We have studied end times to quite a degree around here. I am far from an expert on the topic. As a matter of fact, the more I study it, the more I get confused and the less I know I don't have any possibility of ever understanding it all. One thing I do know is that the Lord is coming to take me home before the tribulation. Those left behind will suffer unimaginable horrors. I want to be busy doing all I can to spread the Gospel message so that some can be spared.
Brianna has a particular interest in this area and has studied it extensively. She and Kaitlin are my go to people when I have questions concerning end times prophecy. When this book arrived and I put it on my read pile she quickly snatched it up.
I invited her to post her thoughts here.
Joel Richardson begins Mideast Beast with ten rules to apply when studying the Bible and especially Biblical prophecy. They were in the introductory chapter and a small part of the book but those ten rules were probably the best Bible study tips I have ever read...and I've read a lot over the years.
In Mideast Beast he goes through word by word and verse by verse explaining his theory. I found it to be quite fascinating and you can tell that he has not only studied it out extensively but is very passionate about what he believes. I am not sure if I personally agree with his views. But there is one thing I have to ask. At the end of the day, does the nationality/religion of the Antichrist really matter?
Yes, we should be passionate about reaching out and sharing the Gospel with Islamic people. But, so should we be about sharing with everyone. I am not convinced that the nationality or religion of the futuristic Antichrist effects the vigor with which we should be doing that.
Still, it was informative and it is always interesting to study a new idea. I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys end times study or other theological research.
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
WND Books (July 5, 2012)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Joel Richardson is an internationally recognized expert of biblical prophecy, the Middle East, and Islam, a human rights activist, and lecturer who has been involved in outreach and ministry to Muslims and Christian/Muslim interfaith dialogue since 1994. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling The Islamic Antichrist: The Shocking Truth About the Real Nature of the Beast, co-editor of Why We Left Islam: Former Muslims Speak Out, and co-author with Walid Shoebat of God’s War on Terror: Islam, Prophecy and the Bible.
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Mideast Beast completes and establishes the revolutionary argument introduced in Joel Richardson’s New York Times bestselling The Islamic Antichrist, namely that the Antichrist will be a Muslim, whose empire will arise out of the Middle East.
Whereas most students of the Bible have long held that some form of humanism or universalist religion would catapult the Antichrist to world power, Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist systematically proves that the long awaited system of the Antichrist is even now before us and knocking at our door – virtually unnoticed by the church.
Through a scholarly and theologically grounded, yet simple presentation, Richardson thoroughly corrects the objections of critics, establishing beyond a doubt the biblical case for an Islamic Antichrist.
With Large segments of the Christian missionary movement embracing a heretical method our outreach to Muslims, Mideast Beast cuts to the core of the matter, revealing the true nature of origins of Islam.
List Price: $25.95
Hardcover: 283 pages
Publisher: WND Books (July 5, 2012)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
P R E F A C E
ON 2006, MY FIR ST BOOK was published as Antichrist:tIslam'stAwaitedt Messiah, but later republished as ThetIslamictAntichrist. On the sur- face, the book was a comparison of Islamic and biblical eschatology
(the study of the end-times), but in spirit, it was also my best attempt to blow a trumpet and sound an alarm. I am firmly convinced that Islam is the single greatest challenge that the Church will face before the return of Jesus, yet most are still either asleep or in denial. IslamictAntichrist was my sincere and deeply heartfelt effort to awaken the believing community from its slumber regarding the looming challenge and relevance of Islam as well as its premier role in the last days. And beyond this, the book was a call to action; to imitate Jesus, embrace the cross, and fearlessly give ourselves to the Muslim world, so as to perhaps snatch a few from the fire.
IslamictAntichrist set the basic biblical end-time narrative side by side with the Islamic vision of the end-times. The resultant picture brings to light the shocking reality that as a religious system, Islam is anti-Christ to its very core. Islam's basic doctrines represent a direct frontal attack against Christianity, declaring many of those doctrines that the Bible sets forth as holy, foundational, and essential to be the greatest abominations and blasphemies imaginable. Whereas the Christian faith is founded upon the belief that God Himself became a man in Jesus the Messiah, Islam declares in its Qur'an that anyone who believes in the Incarnation com-
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mits the worst form of blasphemy imaginable, is cursed by Allah, and will suffer “a grievous penalty” in this life and in the next. Beyond this, Islam's end-times narrative, in so many ways, is simply the biblical end-time story flipped on its head. While the whole book cannot be summarized here, just a couple of brief examples should paint a sufficient picture.
First, the biblical descriptions regarding the coming of Jesus the Jewish Messiah bear many striking resemblances to the coming Antichrist of Islam, whom Muslims refer to as the al-maseehtal-dajjaal (the counterfeit Messiah). Second, the Bible's Antichrist bears numerous striking com- monalities with the primary messiah figure of Islam, who Muslims call the Mahdi. In other words, our Messiah is their antichrist and our Antichrist is their messiah. Even more shocking to many readers was the revelation that Islam teaches that when Jesus returns, He will come back as a Muslim prophet whose primary mission will be to abolish Christianity. It's difficult for any Bible believer to read of these things without becoming acutely aware of the satanic origins of the Islamic religion.
In 2008, I also had the opportunity to coauthor another book on the same subject with Walid Shoebat, a former operative for the Palestine Liberation Organization. This book, entitled God'stWartontTerror, is an almost encyclopedic discussion of the role of Islam in the last days, as well as a chronicle of Walid's journey from a young Palestinian Muslim with a deep hatred for the Jews, to a Christian man who spends his life standing with the Jewish people and proclaiming the truth concerning the dangers of radical Islam.
Together these two books have become the cornerstone of what has developed into a popular eschatological revolution. Today, I receive a steady stream of e-mails and reports from individuals expressing how much these books have affected them and transformed their understanding of the end-times. Students, pastors, and even reputable scholars have expressed that they have abandoned the popular notion that the Anti- christ, his empire, and his religion will emerge out of Europe or a revived Roman Empire. Instead they have come to recognize the simple fact that the Bible emphatically and repeatedly points us to the Middle East as the launchpad and epicenter of the emerging empire of the Antichrist and his religion. Many testify that although they have been students of Bible prophecy for many years, never before had anything made so much sense,
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or the prophecies of the Bible become so clear. And even more important, some have even written to share that they've become believers or recom- mitted their lives to Jesus as a result of reading these books. Hallelujah!
Others, however, express that while the thesis presented in Islamict Antichrist and God'stWartontTerror makes a great deal of sense, they still have many unanswered questions. The purpose of this book is to set forth
a scholarly, yet popularized, succinct presentation of the Islamic Antichrist theory based on the most relevant passages of Scripture. If there is even a chance that Islam is, in fact, the primary subject of the Bible's many antichristic prophecies, the possibility alone should be enough to merit serious consideration of the relevant texts.
I want to state at the outset that this book's purpose is not to debate what many might feel is irrelevant or even morbid end-time trivia. Many may ask why it even matters if the Antichrist will emerge from Europe or the Middle East, whether he will be a humanist or a Muslim. The fact of the matter is that the practical implications of the many subjects discussed in this book are profound. If, in fact, Islam is the religion of the Antichrist, the significance is earth-shattering. As much of the Church today, including large segments of the missions movement, increasingly embraces an approach toward reaching Muslims that flirts with syncretism and outright heresy (I am referring to what has become known as the “Insider Movement”), it is imperative that followers of Jesus determine exactly where they stand concerning the origins and nature of Islam. As we strive to love Muslims, must we also love Islam? Or is it possible to passionately care for Muslims, while hating Islam? Is Islam a faith system that can create a genuine relationship with God, or is it purely a soul- destroying ideology? Can one be both a Muslim and a follower of Jesus, as many evangelical missiologists claim? Are the Allah of the Qur'an and the God of the Bible one and the same? And what about Israel and the Jewish people? Fierce anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are now spreading from the Muslim world into the Christian Church; what did the prophets say about these things? Where is a disciple of Jesus seeking to love both Mus- lims and Jews to stand on these matters? What about the “Arab Spring”? Does the Bible inform us as to where this sudden and drastic change in the Muslim world is heading? Further, while numerous demographic models inform us that Islam will soon emerge as the world's largest religion, many
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within the Christian Church believe and teach that most of the Islamic world (and Russia) will soon be destroyed in a series of prophesied battles, resulting in the religion of Islam virtually disappearing from the earth. But does the Bible really teach this? How we answer these questions and what we believe about these things will drastically affect our approach toward prayer, intercession, evangelism, and missions. These are not questions that the Church can afford to get wrong. Carefully searching the Scriptures so as to answer these questions accurately is absolutely essential. This is why this book was written. While this study will certainly answer many questions concerning the end-times, it is far from irrelevant or morbid eschatological trivia. As the Church seeks to plot its way forward into the ever-changing world, it is essential for the Church to grasp the truths brought forward in this study.
I also appeal to you to approach this book prayerfully. I have written the book prayerfully and I ask you to talk to the LORD as you read it. There are few subjects that are as serious and pressing as that discussed here. As we study the subject of the end-times, we must do so in a spirit of prayer. Across the body of Christ, throughout the earth, many believe this is the generation that will live to see Jesus' return. So then does this generation have a greater duty to become a community of prayer dedi- cated to loving one another? “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. [nasb] Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7-8).
This very well may be the generation that has inherited both the mas- sive opportunity and the immense responsibility that was spoken of by the prophet Daniel: “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).
Daniel saw a glimpse of it--but many reading this book may very well be among those who will actually live it. I appeal to you to seize this opportunity with everything you have. The urgency of the hour demands no less.
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FAR TOO M ANY CHR ISTIANS believe the subject of the end-times to be an insurmountable mountain far too high and complicated to climb. As a result, many simply entrust their beliefs regarding
the end-times to their pastor or various “prophecy experts.” Certainly the Lord has given some to function as teachers within the body of Christ to help guide fellow believers into a proper understanding of the more complicated aspects of God's Word, but in no way does this excuse any believer from responsibility to search these things out in the Bible for him- or herself. One of the best things any teacher can do is equip his or her students with the tools necessary to study and understand the Bible on their own. That is the purpose of this chapter: to equip both the student and the seasoned teacher alike with some very clear, simple, and easy-to-follow principles to simplify the Bible's message concerning the end-times and make them available to all. The false belief that the subject of the end-times is beyond the ability of the average Christian to understand must be shattered. After grasping the principles explained in this chapter, many who once felt intimidated by the subject of the end-times will be confident that eschatology is not a subject beyond their ability to understand. The following seven principles represent the approach to understanding biblical prophecy that we will take throughout the remainder of this book.
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R U L E #1: K E E P F I R S T T H I N G S F I R S T
Shortly after graduating from high school, just after becoming a believer, I worked as a house framer for a year. To build a house, one must begin by laying a proper and solid foundation. How and where one begins always affects the end result. This is true whether we are dealing with a house or theology. A bad or weak foundation will cause the end result to be unstable, faulty, or potentially even dangerous. In home building, if one were to begin by building the roof and then worked backward to the foundation, he would end up with some serious problems. Yet this is precisely what some actually do when they are trying to build
a solid biblical eschatology; they decide that they want to understand what the Bible says about the end-times and then they turn right to the book of Revelation, the very last book of the Bible! Now, please don't get me wrong; the book of Revelation, is crucial to understand when studying God's plan for the ages. But it is not where we start. Revelation is predicated on a wealth of previously revealed prophetic knowledge found in numerous passages throughout the Old and New Testaments. Perhaps more than any other book in the New Testament, Revelation is jam-packed with direct quotes, allusions, and even more subtle echoes of dozens upon dozens of biblical passages.
Imagine going to a symphony. During the performance, you hear stringed instruments, drums, woodwinds, but it is not until the grand finale that all of these instruments come to one amazing crescendo. This is what Revelation is; it is the grand prophetic-symphonic crescendo composed of many other prophecies found throughout the Bible. But as beautiful as grand crescendos may be, they do come last for a reason. Before we can expect to understand what Revelation is trying to tell us, we must first understand what the passages upon which it is built are saying. The Bible is an unfolding story. And if we seek to properly understand the story the Bible is telling, we must begin at the beginning of the book, approaching the story as it was written, as it unfolds and expands. This is all just simple common sense.
So the first rule to follow when we desire to understand what the Bible says about the end-times is: Start with what comes first. We begin with the foundation--at the beginning. This couldn't be much simpler.
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In terms of Bible study, this means that we begin with the Torah, the first five books of Moses, and move forward from there.
R U L E #2: K E E P I T S I M P L E
Besides being the last book in the Bible, there are other reasons not to begin with the book of Revelation. Revelation is perhaps the most sym- bolic and apocalyptic book in the whole Bible. When we begin trying to understand what the Bible says about the end-times, we do not begin with the most allegorical passages. Neither do we start with passages that are tricky, hard to interpret, or confusing. Instead, we should begin with what is literal, direct, and easy to understand. So not only do we not start with Revelation; we also do not start with Daniel or Ezekiel. While both of these books come far before Revelation, they are also both very figurative, filled with dreams, visions, and much symbolism. So while Daniel and Ezekiel are essential to understand if we are to accurately grasp the Bible's message concerning the end-times, like Revelation, these are not the books we should begin with. There are numerous other essential passages that must be examined first. Not only are they older than Daniel and Ezekiel, but they are also clearer and easier to understand.
So our second rule is that we should begin with that which contains the least measure of confusing, questionable, debatable, or hard-to- understand elements.
R U L E #3 : B U I L D D O C T R I N E O N T H E F U L L C O U N S E L O F S C R I P T U R E
Many years ago, when I first become a believer, I lived just south of Boston. I was nineteen, and understandably, because of my conversion and radical life change, most of my friends no longer wanted to spend time with me. As if overnight, I had become an extremely vocal and evangelistic Christian. As such, I spent many Saturdays walking around Boston, seeking willing listeners with whom I could share my faith. In those days, one of Boston's largest semi-cultic groups was the Boston Church of Christ, sometimes referred to as “the Boston Movement,” founded by Thomas “Kip” McKean. I used to run into disciples of this group quite often. One of the distinguishing beliefs of this group is that
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it is the actual act of baptism that saves a person. According to them, without water-immersion baptism, one absolutely cannot be saved. To establish this point, they would always turn to Acts 2:38, which reads, “Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins'” (nkjv). Being
a zealous new believer, and a Berean as well, I began to examine the Bible to see what it said about the means whereby we are saved. I found seventy-two verses, from Genesis to Revelation, that state very clearly that it is our faith in Jesus and what He accomplished for us on the cross that saves us. What I found revealed that when we believe these things with sincere and repentant hearts, we are indeed baptized and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:5 says, “For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (nkjv). Ephesians 1:13-14 also states, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (nkjv).
The promise, of course, is of the future completion of our salvation when our bodies are resurrected and glorified. Water baptism is merely on outward sign of the inward reality that has already taken place when we believed and were baptized by the Holy Spirit. So, let me ask: in light of the seventy-two verses on one hand that say that we are saved by faith, and the one verse on the other hand that is used to claim that it is the act of baptism that saves us, scripturally speaking, which position is built on a more solid footing? Obviously the weight of the Scriptures tell us that it is faith that saves us, and water baptism is the first essential act of obedience after we have come to faith.
The point in telling this story is to remind us not to develop theories, positions, or doctrines based on select, limited, or isolated passages, while ignoring the wealth of other passages that speak to any particular issue. Whatever position we arrive at, it must conform to the full counsel of Scrip- ture. Our position must be able to bring together all of the numerous and relevant passages throughout the Bible, revealing a consistent story. It is both dangerous and irresponsible to base any doctrine or idea on one or even a few isolated passages. But when we see a theme that is repeated numerous times
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throughout the Bible, over and over, then we know that we are building on a foundation of consistency. So the third rule is to build on themes that are repeated and consistent. Build doctrine on the full counsel of Scripture.
R U L E #4 : R E M E M B E R , C O N T E X T, C O N T E X T, C O N T E X T
Ask any Realtor what the key to home sales is, and he or she will say, “Location, location, location.” Likewise, anyone who has spent three days in Bible school or seminary will tell you that the cardinal rule of respon- sibly interpreting Scripture is context, context, context. Perhaps one of the easiest mistakes to make when trying to understand Bible prophecy is failing to take into consideration the larger context of the Bible. Ameri- cans in particular are infamous for being self-centered with regard to our view of the world, and as such, it is we who are most likely to make this common error. Because of America's relative geographic isolation as well
as our exalted role in the earth in recent history, we may even have some legitimate reason for our lack of awareness of the world around us. But when attempting to interpret and understand Bible prophecy, such a self- focused attitude is highly detrimental. Let me explain.
Today, the Church in the United States, and the West in general, is contending with various issues, such as moral and cultural relativism, secular humanism, Darwinism, religious pluralism, and intellectual atheism. The list could go on and on. All of these anti-Christian ideas and worldviews seem to be increasing their hold on Western culture and society. So the Western Church lives in an atmosphere where the television shows, movies, and media to which we are exposed continu- ally send us messages that conflict with a biblical worldview. Likewise, if our children attend public school or a secular university, the teachers and students alike aggressively espouse one or all of these anti-Christian worldviews. The result is that Western believers tend to imagine that the same spirit of the age we are contending with here is also being contended with in every other part of the world. As we rightly discern the demonic powers behind many of these ideas that are daily assaulting our families and our faith, many assume that this prevailing spirit is in fact the premier spirit of the Antichrist. Many imagine the Antichrist to be a leader of a global world religion that welcomes everyone, except
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true Christians, of course. Because Western culture is the only world that most Westerners know, as we turn to the Bible and read the end- time prophetic passages, many make the mistake of reading their own worldview and personal experiences into its pages. The problem with this, of course, is that the Bible is and always has been a thoroughly Jerusalem-, Israel-, and Middle Eastern-centric book. As we will see, biblical prophecy tells a very Jerusalem-centered story. Jerusalem is the city around which the entire story of the return of Jesus revolves. This is the city from which Jesus will literally rule the earth after His return. This fact must not be missed.
So if one is living in Jerusalem today, while the ideas that flood Western society are present, the primary demonic spirit that is threatening to destroy the Jews and Christians, the people of God, is not religious pluralism or intellectual atheism; it is Islam, through and through. In the United States, the spirit of Islam is less significant; thus it is easier for Americans to be slow to grasp this point. But when we look to Israel, the epicenter of the geographic context of the Bible, it is easy to see that the spirit dominating the entire region is not universalism or new age religion, but Islam. Extending several hundred to thousands of miles around Jeru- salem, Islam controls the Middle East, Northern Africa, Asia Minor, and Central Asia. Israel sits in the center of this ocean of hatred.
So as we approach the Bible to understand what it is saying with regard to the end-times, the fourth rule is that we must take into consid- eration its proper context. We must be cautious not to read a Western worldview--a foreigntcontext--into the pages of this Eastern book called the Bible. We must never forget its Middle Eastern-/Israel-centric context. The Bible was not written primarily for Americans or Westerners. The Bible is a Jewish book with a Middle Eastern emphasis and worldview.
R U L E #5: D O N O T R E A D P R O P H E T I C L I T E R AT U R E A S I F I T I S A T E C H N I C A L M A N U A L
This rule piggybacks on the previous rule. It says that Westerners must acknowledge that most prophecies in the Bible are written as ancient Hebrew prophetic poetry or apocalyptic literature. Western Bible students should familiarize themselves with the characteristics of these types of
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literature and the many literary devices they utilize. This includes things such as Hebrew idioms, hyperbole, and the dual fulfillment of so many prophetic passages. Because much of the West's cultural and intellectual roots are found in the Enlightenment, we have particular ways of thinking, reasoning, and viewing things that are often in conflict with the manner in which the Bible is written.
I was once speaking at a conference and explained that reading the Bible literally sometimes means that we do not take things in a hyper- literal fashion. Sometimes reading poetry in a hyper-literal or technically literal fashion can lead to all sorts of problems and misinterpretations. Sure enough, after I spoke, a somewhat confrontational man met me at the front of the church. “I read the Bible literally, period,” he said, inferring of course, that I was encouraging a nonliteral or slightly liberal interpretive method. Feeling a bit feisty, I opened my Bible to Isaiah 60, a passage that speaks of the blessings that will come to the Jewish people during the messianic kingdom. “So you take the Bible literally, no matter what?” I asked as I handed him my Bible, pointed to verse 16, and asked him to read it aloud: “You shall drink the milk of the Gentiles, and milk the breast of kings; you shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Not wanting to admit that reading this verse literally would have some rather embarrassing implications, he said that he would need to study “this one” a bit further. But I believe he understood my point. I hold to a literal interpretive method, but I read prophetic poetry as prophetic poetry, historical narrative as historical narrative, proverbs as proverbs, etc. These things all speak of very literal realities, but they rep- resent different types of literature and use varied expressions to convey these realities, each with its own rules and characteristics. So when we are reading Hebrew apocalyptic literature or prophetic poetry, we do not read this material as if we are reading an owner's manual for a Toyota
Tundra. For further exploration of this issue, I highly recommend a very simple book, HowttotReadtthetBibletfortAlltItstWorth, by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart.
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R U L E # 6 : R E C O G N I Z E T H E U LT I M AT E E M P H A S I S , T H E B I G S T O R Y O F B I B L I C A L P R O P H E C Y
Understanding the general nature of biblical prophecy is not nearly as difficult as many Western interpreters have sometimes made it. While nearly every prophecy has historical application in either the immediate or near future of the prophets, the ultimate burden of all biblical prophecy is the coming of the Messiah, the Day of the Lord (God's judgment on the earth), and the messianic kingdom to follow. While each prophet was most often first speaking either to the circumstances of his day and age or to events in the near future, the primary burden of the entire Bible, of every prophet and apostle, is the coming of Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom rule over the earth. As such, one can rightly say that biblical prophecy is first and foremost Messiah-centric. It is ultimately about Jesus.
Of course, in highlighting the Messiah-centricity of Scripture, one must acknowledge both the first and the second coming of Jesus. Modern Christians most often major in the prophecies that point to the first coming of Jesus, and minor in the prophecies that speak of His second coming. The fact of the matter, however, is that the primary emphasis of Scripture is the second coming. Far more prophecies address the second coming than the first. So the three primary emphases of biblical prophecy are:
* the immediate historical context of the prophets' era,
* the first coming of Jesus, and
* the second coming of Jesus/the Day of the Lord.
But here is the problem: One of the characteristics of Western thought is that we like to organize and classify things into neat categories. Westerners like to systematize everything, including our theology. We may even attempt to dissect the living Word of God as if it is a frog in a high school science lab. As such, when attempting to interpret the Bible, we often attempt to define each verse or passage as if it is speaking of either the historical or the future fulfillment as if it must be one or the other. But we need to understand that the Bible is an Eastern book and was not written with a Western mind-set. And so, almost as if to drive
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Westerners crazy, we frequently find in the Scriptures an intermingling of the historical and the future into one seamless passage. Consider, for example, the following classic passage:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 nkjv)
This passage speaks as if the primary purpose of this Child, this Son, is to vindicate Israel over and against her enemies. Consider what the Child brings about: Israel's boundaries will be expanded; the yoke that burdens the Jewish people will be shattered; warriors' boots and blood will be things of the past. This Child will bring in everlasting peace. Yet the Child has come, but the remainder of the prophecy has not yet been fulfilled. Israel is still oppressed. Wars continue. Within this passage there is a two-thousand-year pause or gap. Yet a face-value reading of this passage gives no real indication of this. In one seamless passage, we have both the historical (the Child was born) and the future fulfillment (He will rule, shatter the rod of oppression, and bring in everlasting peace). As much as we in the West like to approach a passage and divide it up into neat categories of historical or future, oftentimes both elements are intertwined. Sometimes a passage may be partially historical with shadows of futuristic prophecies. Other times, a prophet may be speaking almost entirely of the future with only a slight shade of historical emphasis. Still other times, a passage may be entirely futuristic or historical. How then are we to understand such passages? The answer lies in understanding the big story that all of the prophets were telling and identifying the commonly repeated themes that make up this big story. Let me explain.
Most have heard the saying “Don't miss the forest for the trees.” The point of the saying is to warn against becoming so caught up in the many intricacies or details (trees) of any subject that you miss the bigger picture (the forest). Perhaps nowhere is this warning more appropriate than with regard to the study of biblical prophecy. When studying the
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Bible's many end-time passages, it's very easy to become so engrossed in one particular passage that the larger story is missed. I've watched both students and teachers make this mistake dozens upon dozens of times. But this error is easy to avoid. Before running with any one passage, we must first solidly grasp the larger, overarching, ultimate story being conveyed throughout the many prophecies of the Bible. Thankfully, this is not dif- ficult. The wonderful thing about the Bible is that it tells the same story over and over again in numerous ways. Whenever a theme is important, it will be repeated multiple times throughout the Bible. When something is important from a prophetic perspective, the Bible will make that point abundantly clear by reiterating it dozens of times in a number of passages. It is through taking note of the commonly repeated themes that one is able to grasp the “big picture” of biblical prophecy.
Repeating what was said earlier, while every prophet was speaking either to the immediate circumstances of his day or the near future, the ultimate burden of all biblical prophecy is the coming of the Messiah, the Day of the Lord, and the messianic kingdom to follow. The coming of Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom is the big story that all of the prophets were telling. This is the emphasis of the entire Bible. In the next chapter, we will briefly survey some of the most important prophetic passages regarding the Day of the Lord and the return of Jesus. For the purpose of this study, we will consider the specific nations against which Jesus executes judgment when He returns. What we will see is that over and over, the same general story is being told. While numerous subthemes could be highlighted so as to expand this basic picture, the four primary themes that will emerge are clear:
* In the last days, the Antichrist, his empire, and his armies will arise from out of what today are the Muslim majority nations of the Middle East and North Africa.
* These nations will form a coalition, union, or alliance and invade the nation of Israel. Severe persecution of Jews and Christians will be a global pandemic.
* After a short but extremely terrible season of victory by the
Antichrist and his armies, Jesus will return from heaven to deliver the
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surviving Jewish people, many of whom will have been taken captive by the conquering invaders.
* The righteous dead will awaken and, together with the living saints, be “caught up” in the air, where they will instantly receive eternal life in their glorified resurrection bodies.
* Jesus will destroy the Antichrist and his armies and establish His messianic kingdom over the earth from Jerusalem.
While there are certainly numerous other details that we could unfold, as we will see, it is these four larger themes that are repeated most fre- quently throughout the Prophets. When trying to understand the biblical prophets, it is through understanding the big story concerning the coming Day of the Lord and the kingdom to follow that many formerly confusing passages throughout the Prophets will suddenly make sense. While they were all speaking to the events of their day or near future, they are all ulti- mately telling the same big story and pointing to the same glorious future.
R U L E # 7: U N D E R S TA N D T H AT W H E N G O D A L M I G H T Y I S P O R T R AY E D A S B E I N G P H Y S I C A L LY P R E S E N T O N T H E E A R T H , I T I S G O D T H E
S O N ( J E S U S ).
This final rule is more of an observation, but it is essential to grasp if we are to properly understand numerous passages throughout the Prophets that speak of the return of the Messiah and the Day of the Lord: when God is portrayed as being physically on the earth, it is usually either a historical, pre-incarnate appearance of God the Son or a prophetic por- trayal of Jesus the Messiah at the time of His return. Many Christians miss this fact because they are confused regarding the nature of the Trinity. Often, when the individual being described is referenced as God, or with the sacred name Yahweh, most often translated as “Lord,” many simply assume this is God the Father. But throughout the Bible, God the Father does not come down to the earth until the very end (Revelation 21-22).
God has appeared to men and women at various times. Consider just a couple of examples:
M I D E A S T B E A S T
Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the- God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13 nkjv)
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” (Genesis 32:30)
But despite these and other appearances of God throughout the Old Testament, the apostle John made it clear that no one has ever seen God the Father, except God the Son:
“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18 nkjv)
“Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.” (John 6:45-46 nkjv)
The apostle Paul also made it clear that God the Father has never been seen:
I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things . . . He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:13-16 nkjv)
Yet throughout the prophets, there are numerous passages that speak of God being present on the earth. While several passages could be cited, consider the following:
Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank. (Exodus 24:9-11 nkjv)
E n d - T i m e s S i m p l i f i e d
While numerous individuals and groups of people saw God histori- cally throughout the Bible, all of these passages must be understood as pre-incarnate appearances of God the Son. So also when we see God physically present in the context of future prophecy, should we understand these references to “God” or “Lord” as references to Jesus after His return. Consider for example the passage in Zechariah:
For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rif led, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. (14:2-4 nkjv)
Here Yahweh, the Lord, is seen to physically stand on the mountain. He is described as fighting against the armies of gentile nations. This is clearly a messianic prophecy concerning the day when Jesus the Messiah will stand on the Mount of Olives as He executes judgment against those nations that come against Jerusalem.
S U M M A R Y
In conclusion, let's summarize the rules of interpretation that we've discussed in this chapter. By following and applying these simple rules, anyone can find biblical prophecy far more approachable and easy to understand:
* RULE #1: Begin with what comes first, nottwhat comes last.
* RULE #2: Begin with what is clear, direct, and easy to under- stand, not with that which is highly symbolic, allegorical, or difficult to interpret.
* RULE #3: Build on themes that are consistent and occur repeat- edly throughout Scripture.
* RULE #4: Always remember: context, context context.
M I D E A S T B E A S T
* RULE #5: Do not approach the Bible as if it is a technical manual, but instead keep in mind its Eastern nature.
* RULE #6: Recognize the ultimate emphasis of biblical prophecy;
that is, know the “big story.”
* RULE #7: Recognize that when God Almighty is portrayed as being physically present on the earth, this is God the Son, either historically as the pre-incarnate Son of God or as Jesus at the time of His return.