by Terry Wane Benton
Many do not realize that scriptures have a context, and cannot be applied to everything one wishes. The “end-times” is one of the most abused topics of the Bible. Many take verses out of context. If you take a verse out of context, forget the immediate people first written to, and what they were to understand from the words written to them, you will likely misunderstand and misapply the Scriptures to something far removed from what the earliest readers understood.
If I take “the end” that Ezekiel talked about to Israel (Ezekiel 7) and took it from the original context (the coming Babylonian invasion) and applied it to modern times, I will have perverted the original intent. The earliest readers would not have understood that Ezekiel was writing about 2021 AD. He was writing about 586 BC. The “end” was the end of Israel and her Jerusalem temple before the Babylonians destroyed her temple and took her captive for 70 years. It was “end-times” for Israel at that time.
They had another “end-times” during the Roman period. This was described in Matthew 24:1-34. Another time of the end of Judaism is discussed here and it would happen in that very generation (Matthew 24:34). It happened in AD 70. The signs to look for were fulfilled in the events leading up to that end of Judaism.
These signs are now being misapplied again. People are taking these warnings that belonged to the first century leading up to the fall of Jerusalem, and are now taking them out of context and applying them to world events now. They did this before and during WWI, before and during WWII, and are doing it again now.
There are no signs to look for pertaining to the end of the world. All the signs were pertaining to the end of Judaism and her temple system, not the end of the world. The end of Babylon is not the end of the world. The end of Jerusalem is not the end of the world. Signs for the end of Jerusalem are not the end signs for us.
Keep each context in place. The Lord can come at any time, but there are no clues you can look for that are sure to signal that final earth day.
Misapplying the Great Tribulation
The subject matter of Matthew 24:1-34 is the fall of the Jerusalem temple. The disciples asked, “when shall these things be?” That question in Matthew 24:3 is in response to Jesus’ statement regarding the temple of Jerusalem that “not one stone would be left upon another that will not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). The discussion was about “the buildings of the temple” (Matthew 24:1). Jesus told them the signs to look for to alert them to get out of Jerusalem. “The end” (Matthew 24:6) discussed is not the end of the world in general, but the end of the Jewish system attached to that temple in Jerusalem. Wars, famines, and pestilences would be unusually on the rise. False teachers would try to cash in on the upheavals. Be careful of them (Matthew 24:11). There would be great tribulation, “such as has not been seen since the beginning of the world” (Matthew 24:21). That is the great tribulation that was to precede the destruction of Jerusalem. Matthew 24:34 says “all these things” would be fulfilled in this generation (the one He was speaking to at that moment). So, when people talk about the Great Tribulation coming in our future, you know they have taken it from the original context and misapplied it. This context is not discussing our times, not even discussing end times to the world in general, but speaking of the end times of Judaism that was attached to the Temple in Jerusalem.
People have looked at their own times in the 1915s and thought they saw the “end times” in the events of WWI. Those were scary times and people began to conjecture that this was like the signs in Matthew 24. Only they forgot that the context was not about the 1915-1918 period, but about the period leading up to the fall of Jerusalem (AD 67-70). Again, false teachers began misapplying the scriptures in the 1920s, 1930s, and especially with World War II in the 1940s. People were sure that the Great Tribulation was upon them, that Bible prophecy was now being fulfilled in their time. They were wrong again and again. The prophecies they were misusing were not about our grandparent’s times, nor of our parent’s times, and not about our times. It was about the times of that generation Jesus was talking to.
There are no signs to tell us of the end of the world. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away” (Matthew 24:35), but “of that day and hour no one knows” (Matthew 24:36). Only the Father knows and He has revealed no signs. It will come unexpectedly "like a thief in the night." The signs were for the fall of Jerusalem in that generation, but the end of the heavens and the earth is not part of any signs for preparation.
The Great Tribulation is not in any biblical count-down that pre-warns us that we should now get ready. No! You should get ready and stay ready because there are no warning signals that give you an extra heads up. He can come at any time now, and He warned that it will come “as a thief in the night” (Matthew 24:43; I Thessalonians 5:2-4; II Peter 3:10). A thief does not give you advance warning. The only advance warning we have now is that nobody knows the day or the hour. We have to be wise stewards of our personal time, get ready, and stay ready. We will die and have no second chance, or we will be caught off guard when the Lord comes. Either way, we need to be wise, and we need to know that false teachers are still misusing scriptures to scare people about end-times that they know nothing about. Beware of deception!
One objection to the argument I proved is that people find worse events in history as far as death rates are concerned and proclaim that the one before and during the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was not as bad as the Holocaust. Yet, Matthew 24:21 says there never shall be a worse time. What is the meaning here? It is a figure of speech called hyperbole. It is used several other times in the Bible to give emphasis. For example, Hezekiah was said to be one who “trusted in the Lord God” more than any man before or after him. Better at trusting in God than Job? Better than David? Better than Jesus? When you consider all the possible comparisons, it is not likely that the description was intended to be taken in a strictly literal sense, but was a figure of speech, hyperbole, to make note that Hezekiah was a standout man of faith.
More interesting is that before the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem God said He would do among them “the like of which I will never do again” (Ezekiel 5:7-9). Well, does that mean that the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem (586 BC) was worse than the Roman destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70)? No! It just means that in both cases the hyperbole was similar. In both cases, the starvation produced such desperation that Moses predicted that parents would eat their children (Deuteronomy 28:47-53). So, the warning of Moses was fulfilled twice: in the Babylonian time and in the time the Romans lay siege to Jerusalem in AD 67-70. This was the worst of times for the Jews because they not only lost millions of lives, but they lost their temple, the priesthood, and their claim to have God. God cut them off, and they are “not His people” (Hosea 1:6-9). That became the worst period of tribulation in history. Because of unbelief, they were “broken off” (Romans 11:20). They can be added back to the church of Christ if they believe in Jesus and repent, but the church of Christ is the true Israel of God (Galatians 6:15-16; Romans 2:28-29).
God proved for all time His plan to cut off fleshly Israelites who did not believe God and His Messiah, that the true spiritual Israel (the church) would remain. The Great Tribulation and fall of the center of fleshly Israel in AD 67-70 took out the earthly Jerusalem, the earthly temple, and left the heavenly Jerusalem with her spiritual temple (Ephesians 2:19f; I Peter 2:5-9; Hebrews 12:22f) to shine ever brighter as the true Israel of God. The Great Tribulation was fulfilled in the events that starved and killed the center of Judaism, Jerusalem, in AD 70. This is what is predicted in Matthew 24:1-34. That passage is not talking about something specific in our time.
Do not be deceived! The true Israel that has all the spiritual blessings of God is the convicted and converted people that have been called by the gospel into His church and kingdom. All blessings go to these people (Ephesians 1:3f) and all curses go to the unbelieving and disobedient. Be sure you have been grafted into the spiritual Israel of God (Romans 11:17-22). Thus, the great tribulation of AD 67-70 was a time of great difficulty before God took down fleshly Israel’s claim to God, their temple. That is the context of the great tribulation. Men are not allowed to take it out of that context and apply it to every time of difficulty of history that comes along. Beware of that!
Misapplying the “Rapture”
Many are misusing I Thessalonians 4:13-18 to teach something that is not in this text. They misapply this text to say that we are in the “end-times” and that we must get ready for “the rapture” which they say can happen at any time. This word “rapture” is not found anywhere in the Bible but is based on the Latin rendering of the words “caught up.” So, we (Christians) will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, but it will not be for seven years as they teach. When we are “caught up” (raptured, Latin) we will ‘ever be with the Lord” in that caught up position (I Thessalonians 4:17). There will be no coming back here after seven years. The Hal Lindsey scenario and the Tim LaHaye “Left Behind” series are based upon scriptures misapplied.
There will never be a time when Christians go missing from the earth for a period of seven years while a so-called “great tribulation” goes on among the “left behind.” That idea is concocted in the imagination of men but is nowhere found in the Bible.
They get the Seven years from misapplying the 70th week of Daniel 9:24-27. But that was all fulfilled in the years before and leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The clear consummation of the Jewish system was evident when the Roman armies so thoroughly destroyed the Jews, their temple, and priesthood. This is the only place premillennialists find a “seven” year period, and it is not in our future but long ago in our past.
They misapply “the Great Tribulation” from Matthew 24:1-34, which was all about the Lord’s coming in wrath to destroy the Jew’s system via the Romans destroying Jerusalem in AD 70. So, they have the “Rapture” in the wrong place. It does not precede the great tribulation, else it would have happened before AD 70 as the great tribulation did.
The passage before us, I Thessalonians 4:13-18, regards the saints being taken home to glory forever at the end of mortal time on earth. It is truly an event that is at the end of earth time. It is a day that will come “as a thief in the night” (I Thessalonians 5:2-4), the righteous saints will be “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air, and those on earth will not remain for a seven-year tribulation but will experience sudden destruction (I Thessalonians 5:3). “These will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (II Thessalonians 1:9). This is the same time that the earth will melt with fervent heat and the elements of the earth will be dissolved (II Peter 3:9-12). There won’t be seven years of heaven followed by 1000 years on the earth. The present universe will be fully dissolved. The saints will be “caught up to meet the Lord in the air and ever be with the Lord.”
There won’t be a rapture, then seven years of hardship to change your mind and life. Conversion to Christ must happen now. You won’t get another chance in a soon-coming seven-year tribulation period. That won’t happen! If you want to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and ever be with the Lord, you have got to prepare now. You won’t be left behind and given a chance in a so-called tribulation period to convert over to Christ. You must get ready now! Now is the accepted time! (II Corinthians 6:1-2). Are you ready now?
Misapplying the Signs of Matthew 24
The signs leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem are the topic of Matthew 24:1-34. It is not correct exegesis to take the signs that were to precede the fall of the temple in Jerusalem and make them about events leading up to WWI as some did in the 1915-18 period. They called those disturbing events the “signs” of Matthew 24. They were doing the same from 1930 to the 1940s, as world disturbances looked like the things in Matthew 24. But Matthew 24:1-34 had already been fulfilled in the years leading up to AD 70 when the temple was destroyed. False teachers cashed-in in 1948 when Jews were allowed to go back to their homeland after WWII. False teachers said that was a “sign” and that within 40 years (a generation) the Lord would come back and set up an earthly kingdom. All that was what led many to follow the teaching of Hal Lindsey and others that “we can see prophecy being fulfilled in our own time.” Some set the year 1988 as the “Countdown” of end-time events. They thought 1948 plus 40 years made 1988 a certainty for the rapture (saints snatched from the earth for seven years). Every time they read world events through the lens of misapplying Matthew 24 and other scriptures, time proved them wrong again and again. Part of the problem is not rightly applying Matthew 24:1-34 to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 (which is the right application), and then failing to understand apocalyptic phrases and terminology.
In seeing world events in the Old Testament and how terminology was used to describe those events, we gain insight into how the fall of Jerusalem was a “coming” of the Lord, a judgment. When Babylon was the topic of prophecy (Isaiah 13) it was “the day of the Lord was at hand” (Isaiah 13:6,9). It was a day that the sun and moon and stars were darkened (Isaiah 13:10), the heavens “shaken” and earth “moved out of her place” (Isaiah 13:13). This is apocalyptic language to say that the Babylonian world would be turned upside down, not literally, but in emotional effect, much like America was rocked and turned upside down on September 11, 2001. It shook us to the core, and a bright day was dark inside our hearts. What was the day of the Lord to the Babylonians was God using the Medes (Isaiah 13:17) to bring Babylon down. That was the coming of the Lord, the sword of God was the Medes He had stirred to be the instrument God used. When God had used Babylon as His sword against Egypt and Jerusalem (Ezekiel 21, 19), to bring down His wrath on these places, it was the coming of the Lord of Hosts by means of using Babylon as His sword. He was “riding on the clouds” (Isaiah19:1ff). It was the coming of the Lord against Egypt. It was His judgment against them. It was a day of darkness and clouds.
That is the language of Matthew 24:1-34 regarding the coming of the Lord against Jerusalem in AD 67-70. The “signs” were to alert the disciples of Jesus to “flee” Jerusalem before they got sealed into the city as the Romans began to surround the city. Fleeing the city (Matthew 24:15-20) is not going to help if this is the final judgment on the world. Fleeing the city because you believed Jesus enough to get out of Jerusalem is what saved Christians. They saw the “signs” and got out, while the Jews remained in the city, got sealed in, and then could not escape. They were starved over the 3 ½ years and the Romans ultimately were the sword of the Lord against Jerusalem in AD 70. It was a day of the Lord, the coming of the Lord against the unbelieving (in Jesus) Jews, a day of darkness and clouds, the judgment of the persecuting Jews who had so much blood on their hands.
Josephus, a 1st-century Jewish historian, had much to say about the gore and tragedy of those years. It was indeed the same kind of coming that we saw against Egypt, Babylon, and Jerusalem before. The same kind of language was used in all cases. To use the text to warn of “prophecy being fulfilled” now, is to lift the prophecy from its intended target and real fulfillment, and view world events through a distorted lens of misused scriptures. Beware of the modern false prophets. The Lord can come, but it is not because there are “signs” God gave us to prove this is the right time. There will indeed be a “last day,” and we need to be ready, but you can’t read world events and tie them to misused scriptures and be credible. Just be ready at all times!
Misapplying the 70th Week of Daniel 9:24-27
The program God gave in vision form to Daniel involves the time of 70 weeks. These are not literal weeks as we think, but 70 “sevens”, and as the context shows would be 70 weeks of years not days. Thus, 490 years from the time of the call to rebuild Jerusalem (after the Babylonians destroyed it in 586 BC) to Messiah the Prince gives a good calculation from Nehemiah’s day of rebuilding Jerusalem to Jesus Christ coming and being “cut off”. In this grouping of years, there are the 7 weeks and 62 weeks, with a final 70th week. That final 70th week (of years) involved the Messiah confirming a covenant with many (Daniel 9:27) for one week. This is the 70th week. Jesus’ ministry was 3 ½ years preparing for the kingdom and new covenant, and after His resurrection, we have 3 ½ years of confirming the new covenant up to the conversion of Saul (confirming His last eye-witnessing apostle). Then from this 70th week, you have an extended “wing” of time that gets you to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, consummating the time of the Jews with their priesthood and temple system. The new covenant of Jesus was in place on Pentecost and continued to be confirmed (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 8-9), and then on the wing of these events the temple was made “desolate” by the Roman armies. The 70th week was over and the “wing” of abominations was also fulfilled by AD 70.
Jesus tied the “desolations” that Daniel was talking about to the destruction of Jerusalem in that very generation (Matthew 24:15-20,34). Not far away in 2021 AD. What was “consummated” was the Jewish temple system. Its time was over for good. Now, the modern Hal Lindsey's and Tim LaHaye's of modern times are misusing the 70th week and misapplying it. They say there is still coming a seven-year period of tribulation. But that tribulation was what preceded the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Why would Daniel separate 69 weeks from the 70th week by nearly 2000 years? Remember, the program of the vision was 490 years, not thousands of years. If the temple destruction was part of the after-effects of the 70th week, then the 70th week was fulfilled in those 1st-century events. There is no way around it. The 70th week fulfilled the rebuild of the temple in Nehemiah’s day to the final destruction of Jerusalem in the generation of Jesus and His disciples. From temple rebuild to temple destroyed in final consummation, we have the 490 years of Daniel’s prophecy all fulfilled. You can’t take one of those weeks (seven years) and apply it future to AD 70. That is a total misapplication of Daniel 9.
There are no seven years of tribulation prophesied for our times. That is all concocted by pulling a seven-year period from Daniel 9 and misapplying it. It is 100% imagination using 100% misused scriptures. Beware of the modern false teachers of our times. Get ready for judgment. You must get that right now while you live. You don’t know how much time you have left (James 4:14; Hebrews 9:27), and there won’t be a 7-year period of tribulation in which you can get things right. If you die today, is your soul right with God? That is what we should concentrate our most serious thoughts upon. Are you ready for death? Are you ready if the last day of earth-time is today?
Misapplying the “Antichrist” Warnings
Jesus said there would be “false Christs” (Matthew 24:24) as part of the times leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, which is the context of Matthew 24:1-34. “all these things” would be fulfilled in “this generation” (Matthew 24:34), the one He was talking to at the time. Today we have false teachers making this out to be political figures of today. They misapply the signs leading up to the fall of Jerusalem and apply those signs to people and events of today. The scriptures were not intended to be used this way.
The “Antichrist” is built up to be a figure that will precede the coming of Jesus to set up His kingdom on earth. But there really is no program for Jesus to come set up His kingdom on earth, and the “antichrist” is not a signal for such an event. Jesus’ kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36), and He established it in His ascension (Daniel 7:13; Acts 2:36) and displayed it in the events of Pentecost (Acts 2) and people were translated into His kingdom from then onward (Colossians 1:13). So, Jesus doesn’t have a program to set up a kingdom on earth. It is already here. It is not earthly in nature, but spiritual in nature. When He comes, it will be to “deliver up” the kingdom (I Corinthians 15:23-24). You don’t “deliver up” something that is not here. Thus, this so-called “antichrist” is not some figure that comes before Jesus comes to set up a kingdom on earth. No, the antichrists were coming before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. In fact, when John wrote his first epistle, he specifically said that they were already in the world (I John 2:18) and that the program for the antichrist was then in the last hour. So, this too is properly fulfilled by AD 70 and is not talking about a figure in our future.
Now antichrists (false teachers) will always be around till final judgment, but there is no future specific antichrist that signals the coming of Christ in our near future. There are no signs of the end of the world events of His final coming. John said the spirit of the Antichrist is “now already in the world” (I John 4:3) even as he was writing (first century). So, we must not look beyond the first century for this particular sign. It was present when Jerusalem fell in AD 70.
Now “the man of sin” in II Thessalonians 2 is thought to be “the Antichrist” that comes before the Second coming of Christ. Obviously, any man of sin is an “antichrist.” To choose sin over Christ is to be against (anti) Christ. Christ is holy and wholly against sin. To be a man of sin, you would be an antichrist. If you are not wholly for Christ, you are against Him (antichrist). II Thessalonians 2:4 speaks of “the falling away” coming first, meaning before the Lord’s final coming. The "lawless" spirit departed from the original sound doctrine expressed orally and gradually expressed in the written records composing the New Testament. The development of Roman Catholicism shows how far from the faith of Jesus lawless men will go, and that lawless spirit was already at work. The Pope is an expression of the lawless spirit, where men exalt themselves and pretend to be Christ or Christ's representative. But that is just one expression of the lawless spirit at work. The man of sin is not just one individual. It is a spirit represented in men in general. The falling away takes people in many different lawless directions. Those who call for a return to New Testament Christianity are restraining the full-scale apostasy or falling away. The spirit that sets aside the law of God to do what they feel and desire is the man of sin, the lawless spirit.
The spirit that restrains is the Christian that tries to do all things lawfully and calls people to abide in the doctrine of Christ (II John 9-10). When Jesus comes, the lawless side will be "revealed" or exposed, and the restrainer, the lawful man, will be revealed. This is all in the long-term program from the time of Paul in his writing I and II Thessalonians to the time of Jesus' final put down of Satan as further revealed in Revelation 20. That entails a long time as figuratively represented in the 1000-year binding of Satan. There is the antichrist that was already at work that got exposed in the destruction of Jerusalem. They were exposed as liars when they got caught in the city and destroyed, and there is the ongoing spirit of lawlessness that facilitates the falling away from the original teaching of Jesus and His apostles (Acts 2:42). That spirit of lawlessness will be ultimately exposed and destroyed when Jesus comes for final judgment. Don't look for one singular person to come in our future. He is the spirit now making people content and happy to do things without scriptural authority. He has been here all along. He is already at work. He is the spirit of lawlessness. He is against giving Christ all authority (Ephesians 1:18-22; Matthew 28:18-20). He wants his own authority to prevail. He will be exposed. But he is not one person. He is the spirit of lawlessness found in many churches and those outside of churches who want a man-pleasing world or church. Look for that spirit of lawlessness and you find the antichrist. He has been here quite a while. You either restrain the spirit of lawlessness by your stand for truth, or you facilitate the spirit of lawlessness. We either abide in the doctrine of Christ or we stand against the authority of Jesus. Stand for Jesus and His law!
Misapplying the Exaltation of Israel
The “blessing” of Israel (Genesis12:3) as God’s favored nation was conditional on the nation of Israel obeying God (Deuteronomy 27:11-28:2). He clearly told them that if they did not obey God, they would be cursed and destroyed, and no longer be “My people” (Hosea 1:9). But God held out a way for the number who would be “My people” to be innumerable (Hosea 1:10-11). These would be the people that made Jesus their “one head.” So, the true Israel would not include unbelieving Jews. If they did not make Jesus their head, they were “cut off” from being the true Israel. So, the unbelieving people occupying the modern land of Israel are not the people we are to “bless” as God’s people. They are remains of people that God cut off when they rejected Jesus.
The true Israel was represented in the 120 we see gathered in the upper room in Acts 1 and the 3000 that joined in believing Jesus and who made Jesus their “one head” in Acts 2. This is the church, the true remnant of the true Israel that is “blessed” by God and should be “blessed” by all nations. Romans 11:20 says, “because of unbelief they were broken off”. They were the natural vine, and because of unbelief they were “broken off” and Gentile believers were “grafted in.” So, believing Gentiles are grafted in with the believing Israel of Acts 2, which were the true Israel. The unbelieving Jews are not God’s favored nation. They are “broken off” from the blessings of God’s vine.
People have misapplied verses about the modern nation of Israel. The political move in 1948 to return them to their homeland was not a sign that God was “blessing” them unless you are willing to believe that the holocaust was God showing his “curses” on them. Same people. Did God change His mind in 1948? No! If God was blessing them in 1948, why did He not allow them to rebuild the temple? Why does the Muslim “Dome of the Rock” still occupy the temple location? No! There is no program in the future to rebuild the physical temple in Jerusalem, and there is no program God has for the physical nation of Israel.
What is done by modern false teachers is to take verses out of context and misapply them. Sometimes they take passages that refer to the return from Babylonian Captivity and apply them to our future and misuse the verses that were fulfilled in Ezra and Nehemiah’s day of the regathering of Israel in their time, switching them into a future time to us. Sometimes they take verses that refer to the gathering of the spiritual nation in Christ and make them future to us and make them about gathering earthly Israel in earthly Jerusalem. 1948 was not God fulfilling promises to gather Israel back into that land. There is no prophecy about that that needed to be fulfilled. The unbelieving Jews are still “cut off.” The only “nation” God has is His spiritual nation the church (I Peter 2:5,8). The cut off Jews may be “grafted back in” to God’s vine by repenting toward God and being baptized into Christ (Romans 11:23; 6:3-6; Galatians 3:26-28). The church of Christ is the true Israel of God. It is a “spiritual nation” with a “heavenly Jerusalem” and a “spiritual temple” (Ephesians 2:19ff; I Peter 2:5,8-9) with a spiritual priesthood and spiritual sacrifices. Israel in the flesh is cut off. They are not God’s people. Yet all Jews and Gentiles that have gathered together in Christ make up the true Israel of God. This is the only “exalted” people of God on earth today.
God’s program for earthly Israel was to bring Christ into the world to bless all families of the earth. When that was completed and Jesus finished His work for the remission of sins, it comes down to being a wise and obedient believer or being an unwise and disobedient unbeliever. God’s people are gathered in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3; 2:4-7; Hebrews 12:18-28). Earthly Israel has no prophetic role to fulfill. They are not the people of God! Don’t let politics fool you! The scriptures show their rejection of Jesus and God and God’s rejection of them. At Jesus' death, God tore the temple veil from top to bottom showing that He was out of there and unassociated with those people (Matthew 27:50-51). They can reconcile with God in Christ and rejoin the true Israel of God, but they are not God’s people just by virtue of any physical heritage.
Do not be deceived! They are misapplying the verses, confusing the earthly Israel that rejects Jesus as the Son of God, and failing to see the spiritual Israel that does indeed obey Jesus as their one head. If you enter into Jesus’ covenant, making Him the one head, you are part of the true Israel of God.
Misapplying Figurative Literature
The modern premillennialist is thinking the kingdom of God was not established in the first century as was predicted, but he fails to see that it was established right on time (Psalms 2; Colossians 1:13; Mark 9:1). God did not fail or have to “postpone” establishing His kingdom. One reason modern teachers and preachers think of the kingdom as still future is that they are looking for an earthly kingdom instead of a spiritual kingdom. Jesus said His kingdom was “not of this world” (John 18:36). People were entering Jesus’ kingdom in the first century (Colossians 1:13), and when Jesus returns the kingdom will not be set up but rather “delivered up” (I Corinthians 15:24) to the Father.
The “1000-year reign” (Revelation 20) is certainly a figure of speech for a long time, but it is measured from after the fall of the Beast (Rome) in Revelation 19. The 1000 years is not representative of Jesus’ entire rule in His kingdom, but His rule that kept the dragon (Satan) from being able to empower a world empire against the church. Satan was bound (limited) after his use of the Roman Empire failed. He has had limited power over nations. That is because Jesus was ruling over Satan’s power. Jesus’ rule would not end after the 1000 years but ruling in this way (limiting Satan’s power to use world empires to persecute the church) would stop just before the climactic event that destroys Satan for good. So, Revelation 20 is not about the start of Jesus’ rule and the end of Satan’s power on earth. It is a limitation of a certain use of power, power to use an empire to fight against Christians and succeed in squashing the church.
The kingdom of Christ began on Pentecost of Acts 2, but Satan used the Jews and Rome to persecute the church of Christ. After bringing down Harlot Jerusalem (Revelation17-18) and then the Beast (Rome), Satan was bound and unable to reproduce the same measure of power toward the Lord’s church again until the 1000 years were finished. The 1000 years is not a literal number of years, but a figure of a long time. Like, “never in a 1000 years will he be able to do that again.” So, we have been in the 1000 years (long time) since the fall of Rome.
There is nothing in Revelation 20 that has Jesus “setting up” His kingdom on earth. His kingdom is spiritual and was set up on Pentecost of Acts 2. It was never intended to be an earthly kingdom. You have to be born again to see and enter a spiritual kingdom (John 3:1-6). You have to be translated out of darkness (spiritual blindness) and into the kingdom (Colossians 1:13). It is seen with “the eyes of your understanding” (Ephesians 1:18). Don’t be looking with fleshly eyes for an earthly kingdom. The kingdom is already in position within the obedient believers (Luke 17:20-21). In the end, those in His present kingdom will be caught up to heaven with Him forever (I Corinthians 15:23-24; I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Revelation 20 is about the rule of Christ over Satan so that Jesus binds or limits his power over nations. It is not about Jesus coming back to the earth and ruling on earth in person for a 1000 years. Learn to stay with the text and learn to discern figures of speech. We have been in the long time, figuratively called the 1000 years or millennium, since the fall of Rome. The final battle is a spiritual battle and Jesus wins it easily as always. We must make sure we are on the Lord’s side, the winning side, and that we are bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ and for His glory (II Corinthians 10:5ff). Are you in His kingdom? Is His kingdom in you? Are you fighting the good fight of faith?
Misapplying Isaiah 11
Conditions of peace between former enemies by prophetic illustration are pictured as “the wolf dwelling with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the goat”, etc. The problem is that the modern premillennialist takes this passage (Isaiah 11:6-9) and applies it literally to the millennium (the 1000-years of Revelation 20). The true application is that it is not literal, but figurative, and it is correctly applied to the spiritual mountain of Jesus’ heavenly Jerusalem where former enemies (Jews and Gentiles) find peace and common ground in Christ. Thus, Isaiah 11 is fulfilled from Pentecost onward, especially as the gospel changed Jews and Gentiles and brought them together in the same church (Acts 11ff).
There is not going to be a utopia on earth in the future where wolves dwell with the lamb literally and get along blissfully. Isaiah is not speaking about way into the future, way past the 1st century. Isaiah is using figures of speech to describe the new age in Christ. The peace between former opposites is illustrated by the use of the various clean and unclean animals from the former Old Testament system being brought into peace, equality among former enemies. In “My holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:9) is where this peace is found. But God’s holy mountain is one that cannot be touched (Hebrews12:18f), and thus, is a spiritual mountain, not a physical utopia on earth. We enter this holy place when our hearts are changed in repentance and we are baptized into union with Christ (Romans 6:3-6). We come to His holy mountain in Christ. When we come to be taught by the same God, we have a common mission, a common Savior, a common Head, a common King, and we see each other differently. We dwell with people of all races, nationalities, and ethnicities. We have peace in Christ. Paul described the Jew and Gentile (former enemies) coming together in Christ to enjoy peace (Ephesians 2:11-22). Thus, Isaiah 11 was wholly fulfilled in the 1st century. It is not waiting for the so-called millennium.
When God brought down the various former clean and unclean animals in the sheet and told Peter to kill and eat (Acts 10), God was showing Peter that it is time to learn to come into peace with the Gentiles. They have a right to let the gospel change their nature too. God was showing that Isaiah 11 needs to be put into action. They need to be led into Christ, into God’s holy mountain (Hebrews 12:18-23) where they can share peace together.
Isaiah 11:10 is showing that all this happens in the day when the Root of Jesse (Jesus) stands “as a banner to the people.” That is Jesus being the banner for a people of a common association. These people gather spiritually in the heart around Jesus, their common Savior, and Head. They are changed in heart to value the same things in Christ. “Gentiles shall seek Him.” So, a common drawing card (the banner of the cross) calls to all kinds of animals (so to speak), people who would not find commonality in the past, seek the common salvation in Christ, which calls them to a new life, a new outlook, and new set of values, and a common mission and purpose, a new bond in Christ. All things are new in Christ, and the former things are passed away (II Corinthians 5:17f).
Isaiah 11 is not about a future millennial utopia on earth, but about what exists and existed since the gospel was spread to all nations (Matthew 8:18-20). The gospel changes Jewish hearts and Gentile hearts and gives them commonality in Christ, in His holy spiritual mountain. The gospel has changed my heart. I’ve seen it change many hearts. Former enemies are changed together in Christ. Have you come under the transforming banner of the cross of Jesus Christ?
Misapplying the Battle of Armageddon
First of all, the word Armageddon (Revelation 16:16) is a Hebraism meaning “Mount Megiddo.” The valley of Jezreel, also known as Megiddo, had been the scene of many battles in Israel’s history. Jezreel at the foot of Mount Megiddo was a natural area for large armies to engage each other. The word “Armageddon” came to be used similarly to “Waterloo”. “He met his ‘Waterloo,’ came to mean that a similar defeat has happened. The battle against Jerusalem to bring about her final defeat would be their “Waterloo” or their “Armageddon”. The Roman armies would gather through the port at Caesarea and from the east, march through the valley of Jezreel (Megiddo) destroying any Jewish opposition as they gathered and surrounded Jerusalem in the final great battle of God Almighty against this brazen harlot who shed innocent blood (Matthew 23:31-36). In the figure of speech used, it was like God removed any impasse like the Euphrates to make it easier to make a quick surge upon the target of their campaign, Jerusalem. The temple of heaven unleashed the plague of destruction upon the earthly temple center of Judaism in the major event of God’s wrath to avenge the blood of saints and display His wrath and vengeance (Luke 21:20-22,24-32). What Luke calls “the days of vengeance,” John is describing as the battle of Armageddon. This is not the end of the world, but the end of the Jews’ world centered in the Jerusalem temple.
Secondly, they met their “Armageddon” in AD 70 when God brought the Roman armies upon them in full devastating force to display God’s wrath and vengeance. Modern usage of this vision takes it from the context and tries to make it some battle still in our future. This is because they cannot feature the islands fleeing (Revelation 16:20) and the mountains not found anymore unless it was the end of the world. But in figures and metaphors, this is what you would describe when you see a major city or nation being destroyed. The safe places are no longer in place. The islands move out of reach for safety when you are trapped and can’t escape to them. The mountains are no longer available when you are trapped. They are not found to be a place of refuge that you can get to. It is a metaphorical language that was quite common to this style of literature. You can see it in the display of wrath against Jerusalem during the Babylonian period (Ezekiel 5). Read the “why” of God’s wrath against them in Ezekiel 6, and then of Jerusalem’s “end” which happened in 586 BC (Ezekiel 7). They were destroyed to see another day after 70 years of destruction and captivity. But in Revelation 16-18 they would see their “Armageddon” in a final defeat by means of the Roman armies. In Ezekiel 7:16, “those who survive (the Babylonian invasion) will escape and be on the mountains.” In Revelation 16:20 the islands and mountains will flee away, meaning that the Jews would not escape to see another day. In Ezekiel, there is “restoration” in their future (Ezekiel 11), but in Revelation, there is no restoration for the earthly temple system. The Jews met their Armageddon, and it was a complete end to their temple and priesthood system. If the Jews were restored, we should see their temple and priesthood in operation today. The Muslim Dome of the Rock is still a reminder that God is not letting these people use a temple on that mountain to pretend that God is with them. They and their temple system remain “cut off” (Romans 11).
Taking this vision of the great battle of Armageddon and placing it into our future is not a good exegesis of the text. It is not about events thousands of years into the future of the first readers. It was the events leading to the final fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. First-century Christians would live to see that day. When they saw Jerusalem starting to be surrounded by the Roman armies (Luke 21:20f) they knew to get out of Jerusalem without delay. They watched the Armageddon events unfold from their own places of safety. They saw the Jewish world turned upside down in those days of vengeance. It is not a text about events in our future. Do not be deceived by misapplications of a text that has seen fulfillment already.
It sounds like a very complicated subject (premillennialism), but it is complicated by a bunch of puzzle pieces put in the wrong places. The pieces selected are strung out in a series of misapplied events in the future. It would be like taking these six events and making them all part of a future plan:
- A Great Flood will come before,
- A Great Plague of Frogs which will start
- A Thousand Year Reign of Christ in which
- a man named Joshua will lead us into the promised land, after which
- there will be the rise of four kingdoms which will bring about
- the coming of the Messiah to destroy all of them and the earth.
All I have done in the above six points is string together random Bible topics and misapplied them. I randomly pulled six events from their context, some of which already happened and some of which are still future, and pretended that this is all part of God’s plans for our future. If you know nothing about the Bible and don’t care to study it, then I can convince people that these are the last days and a Great Flood will alert us, signaling the last phase of earth history.
Some would object, saying that the Great Flood already happened, but some would find a verse in Revelation, say for example Revelation 12:15, and show that the devil is going to cause a great flood in the future. It says the serpent will cause it. They could then say “the book of Revelation tells us about a flood and frogs and a 1000-year reign.” But you don’t know the Book of Revelation and these people seem to have it together, so they can easily deceive people with the above six misapplied Bible topics.
This is basically what has happened with the modern premillennial scheme. They have taken random topics, some of which happened already in the first century, assembled an elaborate scheme that they tie together as near-future events. They talk of a great tribulation period, but that already happened before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. They have a “rapture” (caught up) happening, but that is at the end, not before a great tribulation period. They misapply Daniel’s 70th week and use that week as if it is still in the future. They look for signs from Matthew 24:1-34 (which were to be before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70) and have people looking for these signs in modern times, which led to religious hysteria in the times of WWI and then the times of WWII and they never seem to learn their lesson about misapplied prophecy. So, in summary, what we see in “The Left Behind” series are assortments of misapplied prophecies. It is Pre-Misapplicationalism! “Pre” means “before” and “Misapplication” means that prophetic scriptures are misapplied, and “ism” means it is a doctrine based on an assortment of misapplied Bible topics.
Until we get our heads out of social media and get them into actual careful Bible study, we can think highly of people teaching misguided ideas and we won’t know any better. That is how Satan captures religious people and gets them on course to hell while they think they are on course to heaven. Beware! Be like the Bereans and check it out by the scriptures to see what is so and what is not so (Acts 17:11). It does matter!