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)

The Saviour’s Seder?

By: Kenneth Ho

Introduction

The celebration of Passover (or Hebrew: פֶּסַח Pesach) commemorates the account of the liberation of the Jews from slavery under Ancient Egypt. While noting that it has been celebrated for millennia by the Jewish community with the aforementioned reason in mind, much has been said as to whether the Last Supper partaken by Jesus and His disciples was indeed a Seder meal. Many of the proponents (most prominently Christians) of the actuality that the Last Supper was indeed a Seder will then bestow upon it novel connotations and implications. If it is possible, I will to the best of my ability as a layperson present the evidence for and against this notion.

History

The tradition of celebrating the Passover has its roots in the biblical account of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt with the LORD declaring to Moses and Aaron that “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you[1].” It was during this month that the LORD carried out His divine plan to liberate the Hebrews by carrying out the events as can be read in the exodus account in that on the night of the Passover, the Israelites were to eat the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The lamb’s blood should be swabbed on their doorposts as a sign. God, seeing the sign, will then “pass over” the houses of the Israelites (Exodus 12:13), while smiting the Egyptians with the tenth plague, the killing of the first-born sons. Standard biblical chronology places these events at around 1311 B.C[2].

The Hebrews were enjoined to memorialise the events[3] by the retelling of the slavery and deliverance from Egypt[4] from one generation to the next. The Passover event in particular was to be remembered on the 14th of the first month in the Hebrew calendar called Nisan[5] (initially called Abib[6] but was later changed[7] to Nisan). Initially, the sacrifices of the Hebrews were to be carried out as a private affair among individual families[8] or as a combined household if a neighbour’s household was too small to afford a paschal lamb[9].

However, this private household practice was reformed into a temple cult practice following the construction of the First Temple by King Solomon[10] with descriptions of this practice being found in Talmudic sources[11]. Other biblical references to the practice of the temple cult can be found pertaining to the Second Temple (515 B.C – 70 A.D) in the later books of the Old Testament[12]. Throughout the gospels, it is apparent that this practice developed into a hugely public affair with multitudes of people performing pilgrimages from afar to Jerusalem. Testifying to the numbers of pilgrims during the Feast are diverse non-biblical Jewish sources[13] numbering the totality of pilgrims at approximately 3 million at its zenith.

Despite the development of the public aspect of the Feast, private commemoration was still prevalent among the Jewish families. According to the scholar Abraham Bloch[14], the first step leading to the creation of the home Passover seder service was taken during the period of the great Temples in Jerusalem, when the Jews who had slaughtered the paschal (Passover) offerings joined the Levites in the chanting of the Hallel (psalms of praise). It is currently unclear as to how the development of private commemoration coincided with the dominance of the temple when it existed (if it did happen) but due to space and time constraints, that will not be discussed here. Many works of rabbinic literature, the ancients and contemporary writers[15] document this development and self-research is encouraged.

Continue reading “The Saviour’s Seder?”

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

Postmillennialism

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. http://biblehub.com/greek/726.htm

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


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

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

Gehenna & The Valley of Hinnom

There are various words used in the New Testament (NT) which are translated into our English bibles as “hell.” First off, there’s Hades which is “properly, unseen, i.e. “Hades” or the place (state) of departed souls.” [1] Besides that, there’s also Tartarus which has been taken to mean, “the place of punishment of the fallen angels,” [2] Now we come to the topic of today’s article, that is, Gehenna.

“Gehenna is a transliteration from the Aramaic form of the Hebrew ge-hinnom, “valley of Hinnom.” [3] To transliterate is to “write or print (a letter or word) using the closest corresponding letters of a different alphabet or language.” [4] The development can be summarised as: Ge-Hinnom (Hebrew) –> Ge-hinnam (Aramaic) -> Ge’enna (Greek); Gehenna (transliteration)

The phrase “valley of Hinnom” is found in Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; Nehemiah 11:30. It is also known as the valley of Ben-Hinnom (Joshua 15:8; 18:16), the valley of the son of Hinnom (2 Kings 23:10), and Topheth [5] (Jeremiah 7:31; 2 Kings 23:10).

Continue reading “Gehenna & The Valley of Hinnom”

Manuscript Errors in the Bible?

On the 17th of October 2017, I had the privilege of speaking at one of the sessions in a series on the Doctrine of Scripture, organised by my local church. Below is an outline of my approach to the question, “Manuscript Errors in the Bible?” (Session 2). Attached are the PowerPoint slides & participants’ notes, from the session.

[Please note that this is only meant to be a brief overview of the highly technical field of Textual Criticism. In the limited time I had, to present, I could not cover additional matters (e.g. manuscript text types) which I would have loved to. However, if you do find the resources below useful for your personal edification and/or for the edification of your ministry/local church, please use them without hesitation. God bless!]

Outline:

1) Introduction

  • Self
  •  Scholars referred to

2) Definitions

3) Manuscripts of NT vs Classical Texts

  • Comparison
  • Words in NT vs Variants in NT manuscripts

4) Scribal Work (Exercise)

  • Each person copies down as I dictate 7 verses [taken from Amos 2:9-16; see attachment titled Scribal Work (Exercise)]
  • Each “manuscript” will then be passed to person on the left/right and participants will take turns to read out each verse
  • Variants will then be identified and corrected

5) Types of Variants

  • Explain the 4 types (i.e. not meaningful & not viable, viable but not meaningful, meaningful but not viable, and viable & meaningful)
  • Go through a few examples of each type

6) Text Reconstruction (Exercise)

  • Each group receives 4 “manuscripts” [see attachment titled Text Reconstruction (Exercise)] from which they will attempt to discover the original wordings

7) What happens if we have no NT manuscripts?

8) Conclusion

Attachments:

Manuscript Errors in the Bible? (Slides)

Manuscript Errors in the Bible? (Participants Notes)

Scribal Work (Exercise)

Text Reconstruction (Exercise)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way those of the institutions to which he is affiliated.

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)

Capital Punishment: Justification for Death Penalties in the Old Testament

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT:

JUSTIFICATION FOR DEATH PENALTIES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

Joshua Wu[1]

            In his popular book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins boldly claims that, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”[2] Not surprisingly, many people share Dawkins’ views as a result of their deformed view of the Bible and what it states.

The purpose of this paper is to provide two, non-exhaustive, justifications for Old Testament laws which prescribe the death penalty for certain offences. The paper will begin by addressing some preliminary issues before introducing a two prong justification. Moving on from there, we will consider how it all ties in with Christ, before concluding on what our relationship to the Old Testament law is.

 

  1. A) Preliminaries

It is pertinent to be aware of some of the offences for which the death penalty is prescribed. In his Dictionary of the Bible, John McKenzie maintains: “The laws of the Pnt prescribe stoning for the following crimes: idolatry (Dt 13:10; 17:5); blasphemy (Lv 24:14; cf 1 K 21:10; Jn 10:33); child sacrifice (Lv 20:2); divination (Lv 20:27); Sabbath violation (Nm 15:32 ff); adultery (Dt 22:22 f; cf Ezk 16:40; 23:47;  Jn 8:4 f); fornication by an unmarried woman (Dt 22:21); rebellion of children (Dt 21:20 f); and the ox that gores (Ex 21:28).”[3]

There are also other offences, wherein stoning isn’t mentioned but where it is commanded that the perpetrators be “put to death”. These are, being a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:5), bestiality (Exodus 22:19), homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), kidnapping (Exodus 21:16), murder (Exodus 21:12), as well as prostitution and rape (Deuteronomy 22:24). John McKenzie argues that “It may be assumed that stoning is the penalty for other crimes in which the manner of execution is not specified.”[4]

What else do we know about stoning? Craig Keener comments that, “Death by stoning was a common mob action throughout the ancient world, but it was a legal form of execution in the Torah …”[5]. Stoning is also the “… most commonly mentioned form of execution in the Bible … it requires all those persons who have been offended to participate. Because it cannot be determined whose individual stone caused the death of the condemned, no one person needed to bear the guilt for the death.”[6]

Interestingly, “Stoning is not mentioned as a form of capital punishment outside the Bible. Ancient Near Eastern law codes list only drowning, burning, impalement, and beheading, and in each case it is an official body, not the community at large, that is charged with carrying out the punishment.”[7] Lastly, Matthew George Easton remarks: “The official Pentateuchal methods of capital punishment were stoning, burning and decapitation by the sword, these being enumerated in their descending order of severity. The Rabbis added a fourth and milder alternative, strangling.”[8]

Continue reading “Capital Punishment: Justification for Death Penalties in the Old Testament”

A Biblical View of the Antichrist

A BIBLICAL VIEW OF THE ANTICHRIST

Joshua Wu [1]

Craig Koester notes that “identifying the antichrist with figures of one’s own time became especially common from the twelfth century onward. Examples included Pope Gregory IX (1241) and Innocent IV (d. 1254) as well as the Emperor Frederick II (d. 1250). During the sixteenth century, many Protestants came to identify the papal office itself with the antichrist. Later candidates have ranged from the emperor Napoleon to modern American presidents.”[2] Speculation as to the identity of the antichrist will not be undertaken in this paper, but instead, the parameters of what will be discussed are determined by what Scripture has to say.

In our endeavour, we must be careful not to over focus on the antichrist, as the central theme of the Scriptures is not him/it, but our Lord Jesus Christ. Herman Hoyt rightly points out that “there are … [those] who want to major on this area of prophetic truth to the exclusion of other precious truth, and thus become lopsided.”[3] Despite this, we must not retreat to the other extreme whereby we do not care to know about what the Bible has to say regarding the antichrist.

What this paper intends to do is to provide a succinct introduction to what the Bible says about the matter, first off, by addressing some preliminaries, before delving into an examination of key passages which make explicit and implicit reference to the antichrist. Subsequently, this will be followed up with positive takeaways.

 

A) Preliminaries

The most crucial starting point would be to define “antichrist” since it will be used throughout this paper. The word “antichrist” comes from the Greek word “antichristos” (αντίχριστος) which is “made up of two words: the prefix anti- [G473], “acting in the place of” and “opposed to” + christos [G5547], “Christ.””[4] Simply put, the antichrist is “the adversary of the messiah”[5] or “an opponent of the Messiah.”[6]

According to Louw and Nida, “the term . . . appears to have become increasingly equivalent to a proper name as the personification of all that was opposed to and contrary to the role and ministry of Christ.”[7]

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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