How many of you have read “The Late Great Planet Earth” or any of the “Left Behind Series”? Both of these books were greatly influenced by Dispensational Theology.
Dispensational Theology, most typified in the Left Behind series of books: a great apostasy will take place in the Church, in Israel the Temple will be rebuilt, Israel will be granted a temporary peace by the Anti-Christ for 3.5 years, a Great Tribulation will follow for another 3.5 years, before which the believers will be “raptured” out of this world, and then Jesus will return at the end of this 7 year period to establish a millennial kingdom. This popular theology of the end times is informed primarily by the Dispensational interpretation of the book of Daniel and Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 24 (and parallel passages in Mark and Luke).
John Nelson Darby said there were 7 Ages of the Church corresponding to the 7 Churches in Revelation. The idea was that the last age of the Church was Laodicean, which in the book of Revelation was a cold and apostate church.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:15–17, ESV)
This view has been common in modern evangelism, and that we in America are in the last days. It tends toward a type of fatalism, but this theology has no biblical support other than this one guy’s interpretation to make it fit his doctrine of Dispensationalism.
In truth, the 7 churches in Revelation are representative of those churches at that time and of churches today. No one can say that the Chinese church is Laodicean when they are going to prison, being tortured and even dying for their faith. While we might say that many churches in America are apostate and unrepentant.
Let me lay out my thesis: Jesus is not coming back for a defeated bride, but for a victorious one. One without spot, wrinkle or blemish. Why do I think that? Because of what Jesus said: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14, ESV) In other words, Jesus is not coming back until we, the Church, have fulfilled the Great Commission. We will witness to all nations so that those who may be saved will be saved. And THEN the end will come.
It isn’t wars or rumors of wars, that signal the end, but a Church empowered to bear witness to Jesus among all nations.
Has a very different take on the End Times. I don’t agree with all of it, but it is helpful in terms of showing the flaws of Dispensationalism.
Let’s dive into Matthew 24
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.” As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” Matthew 24:1-3, RSV.
1) Jesus is being asked 2 questions, which he does not answer in a strict sequential or chronological order: when will Jerusalem be destroyed, and what will be the sign of your return?
First of all, this is important and critical to understanding Jesus’ answer. When the disciples asked about the sign of his coming, they were NOT asking about a Second Coming. They did not believe he was going to die, but to become the Messiah King like David who would drive out the Romans and reestablish Israel as a separate nation.
Jesus proceeds to give signs that are NOT SIGNS of the END: earthquakes, wars, false christs, tribulation, persecution, etc… during which time the gospel will be preached to all nations… but this isn’t the end. (Mark 13: 3- 13). Jesus concludes that when the end comes, like the taking of Noah, no one will know the exact day or hour… so ALWAYS BE READY!!! ( Mk. 13:32-37; see also Matt. 24:36-44)
“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:6–14, ESV)
2) The second part of Jesus’ answer deals with the destruction of Jerusalem itself, of which there are significant and specific signs: desolating sacrilege (Mark 13: 14-31) and which THIS GENERATION (of Jesus’ day) will not pass away until it has happened. Lane goes on to list from Josephus’ account all those things which did indeed fulfill the very words of Christ about the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem…
Jesus’ response is that they should look for signs, especially that
when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; Matthew 24:15, 16, RSV.
“For wheresoever the corpse is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” Matthew 24:28.
In Greek, the Holy Place is “topos,” which means “land” not “naos” which means temple. The parallel passage in Luke, writing for Gentiles, reveals that the desolating sacrilege is not an anti-Christ sitting on the Holy Seat in the Temple, but the armies of Rome attacking Jerusalem:
when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it; Luke 21:20, 21, RSV.
It is interesting to note that the word for eagle and vulture is the same word in Greek. Atop every Roman standard was the Roman eagle. The “vultures” were indeed surrounding Jerusalem in 70 A.D. when this army gathered to destroy it.
The corpse was Jerusalem after the people had rejected the Messiah… The vultures were gathered to eat the remains of the dead.
Obviously, this “sign” was followed by the complete destruction of Jerusalem, with a great tribulation wherein the starvation was so rampant that the citizens resorted to cannibalism, and over 1 million Jews either starved to death or were killed by the Roman army.
This was the Great Tribulation that Jesus spoke about “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, those days will be cut short.” (Matthew 24:15–22, ESV)
Historical Background information from Josephus:
There were tremendous earthquakes recorded, there was smoke filling the air and a type of darkness, and the rebels installed a clown named “Phanni” as the high priest and dressed him in priest’s garments and seated him on the HOLY OF HOLIES as a Throne!!! IT was a total desecration and a mockery, the rebels (zealots) were so depraved. The ensuing tribulation was greater than anyone could have imagined. Starvation, eating of children for food, etc…
War broke out again in 68. And during late 67 and into 68 the Jewish Zealots ran riot in Jerusalem and in the Temple. Josephus tells us they allowed criminals to roam freely in the Holy of Holies; they committed murder in the Temple; they made a clown by the name of Phanni high priest. So devastated was the retired high priest, Ananus, that he lamented in tears; “It would have been far better for me to have died before I had seen the house of God laden with such abominations.”
(War 4,3,7) and defiled the temple even before the Romans captured the city. The zealots allowed criminals to roam freely in the Holy of Holies, and they even committed murder within the temple itself (War 4,5,4). These acts of sacrilege were climaxed in the winter of AD 67-68 by the investiture of a clown called Phanni as High Priest (War 4,3,6-8).
The Romans did almost exactly the same thing in A.D. 70! Upon seizing the Temple, the Romans set up their ensigns on the eastern gate and offered sacrifices to them (Wars 6.6.1).2 The main ensign was Aquila, the eagle that carries ZEUS’ lightning bolt. Here we see a veritable idol of Zeus like that erected 200 years earlier by the Greek army in the Jewish Temple during the Maccabean Wars. What animals did the Romans sacrifice? Historians believe the Roman army likely sacrificed the suovetaurilia in the Temple that day in A.D. 70. The suovetaurialia is a ritual sacrifice of three animals: a sheep, an ox and a pig for the purpose of land purification. The suovetaurilia was customarily performed for the purification of a Temple that had been destroyed. Did you catch that? The Romans set up a veritable idol of Zeus in the Temple and offered a pig in sacrifice to it
Jesus is COMING AGAIN. But when Jesus speaks about the END he says that when the end comes, like the taking of Noah, no one will know the exact day or hour… so ALWAYS BE READY!!! (Mk. 13:32-37; see also Matt. 24:36-44)
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:36–42, ESV)
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.
WE WILL BE HATED BY ALL NATIONS> That is our Destiny!
What is our response:
- We shouldn’t be surprised
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Peter 4:12–14, ESV)
2. We are to REJOICE:
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” (Luke 6:22–23, ESV)
Rejoice means GET HAPPY, JUMP FOR JOY! THANK GOD YOU ARE BEING PERSECUTED!