referring to Daniel’s prophesies (Daniel 2:1-45, 9:1-27) where Daniel gave some timelines beginning from the proclamation by the prophet Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2) commencing in 587 BC and stretching for a period of 70 prophetic weeks (490 years) with gaps in between.
Jesus continued by telling these disciples that all these things are not the end of time but the beginning of sorrows relating to the end (Matthew 24:8) and that there will be widespread persecution resulting in torture and death (Matthew 24:9). From history we know that Christians suffered widespread persecution and death at the hands of Roman Emperors up to and including Diocletian (AD 245-313) in AD 303 but from verse 4 all of these events can be related to the Tribulation which last 7 years according to Daniel 9:27.
Throughout history all these events, i.e. wars, persecution, torture, gratuitous conflicts, etc. have happened but during the Tribulation they will intensify numerically and in degrees of horror. Some people believe that the Rapture will take place at this juncture, some believe that the Rapture will take place just before the tribulation starts and others believe that it will take place at the end of the Great Tribulation which is the last 3 ˝ years of the Tribulation. My own view is that there will be a Rapture because the Bible says so (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) although the word “Rapture” is not used and it will occur pre-tribulation.
Jesus goes on to explain that the intense persecution will result in martyrdom, and hatred for the Christian will be intense and many will betray each other rather than stand up and be killed (Matthew 24:10). This would then be followed by false prophets, people who claim to be God’s spokesperson but in fact are satanic and will lead people astray (Matthew 24:11) and because sin is now rampant like a virulent world disease, love as we know it will be rare (Matthew 24:12).
Jesus then assures the disciples that all of those who persist and endure the awful events of the Tribulation (prior to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD70 as well as pre the Great Tribulation) will be saved (Matthew 24:13) and that the gospel must be preached universally before the end comes (Matthew 24: 14). Jesus then goes on to tell them that a horrendous abomination will take place in the Temple as prophesied by Daniel (Matthew 24: 15). This is a most significant verse for it tells us without doubt that at this point we are precisely in the middle of the Tribulation in terms of the prophetic road map.
At this significant point we should look back on the eschatological events listed previously and see where we are. Israel currently has no temple in Jerusalem and since the abomination takes place in Israel’s Jerusalem Temple then the Temple will obviously have to be rebuilt and will be the fourth following Solomon’s, Zerubbabel’s and Herod’s (Some say that Zerubbabel’s Temple was not new but a rebuilding of Solomon's. Maybe!) . Some people will try and identify as individuals or systems the threesome of the Anti-Christ, the False Prophet and The Beast and assign to them time frames and what each will do and Jesus dealt with these (Matthew 24:11, 24). The Pre-Tribulation strife is taken care of in a number of events covered in verses 6 through 12 and the rapture already taken place.
This Matthew 24:15 is a most significant verse for it tells us where we are, i.e. the mid-point of the Tribulation and gives us a parallel with the 7 year Tribulation prophesied by Daniel (Daniel 24:7). Daniel stated that in the middle of this period an appalling act of desecration will occur. History shows that between the Testaments Antiochus IV Epiphanies, ruler of the Greek Seleucid Empire, carried out a relentless campaign against the Jews and around 170 BC erected an image of the Greek god Zeus in the Jerusalem Temple, sacrificed a pig on its altar and tried to force Jews to eat the sacrificial pork and when they refused he cut out their tongues and burnt the Jews on the altar. This act is known as the “Abomination in the Temple” and this is what Christ referred to in Matthew 24:15. Here we have double fulfillment again because the “abomination of desolation” of which Jesus spoke is an end time event and was still to come when Jesus spoke.
The Bible does not say what the “abomination of desolation” will be but this horrendous act of desecration will occur at this time and will usher in a 3 ˝ year reign of absolute terror and Jesus is alerting believers to understand that this “abomination of desolation” is a signal to them that “The Great Tribulation” has started and they should get away from the capital and flee to the relative safety of the mountains (Matthew 24:16). Jesus then goes on to remind believers of the need for haste (Matthew 24:17-19) and that they should pray for favorable weather and that the day be not on the Sabbath (Matthew 24:20). Some people have taken this verse 20 to justify their position that the Tribulation is entirely a Jewish affair but taken correctly the view is that it is a world affair in a Jewish setting.
Jesus then tells his disciples that this period will usher in unprecedented terror (Matthew 24:21) and threaten the existence of all flesh but the days will be shortened for the elect’s sake (Matthew 24:22) meaning either that daylight will be shortened and nighttime increased or that the days will not be the standard 24 hours that presently pertain (Sovereign God can do either) and in verses 23 – 26 Jesus repeated his warning about false Christ and false prophets who are able to do miraculous things because the miracles would be satanic (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that his coming, his Second Advent, is not going to be a long drawn out process but as swift as a flash of lightning (Matthew 24:27) which is affirmed by Paul, “in a twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52) and judgment will be meted out to an evil world without fail (Matthew 24:28). Jesus now gives the disciples some information regarding the very end. It is Jesus’ Second Advent that will bring an end to the Great Tribulation and when he comes, a number of things will happen.
Armageddon will take place and is the occasion God will use to destroy all the armies of the wicked gathered to destroy Israel (Revelation 16:12-16, Zechariah 14:1-3). Satan will be bound for a thousand years and cast in the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-3) during which time the Millennium will occur here on earth (Revelation 20:4, 6). At the end of the Millennium Satan will be loosed and allowed to head a final rebellion (Revelation 20:7) who miraculously marches towards Jerusalem, the Headquarters of Jesus (Revelation 20:9a) and fire will come down from God out of heaven and devoured them (Revelation 20:9b). After this event Satan is now cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and false prophet are (Revelation 20:10).
Immediately after this the Great White Throne Judgment is set up (Revelation 20:11) the wicked are judged according to their works (Revelation 20:12-13) and having been found guilty as charged are cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15) just as death and hell were (Revelation 20:14).
To bring all matters to an eschatological conclusion, Jesus then hands over the kingdom to God the Father, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.” (1 Corinthians 15:24). From this point forward humans know nothing as to the eternal state and God, other than that the eternal state has commenced, and God is all in all, "And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (I Corinthians 15:28)
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