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End Times

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Postby Duncan » Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:55 am

This is something from volume II of my book, The Antichrist and the Second Coming. Volume I looks at the Antichrist in Daniel and 2 Thessalonians (it is out). Volume II (which should be out next year, in 2012) looks at the Antichrist in Revelation.
Duncan McKenzie

At AD 70 believers were spiritually gathered into the fullness of the new covenant (Matt. 3:7-12; John 11:52; 2 Thess. 2:1-4)—the full establishment of the kingdom of God. The OT had said that believers would to be gathered to Jerusalem at this time (cf. Is. 35:3-10; Micah 4:1-8; Zeph. 3:14-20; Zech. 8:7-8, 20-23). The NT informs us that this Jerusalem is the New Jerusalem—the bride (Rev. 21:2, 9-10; cf. Is. 66:12-21). Jesus said this gathering would happen before the generation that was alive during his ministry had passed away:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn this parable form the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.
Matthew 24:29-34

This gathering is the same as “the rapture” of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. I discussed the parallels between Matthews 24-25 and 1 Thessalonians 4-5 at the end of my chapter on Revelation 19 (See Beale’s chart in that chapter; see also my discussion of the gathering/rapture on pages 371-385 of volume I.) I have added this chart below, see the endnotes. The catching up was to happen at the time of the resurrection. Revelation 11 provides another perspective on this AD 70 gathering. Believers are portrayed in this chapter using the symbol of two witnesses (I will give support for this proposition below).

And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies . . . When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly. Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

“ We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
Revelation 11:3-5, 7-18

This time when the kingdom of this world (cf. Luke 4:5-7) became the kingdom of our Lord refers to the AD 70 full establishment of the kingdom of God. While Jesus won all authority at the cross (Matt. 28:18), he would not fully exercise that authority till his Second Coming (Matt. 25:31-34). The full establishment of God’s kingdom is shown in Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45 and Daniel 7:7-12 and 21-27 (I discuss both chapters in volume I).

As I have mentioned several times, Revelation is communicated by way of symbols (Rev. 1:1). The two witnesses are no more literal than the Lamb, the beast or the harlot are. The two witnesses are not two fire breathing individuals (They kill their enemies by breathing fire on them! Rev. 11:5) They are a symbol of God’s people—the saints. In the OT, two witnesses were required for valid testimony of a transgression against the law (Deut. 19:15; cf. 2 Cor. 13:10)—especially in regards to murder.

Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty. Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death . . . So you shall not pollute the land where you are: for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood on him who shed it. Therefore do not defile the land which you inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.
Numbers 35:30-31, 33-34

Notice the blood guilt of Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8 “And their dead bodies will like in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” Jerusalem was guilty of the blood of Jesus and the saints (cf. Matt. 23:29-36; Rev. 17:6; 18:24); only her death—the death of the harlot—could atone for this. The dwellers on the Land rejoice at the death of the two witnesses; they had been “tormented” by the witnesses (v. 10). Note that the apostles referred to themselves as “witnesses” of Jesus (Acts 1:8; 2:32; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31, etc.; cf. Heb. 10:26-31). It is not hard to see how their witness tormented those who dwelled on the Land. “Men of Israel . . . you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses (Acts. 3:12, 14-15). The apostles did not literally kill people with fire from their mouths; rather, they proclaimed the judgment of God that was coming on the generation that rejected Jesus (Acts 2:36-40; cf. John 20:23).
Beale gives a number of reasons to support the idea that the two witnesses are used as a symbol of the new covenant community:

1.) The witnesses are called “two lampstands” in v 4, which should be identified as the churches . . . important is the explicit identification of the lampstands in Rev. 1:20 “the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” It is unlikely that the lampstands are different here than in ch. 1.
2. Verse 7 says that “the beast . . . will make war with them and overcome them.” This is based on Dan. 7:21, where the last evil kingdom prophesied by Daniel persecutes not an individual but the nation of Israel.
3.) The corporate interpretation is pointed to by the statement in vv 9-13 that the entire world of unbelievers will see the defeat and resurrection of the witness . . .
4. ) The two witnesses prophesy for three and a half years, the same length of time that the “holy city,” “the woman,” and “those tabernacling in heaven” are to be oppressed (11:2; 12:6, 14; 13:6). If these texts speak of the persecution of a community, then it is plausible to identify the witness likewise . . .
5.) Often elsewhere in the book the entire community of believers is identified as the source of “testimony” to Jesus (6:9; 12:11, 17; 19:10; 20:4).
6.) A final hint that these prophets are not two individuals comes from observing that the powers of both Moses and Elijah are attributed to both the two witnesses equally, and not divided among them. They are identical prophetic twins. [1]

That the two witnesses are a corporate symbol of God’s people can also be seen in the fact that the singular “body” is used in vv. 8a and 9a (i.e., “their body will lie in the street of the great city”), although the plural (bodies) is used in v. 9b [2] The two witnesses represent the body of Christ.

There may be an allusion contained in the image of the two witnesses of Revelation to the two witnesses who were required to come to the Temple to testify of the new moon (the disappearing and then reappearing of the moon possibly being a symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus). In NT times a great celebration was given in honor of these witnesses of the new moon, to encourage people to come and give testimony. (See Tractate Rosh Hashanah Chapter II.)[3] In an ironic reversal of this (not an infrequent occurrence in Revelation), the dwellers on the Land hold their celebration in response to the death of the two witnesses (v. 10).

Revelation 11:11 shows God’s breath of life resurrecting the two witnesses; this alludes to Ezekiel 37:8-14, which speaks of a corporate resurrection of Israel. Quoting Beale again, “Ezek. 37:10-13 refers to restored Israel as “an exceedingly great army . . . the whole house of Israel . . . my people.” Since Ezekiel prophesies the restoration of an entire faithful nation to God, John sees the fulfillment in all the faithful of the church, and not merely in two faithful individuals.”[4]

Revelation 11 and its picture of two witnesses being resurrected is showing the AD 70 beginning of the resurrection at the full establishment of the kingdom of God (v. 15); this was “the time of the dead, that they should be judged” (v. 18). Dead believers were resurrected at this time, while living believers were changed (1 Cor. 15:50-56) and would receive their resurrected bodies at death. Full preterists debate whether the resurrection refers to a corporate body (i.e., believers as the body of Christ) or an individual body (a resurrected body that, since AD 70, the believer receives at death). I see Scripture teaching both aspects. Revelation 11 and Matthew 24:29-34 show aspects of a corporate resurrection (a corporate gathering of believers, cf. 2 Thess. 2:1-4). Daniel 12:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 15 show aspects of an individual resurrection. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 shows both aspects (the dead being raised and living believers being gathered up).

While the Jews who believed in the resurrection (the Sadducees did not, cf. Matt 22:23) had a somewhat hazy and diverse concept of it, some clearly emphasized the individual aspects of the resurrection. For example, Josephus (who was a Pharisee) writes, “Don’t you know that those who depart this life according to the law of nature . . . their souls, remaining spotless and obedient, are allotted the holiest place in heaven, and when the wheel of time has turned full circle, they return to find a new habitation in unsullied bodies."[5] Given the fact that at least some Jews believed in an individual resurrection, it does not make sense that the NT would only make reference to the corporate aspects of the resurrection and not address the individual aspects (even if it were only to explain how they were wrong).

While the exact nature of the believer’s resurrected body is not totally clear (cf. 1 John 3:21; see also I Corinthians 15:44 were it is said to be a “spiritual body”),[6] the timing of the resurrection is clear. In Daniel 7:7-11 God is seated and books are opened for the judgment—the time of the resurrection (cf. Rev. 20:11-12). Daniel 7:23-27 shows that this seating of the heavenly court (“. . . then the saints shall be given into his [the little horn’s] hand for a time and time and half a time. But the court shall be seated . . .” v. 25-26; cf. v. 10) as happening at the AD 70 defeat of the little horn. The little horn overcomes the saints (the three-and-a-half year tribulation of AD 67-70, cf. Rev. 11:7-9) and then is defeated by the coming of God (Dan. 7:21-22). Daniel 12:1-3 confirms this timing as it shows the resurrection beginning right after the great tribulation. Notice how the resurrection of Daniel 12 refers to individuals and is different from the corporate resurrection of Israel described in Ezekiel 37. The latter uses resurrection more as a metaphor for the raising up of Israel (cf. Luke 2:34 where the Greek word for resurrection is used in a prophecy concerning Jesus “. . . Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising [anastasin] of many in Israel . . .).

Revelation 11 is further confirmation that the resurrection happens right after the great tribulation. The beast from the abyss kills the two witnesses (i.e., the time of the tribulation). They are overcome for three and a half days, and then are resurrected. Revelation 11:11-18 says this is the time of the full establishment of God’s kingdom (v. 15; cf. Dan. 2:33-34, 44-45)—the time of the judgment of the dead. This would begin at the time that God destroyed those who were (morally) destroying the land of Israel (v. 18). It would begin at AD 70.

Notice the time period of three and-a-half in verses 9 and 11—an allusion to the time of persecution by the Antichrist. It is a reference to the coming of the one who would make Israel desolate—the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week (Dan. 9:27). This was the time of the coming of the demonic prince of the Roman people that would work through Titus in his three-and-a-half year destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (Dan. 9:26). In Daniel 7:25 and Revelation 13:5 this period is given as three-and-a-half years/forty two months. In Revelation 11:9 and 11 it is given as three-and-a-half days (which is the last half of the seventieth week, if it is taken as a literal 7 day period).

The reason for this reference to three-and-a-half days is because a parallel is being made between the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (which happened after three days, cf. Matt. 12:40) and the death, non-burial and resurrection of God’s people. All the saints were not killed by the beast (just as the two witnesses did not literally kill people by breathing fire on them). The “killing” of the two witnesses is a metaphor of the saints being overcome by the Antichrist. The subsequent gathering of the two witnesses to heaven in a cloud (v. 12) is another parallel between their death and resurrection and the Lord’s (cf. Acts 1:9). It does not speak of a literal rapture to heaven (the dead saints were already in heaven, Rev. 6:9-11); it speaks of the heavenly authority possessed by God’s people at AD 70. The saints are not shown as being caught up to heaven after being overcome by the Antichrist in Daniel 7:21-22—they are shown possessing the spiritual authority of the kingdom.

I was watching and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.
Daniel 7:21-22

It was at the AD 70 beginning of the millennium that those who were overcome by the beast come to life to fully reign with their Lord (Rev. 20:4).

At AD 70 believers completed the AD 30-70 wilderness journey (spiritually speaking, cf. Rev. 12) and entered the Promised Land. With the beginning of the resurrection at that time, the temporary dwellings of the wilderness period gave way to the eternal dwellings (again, spiritually speaking) of the Promised Land as the kingdom was fully established. At AD 70 the new covenant bride became one with her Lord as she went from being betrothed to being married. She entered into God’s eternal Sabbath rest at that time (Heb. 4:1-11). As for believers who die after AD 70, we do have a judgment. It involves an evaluation and reward for what we have done for the Lord. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on’ [since the AD 70 fall of Babylon, Rev. 14:8]. ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors and their works follow them’” Rev. 14:13.

Beale’s Chart Looking at the Parallels between 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and Matthew 24

--------------------------------------------------------1 Thessalonians------------------------Matthew

Christ returns----------------------------------------4:16--------------------------------------24:30

from heaven-----------------------------------------4:16--------------------------------------24:30

accompanied by angels-----------------------------4:16--------------------------------------24:31

with a trumpet of God------------------------------4:16--------------------------------------24:31

believers gathered to Christ-----------------------4:17--------------------------------------24:31, 40-41

in clouds-----------------------------------------------4:17-------------------------------------24:30

time unknown-----------------------------------------5:1-2-----------------------------------24:36

coming like a thie-----------------------------------5:2, 4------------------------------------24:43

unbelievers unaware of
impending judgment---------------------------------5:3--------------------------------------24:37-39

judgment comes as pain
upon an expectant mother-------------------------5:3----------------------------------------24:8

believers not deceived----------------------------5:4-5--------------------------------------24:43

believers to be watchful--------------------------5:6----------------------------------------24:37-39

warning against drunkenness-----------------------5:7----------------------------------------24:49

G. K. Beale, 1-2 Thessalonians, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, Grant R. Osborne series editor, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarstiy Press, 2003), 137.

1. G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, 574-575.
2. Ibid, 594.
3. “Tractate Rosh Hashana,” Jewish Virtual Library, ... d/rh2.html Accessed 9-19-2010
4. G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, 597.
5. Josephus, The Jewish War, 3, 8, 5, trans. Gaalya Cornfeld, 240. See also The Jewish War, 2, 8, 14.
6. In 1 Corinthians 15:37 Paul makes the point that in nature the body sown is very different from the body reaped. While one sows an acorn, one reaps an oak tree, not a glorified acorn. While here is continuity in that, there is an even bigger discontinuity. When we die we sow a physical body; we reap a spiritual body. Some say this just means we reap a body that is spiritually controlled, but that is like reaping a glorified acorn. Paul makes mention of very different kinds of terrestrial and celestial bodies in this context (vv 38-44).
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