Interpretations of Romans 9-11

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

It would be an understatement to say that Romans 9-11 is a controversial passage. It has often been touted to be a proof-text for Calvinism. Today’s article presents the traditional Calvinist interpretation of the passage, as well as other interpretations posited by non-Calvinist scholars.

A) Individual election to salvation

Douglas Moo: “While the passages from Genesis may not refer directly to the salvation of individuals, Paul applies them to the question of who belongs in the spiritual Israel (v. 6). In other words, the ultimate concern is to show how God has determined who belongs to his people. That means that the issue is, finally, about the salvation of individuals …

Romans 9 teaches the absolute sovereignty of God in the decisions he makes about the ultimate fate of human beings.”[1]

John Murray: “The interpretation which regards the election as the collective, theocratic election of Israel as a people must be rejected and the ‘purpose of God according to election’ will have to be understood as the electing purpose that is determinative of and unto salvation and equivalent to that which we find elsewhere (Rom. 8:28-33; Eph. 1:4; 1 Thess. 1:4 et al).”[2]

Steven M. Baugh: “This passage teaches divine election and predestination of individuals to salvation, and the hardening of whom God wills, as candidly as anything is ever taught in the Bible, despite the resolute and persistent efforts of many to obviate it …

For Paul, Israelite privileged status is a biblical teaching which must be qualified by other truths. Specifically, Paul sees that membership in theocratic Israel with its national benefits does not guarantee membership in elect Israel whose benefits are righteousness, salvation, and eternal life.12 This is the point of his thematic statement in Romans 9:6: ‘They are not all Israel who are of Israel’; i.e., elect Israel and national Israel are not coextensive. Put another way, sonship in the Abrahamic line does not guarantee that one is a child of God (9:8) …

… Paul is addressing a more fundamental issue: why don’t all ethnic Israelites believe and thereby partake in the eternal inheritance? Paul’s answer to this deeper question pours out in a staccato stream in Romans 9:10-13. One believes only because God so chooses. The root of all God’s benefits is his own predestinating free will.”[3]

Thomas Schreiner: “When Paul speaks of the anguish in his heart and his desire to be accursed because of his fellow Israelites (Rom 9:1-3), the reason he feels this way is not because Israel is merely losing out on temporal blessings. Distress torments his heart because his kinsmen from Israel were not saved. Paul is almost willing “to be separated from Christ” (9:3) because his fellow Israelites are separated from Christ …

The particular question in [Paul’s] mind in w. 1-5 relates to the salvation of Israel, and thus the claim that God’s word has not failed (9:6) must be interpreted in relationship to the issue that is at the forefront of Paul’s mind—namely, the salvation of Israel. Those interpreters who assert that Paul is referring merely to the historical destiny of Israel and not to salvation do not account plausibly for the relationship of vv. 1-5 to the rest of the chapter, for vv. 1-5 make it eminently clear that the reason Paul brings up the question of the faithfulness of God in v. 6 is that a great portion of Israel is not saved.”[4]

B) Corporate election to salvation

Brian J. Abasciano: “What is imperative to see in relation to the nature of the election Paul envisions in Rom. 9.10-13 is that the significance of the individual Jacob’s election for Israel was that they were elect by virtue of their identification with him. Their election was ‘in him’, and thus intrinsically consequent upon his. This dispels another of the main objections to taking election as corporate in these verses – that the individuals Jacob and Esau are obviously in view to one degree or another, and therefore so is individual election (of individuals as autonomous entities). This objection fails to apprehend the relationship between the election of the corporate representative and his people. The corporate representative’s election is unique, entailing the election of all who are identified with him. Its significance was never that each individual member of the elect people was chosen as an individual to become part of the elect people in the same manner as the corporate head was chosen. Rather, the individual possesses elect status as a consequence of membership in the elect people/identification with the corporate representative. In the case of the divine covenantal election, God chooses his people by his choice of the covenant head.

A great obstacle to the view that Paul is teaching direct election of individuals as individuals to become part of his people and receive salvation is the fact that the corporate view is the view of the Old Testament generally and the texts Paul interprets in Romans 9 specifically as well as the standard view of Judaism in Paul’s day. Moo, an outspoken advocate of individual election, admits as much and concedes, ‘We would expect Paul to be thinking of “election” here in the same terms, an expectation that seems to be confirmed by the OT texts that Paul quotes’. This is exactly right. As I have argued elsewhere, the burden of proof lies squarely upon those who would argue that Paul departs from the standard biblical and Jewish concept of election. Therefore, it is an insuperable problem for the individual election view that everything Paul says here in Romans 9 fits comfortably into the view of corporate election, which could speak of the inclusion or exclusion of individuals vis-à-vis the covenant without shifting the locus of election itself to the individual. Indeed, Paul’s olive tree metaphor in Rom. 11.17-24 evidences the view of corporate election perfectly. Individuals get grafted into the elect people (the olive tree) and participate in election and its blessings by faith or get cut off from God’s chosen people and their blessings because of unbelief, while the focus of election clearly remains the corporate people of God, which spans salvation history. The natural understanding of Jacob’s election in a first-century context would have led readers to apply Paul’s example to the character of the corporate election of God’s people rather than to the individual. Advocates of individual election in Romans 9 appear to have jumped to applying election directly to individuals because of individualistic assumptions foreign to Paul and his socio-historical milieu.

Thus, Paul’s argument based on Jacob and Esau is salvation-historical. Based on the circumstances of their conception and the timing of the divine call/proclamation of Jacob’s election as the covenant heir, Paul concludes that the election of God’s people was not dictated by any distinctive of either twin, but by the sovereign will and call of God. Generally speaking, by basing the foundational election of his people on his sovereign call rather than some meritorious distinctive of Jacob or de-meritorious distinctive of Esau, God ensured that he remained free to choose who his people are according to his own good pleasure. More specifically, he ensured that he remained free to choose the head/mediator of his covenant for any (or no) reason whatsoever, and thereby to choose similarly who his people are. Most specifically in the context of Paul’s argument, God’s sovereign call of Jacob and his descendants ensured that he could call only those who believe in Jesus Christ seed of Abraham if he so chose, that is, regard them as his covenant people, and thereby fulfill his purpose of blessing the whole world in Abraham, for Israel’s election depended wholly on his sovereign will from the beginning and therefore remained subject to the dictates of his own will.”[5]

“God chose the people of Israel in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel (Deut 4:37; 7:6-8). That is, by choosing Jacob/Israel, the corporate/covenant representative, God also chose his descendants as his covenant people. It is a matter of Old Testament covenant theology. The covenant representative on the one hand and the people/nation of Israel on the other hand are the focus of the divine covenantal election, and individuals are elect only as members of the elect people. Moreover, in principle, foreign individuals who were not originally members of the elect people could join the chosen people and become part of the elect, demonstrating again that the locus of election was the covenant community and that individuals found their election through membership in the elect people.”[6]

B. J. Oropeza: “Paul’s references from the Scriptures on individuals such as Isaac, Esau, Jacob, and Pharaoh address the issue of election (cf. Rom. 9:6-19; see below), but their election or rejection by God is brought out to make more relevant points to the Romans about the communities such as Israel (9:23-10:3, 18-21; 11:26-32), the Gentile believers (9:24, 30; 11:13, 25), and the faithful remnant (11:1-7). Likewise in this context, Paul considers himself elect not by virtue of his own independent status with God but because he is a member of the elect remnant of Israel (11:1-7) …

For the Romans whom Paul is addressing, the individual is elect by participating in the elect community “in Christ,” and the assurances of final salvation given to that community pertain to the individual as long as that individual is identified as belonging to the elect community.[7]

Norman Geisler: “… God is not speaking here about the individual Jacob but about the nation of Jacob (Israel) … The reference here [in Gen. 25:23] is not to individual election but to the corporate election of a chosen nation – Israel.

Second, regardless of the corporate election of Israel as a nation, each individual had to accept the Messiah in order to be saved. Paul said, “I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel” (Rom. 9:3-4). He added, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved” (10:1). Even though of the end times he says later that, “all Israel will be saved” (11:26), he is referring to Israel at that time, and clearly at present there is only “a remnant” (v.5). So even though Israel as a nation was elect, each individual had to accept God’s grace by “faith” in order to be saved (v.20).”[8]

William Lane Craig: “The problematic [sic], then, with which Paul is wrestling is how God’s chosen people the Jews could fail to obtain the promise of salvation while Gentiles, who were regarded by Jews as unclean and execrable, could find salvation instead. Paul’s answer is that God is sovereign: He can save whomever He wants, and no one can gainsay God. He has the freedom to have mercy upon whomever He wills, even upon execrable Gentiles, and no one can complain of injustice on God’s part.

So—and this is the crucial point— who is it that God has chosen to save? The answer is: those who have faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul writes in Galatians (which is a sort of abbreviated Romans), “So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3. 7). Jew or Gentile, it doesn’t matter: God has sovereignly chosen to save all those who trust in Christ Jesus for salvation …

Election, then, is first and foremost a corporate notion: God has chosen for Himself a people, a corporate entity, and it is up to us by our response of faith whether or not we choose to be members of that corporate group destined to salvation.”[9]

Continue reading “Interpretations of Romans 9-11”

Views on Hell

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

Perspective  Proponent & Overview
 A) Literal View  i) Proponent


John F. Walvoord


“Jonathan Edwards pictured hell as a raging furnace of fire. He imagined the wicked being cast into liquid fire that is both material and spiritual”[17]


Charles Spurgeon: “… in fire exactly like that which we have on earth thy body will lie, asbestos-like, forever unconsumed, all thy veins roads for the feet of Pain to travel on, every nerve a string on which the Devil shall forever play his diabolical tune of hell’s unutterable lament.”[18]


E.B. Pusey: “The fire shall pierce them, penetrate them … like a molten ‘lake of fire,’ rolling, tossing, immersing, but not destroying.”[19]


Augustine (?)[20]


ii) Overview


“.. the orthodox view is commonly interpreted to be the belief that punishment for the wicked is everlasting and that it is punitive, not redemptive.”[1]


“… an important principle must be observed all throughout the Scriptures: while the term “forever” [in the Bible] may sometimes be curtailed in duration by its context, such termination is never once mentioned in either the Old or New Testament as relating to the punishment of the wicked.”[2]


“The most definitive term in the New Testament is gehenna, uniformly translated “hell” and referring to everlasting punishment (Matt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6).”[3]


“All the references to gehenna, except James 3:6, are from the lips of Christ himself, and there is an obvious emphasis on the punishment for the wicked after death as being everlasting. The term gehenna is derived from the Valley of Hinnom, traditionally considered by the Jews the place of the final punishment of the ungodly …

Whatever its historical and geographic meaning, its usage in the New Testament is clearly a reference to the everlasting state of the wicked, and this seems to be the thought in every instance.”[4]


“Though not always expressly stated, the implication [of the New Testament passages mentioning gehenna] is that the punishment will have duration and be endless.”[5]


“Though the word gehenna is not used in Matthew 7:19, some believe that this is what Christ meant when he said, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Also implied in Christ’s statement in Matthew 7:23 is the truth that part of the punishment of hell is to be separated from Christ forever: “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.’””[6]


“John implied [in Revelation 20:13-14] that the grave will some day give up the bodies of the wicked dead and that they will be resurrected in order to enter into the eternal punishment of the lake of fire. The fact that they are still in existence indicates that their existence was not terminated when they died physically, but they are still alive and suffering torment in hades, the intermediate state up to this point. This state is then emptied, however, and those who are in it are cast into the lake of fire, the second death; this action indicates eternal separation from God.”[7]


“Though the word gehenna is not used [in Revelation 20:10 and Revelation 21:7-8], the lake of fire is, and it serves as a synonym for the eternal place of torment.”[8]


“As Buis points out, the Greek word aionios in every instance refers to eternity.”[9]


Buis: “Aionios is used in the New Testament sixty-six times: fifty-one times of the happiness of the righteous, two times of the duration of God in His glory, six other times where there is no doubt as to its meaning being endless, and seven times of the punishment of the wicked.”[10]


“In support of the idea that aionios means “endless” is its consistent placement alongside the duration of the life of the godly in eternity. If the state of the blessed is eternal, as expressed by this word, there is no logical reason for giving limited duration to punishment.”


W.R. Inge: “No sound scholar can pretend that aionios means anything less than eternal.”[11]


“A general rule, however, can be established that unless Scripture specifically terminates a promise given “forever,” limiting it to time in contrast to eternity, we may assume that “eternity” means “everlasting,” as indicated in the character of God and in the character of salvation in Christ.”[12]


“… though aionios is generally used of eternal life, it is specifically coupled with punishment of the wicked in Jude 7 … This is in contrast to “eternal life” mentioned in verse 21.”[13]


“A most convincing evidence that eternity usually means “without beginning or end” is found in the definition of this word in Arndt and Gingrich. This word is used normally in the New Testament to mean either “without beginning or end” or at least “without end.” None of the passages uses the word in a sense other than infinity in time, but it may mean infinity in time past or infinity in time future.”[14]


“If the slightest sin is infinite in its significance then it also demands infinite punishment as a divine judgement. Though it is common for all Christians to wish there were some way out of the doctrine of eternal punishment because of its inexorable and unyielding revelation of divine judgement, one must rely in Christian faith on the doctrine that God is a God of infinite righteousness as well as infinite love. While on the one hand he bestows infinite grace on those who trust him, he must, on the other hand, inflict eternal punishment on those who spurn his grace.”[15]


“There is sufficient evidence that the fire is literal. In the case of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, the rich man in hades asked father Abraham to cool his tongue with water because, “I am in agony in this fire” (v.24). Thirst would be a natural reaction to fire, and the desire to cool his tongue would be in keeping with this description.”[16]

B) Metaphorical View  i) Proponent


William Crockett


John Calvin: “We may conclude from the many passages of Scripture, that it [eternal fire] is a metaphorical expression”[47]


Charles Hodge: “There seems no more reason for supposing that the fire spoken of in Scripture is to be a literal fire, than that the worm that never dies is literally a worm.”[48]ss


J.I. Packer: “… the mistake is to take such pictures as physical descriptions, when in fact they are imagery symbolizing realities … far worse than the symbols themselves.”[49]


Kenneth Kantzer: “The Bible makes it clear that hell is real and it’s bad.  when Jesus spoke of flames … these are most likely figurative warnings.”[50]


ii) Overview


“… the Bible does not support a literal view of a burning abyss. Hellfire and brimstone are not literal depictions of hell’s funishings, but figurative expressions warning the wicked of impending doom.”[34]


Martin Luther: “It is not very important whether or not one pictures hell as it is commonly portrayed and described.”[35]


“The words of Jesus and the apostles tell us that the final abode of the wicked will be a place of awful reckoning, but specifically what the reckoning will be, we cannot know for certain until we pass beyond this life.”[36]


“Unfortunately, some people confuse a high view of Scripture with taking every word of the Bible literally. They think that whatever the Bible says must  be true literally. But this neglects the symbolic use of words, or what is often called rabbinic hyperbole. Rabbis in ancient times (and this includes Jesus) often used colourful speech to bring home forcefully their points.”[37]


“For example, when Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children … he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26), he does not mean we must hate our parents to be proper disciples. This is a language vehicle used to convey the point that loyalty to him is supreme. We must love Jesus so much that our other loves seem like hate in comparison. The same is true with Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” We know Jesus did not intend people to take his words literally, because the context has to do with lust. Removing an eye – or even two eyes – will not help because even blind people lust. This is colourful speech by Jesus the rabbi; he means that sin is so serious that it is better to lose an eye than to perish in hell.”[38]


“In Jewish literature, vivid pictures of hell are given to show that God has ordained an end to wickedness. The writers do not intend their descriptions to be literal depictions of the fate of the damned, but rather warnings of coming judgement. In the Qumran texts, for example, mutually exclusive concepts like fire and darkness are used more to evoke a horrifying image than to describe a literal hell.

The writers speak about “the shadowy place of everlasting fire” (1QS 2:8) and describe hell as “the fire of the dark regions” (1QS 4:13). The same is true with 1 Enoch, which talks about “darkness … and burning flame” (103:7) and “blazing flames worse than fire” (100:9). Similarly, 2 Enoch 10:2 pictures hell as “black fire.”

The Testament of Abraham 12-13 uses fire to picture the Last Judgement. There the archangel Purouel (whose name means fire) “tests the works of men through fire” (13:11). The fire that burns up the works of individuals in both the Testament of Abraham 13:12 and 1 Corinthians 3:15 is not a literal fire, but a symbol of something far greater.”[39]


“Fire is often nonliteral in Jewish writings; they use colourful language to make a point. Even the Torah was said to have been written with “black fire on white fire” (Jerusalem Talmud, Sekalim 6:1, 49d), and the tree of life was described as gold looking in “the form of fire” (2 Enoch 8:4). There are mountains of fire (Pseudo-Philo 18:3), rivers of fire (1 Enoch 17:5), thrones of fire (Apoc. Abram. 18:3), lashes of fire (T. Abram. 12:1) – even angels and demons of fire (2 Bar. 24:6; T. of Sol. 1:10).”[40]


“In the Scriptures God is said to be a “consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24), who has throne “flaming with fire” that has a “river of fire” issuing from beneath the throne (Dan. 7:9-10). Sometimes the images of fire approximate our understanding of material fire on earth. God speaks out of fire that does not consume a desert bush (Ex. 3:1-6) and carries a prophet to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). In the New Testament, John says of the exalted Christ, “his eyes were like blazing fire” (Rev. 1:14). Fire is also used figuratively for discord (Luke 12:49), judgement (1 Cor. 3:15), sexual desire (1 Cor. 7:9), and unruly words (James 3:5-6).”[41]


“C.H. Dodd suggests that Paul “shared with many of his contemporaries the belief that … the material universe would be transfigured into a substance consisting of pure light or glory, thus returning to its original perfection as created by God.””[42]


“In the New Testament the final destination of the wicked is pictured as a place of blazing sulphur, where the burning smoke ascends forever. This would have been an effective image because sulphur fires were part of life for those who lived in the Jerusalem of Bible times. Southwest of the city was the Valley of Hinnom, an area that had a long history of desecration. The steep gorge was once used to burn children in sacrifice to the Ammonite god of Molech (2 Kings 23:10; Jer. 7:31; 32:35).”[43]


“How could hell be a literal fire when it is also described as darkness (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; 2 Peter 2:17; Jude 14)? Those who raise this question have a good point … The point is that when it comes to God’s wrath at the end of time, Jewish writers are not concerned with seeming conflicts; they can describe punishment in many ways because they have no clear scheme as to what form it will take. For example, they often talk of hell as a place where the bodies of the wicked burn eternally, even though at the same time they are said to be rotting away with worms and maggots (Judith 16:17; Sirach 7:17; cf. Isa. 66:24). The author of 2 Enoch 10:2 even links “black fire” with “cold ice” in the place of eternal torment. What these writers are trying to do is paint the most awful picture of hell they can, no matter how incompatible the images might be. Yet of this they are certain: God will forever punish those who walk in the paths of wickedness.”[44]


“The wicked are said to weep and gnash their teeth (Matt. 8:12; 13:42; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28), their worm never dies (Mark 9:48), and they are beaten with many blows (Luke 12:47). No one thinks hell will involve actual beatings or is a place where the maggots of the dead achieve immortality. Equally, no one thinks that the gnashing of teeth is anything other than an image of hell’s grim reality.”[45]


“The eternal fire was created for spirit beings such as the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). How then will people with spirit bodies (and disembodied spirits such as demons) be affected by a physical fire? Physical fire works on physical bodies with physical nerve endings, not on spirit beings.”[46]


C) Purgatorial View  i) Proponent


Zachary J. Hayes


Origen (?)


Clement of Alexandria (?)


Jerry Walls


ii) Overview


“This word [i.e. purgatory] is commonly understood to refer to the state, place, or condition in the next world between heaven and hell, a state of purifying suffering for those who have died and are still in need of such purification. This purifying condition comes to an end for the individual when that person’s guilt has been expiated. But as an eschatological “place”, purgatory is understood to continue in existence until the last judgement.”[69]


“To understand the inner logic of the concept of purification after death, we need to think of a number of interrelated points.


First, it is helpful to recall that symbolism about purgation does not begin with Roman Catholicism, nor with Christianity, nor even with the Bible. In fact, such symbolism is widespread in religious history. It is symbolism that reflects a sense of distance between human creatures and God. There is distance, first, because all creatures are limited and finite, while God is infinite.


Second, there is distance because human creatures are sinners. Not only are human beings “less than God,” they are also “guilty before God.” Now, if the concern of the religious journey is to move to ever greater closeness and intimacy with God in a relationship of love, one must ask how the distance between God and creature might be bridged.”[70]


“The idea of a purifying fire was present in extrabiblical and in biblical tradition long before the Christian/Catholic concept of purgatory used it in its own way. When such symbolism is used in a Christian context, it expresses the conviction that something happens in the encounter between God and the human creature that makes the creature more “capable” of receiving the gift of divine presence within itself.”[71]


“If, from this side of death, we seem to be flawed lovers, and if the condition called heaven involves the perfection of love, how can we possibly bridge that distance?”[72]


“… he [i.e. Augustine] speaks frequently about the cleansing suffering that awaits those who die without being adequately purified in this life. Augustine was much concerned with the moral significance of human life and with the moral continuity between this life and the next. Because of this continuity, he could envision a process of cleansing on both sides of death. He argues that it is better to be cleansed in this life than the next, for the cleansing process in the next life will be far more severe than anything experienced in this life.”[73]


“The idea of a process of purification and not only in this life but in the next as well seemed to Cyprian a welcome way out of an otherwise uncomfortable dilemma [i.e. good people who had failed the test of heroic martyrdom in the time of persecution]. We could argue that, with Cyprian, the central insight of what eventually became the doctrine of purgatory was formulated already by the middle of the third century.”[74]


“Purgatory, as Roman Catholic theology envisions it, it involves a process of purification after death for those who need it. It is a process in which the concern of the living for the dead, expressed through prayers and charitable works, may have a beneficial effect on the healing of the dead.”[75]


“In his brilliant study of the history, Jacques Le Goff argues that it was first in the late twelfth century that the clear reference to purgatory as a place is found in Christian literature. If this argument is correct, it means that even though many intimations of a purifying process may be found in the early centuries of Christian history, the tendency to think of purgatory as a particular place on the eschatological map was a product of the Middle Ages. And even when purgatory was associated with a special place, it is interesting that this place was not necessarily “extra-terrestrial” but could be thought of as somewhere on this planet.”[76]


“In summary, the notion of purgatory is intimately related to the conviction that our eternal destiny is irrevocably decided at the moment of our death and that, ultimately, our eternal destiny can be only heaven or hell. But not everyone seems “bad enough” to be consigned to an eternal hell. And most do not seem “good enough: to be candidates for heaven. Therefore, something has to happen “in between.” But this cannot mean a coming back to life and getting another chance since our destiny is decided at the moment of our death. Therefore, some sort of cleansing process is postulated between death and the entrance into heaven.”[77]


“… purgatory means “suffering to the end what one has left behind on earth – in the certainty of being accepted, yet having to hear the burden of the withdrawn presence of the Beloved. This is not unlike the view presented by Dante in his Divine Comedy: the souls in purgatory are those of people who were basically animated by the love of God, but whose lives at other levels were marred by blemishes.”[78]


“He [i.e. Origen] argued that at the end of history, the unity of creation would be restored under the rule of God. To him this seemed to be the simple requirement of the goodness of God. In the end, all the enemies of Christ would be overcome, not by being annihilated but by being won over by the divine love. This meant that those who had not made the grade during their first life would return until they had succeeded. Thus the purgative process postulated by Origen is oriented to a theology of universal salvation. In the end, Origen says, there is only “heaven.” Even what Christians have called “hell” is seen as a temporary situation that is superseded by a total restoration of all reality to its God-intended form.”[79]


“Other early Eastern Christian writers envisioned a form of process after death. In the early third century, for example, Clement of Alexandria taught that souls would endure some sort of remedial “fire,” a fire that was understood in a metaphorical sense. The whole vision of Clement was cast in the framework of an understanding of Christian life that saw grace as an increasing God-likeness in the just …


Clement envisioned a growing God-likeness, beginning in this life and continuing in the next, until the soul had reached that state of maturity appropriate to its place in the heavenly mansions.”[80]


“The texts of Scripture have a long and complex history, and the divine message of revelation is found not in a specific verbal formulation but in a cluster of religious insights that have their own distinctive history …


So while the Scriptures remain the privileged and irreplaceable literary point of contact with the basic experiences that lie at the foundation of historic Christianity, there is no specific literary or verbal formula that may simply be identified with the revealed message of God.


From here, the step to tradition becomes clear. In Roman Catholic thought, Christians never deal solely with the text of Scripture. There is also a history of acceptance and interpretation of that text, for no text is self-interpreting.”[81]


“… tradition is not a second source of doctrine next to and independent of the Bible. Rather, it is the living communication of biblical revelation in ever-changing circumstances and in new and different communities and cultures. Just as the texts of Scripture give witness to the divine revelation, so also does the reality of tradition give witness to the same revelation, but in circumstances unknown to the authors of Scripture.”[82]


“If we are looking for clear and unambiguous statements of the doctrine [of purgatory in the Bible], we will look in vain. But our reflections on the matter of tradition and development might suggest a reformulation of the question. We might better ask if anything in Scripture initiated the development that eventually led to the doctrine of purgatory. Or, what is it in the biblical material that generates this form of Christian tradition?”[83]


“Beyond this [2 Maccabees 12:41-46], there is no other Old Testament text that stands out clearly in the development of Christian purgatorial doctrine.”[84]


“One could ask what meaning this text [i.e. Matthew 12:31-32] could have if it were not possible that some sins could be forgiven in the next world. This, in fact, seems to be the understanding of Augustine and of Gregory the Great. Likewise, it is the understanding of various medieval popes and councils. This text, therefore, has been seen to provide at least some biblical warrant for the concept of purgatory.”[85]


“If we take the “Day” [in 1 Corinthians 3:15] to refer to the final judgement, then the text seems to speak of a “fire” after the particular judgement that is involved in individual death. Though it is not necessary to interpret this text to mean the fire of purgatory, it was common among the Latin Fathers to understand this fire as a reference to some sort of transient, purificatory punishment prior to the final salvation. Examples of this interpretation can be found in Augustine and Caear of Arles.”[86]


“In conclusion, we might say that for Christians of earlier generations, it was not difficult to find some basis in Scripture for the doctrine of purgatory, even though each particular text might be subjected to different interpretations. For contemporary readers of the Bible, the actual texts of the Scriptures offer less clear evidence of purgatory than does the history of patristic exegesis.”[87]


“If Roman Catholic theologians find the evidence of Scripture ambiguous, what follows after that is unavoidably a matter of tradition and the development of church doctrine. And a genuine form of purgatorial understanding was developed rather early in the patristic church.”[88]


“The official teaching on purgatory is found in solemn statements made by solemn assemblies of bishops and theologians recognised at least by Romans Catholics as ecumenical councils. In response to the Eastern Church, the Second Council of Lyons (1274) and the Council of Florence (1439) addressed the issue. The Council of Trent (1563) did the same in response to the Protestant Reformation.”[89]


“The councillar teaching on purgatory is very concise. The Council of Lyons stated that those who die in charity and are truly sorry for their sins, but before they have made complete satisfaction for their wrongdoings, will be purged after death by “cathartic punishments.”[90]


“The Council of Trent, like that of Lyons, is brief. Trent reduces its teaching on purgatory to two points. First, purgation exists for some between death and the general resurrection, and second, the souls undergoing such purgation can be aided by the prayers and good works of the faithful and especially by the sacrifice of the Mass.”[91]


“… the concept of purgatory does not stand alone as a theological idea. Rather, it is part of a larger scenario that reflects the Roman Catholic understanding of how God deals with us and how we are to respond to God in the context of grace and eschatological fulfilment.”[92]

 D) Conditional View  i) Proponent


Clark H. Pinnock


John Wenham


John Stott: “I do not dogmatise about the position to which I have come. I hold it tentatively. But I do plead for frank dialogue among evangelicals on the basis of scripture. I also believe that the ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment.”[122]


Phillip E. Hughes


G. Selwyn: “There is little in the NT to suggest a state of everlasting punishment, but much to indicate an ultimate destruction or dissolution of those who cannot enter into life: conditional immortality seems to be the doctrine most consonant with the teaching of Scripture.”[123]


ii) Overview


“Hell is not the beginning of a new immortal life in torment but the end of a life of rebellion. Hell is, as C.S. Lewis said, the “outer rim where being fades away into nonentity.””[104]


“There is no single Jewish view of hell. Many sources present the destruction of the wicked (e.g., Wisd. Sol. 4:18-19; 5:14-15), while others speak of everlasting conscious torment (e.g., 1 Enoch 27:1-3). There is a similar diversity in the early Christian sources. The Apostles’ Creed affirms that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead at the end of history, though it does not spell out the exact nature of that judgement. One can find the idea of everlasting torment (in Tertullian), annihilation (in the Didache), and universalism (in Origen).


The diversity was not to last, however. The view of hell as everlasting physical and mental torture came to dominate orthodox thinking early on.”[105]


“The Old Testament gives us a clear picture of the end of the wicked in terms of destruction and supplies the basic imagery of divine judgement for the New Testament to use …


While it is true that the point of reference for these warnings [in Psalm 37 and Malachi 4:1-2] in the Old Testament is this-worldly, this basic imagery overwhelmingly denotes destruction and perishing and sets the tone for the New Testament doctrine.”[106]


“Our Lord spoke plainly of God’s judgement as the annihilation of the wicked when he warned about God’s ability to destroy body and soul in hell (Matt. 10:28). He was echoing the terms that John the Baptist had used when he pictured the wicked as dry wood about to be thrown into the fire and chaff about to be burned (Matt. 3:10, 12). Jesus warned that the wicked would be cast into hell (Matt. 5:30), like garbage thrown into gehenna–an allusion to the valley outside Jerusalem where sacrifices were once offered to Moloch (2 Kings 16:3; 21:6) and where garbage may have smoldered and burned in Jesus’ day. The wicked would be burned up just like weeds thrown into the fire (Matt. 13:30, 42, 49-50).”[107]


“The apostle Paul creates the same impression when he wrote of the everlasting destruction that would come upon unrepentant sinners (2 Thess. 1:9). He warned that the wicked would reap corruption (Gal. 6:8) and stated that God would destroy the wicked (1 Cor. 3:17; Phil. 1:28); he spoke of their fate as a death that they deserved to die (Rom. 1:32), the wages of their sins (6:23). Concerning the wicked, the apostle stated plainly and concisely: “Their destiny is destruction” (Phil. 3:19). In all these verses, Paul made it clear that hell would mean termination.”[108]


“It is no different in any other New Testament book. Peter spoke of the “destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7) and of false teachers who denied the Lord, thus bringing upon themselves “swift destruction” (2:1, 3). He said that they would be like the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah that were burned to ashes (2:6), and that they would perish like the ancient world perished in the great Flood (3:6-7). The author of Hebrews likewise referred to the wicked who shrank back and would be destroyed (Heb. 10:39). Jude pointed to Sodom as an analogy to God’s final judgement, being the city that underwent “the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7). Similarly, the apocalypse of John speaks both of a lake of fire that will consume the wicked and of the second death (Rev. 20:14-15).”[109]


“The Bible does not teach the natural immortality of the soul; it points instead to the resurrection of the body as God’s gift to believers. God alone has immortality (1 Tim 6:16) but graciously grants embodied life to his people (1 Cor. 15:21, 50-54; 2 Tim. 1:10). God gives us life and God takes it away. There is nothing in the nature of the human soul that requires it to live forever. The Bible teaches conditionalism: God created humans mortal with a capacity for life everlasting, but it is not their inherent possession. Immortality is a gift God offers us in the gospel, not an inalienable possession. The soul is not an immortal substance that has to be placed somewhere if it rejects God. If a person does reject God finally, there is nothing in biblical anthropology to contradict what Jesus plainly taught – God will destroy the wicked, body and soul, in hell.”[110]


“Presumably the traditional view of the nature of hell was originally constructed in the following way: People mixed up their belief in the divine judgement after death (which is scriptural) with their belief in the immortality of the soul (which is unscriptural) and concluded (incorrectly) that the nature of hell must be everlasting conscious torment The logic would be impeccable if only the second premise were not false.”[111]


“According to Christian theology the nature of God is revealed in Jesus Christ and shown to be boundlessly merciful. God loves the whole world. His heart is to invite sinners to a festive meal (Matt. 8:11). He is a forgiving and loving Father toward them (Luke 15:11-32), not a cruel and sadistic torturer as the traditional view of hell would suggest.”[112]


“Our moral intuition agrees with this. There is a powerful moral revulsion against the traditional doctrine of the nature of hell. Everlasting torture is intolerable from a moral point of view because it pictures God acting like a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for his enemies whom he does not even allow to die.”[113]


“Sending the wicked to everlasting torment would be to treat persons worse than they could deserve.


Consider it on the basis of an Old Testament standard of justice, the standard of strict equivalence: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Exod. 21:24). Did the sinner visit upon God everlasting torment? Did he cause God or his neighbors everlasting pain and loss?”[114]


“What purpose of God would be served by the unending torture of the wicked except those of vengeance and vindictiveness? Such a fate for the wicked would spell endless and totally unredemptive suffering. Here would be a punishment just for its own sake. Surely God does not act like that. Even the plagues of Egypt were intended to be redemptive for those who would respond to the warning.”[115]


“The New Testament says that God is going to be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28) and that God is going to be making “everything new” (Rev. 21:5), but the new creation turns out flawed from day one. John Stott does not think it adds up right, asking: “How can God in any meaningful sense be called ‘everything to everybody’ while an unspecified number of people still continue in rebellion against him and under his judgement?”


What kind of reconciliation and redemption is it if heaven and hell coexist forever, if evil, suffering, and death all continue to have reality?”[116]


“Here [i.e. Isaiah 66:24] the dead bodies of God’s enemies are being eaten by maggots and burned up. The fire and the worm in this figure are destroying the dead bodies, not tormenting conscious persons. By calling the fire unquenchable, the Bible is saying that the fire is not quenched until the job is finished.”[117]


“In this text [i.e. Matt. 25:46], Jesus does not define the nature either of eternal life or of eternal death. He says there will be two destinies and leaves it there. This perspective gives us the freedom to interpret the saying about hell either as everlasting conscious torment (eternal punishment) or as irreversible destruction (eternal punishment). The text allows for both interpretation because it only teaches the finality of the judgement, not its precise nature.”[118]


“[In Luke 16:23-24] … unless there is a lot of room in the patriarch’s lap, the detail seems to be imagery rather than a literal description of what the future life will actually be like. In addition, the story refers to hades (the intermediate state between death and resurrection), not to gehenna (the final end of the wicked), and is not strictly relevant to our subject.”[119]


“Regarding Revelation 14:11, we observe that, while the smoke goes up forever, the text does not say the wicked are tormented forever. It says that they have no relief from their suffering as long as the suffering lasts, but it does not say how long it lasts. As such it could fit hell as annihilation or the traditional view. Before oblivion, there may be a period of suffering, but not unendingly.”[120]


“I take John’s primary point throughout Revelation to be that everything that has rebelled against God will be overcome and come to an end. G. B. Caird catches the point: “John believed that, if at the end there should be any who remained impervious to the grace and love of God, they would be thrown, with Death and Hades, into the lake of fire which is the second death, i.e., extinction and total oblivion.””[121]

Continue reading “Views on Hell”

Quick Guide to Four Views of the End Times

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

Amillennialism Postmillennialism  Dispensational Premillennialism Historical Premillennialism

What is ammillennialism?

  • The view that the millennium is the spiritual reign of Jesus in the hearts of his followers
  • The first resurrection in Revelation 20:5 is not a physical restoration from the dead but is either
  1. the spiritual resurrection, also known as regeneration, OR
  2. the life that believers experience with God between their deaths and their final resurrection
  • Christ’s triumph over Satan through his death and resurrection around AD 30 restrained the power of Satan on earth (Revelation 20:1-3).
  • Persecution of Christians (tribulation) will occur until Jesus comes again, as will the expansion of God’s kingdom (the millennium).
  • When Christ returns, he will immediately defeat the power of evil, resurrect the saved and unsaved, judge them, and deliver them to their eternal destinies.
 What is postmillennialism?

  • The view that believes that the coming of Christ will occur after the millennium.
  • The millennium reign in Revelation 20:1-6 represents a long time period when, through the preaching of the gospel, most of the world will submit to Jesus Christ.
  • During this time, Satan will have no power over the earth and regimes will collapse (Revelation 19:19 – 20:3).
  • A period of great tribulation may precede the millennium.

What is dispensational premillennialism?

  • The view that Jesus will come back to earth after a seven-year tribulation and will rule during a thousand-year millennium of peace on earth.
  • In addition, God will still give to the nation of Israel the land described in Genesis 15:18 (from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates – the full extent of King Soloman’s kingdom).

What is historical premillennialism?

  • This view believes that Christians will remain on the earth during the great tribulation.
  • The tribulation will purify the churches by rooting out false believers, and the second coming of Christ will precede the millennium.
  • Like dispensational premillennialists, historical premillennialists see the millennium – the thousand-year reign of Jesus – as a literal, future event.

What do amillennialists emphasize?

  • Many amillennialists believe that the book of Revelation consists of seven sections. Instead of dealing with successive time periods, these seven sections use apocalyptic language to describe the entire time from Jesus’ first coming until his second coming in seven different ways.
  • Amillennialists tend to emphasize the historical context of Revelation and what the book meant to first-century readers.

What do postmillennialists emphasize?

  • Postmillennialists place great confidence in the preaching of the gospel; they contend that the gospel will eventually spread in such a way that nearly everyone in the world will turn to Jesus Christ.
  • One Scripture cited in favor of this view is Mark 3:27. Augustine understood this verse to mean that before Jesus can claim his kingdom, those that are lost (the “possessions” of Satan, “the strong man”) must come under the control of Jesus.
  • Postmillennialists believe that this golden age is described in such Scriptures as Psalm 2:8, Isaiah 2:2-4, Jeremiah 31:34, Daniel 2:35, and Micah 4:1-4.
  • Postmillennialists tend to emphasize the power of the gospel to transform societies and individual lives.

What do dispensational premillennialists emphasize?

  • Dispensational premillennialists believe the rapture and the second coming of Jesus are two separate events. The rapture comes before the great tribulation, and the second coming occurs after it.
  • During the seven years of tribulation, natural disasters and wars will occur on earth, and people who are faithful to Jesus will suffer intense persecution.
  • Dispensational premillennialists emphasize literal interpretations of Revelation.

What do historical premillennialists emphasize?

  • Historical premillennialists try to balance symbolic and literal interpretations of Revelation, emphasizing both what the book meant to first-century readers and how it might apply to people’s lives today.

According to amillennialists …

  • The great tribulation represents disasters, wars, and persecutions that have occurred throughout church history.
  • Most references to “Israel” in Revelation are symbolic references to the people of God on earth (compare Romans 9:6-8 and Galatians 6:16).
  • In apocalyptic literature, numbers represent concepts, not literal statistics. For example, six represents incompleteness, seven represents completeness, ten indicates something that is extreme but limited, twelve represents the perfection of God’s people, and 1,000 symbolizes a great amount or long period of time.
According to postmillennialists …

  • During the millennium, Christ will rule the earth through the gospel, through his Spirit, and through the church. He will not, however, be physically present on earth.
  • The resurrection depicted in Revelation 20:4 represents the spiritual regeneration of people who trust Jesus Christ.
  • The second coming of Christ, the final conflict between good and evil, the defeat of Satan, the physical resurrection of all people, and the final judgement will occur together, immediately after the millennium (Revelation 20:7-15).


According to dispensational premillennialists …

  • During the great tribulation, many Jews will turn to Jesus Christ.
  • God’s promises to Abraham and his offspring were unconditional; therefore the Jews will still receive the land described in Genesis 15:18. The establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 fulfilled a key end times prophecy.
  • All references to Israel in Revelation refer to the nation of Israel.

According to historical premillennialists …

  • God’s promise to give Abraham all the land from the Nile River to the Euphrates River (Genesis 15:18) was made to the “offspring” of Abraham – one, particular offspring whose name is Jesus (Galatians 3:16).
  • During the millennium, Jesus will reign from Jerusalem not only over the land promised to Abraham but also over the whole earth. In this way, Jesus will completely fulfill God’s promise that Abraham’s “offspring” would gain the land from the Nile to the Euphrates.
  • The true Israelites in every age have been those who trust in Jesus as the divine Messiah-King (Romans 9:6-8; Galatians 6:16). Before Jesus arrived on earth, people trusted in Jesus by looking expectantly for a Messiah who was yet to come (Hebrews 11:13, 39-40). Most references to “Israel” in Revelation refer symbolically to the church.

What Scriptures seem to support amillennialism?

  • The Bible frequently uses the number 1,000 figuratively (Psalm 50:10; 90:4; 105:8; 2 Peter 3:8).
  • The first resurrection (Revelation 20:4) could refer to the spiritual resurrection (the regeneration or new birth) of persons who trust Christ (Romans 11:13-15; Ephesians 2:1-4). The first resurrection could also refer to a Christian’s life with Jesus after death (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
  • The second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the saved and unsaved will occur at the same time (Daniel 12:2-3; John 5:28-29).
  • The saints are on earth during the tribulation (Revelation 13:7).

What Scriptures seem to support postmillennialism?

  • Every ethnic group will receive the gospel before the second coming (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10).
  • The first resurrection (Revelation 20:4) could refer to the spiritual resurrection (the regeneration or new birth)
  • of persons who trust Christ (Romans 11:13-15; Ephesians 2:1-4). The first resurrection could also refer to a Christian’s life with Jesus after death (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
  • The second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the saved and unsaved will occur at the same time (Daniel 12:2-3; John 5:28-29).

What Scriptures seem to support dispensational premillennialism?

  • God will remove Christians before the outpouring of his wrath during the tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 3:10).
  • God’s promises to Abraham and his offspring were unconditional (Genesis 15:7-21).
  • The church is not specifically mentioned between Revelation 4 and 19.

 What Scriptures seem to support historical premillennialism?

  • The revealing of the Antichrist precedes Christ’s return (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
  • The tribulation will root out false members from the churches (Revelation 2:22-23).
  • The saints are on earth during the tribulation (Revelation 13:7).
  • God’s promises to Abraham and his offspring were conditional (Genesis 22:18; 2 Chronicles 33:8; Isaiah 1:19-20; Jeremiah 7:6-7).
  • The New Testament frequently uses “Israel” and “the twelve tribes” to refer to Christians (Matthew 19:28-29; Romans 9:6-8).

When has amillennialism been popular?

  • Amillennialism became popular in the 5th century. It has remained widespread throughout church history.

 When has postmillennialism been popular?

  • The earliest writer who was clearly postmillennialist was Joachim of Fiore (1135 – 1202), although many historians believe that early church leaders such as Eusebius of Caesarea, Athanasius of Alexandria, and Augustine of Hippo leaned toward postmillennialism.
  • During the 1800s, postmillennialism increased in popularity. Some Christians even believed that the increased work of missionaries throughout the world represented the beginning of the millennium.
  • During the early 1900s, a world war and an economic depression raised questions in many people’s minds about whether the world was actually becoming a better place, and postmillennialism diminished in popularity.

When has dispensational premillennialism been popular?

  • This view emerged in the 1800s among the Plymouth Brethren (group of fundamental Bible Churches founded in the 1820s).
  • Dispensational premillennialism increased in popularity in the late 1800s and remains widespread today.

When has historical premillennialism been popular?

  • Historical premillennialism seems to have been the earliest view of end times among Christians who lived just after the apostles.

Who are some prominent amillennialists?

  • Martin Luther, John Calvin, E.Y. Mullins, Abraham Kuyper, G.C. Berkouwer, Herschel Hobbs, Stanley Grenz, and J.I. Packer.
  • Many students of early church history believe that the church father Augustine of Hippo (AD 354 – 430) was an early amillennialist. He once said, “During the thousand years when the devil is bound, the saints also reign for a thousand years. Without any doubt, these two time-periods are identical and point to the time between the first and second coming of Christ.” [Augustine, The City of God, 20:9]

Who are some prominent postmillennialists?

  • Jonathan Edwards, B.B. Warfield, Augustus H. Strong, Charles Hodge, R.L. Dabney, Loraine Boettner, and R.C. Sproul.

Who are some prominent dispensational premillennialists?

  • J. Nelson Darby, C.I. Scofield, Harry A. Ironside, Gleason Archer, Donald G. Barnhouse, Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, John MacArthur, Charles Ryrie, Charles Stanley,Norman L. Geisler, and Tim LaHaye.

Who are some prominent historical premillennialists?

  • Many early church fathers – including Lactantius (240-320), Irenaeus (130-200), Justin Martyr (100-165), and probably Papias (60-130), a disciple of the apostle John.
  • David Dockery, John Warwick Montgomery, George R. Beasley-Murray, Robert Gundry, George E. Ladd, R. Albert Mohler, and Russell Moore.

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

Three Views of Rapture and Return

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“The word “rapture” does not appear in most English translations of the New Testament. Still, “rapture” is a thoroughly biblical term.” [1] “Rapture” (the verb rapiemur, from the noun raptus) basically means “being caught up”. [2]

1 Thessalonians 4:17 talks about believers who are still alive during the return of Christ, being “caught up together with them [the dead in Christ] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air …” (NASB). The Greek word used for “caught up” is ἁρπάζω (harpazō). Strong defines it as, “catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).” [3]

It is not disputed whether or not there will be a rapture. Rather, the disagreement stems from the question of when the rapture will take place in light of the return of Jesus. Below are the simplified views of a few schools of thought:

Dispensational Premillennialism  Amillennialism and


Historical Premillennialism
 The rapture of the church and the return of Jesus occur at different times. They are separated by 7 years or more. The rapture of the church and the return of Jesus to earth happen together. This event will occur at the end of the millennium. The rapture of the church and the return of Jesus to earth happen together. This event will occur immediately before the millennium.
  •  The return of Jesus to earth will occur some time after the rapture of the church.
  • Most dispensationalists place the rapture before the tribulation and the return at the end of the tribulation, immediately before the millennium.
  • The church will be caught up to meet Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 4:1-2); the church will return to earth after the tribulation as part of the Messiah’s royal retinue (Revelation 19:14).
  •  The return of Jesus to earth will occur immediately after the rapture of the church
  • The rapture will occur at the end of the millennium.
  • The church will be caught up to meet Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 19:7-9) and will then return to earth as part of the Messiah’s royal retinue (Revelation 19:14).
  • The return of Jesus to earth will occur immediately after the rapture of the church
  • The rapture will occur after the tribulation and before the millennium.
  • The church will be caught up to meet Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 19:7-9) and will then return to earth as part of the Messiah’s royal retinue (Revelation 19:14).

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.304

[2] Ibid.

[3] Strong, James. “Harpazo.” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Accessed November 16, 2017.

The Harlot of Revelation 17

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

In Revelation 17, we see the Apostle John mention “a woman sitting on a scarlet beast” (Revelation 17:3). This woman “is drunk – but her inebriation does not flow from any typical liquors. Her drink of choice is the blood of the saints [seen in v.6]. She is wrapped in a harlot’s robes, and this inscription is found scrawled across her forehead: “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND THE ABOMINATION OF THE EARTH” (Revelation 17:5) …

An angel unravels the mystery of this woman’s identity. As it turns out, this scene is not about a woman at all. The woman symbolizes a city, “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17:18). But this city’s rule does not last forever. “In one day, her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning, and famine, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her” (18:8).

But what city could this woman possibly be? And when does she fall? Or could it be that she has already fallen? Here are the three possibilities for the city symbolized by the woman on the beast” [1], which has been postulated:

 What city could the harlot symbolise? When does the city fall?
  • Jerusalem – judged because of their rejection of Jesus as Messiah
  • In AD 70 when TItus beseiged the city and destroyed the temple.
  • While the defenders of Jerusalem split into three factions (Revelation 16:19), the Roman armies passed easily over the Euphrates River (Revelation 16:12).
  • During the siege, Roman catapults hurled massive white stones into the city (Revelation 16:21).
  • Rome & any other regime like ancient Rome – judged because of their exploitation and persecution for the sake of luxury and gain
  • They collapse will collapse upon themselves (Revelation 17:16-17)
  • When Jesus returns, he will destroy all such powers once and for all
  • Babylon (thought to be rebuilt in the future along the Euphrates River in Iraq)
  •  Near the end of the future seven-year tribulation.
  • This fall of Babylon is also described in Isaiah 13-14 and Jeremiah 50-51

: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.261

Revelation 12

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

Revelation 12:1-4 says the following:

1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;

2 and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.

3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.

4 And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.

6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

7 And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war,

8 and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.

9 And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,

“Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.

11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.

12 For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.”

13 And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.

14 But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she *was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.

15 And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood.

16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.

17 So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Today we will be examining the different ways this particular chapter has been interpreted.

 Timeframe  Description
 1) Flashback to Bethlehem + Flash forward to end times
  • The woman is seen as ethnic Israel and so the birth of the child is a flashback to the incarnation of Jesus.
  • After the Messiah is born, the scene immediately flashes forward to a time after the rapture, halfway through the seven year tribulation.
  • That’s when Satan will renew his assault on the modern nation of Israel. This assault will result in cosmic war between the angels of God and the dragon.
  • Defeated by the archangel Michael, the dragon will try to destroy the Jewish believers in Jesus but the earth itself will rise up to protect them (Revelation 12:13-17).
  • Bottom line: Satan will be thrown down to this earth; this will happen during a future time of tribulation.
 2) Flashback to Bethlehem + Flash forward to AD70
  • The woman represents heavenly Jerusalem.
  • During the Jewish-Roman War, Roman legions swept through the land like a destructive deluge (Daniel 9:26; Revelation 12:15-16), but believers in Jesus left Jerusalem before the worst of Rome’s wrath (Revelation 12:14-17).
  • Bottom line: Satan was thrown down to earth; this happened in AD70
 3) Victory in Jesus from heaven’s point of view
  • This chapter is seen as an apocalyptic recounting of all that Jesus accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection.
  • The woman is the Virgin Mary (Revelation 12:12, 6).
  • Jesus died, and God the Father raised him to life and enthroned him in the heavens (Revelation 12:5).
  • Satan tried many tactics to disrupt the Messiah’s genealogy and destroy the long promised king (Revelation 12:3-6; see Matthew 2:16-18; 4:1-11; Luke 4:29-30), but Jesus triumphed and crushed the serpent (Revelation 12:9; see Genesis 3:15).
  • Bottom line: Satan was thrown down to earth; this happened through the sacrificial death and the third-day triumph of Jesus.

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

When did John write Revelation

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“Who wrote Revelation is relatively certain. Although not everyone agrees, the most ancient evidence points to the Apostle John. When the apostle John wrote Revelation is far less certain. Unlike books today, no one placed copyright dates in copies of biblical texts! To decide the approximate date when this biblical text was written, scholars compare what’s inside the book with what was happening in the world outside the book. In the case of Revelation, that process results in two primary possibilities.” [1]

 During the reign of Emperor Nero  During the reign of Emperor Domitian
  • Ruled the Roman Empire, AD 54-68.
  • After a fire in Rome, a rumor circulated that Nero had started the fire.
  • According to the ancient historian Tacitus, “To get rid of this report, Nero accused and inflicted exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, the ones called Christians.”
  • This persecution seems to have been limited to the regions around Rome, but it likely affected attitudes toward Christians beyond Rome.
  • Ruled the Roman Empire, AD 81-96
  • Domitian reportedly declared himself to be divine during his lifetime.
  • According to the ancient historian Suetonius, “Domitian issued an encyclical in the name of his governors that declared ‘Our Master and our God bids that this be done.’”
Evidence 1: An ancient inscription

  • A fifth century version of Revelation in the Syriac language refers to the book as “the Revelation given by God to John the Gospel-writer, on the island of Patmos where he was banished by Emperor Nero.” It is possible that this ascription preserves an earlier tradition.
Evidence 1: The testimony of Irenaeus

  • The second-century writer Irenaeus of Lyons – a student of Polycarp, who knew the apostle John – reported that John wrote Revelation while in exile during Domitian’s reign.
Evidence 2: Persecution of Christians

  • It seems that Christians may have been in the early stages of a time of persecution when John wrote Revelation (1:9; 2:2-3; 2:9-10; 2:13; 3:8-10).
  • Nero instigated the first imperial persecution of Christians in AD 64; this persecution lasted until Nero’s death in 68.
Evidence 2: Worship of the Roman emperor

  • Hints can be found throughout Revelation that Christians may have been coerced to worship the emperor (13:4; 13:14-17; 14:9; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4).
  • Nero was never worshipped as divine in his lifetime.
  • Worship of the emperor does seem to have occurred during Domitian’s reign, in the AD 80s and 90s.
  • Coins from Domitian’s reign refer to Domitian as “father of the gods.” An idol of Domitian may have been constructed in the city of Ephesus.
Evidence 3: The temple in Jerusalem

  • If Revelation had been written in the AD 90s, it seems that John might have mentioned the fall of the Jewish temple that occurred in AD 70.
  • The wording of Revelation 11:1-2 suggests to some scholars that the temple of Jerusalem was still standing when John wrote this book.
Evidence 3: The church of Laodicea

  • The description of Laodicea’s self-sufficiency may reflect a time in the AD 80s when the Laodiceans rebuilt their city with no outside assistance after an earthquake (Revelation 3:17).


Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.225

Four Ways Revelation is Viewed

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“The Book of Revelation takes its name from the Greek word found in 1:1, apokalypsis (637), an unveiling, uncovering, or disclosure … Written largely in what has been termed apocalyptic genre, not surprisingly Revelation has yielded the greatest number of divergent interpretations of any NT book.” [1] Today, this article will present an overview of four of the most predominant views which have cropped up.

 Perspectives How Revelation is Viewed
A) Futurist
  •  Revelation is a prophecy primarily about the future end of the world and years leading immediately to the end
  • All or nearly all of Revelation is yet to occur
  • Held to by dispensational premillennialists and some historic premillennialists
B) Historicist
  •  Revelation is a prophecy about church history from the time of John to the end of the world
  • The events in Revelation are viewed as symbolic descriptions of historical events throughout church history

Note: Some futurists understand the Seven Churches (Revelation 1-3) in a historic manner, treating each church as descriptive of a particular era of church history

C) Idealist
  • Revelation is a non-historical and non-prophetic drama about spiritual realities
  • Revelation is viewed as “… hyper-allegories or esoteric parables designed to simply illustrate the ongoing conflict between God and Satan, good and evil, the Church and the world.” [1]
  • Seemed to have originated among ancient Alexandrian theologians, who frequently spiritualised and allegorised biblical text
D) Preterist 
  • Revelation is a prophecy which was fulfilled primarily in the first century AD
  • This view “stresses the immediacy of the book’s message.”
  • Strand #1: Partial Preterism – views most of Revelation as fulfilled in the first century although the final chapters of Revelation describe future events to occur at the end of time
  • Strand #2: Full Preterism – views the return of Jesus described in Revelation 19 as spiritual and occurred in AD 70 when the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed.
  • Typically held to by amillennialists or postmillennialists

Note: Christians throughout church history have understood full preterism to be a heresy


Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Hebrew Greek Key Word Study Bible NIV (1996), p.1447

Four Perspectives on Phrases In Daniel 9:26-27

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

All the four perspectives that we will examine later, agree that the Anointed One in Daniel 9:25-26 is Jesus. “He was “cut off but not for himself,” indicating that he was a sacrifice for the sins of his people.” [1] Now, let us look at Daniel 9:26-27 (New International Version) before seeing how certain phrases in those verses have been interpreted.

26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.

27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. [2] 

 Perspectives Who is the “ruler who is to come”? (Daniel 9:26)
A)  Jesus was the ruler or prince who was :yet to come” when Daniel wrote these words. By rejecting Jesus, the Jewish people – “the people of the ruler who is yet to come” – brought about the destruction of their temple in AD 70.
B)  The Roman general Titus was the ruler who was “yet to come”
C)  The ruler “yet to come” is a future Antichrist who will appear at the end of time to deceive and to destroy
D)  The ruler “yet to come” is a future Antichrist who will appear in the end ties to deceive the Jewish people


 Perspectives  How will “sacrifice and offering” come to an end? (Daniel 9:27)
A)  Halfway through the seventieth seven (or perhaps at the end of the seventieth seven), Jesus was crucified. Jesus’ perfect life and atoning death marked the end of any need for sacrifices and offerings. His death also brought about a new covenant “with many.”
B)  The Roman army, under the command of Titus, ended sacrifices and offerings through the destruction of the temple in AD 70
C)  After the first half of the seventieth seven, Jesus was crucified. Jesus’ perfect life and atoning death marked the end of any need for sacrifices and offerings. The second half of the seventieth seven will occur when the Antichrist appear near the end of time
D)  The entire seventieth seven is the time of the future “great tribulation.” A “great parenthesis” of time stands between the sixty-ninth and seventieth sevens. Before of during the first part of the seventieth “week,” a new temple will be built. The Antichrist will make a covenant with the nation of Israel guaranteeing safety and security. In the middle of the final “week,” the Antichrist will break his pact and end sacrifices and offerings.


 Perspectives  What is the “abomination that causes desolation”? (Daniel 9:27)
A)  The Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus, the true temple of God (see John 2:19-21). In the years following the seventieth seven, certain Jewish leaders rebelled against the Romans, fought among themselves and turned their own people against one another. All of these deeds, beginning with the abomination of rejecting Jesus, resulted in the desolating destruction of the Jewish temple.
B)  Titus and his soldiers defiled the Jewish temple, looted the treasury, and placed the Roman eagle in front of the temple.
C)  The Antichrist will persecute God’s people and deal falsely with them.
D)  The Antichrist will present himself in the temple as divine.

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.170


Click here to be redirected to our Facebook page. Like it and follow for the latest posts!

Four Views of the Kingdom of God

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“When Jesus arrived on the scene, he immediately began proclaiming the message of a new kingdom: “The time has come … The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) …

They [the religious leaders] feared that, if Jesus continued to proclaim this royal domain, the Romans would destroy their temple and any hope for a kingdom (John 11:47-48).

But this kingdom was different. He [Jesus] never provided a detailed verbal definition of his kingdom. Instead, he told stories – and his parables rarely included the typical trappings of kingship. There were no horses or chariots or battles in these stories. Instead, Jesus told about a woman who was kneading some dough, a farmer whose neighbor mixed weeds with his wheat, and a man who planted some mustard seeds (Matthew 24:24-33).” [1]

We will now consider four of the popularly advocated and held to views of the kingdom of God

  1. Amillennialism
  2. Postmillennialism
  3. Historical Premillennialism
  4. Dispensational Premillennialism


[table id=1 /]

[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.113


  • Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

Click here to be redirected to our Facebook page. Like it and follow for the latest posts!