Monday, 15 November 2010

Cessationism and Textual Criticism

MARK 16:17-18

17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Many cessationists claim that Mark 16:9-20 does not exist in the oldest and "best" manuscripts, but was spuriously inserted into more recent, and therefore less reliable, manuscripts. This claim is then used as their basis for asserting that tongues ceased when the last of the Twelve Apostles died, or when the canon of New Testament Scripture was finalized.

But if tongues indeed ceased when the last of the Twelve Apostles died, and if it had been taught by the Apostles that this was to happen, and if it was commonly understood by the time the spurious "newer" manuscripts were being written that tongues had now already ceased - then what motive could have existed for anyone to include such a spurious insertion?

There wouldn't have been any benefit from inserting a reference to "tongues" in any new manuscript where no references to tongues existed in any older, original, "better" manuscript - if tongues had already ceased by then.

So could this mean that tongues had not ceased by the time the "newer" manuscripts containing Mark 16:9-20 were written? that the very oldest manuscripts must have included Mark 16:9-20? and that the manuscripts containing Mark 16:9-20 may not have been newer manuscripts after all?

In any case, the truths about tongues contained in Mark 16:9-20 can be established elsewhere in the New Testament without even relying on the confirmation provided by Mark 16:9-20. So the contrived controversy about this passage can't prove anything against the truth that tongues are still for today.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Abraham's Seed (Singular)

Much of the time, when God spoke promises to Abraham regarding his seed, it refers to the vast numbers of his seed. But after Abraham demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice his son, God spoke to him, this time, about a singular seed that should come. And He promised, "And in thy seed (singular) shall all the nations of the earth be blessed".

God preached the Gospel to Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that the heathen would be justified by faith. "Abraham saw my day, and was glad," said Jesus. Abraham saw the day when his seed would come, in whom all families of the earth would be blessed. Truly, God would make Abraham a blessing.

Sometimes obedience is followed by promise and revelation.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

God's Grace is Righteous


It teaches righteousness and produces righteousness.

Someone commented: "John, I thought that it was by the Grace of God that we are made righteous..."

Yes, God's grace brought righteousness - for us, in us, and through us - and all of that through a process that was both loving and righteous (the cross).

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Grace and Law


The reason Jesus came to empower us with mercy, GRACE and with His Spirit is because God's good, holy and glorious LAW was, and is and always will be the standard of righteousness, love and life.

Facebook Friend:

You mean the Law wasnt done away with at the cross?


It depends what we mean by that. If we mean that attempting to keep Moses' Law is no longer the means of obtaining righteousness and maintaining covenant-relationship with God, then yes the Law was done away with by the cross.

But if we mean that the standard of righteousness has now become arbitrary or that we may continue in sin, then no - there is still a usefulness for the Law if used lawfully, said Paul.

God's righteousness and love are eternally unchangeable. The Law revealed it but was unable to empower man to live-up to it. But the grace of God actually puts God's righteousness and love into us so that we now freely live everything that the Law taught.

As a MEANS of obtaining righteousness, the Law has passed away - however, the righteousness which God has given us causes us to fulfill all of the righteousness which the Law could only foreshadow.

Facebook Friend:

Do we need to keep the commandments as given to Moses?


It depends what you mean by that.

If you mean, should we literally keep Moses' Law exactly as he prescribed it, then no - Paul taught that believers need not and should not think that doing so would have any merit.

But if you mean, do believers in whose lives the fruit of the Spirit is being produced find that they nonetheless comply with the underlying truths, ethics, love-principles, moral duties and righteousness of the Law, then yes - Paul taught that love is the fulfilling of the Law; that there is no law against the fruit of the Spirit; and that the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us who believe.

Wasn't that a grand scheme by God - He made a way, through the cross, to accomplish for us and in us, what the Law could not do: He forgave our sins; made us a new heart; we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus resulting in good behaviour; He wrote His laws on our heart; He placed His Spirit in us; poured-out His love-nature in our hearts; made us partakers of the divine nature; produces the Spirit's fruit in our behaviour and causes us to walk in His ways - all His own doing!

So, as a means of trying to obtain righteousness, the Law was indeed taken away and nailed to the cross; but then, in its place, God's grace - on our lives, in our lives and expressed through our lives - fulfills for us, in us and by us, everything that the Law sought unsuccessfully to achieve - freely by Jesus Christ!

Facebook Friend:

That all sounds good, but how about some scriptures.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Re-Reading Matthew 24

* I think many aspects of "end-times" prophecy may have already been fulfilled (such as the prediction of the siege of Jerusalem; the abomination of desolation; the destruction of the Temple; its associated tribulations; and the subsequent deportation of Jews all around the world)

* I also think some aspects of prophecy concern the future (for example, the visible return of the Lord; and the resurrection of the dead)

* I also think there are bridging statements in Biblical prophecy which seem to span the period of time between now-past and yet-future events (for example, Jesus predicted that after the fall of Jerusalem, the city would remain trampled under foot by Gentiles until the "times" [i.e., years] of the Gentiles are fulfilled. This state of affairs appears to have begun circa AD70 and still describes Jerusalem until today!)

The challenging part is to accurately decipher what is past, what spans the centuries, and what is yet future. If we fail to take note of any time-indicator statements in end-times passages of Scripture accurately, we could end-up with an eschatology that is more fiction than fact.

For example, preterists regard so much of Biblical prophecy as already fulfilled, to the extent that they even regard the resurrection as a past event.

Then on the other hand, futurists regard so much of Biblical prophecy as yet-to-be fulfilled, to the extent that they even expect a repeat fulfillment of already-fulfilled prophecies such as the prophecy of the abomination of desolation, the destruction of the Temple and its associated tribulations all of which appear to have been fulfilled circa AD70.

I therefore recommend a helpful exercise: re-read Matthew 24, taking note of the fact that Jesus had been asked two separate questions: one question relating to the destruction of the Temple; the other question relating to His second coming. As you read, try to decipher which sections of the text might answer the first question, and which sections of the text might answer the second question - and whether any phrases in the text might indicate a span of time between the two.

After you've done this little exercise, see if your own model of "tribulation" and eschatology is confirmed or changed. And, where the text doesn't give enough information to decide, don't decide!

Assumptions of Futurist Eschatology

Someone wrote that he is expecting tribulation to begin on the Gold Coast within six months to two years; he also mentioned the microchip.

My reply:

1. Your model of future events is fairly typical of the futurist interpretation of end-times prophecy. But as for me, I can't help noticing that many of the foundation-texts of Scripture which futurists rely on to construct their view, may in fact have already been fulfilled.

For example, when Jesus predicted "great tribulation", He was actually answering a question that related specifically to the destruction of the Jewish Temple. Despite these events being fulfilled circa AD70, futurists use these Scriptures to construct a futurist model.

Jesus was dealing with two, not one, question in Matthew 24: the first, related to the Temple; the second, to His coming. I admit I don't find it easy to always decipher which of Jesus' answers relates to which question. However, Jesus did seem to provide a bridging-statement that does seem to span the period of time between the two events (when He said that Jerusalem would remain trodden under foot by Gentiles for years).

Because I don't find it easy to always decipher what is now past and what is still future, I'm careful to avoid creating a dogmatic model of future events. It means I can neither embrace nor outright-reject every aspect of the futurist model.

2. But even if your futurist model is correct, I still think it's impossible to put a time-frame on its fulfillment, even given the futurist model, for the following reason:

Paul stated that the man of lawlessness could not be revealed until the restrainer would be removed. The man of lawlessness, said Paul, would appear not at a time of his own choosing, nor at the time when a naturally-spiralling circle of events climaxes - but he can be revealed only once the restrainer is removed.

In other words, we can't look at current trends and then conclude a time-frame on the basis of those events or trends. There is one and one only factor which could determine the timing, and that is the prior removal of the restrainer - even in the futurist model.

Do you know for sure that the restrainer has been, or will be, removed in the next six months to two years? If not, then there's no possible way to give time-frames, regardless of what trends you see happening in contemporary society.

3. The microchip may or may not have anything to do with the mark of the beast. To conclude that it must, requires a fair bit of interpretive licence with regard to Revelation 13.

In the first place, the mark of the beast may be already-fulfilled prophecy. But that aside, notice a few things that the Bible does and doesn't say about the mark of the beast:

* The text of Revelation 13 does not say the mark was something that functionally enabled people to buy and sell - it could merely mean that without the mark, they wouldn't be allowed to buy or sell

* The text of Revelation 13 does not say people were marked in a way that identified them individually, distinguishing one individual from another - it says they were all marked with the same mark - either the beast's name or number

* The text of Revelation 13 does not say the mark was invisible like an implanted microchip - the very word "mark" according to an English dictionary, implies visibility

* The text of Revelation 13 does not say the mark replaced the use of cash - in fact, the use of the Roman Denarius currency is mentioned as being still in use during the period described in the Book of Revelation (Rev.6:6)

* The text of Revelation 13 does not necessarily mean that the people had a choice to receive the mark or not - it says they had a choice to worship the man as god or not - then the mark was imposed on them on the basis of the choice of worhsip they'd made (the wording of the text makes either meaning a possibility)

* The text of Revelation 13 says that ten kings supported the beast - ten kings doesn't sound like a one world government to me - aren't there nearly 200 countries in the world today, not ten?

* The text of Revelation 13 says that before the mark was given, miraculous signs were being done and people were worshiping the beast and his statue - that sounds like something a whole lot more religious than mere participation in a secular cashless system

* The text of Revelation 13 says that people who received the mark were thrown into the lake of fire - would God do that to a person for merely participating in a monetary system - or were these people literally worshiping a man as god?

* When an allegorical book describes an allegorical animal with allegorical horns giving a mark, chances are the 'mark' might be only allegorical too! (especially when you consider that the same book [of Revelation] already describes another mark which was given to people which was almost certainly only allegorical [namely, God's mark in the foreheads of the righteous])

All of the above means that it requires a fair bit of interpretive licence to assert that the microchip must be the mark of the beast. It's a fairly big assumption to make. I'm not saying that amount of interpretive licence shouldn't be taken - but I just want people who are taking that amount of interpretive licence to realize and admit that that's what they are doing! They have created an interpretive model of future events that relies heavily on assumptions and that doesn't seem to give regard to the fact that at least some of Jesus' end-times prophecies may or may not have already been fulfilled.

The Appearance of Age in Creation

At the end of the first day of creation, the whole earth was covered with water. So, when God gathered the waters together on the second day allowing the dry land to appear - this process might have left marks on the land which give the appearance of what might now be considered signs of age, given our stable, normal conditions.

Likewise when God made the fruit trees on the third day, He made them mature and ready to eat, giving the appearance of age.

And He made the light of the sun, moon and stars to appear immediately upon the earth on the fourth day, again giving the appearance of elapsed time.

Also, the rate of displacement of water required to submerge the whole planet under water in only 40 days during the flood, represented extraordinary conditions which again might have left geologic marks which might today be considered marks of age, given our ordinary conditions. So great and rapid was the displacement of water that what took only 40 days to place took nearly a whole year before it had dried-out enough for Noah to exit the ark!

And 100 years afer the flood the earth was divided. This may mean, geologically divided not just linguistically divided. And this happened not over a long period of time, but in the days of Peleg. If it indeed means geologically divided (perhaps through rising sea-levels or continental drift) then once again, the sudden results could leave the impression of age, considering current norms.

Perhaps some modern dating-methods ought to be considerate of such extraordinary factors.

How Soon After Adam was Eve Made?

It seems Eve was made on the same day as Adam. When describing the events of the sixth day of creation, the woman is mentioned, not only the man (Genesis 1:26-31).

So, Adam probably named the animals on the day he was created (for creation would have been incomplete if the animals had remained un-named after creation-week). And then, despite viewing all the animals, a helper was not found for Adam - so, on the same afternoon, God brought Adam his wife.

God's conclusion at the end of the sixth day was that everything was "very good". If Eve was not made until someday afterwards, then it could not have been said that everything was "very good" for God said it was "not good" that the man should be alone. Plus, it would mean that creation was not completed in six days but in six days plus one more day.

When a situation was "not good" - God didn't leave it that way beyond sun-down!

Changes After the Flood

It seems the river systems near Eden and their geography remained somewhat the same after the flood. At least, they and their locations remained recognizable (Genesis 2:13).

But it seems rainbows didn't occur until after the flood. I wonder what atmospheric changes caused that change.

Another change that God brought - it seems, after the flood - was that He placed the fear of man in animals.

And it was some 100 years after the flood - in the days of Peleg - that the earth became divided. I wonder whether it means that the land itself became separated, or whether it merely referred to a linguistic separation of the people.

"Peleg" sounds like the word pelagic (having to do with the ocean); and archipelego (a strip of land separated into islets by water). So, perhaps the idea is inherent in Peleg's name that the division which occured in his day was geophysical and not just linguistic.

If so, it might have occured through rising sea-levels, or through continental drift. The earth may have been much more connected prior to this. Or, the earth may even have consisted of a single land mass (pangea) which later separated.

This would probably mean the mountains were not as high before the flood as they became afterwards, meaning that less water would have been required to submerge the whole planet under water during the flood.

It might also explain how and why mankind, fauna and flora later became "naturalized" in distinct parts of the globe.

The Development of Spiritual Law After the Fall

After the fall, certain spiritual things were instinctively known, even though the Law had not yet been given.

For example, it was demonstrated that sewing fig-leaves together by human hands was not sufficient to cover nakedness - but the provision of garments of skins, requiring blood sacrifice and provided freely by God Himself as a gift, was better.

Perhaps this was reinforced by God when He later had respect to Abel's offering of the firstlings of the flock but disrespect to Cain and his offering of crops.

Certain animals became known as clean while others were known as unclean, despite all things being "very good" prior to the fall.

After the flood, God decreed that there should be the death penalty for murder, because the life was in the blood. This was perhaps the first instance of a "law" being given after the fall.

Other examples include circumcision, and tithing - both of which were practised prior to the giving of the Law.

The Law was later given only to express principles which were already spiritual realities. The fact that the Law was subsequently done-away with on the cross does not do away with those spiritual principles which were already realities prior to the giving of the Law. Rather, the cross fulfills those principles and imparts a real righteousness to us - something the Law was powerless to do. We're not under the Law, but we fulfill the Law - by a new and living way.

Oh the glory of the cross!

Clean and Unclean

When God finished creating everything, everything was "very good" (Genesis 1:31). But by the time of the flood - after the fall - certain animals had already become recognized as "unclean" even though the Law was not yet given (Genesis 7:2). Later, the Law was given to remove any uncertainty as to which animals were clean and which were not clean.

But after the cross, the Lord said to Peter in a vision, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common [or, unclean]" (Acts 10:14).

And Paul taught that in the last days some would command "to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving [that is, with faith - with a clear conscience]: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (I Tim.4:3,4).

Therefore the early-church believers need not have let any man judge them "in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which were a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ...." (Colossians 2:16,17); for the kingdom of God "is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17).

What caused certain animals to become unclean and others to remain clean, after the fall?

Perhaps, from the moment of creation onwards, the elect angels had jurisdiction over those animals which remained "clean" even after the fall, while perhaps the angels which kept not their first estate had jurisdiction over those animals which later became "unclean" after Adam's fall which alligned creation by Adam's authority with the by then fallen angels.

After all, the Scripture mentions the angel which seemed to have jurisdiction over the rivers (Revelation 16:5); and another which had jurisdiction over the wind. Satan himself was able to control fire (Job 1:16). How much more the animal kingdom? But I don't know.

And by what means were they cleansed? Paul said that just as it was necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with the blood sacrifices, so the heavenly things themselves [were cleansed] with better sacrifices than the blood of animals (Hebrews 9:23). What does it mean that the heavenly things were "cleansed"? It might just mean that God's righteous demands were met. Or, could it mean that the sons of God which appeared before the throne of God (in the days of Job, and of Jehoshaphat the king) were now cast out from heaven, no more to accuse the saints? If so, with the falling from heaven of those fallen angels, perhaps even the animals who may have been under their jurisdiction received some sort of ceremonial cleansing at that time, through the cross. I don't know.

The main point of the Law, however, was to teach a distinction between clean and unclean - not so much because God cared about nutrition, but to teach a spiritual lesson about the state of man. In Christ, there is no unclean - whether Jew or Gentile. We have been made "all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

Adam's Role Towards His Wife Before and After the Fall

God commanded the man (Adam) saying that he should not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). It was only after that - beginning in the next verse (verse 18) - that we are told that God made a wife for the man. The Scripture doesn't say that God repeated His commandment about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to the woman.

Presumably the man was meant to inform his wife of the Lord's commandment. And the man evidently did so faithfully, for when the serpent sought to find-out whether the man had done so, the woman was able to answer that God had indeed said that they should not eat of it. Her husband had told her.

It's a man's duty to shield his wife by furnishing her with the commandments of God. The tempter may test whether the man has done so. A wife may be vulnerable if she listens to a third party who causes her to question God's Word in the mouth of her husband and to act independently of God's Word in the mouth of her husband.

This is why Paul said he did not suffer (allow) a woman to teach a man (that is, her husband) nor to usurp authority over her husband - for the wife was first deceived, not the man.

That was the man's role towards his wife before the fall. Even before the fall, he was already called her husband - spiritually as well as naturally.

But after the fall, a consequence of Eve's behaviour was that aside from the man being her spiritual and physical husband, the relationship now bore the curse of a somewhat subject-ruler relationship. Thus by acting independently, Eve got the very opposite of what she thought she might gain.

Three Heavens

On the first day, God created "the heaven (singular) and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). That's one heaven.

On the second day, God made a firmament and called the firmament "heaven" (Genesis 1:7,8). That's a second heaven.

"Thus the heavens (plural) and the earth were finished..." (Genesis 2:1).

Then Paul mentions a third heaven:

"...such an one caught up to the third heaven" (II Cor.12:2).

Paul also mentions that God hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings "in heavenly places" in Christ (Eph.1:3); and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together "in heavenly places" in Christ Jesus (Eph.2:6); and Paul mentions that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness "in high places". I'm not sure which heaven is referred to in such passages.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Gap Theory Has Gaps

1 In THE beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. AND the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the EVENING AND THE MORNING WERE THE FIRST DAY.

Notice that all the events of verses 1-5 are summarized as, "...and the evening and the morning were the first day..."

There is no obvious break anywhere in the text of the first five verses. Everything in verses 1-5 is worded in such a way that the meaning that everything happened on the first day is possible.

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

It doesn't say, "In a beginning..." It says, "In the beginning..."

Genesis chapter one therefore doesn't necessarily describe two or more "beginnings" - it could just as well describe one beginning - the beginning.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Notice it doesn't say, "And then the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters..." as if this was a separate event which began some indefinitely long period after creation.

Rather, it simply says, "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters..."

The Spirit of God may have moved upon the face of the waters as part of the creative work of the first day, the day in which the heaven and the earth were made.

The moving of the Spirit of God upon the face of the waters may therefore ahve coincided with the event of creation - the wording of the text does not necessitate that it was something that occurred only as an after-thought or as Plan B at some indeterminately long period of time after the heaven and the earth had already been created and had allegedly subsequently become without form and void.

Furthermore, the Spirit of God, who won't always strive, would not have continued moving upon the face of the waters for a long period of time with no purpose - He would have been moving upon the face of the waters with an imminent purpose - and that purpose would have been to continue the works of creation as they were to proceed on that first day.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

The way the text is worded allows room for the interpretation that all of the events of verses 1-5 happened within one period of darkness followed by one period of light - a period called a "day" - the "first day".

The period of darkness mentioned before God said, "Let there be light", might not have lasted for an indefinitely long period of time - it may have been part of the 24-hour period called the "first day" - because, if the period of time called the "first day" had only began once God said, "Let there be light", then the light should have been followed by a period of darkness. But the Scripture does not say the darkness of the "first day" followed the light of the first day - rather, it says the light of the first day followed the darkness of the first day ("...and the evening and the morning...") The text of verses 1-5 mentions only one period of darkness followed by one period of light.

Furthermore, this entire period must have lasted for 24 hours not for an indefinitely long period of time - because, if the period of time called a "day" was longer than 24 hours, then all the plants which rely on photosynthesis for survival could not have survived.

It might all have happened therefore on the first day!

ISAIAH 45:18
18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited...

This verse doesn't necessarily prove that the earth must have become without form and void at some indefinitely long period of time after God first made the heaven and the earth.

Rather, it may simply show that God did not make the earth without purpose although during the early part of the first day of creation, the earth was without form and void until the works of the first day of creation progressed to completion. It was always God's intention to begin and complete creation in six days.

I'm writing this, not to make a needless issue out of it, but in hope of helping those who are making an issue out of it perhaps with not as much of a literary foundation for it as they might have thought.

Given the lack of concrete foundation for the Gap Theory, in the text of Genesis chapter one, there must be other reasons why people try to squeeze this theory into the Genesis story.

One reason might be that they are trying to explain the origin of demons. Another reason might be that they are trying to reconcile the Bible with the theory of an old earth.

There are solutions for those perceived dilemmas. But in any case, those aren't reasons enough to found a doctrine on a passage of text that could just as well be taken another way.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Every Idle Word

"Idle words are words spoken but not believed. Choose your words wisely! Matthew 12:36" - tweeted by Creflo Dollar

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Another Look at Eschatology

The Preterist view claims that the time-frame for the fulfilment of most of the Book of Revelation is qualified by the opening remarks that it "must shortly come to pass".

Then in Chapter 13 it says that one of the horns of the Beast "now is". One Preterist commentator explains that to say "now is" means that the person represented by this "horn" was somebody currently living and currently in civic office at the time John wrote to the seven Churches of Asia-minor: he "now is".

Preterists claim that John expected his first-century readers to be able to work-out exactly who he was talking about, when he informed them that the number of his name was 666.

I've heard a lot of futurists suggest contemporary figures like Henry Kissinger or Rothschilds, then use some method to prove their names add up to 666, based on assigning numerical values to the letters of the English alphabet. But the English language didn't exist as we know it when John wrote Revelation. And who knows if it will still exist as it does today, in the future?

So for a preacher to publicly preach that the modern English language can be used to decode the identity of the Beast (without justifying his basis), and then to be surprised when I ask him why – well it surprises me that my question could surprise him.

To my mind, a more likely system would be to use the Hebrew language. There was a system in use at the time when John wrote the Revelation - a system which is now called the Gamatron - wherein the letters of the Hebrew alphabet have numerical values assigned to them. Apparently Hebrew has no numerals. Instead, each letter of their alphabet has a numerical value. This practice is evidenced in secular literature of the same period.

If you believe in a pre-AD70 date for the writing of the Book of Revelation, Nero Caesar might be a likely figure, if you were looking for a first century figure who acted like the horn of the Beast of Revelation Chapter 13. One Preterist commentary showed that "Nero Caesar" indeed adds up to 666, using this method.

A Jew once explained to me the whole gamatria method to me. I asked her to calculate the number of Nero Caesar's name for me. It took her about a minute, then she replied, "666". A week or two later I decided to ask another Jew the same question. But he gave me a slightly different value.

"Another person last week calculated it to 666," I queried.

He explained, "It depends whether you use the Hebrew or the Roman way of spelling his name. The other way of spelling it does equal 666."

So I asked, "Which is correct?"

"Either is correct," he replied.

Next, I knew I had to do some research to find out whether Nero Caesar's name was spelt both ways, in secular contemporary literature of the time. And I discovered that either spelling was common.

According to one author, in an early Latin manuscript of the Book of Revelation, the number 616 occurs instead of 666, in Revelation 13. Nero Caesar, written in Latin, adds up to 616 - so perhaps this is evidence that the Nero theory already existed at that time, and the translators wanted their Latin readers to know that John was referring to Nero.

The most I can say about the Nero theory is that it seems to have at least as much in its favour as the contemporary futurist interpretations. But I still have always stopped short of concluding that Nero must indeed be the horn of Revelation 13. For one reason, we don't know for sure that Revelation was written before AD70.

So, rather than assert an alternative dogma to the modern futurist views, all I do from time to time is show some of the problems associated with it, and show some of the things in favour with altnernative views. All I'm doing is asking honest questions about the popular futurist views. I also have questions about preterism.

Back in the early 80's, when World War II was still fresh in the minds of some older Futurists and when Soviet and Chinese Communism was the threat that concerned America, most Futurists claimed that Germany, Russia and China featured prominently in biblical prophecy. But once the Cold War was over, you seldom heard that view again.

After September 11 there was a flood of new books claiming that Iraq - the new Babylon - features prominently in end-times prophecy. I don't remember ever hearing this view in the 80's. It only became popular because of America's War on Terror.

Today the end-times preachers are writing books about Iran's role in prophecy, all because of Iran's new leader's anti-Israel rhetoric. I wonder why nobody seemed to notice Iran's place in end-times prophecy before this.

I've read century-old commentaries on the Book of Revelation which claim that Germany and Turkey are the subject of end-time prophecy. But of course Turkey hasn't even been mentioned by Futurists lately, since the end of their World-War I allegiance with Germany.

During the Reformation, preachers and kings wrote literature claiming that the Catholic Church was the subject of the Book of Revelation. This view doesn't get purported much these days, now that Catholics have stopped their wars and some of their members are getting baptized with the Holy Ghost and speaking with tongues.

Without presenting any new dogma, my question has simply been, What basis do we have to interpret prophecy through the grid of current events (like every previous generation has done), instead of letting the text speak for itself? Why do we always think that the Beast must be whoever is threatening England or America at the time?

Regarding the Millennium, most Preterists believe the 1000-year reign of Christ is symbolic of the indefinitely long period of Christ's rule in history through the Gospel during the Church age.

I have some serious questions regarding the Futurists' version of events during the Millennium. I think some Futurists are the real heretics not me, when they say that the whole world will offer animal sacrifices again in Jerusalem!

However, I also have some questions about the Preterist view that the "Kingdom" began at the fall of Jerusalem in a sense that the Kingdom didn't exist before the destruction of the Temple. Preterism claims to be non-dispensational. But in reality, it seems to set-up two different Gospel dispensations: the dispensation starting from Pentecost until the fall of Jerusalem, and then the dispensation starting from the fall of Jerusalem until whenever.

My problem with this view is that it gives the impression that many things that Jesus said, and many things the Epistles said, really only had relevance up until AD70 - and then a whole new dispensation began. This sort of concurs with the view that the gifts of the Spirit were withdrawn from the Church after the last Apostle died.

It implies that the apocalyptic Gospel preached by Jesus and by the Apostles was only relevant to that generation rather than it being a message that should still form part of the Gospel that is preached in every successive generation.

In my opinion, we belong to the same dispensation as the early Church, and we should be preaching the same message they preached, and we should be seeing the same miracles they saw. But that isn't possible if the biggest event in the Apostles' prophetic calendar was something that is now already in the past.

Surely they and us are each looking forward to the same great hope! I'm not planning on preaching a different message to what they preached. If their grand hope was the destruction of the Temple in AD70, then most of the Epistles are irrelevant to us today.

I've actually heard one Preterist complain that some preachers never get beyond preaching the Gospel. He thinks we should be more concerned with fulfilling Adam's lost Dominion Mandate in this present age, through civil action.

But I never want to get beyond preaching the Gospel! That particular Preterist’s comment is evidence, in my opinion, that some Preterist thought about the Millennium is off on a slightly wrong tangent, with origins in Presbyterianism rather than Pentecostalism.

I do feel comfortable with the possibility that God has plans to renew planet earth and to use it again, in the same way that we who are born again are a new creature in Christ even though we are still the same person.

In a sense, it's almost like the planet itself could be "born again" one day. Our physical bodies will be resurrected too. I believe this is all part of the plan of Redemption. I'm not sure though whether this aspect of our redemption will happen during the thousand years, or whether it will happen right at the end of time and then into eternity.

But for now, I'm sure our role is to preach the Gospel - the same Gospel that Jesus and the Apostles preached - the same hope - and we need never get beyond preaching their message. We belong to the same Church that they belonged to.

In the Book of Revelation where it says that "there should be time no longer", Preterists interpret this to mean that "there should be delay no longer" meaning that there should be no more delay before the vengeance on Jerusalem should take place; whilst Futurists interpret it to mean the end of physical time.

Modern Israel is another favourite topic of Futurists. They claim that Jesus was predicting the restoration of Israel as a nation when He said, "When you see the fig tree shoot forth its branches, then you know that summer is near, and in the same way, when you see all these things come to pass, you will know that the end is near, within a generation".

Looking at it purely exegetically, I would say the very opposite is true. The "things" Jesus had just finished talking about had more to do with the destruction of Jerusalem rather than the restoration of Jerusalem. Then he added, "When you see these things come to pass, you know the end is near".

In other words, the bad things happening in Jerusalem would be a sign of the end. Many of those bad things happened in the lead-up to the siege of Jerusalem. So I question whether this parable of the fig tree can really be a strong basis for the view that Jesus must return within a generation of 1948 just because Israel became a nation again in 1948. So if we are to look for a prophecy about the restoration of Israel, in my opinion we have to look elsewhere in Scripture.

Another question I've had is about Jesus' statement that, "One shall be taken and the other left". Futurists apply this to the rapture. But after Jesus said this, the disciples asked, "Where Lord? (Where will they be taken?)" Jesus replied, "Wherever the dead bodies are, there the vultures will be gathered." If He was talking about the rapture, how is that an answer to the disciples' question? It seems Jesus was instead saying that the Romans would be indiscriminate in their massacre of the Jews.

If Jesus was talking about His Second Coming at that moment, why did He warn his disciples to flee into the mountains? If Jesus is coming to set up His Millennial Kingdom, what need do we have to flee anywhere? And why would it matter if it was winter? Why would it matter for those who are pregnant? But it makes sense if Jesus was talking about the siege of Jerusalem, which came to pass within a generation just as He said it would, and the Roman historian Josephus recorded that the Christians survived the siege because they fled the city just as Jesus told them to.

But Futurists protest that it couldn't have been fulfilled in AD70 because the stars didn't fall from heaven and the moon didn't turn to blood, at that time. Preterists rebut that by saying that all prophecy draws on previous prophecy in its symbolism. Throughout the Old Testament, the imagery of stars falling and the sun going dark always referred to war, judgment and national calamity; and vocabulary such as the Lord "coming" was often used to describe God's involvement in various local judgments.

In support of the Preterist interpretation that the language of cosmic catastrophe in Matthew 24 is actually symbolic of political judgment, I found something interesting in an American Standard Bible. My American Standard Bible places everything in CAPITALS if it is a quote from another verse of Scripture. And in Matthew 24, it puts these verses about the stars falling etc, in CAPITALS. So, in the opinion of the producers of the American Standard Version, those statements by Jesus weren't literal statements but were actually quotes from the Old Testament. And every text in the Old Testament that uses that language always applies it as symbolic imagery of the Lord "coming" not in final judgment, but in a local judgment on a political entity.

So I question whether it was right for end-times preachers in the late 70's to hold seminars about the so-called "Jupiter Effect" in which it was presumed that a planetary alignment would cause the moon to turn red, the stars to fall, and the catastrophes of Revelation to take place on earth. Of course it came to nothing. But I got saved as a result anyway, so that was good! The same misdirected paranoia existed at the time of Y2K.

I should mention Daniel's prophecies, because Jesus linked his statements in Matthew 24 to Daniel's prophecies. Jesus said that immediately after Jerusalem's tribulation, you will see the sign of the Son of man coming in the clouds. The Futurists say this is the Second Coming of Christ. I think they could be right, and I'll explain below how I think I can depart from classic Preterism on this point without throwing out Preterism's regard for "time indicator" texts. But first, I'll mention how the Preterists apply the "coming in the clouds" verse.

It is actually a quote from Daniel. When we go to the source in Daniel, we see that the Son of man was "coming in the clouds" but in what direction? It says he came before the Ancient of Days, and was given a Kingdom. In other Words, it was speaking of an ascension, a coronation of Jesus, in heaven. Paul in Hebrews also uses the word "clouds" to refer to the saints who are already in heaven.

So the Preterists claim that the events leading up to the destruction of the Temple in AD70 enabled the people to "see" (that is, to perceive) that the Son of man (whom they crucified) has now been vindicated (in heaven) as Lord and King. And they say that this vindication, these "days of vengeance" as Jesus called them in Luke, are also the theme of the Book of Revelation.

Jesus said in Matthew 24 that those who read Daniel should understand. Certainly, I think that because Jesus quotes Daniel in Matthew 24, a contextual understanding of Daniel is important as a basis to correctly applying what Jesus was saying in Matthew 24.

Wesley and Clarke seemed to interpret it that way. But isn't it possible that some of Jesus' statements were about the destructionof the Temple and others were about His second coming? After all, the disciples had asked Him both questions. So in other words, there might be both past (preterist) and future events in the Olivet discourse. The key then would be to decipher which is which.

Another prophecy of Daniel's talks about four kingdoms that would rule over Israel, and then a fifth Kingdom coming at the time of the fourth. Most commentators agree that these are the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian, then Roman kingdoms.

Futurists claim that the fifth Kingdom is the Antichrist. But Antichrist didn't come at the time of the Roman empire! People like Pastor Erica get around this problem by saying that the Roman empire is actually still alive through organizations like Freemasonry. Or they say that a gap of 2000+ years is inserted here (without Daniel knowing it) and then the Roman empire will be revived through the European Union - and then the Antichrist will come.

But I'm asking the question whether this fifth kingdom isn't in fact the Kingdom of God (not the antichrist), because Jesus indeed came announcing the Kingdom of God, during the time of the fourth kingdom (the Roman empire). This Kingdom came "out of heaven" like a "stone made without hands" and it "became a mountain that filled the whole earth".

Futurists say this is a prophecy about a coming one-world government. But I asked the question whether or not it could be the Kingdom of heaven. From the time of John the Baptist, people began to "take the kingdom" said Jesus.

If so, this Scripture may not be a strong basis for a belief in a coming one-world government. If so, it is a proof text that Jesus really is a candidate to be the Messiah, because He was born at the time of the Roman Empire.

Another major prophecy of Daniel's is the 70-weeks prophecy. He was told by an angel that from the date that the decree is issued to rebuilt the Temple until Messiah the Prince will be 70 weeks (or 70 sevens - that is, 490 prophetic years). In the middle of one of those weeks, Messiah would be "cut off" (that is, killed) but "not for himself" (that is, not for his own transgression). It goes on to describe several things that will happen within that time frame.

Futurists say that Jesus hasn’t yet done all the things that Daniel said he would do, therefore only 69 weeks have been fulfilled, and the final week (seven years) will take place during the Tribulation, after an inserted 2000+ years gap which Daniel knew nothing about.

Preterists say that Jesus fulfilled everything that Daniel said he would do and that we have no authority to turn 70 consecutive weeks into 69weeks + 2000years + 1week, just because something doesn't fit our prophetic system. Jesus did come within this time frame, making it a proof text that Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecy.

Jesus also quoted Daniel when he mentioned the "abomination of desolation standing in the Temple". Futurists claim a future fulfilment for this. Preterists say it referred to Roman idols being set-up in the Temple by invitation from Jewish rulers, culminating in an outpouring of wrath and the destruction of the Temple by Titus in AD70.

Contrary to Preterism, I wonder if it's possible that the 70 weeks don't have to be consecutive. The angel told Daniel, "Seveny week are determined upon thy people". Does that necessarily mean 70 consecutive weeks - or could it mean that there will be a total of 70 decisive weeks during which God’s focus is on Israel (and the remainder of the time Israel will remain in a state of being “cast off” until the Gentile Age is fulfilled)?

Another key Scripture is Malachi where it talks about the Day of the Lord. Part of the prophecy refers to a messenger coming before the Lord “comes” in judgment. Futurists say this refers to the Second Coming.

But Jesus said this messenger was John the Baptist. So did Jesus come as judge, in John’s generation? The prophecy continues to say, “then the Lord whom ye seek will suddenly come to His temple.” And that for some, He will come as Saviour anf for others, as Judge. In Malachi, He is said to come as both Saviour and Judge. What is the time frame? According to Jesus, it was in the time frame beginning with John.

So that fits with an AD70 fulfilment rather than a future fulfilment – or at least it began around AD70 – even if it’s continuing until today. Or, it describes the intrinsic apocalyptic nature of the Gospel message throughout the entire church age.

Isaiah prophesies about the Spirit of the Lord coming on Messiah to give sight to the blind and to heal the sick and preach good news, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the days of vengeance of our God.

Jesus quoted Isaiah, leaving out the "days of vengeance" line, and said, "This day this Scripture is fulfilled in your ears". But later when He predicted the coming sack of Jerusalem, he explained, "These be the days of vengeance spoken of by the prophets, that all things might be fulfilled."

In other words, Jesus was claiming to have already fulfilled many Messianic prophecies, and was now saying that any as-yet unfulfilled prophecies about Him would be fulfilled by the fall of Jerusalem. He said that the blood of all the prophets and righteous people would be required of “this generation”.

Futurists put this all in the future. Preterists put it all around AD70. But I'm currently considering the view that "the days of vengeance" indeed began three-and-a-half years before the fall of Jerusalem and culminated in the destruction of the Temple – but in a sense Jerusalem has continued in that state down through the centuries with the city being trodden under feet by the Gentiles - until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled – and then all Israel shall be saved. So that’s slightly different to the Part-Preterist view.

I actually sense problems with the extreme of both views: both with Preterism and Futurism - even though I still find some Preterist explanations of difficult texts excellent and helpful.

As an example of the problems associated with either extreme, consider Matthew 24.
After describing the siege of Jerusalem and predicting the destruction of the Temple, Jesus said:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days, you shall see the sign of the Son of Man coming in the clouds".

The Futurist interpretation of this passage necessitates the rebuilding of the Temple before the Second Coming can happen.

But that technically refutes the widely-accepted belief that Christ can come at any moment - because it would take years to rebuild the Temple, even if construction started today.

To get around this problem, Futurists divide the Second Coming into Part I (Pre-Tribulation Rapture), Part II (Second-Coming), and Part III (End of the Millennium).

So are there now three second comings of Christ?

And are there really any prophecies about a future Temple, anyway? Futurists sometimes quote Old Testament prophecies about the rebuilding of the Temple: but weren't those prophecies already fulfilled after the Babylonian Captivity when Ezra and Nehemiah rebuilt the city and temple?

Besides, why would God now rebuild the Temple and re-institute the animal sacrifice system, after Jesus has already shed His blood on Calvary? Paul said in Galatians that "if I build again that which I once destroyed, I make myself a transgressor".

Futurists answer that God won't rebuild it - but Israel will.

But if that's the case, then they still can't apply the pre-Babylonian Captivity prophecies of a rebuilt Temple, because those prophecies talk in terms of GOD rebuilding it!

And if Jesus' prediction was about a yet future Temple, then did He really have nothing at all to say about the destruction of the then present Temple? To get around this, Futurists claim a "double fulfilment" hermeneutic. But to my knowledge, there is no precedent for a double fulfilment hermeneutic anywhere in Scripture.

The basis for the Preterist view is the so-called "time indicator" texts. For example, in this passage, after describing the siege of Jerusalem, Jesus said, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days you will see the sign of the Son of Man coming in the clouds..." Preterists claim that the words "immediately after" is a "time indicator" text as is the phrase "this generation" - and that these phrases qualify the time frame and make it impossible to insert a gap of 2000 or more years between the two events.

A problem I encountered however, if I consistently applied the logic that gave rise to Preterism in the first place, across the entire New Testament - was that you can hardly avoid eventually questioning whether there is ever going to be any ultimate Second Coming of Christ at all - and of course I felt uncomfortable with that severe a deviation from orthodoxy. That is why variations within Preterism arose - such as Part-Preterism, Orthodox Preterism, Full-Preterism etc - each of which accuses the other of breaking with the logic that gives rise to any form of Preterism in the first place. One of the most revered authors of a Part-Preterist commentary on the Book of Revelation later denounced his conclusions and became a full-Preterist, claiming that the logic that made him consider Part-Preterism in the first place now required him out of integrity to embrace full-Preterism. By denying that there is any future Second Coming of Christ, his Part-Preterist publisher and friend now labelled him an heretic.

So there are problems associated with either extreme.

Perhaps there is another solution. I need a couple more years to think about it, but here it is:

Jesus said that after the destruction of the Temple, Israel will be trodden under feet by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Hasn't that been happening for centuries, even after the destruction of the Temple?

So it seems to me that Jesus could have been talking about a state of affairs in Jerusalem which began with the destruction of the Temple alright, but which certainly didn't end there.

In other words, even though some of Jesus' predictions may already have had a complete and final fulfilment, we may now still be in the phase of history which Jesus said would begin at the destruction of the Temple and continue until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled, the time wherein Jerusalem will be trodden under feet of the Gentiles - and therefore we still may not yet be up to the "immediately after" phase yet - even though the Temple was destroyed long ago.

This satisfies the Preterists' insistence on logic; it concedes that some specific prophetic events are now past; it also accurately pinpoints our present location in the timeline of prophecy, plus it upholds the orthodox belief in a literal Second Coming of Christ.

Or to put it another way, perhaps Matthew 24 includes three types of predictions: some which are now already fulfilled (such as the siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple); some which are currently happening (such as Jerusalem thereafter being trodden under feet by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled); and others which are yet to occur (such as the Coming in the clouds).

I think that each verse can speak for itself whether it is now past, or current or future - without needing some "double interpretation" hermeneutic to be applied to it.

This idea is therefore neither Preterist, nor Historicist nor Futurist (each of which, in their full version, have problems, in my opinion).

In this view, we no longer need to categorize the whole Chapter into one of the above schools of thought and then try to make each verse fit. Instead we can let each verse speak for itself on it's own merits, keeping in mind that Jesus was answering more than one question, without ignoring qualifiers like "immediately after" or "this generation", and without imposing an unbiblical hermeneutic such as the "double interpretation" hermeneutic to solve problems.

That is a relatively new development of my thinking, so I still need a couple more years to evaluate the idea.

In all my discussion about eschatology, I've never sought to propose a view, I've really only questioned others concerning the basis of their view.

It amuses me that what often happens when someone expresses their Futuristic dogma and I respond with a question that they can't answer either, is that they turn it against me by accusing me of placing undue emphasis on the subject of eschatology - when in fact all I have done is respond to the emphasis that they have placed on it.

Or sometimes they'll report that I have a shocking view, when in fact I've merely asked them how they justify there's. It's as if they don't have to justify there's, but I have to justify mine even though I don't have one just because I've asked them about there's.

I'm not trying to emphasize current events in the light of prophecy. If anything, I'm trying to de-emphasize them. But actually I'm not even trying to de-emphasize anything. I've simply asked why they do.

I've written to some of America's well-known proponents of Futurism, but not one of them has replied, to date.

I also submitted a paper to a leading figure in the Australian Assemblies of God, in which I dealt with five of the principal texts used by Futurists to examine whether each text really gives as strong a basis as is claimed for some of the strongly-held components of the Futurist view. The Australian Pastor replied, describing my paper as a sound and refreshing exposition of Scripture, and he heartily agreed.

But since the objective of my article was not to propose an alternative interpretation of those texts but simply to question whether they can really form a strong basis for some of the popular assertions of Futurists, I guess that Pastor's endorsement of my thoughts still leaves me somewhere in the middle of the road between Preterism and Futurism with a semblance of Historicism.

I noticed that the New Testament itself reveals that some uncertainty about the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ already existed even in the early Church.

My feeling is that if it wasn't easy for the Apostles to satisfy every question in the first century about the Second Coming of Christ, then what chance have I got of now coming up with an explanation so good that it will eliminate all questions? The early Church had the advantage of the bodily presence of the Apostles Matthew, Luke and John who each heard the Lord at His own mouth - whilst all I have to go by is their writings.

To me it's helpful to keep in mind the PURPOSE of prophecy. Prophecy was never just about PREDICTION, but about relationship. Prophecy may include prediction, but it's more about seeking a response from the hearer.

If the purpose of prophetic passages like Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation was PREDICTION, then the passages would instead provide a detailed list of future events in chronological order so as to remove all possibility of doubt.

But instead, the purpose was to give comfort, warning or encouragement. Prediction was only included where it was necessary as an aid to provide comfort, or where it helped to solicit a desired response from the hearers. Therefore the predictive element of prophecy is incidentary to the purpose, not the sole objective.

So to try to derive a complete chronological account of future events from prophetic passages is to try to make the passages say something they were never intended to say. No wonder we have difficulties.

The real objective of prophecy is matters of the heart.