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Monday, March 20, 2017

Updates on Coming Books and Conferences

If you follow this blog you probably know that my book on the kingdom of God called, He Will Reign Forever: A Biblical Theology of the Kingdom of God, came out in February. But I have also been working on more. Here is an update.

First, at the time of this writing (March 20) I am close to releasing a revised and updated version of Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths. The first edition came out in 2008 and was mostly the result of a Ph.D. paper I wrote on this topic in 2003. Obviously, after fourteen years this work was in need of updating. So in the next two weeks this book will be out in ebook form to be sold on Amazon. I am also working on a hard copy version but am not quite sure yet when this will be available. This could be out in the next month, so not too long. The original hard copy version was 73 pages, but this revised and updated version will be 113 pages. In the Preface I note how the two compare:

The contents of this book are a revision and update to the original 2008 version. The basic structure and content remain yet additional information has been added to each of the chapters. Plus, there are three new chapters: (1) “Continuity and Discontinuity in Dispensationalism”; (2) “Key Differences between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology”; and (3) “Recommended Sources on Dispensationalism.” This revised and updated version offers approximately thirty-five additional pages from the original version.

Second, I have started work on a short booklet that will be a summary of the various Christian positions on New Testament Use of the Old Testament. I survey about six different views of how the New Testament persons and authors used the Hebrew Scriptures. I’m writing this now and am not sure when it will be done, but it should be finished in 2017. This will not be a full blown book on NT use of the OT that I hope to write someday, but this will be an important step in the process. If I ever write a bigger book again, it will probably be on this subject.

Third, I will be teaching a conference on Bible prophecy this April 22, hosted by Anza Baptist Church and Pastor Brad Pixley in Torrance, California. This conference is called: “Jesus Shall Reign: Understanding the Kingship of Jesus and His Second Coming.” I will be teaching four sessions. For more details click here.

Fourth, I will be going to Washington (state) in late May to do a conference. Details are being put together and I will keep you updated.

Fifth, I will probably be going to South Korea this September for a pastor’s conference on Israel and the church. I will provide more details as they come. 

Consider clicking the "follow" button on the right column to get updates immediately when they come out.

Of course, as always, I could use your prayers for all of the above.

Thank you,

Mike

Sunday, March 19, 2017

How Revelation 5:10 Relates to the Kingdom Program

by Michael J. Vlach

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God;
and they will reign upon the earth (Rev. 5:10).

Revelation 5:10 is an important yet often-overlooked kingdom passage. Here we find an explicit reference to the kingdom, the saints’ role in the kingdom, and the sphere of the kingdom: “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”  

Here I want to address the significance of Revelation 5:10. The background for this verse is the heavenly throne room scene of Revelation 4-5. The Father, who is on His throne in heaven, has a scroll in His hand. This scroll probably represents the title deed to the earth and the judgments needed ‘to take this planet back. The time has come for God’s Messiah to judge the world for its rebellion and to establish the kingdom of God on earth. The only One found worthy to take the scroll and open the wrath judgments within it is Jesus the Lamb. Jesus takes the scroll from the Father (Rev. 5:7-8). Revelation 5:8-10 then reveals a song of praise:

When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (emphasis mine).

This section reveals five key truths about the kingdom program:

First, there is distinction and relationship between God’s kingdom in heaven and the coming kingdom of the Messiah upon the earth. There is a heavenly throne room scene that anticipates a coming kingdom upon the earth. Jesus takes the scroll from the Father on His heavenly throne [Universal Kingdom] so that a “reign upon the earth” [Davidic/Millennial Kingdom] can occur.

That there is a kingdom of the Father in heaven is clear. Revelation 4:2 tells of “One sitting on the throne.” Also, the word “throne” is found at least seventeen times in Revelation 4-5. So there is a kingdom that exists in heaven (see also Psalms 2 and 110). This is the universal kingdom of the Father as He rules over all. But this heavenly kingdom is not all there is to the kingdom program. It anticipates a kingdom that must be established “upon the earth.” This is the kingdom of the Messiah, the Davidic kingdom predicted by Gabriel (see Luke 1:31-33) and Jesus (see Matt 19:28; 25:31). Jesus distinguishes the Father’s throne and Jesus’ throne in Revelation 3:21: “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 

Second, the people Jesus purchased with His blood are said to be “a kingdom.” Believers in Jesus are positionally related to the kingdom and form the nucleus of it (see Rev. 1:6). This shows a present relationship of the kingdom to the present, not in the form of a present reign, but a growing group of followers who have believed in King Jesus and are qualified to enter His kingdom.

Third, the saints of God are destined to reign with Christ. When Jesus reigns, the saints will also reign. This shows that Jesus will share His kingdom authority with His followers. In Revelation 2:26-27, Jesus promised His followers that they would share in His reign over the nations. This was motivation for those currently facing difficult times. Because Jesus has authority as “ruler of the kings of the earth,” (Rev 1:5) the saints can know they will reign with Him. This concept of the saints reigning with the Messiah was also taught in Daniel 7:13–27.

Fourth, this kingdom reign is future.  Revelation 5:10 shows that the kingdom of Jesus is future.  This is found in the words—“they will reign.” Those who have been purchased by Jesus’ blood are positionally a kingdom, but their reign with Jesus is still future. At the time of the heavenly throne room scene in Revelation 4-5 the earthly kingdom reign of Revelation 5:10 had not started yet. We see later that this reign will occur after the second coming of Jesus (see Rev 19:11ff.) and is described in Revelation 20:4:

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

So then, Revelation 5:10 and Revelation 20:4 are connected:

      Rev. 5:10:  “they will reign upon the earth.” (promise of reward)

      Rev. 20:4: “they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (promise                     actualized)

Revelation 5:10 is the promise of a coming reign of the saints, while Rev 20:4 is the actualization of the kingdom reign. On the flip side, the condition of the saints before the return of Jesus is not that of reigning. It is persecution and trial (see Revelation 2-3; 6-19). Yet these conditions will give way to a kingdom reign in the future.

Fifth, this coming reign of the saints is “upon the earth.” The “earth” (not heaven) is the realm of the saints’ reign. This shows that the kingdom is based on earth and refutes the idea that Messiah’s millennial kingdom reign is currently from heaven. The idea of an earthly kingdom is an explicit doctrine in Scripture. The reign of the saints and Jesus must be in the realm of the original creation given to man in Genesis 1-2. It is not the case that Adam was tasked with ruling the earth while the Messianic/Davidic rule of Jesus and the saints is in heaven. Jesus will succeed in the realm where Adam failed.

In sum, Revelation 5:10 is an important kingdom verse and is powerful evidence for the view that Jesus’ millennial kingdom is future and earthly.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

How the Church Relates to God’s Kingdom Program

by Michael J. Vlach (Twitter: @mikevlach)

Below is a short excerpt concerning how the church relates to the kingdom of God from my book, He Will Reign Forever: A Biblical Theology of the Kingdom of God. Published by Lampion Press (LampionPress.com). This comes from a chapter called “How the Kingdom Relates to the Bible’s Main Characters,” pages 540-42.

The church is an important stage in the kingdom program. The kingdom itself is a broader category than the church and relates to God’s plan to exercise His sovereignty over every aspect of creation—material and immaterial; humans and angels; animals, trees, inanimate objects, etc. The kingdom encompasses other major themes of Scripture including covenants, law, salvation, people of God, etc. The church is a category within the people of God concept. The church is the New Covenant community of believing Jews and Gentiles as it exists in this age between the two comings of Jesus. The church has a worldwide mandate to spread the message of King Jesus in this age while Israel is experiencing a partial and temporary hardening because of unbelief. 

The church is not the kingdom, but it relates to the kingdom program in several important ways. First, the church consists of those who have consciously trusted in Jesus the Messiah. The church experiences messianic salvation since its members are joined to the Messiah. By means of the Holy Spirit Jesus baptizes believers into His body, the church. Christ’s church, therefore, comes under the authority of Jesus. 

Second, believers in Jesus are “sons of the kingdom” (Matt 13:38). This means the kingdom belongs to them and they are members of the kingdom even though the kingdom’s actual establishment awaits Jesus’ return. Christians are transferred from the domain of Satan to the kingdom of the Son (Col 1:13).

Third, members of the church are to exhibit righteousness consistent with the kingdom of God. As the King gives His law (Matt 5–7), Jesus calls His followers to exhibit righteousness without which no one can enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:20). This includes loving other Christians and practicing “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17).

Fourth, the church proclaims the message of the kingdom that qualifies people to enter the kingdom of God. Thus, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus involves proclaiming the kingdom of God. An intersection occurs between salvation and the kingdom in that salvation qualifies one to enter God’s kingdom. Unless one is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God (see John 3:3). Because the church functions within this “present evil age” the church’s mission of gospel/kingdom proclamation is often accompanied by persecution from Satan and the world. 

Fifth, the church is offered future rewards in the kingdom for faithful service now. This includes vindication and the right to accompany Jesus in His rule over the world. Paul said, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him” (2 Tim 2:12). This includes the right to rule the nations (Rev 2:26–27) and sit with Jesus on His throne (Rev 3:21). It also includes a reign upon the earth (Rev 5:10). Members of the church can endure suffering and persecution now because reward and vindication in the kingdom are coming.

The church’s primary responsibility in this age is gospel proclamation and making disciples. Members of the church are destined to reign over a restored earth when Jesus returns. But in this age before Jesus comes again, the church’s mission is not cultural or societal transformation. This does not mean the church has no concern for or relationship to cultural or societal matters. When Jesus returns, members of the church will assist Jesus in His rule over the nations (Rev 2:26–27; 3:21), which includes cultural and societal matters. God created man to rule holistically over all aspects of God’s creation. And a restored mankind will rule over a restored planet. Although such matters are not the church’s emphasis in this age, Christians are called to apply their Christian worldview to every aspect of the environment. Thus, Christians can be involved in all aspects of culture including music, the arts, architecture, agriculture, politics, education, sports, etc. for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). Christians certainly should vote and promote values that most accord with God’s righteous standards. Yet there should be the understanding that true cultural and societal transformation will not occur in this evil age. These await the kingdom of Jesus at His return. 

The NT also teaches that Christians must be concerned with meeting the physical needs of fellow believers. As those who live between the two comings of Jesus the Messiah, the church should avoid two extremes concerning culture and society. The first is acting as if the church has no relationship to these areas. The second is to see the church’s mission as transforming the world before the return and kingdom of Jesus.  

NOTE: For more on He Will Reign Forever, including 38 sample pages of the book, click here and go to bottom of the page and put cursor on the page with endorsements.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Does Romans 4:13 Universalize Israel’s Land Promises?

by Michael J. Vlach

Romans 4:13 has become a hotly debated verse lately between those who believe in a literal future fulfillment of Israel’s land promises and those who do not. Here Paul declares:

For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith (Rom. 4:13). 

Much discussion involves what Paul means when he says Abraham is “heir of the world.” Some non-dispensational scholars see this verse as evidence that Israel’s land promises in the Old Testament have been universalized in such a way that there is no longer an expectation of fulfillment of particular land promises for national Israel. Thus, Romans 4:13 allegedly transcends the Old Testament expectation of the land promises to Israel. Theologians such as N.T. Wright and Gary Burge, along with others, have promoted this view. Concerning Romans 4:13 Burge says,

The formula that linked Abraham to Jewish ethnic lineage and the right to possess the land has now been overturned in Christ. Paul’s Christian theology links Abraham to children of faith, and to them belongs God’s full domain, namely, the world” (Gary Burge, Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology, 86). (emphasis mine).

N. T. Wright declares:

In Romans 4:13 Paul says, startlingly, “The promise to Abraham and his seed, that they should inherit the world.” Surely the promises of inheritance were that Abraham’s family would inherit the land of Israel, not the world? Paul’s horizon, however, is bigger. The Land, like the Torah, was a temporary stage in the long purpose of the God of Abraham. It was not a bad thing now done away with, but a good and necessary thing now fulfilled in Christ and the Spirit. It is as though, in fact, the Land were a great advance metaphor for the design of God that his people should eventually bring the whole world into submission to his healing reign. God’s whole purpose now goes beyond Jerusalem and the Land to the whole world.   (N.T. Wright, “Jerusalem in the New Testament,” pp. 9-10, http://ntwrightpage.com/files/2016/05/Wright_Jerusalem_New_Testament.pdf). (emphases mine).

To summarize, this sort of argument can be put in the following form:

            --The Old Testament contains particular land promises to national Israel.
            --The New Testament universalizes Israel’s land promises to all Christians.
--Therefore, no longer is there an expectation that particular land promises to Israel will be fulfilled with Israel.

But I do not believe this understanding is biblical. What I will argue below is: (1) Paul's main point in Romans 4:13 is about people who are descendants of Abraham, not land; and (2) universal blessings do not rule out particular blessings.

Romans 4:13 and People
The context before and after Romans 4:13 is speaking of people—descendants of Abraham, both Jew and Gentile. Paul is not directly speaking of land or earth. With Romans 4:1-8 Paul expounded the great truth of justification through faith alone. In doing so he uses examples of two great covenant heads—Abraham (Abrahamic covenant) and David (Davidic covenant). The fact that these two important men were saved through faith alone is evidence that salvation for any person or group is through faith alone, apart from works.

Then, with Romans 4:9-12, Paul explains that the principle of salvation through faith alone applies equally to both Jews and Gentiles. Since Abraham was justified through faith before his circumcision this allows Abraham to be the "father" of two distinct but related groups: (1) Gentiles (uncircumcised) who believe; and (2) Jews (circumcised) who believe. In verses 11-12, the term “father” describes Abraham’s relationship to both groups. Thus, Romans 4:1-12 reveals that Abraham is the father of both believing Gentiles and believing Jews.

When we come to verse 13 and Paul’s statement: “the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world” it seem obvious from the context that Abraham’s status as “heir of the world” is focused on people—descendants who are Gentiles and Jews who have expressed faith in God like Abraham. This is also bolstered by what comes after verse 13, particularly Romans 4:16-17a:

For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”).

Again, the emphasis is on believing Jews and Gentiles being related to Abraham. Abraham is also called “A father of many nations.” In fact, we can say that Abraham is “heir of the world” in the sense that he is “A father of many nations.” Land or earth is not the main issue here.

This does not mean land/earth is irrelevant to discussion of the Abrahamic Covenant as a whole, because the Abrahamic covenant is multi-faceted and includes matters related to Israel's land and beyond (Gen 26:3-4). But Paul’s specific point in Romans 4:13 is that Abraham is “heir of the world” in the sense of believing people. To conclude that this verse teaches or implies the transcending of Israel’s land promises goes way beyond what Paul is saying here.

This understanding is bolstered by Paul’s use of kosmos for “world.” Sometimes this word is used of the physical world (Matt. 24:21; 25:34), but it is often used in Scripture for people (see John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). Context will determine which sense is best. There is another Greek term for “earth” or “land.” The term specifically refers to land, ground, or earth (see Matt. 4:15; 5:5). And if Paul would have used  in Romans 4:13 it would be clear he meant physical geography and not people. But he uses the broader kosmos term. 

In summary, to claim that Romans 4:13 is indicating a universalization of Israel’s land promises makes no sense since land is not primarily in view. If geographical land is not Paul's point, then certainly Paul is not universalizing Israel’s land promises.

Israel and Israel’s Land as Means for Blessing the Earth
Here I want to make a broader theological point that involves how particular and universal fulfillment relates to land. Beyond Romans 4:13, if one considers the Abrahamic covenant as a whole we do see a relationship of the covenant to land. First, Israel was promised a particular land with certain dimensions (see Gen. 12:6-7; 13:14-17; 15:18-21) as part of the Abrahamic covenant. Fulfillment of the land promise is even reaffirmed hundreds of years later during times of national apostasy:

but, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.’ For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers (see Jer. 16:15). (emphasis mine).

Second, both Israel and Israel’s land will be used by God to bless all people groups of the world, not just with salvation but blessings to the whole earth (Gen. 12:2-3; 22:17-18; Isa. 2:2-4; Ps. 72:18-19 Zech. 9:10). As Israel is blessed, ultimately through the Messiah, blessings will spill over to other nations and their lands. Isaiah 27:6 states: “In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the whole world with fruit.” Thus, Israel and Israel’s land function as microcosms of what God will do for all nations and their lands. As God blesses Israel, blessings will come to other nations (see Isa. 19:15-25).

So it is theologically true that planet earth and the nations of the earth will be blessed. But it is through the means of Israel and Israel’s Messiah that this will occur. God has determined that particular blessings to Israel are the means for bringing blessings to the nations. The particular (Israel and Israel’s land) is the means for universal blessings (Gentile nations and their lands). This is a “both/and scenario,” not an “either or.” (The complete fulfillment of these universal land blessings awaits Israel's salvation and the second coming of Jesus and His kingdom [see Rom. 11:12, 15, 26-27; Matt. 19:28]).

What is wrong about the arguments of those like Wright and Burge concerning Romans 4:13 is that they assume universal blessings do not coincide along particular blessings to national Israel. Allegedly, universal fulfillment does away with particular promises to Israel. But this does not have to be the case and is refuted by other Bible passages and the Bible's storyline as a whole.

Let us just assume for argument’s sake that Paul in Romans 4:13 is speaking of Abraham being “heir of the world” in a universal sense involving the earth for all believers, Jew and Gentile. Does this rule out the fulfillment of land promises to Israel? No, because universal fulfillment does not exclude particular fulfillment. In fact, particular fulfillment is the means of universal fulfillment. This is explicitly predicted in Genesis 12:2-3 when God tells Abraham that the nation to come from him (i.e. Israel) will be the means to bless the families and nations of the earth (see also Gen. 22:18). So even if Paul were thinking of land or earth in a universal sense in Romans 4:13, this would not rule out particular fulfillment of land promises to national Israel. Both could be true at the same time.

It seems like some who hold to a universalization of the land promise to Israel based on Romans 4:13 are approaching this verse as a proof text apart from its context or assuming certain things that are not accurate. In the cases of Burge and Wright, both believe the New Testament reinterprets or redefines the storyline of the Bible. 

For example, Burge declared a hermeneutic of “reinterpretation”:

For as we shall see (and as commentators regularly show) while the land itself had a concrete application for most in Judaism, Jesus and his followers reinterpreted the promises that came to those in his kingdom. (Jesus and the Land, 35) (emphasis mine).

N. T. Wright uses “redefining” in regard to Jesus and His kingdom:

Jesus spent His whole ministry redefining what the kingdom meant. He refused to give up the symbolic language of the kingdom, but filled it with such a new content that, as we have seen, he powerfully subverted Jewish expectations. (Jesus and the Victory of God, 471). (emphasis mine).

Conclusion

I recently talked to a good friend of mine with a keen theological mind. As we talked about this issue of Romans 4:13, he asked a good question that goes something like this: 

“Imagine assembling a list of all the passages in the Bible that speak of land promises to Israel. You compile all these many passages in a column. Then you put Romans 4:13 next to this long list in another column. Do you think the average Christian is going to conclude from this that Paul is claiming that the land promises to Israel will not be fulfilled?’” 

In my estimation, it is hard to see how they would. Romans 4:13 does not do this.

The issue of fulfillment of Israel’s land promises involves looking at many passages and issues. And here we have only looked at one. But for those arguing for the transcending of Israel’s land promises, the search will need to go elsewhere since Romans 4:13 teaches no such thing.

 (For more detailed discussion on a biblical view of Romans 4:13 see this article by Nelson Hsieh, and the chapter, “Zionism in Pauline Literature: Does Paul Eliminate Particularity for Israel and the Land in His Portrayal of Salvation Available for All the World,” in The New Christian Zionism.) 

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Very Brief Summary of My View of the Chronology of Events in Daniel 9:24-27

by Michael J. Vlach

Daniel 9:24-27 is one of the most disputed passages in the Bible. I have counted around 18 different areas of dispute in these four verses. My intent here is not to exhaust the meaning of this passage or explain all its details or all contested areas. Instead, my aim is to present how I view the chronology of events in Daniel 9:24-27. This is more of a short statement of how I view the chronology of this text and not a full blown defense of it or an interaction with other views.

 But first here is the text of Daniel 9:24-27 from the NASB:

“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

Here is how I view the chronology of events:

Daniel 9:24: In 538 B.C. Daniel receives prophetic revelation concerning six things that will occur as a result of a seventy weeks program (490-year period). Importantly, these six things are related “for your people and your city Jerusalem.” The context demands that this refers to Israel and the city of Jerusalem.

1.      “finish the transgression”
2.      “make an end of sin”
3.      “make atonement for iniquity”
4.      “bring in everlasting righteousness”
5.      “seal up vision and prophecy”
6.      “anoint the most holy place” [i.e. temple]

The first three of these have a basis in the first coming of Jesus but application of these to Israel will occur in the future. The final three will occur with Messiah’s kingdom in the future when it is established.

Daniel 9:25: The first sixty-nine weeks (483 years) expires in the early A.D. 30s with the ministry of Jesus the Messiah.

The starting point for this 490-year period is a decree to restore the city of Jerusalem which occurred according to Nehemiah 2:1-8 around 444 B.C.  From this decree to restore the city of Jerusalem around 444 B.C. until Jesus the Messiah and Prince there will be a 49-year period followed by 434-year period which together is 483 years. The 49-year period culminated in the building of the city with plaza and moat in spite of difficulties from opponents. Then the coming of Jesus (official messianic ministry including death) occurred in the early A.D. 30s, 483 years after the Nehemiah 2 decree.

Daniel 9:26: After the sixty-ninth week (483-year period), but before the seventieth week, the killing of the Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans occurred. The killing of Jesus happened in the early A.D. 30s and the destruction of Jerusalem occurred in A.D. 70.

After 483 years (49 + 434 years) Jesus the Messiah will be cut off or killed and have nothing. He will not establish His kingdom at this time. This killing of Jesus the Messiah on the cross happens after the 483 years expires, not at the end of the 483rd year or in the beginning of the 484th year. Thus, there is a gap between the expiration of the 69th week and the start of the 70th week. Another event that occurs between the 69th and 70th week is the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple by the Romans in A.D. 70. This proves that there is a gap between the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th week since this event is occurring almost forty years after when the 69th week expired.

The Romans are the people from whom the coming evil Antichrist will come. The Antichrist is an evil prince who will come from the people of the Romans. This destruction of Jerusalem and the temple will come in quick and overwhelming fashion like a flood. This destruction is followed by continual war and desolations to the people of Jerusalem and Israel. This characterizes Israel’s situation indefinitely until the 484th year (70th week) begins.

Daniel 9:27: In the coming seventieth week of Daniel, which is still future from our standpoint in history, the coming evil prince [i.e. Antichrist]  from the people who destroyed Jerusalem (the Romans, v. 26) will make a seven-year covenant (i.e. one week) with the people of Israel. At the midway point (3.5 years) he will put a stop to Jewish worship in the temple and bring desolation to the temple. Yet he himself will be destroyed. God has decreed a destruction upon the Antichrist who brings desolation to the temple. This desolation of the temple in the seventieth week of Daniel is different than the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple predicted in Daniel 9:26 which occurred between the 69th and 70th week.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

My Understanding of the Olivet Discourse in Luke 21:5-28

By Michael J. Vlach

Jesus’ Olivet Discourse discusses future events from the standpoint of Jesus and the apostles shortly before Jesus’ death. The contents of Jesus’ discourse are found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Jesus addresses the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, the sign of His coming, and the end of the age (Matt. 24:3; Mark 13:4; Luke 21:5-7).

With this article I focus specifically on the Olivet Discourse as recorded in Luke 21:5-28. I present what I believe is the chronology of events that Jesus lays out ranging from the first century A.D. through the second coming of Jesus.

In doing this I understand that there is much debate on the chronology of the Olivet Discourse and it is rare for any two people to agree on all the details. This includes people who often agree on matters of eschatology, let alone those who disagree. So I suspect that many who read my understanding will differ with me, and that is fine. Below is not so much a full-blown defense of my understanding or a detailed interaction with other views, but a stating of how I view Luke 21 after studying this passage for years. In a nutshell, you can know how I interpret the events of Luke 21.

Below is my outline of Luke 21 and when I think the events within each section will be fulfilled:

Luke 21:8-11: Future Tribulation Period

Luke 21:8-11 states:

And He [Jesus] said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.”  Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.”

I view Luke 21:8-11 as being fulfilled in the coming seven-year Tribulation Period that is still future from our standpoint in history. During this period there will be wars and disturbances, nations and kingdoms in conflict, great earthquakes, plagues, famines, and terrors and signs from heaven.

Certainly there were earthquakes and wars in the first century, but what is discussed here is of a different nature and intensity—thus describing a future period. Part of the reason we know these events will be fulfilled in the future and were not fulfilled in A.D. 70 is because two things in particular did not occur in the first century. First, the first century did not witness many false messiahs. While there were false prophets in the first century there were not many serious claims to be the Messiah at that time, and certainly not of such a nature that Jesus’ followers needed to be warned not to follow them. In fact, the first major messianic claim after Jesus was from Bar Kochba (d. 135) whose messianic claim came in the second century. There simply were not many (if any) serious claims to be the Messiah in the first century A.D. (other than Jesus).

The second is that the first century did not witness “terrors and great signs from heaven” on a major global scale. The context of Luke 21:8-11 involves global matters (nations, kingdoms), but fearsome signs from heaven that people around the globe could see did not occur in the first century.

Luke 21:12-24a: First century fulfillment through the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70

It may seem strange at first to claim that Luke 21:12-24 is about first century events after saying Luke 21:8-11 is about the future Tribulation Period. But this is easily answered when we notice the words of Luke 21:12a—“but before all these things” (21:12a). Thus, Jesus is telling us that what He discusses in Luke 21:12 and following occurs “before” what He just explained in Luke 21:8-11. I believe these events of 21:12-24a were fulfilled in the first century A.D. The main events of this period were:

      1.      Persecution of Jesus’ followers (21:12b–19)

      2.      Destruction of Jerusalem (21:20–24a)

Jesus’ followers were persecuted in the first century. And Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem was fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed both the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple. Unlike Luke 21:8-11 which discussed global events, what is described in Luke 21:20-24 is specific to the land of Israel. Here Jesus mentions “Jerusalem” twice and “Judea” once. This is not the rescue of Israel but “vengeance,” “distress,” and “wrath” to the people of Israel (vv. 22-23) for rejecting the time of Jesus’ visitation (see Luke 19:41-44). The rescue of Israel will be described later in Luke 21:25-28.

Luke 21:24b: A.D. 70 through future Tribulation Period

Luke 21:24 is a pivot verse that applies both to the section above and this current section. In this context we are focusing on the latter part of the verse which deals with the dispersion of Israel as a result of the A.D. 70 destruction:

“and they [people of Israel] will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).

Luke 21:24 not only predicts the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem, but it has implications for the people of Israel and Jerusalem beyond this event. Israelites falling by the edge of the sword in the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem is accompanied by being “led captive into all the nations.” The city of Jerusalem is also “trampled under foot by the Gentiles…” These two matters of (1) Israelites being dispersed and captive to the nations, and (2) Jerusalem being under Gentile control, have both occurred in the many centuries since A.D. 70. These occurred as a result of the A.D. 70 destruction but the effects of the A.D. 70 event stretch on through the centuries—even until today.

But this dispersion of Israelites and the trampling down of Jerusalem has an expiration date. They will end some day. The important word is “until” (achri ou) which indicates a pivot and a reversal of these circumstances. Captivity and trampling will occur “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” The “times of the Gentiles” refers to Gentile oppression of Israel and control over Jerusalem. The heavy implication here is that these will be reversed at some future point (see Matt. 23:37-39). The following verses of 25-27 indicate these conditions will end at the end of the future Tribulation Period with the return of Jesus the Messiah.

Important to understanding what follows Luke 21:24 is grasping that this period known as “the times of the Gentiles” is an extended and indefinite period of time. From our perspective it has continued for almost 2000 years. Thus, Luke 21:24b involves the time period from A.D. 70 onward even up until the present.

Thus there are two chronological indicators that sandwich the events of Luke 21:12-24:

      1.      “before all these things (12a)

      2.      “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

This then takes the reader to the coming Tribulation Period which Jesus discusses next.

Luke 21:25-28: Future Tribulation Period

The end of Luke 21:24, with its discussion of an extended period of time when Israel and Jerusalem will be oppressed, leads us to the events of Luke 21:25-28 which describe the coming Tribulation Period and the return of Jesus the Messiah:

“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Like Luke 21:8-11, this section also describes the coming Tribulation Period and global conditions associated with this era. The following are the unique conditions of Luke 21:25-28:

1.      Cosmic signs
2.      Dismay among nations
3.      Terror because of the sea and waves
4.      Unparalleled global fear among nations
5.      The personal bodily return of Jesus Christ in glory

Importantly, when these events occur the people of Israel can know that “your redemption is drawing near” (21:28). Note that in Luke 21:20-24 the message was that of “vengeance,” “distress,” and “wrath” to unbelieving Israel. But now there is coming “redemption” for Israel. This reveals that what occurs in Luke 21:25-28 is not the same event as that explained in 21:20-24. Wrath to the people of Israel occurs in Luke 21:20-24, but 21:25-28 discusses a positive deliverance.

There is another indicator that what is described in 21:25-28 is different from that in 21:20-24. The coming of Jesus in 21:27 is distinguished from the destroying armies of Rome discussed in Luke 21:20-24. This shows they are not the same event. They are also separated in time. To compare:
           
              --Luke 21:20“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies” (A.D. 70)

--Luke 21:24: Jerusalem trampled “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (long period of time after A.D. 70).

--Luke 21:27: "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." (future fulfillment)

Summary

Luke 21 is a great eschatological passage. To summarize, here is how I see the chronology of Luke 21:8-28:

      1.      Luke 21:8-11:        Future Tribulation Period

      2.      Luke 21:12-24a:    First century through the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70

      3.      Luke 21:24b:         A.D. 70 through future Tribulation Period

      4.      Luke 21:25-28:     Future Tribulation Period


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